Wikipedia; the great equaliser of our time, a priceless goldmine of stats and facts, or a platform for lies, half-truths and misinformation?
When you take into consideration how a few years ago a friend showed me how he had included himself in a French national football squad from the 1960s, the answer seems quite obvious. Don’t believe everything you read, as the age-old matra goes, and nothing makes this any clearer than when you naively believe something from the internet’s open source ‘encyclopaedia’, bring it up in conversation, and then get shot down by an expert in the subject, who coincidentally happened to be in earshot.
Of course there are standards set by Wikipedia’s overseeing eyes. And, in some instances, you can bet your bottom dollar the details on each page are relatively accurate. For example, it’s unlikely that the details offered on, say, Milan, would be anything other than true, although it’s important to consider how those details would probably not offer much insight into aspects like social problems, or anything away from the standard tourist attractions in the Italian city.
When you’re talking about celebrities, historical figures and general public faces, though, the water looks far muddier. As was proven this week when an employee of PR firm Sunrise Sachs was exposed for altering Naomi Campbell’s Wikipedia page to cast her at-times troubled past in a more favourable light. References to an ‘ill-fated’ restaurant chain investment, and the ‘critical and commercial failure’ of Babywoman, the model’s 1994 solo album, were amongst the text amended for the more positive.
It’s not the first time something like this has happened, and we’d wager at least one round of office brews that it won’t be the last. Despite Wikipedia having changed it’s rules surrounding PR amendments so that whenever one takes place the amender has to make their role clear to readers, people will always try pulling wool over the eyes of others in a bid to help their cause- or that of a brand they represent (be that a celeb, product or entire business).
Presenting a polished version of events is always going to be tempting to those whose role it is to present polished versions of events. Unfortunately, though, we live in an era wherein there’s little hope of getting away with such actions. You may not get caught out today, or tomorrow. It may take months to be exposed, or even years. Nevertheless, the exposing is likely to happen eventually, and when the fit hits the shan all that effort will be for less than naught.
Here at Smoking Gun PR we offer reputation management and crisis response services to our public relations clients- from individuals to companies. But this involves working respectfully and honestly to try and help when help is needed the most. There’s no black magic or mis-selling done, because we understand that the only way to secure and improve upon a reputation is through fair play- anything else is like applying a band-aid to a gaping wound; you’re just waiting around for someone to come and rip it off, taking some skin along for the ride and revealing a cut that hasn’t healed yet, and is ready for the blood to flow once more. Whereas if it were left alone, chances are things would heal naturally.
At the risk of sounding repetitive- transparency is king when we all have access to the real facts of any matter.