We often work strictly as consultants, advising clients on best practices and policy; conducting research and drafting; and providing training on submitting proposed articles, updates or appeals through the client’s own account. The client must still disclose conflict of interest on Wikipedia proposal submissions – we insist on this as a condition of providing any consulting services, although as the submitting editor, the client is always free to disregard our advice and alter proposals as they see fit. We offer the best advice we can and try our best to steer clients away from pitfalls. But when a client decides to do a submission with their own Wikipedia account, the final decision as to the proposal is theirs alone. Once trained, some clients eventually take over future proposals for straightforward requests without our help – a result we consider a great success.
When submitting directly on your behalf, it isn’t enough if a paid editor promises to do a COI disclosure just for your article. When user accounts for non-complying editors are blocked, all their work might be removed or strictly scrutinized. A paid editor must do COI disclosures on every article where they’ve been paid for assistance. The volunteer reviewers are usually very smart people – they generally can glean when a contributor probably has a COI and isn’t disclosing it. Some volunteers are fanatic about catching non-disclosing COI contributors and removing their content. If the content involves a famous individual or organization, they will also sometimes publicize their finding to the press.
A reputable Wikipedia consultant should be willing to show you the user account of the Wikipedia editor who will work on your article (it must have a “paid editor” or “paid consultant” disclosure) and articles from that specific editor (the “Talk” tab for the article must also have a disclosure and evidence that a review from an independent editor has been requested.) All this information is public (although usually reviewed only by a small number of intensely involved Wikipedia editors), so a consultant who claims they can’t show you this information because of confidentiality is by definition a “black hat” practitioner.
That said, outside of disclosures required on Wikipedia, we maintain strict confidentiality and do not discuss our clients with the press or anyone else.