Editor’s note: We brought this popular article from a few years ago up to date for 2020.
Since 2001, Wikipedia’s community of volunteer editors has created more than 6 million pages, many of them found on Google’s first page of search results for that topic. Wikipedia’s ubiquity bestows upon it the ability to lend its credibility to other subjects, which is attractive for companies and organizations who crave recognition.
But Wikipedia’s volunteer editors are focused on building a serious encyclopedia, and not so interested in helping a brand’s content marketing plan. If you want to create an entry about a company (or any topic related to your business), you need to understand what Wikipedia is looking for and the right way to go about it. This post describes the process at a high level, but it’s only a starting point – follow the links within to learn more before you try.
Start with the conflict of interest policy
Given that anyone can edit a Wikipedia entry, content marketers and other communications professionals think they can create and publish entries for their company or clients. But you really can’t do it all if you pay close attention to its conflict of interest policy.
In short, transparency is a key requirement. If you are receiving compensation from the company or have another type of interest in seeing an article published, you are best served by following Wikipedia’s disclosure rules.
Assess likelihood of eligibility
First, you need to determine whether your company meets Wikipedia’s eligibility requirements for “notability,” which is admittedly judgmental. (No one wants to hear, “Sorry, you’re not notable.”) The hard truth is that most companies don’t immediately qualify and attempting to create a page in these circumstances can be immensely frustrating.
What qualifies for a Wikipedia article and what if your company is not there yet?
To be considered, your company needs an interesting story about what it has achieved, and it must be a story that’s been told by working journalists. Wikipedia is not a place for self-published information, but instead what others have written about your brand. Credible news sources are a must. Press releases and company websites don’t cut it and, for the most part, can’t be used.Press releases and your website don’t cut it as sources for a @Wikipedia entry, says @williambeutler via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet
Evaluate available sources
A good early step is to identify all the information about your company in the news. Has a big-city newspaper or trade publication written about your business model, your founding story, or your market position relative to competitors? Does the coverage make a clear case for why your company is doing something interesting or unusual? If you have several articles like this, great – you’re in the hunt. If you don’t, save yourself time dealing with Wikipedia and pursue a PR strategy to earn that in-depth coverage.
Identifying credible news coverage is tricky. National publications are most valuable, but many media outlets publish online contributor blog posts. Forbes, for example, has a contributor network that looks official but is not written by Forbes journalists. Wikipedia does not deem the contributor network as a credible source. Also, many brief mentions do not add up to in-depth coverage nor do frequent quotes from your founder or key employees count toward notability.
Create an account
To communicate with Wikipedia editors, create a user account. Do not simply name the account for your company (long story). Give it a unique handle or even use your first name with the company name, like “Jane at ContentCo.” Even “Snuffleupagus45” is better than “ContentCo.”
Next, you’ll need to declare your conflict of interest – your precise connection to the subject of the article. The topic of COI is a thorny one on Wikipedia. You may have heard that you’re not supposed to edit your own page and, while this is broadly true, you can mitigate the issue.
You can’t solve this conflict problem just by handing off the work to a contractor to edit and assume there is no conflict of interest. There is. And don’t just ask friends to do it – that puts them in a bad position.
The thing to do, as Wikipedia’s own Jimmy Wales says:
- Create an account.
- Be up front about your connection to the subject.
- Take a hands-off approach by requesting the article.
Follow this path, and editors should take you seriously.Learn how @Wikipedia discussion pages work because this is where you talk things over with editors, says @williambeutler via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet
Request an article
After you set up a user account and disclose any relevant relationships, you can follow the process to request an article.
In your request, describe in a couple sentences the basics of your company and note any conflicts of interest in your request. Include independent reliable sources (as noted above). It also can be helpful, Wikipedia notes, to create a draft article on your user page.
Write the draft
Organize your draft in successive paragraphs as follows:
- An introduction with a high-level overview of the company
- A description of the company’s history
- A description of its product or services in modest detail (too much and editors will judge it as promotional)
It’s important to write in a detached manner, avoiding marketing clichés like calling yourself a “leading provider of solutions.” Stick to the facts and be specific.Write a @Wikipedia article in a detached manner, avoid clichés and puffery, says @williambeutler via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet
You also should learn the proper format for references and detail them in a references section at the end of the article. These references are what Wikipedia editors use to judge whether your article meets the notability criteria. Remember, you can only include information from third-party sources that Wikipedia considers reliable.
You can go a long way toward crafting a credible article by studying an existing, high-quality company page to see what they include. But be careful of creating a page similar to your competitors’ Wikipedia pages – just because they’re published doesn’t mean they’re good. Wikipedia knows it has lots of bad articles, and it doesn’t want more.
Instead look to one of Wikipedia’s designated good articles about similar companies. For example, the article about Chuck E. Cheese is well-researched, well-cited, and fairly complete. As a counter example, the Mellow Mushroom article is less well-developed, missing needed sources, and far less informative.
Submit for review
The final step is taking your draft to the articles for creation process, and adding it to the review queue. Once you’ve done that, it will probably take a few weeks for a volunteer to read the draft. Sometimes editors will come back with critiques about what else it should include or what should be deleted. Do your best to incorporate their feedback, and don’t take it personally if they don’t like something you’ve written. Sometimes, what seems reasonable to you may run afoul of Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines – and Wikipedia has many of them.
Undoubtedly, this can be a confusing process, and Wikipedia editors know it. Alas, there simply isn’t a better way: Building an encyclopedia is hard and reviewing contributions from outsiders can be harder still. But if you can figure out Wikipedia’s sourcing requirements, internalize its style points, and learn the process for writing and submitting an entry, you can help make Wikipedia better and tell your brand’s story at the same time.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute