A couple of months ago, Steve Rubel broached the subject of PR professionals or members of an organization creating and editing articles on Wikipedia. His post mainly served as a platform to ask questions concerning accuracy, accountability and transparency of corporate authors/contributors to the wiki. I commented then about issues of legitimacy and honesty, but I believe now that the practice is thorny because motivations can easily be misconstrued online and mostly because there are few cases of prior art.
Enter Jamie Kane.
Jamie Kane is a fictional character in an online game being marketd by the BBC in the UK. I wouldn’t have ever heard of Jamie were it not for a BoingBoing article referencing a seemingly “planted” Wikipedia article on the subject.
Now the damage has been un-done and arranged into a timeline and history of the Beeb’s viral marketing efforts gone awry. BoingBoing has the official BBC statement on the brouhaha and it seems good enough, but sometimes the appearance of impropriety is worse than the deed.
But where does that leave future marketers and advertisers? Where does it leave individual or organizations that only want to set the record straight or update a listing with new/current information? Is the Wikipedia forever tainted, or is it now going to become so self-correcting as to disallow legitimate updating by interested parties entirely?
I guess my real question is this: Is Wikipedia a space where fans and experts trump any and all brand-associated actor and at what point does the inclusivity end?
About a month ago Steve opined that PR folks could join the Wikipedia party if they “behave, stick to just the facts and let the community decide our fates (like we have a choice!)”, echoing Joe Brockmeier’s hopeful thoughts on the subject. I wonder what they think now?
To be clear, I think the risks far outweigh the rewards, especially considering the vocal nature of Wikipedia editors and users. The last thing any company or brand would want is the skewering the comes with being found out as a “fake” or a “shill”. Build a better mousetrap and let your users and fans do the work for you. Or, you could try and be impartial and clinical, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.