‘Respect Wikipedia’s rules’ – CIPR reacts to accusations of digital vandalism by North Face

The CIPR has called on creative professionals to respect the rules of Wikipedia after it emerged that an advertising agency working on behalf of North Face edited photos on the company’s Wikipedia page.

Ad agency Leo Burnett Tailor Made, switched Wikipedia images with professional shots featuring the brand to boost the SEO ranking of the photos on Google, prompting sharp criticism from Wikipedia. North Face has since apologised for its actions.

Public relations professionals and those working in the creative industries must never edit any wikipedia entry on behalf of a client, except to remove vandalism. The CIPR has worked with Wikipedia to provide guidelines for practitioners on engaging with the Wikipedia Community. The guidance – first published in 2012 – has become the global standard for brands and organisations working with Wikipedia.  

It is wholly unethical for PR or creative professionals to make changes to Wikipedia entries on behalf of a client. The rules are clear and ignorance is not an excuse. You wouldn’t expect to be given access to the back end of a news site to make changes and the same applies to Wikipedia. Wikipedia’s commitment to neutrality must be respected and its rules upheld at all times.

CIPR President, Emma Leech Found.Chart.PR FCIPR

Rules of working with Wikipedia

  1. Anyone can join the Wikipedia community and edit and contribute to content on the site. Register a personal rather than a corporate account and disclose your conflicts of interest on your user page.

  2. If you are concerned about the accuracy of a Wikipedia article but have a conflict of interest you must address this via the community. Don’t edit any page you have a conflict of interest on, except to remove vandalism.

  3. Head to the Talk page for the Wikipedia article concerned and draft your response. This works in almost all situations however if you don’t get a response then raise it on the relevant noticeboard.

  4. Escalate with kindness and don’t be an idiot. When faced with a situation where you have a choice to be an idiot or not be an idiot, choose to not be an idiot. Following this rule will mean you will very rarely get into difficult situations.

  5. You can freely contribute articles related to your profession, hobbies and interests, where you do not have a conflict of interest. In fact Wikipedia actively encourages this and it’s a great way to get to know how Wikipedia works.

Download the CIPR’s Wikipedia guidelines (PDF)

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