Collective Intelligence and It’s use in Public Relations

What is collective intelligence? And how can the Public Relations Industry use it to their advantage? These are important questions to be answered for the future of the public relations industry, especially since the diffusion of innovations and the rise in digital media over the past twenty years has seen an increase in globalization and knowledge worldwide.

Terry Flew defines collective intelligence as “Collective intelligence was a term used by Pierre Lévy (1997) and Derrick de Kerckhove (1998) to describe the capacity of networked information and computer technologies (ICTs) to exponentially enhance the collective pool of social knowledge by simultaneously expanding the extent of human interactions enabled by communications networks, and providing a vastly greater capacity to generate, codify, store and retrieve knowledge through collective access to networked databases” (Flew, 2014)

Similarly Jenkins’s identifies collective intelligence as “ an alternative source of media power, derived from the principle that none of us can know everything; each of us knows something; and we can put the pieces together if we pool our resources and combine our skills” (Jenkins, 2006)

These two definitions help us to understand just how important collective intelligence is to the public relations industry, especially with new technologies being developed everyday, the knowledge economy in which we now live in is dependent somewhat on the collective intelligence to be so successful.

An example of collective intelligence within the public relations industry would be the use of social media. With the rise of Web 2.0, social media in recent years has taken off, with even more people around the world joining social media websites like twitter and Facebook along with the invention of instagram and wine videos as well as the rise in user generated content in regards to blogging becoming news, the knowledge of how Web 2.0 works and social media is becoming increasingly important within the public relations industry as it is now a major channel of communication worldwide.

A press release from New York during 2010 stated “Social media helps public relations… executives build more new relationships across a wider landscape and in a sustainable fashion were never before possible. Social media enables professionals to maintain ongoing, quality relationships with influencers, media, customers and partners regardless of where they are” (Waddle, 2010, paragraph 3)


This quote from the Waddle press release expresses the way in which collective intelligence is now playing a major part in public relations, a career and working environment is becoming increasingly collaborative and collective work place.

Working in the modern public relations firm, or department often includes mass review, crowd sourcing, social media and other mass communication forms.

Another great example of the use of collective intelligence in public relations can also be Wikipedia, one of the worlds most recognized websites. It is an online encyclopedia, which can provide basic information, however there are flaws with this. Wikipedia can be changed by anyone, meaning the information might not always be accurate and true. This is a general downfall of collective intelligence. While the main idea is that we have a group that share their strengths and weaknesses in regards to knowledge and information, sometimes the information might be false, or those with little voice might not be heard.

The following video shows a man showing people who to set up a collective intelligence framework.  24-minute video shows what is wrong with collective intelligence particularly in regards to social media and businesses. The main thing raised is how society now is a fan or likes things. We want to know what everyone is doing every minute of every day and know what our favorite celebrities, sports stars and politicians, even people in other countries and time zones.

It is the use of the internet particularly that will benefit public relations practitioners with workplaces now being able to use tactics like webinars for staff in all locations, and are able to watch them at a convenient time to them. YouTube and Social Media as tools of communication with each other and their publics along with Google and RSS feeds making it easier to find information needed, all essentially at the touch of a button.

Public relations therefore is incredibly useful in regards to the globalization of the world and the invention on Web 2.0 and with collective intelligence thanks to Web 2.0 as well as interactive workplaces public relations will continue to expand and thrive worldwide.

Social Media Landscape


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Yeung, K. (2011, February 07). Social Media week San Francisco: Collective Intelligence Panel . Retrieved March 03, 2014, from


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