Out of the 40 percent of respondents that made edits to Wikipedia, about three-quarters made the edits directly rather than proposing changes on the Talk page of the article. Wikipedia's community news site, the Wikipedia Signpost, noted that the study shows the majority of PR pros that participate are violating Wikipedia's conflict of interest policy, which "strongly discourages" editing articles where you have a financial connection. The guideline warns that the practice of editing pages directly may be illegal and that it can create risks of media exposure that damages the client's brand equity.
The survey also found that more than 70 percent of PR pros believe their page has error(s). Most Wikipedia editors know that company articles have a lot of errors, but also that an "error" is a matter of perspective.
PRSA's report says the "Bright Line" rule that marketing professionals propose changes instead of directly edit their article is a "problem that public relations professionals face". However, others see it as a solution. The rule has obtained a lot of traction within the Wikipedia community. The Chartered Institute of Public Relations and many PR trade associations around the world have adopted it as best practice. The PRSA has lobbied against it since around January 2012.
The PRSA seems to understand there are significant ethical implications. In December 2011, Keith Trivitt from the PRSA praised Shift Communications' hands-off policy on Wikipedia:
"Good of you and SHIFT to not go down the potentially dark and unethical road of manipulating clients’ Wikipedia or other online entries to reflect a more positive voice and perspective. That’s a form of Astroturfing, which the PRSA Code of Ethics (http://ow.ly/7U6mr) specifically advises against."
Then just a few months later on the same blog, Natasha from the PRSA said, "practitioners need to know where to draw the line" and avoid “masquerading as legitimate non-promotional sources."
The PRSA report seems to suggest the majority of PR pros are participating in a potentially unethical, illegal way that also violates the site's policies. That makes ethics a tough sell when all your competitors are spending fewer resources on more promotional articles that will ultimately provide more revenues to their business. That's the issue we face at Ethical Wiki every day, when clients or agency partners need to justify ethics to stakeholders that are comparing to competitors that have promotional, astroturfed articles.
A substantial portion of Wikipedia's highest-ranked company articles were written by Wikipedia consultancies like Ethical Wiki, but the survey found only 1-2 percent of respondents used a Wikipedia consultant.