Modern marketing, branding and PR is more about how a company is ranked in different (blog) search engines, especially Google and Technorati due to their market share and impact. However, more and more searchers on the internet skip Google and Technorati alltogether and go directly to Wikipedia. Why ? Because Wikipedia is in most cases in the top 5 results of a search query anyway and so the searcher can be more efficient by going directly to Wikipedia as a starting point for discovery. And this is where very interesting (legal, philosophical and commercial) issues come to mind:
If Wikipedia becomes so fundamental to PR, branding and marketing, how can a company prevent and correct false statements from third parties when one can not afford an effective lawyer ? What is the impact of false statements - after being approved by the (social, cultural and technical) reputational systems of Wikipedia - on PR as the entries increasingly are distributed by means of RSS, SMS and/or e-mail ? Who is the real owner of Wikipedia entries ? Wikipedia, individual contributors, the topic item itself, none ? Is there a key difference in legal and non-legal claims ? What is acceptable diversity and what is unacceptable diversity of views ?
And how does this relate to the value and impact of tagging ? If people perceive and label you (collectively) one way but you see yourself in different (commercial) terms, how does this play out in terms of branding and PR ? Does this mean the advertising one-liner or positioning statements can be elusive or democratized ?
Can companies ultimately only accept the current policies of Wikipedia and tagging services and influence the Wikipedia results/pages and tagging effects by giving input themselves, albeit anonymously ?
Jimmy Wales talks about neutrality (NPOV policy; Neutral Point Of View) as a social (not legal !) concept and sharing the different views side by side when truth or objectivity can not be guaranteed. In the case above, this boils down to the situation that a false statement from a journalist in some media will be juxtaposed in a Wikipedia article with the 'correct' version(s) from the brand / company. As a result, this might dilute the brand value and equity. This is different from the situation in which there is a non-legal issue concerning a brand or company. This is about legal mistakes and the follow-up procedure within user generated content sites in general. This is about online identity and control. This is about the scope of your online identity. This is about BrandGossip, about BrandLies and about media relations. This is about the drawbacks of Digital Maoism as stated by Jaron Lanier in Edge.org in 2006.