PR View by Josh Shabtai

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Chances are you've used Wikipedia, maybe to research a topic of interest—or to see what people are saying about your brand. Hopefully, you've never used it in an attempt to game the system, as Microsoft infamously did a few months ago.

Wikipedia's impact is enormous. Google any major brand and you'll pull up a Wikipedia entry within the first results, meaning that a community of thousands has a significant degree of control over the perception of your brand.

The Wikipedia community is a tightly knit bunch that is deeply distrustful of marketers. Because of past abuses, they're extremely vigilant against PR folks' edits.

So where does that leave us? Here's a guide to working with Wikipedia. First, search your clients' Wikipedia pages. Simple enough. Repeat regularly. Because entries are edited by a potentially huge community, they may change daily or hourly. Monitor for changes by adding an RSS feed on your entry. Note inaccurate or damaging information.

This is important: No matter what, RESIST THE URGE TO EDIT IT. If you've ever seen Ghostbusters, think of this as the equivalent of “crossing the streams.”

Dig a little deeper. Click on the “history” tab at the top of an entry page and track all of the changes that have been made to your entry. You can even see who made such edits. Visit their personal profiles and note who's been sticking up for you, fighting you, posting neutral information. Consider what you've just learned about them. Why are they posting about your client? Do they appear receptive to conversing with institutions?

Keep an eye on this critical source of information about your brand and think strategically about how to work WITH this influential community instead of pushing information DOWN ONTO them.

Josh Shabtai is senior new media specialist at Ketchum

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