Monday, June 07, 2010

New media relations: 2 views on working with Wikipedia

Soon after Wikipedia launched, a Washington-based public relations executive told me how much she hated the site.  "Anyone can write anything on there," she said, "and your company can't control it!"

Well, that's one perspective. But in fact, this crowdsourced online encyclopedia has proven itself as a solid source of information.  What's more, you can contribute to a Wikipedia page--and encourage others to do so.  It's a strategy worth pursuing, especially in light of the new ways information on Wikipedia is being shared on sites like Facebook--and it may just be the latest form of media relations in a world with fewer media outlets.

This New York Times article describes how the British Museum, a candy store of a museum with 8 million objects in its collections, is working with Wikipedia.  The museum's let-the-kids-into-the-candy-store approach included inviting input from potential Wikipedia contributors from beyond the museum's walls--and finding a way to invite those who work within the museum to contribute.  While there are challenges, particularly regarding copyright and photography (well covered in the article), the advantage to this approach seems clear. The article notes:
About 40 Wikipedia contributors in the London area spent Friday with a “backstage pass” to the museum, meeting with curators and taking photographs of the collection. And in a curious reversal in status, curators were invited to review Wikipedia’s treatment of the museum’s collection and make a case that important pieces were missing or given short shrift. Among those wandering the galleries was the museum’s first Wikipedian in residence, Liam Wyatt, who will spend five weeks in the museum’s offices to build a relationship between the two organizations, one founded in 1753, the other in 2001.
The Times goes on to note that Wikipedia, once viewed askance, has achieved a strong reputation as a go-to information source: "[I]t is consulted by millions of users when there is breaking news; its articles are frequently the first result when a search engine is used."   The museum's executives, understanding that web users are going to fewer online sources and feeling the museum's holdings weren't well represented in Wikipedia, came up with a strategy for pursuing more complete coverage of its holdings.

Wikipedia pages also help to populate the new Facebook community pages, making them one of the early (and sometimes only) sources of information there.  Nonprofit Tech 2.0 blog offers this post on "How To: How to Update Your Nonprofit's Wikipedia Page (and Why You Should)" with a step-by-step guide to creating an account, editing an entry, and getting alerts when others add information or change it, as well as insights into how Wikipedia entries populate Facebook community pages.

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