Crowdsourcing doesn’t need to be risky: Here’s how to manage it

 
François Petavy
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"Don’t do it because it’s cheap, do it because of the wealth of creativity" (Source: Getty)

In his article Wisdom of the crowd? Here are six reasons crowdsourcing is riskier than you think, Ian Fergusson points out the risks brands face when they think about involving the crowd in an initiative. It was an interesting read, but actually, what he describes is not “because of crowdsourcing”, but symptomatic of bad planning and a sure-fire way to produce disappointing results.

It’s true that quality control can be an issue in crowdsourcing, but if you’re getting a lot of bad responses, maybe you need to think about whether you are talking to the right crowd and whether you briefed it in the right way. One of the biggest mistakes brands make when opening the door to external input is not thinking through the brief thoroughly enough, which of course leaves it open to misinterpretation, be that deliberate or accidental.

Taking the time to source creative communities that include skilled professionals, passionate amateurs and enthusiastic fans of the brand from across the world, and giving them proper instructions for how to proceed, will save you time in the long run.

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Yes, project management resources can be requested. But managing any project properly shouldn’t be seen as a burden, but a way to maximise the return on your investment.

If you are only turning to crowdsourcing to cut costs, then you are probably cutting corners as well. Don’t do it because it’s cheap, do it because of the wealth of creativity and consumer engagement you are exposing the brand to.

Security or exposure to the competition doesn’t have to be an issue either and there are numerous ways to accommodate for confidentiality: many crowdsourcing platforms give brands the opportunity to run anonymous contests that don’t disclose the sponsoring brand, and access to entries can be limited to the brand (who said they had to be made public?).

Non-disclosure agreements are also frequently put in place that participants are asked to sign in order to participate, and winning entries into crowdsourcing initiatives will often transfer their intellectual property rights to the brand as part of the terms of participation.

Read more: The customer knows best in the age of crowdsourcing

Yes, there have been some unfortunate examples of crowd mismanagement that led to cancelled projects and rare PR snafus. But after 10 years and with 85% of brands having now used crowdsourcing, the industry has professionalised and there are now well-known and solid best practices that prevent such situations.

Finally, I don’t know of any self-respecting marketer who undertakes a task that’s not part of a wider strategy to build the brand, so why should crowdsourcing be any different? Before even starting to crowdsource, bring together all internal and external stakeholders to align strategies around the project and define a coordinated plan.

If you don’t do this, then you’re not crowdsourcing properly.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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