Now when I read this I got all high and mighty. In fact I can show you just how high and mighty because I sent Mr Basturea an email, and in it I said:
For the record I think that it is unethical for PR people to edit wikipedia
posts for their clients, the true facts will out as they say.
So despite my pomposity Mr B wrote back pointing out that he would like to see:
1. a mechanism that will allow PR pros to correct false information
2. a code
that PR pros could subscribe to - something that will back them
when their clients will ask them to do act unethical in Social Media Commons as
Wikipedia, del.icio.us or digg.
I wonder whether it is more telling about me, or the reputation both inside and outside the PR industry, that I instantly assumed that if PRs were changing things on wikipedia it would be on unethical terms, rather than righting wrongs.
Sometimes I worry the cynicism will get me, sometimes I think it already has.
If I could play devil's advocate, I would have to say that while it would be great for us all to sign a code of conduct, it would only take one person to sign it and then carry on regardless, acting unethically, for the code to be made a mockery of.
I suppose that is the joy and curse of this social media malarkey; everyone is included, no one could be excluded (and wouldn't that be unethical in itself?) and sometimes, as with all things, we all get tarred with the same brush.
On the positive side; if anyone were to 'cheat on the code' nothing escapes the blogosphere - and increasingly this is where potential clients are turning to for reference on their PRs. An unethical PR can no longer brazenly get away with it.
Social media has worked well to add to the 'human face' to the PR industry. People can go online and see that PR people function in just the same way as in any other industry. We are silly, serious, charming and (think we're) clever across the board, and it provides a transparency which shows that while there may be the occasional Machiavelli, we are all just people who do and enjoy communications.
Of course I would sign a code and abide by it (it wouldn't be a stretch), but would I put all my faith in it? Now there is a question.
I don't like to be the cynic and I certainly believe the principals of a code of conduct, but if we were all ethical we would not need the code, and signing a code is not going to make everybody ethical.
These are things I have been thinking about for quite a while, as - I'm pretty sure - everyone else does too, and a thorny subject like this deserves a lot of thought. I don't have the answers.
I shall certainly be watching this discussion with interest.