“Get us in Wikipedia.”
It’s a request that many of our clients have. But most of the time, they do not understand the process. It’s not just about creating a user account, writing the text that you want, and clicking a few buttons. It’s about proving to the tough (and rightly so) Wikipedia community that you deserve to be in Wikipedia in the first place.
Here are just a few stories that I have heard of what can happen if you try to be self-promotional on Wikipedia:
- A Wikipedia article was created and published for a website with a good traffic, content, and social-media followings on its topic. Within ten minutes, it was flagged and removed. The article was returned to “draft” status with a message that the website was not important enough. What happened? Articles are rarely approved when they are about websites that are only entities in and of themselves and not about a “real world” company, person, or topic. Years later, I think the article has still not been approved.
- An article about a company in the mobile industry with decent news coverage and several awards was approved, but an editor attached a note at the top inviting discussion on whether the article was neutral or self-promotional. What happened? Wikipedia editors are not stupid, and they know everything that marketers try to do. It does not take much to raise doubts on a proposed article. This article made it through – barely.
Now, we know of a mobile app that has a great Wikipedia page that the company had helped to create. The secret? It came down to two things: writing in the correct style and proving that it was newsworthy.
Here’s the formula for success:
- Identify what “X” makes you special and newsworthy
- Use public relations to get objective reporters at authoritative news outlets to state “X”
- Write a quality Wikipedia article that quotes from the media hits as citations (though, ideally, you won’t have to do this – see below)
Prove That You Are Important
A lot of marketers think that they first get into Wikipedia and then that will help to grow their brands. No – it’s the exact opposite. First, you build a brand and then you get into Wikipedia.
Whatever it is that you do, there are probably countless others just like you. You may have dozens, if not hundreds, of competitors in your sector. You may be an agency that competes with many others for the same clients. Every business thinks that it is special – but much of the time, it is just a fantasy in the founder’s head.
Still, to get into Wikipedia, you need to be newsworthy somehow. A large corporation with millions of worldwide customers is newsworthy. A business with a founder who is known as a thought leader in the industry is newsworthy. A company that wins many awards in its sector is newsworthy. An agency that gets a lot of major media coverage is newsworthy.
These four things are examples that show that a business is important in ways that are objectively verifiable.
Use Media Relations
As I discussed in a presentation at SMX West, the work of media relations consists of the following steps:
- Goal identification
- Target-marketing identification
- Positioning and messaging
- Media list creation
- Press release development and pitching
- Packaging and follow-up
This is the general process that can help to build you brand in a way that will lead to more news articles that discuss your importance and uniqueness and can be cited in Wikipedia.
Learn How to Write Objectively
Too many marketers want Wikipedia pages that include words like “the first company to” or “the best” or “is a solution to the problem of.” This will raise a flag almost immediately. The first two assertions are difficult, if not impossible, to prove. The last one does not use neutral language.
Think about how to write like a news reporter, not like a marketer. Use short, simple, and factual statements that can be (and have been) verified. Use Wikipedia’s code markup to cite objective, third-party sources to prove the facts that are stated. Do not use adjectives and adverbs! One of the first things that journalism school teaches is to avoid these types of words. Think about it. “Big,” “small,” “fast,” and “slow,” do not have objective definitions. If I say that something is “fast,” then I am inserting my opinion because what I think is “fast” may be “slow” to someone else.
Remember: Wikipedia is meant to be the online version of an encyclopedia – it aims to be a collection of articles with neutral information on newsworthy topics with citations from neutral, authoritative sources.
However, if you do the proper PR process, then often a satisfied customer or third-party person who is passionate about your industry will often write a Wikipedia article about you himself or herself without you needing to do anything. This is the optimal outcome because Wikipedia, as Martin Beck notes at Marketing Land, really does not want companies or their marketers to submit articles.
When clients ask our company about getting into Wikipedia, we respond with the fact that the question is not, “How can I get into Wikipedia?” It is, “Why should I be in Wikipedia?” Then, we start strategizing about public relations and brand awareness long before even thinking about Wikipedia.