PR Defined Initiative and The Importance of Asking the Right Question When Crowdsourcing Reply


What is the importance of a single word when asking a simple question?  Well, when crowdsourcing, the importance can be great.

The PRSA initiated an interesting project to crowdsource a modern definition of PR.  A big hat tip to PRSA for trying something fresh.  Thus far, by the looks of the tag cloud released on Dec 3 (SG Time), the most popular answers appear unsurprisingly routine. The top words are:

  1. Organization (388 submissions)
  2. Public (373 submissions)
  3. Relationships (260 submissions)

So what does this have to do with questions?  Well, after recently completing the Twittamentary case study (soon to be available at ECCH) I learned the importance of asking the right question when crowdsourcing.  In this case study, the question was, "what is the most interesting thing that happened to you because of Twitter?" and the crowd shared interesting stories.  The project received what it asked for.

In contrast, PRSA has asked "What is public relations?"  As we can see from the list above, we have a top three which while true and accurate are also mundane and predictable.  In other words, it initially appears we might have crowdsourced a routine answer when opening a dictionary would have been faster and easier.

I wonder what the tag cloud might look like if PRSA asked a better question?  "What is PR becoming in the 21st century?" or "what will public relations be in 2015?" are maybe imperfect but spontaneous ideas to make this project more interesting.  Or, returning to my opening sentence, I might add one word: "what is public relations becoming?"

I should admit that I am a big fan of PRSA (I hope readers of this blog are fans, too).  And I have eagerly supported and watched this initiative as I wait to see the final definition.  At the moment, the results make me less curious about the definition and instead point me toward a lesson about the questions we ask when crowdsourcing.  Thus far my lesson is: If you ask a generic question when crowdsourcing, then expect a generic answer. 

Meanwhile, do follow the #PRDefined hashtag on Twitter as we wait for the final definition.

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