Let’s call her Ms. Spicecake. She is the founder of SpicyRings, and sells her signature homemade feathered earrings to a growing customer base. Her Instagram account has thousands of followers. She is all over Twitter, has a booming Etsy shop, chats up people worldwide on WhatsApp, SnapChat, and Reddit, pins constantly to Pinterest, and has a YouTube channel.
But there’s one channel Ms. Spicecake cannot seem to win over: Wikipedia. Several times, she has attempted to create an article about her business. Once, she even paid someone to do it. Every time, the articles were quickly deleted by a volunteer editor.
Why? “Not notable!” they say.
How can SpicyRings not be notable? Is it not famous, by current standards?
Yes. But fame by today’s standards does not translate to “notable” by Wikipedia standards. Until Ms. Spicecake’s company has been featured in full-length articles in major national or international publications, she won’t make the cut with Wikipedia.
Ready to create a Wikipedia page? Read this first
Many entrepreneurs have shared Ms. Spicecake’s experience. They understand the power that resides in a Wikipedia article about their company. They have heard that “Wikipedia is the online encyclopedia that anyone can edit.” So they do a quick study on editing and attempt to post an article. Or they hire a Wikipedia article editing firm that promises to have them on Wikipedia in a few days. In most cases, the article is rejected before it goes live.
There’s a reason for this quick rejection. As Wikipedia has matured, the volunteers who created it and who set the rules for article inclusion have raised the bar considerably for new articles. A system has been set in place to “catch” new articles as they are posted (or proposed) and, in most cases, deny them a place in Wikipedia, based on a failure to meet the notability standard.
What this means to you, the entrepreneur, is that you cannot promise yourself, your investors, or your partners that your company can easily be added to Wikipedia. This system mentioned above is specifically designed to make it difficult for anyone with a close relationship to a subject (like yourself) to post a new article.
Our firm strongly advises clients against attempting to add themselves to Wikipedia. Any firm that promises to add you to Wikipedia should be viewed with suspicion.
But how should you respond if your investors or partners ask you to do this? Following are guidelines that will help you set the proper insider expectations so that you can manage this situation:
- Tell your partners that your company must meet Wikipedia’s very strict notability standards (outlined here) and that an accurate assessment of the company’s notability, based on media/academic journal coverage to date, can be done.
- Your organization must meet these basic standards to be considered notable:
Credible third-party coverage: Multiple articles in major national/international publications or news sites recognized for their in-depth reporting and editing (peer reviewed academic journals quality).
65% rule: At least 65% of the content of the articles must focus on your client’s business (or personal life if that is the desired topic).
Proven success: The business must be at least 5 years in operation. (This isn’t included in the notability standards but has been repeatedly cited by volunteer editors as part of the proof of notability.)
- Be very cautious in your assessment. If you have any doubt about notability, do not proceed with a new article. Instead, you should undertake a media coverage strategy that will support Wikipedia notability. There are public relations firms that can help with this, Make sure they serve Wikipedia clients.
- If you believe your company is absolutely bullet-proof notable, you may either propose a thoroughly sourced new article via the Articles for Creation process, or propose it to a select group of volunteer editors who are experts in the field in which your client does business. It is always preferable to have a volunteer editor assist you with any editing on Wikipedia.
These steps will set proper Wikipedia expectations for you and others in your organization, and can save you from the heartache of a rejected article.
Dan Cook leads the Wikipedia consulting service for To The Point Collaborative, a creative services firm. A longtime journalist (BusinessWeek, Knight Ridder, Newhouse Publications, American Lawyer Media, Reuters), he began helping organizations manage their Wikipedia articles a decade ago. That service has expanded greatly in recent years. He is a Cleveland native and diehard Browns fan, and lives in Portland, Oregon.
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