Becoming a curator – Part I

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“Curation is the ultimate method of transforming noise into meaning” – Rohit Bhargava

In this 2 part podcast series Chris discusses the importance of the role of the curator.

He shares with you why curation is important, how it can help you, the skills of a great curator and good examples from CMA and from other resources.

Part I – Marketing-academy-podcast – Becoming-a-curator-part-i
Part II – Marketing-academy-podcast – Becoming-a-curator-part-ii

Rohit Bhargava’s Non-Obvious Trends 2017 (Amazon UK)

Blogs on curation from CMA:

  1. Curate, don’t create – The benefits of content curation
  2. Getting started with content curation – Finding great content and sharing it with your audience

  3. Content curation: 10 ideas and examples to help you curate content in the right way

Great examples of content curation as mentioned in Part II:

Full Transcription

Hey everyone, welcome back to the Content Marketing Academy Podcast Show.

In this episode today, I want to talk to you about content curation. I want to talk about what it is and why it matters, and I want you to keep an open mind on this one as well.

If you’re thinking to yourself, I don’t need to know about content curation, there’s a really good chance that you’ll find something valuable in here to help you add more value to your audience, to your business, and to your content as well. Over the past few weeks, one of the major topics of conversation has been curation. I’ve been teaching it in class. I’ve also been talking to people in CMA about it, and how they can use it for their content to make their content a higher quality and, also, add more value as well.

I want to talk about why it’s important and how to be a great curator. I’m going share with you a whole bunch of resources, so there’s going to be lots and lots of links in the show notes for this one as well, so I really encourage you to go over to the show notes and check out all these links.

I’ve got a really resourceful podcast for you today, which I’m really looking forward to doing. Let’s get stuck in. I’m going to try and do this as quickly as I can as well, and try and keep it to the 10, 12-minute mark, which I seem to fail at every single time I do the show. Let’s see how we get on.

Let’s talk about content curation. One of my strengths that I’ve been better and better at identifying or getting stronger with, is the role of the curator. I curate content as a big part of my role. I’ve played that role for years, years and years, ever since I started my business and even before that. It wasn’t until maybe last year that I actually verbalised, I had to say, “My superpower and my strength is to curate.” I curate content. I curate talent, just think about speakers, picking speakers for a stage or for an event. All of that stuff, that’s all about curation.

I’ll give you some more examples of this later on in the episode, just so you get a feel of it. There’ are lots of ways that we can talk about this, but I wrote a few articles a couple years ago about content curation, when I was just getting started with it. It was more within the context of curating content for your blog. I had, I would say it was halfway to understanding what my role was as a curator. I’ll talk a little bit more about this as we dig into the subject. At that time, I used an analogy of a museum curator.

Everyone knows what a museum curator is, or understands the role. This curator, this person has a great knowledge of trends in the art world, you could say is perhaps even a specialist in some specific areas within the art space. It’s then, the curator’s role is up to them to cherry pick and put together a gallery or a show or an event that they run in their building, in their museum. So they’re using their knowledge and their skills, and the understanding of what’s happening in the wider space, the bigger picture, the trends, to pull together something special that people will want to come to and see. They’ll pay for their tickets at the door, and they’ll come to this event that they’ve curated, right?

The important point is is that the curator hasn’t created any of the art. They haven’t actually physically created the art. What they’ve done is they’ve used their skill as a curator to make a really special experience for their audience, a unique experience for their audience. That’s what that role is of curator. It’s a similar thing when we’re thinking about a blog or a video or a podcast or a piece of content that we’re creating, is that we can then attract an audience to view or get value from that curated experience in the specific environment. I think that’s a good example.

I think the part that I messed up in the past was the knowledge part, knowing what’s in and what’s out, knowing what’s on trend and what isn’t, what’s relevant and what’s not. The curator has to know all of that so that they can curate something special. It’s not just someone doing it at random. There’s a lot of skill and knowledge and understanding, a view of the bigger picture, within a curator. I think that’s a skill that goes without, no one really talks about it. I’ve never talked about that before. I think it’s really, really important.

The curator might not be an expert on any one thing. They might understand and be able to see the bigger picture in a specific industry or in a specific space or on a specific topic, but they might not be a technical expert. They’re able to see that bigger picture. They may be more of a generalist than a specialist in that regard.

I think there’s this different set of skills required for a curator. In the Non-Obvious Trends 2017, which is a book that Rohit Bhargava produces and publishes every single year … I think he’s done it for the last four or five years, but in this issue, the 2017 issue, at the first part is all about how he curates trends. How has he, throughout the years, been able to curate trends and put them into his book? I’m going to share with you some of the lessons that I took from him, and this is one of the books I’ve been reading recently over the last couple of months that really got me to think differently about what the role of a curator is, and take it a little bit more seriously, even though it’s been part of my role for a long time, is to just see the value of the role of a curator.

One of the quotes that I love in the book, and there’s a few that I’ll probably share with you in this today if there’s time, is that:

Curation is the ultimate method of transforming noise into meaning.

I love that. I love that point. That’s why we curate. That’s why we curate content or curate anything for our audience, is to save them time. We cut through the noise for them to get to the good stuff faster, so they don’t have to go through that laborious process of looking through all the fluff. We get straight through that, straight through it through to the noise.

We save them time and learning as well. We can get them to the point faster, so we can take a large piece of learning, it could be multiple articles or multiple sources, and we can cut through all of that and say, “Here’s what you need to know about this and why.” We can add more meaning to the conversation as well by describing and explaining, and also concluding and putting our spin on it, our opinions onto it, so we can draw it to a conclusion, because our audience, by the way, want to know what we think about it. We can also take something and make it easier to understand for people as well.

So it’s creating understanding, saving time, adding meaning to that noise. I think that’s the key to this whole thing to do with curation. Instead of our audience aimlessly fumbling around trying to find answers for stuff, we play that role. We cut through the noise and we give them what they need, and we make it quite fast for them. We’re cherry-picking the best for them.

I remember actually when I was just preparing for this episode actually, I remember Linda, a CMA member, dropped into CMA and said that Slack’s better than Google.

What she really meant by that was that she doesn’t have to go around searching for something that, for an answer for example, especially when she doesn’t even know what she’s really looking for. She can jump into Slack, ask a ridiculous question, and someone’s going to know the answer for her.

I think the key here is that, as we get into nitty-gritty of this, is to think about what problems curation can solve for you. Let me give you some examples of this, and there might be some stuff that you can think of yourself and how you can take on the role of a curator for your team as a manager, or for your audience as a content creator, or as a director for your workforce or your employees or your team. Just think about what role you could play as a curator.

The key is that you don’t have to be an expert at everything to help your audience, whoever that is. I think some people think they need to know everything about a subject before they can teach it, but it’s just not true. Also, that can really stop you from adding value to your audience as well, because you’ll be like, “Well, I don’t know anything about that, therefore I can’t do anything.” I think getting over your ego is a big part of this. You don’t have to be an expert at the thing in order to help your audience understand it. You can play that role of a curator, take on that role and that skillset, and be able to add value in a subject, perhaps, that you’re not an expert in. I’ll share some examples of this with you as we get to through this.

You’ve also got to be … I think another part of this as well, as a side step here, is about being unbiased about the information that’s out there. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched a video from, let’s say a competitor or someone that’s stamping on your ground a little bit, maybe talking about the same stuff that you’re talking about, and you look at it and you go, “Oh, God, they’re so much better than me.” Or you feel challenged by them, or perhaps you even hate them, because of the information they’re sharing. A curator is unbiased about the information that’s out there, right? So you can look at everything from the bigger picture, whether you like it or not, doesn’t matter. You’re not emotional about it. You can make a decision of whether it’s valid or not for your audience, and can you bring it to your audience. It doesn’t even matter if it’s a competitor or not. You can look at it with an unbiased perspective. I think letting go of your ego is a big part of that. That’s a problem, though. I think being a curator solves that problem.

Perhaps another thing to think about as well is that your audience already trusts you. They want to learn more from you, and they already trust you. So being a curator can actually help you to add more value to your audience, providing them with information, listening to their challenges, and even if the challenges aren’t things that you can help them with directly, there’s things you can do as a curator to help them over that challenge.

You might also be feeling the need or the pressure to do a lot of the stuff yourself.

Curation can help you to offset that pressure, and you can do certain things that means that you don’t have to be the expert. You don’t have to go and learn all yourself, and you can bring other people in like I do. I curate talent and people.

Something similar can be done by you as well, and perhaps you simply just want to add more value to your audience. Perhaps you’re getting to a point now with your audience where you feel like there’s just nothing else that you can add. You want to do more for them. Again, the role of a curator can help you with that too.

I think these are the kind of problems that being a curator can solve for you. There’s probably more. If you’ve been thinking to yourself, that actually I have got a problem, and I think this would be the solution. So I’d be keen to hear from you. Just tweet me at @chrisMarr101 with any thoughts or ideas or questions about this.

Here’s a couple of things from Rohit Bhargava’s book, Non-Obvious Trends 2017. He says there’s five main habits of curators. Let me list them for you just now.

Five main habits of curators.

1) Being observant

The first one is being observant. So that’s about seeing the details others often miss. Again, like I said, seeing the bigger picture. Then seeing things that other people don’t see.

2) Being curious

Being curious. Always asking why. You’ve got a commitment to learning. You’re always curious about what’s happening in the world.

3) Being fickle

Being fickle. This is about this idea of capturing ideas and concepts and trends and things without feeling the need to fully understand or analyse in that moment. If you can imagine yourself if you’re in a role as a curator, you’re always going down a rabbit hole, but actually, a big part of the role of a curator is to collect and gather, and then at some point in the future, go down that rabbit hole. But you don’t have to keep going down the rabbit hole all the time. So being fickle’s part of it.

4) Being elegant

Being elegant. Developing the ability to describe your findings in a way that’s easy to understand. We’ve already covered that, but that’s a big part of the role of a curator as well, is to take the complex and make it simple, make it easy to understand for people.

5) Being thoughtful

Being thoughtful, number five. Taking time to think and reflect on a point of view and share it in a considered way. Again, I’ve already mentioned this is take information, make it easy to understand, but conclude it. Have your thoughts and your opinions around it as well.

In Summary

So those five habits are really make a lot of sense to me when I’m thinking about the role of a curator as being observant, being curious, being fickle, being elegant and being thoughtful.

The other five areas that Rohit mentions in his book is five skills: to gather, to aggregate, to name, to elevate, and to prove. This is within the context of curating trends. I think the ones that really are the most here for us are to gather and aggregate and elevate. So that’s spotting the trends, gathering them up, having things in place and systems in place where you can gather ideas, aggregating them, which is really about clustering them together. So for example, you might see a trend, or you see maybe four or five articles and some books and things like that, or some ideas that are coming out and will be in the news in politics. When you bring it all together, it aggregates into this one big thing, and how that applies to your audience, and to elevate them, which means about identifying it in the bigger picture about putting it into broader terms.

These are all the skills and the role that a curator plays, and I think there’s lots and lots of things you can do. What I’m going to do is I’m going to do a part two, and in part two, I’m going to give you some examples of what curation is, things that we’ve done in the past, to give you some tangible ideas about how you can curate content.

So I’ll give you some good examples that we’ve done, maybe even talk about some bad examples. Then I’m going to share with you other examples that are nothing to do with CMA, that I’ve picked.

I’ve got 10 great places you can go and see what they’re doing in terms of curation and what level they’re doing it. Then I’m going to leave you with a challenge.