Curation enjoys increasing significance in a noisy content world


We’ve established that in order to become and remain a thought leader you have to communicate your ideas, consistently and often. But do all discussions have to be your own and original? We think not.  Pulling together other contributors’ ideas and resources into one place is one of the most valuable ways you can help your followers to stay abreast of development in your subject matter.

What is curation?

First of all, let’s clear up a few myths. Curation is not plagiarism, or laziness, but requires a lot of work and skill. Art galleries and museums have had curators for years. The curator is the person who pulls out the key pieces from the large, and largely unseen, collection to enable the museum to show visitors the essence of the period, style of painting or artist. So that’s what curation is about: pulling together the key resources and ideas from around the web and/or world that tell your audience what they really need to know, and give them the essence of the subject in a few short pieces. It’s a time-saver, in effect. Your readers don’t have to trawl the whole internet for pieces of value, because you’ve done it for them. So it’s not a minor undertaking, or a lazy option. And because you have, of course, provided sources and links to the original, it’s not plagiarism either.

And the old ‘dry and dusty’ image that is often associated with the word ‘curator’ is taking on a new sense too. For instance, TED describes people designing its seminars as ‘curators’, in the sense that they are responsible for bringing together people and ideas from around the world, to provide seminar participants with the very best and most innovative content.

So having agreed that curation is not a lazy option, it’s becoming clear that it’s not an easy option either. Good curation is a complex task, which takes considerable thought and effort.

What sort of content might you want to curate?

There are plenty of different options for curated content. For example, you might pull together a list of expert tips on a particular issue, or bring together presentations from workshops on a particular subject. For more ideas, take a look at this useful resource on ten types of curated content. But you don’t need to just follow other people’s ideas. If you have an idea for a curated piece, try it and see. Yes, lists of the ‘Top Ten Tips for …’ are often interesting, but there are plenty of other ideas out there too.

What are the most important issues to consider when curating content?

First of all, be clear about who you are addressing and why. Make sure that your curated content really speaks to that audience, and don’t try to provide all things for all people. As we have said before, your content will be most useful if it is specific, and enables the reader to get deep into a particular subject.

Next, be clear about the ideas that you want to convey, and make sure that all your curated content is fully linked, and is the best content available on the subject. Don’t be tempted to include something that’s not really relevant just because it’s quite interesting. And don’t include everything. Your job as curator is to find the best resources. You’ll know you’re getting there when you have discarded more resources than you have included.

Make sure that your curation adds value. If you think about museums again, you’ll understand the point. Yes, they’ve brought together all the key pieces, but they’ve also provided information on them all, and about how they link together. For real thought leadership, that’s what you need to do with your curated content.

Finally, and linked to adding value, you need to think about drawing conclusions. It’s also helpful to consider what you want your audience to do after reading. Is there some action that you’d like them to take as a result? Perhaps changes to make to the way that they work? Make sure you say so.

Looking ahead

Thought leadership is about more than just ideas. Sharing and communicating the ideas is also vital. Content curation offers one way in which you can share ideas and resources more widely. It is also a vital service to your community, to filter and signpost.  Used well, it means you are more likely to be seen as a ‘go-to’ resource for your subject; in other words, a thought leader.

Curators should also consider borrowing from traditional writing, and present headlines in a compelling manner.


  1. Paul Bevan (@Bevanp4) January 30, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

    Nice article Melissa and a timely reminder that curation requires a lot more thought and effort than you might imagine. I think there is also a fine line between curating and editing. Full time curators and editors will no doubt be able to define the differences in some detail, but I fear many marketers may jump in without that understanding.


    • Melissa Leffler January 31, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

      Thanks, Paul. I think you’ve raised a delicate and interesting distinction between curating and editing. I think it comes down to how much you change the ideas you come across (editing), and how much you bring them together to illustrate and illuminate (curating, which literally means ‘taking care of’). Of course, as a thought leader, you want to share your ideas, but you need to be respectful towards other people’s ideas too.



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