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Risk Mitigation for Brand Management on Wikipedia

Culture of Collaboration Balances Internal and External Teams

There are other familiar functions within the organization that employ a collaborative partnership between internal and external teams. Accounting, legal, marketing, and media relations are just a few examples.

Look at the internal and external collaboration in a different perspective. A third-party expert who works with the internal (e.g., Branding or Corporate Communications) and external (e.g., digital or PR agency) teams provides an objective outlook on the strategy, risks, and feasibility. The benefit of having a third-party expert involved in the collaboration is to serve as a gut check, especially in crisis situations. Choose third-party experts carefully. We cover the criteria to consider when hiring a Wikipedia writer.

Reputational Risk Mitigation Made Easy

Interpreting Wikipedia's 250+ policies is analogous to figuring out the legal system in all 50 states and internationally. Furthermore, the volumes of Wikipedia policies are not easily searchable on the web or Wikipedia. Therefore, corporate representatives and agents, otherwise known as Conflict of Interest (COI) editors, must be proactive and motivated students. Posting an earnest request to update outdated content versus posting an invitation to collaborate are interpreted differently by Wikipedians. Knowing which approach to take affects publishing time.

Wikipedia is not a task. It requires thoughtful consideration of the rules and people who wrote and govern those rules. The Wikipedia community is both forgiving and unforgiving. Every action on Wikipedia is on a public ledger. Though there is an undo feature, there is no delete feature on the ledger. Other content platforms (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram) give you perceived content control, while Wikipedia's traceability and transparency encourage thoughtfulness. The impulse to react to a disagreeable Wikipedian is governed by the though that the remark will end up in the New York Times, Newsweek, CNN, PRWeek, or AdAge.

Build a Wikipedia team comprising three layers - internal, external, and independent. The success of a sustainable Wikipedia program is measured by consistent collaboration with the Wikipedia community and neutral well-sourced encyclopedic content.

The Wikipedia War Against Corporate Bias

On Wikipedia, thousands of people voluntarily research, write, proofread, and reference check the "sum of all human knowledge." Those individuals are the invisible hands that make Wikipedia the most trusted online reference site. One of the trademark behaviors of Wikipedians is their disdain for corporate bias. It goes beyond challenging perceived promotional content. Wikipedians assume corporate representatives and agents are inherently biased. To them, corporate representatives can not be trusted to propose changes to company Wikipedia articles without leaning towards whitewashing the story. Corporate representatives are under deeper scrutiny and suspicion when it comes to updating the company's and executives' Wikipedia articles.

Do-It-Yourself on Wikipedia is Dangerous

There are numerous case studies of good intentions gone bad. Companies such as NBC News, The North Face, WME, and Burger King Corporation ended up in a worse situation than they intended. The priority of "controlling the narrative" took precedence over decency and respect for the Wikipedia ommunity and policies. It is natural to wonder "How does the Wikipedia community find out about wrongdoing?" There are tools and mechanisms created and operated by Wikipedia community members that aid in ensuring content complies with Wikipedia's Five Pillars. The imminent danger with brand management on Wikipedia is pushing for a specific outcome. Wikipedia's "No Deadline" policy is counter to the conventional crisis management strategy best practice of assess, control, and get past the crisis as fast as possible. Being "fast" on Wikipedia is the quickest way of enflaming a Wikipedian who has the power to veto the petition to update the Wikipedia content, or worse: he/she may have the power to block the username of an offending corporate representative/agent or even block the IP address of the location.

Communications and branding leaders have differing opinions about Wikipedia. Coupled with that are the varying approaches to managing the corporate narrative and brand on Wikipedia. Chief Communication Officers (CCO) and Chief Brand Officers (CBO) are under the assumption that on Wikipedia "anyone can edit it." While that assumption is confirmed by Wikipedia's own slogan, it's a false assumption. It is natural to own functions in-house to conserve human and capital resources. But many misinformed leaders and their teams proceed with a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) approach without the knowledge that directly editing violates Wikipedia's Terms of Use. Another approach to brand management on Wikipedia is to retain the PR agency of record to won the Wikipedia strategy. Both approaches have their own set of risks and benefits. Brand and reputation management on Wikipedia is more than just assigning a person to clean up outdated content or correct errors. The perils that lie ahead include fighting bias, establishing credibility with Wikipedians, and interpreting 250+ policies and guidelines.

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