With great power comes great responsibility

Himalayas at dusk

I love Wikipedia, for all sorts of reasons. I love waking up and discovering that I had been looking at random entries like “deepest hole in the world” just before falling asleep the night before. It’s a treasure trove of delights, like this page on tennis’ Big Four I presently have open on another tab.

I also love The North Face. I’m even wearing their shoes now right now as I type these words, a striking yellow pair that has taken me up Makalu Sunset Peak in Hong Kong…and down again. So it’s a pity to see the avalanche of negative opinion after the company’s Wikipedia page was edited by an agency for SEO reasons (insert pun here on climbing up search rankings).

Was it a brazen attempt at marketing? The North Face is respected for its adventurous sportswear. That’s not for me to say, but it appears that events behind the scenes were more than a little convoluted.

What is undoubtedly true is that there are very clear rules around working with Wikipedia, which are repeated on the CIPR website for PR professionals.

A quick Google search will reveal that other agencies have found themselves in similar hot water over Wikipedia in the past. The Wikipedia question also came up in client projects I’d worked on in recent years.

At the end of the day, it’s a question of ethics. Editing Wikipedia is a doddle, far easier than, say, scampering up Lhotse. Anyone can do it, anywhere in the world. I can do it sitting on a beach in the Philippines with the waves massaging my feet.  But with greater power comes great responsibility.

We must do the right thing, always.