Friday, May 17, 2013

Crowdsourcing a PhD to make it effective for PR

Crowdsourcing is a description of how people cluster round an idea or subject and contribute to its development or encourage others to make a contribution.

Wiki’s are an example of crowdsourceing. Much software is developed as open-source software which can be used by anyone but is developed by enthusiasts for no pay.

InWikipedia, it is described thus: according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.

Crowdsourcng is by no means new. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is one of the earliest examples of crowdsourcing.   In the early 19th century, volunteer readers were assigned books and copied passages illustrating word usage onto quotation slips and thus began to index all words in the English. The authors received over 6 million submissions over a period of 70 years. It would seem there is a rich seem of potential help in such volunteer communities both on and off line.

Listening to the people who use an organisations' products and services can be invaluable. The responses can produce information that would otherwise be hard to find, and it can also open up topics that the organisation itself might never have considered. 

Taking this a stage further, it is possible, and not uncommon, that the individual responses themselves feed off each other to create new perspectives and insights.

Sometimes crowdsourcing can be instigated by the organisation itself, simply asking a question or soliciting views, but just as importantly, the sentiment can coalesce without direct organisational input, or can be created by an agency with different objectives perhaps even an opponent.

In 2009, Jan Marco Leimeister and fellow researchers published a paper in Journal of Management Information Systems showing that ideas competitions appear to be a promising tool for crowdsourcing and open innovation processes, especially for business-to-business software companies. Such collaboration is part of relationship management and thus part of the discipline of Public Relations.

Understanding the crowdsourcing phenomenon from a PR perspective would be a valuable contribution to the practice of PR.