Friday, March 22, 2013

Protect your brand, beware dumb (free) content!

HBR's executive summary of a sensational article "When TED lost control of its crowd" by the exquisite Nilofer Merchant.

In 2009, TED, an organizer of highly respected conferences on “ideas worth spreading,” threw its doors open, allowing anyone, anywhere, to manage and stage local, independent events under its banner. In the next few years, an army of volunteers produced some 5,000 such TEDx events in more than 130 countries. The brand extension and new content TED gained through these gatherings would have cost millions to produce by traditional means. But they came with a risk: TED no longer completely controlled its brand, and an extended community of people who didn’t work for TED were now capable of damaging it. And when TEDx licensees began putting dubious pseudoscientific presentations on their programs, that risk became a real threat. The blogosphere trashed TED for producing dumb content and questioned its overall credibility.
Nilofer Merchant: brains trust!
In this article, Nilofer Merchant describes the uproar and the lessons it offers: (1) that “open” does not mean “easy” or “free” and (2) that you need to get the crowd working with you, not against you. TED did that, turning things around by adopting three practices: “listening loudly,” realigning the community through shared purpose, and being strategic about the parts of the business it opened to the crowd and the parts it kept under tight control.

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