4 Tips for Great Content Curation (a.k.a. Being Ken Burns)

4 Tips for Great Content Curation (a.k.a. Being Ken Burns)

The role of the corporate communicator has not changed. It is still his or her job to provide employees with information that supports their work and their company. How corporate communicators carry out this role has changed drastically. When it all shakes out, the options of creation and curation emerge. Here is a look at how these changes can work to your advantage.

Two major things have changed in the modern enterprise environment.

1. More content is available. This is a good problem to have. Corporate communicators are no longer the sole creators of content. People are creating and sharing online all over the world. A recent search for “health care reform HR” turned up 25.9 million results. “Travel tips to China” yielded 152 million results. Even the ubiquitous honey badger pulled in 8 million results. A similar sharing mentality can be found internally, where employees create content to share with each other.

2. Corporate structures are more spread out. When you have offices in Hong Kong, Los Angeles and Topeka, getting the right information in the right hands at the right time can be tricky. The globalization of business changes how you communicate with your employees.

Both creation and curation are important, but we must change the way we think about both. Good creation is about knowing and feeding your community. Curation is about knowing and feeding your community. Did you get that?

It’s all about knowing your audience.

You as corporate communicators are fighting for attention. So much information is being thrown at your audience that you have to grab them by the collar and shake them with your information. Your messages have to be palatable and relevant in order to be heard. They must be localized for your audience. Give them what they are hungry to consume. Cater to your audience’s lack of patience for inferior content by giving them great content. Reevaluate who your audience is if you haven’t recently. Segment them. Determine their communication preferences. And deliver.

It might sound more difficult than it is. Taking advantage of curation is a key strategy, digging through and filtering information to find the most relevant kinds. You don’t have to look far to deliver great content. With enterprise social media tools, you have an influx of user-generated content at your disposal. Your organization’s employees are content creators living and breathing your business, so their perspective is valuable.  Research internal blog posts and community discussions for information-rich content to be used and shared. Internally and externally, multimedia content such as videos, infographics and slideshow presentations can be valuable tools.

Curating these resources and presenting them to your audience can help you successfully hone in on what they want and need, but it cannot be done without content creation. You are still the storyteller, developing the context for the resources and communicating the common threads and takeaways to be seen and heard in your content.

Take Ken Burns, the documentarian famous for The Civil War, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea and other darlings of PBS and the Emmy Awards.

Burns combines archival and new video footage and old photographs to tell rich stories. He curates these resources and strings them together with music and narration. Without creating the music and narration for his films, the curated images would fall flat. Corporate communicators are the Ken Burns of their organization’s content, helping move the story along through context and rhythm.

Being Ken Burns Tip No. 1: Storyboard First

Before you go digging for information, think about the message you want to convey. What is the point of your communication? Who is your audience? Create a storyboard around this message. How will the content flow? What are your calls to action? Outline what the parts of your story will be to give it structure.  Think about how you are going to conceptualize and visualize the story, how you will build the components to tell a bigger story. Check out samples from tools like Storify to help you facilitate content creation and curation.

In your storyboard, apply design thinking. Define the problem you want to solve and take a step back. Look at it from all sides. Prepare to gather information around the problem. Let it guide the context of your story. Consider what follow-up action you want. Should my people be able to reach authors? Am I just creating discussion or just passing along relevant information? Embrace this more strategic approach to content to communicate what you want your audience to do or understand.

Being Ken Burns Tip No. 2: Filter Intelligently

Enterprise search is inherently flawed. With internet search, you’re looking for a needle in a haystack. Inside the enterprise, you’re looking for a needle in a stack of similar-looking needles, so search often fails. This emphasizes the need for intelligent filtering by corporate communicators so people can find the right resource. Having experts who cull though all the resources out there is vital to your process.

In determining whether to curate or create, experts should ask themselves

  • “Does this information already exist in my organization?”
  • “Could I make this information richer or better by using information outside of my organization?”
  • “Do infographics and video exist that would help my people learn this concept better?”
  • “Can I get better, richer information from either inside or outside of my organization?”

Make sure your information is credible. If it’s internal, go to the source. Fact check internal and external sources. Strong curation is about taking the extra step to ensure your community gets the right information.

Intelligent filtering means you are looking at a number of sources. Consider internal blog posts, special interest stories, news items form different departments and geographies within your company. Externally, explore industry and subject matter experts and new items.

Being Ken Burns Tip No. 3: Don’t Become Part of the Problem

Information overload is rampant. Don’t become part of the problem by throwing information at your audience without context. In this video, Shel Holtz offers an overview of what curation is and mentions three things corporate communicators must do to curate successfully:

  1. 1. Identify good stuff
  2. 2. Put it in the right collection
  3. 3. Document it


Often compared to the role of a museum curator, the role of a corporate communicator is also to put content in an appropriate place so that it is findable and usable by your audience. When you go into a museum, they don’t see paintings haphazardly thrown on a wall. Curators have researched the paintings, documented their history and relevance, and hung them in a sequence to tell a much larger story. Those same concepts can be applied to content curation in an organization. If you don’t follow this route, you are only lending to your community’s information overload and confusion.

Being Ken Burns Tip No. 4: Know When to Create and When to Curate

The happy marriage of creation and curation isn’t appropriate at all times. For example, creation is best suited for any new policy being implemented by your business, any type of official organizational change, any piece of information reviewed by legal and most company announcements. Fully embrace curation through more unofficial content, knowledge and experiences shared by employees.

Creation and curation should coexist. Curation is not in competition with creation. Instead, it is a form of creation. The creation process of a corporate communicator or internal journalist creating content is still happening. If a combination of creation and curation is not applied to today’s enterprise environment, missed opportunities, inefficiencies and lackluster communication can emerge. On the other hand, if so-called “information overload” and a more diverse organizational structure are faced with creativity and laser-sharp focus, you stand to win the content game.