As previous studies with my research partner Marcia DiStaso from Penn State University have shown, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia can have a strong influence on how a company’s reputation is framed online. Our latest study, which was just published in Sandra Duhe’s second edition of New Media and Public Relations, analyzed the framing of BP and the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It is our first research study that takes an in-depth look at the referencing of negative corporate content on Wikipedia.
The following is the abstract of the study:
In times of crisis, people turn to the Internet and the use of social media increases. In fact, social media coverage is believed to have a higher level of credibility than traditional news media coverage. On April 20, 2010, the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico caused an existential crisis for BP and information about it quickly became available on Wikipedia. By analyzing the Wikipedia content for this crisis over a year from the day of the explosion, this study found that the crisis information at the fingertips of the public was a top loading in search engines, had a higher number of views and more edits than the main BP article, predominately contained negative content, and had high levels of news media references.