Knowing your crowdsource from your open source

Do you know your crowdsource from your open source?  As a result of an earlier post it’s now part of a research project I’ve been getting to grips with.  Open source certainly gave birth to the idea of crowdsourcing and the two strategies do share some common characteristics there are also some very key differences as shown in the table below.  What do you think? Is there anything missing? Perhaps you have some thoughts on the corporate communicator’s role in the process?  Remember you saw it here first, if you use this table please cite appropriately.


Open Source


Someone has been or could be employed to do this job

Open call

Request generally initiated by an organisation


Request generally initiated by individuals


Participation requires: knowledge, skills, or ability

Payment or financial reward for participation



Intellectual property and distribution rights are owned by initiator


Participants can see, comment or amend other participants contributions


Participants choose when and how much they wish to participate

Parameters to participation are more likely to be defined

Participants benefit from the solution

Only if their individual solution/idea is used/chosen

Project/content creation is generally ongoing

Parameters/timeframe are more likely to be defined

Project/content creation is generally transient


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Marketing and Corporate Communications: It’s a different mindset.

After a recent charity marketing group meeting the Chair wrote an email to explain that the group had agreed it would be a good idea to use emails collected at the last event.  Nothing wrong with that, their plan was to add them to the e-mailshot, e-newsletter and ask them to join as members.  Remembering that I often held a different opinion he wanted to offer a chance to respond.

He’s right and it boils down to the difference between a corporate communications versus a marketing communications mindset.   Marcoms folks tend to focus on the sale in this case signing up new members, without a concern for their emails being considered as spam.  A Corporate Communications mindset on the other hand is focussed on relationship building and reputation.  Yes, you many have left your email when you signed in at one of our events.  In doing so your thought might be that you would be sent presentation slides or asked for feedback.  You were not given the choice about opting in and out of what else we might like to send you.

It’s just not good practice.  What both areas agree on is ‘what’ should be done with contact details where we differ are in the ‘how’ we do it.  Why ruin hard won reputation and respect by not being open and transparent about how you wish to use the email.  Plan B is now to write and thank them for attending and ask if they would like to hear more about future events, if they are happy then continue with plan A.  Volunteers have been provided with key messages that it is optional to do this and how the charity will protect the data.  For the future sign in sheets will contain the message “if you wish to be added to our mailing please leave your email”.  Do you come across similar situations where a subtle change of tactics keeps everyone happy?  Is it unwritten etiquette? Old fashioned good manners?  Perhaps the real difference between marketing and corporate communications  is to treat people as you would be like to treated yourself and not as a commodity.

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Merlin’s beard! What do you expect?

As part of the Project Merlin agreement banks have pledged an additional £76bn to help Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs).  Up to now SMEs have apparently been surviving on overdrafts and the good old credit card – not an ideal, or sustainable way to run a business.  While in the short term it’s a strategy that may cover a gap in cash flow, it incurs giddy rates of interest on both overdraft and credit card charges in the process.  Added to this the Edelman Trust Barometer, shows trust in Banks has dropped for the third consecutive year.

It is against this back drop that agencies; Portland, Fishburn Hedges and Open Road are pitching to the British Bankers Association.  The brief, to improve the reputation of banks with SMEs, is an unenviable challenge.  Banks have become very risk adverse with SMEs, the riskier they seem the higher their interest rates are likely to be.  SME’s that can get them will be paying a premium, those that can’t will be relying on their entrepreneurial skills and creativity to conjure up an alternative.

Even with the best campaign plan restoring the reputation of the banks will require actions to back up words.  Money can’t buy a magic bullet for the banks.  For SMEs and PR agencies that spells time and hard work.  How are you managing realistic expectations of what communications can deliver?

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Reflection and 6 tips for new student bloggers

Mirror mirror on the wall I’ve become a blogger after all!  Blogs by their very nature are reflective.  A weekly (in the case of this assignment) view of a topic that shares thoughts following a conversation or something read.  So reflecting on the past three months as a whole, what have I gained from the overall experience?  One, a healthy respect for bloggers, it takes dedication and perseverance to maintain a sustained flow of information over a period of time.  Secondly, recognising the value of blogs as a form of two way communication.  Particularly compared to intranets where regular news updates are pushed out without the comment facility to create dialogue.  The biggest challenge going forward is creating a culture where people are willing to comment online in the same way as they might to any offline conversation.  If we are to believe Jakob Nielsen we will only ever get about 10% of users to generate content and a mere 1% doing the lions share.  I’d like to know what you think.  Will participation grow with generation Y?  Why don’t a greater proportion read and write?

For students taking up the social media assignment, the practical hands on experience in addition to theory is a powerful combination.  Do read Richard Bailey’s advice, in addition to that my tips are:

1) Choose your theme with care: The theme of this blog is Twenty Ten I was happy with this until in week two or three when I tried to add sharing buttons (twitter, digg, facebook, stumbleupon etc).  The just put a tick in the box beside ‘Show sharing buttons on this post’ does not work with this theme.  Even when you set to view only one post at a time.  In themes like Vostok and Black Letterhead this simple action works perfectly.  Some theme’s default to Times New Roman others to a more screen friendly font, they can be changed by adding HTML code but it is extra work.  So you need to experiment, then…

2) Quit procrastinating and dive in: The best way to learn about something is to jump in and do it.  Don’t get hung up about your name being ‘out there’.  After all, as a professional you should not be saying anything that would personally embarrass you or the company your work for.  Although it is a wise to state that your opinions are your own and do not reflect the position of your employer.

3) Plan: One of Richard Bailey’s best pieces of advice is “Do your communications plan for your blog like you would any other campaign”.  Yes, it does take you out of your comfort zone to send your work to friends, followers, colleagues, ex colleagues.  The first time you click send is the hardest.  As an unexpected bonus though, ex-colleagues you have not spoken to for ages come back with support and encouragement. The ones who end up commenting are not necessarily those you might think!

4) Routine aka time management or get organised: Set yourself a weekly calendar appointment to post your blog like you would any task.  Set up a spreadsheet with dates and add ideas as they come to you.  You don’t have to use them but one week you might have a couple of ideas and then you can push that book review over to another week you don’t have anything.  The saying that when you are not actually writing you are thinking about writing is true, so when you have a moment of inspiration use a notebook in your pocket or send yourself a text.

5) Fuel the Passion: If you are not writing about a topic you are interested in sharing or learning more about then my advice would be don’t bother.  If you are interested but just happen to have hit a block, then network with people who are their enthusiasm will rub off on you.

6) Most importantly give something back: Make the effort whenever you can to comment on the blogs of others in your cohort and further afield.  The most enjoyable part of blogging for me was receiving comments, some were serious, some were humourous, but all were appreciated.  It is the two way process that makes blogging come alive, that creates the conversation and the insight.

Dissertation beckons, if you have any tips you would like to share.  Blogging for the forseeable future will be some pro-bono work for a local charity.  My heartfelt thanks to all the ‘non-lurkers‘ who took the time and effort to comment.  For those still working up to it here’s your virtual nudge and a well known brand tagline – Just do it!

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Communications and the scrum

Analogies particularly accompanied by diagrams are a useful way to get a message across. For example change communications is often compared to a journey; where we have come from, where we are now, where we want to get to (and why) including how we are going to deal with potential roadblocks along the way.  It’s not perfect but it’s a fairly standard format that people can relate to.  This ‘train’ of thought leads to wondering what analogies your organisation might use to get over the corporate message, are you even aware of them?

Here’s another, crisis communications is often compared to a media scrum, fairly topical with the six nations tournament just around the corner.  The analogy is that after a foul, in communications terms that relates to an event or crisis, the media gather around and press in on the spokesperson, which equates to the two teams coming together to win the ball.  Expanding that a bit further the scrum process could also be compared to writing any corporate material.  For the non rugby folks the referee usually gives the instructions; crouch, touch pause, engage.

Crouch Each team locks together and crouches. A writers posture when they have spent too much time bent over their computer.
Touch The front row of each side reaches out and touches the opposite side. The writer shares the proposed communication with management to ‘touch’ base and check clarity.
Pause The briefest momentary pause before final action. A final proof read and check of detail.
Engage The two sides come together. Click send or publish and wait for response – your comments duly awaited,

Do you have a favourite analogy to explain a process or idea? and does anyone know where the media scrum analogy actually originated?

Posted in Communications Culture, Crisis Communications, Internal Communications, Marketing Communications, stakeholder relations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

How available are you?

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Open all hours

You might think that skiing is one activity where people would leave their mobiles in their pocket, at least till they’re off piste.  You would be wrong.  On closer inspection many skiers are using the same ‘hands free’ technology you might use in a car – under their ski helmet!

In a technology enabled world it’s easy to be available 24/7 and in some organisations or areas it’s an expectation.  Within public relations and communications arena it tends to go with the territory.  In a recent PR Week feature, Ann-Marie Thompson, International Head of Media at the Entertainment Company Syco describes a quality she prizes in new recruits as “that they are contactable 24/7/365”.  While Syco represents X Factor and a number of celebrity clients with global schedules is this really reasonable?

Senior managers in any organisation with a certain level of responsibility and authority should be contactable if necessary and let’s face it their salary generally reflects that.  People who run their own business could be considered another justifiable group.  Is it a reasonable expectation for new recruits?  Has the culture within the communications industry to work more than your contracted number of hours become so standard, particularly within the private sector that we no longer bat an eyelid?  Or maybe a culture shift can be attributed to the accessibility of mobile technology, because we can be contacted socially, we are therefore contactable.  I wonder what Johnson and Scholes would say?

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A walk on the dark side

At the beginning of the year we tend to review company objectives and personal development plans.  What are less frequently reviewed though, are crisis communications plans or business continuity plans.  At this point if you think I am about to say communications plans should be updated to reflect social media, fine, that should happen.  Only what if after putting all those plans in place, the technology needed to execute those plans is not available?

Back in October the government described the threat of a cyberattack as a tier 1 risk to national security.  Attacks on organisations like Google and Wikileaks during 2010 demonstrate this is no longer something we might watch Jack Bauer deal with on 24.  It would be naïve to think that it is just governments and large organisations that are threatened.  In November the charity organisation I help had their website entirely corrupted.  On a daily basis at work I delete spam messages that get through the company firewall.  So what if it all went dark?  If the company website, email, and operating systems were out of action, what’s the contingency communications plan?  Is your business now so technology dependant that it would grind to a halt?

A while ago, as a result of business continuity planning in the event of swine flu this was a subject of discussion.  Uses of traditional mediums like the telephone, setting up a dedicated helpline with voice message, site tannoy systems and more were reviewed.  What would you expect of your organisation if say 50 per cent of operating systems or personnel were unavailable because of a virus?  Can you even remember the way to someone’s office instead of emailing?

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The rise of online advertising

The Amazon Kindle has been with us for three years now.  In that time they have become much more affordable and sophisticated and I was delighted to find one in my Christmas Stocking.  Now the purpose of this blog is not to get into a debate about the attributes of kindle versus the Apple ipad versus android tablets or whatever.  The debate is about the growth of online advertising and the relentless way it seems to penetrate every aspect of our lives.  It also highlights the fundamental difference between advertisers/marketers and PR/Corporate communications.  The former still seek to bombard us with messages the later to engage stakeholders and build relationships.

Currently if I buy a book on Amazon (or anywhere else) the next time I log into Amazon or sift through my email there will be targeted advertising or promotions based on search history and data collected about me.  E-books are cheaper than traditional books.  There are clearly not the overheads of printing and distribution so, it could be argued there is less money to be made in e-books unless you are the book seller.  Michael Sinanian in his MediaBeat blog predicts that with the link between e-book stores and social media it would be a natural next step to introduce adverts.  The adverts could even change based on who’s reading the book.  Both Google and Amazon make a lot of money through online adverts so maybe it’s just a question of time?

For me the pleasure of reading is not in whether something is in a traditional hard copy or e-format it’s about the undistracted experience of immersing myself in an absorbing subject.  So before online advertisers take over the world I’m off to enjoy a good read.

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