Content curation

Content Curation Follows in Footsteps of Reliable Influentials

Online influencers and celebrity endorsers are long-time marketing staples. Now content curation is entering the picture as an authentic, reliable source of advice on products, services and information.

Online influencers and celebrity endorsers are long-time marketing staples. Now content curation is entering the picture as an authentic, reliable source of advice on products, services and information.

Online influencers and celebrity endorsers may face competition from curators, who collect, organize and share content from multiple sources.

Like online influencers and celebrity endorsers, content curators target specific audiences, but their approach is different – and often more authentic. Curators aren’t typically paid for the content they collect, organize and share.

Influencers who specialize in product niches and celebrities who have fans and followers pitch products for cash. Scrupulous influencers review products with enough independence to point out the good and the bad. Celebrities like to guard their reputations and avoid endorsements that conflict with their stage personas or may offend their fans.

Curators are more like thought leaders or trusted advisers. They build audiences and monetize their curation based on the value of information they find, organize and share. Instead of getting paid by advertisers, they have subscribers or followers.

[CFM’s Rules of Engagement blog is an example of content curation in the form of thought leadership. We canvass a spectrum of information about marketing trends, select the most useful articles to our followers and share our perspective on them. We don’t accept payment for blog topics or charge for subscriptions.]

Influencers and celebrities gravitate to platforms such as Instagram. Curators thrive in a wider array of mediums from social media to blogs to podcasts. Influencers and celebrities try to generate buzz. Curators are more about water-cooler conversations.

Influencers offer value by trying out new products so busy consumers can skip expensive, time-consuming trial-and-error. Celebrity endorsements traffic in a product’s cool factor. Curators are more like your friend who is well-read, thoughtful and eager to share what he or she has learned.

Influencers and celebrities can be critical pieces of marketing and advertising campaigns. For consumer-facing startups, a favorable review by an influencer can be marketing gold at a fraction of the price. A celebrity endorsement can put a popular face on an organization (Tom Selleck/NRA) or lend style to a product (Jennifer Garner/Neutrogena).

Curators serve a broader purpose. They include news article aggregators to services such as Angie’s List that provide qualified lists of products and services. Their popularity is based on the value they deliver to individuals who don’t have time to read 10 daily newspapers or want an easy, reliable place to look for a plumber.

Content curation, at its best, replicates the hallmarks of Influentials who do their homework and share what they have learned for the rest of us who are too busy to do the homework ourselves.

Content curation, at its best, replicates the hallmarks of Influentials who do their homework and share what they have learned for the rest of us who are too busy to do the homework ourselves.

For years, market researchers took advantage of “influentials,” the roughly one in 10 people who are well-read and willing to share what they know. Influentials often form an early majority in a market. They may not be trend-setters, but they reflect emerging trends. 

Influencers and curators both seek to fill the role of Influentials in a faster-moving, more fragmented society to provide relevant, reliable views on what camera to buy or the significance of a surging political movement.

Influentials deserve credit for expediting public acceptance of 401(k) retirement accounts, personal computers and cell phones. They also have led mass skepticism of marketing claims, which accounts for why the reputation of the public relations and advertising industry ranks so low. 

You could extrapolate that the best content curators today are trying to follow the long-time example of Influentials as authentic, trusted advisers. In an era of fake news, skewed information sources and partisan bubbles, content curation can play an invaluable role in sorting, organizing and fact-checking product claims and news stories in service of restoring public confidence in what they read.

Gary Conkling Image.jpg

Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.



The Right Way to Integrate User Content

The latest campaign from Travel Oregon is designed to encourage visitors to look beyond Portland when planning their vacations.

Produced by Wieden+Kennedy, the series of seven videos feature the Seven Wonders of Oregon, ranging from the Oregon Coast to Smith Rock. The videos are beautifully shot and edited and feature some of Oregon’s most beautiful vistas.

What is remarkable about the campaign is not merely its glossy exterior. The videos provide an excellent introduction to each wonder. Those intrigued by what is effectively a commercial will find the site also features a wide variety of detailed content. There are dozens of blog posts featuring in-depth trip itineraries — complete with maps, photos and links to attractions and accommodations.

The campaign has done a great job of integrating user-created content. Each video’s page features user Instagram photos and encourages visitors to hashtag their photos when they visit. The site utilizes an interactive illustration to demonstrate the different regions of Oregon.

A similar tourism campaign was developed by the City of Seattle, which was called 2 days in Seattle. Billboards around Portland encouraged residents to venture north for a quick weekend away. However, the site does not have the same depth of content that the Seven Wonders of Oregon features. The Seattle campaign relies too heavily on user-crated content and does not offer enough useful information to plan a trip.

The Seven Wonders campaign demonstrates that featuring user-generated content can be a great way to encourage engagement. Pairing it with professionally created content can make the campaign seem more genuine and interesting. However, relying too heavily on users to create content does not insure the best results. An effective content strategy should include both.

Curating Your Own Content

Scrambling to create original content is challenging. You can ease the burden by curating your own content and repackaging and refining it in new, useful ways to your target audiences.Content creation can be a demanding chore. One way to cope with the challenge is to repackage your best content.

We recently combed through our blogs, which are dutifully freshened at least weekly, and were startled at the gems we discovered. We offered advice, shared case studies and provided insights as valuable today as when the blogs were originally written.

Instead of letting them gather digital dust, we've decided to resurrect, repackage and repurpose our best blogs into one or more e-books.

Think of it as curating your own content.

Content + Marketing = Brand Publisher

Back in the distant past of 2009, "content" and "marketing" weren't dating. Now they are a couple in the fast-moving world of brand publishing.

Luke Kintigh, managing editor of Intel's new media property called iQ, shared his knowledge from a crash course in content marketing in a recent blog post in The Content Marketeer.

"There is no doubt," Kintigh says, "content marketing is shaking up the marketing world, forcing CMOs to rethink and shift their resources to create newsrooms, content tabs and positions such as Chief Content Officer and Content Strategist."

One of the first lessons Kintigh describes is the imperative to leave "overt marketing fluff" at the door and instead generate content "that one would actually want to share and consume." Before plunging in head first, it is smart to "take the pulse of the Web," he says, by seeing what your target audiences read and share — and where they do it. "Don't mistake marketing objectives," he notes, "for audience interests."

When you reach audiences, Kintigh says, you want to optimize their interaction with your content by ensuring it works on a spectrum of devices — from desktop computers to tablets to smartphones. It also must adapt, he says, to a range of communications channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and YouTube.

It is okay to curate content, but in the end the best content, Kintigh insists, is original content. Producing original content, he adds, requires thinking and acting as a brand publisher to "win our audience's attention and ultimately their business."

What Original Content Reveals

If your original online content reflects your core brand, it will reveal why you are special.Aggregating content from multiple sources is the role of media and reference websites. If you blog to market your services or display thought leadership, you need to create original content relevant to your target audience.

Your insights and reflections are what differentiate you from others and attract followers, clicks and shares. They also are the stuff that incites engagement.

To engage customers or constituents, you need to be engaged with your subject. Talk about what you know, what you feel, what you believe. Share your experiences. Be the expert people are looking to find.

Borrowing and circulating what someone else knows, feels or believes is akin to advertising your competitors. It's fine to quote a source that inspires or informs your thought, but why rehash someone else's work at the expense of sharing your own?

Curating Yourself Online

RebelMouse enables users to unite their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites on a single, personalized "social web front page."

The digital newspaper has a visual feel that Jay Yarrow, writing for Business Insider, says is a combination of Flipboard, Tumblr, Pinterest and The extra advantage is that your RebelMouse home page constantly refreshes, even displaying a discriminating eye to choose the best visual assets you have to offer.

Developed by Paul Berry, former chief technology officer for the Huffington Post, RebelMouse provides an easy way to aggregate a user's social sharing, but also add content directly and provide analytics indicating how people are interacting with your posts.

Berry describes his new online progeny as a tool for people and brands to publish content. "RebelMouse should help them be good at it and help them engage with influencers as well," says Berry.

The underlying value — and the key to Berry monetizing RebelMouse — is providing a central hub to see someone's entire online presence. This could be extremely valuable for brands or individuals with huge followings on various social media sites.

Berry has attracted gobs of media coverage even though RebelMouse has just moved from beta testing and, according to Berry, now has 25,000 sites posted. He promises to add more design options to allow greater customization.

Several digital commentators said RebelMouse doesn't contain any revolutionary tools or tricks. Its value comes from its simplicity and relative ease of use, which in turn produce an elegant home page and sophisticated analytics. It is, in effect, curating yourself.

Content Curation as Thought Leadership

Collecting and re-using content from third parties is emerging as a critical marketing strategy to inform and engage customers and stakeholders.As the amount of information available on the Web and other sources has exploded, marketers have turned to "content curation" as a strategy to demonstrate thought leadership and elevate brand visibility. 

Content curation involves collecting and repurposing for your target audience articles, charts, infographs and images posted online by third parties.

A study of 400 professional marketers conducted in March 2012 by Curata, an online content curation provider, shows 85 percent of marketers believe effective content curation establishes thought leadership and elevates brand visibility and buzz. That is up from 79 percent in 2011, the first year Curata conducted its research.