(Author's note: Circa 2007, this post points to how PR agencies were still trying to figure out how to leverage new resources like Wikipedia. They were already pitching their Wikipedia knowledge to clients, but all you had to do was look at their own Wikipedia entries to see through those claims. Note that the links below are to the firm's current entries, rather than the 2007 versions.)
Even compared to most content on the indispensible trainwreck that is Wikipedia, the entries of many top PR firms are a mess.
What does it say about a PR agency's ability to influence people's perceptions -- particularly in the white-hot social media space -- when its presence on the Google of Web 2.0 looks like this:
The entry consists entirely of a litany of misdeeds. Co-founder Bill Marsteller's name is spelled wrong.
Not much better -- twice as much content on two recent embarrassing controversies than on the firm's entire history.
Ruder Finn --
Ah, you gotta love Wikipedia randomness. Two sections devoted to ethics controversies, one section that says somnabulant crooner Perry Como was a client, and the top section, which reads as follows:
Ruder Finn is an United States public relations firm founded in 1948 by David Finn and William Ruder.
Ruder Finn is a privately held, family-owned company that employs more than 450 people. Its public relations cover healthcare, technology, consumer, interactive, media, arts and culture, and environmental programming.[specify]
Since 1978, Ruder Finn has maintained an executive-training program, which approximately 20% of Ruder Finn employees have participated in to date.
Thank God (I mean Jimmy) that I now know the percentage of folks in Ruder Finn's training program. But dammit -- I need more Como!
Poor Fleishman-Hillard. Someone associated with the PR hating group PR Watch apparently is responsible for the bulk of Fleishman's entry. Someone with Fleishman -- knowing the Wikipedia ban on companies posting about themselves -- then apparently tried to go through official channels and posted the following in Wikipedia's talk section:
This article is lifted essentially verbatim from PR Watch (a cousin of Sourcewatch). PR Watch is an expressly biased publication whose self-described mission is "blowing the lid off today's multi-billion dollar propaganda-for-hire industry." Opinionated content written by a blatantly biased source should not be taken as fact, and as such has no place on Wikipedia.
Well put, Fleishman. Only problem is, this objection was lodged in April 2006 -- and nothing has happened since.
One of the longest entries of all the PR firms I checked. Unfortunately, of the entry's nine paragraphs, seven are about various ethical controversies in which the firm has been involved.
Flagged more times than a closet-full of GOP lapels.
All in all, if you read their Wikipedia entries, the top PR firms sound more like criminal enterprises than successful corporations. This goes to the fact that Wikipedia has a clear anti-corporate bias -- no two ways about that.
But the sad state of PR firms' Wikipedia entries should also be a lesson to potential clients -- don't believe the hype from agencies that pretend they've mastered this new world.