Is crowdsourcing a threat or opportunity for PR agencies?

A fierce challenge is mounting against the traditional PR agency model and the advertising industry in general. The disruption is called "creative crowdsourcing" and it's causing a major cultural shift in the way client work gets done.

A fierce challenge is mounting against the traditional PR agency model and the advertising industry in general. The disruption is called “creative crowdsourcing” and it's causing a major cultural shift in the way client work gets done.

In my first post, I explored the background of crowdsourcing. In this post, I'm taking a deeper look at the disruption that crowdsourcing marketplaces have caused in the marketing and creative industries. Why? Because creative crowdsourcing marketplaces essentially form an “agency” that's bigger, cheaper, and more productive than any in history, and brands have started to take notice. Yes, the very brands that have been the “bread and butter” of the traditional advertising agencies, marketing shops, and PR firms, are looking to embrace the crowd for their creative campaigns, collateral, and content.

In addition, the traditional way of doing PR and advertising is eroding. ROI and measurement are taking center stage, and there is a disconnect between what we believe will work and what actually does work.

When a brand looks to hire a PR agency, the process can be long and drawn out. First, the brand prepares a request for proposals (RFP) outlining its needs. Then, it must distribute the RFP to multiple agencies and wait for the responses. Finally, it must undertake the effort to review the RFPs and select a vendor.

After all of that is done, it takes more time still to get the agency up to speed on designing and presenting marketing materials, press kits, and content – those materials produced through the creative process – not to mention the process of revising and refining concepts. After all of that, there is still a chance the final writing will fall short of expectations. In many instances, the additional effort will come with fee increases from the original estimate.

Alternatively, with creative crowdsourcing, the buyer determines the length of its project (typically one to two weeks) and determines how much it wishes to pay for the service – so there is no haggling over cost. For example, a newsletter project can cost as little as $269 with the buyer typically receiving more than 100 submissions from which to choose, from writers around the world. The writer is paid only once the project is completed and deliverables are approved. The brand avoids paying an hourly rate, monthly retainer, and other unanticipated costs.

Many crowdsourcing sites also allow “the crowd” itself to provide ongoing feedback on projects, helping writers to learn from one another. This type of collaborative approach creates a virtuous cycle of innovation for the brand that it could never receive with a single agency in a traditional model.

In many ways, creative crowdsourcing goes beyond helping brands generate top-notch PR and creative because it allows them to engage their customers who have in-depth, hands-on knowledge about the product or service.

So, now, I must ask, if you were right out of college, would you rather spend two hours completing a mindless RFP or two hours writing for brands such as Doritos, Barilla, or Air New Zealand? And, if you were representing a brand and needed design and copy for new marketing materials, how are you going to sell that brand on your value when they can get what they need straight from the consumer for a fraction of the cost? If agencies don't change the way they do business and the business models they embrace, the traditional PR agency will be dead.

On Friday, we'll look at ways the creative crowdsourcing marketplaces and PR agencies can work together for success.

Mike Samson is co-founder of CrowdSpring.

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.

News by email...