Wikipedia:For publicists publicizing a client's work

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Publicist Penelope Jean on the set of the US television show Good Morning America. (No connection between Ms. Jean and the content of this essay, other than her being a publicist, is implied.)

Probably most of what publicists create in Wikipedia does not qualify for inclusion, and editors spend a lot of volunteer time deleting plenty of it. Hundreds of pages are deleted daily, including articles. Many a publicist can create an article full of effusive praise and hand a laptop to a client to show them the article. The client is happy, and maybe, a day or a week later, when the client's staff can't find the article to update it, they won't tell their boss or you (the publicist). You and your client may look good at first, but the article will soon be deleted and forgotten.

A publicist is a person whose job is to generate and manage publicity, usually positive or promotional, for a public figure, especially a celebrity, a business, for a work such as a book, film, or album, or for a commercial product. A publicist may be an employee of a company or organization or work in private practice, handling one or multiple clients.

The most common errors by publicists include:

  • creating an article about a non-notable subject, contrary to Wikipedia's notability guideline, which requires that multiple reliable sources report on the topic.
  • copying a client's words without having a copyright release (the originator being your client is not enough)
  • filling an article with glorious praise (e.g.,"highly acclaimed", "one of the world's top actors", or "England's premier comedian")
  • writing promotional content without balance, contrary to Wikipedia's Neutral Point of View policy, or writing an article like an advertisement
  • listing or describing minor details or awards
  • including personal material about the family

These are explained below. If you avoid these traps and write a fine, balanced article, you'll provide readers what they want to learn and avoid violating Wikipedia's rules.

Advertising vs. public relations[edit]

Because almost anyone can edit Wikipedia, it may seem like a place to post as if it were a place for free advertising. It's not. Instead, treat Wikipedia like a third-party medium, with editors who moderate and edit what gets posted in a spirit of collaboration. That's partly how Wikipedia got popular, even if editors (such as yourself) are unhappy at times with content getting deleted. In a way, it's like a daily newspaper, whose editors you educate in an effort to have their very credible pages accurately reflect a subject you know well, but where the editors may rely on information other than that which your client prefers.

First steps[edit]

If there's a conflict between any Wikipedia policy or guideline and this essay, adhere to that policy or guideline, not this essay. The policies and guidelines are more authoritative, comprehensive, and current.

Create a username (for yourself, not for an institution) and log in. Among the advantages of logging in are that you get better watchlist service, you can create a user page to tell the world about your qualifications insofar as they are relevant to Wikipedia and a user talk page for messages, you can get email about messages (while your email address stays private), and you soon can edit even semi-protected articles. Usernames can be real names or imaginative, as long as they're not official-like or product-promotional names, for example. It is permissible to refer to the client in the name, but still keep to the rule that only individual can edit, e.g. PeteratXYZ

Safer than editing or creating[edit]

If you create or edit Wikipedia while under a conflict of interest you may be blocked from editing.

To create an article, you can bring it to the page for creating articles, if you have sources, or, if you have simply an idea without sourcing or content, to the page for requesting articles. Editors look and act or respond. It's also feasible, once you have a username account, to draft it in your userspace, or in Draft space and, while that will not be visible to outside search engines, like Google, you can ask for feedback from other editors and then make it into a normal article that can be Googled.

Once it is ready in Draft space, you can submit the article. There's a group of experienced editors who will check it, and either accept it if it is OK, or tell you what the problems still are. Do not move it from Draft space yourself.

To edit an existing article, click "Talk" at the top of the article, click "New section" at the top of the talk page, in the subject field write "Edit Request" and another few words, and write in the main field what you're requesting. An editor without a conflict of interest will consider it and act accordingly. However, if you need confidentiality for your edit request, see below on legal problems and OTRS.

Standards and pitfalls[edit]

Basic policies and guidelines on writing are in the Five Pillars and the Manual of Style. A quick how-to on page design (how to make boldface, divide into sections, etc.) is the cheatsheet. But some pitfalls seem to afflict publicists' efforts the most, and they follow:

Notability of the subject[edit]

Notability is required for a subject to get its own article. Look for third-party secondary sources that are reliable and verifiable and write most of the article on the basis of what those sources say. It's not necessary to have a source for the sky being blue, but statements subject to challenge need sourcing. The challenger may be your opponent or competitor; that doesn't matter. Most statements still have to be sourced to withstand challenges. Citations generally need dates and page numbers (or the equivalent in other media).

Embarrassment can result when you try to write about executives, owners, and other key people. It's quite possible that most C-level officers will not qualify while an outstanding regional manager may qualify for an entire article in Wikipedia, as may a key technical employee who is widely known outside the company, if she has garnered coverage from independent media sources. Probably the CEO will qualify, but board members often won't. The question is what independent sources say. And a trade magazine blurbing that someone got a new job is probably too trivial for constructing an article. You may know that your company's lawyer jumped in the violent ocean to rescue a drowning cat, but if verifiable sources don't say so the office scuttlebutt doesn't count. The rule for companies is at WP:NCORP--press releases and notices do not count as reliable sources, and neither do interviews where the subject says what ever they please, even if published in an otherwise reputable newspaper or magazine.


Balance will be helped by several efforts:

  • Neutralize the point of view. The subject, sources, and editors (like you) do not have to be neutral, but the article does. Remove unquoted praise. Balance good points with criticism, if a source reports criticism, especially when the subject is controversial.
  • The writing style should generally be impersonal and crisply informative, not like a personal reflection.
  • Don't promise your client a particular text. It will likely not survive, as other editors modify the original text. Better to focus on presenting important information.
  • Blurbing that The Times says the product is "great" (if that's all the newspaper said) is not much use, because it sounds like mere advertising even if it wasn't, but you may report that Consumer Reports tested the product and rated it best in a comparison (if true), because that's more substantive. Be careful to not to cherry-pick quotations, using the one statement of praise in an article.
  • Living humans as article subjects are covered by the policy on biographies of living persons, which addresses what to do with contentious content, including personal attacks. This includes people who are not central article subjects but are mentioned in articles, even in passing.


If criticisms are plentiful, it's not usually necessary for them to take up half the article, as long as they're fairly reported. Exceptions include if your client is a convicted murderer or genocidal country, but that's not most subjects.

Tiny criticisms can be omitted. If your client is an oil company that once overcharged for a single gallon in 1912, that particular complaint can probably be ignored under the limit on undue weight. But modern environmental concerns probably have to be reported even though your client is sure they're groundless and refuses to let you mention them. Your client does not have the right to not be publicly embarrassed. Significant negative publicity in reliable media probably will find its way into the article. A solution is not to object if other editors do the distasteful reporting. You are not liable for controlling Wikipedia's content, so, even if a subject or a viewpoint cannot be mentioned in the company newsletter because the client might get sued, Wikipedia is not your client's property, so your client won't have the liability for what is reported here.

Criticisms about other or bigger subjects can be moved. If your subject is one computer game, a criticism that kids get addicted to games in general does not belong in the article about the one particular game, unless a source reports addiction specifically to the one game. It belongs instead in an article about games in general. If that article doesn't exist, consider creating one, since a more general article subject is probably already notable, and move the misplaced content into there. That makes it much less likely that another editor will revert if you merely delete sourced content. When you move content, use the Edit Summary to say where it's going. The Edit Summary is a field on a page you see when you're in the middle of editing.

Essentially the same policies and guidelines apply to articles about your client's competitors, too. Those articles also have to be neutral, based on reliable sources, and so on.

Utter hostility[edit]

An unhappy customer says your product made a meteor hit Russia, and does not cite a source. It's only in such an extremely obvious case like that can you remove the ridiculous statement yourself, because almost no one will question your judgment despite your conflict of interest. What's basically vandalism will go. But an unhappy customer says your product made a car crash. That's a bit more plausible although no one with your client and no scientist believes it and it's unsourced, but if you try to take it out you have a conflict of interest. The safer course is to post an edit request on the article's talk page with your argument against the content. If that doesn't do it, use the dispute resolution methods touched on below. Something like that will generally come out if it has no source, even if it has a minor source, if it fails a test of due weight or of coatracking, or some such reason. It's not that all criticisms come out just because your customer service department says they're resolved or your lawyer says they're without merit, but we tend to delete cheerleading, smears, and abuse.

Your qualifications[edit]

Declare your conflict of interest (COI) and go right ahead and edit. A COI is about your credibility and method, but it doesn't stop you from editing on your chosen subject. Declare your COI on the article's talk page and on your user page, and state the subjects you'll be editing in which you have a COI (not all subjects, just those affected by the COI). You don't have to say why you have a conflict, but if you are paid by the company, either as an agent contracted to do the work, or an employeee whose job it is to write publicity, you have to be specific.--see WP:PAID for the rules. If you're just an ordinary employee writing about the firm you happen to work for, you do not have to be specific, as long as you say you have the COI for the subject. Include related subjects to which the COI applies, such as your organization's chief executive and competitors, if the related subjects have articles you plan to edit.

Having a pseudonym does not change whether you have a COI. If you edit under more than one username, and if you use different usernames to edit different subjects, you have the option to declare your COI for only the username relevant to it, provided you don't edit under another username where you have a conflict without saying so. However, if you are doing paid editing for different topics under different names , you are expected to declare all of the accounts and all the clients.

You may edit your user page to state any of your qualifications relevant to Wikipedia, but not for self-promotion of your business. And you don't have to state anything about yourself; you're allowed to be virtually anonymous. Wikipedia does not rely on editors' qualifications to establish its veracity, but instead relies on verifiability of content through source citations to WP:Reliable sources.

Ownership of an article doesn't exist. That is, you and your client do not own it. Even if your client has designated you as the official spokester-editor for Wikipedia, Wikipedia doesn't care. No other editor needs your permission and if you act like the article's owner you'll get some negative reaction, maybe even get blocked from editing. You own the copyright but you don't own the article even if you wrote all of it. That's because, while you own the copyright, you license the copyright and the license includes other people's right to modify your work. (The license terms, to which you necessarily agree, can be found through a link on the bottom of every page.)

Some articles are semiprotected so fewer editors can edit, but not most articles. When vandalism repeats, semiprotection may be applied for a few hours or days, sometimes longer, but after that it's unprotected again. Even with semiprotection, mostly any editor with a username, an email address, a few edits already performed anywhere in Wikipedia, and a few days as an editor can edit. If there is repeated vandalism from editors who do have an account--usually accounts made for the purpose--full protection can be applied, limiting editing to administrators--requiring everyone else to suggest edits on the talk page. This is also done sometimes for the most controversial topics, usually for a very short time to stop a dispute

Without a username, an IP address appears instead. Many IP addresses can be traced, so they're not totally anonymous. Not only can an editor be blocked for inappropriate editing, an IP user can also be, and you probably share an IP address, so a bunch of people might be blocked as a consequence. Getting a username is always better.

Editing about a competitor is allowed, but first declare your conflict of interest just as you should with your client. Updating factual sourced material is usually OK--adding negative material is not.


You may add logos and trademarks and the like, but generally you may not mark them with "TM", the circled "R", or related symbols or announce limitations on their further use, except that when you upload a logo into a separate file page under the doctrine of fair use (a copyright law doctrine) you tag it on that page as legally protected, then link to that logo from the article, so that the logo shows up and the legal protection is in place.

Pictures are good. Images in the public domain or under standard Wikimedia licensing are much preferred over those under the fair use doctrine. Those under fair use require rationales and may be deleted by another editor when a less-restricted image is available, even though different. Some images are already in Wikipedia-related sites and you may wish to use them. We encourage you to add properly licensed pictures to Commons for others to use.

However, using a picture or likeness of a person as if they're endorsing your client or client's product may be illegal. Wikipedia doesn't keep consents or model releases, so don't use a picture or likeness requiring one.

Copyright traps[edit]

Someone being your client is not permission to copy whatever they've created. You may have such an agreement with your client, but Wikipedia's owner doesn't know that. Thus, don't copy a client's website, company newsletter, or standard message that was developed for many media. It may look like a copyright violation and lead to speedy deletion unless you can quickly prove legal permission. The whole article can get deleted speedily. A source you use may lack a copyright notice, but that lack is not a copyright release. The release must be affirmative. It is assumed that everything on the web is copyright unless it says otherwise.

Don't copy from anywhere else if someone else owns the copyright. You may have written it but you may have given them copyright in your agreement with them. In that case, you can't give permission for use, because the permission has to come from the owner or license-holder.

Permission to copy into Wikipedia cannot be restricted to copying into Wikipedia. The permission has to allow editing and reuse from Wikipedia by other people into other publications. No one will contact you for permission because you will already have given it generically, just by clicking the Save Page button. This can be confusing, because many owners license with restrictions that Wikipedia doesn't accept, but that means you can't use that license, meaning you can't post the restricted content into Wikipedia.

Permission to copy into Wikipedia cannot be restricted to noncommercial use, even though the Wikipedia website is nonprofit. Commercial use has to be allowed.

Fair use under copyright law is narrower than many people think. You can't copy a whole article even from a large newspaper, although you may be able to copy a small part of a large article. Fair use is partly decided by proportionality relative to the original article, not the original newspaper. That usually means small articles can't be copied at all. Paraphrase instead, but avoid close paraphrase where you just change a few words.

You give up much copyright protection on anything you post, if it's subject to copyright in the first place. For details on copyright licensing of what you post, see the bottom of any article, where license terms are linked to.

A solution is often to create original content. Information cannot be copyrighted, only the expression of it. Write in new words.


Directories of a company's executives or directors are debatable on a case-by-case basis; some editors are against them. They are morel ikely to be permitted for the most famous companies. A CEO's or founder's name is usually okay. Listing branches is less advisable. Don't include any phone numbers or postal or email addresses, except that a headquarters postal address is useful. As a substitute for an email address, the company's official website should be listed under External Links. Wikipedia doesn't mind if directory information is on a client's website to which you've linked.

When another editor gets involved[edit]

Respect consensus. Article consensus is not permitted to violate a Wikipedia policy or guideline. But, apart from that, try to work with other editors on whatever concerns they raise. Consensus does not usually arise from voting but from what is said. A few editors are usually enough to determine a consensus, even one or two (plus or minus you). Don't canvass for people only to agree with you but you may neutrally ask others for help.

Clearer writing or a better explanation often helps. Editing by another editor who doesn't understand your subject and edits incorrectly may still indicate that you need to be clearer in your editing.

Compromise, even a trivial or meaningless compromise, often gains mileage. Passage of time sometimes helps, especially with fly-by editors.

Patience helps. Some editors are too abrupt; a few are hot-headed. Calmly and informatively replying is good. Edit-warring is bad. A typical exchange is for one editor to boldly edit; an editor who disagrees to revert or undo; and either editor to start a discussion on the affected article's talk page (use the Talk link at the top of any article). If you anticipate controversy, make the first step the discussion.

Dispute resolution procedures exist. Some policy pages have noticeboards, for specific questions, challenges, or cases, such as on neutrality (NPOV/N). If only two editors are locked in a dispute, a third editor can be requested. Comments can be requested (RfC). Complaints about editors (some have been blocked because of misbehavior) and even admins (who help oversee our actions) can be brought up with evidence. And so on. But try to resolve all important disagreements directly and soon.

Articles nominated for deletion (AfD) (other than speedy-delete) typically are discussed for a week, or a little less, and you can edit the article while it's being talked about. However, it's usually more productive to edit within standards before the deletion notice turns up, because some editors look right away and vote before you've made changes and they don't come back.


If you need a confidential channel to achieve an editing result, methods include contacting Wikipedia or contacting the Foundation that runs it as you might for any institution. This, for example, may be useful when you have to respond to an accusation without drawing more attention to it, or when the person making the contact doesn't want to become an editor. The system Wikimedia Foundation calls OTRS deals with many such matters. Communications to it are confidential.

Legal problems[edit]

Instead of posting publicly a legal claim or threat, address your complaint directly to the Wikimedia Foundation for resolution through their OTRS system. Publicly posting a legal threat or revealing another editor's real identity without their consent can get you blocked from editing. But the OTRS system handles office emails so that legitimate legal issues can be addressed properly by trusted representatives of the Foundation, including by editing the article. OTRS edits generally cannot be altered by other editors.

Postal mail, of course, is also handled. Phone calls are not encouraged.

If your client yells at you[edit]

Wikipedia has thousands of active editors. Ask your client to yell at us instead. We'll happily ignore him. Don't tell your client that our computer speakers are not hooked up to your client's microphone.

Although anyone can edit, or almost anyone, Wikipedia is not like an advertising medium. It is an encyclopedia. You get to help editors understand your client's view and, maybe, reflect it in Wikipedia, thus gaining credibility for your client's view, more cred than ads get. In a publicist's experience, the process of educating editors may be comparable to that at newspapers, because they publish approximately daily (whereas print encyclopedias may be published only annually), so you may have a steady stream of contact with newspapers as you seek to inform editors, and Wikipedia's editors are in touch with Wikipedia sometimes every few minutes day and night.

A reason newspapers publish a news story only once but the same advertisements have to be bought over and over again is that readers believe and absorb one a lot more readily than the other. Meet the needs of most editors and your client probably comes out ahead.


The more editing you do on all subjects combined, the more you should read policies and guidelines. There are too many for most of us to read all at once, but read one or another every once in a while, especially when an editor links you to a few.

Stubs are minimal articles that should be added to. You can mark an article as a stub. This invites other editors to add content. It also gives you credibility, since it implies you support other people's improving the article.

Check your watchlist daily at first, then weekly, or whenever you like (up to about monthly). Once you have an account and log into Wikipedia, look at the very top of the page for the watchlist link. It lists every page you've chosen to keep your eye on, but only if someone has changed it recently. Whenever you edit a page while logged in, a checkbox is available for you to watch the page for changes. You can also watch pages you haven't edited and unwatch pages you've lost interest in.

Set your preferences as you like. There's a link for preferences at the top of every article, once you have a username and log in. It's sensible to set prefs when you create your account but experience with Wikipedia makes fine-tuning more meaningful.


This essay is written as if the reader is a publicist with a client. If that does not apply or if some other relationship applies, adapt your reading accordingly.

This essay may not apply if your client is the Wikimedia Foundation itself, someone related to the Foundation (such as an employee or board member), or someone in the capacity of an editor on a Wikimedia project.

Other policies and guidelines apply to the Simple English Wikipedia project (for readers with limited English ability), non-English Wikipedias, and other Wikimedia projects (Commons (for pictures), Wikivoyage, and so on), an example being that rules for fair use may vary. And the underlying wiki software, MediaWiki, is available to the public, and lots of wikis are far beyond the Wikimedia Foundation's control, so if you see a wiki that doesn't mean the Foundation has anything to do with its content.

See also[edit]