Archive for Pro-Am

Is there a place for produsage in the future of PR?

Dr Axel Bruns (2008) discusses the potential for produsage to evolve the practice of marketing; he comments that produsage communities do and could have further potential to engage in the produsage of knowledge about commercial products, but in addition to this core function, they also produse advertising and marketing for many of the products they discuss. 

I feel it would be of benefit to explore how this same concept could be applied to the practice of public relations.  According to Cutlip, Centre and Broom (2009) public relations is the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the publics on whom its success or failure depends.  For many organisations, the relatively new introduction of new media has created challenges and opened up opportunities in regards to communicating and establishing relationships with publics.

Firstly, it is important to explore the primary challenge being faced by public relations practitioners in the wake of the produsage phenomenon – citizen journalism.  As I previously discussed, citizen journalism opens up communication lines for citizens a.k.a. the organisation’s publics to voice their opinions about an organisation or its actions, in the public sphere.  Depending on what these opinions are, the reputation of the organisation could very well be left in tatters particularly if the opinion is shared by others or worse still, found to be fact.  It is worth mentioning also, that this could just as easily go the other way should the opinions and information being disseminated via citizen journalism be positive for the organisation.

That leads me to the idea that public relations practitioners could in fact harness the concept of produsage to reinforce positive relationships with its publics.  Bruns talks about the potential to get produsage communities, many of which are made up of Pro-Ams, to actively participate in the concept and design stages of a product.  What if publics were able, via produsage communities, to contribute to the design and concept planning behind public relations campaigns and programs?

Imagine the depth of the collective pool of intelligence that could be harvested in relation to what people feel would be the most effective ways of reaching them.  For example, whilst an organisation may feel that the best way to reach a target public is to create a television campaign, that public may feel that an event would be a more effective way to get the message across.  This harnessing of produsage could be seen as a contemporary model for community engagement.  It’s all about getting the affected communities involved in dealing with the issue, but rather than keeping it on a traditional informational level, new media could potentially enable publics to become more involved on a strategic level.

I believe that by engaging publics, via produsage communities, organisations could potentially be able to enhance its public relations campaigns and strategies to better reach its publics.  I understand that this is not something that will happen overnight, nor will it always be appropriate, however, I believe that practitioners would be foolish not to consider it as produsage becomes more prominent in the future.

What is an expert?

It’s a simple enough question.  “An expert is someone widely recognized as a reliable source of technique or skill whose faculty for judging or deciding rightly, justly, or wisely is accorded authority and status by their peers or the public in a specific well distinguished domain”.  Ironically, this definition comes from one of the largest institutions of amateur contributors – Wikipedia.  Keeping this in mind, it is somewhat amusing to consider whether it was an expert or a group of experts that contributed to this definition, or just someone who felt they had something to say on the topic.  

Dr Axel Bruns explains that the struggle between experts and amateurs is not a matter of hierarchy against anarchy but rather “a struggle between two different systems of representing knowledge.”  The expert paradigm aims to “develop well-behaved, universally accepted, and internally consistent understandings of the world.”  Alternatively, the amateur paradigm “allows for multiplicity, conflicts of interpretation, and the existence of a number of alternative representations of extant knowledge which are accepted only by subset of the entire community…but are based on an interpretation of available evidence.”

So which is correct?  Given that we are moving into an age where produsage is being established as a credible model for content creation, is it really that important that experts are clearly distinguished from amateurs?  Perhaps it is.  One could argue that we don’t want just anyone to be producing content and passing it off as professional opinion. 

Alternatively, Charles Leadbeater explains, “for Pro-Ams, leisure is not passive consumerism but active and participatory, it involves the deployment of publicly accredited knowledge and skills, often built up over a long career, which has involved sacrifices and frustrations.”   With this in mind, I think it is fair to say that there is a place in society for this Pro-Am culture – particularly online.  I believe the co-contributions of experts, Pro-Ams to content makes for a healthy online culture.  On that note, it is also worth remembering that through diversity of contributors comes diversity in perspective and points-of-view.  This is highly important for the development and evolution of any culture.

Often we talk about produsage as being the gateway for people to become involved in the collating and publishing of knowledge – a way for Joe Public to contribute to collective pools of intelligence.  Surely, the Pro-Am culture is simply a side effect of produsage? 

Of course there is always the question of the reliability of information.  This is an issue that often gets raised around Wikipedia.  How do we, as laypeople, know when we are looking at the work of an expert, a Pro-Am, an amateur or someone who has no idea what they are talking about?  It is not always easy ascertain the credibility of online contributors.  However, is it not commonsense to always double check information?  What’s to say that the information being published by an apparent expert is any more or less correct than that being written by a self-titled Pro-Am?

I guess at the end of the day, my point is that society and particularly online culture is more than big enough for the both of them.  There always has been and always will be a place for professionals and increasingly, Pro-Ams and amateurs are finding their place in online culture.  This change in dynamics can only serve to better the collective pool of intelligence for everyone.