There’s plenty of evidence that business is adopting content curation, but the practice hasn’t been around long enough for organizations to innovate more targeted, results-focused uses.
Business takes many of its lessons from how everyone else makes use of social tools. To start applying content curation, communicators need to pay attention to how others are using the crop of curation tools that have found acceptance online. There are dozens of free tools, but Storify is the one that has demonstrated one of curation’s emerging strengths:
Curating news that the media isn’t covering can lead to media coverage. And, by extension, it can improve and expand on stories the media are covering.
Back in November, college junior Ben Doernberg assmembled a Storify story chronicling the New York Police Department’s eviction of Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park. The story was made up of tweets, videos, photos and other content that was posted mostly by people on the scene. He also included tweets from journalists reporting the NYPD’s suppression of their efforts to cover the story.
In reporting the impact of Doernberg’s effort, ReadWriteWeb noted that The Washington Post ran the Storify story, made easy through Storify’s embed feature, something missing from other free curation options. So the curated story served to inform media coverage and was itself viewed more than 23,000 times.
Most company opportunities to adopt Doerenberg’s approach don’t have the built-in interest of a police raid on a protest encampment, but that shouldn’t stop companies from looking at collecting social content as a means of creating a resource for the press. After all, the effort would cost nothing more than time of the curator (or curation team).
The process would look something like this:
Any company news is a potential curated collection. Think about a product launch. Reaction to the introduction of a new product is likely to appear all over the web from a variety of sources. Customers will weigh in, as will industry experts and analysts. People attending launch events will tweet it, blog it and post videos and photos.
Financial events, like shareholder meetings, will also be broadly covered. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives also tend to provide fodder for discussion.
It’s not unreasonable to think about curating bad-news stories. The press tends to cover the most lurid dimensions of a company crisis. A collection that provides a more balanced overview of the situation, could conceivably lead to some of the more positive aspects of the story finding their way into the public consciousness.
The mechanics of curating aren’t complicated; it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to acquire the skills necessary to produce a story. Since anybody can curate, the criteria for selecting curators should begin with their familiarity with the topic. The key to a solid curation effort is the selection of the best, most relevant and representative posts.
With the curator in place, it’s time to develop key words and set up a monitoring plan. This can be as simple as establishing a few Google Alerts or as sophisticated as tapping into a monitoring service the organization is already using, like Radian 6.
Storify is designed to let you conduct your keyword searches from the control panel, but it’s equally easy to add an item by simply entering its URL. Ideally, a curator would do both. Even with a substantial story, it shouldn’t take an unreasonable amount of time.
Select and comment on the best content
The heart of curation is, of course, curating. Curators need to cull through the many items people have posted in order to find the right posts to create an accurate overview of the news.
In recounting his development of his Occupy Wall Street story, Doernberg said, “By the time I decided to make a Storify, I had already read probably 100 tweets on this issue, so I tried to figure out what the overarching themes or the story seemed to be to me, and I went back through my memory of who tweeted what at what time.”
This college junior’s intuition about how to curate can serve as a corporate blueprint.
Balance is even more vital for businesses than it is for individuals. A college student can be forgiven if he skews his coverage to match his point of view, but a company needs to be beyond reproach in its effort to be objective, lest the collection be shrugged off as little more than corporate flackery.
Look back to the resource Microsoft maintained when it faced federal and state antitrust lawsuits. The media tapped it as one of the most comprehensive archives of documents related to the suits. Companies curating news should keep that example in mind.
Adding context is one more curation chore. When appropriate, adding commentary improves the value of the collection. Doernberg, for example, punctuated the curation with brief labels, such as “Violence by the NYPD against journalists was widely reported,” which is followed with tweets from a number of journalists.
Announce and promote the collection
Simply producing a collection isn’t going to get it noticed, particularly if an organization is suspected of an ulterior, self-serving motive. Using the same techniques it would use to draw attention to anything else. Direct contact with reporters and influencers, a press release, a blog post and some tweets can all get people to give the collection a look.
The time to make the announcement is just after the collection gets rolling, populated with enough content to make it interesting but with still more to come.
Companies are increasingly focused on content marketing. Curating company news fits nicely into the content marketing bucket, where it can both fill a gap in mainstream media reporting and serve as an impetus to getting that coverage. It’s only a matter of time before some organizations move beyond entry-level curation efforts and start curating their news.
Taking lessons from how people like Ben Doernberg are curating the news is a good place to start.
A version of this article first appeared on Holtz Communication & Technology.