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Harnessing the Power of Communication

Published on March 30, 2016, at 7:45 p.m.
by Eliza Sheffield.

These days, public relations practice must go far beyond one-way communication. To gain consumer trust, companies have to make people feel heard, and brands often make this happen by actively interacting with their audiences.

Although sustaining two-way communication is worth it in the long run, figuring out how to get audience feedback can be challenging.

Crowdsourcing is one answer.

The term crowdsourcing, coined in 2006, means drawing content and ideas from a large public — usually an Internet community. It can take many different forms, such as expanding user-based software help guides, solving business problems or getting quick feedback to companies.

Seems like a good idea, right? Plenty of opinions are plastered all across the Internet every day, so it makes sense to try to extract some meaning from the chaos by strategically sorting the noise.

But sharing the mic can go terribly awry, like when the UK’s National Environment Research Council left naming rights for its $300 million Antarctic (look up A/a) research ship up to an Internet poll. Quickly, the frontrunner for the UK’s largest and most advanced research ship vessel became “Boaty McBoatface.


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Like most other mighty tools, crowdsourcing comes with responsibility. When considering launching a crowdsourcing campaign, remember these quick tips:

Prepare. Brace yourself for everything that could go wrong. It’s not pessimism; it’s preparation! In the case of a naming competition, remember to set the competition up on your terms – it’s your brand so it’s reasonable to give yourself the final say on naming.

Guide. Accept that you never have complete control over your brand. This is true even with your personal image – you can’t control what people think about you. However, you can guide the conversation, and you can shape opinions.

Engage. Crowdsourcing is a great way to channel creativity. Consider sites like Fiverr, where users list services they will provide for $5. Need a book cover design? IT support? Check, check. What’s that? You also need your logo drawn into a cup of coffee? Got it. Never underestimate the collective creative juices of a community.

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Drama. Never forget that the veil of anonymity leads users to overstate. Be prepared for aggressive opinions and hurtful statements thrown across cyberspace.

Crowdsourcing is a great tool to boost consumer interaction with your brand. It’s more important than ever to make people feel heard because we live in a time where people expect their messages to be heard and have more platforms than ever to do so.

Setting up crowdsourcing is a little like building a hydroelectric plant. Do it right and you set up an efficient system that churns water and opinions into power; mismanage the system and you cause a disaster.

Harnessing the power of opinion and creativity can lead to many meaningful conversations. In the end, it’s all about sitting in the sweet spot of a shared conversation by loosening your grip on message control without letting brands get washed away in the spray of opinions.

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