September 27, 2013
According to a study published in the PR Journal, PRSA’s scholarly publication, 59 percent of respondents who were familiar with their company or client’s Wikipedia article indicated that it currently has one or more factual errors.
In addition, 28 percent of respondents claimed that their article has had at least one potentially reputation-damaging error, and 38 percent of those stated that an error in a Wikipedia article has damaged their company or client’s reputation.
The publication reports the analysis of a second annual study of Wikipedia conducted by Marcia W. DiStaso, Ph.D., assistant professor of public relations at Pennsylvania State University. DiStaso is also co-chair of PRSA’s National Research Committee.
To assess their working relationship with Wikipedia, DiStaso surveyed 1,620 PR professionals who belong to a variety of organizations including PRSA, Council of PR Firms, Institute for Public Relations and National Investor Relations Institute. (The Arthur W. Page Center at Pennsylvania State University’s College of Communications funded the research.)
The purpose for conducting the studies was to explore PR professionals’ perceptions and experiences with Wikipedia. Given the popularity of Wikipedia and its prominence in search results, it can affect companies’ reputations.
DiStaso’s 2012 study results led to discussions about the effectiveness of Wikipedia’s “bright line rule.” As supported by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, the rule requires PR professionals to make requests for changes to their company or client’s Wikipedia page through the “talk pages,” instead of by directly editing them.
Additional findings from the study include:
“While the 2013 survey found some improvement in response times from Wikipedia when the talk pages are used compared to the 2012 survey, this study shed more light on the errors in Wikipedia,” DiStaso said in a release announcing the survey. “Reputations of companies are on the line, so tying the hands of PR professionals without providing an effective resolution to handling factual errors is concerning. With the goal of accurate Wikipedia content, the findings of this study indicate that the ‘bright line’ rule is still not working.”