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Content Curation Tips and Examples to Fill Your Editorial Calendar

No matter how well-stocked your content pipeline may be, it never hurts to have a backup plan to ensure that you never run out of essential fuel for your audience relationships.

Content curation is a handy technique for accomplishing this – one that all content marketers should have in their skill sets, whether you have a full team of expert content creators or need to find ways to do more with a skeleton crew.

However, curating relevant work created by others respected and admired by your brand is a great way to deliver critical insights and information to your audience – without having to build every asset from scratch.

Curating content from credible, authoritative third-party sources yields many benefits, including:

  • A cost-effective way to fill your editorial calendar with quality content from a variety of voices
  • Ability to share with your audience relevant trends and topics that your brand may not have direct expertise in or experience with
  • Connections with influential thought leaders who can help expand your reach and earn the trust of their subscribed audiences
  • Attraction of influencers to link back to your efforts, which is critical for improved SEO rankings

But there’s a big difference between curating others’ content in an ethical and value-added way and simply cribbing their hard work and claiming ownership of it.

To understand the distinction, let’s start with a definition of the term, which I’ve curated from Heidi Cohen’s discussion on the topic:

Content curation is the assembly, selection, categorization, commentary, and presentation of the most relevant quality information. You add your human editorial perspective while integrating your 360-degree brand.

As Heidi points out, don’t just parrot the original information in a cut-and-paste fashion. Getting value from this technique requires your brand’s unique stamp on the curated content.

Fortunately, you can manage this task in multiple ways. Some are simple and efficient, others more elaborate and artistic. Here are a few approaches, along with some examples from brands that have found ways to elevate their content curation game into a marketing art form all its own.

Curated news and stories

Many professional media organizations cover breaking news for every imaginable industry and business niche. Who has time to search them all – let alone read every story to find the few that might be useful to them?

Publishing a curation of topic snippets and story summaries as an editorialized list or other news-focused collection will help your audience members. They will spend less time sifting through irrelevant articles and become more informed on need-to-know issues. By adding explanations and/or brief commentary that contextualizes each story from a relevant point of view, you also reinforce your brand’s value as a go-to resource that provides that credible, useful information.

The Brainwave newsletter from Brainrider shines in this respect. In each edition Jon Kane, client services director, shares one trend or news item for a number of key topics (marketing, creativity, growth management, and technology among them), along with his thoughts on what makes the full story worth paying attention to.

Membership company theSkimm has built a media empire by curating the news and know-how information their audience of female millennials needs to reach their goals in business and life. Though it started with a daily newsletter, theSkimm expanded its content curation model to include podcasts, a premium app, and social posts with video and audio breakdowns of the deeper stories behind the big headlines.

Multimedia content curation

As theSkimm example illustrates, curation isn’t reserved for text-based content. Some of the most uniquely engaging examples I’ve seen involve video, audio, and interactive content formats used separately or in combination.

For example, curated media also can be compiled as collages that deliver a message, set the mood for brand-cultivated experiences, or simply share a moment of joy among followers. For example, celebrity fundraising platform Omaze recently asked its community and team members to suggest a few of their favorite inspirational tunes. It curated the responses into a thematically relevant The Omazing Playlist on Spotify that was shared with its email subscribers.

On the other hand, the Smithsonian is approaching the content curation equation from the standpoint of a content supplier. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the organization is releasing 2.8 million high-resolution two- and three-dimensional images from its collections onto an open-access online platform. Aspiring curators can peruse and download assets to use, remix, and reimagine – free of charge.

Curated research

You may use authoritative research data to support your brand’s assertions in your original content pieces, but consider curating topical data points from multiple sources and publishing them as a separate asset – a fact book, white paper, or infographic, for example. These pieces can be especially useful in a B2B setting, where your target audience might need to support the arguments it presents to management to secure approval for a purchase.

For example, a while back, I curated statistics on several key content marketing talking points and compiled them into this buy-in conversation starter kit:

Likewise, HubSpot frequently curates relevant industry research into comprehensive directory-style blog posts – like this collection of marketing statistics, which promotes the company’s 2020 State of Marketing Report (gated). 

Curated roundups of examples and advice

Curation of examples is another creative option to explore. While the insights, descriptions, and tactical recommendations can be written from the author’s perspective, adding curated third-party examples illustrate how similar ideas were successfully executed. This added proof of principle wields more persuasive power than prescriptive advice alone.

As part of its regular content marketing program, TravelZoo issues a weekly list of Top 20 travel deals curated from airlines, hotels and resorts, and other tour operators. But as COVID-19 is disrupting most business and vacation voyages, the company has refocused its curation efforts around other ways to help its audience experience the joy of travel. For example, a recent newsletter curated examples of virtual vacations travel lovers can enjoy from their own homes – complete with original editorialized descriptions, stunning photos, and links to livestreaming experiences, 360-degree video tours, and more.

User-generated content curation

For brands open to trading a bit of creative control for increased audience engagement and involvement, marketers can curate user-generated content.

For example, author, stylist, and design influencer Emily Henderson created the hashtag #showemyourstyled to solicit aesthetically pleasing design ideas from her social media followers. Not only does she share those photos in her Instagram feed, she also turns them into curated style guides that her team publishes as blog posts on home décor inspirations, backyard transformation ideas, and other DIY design topics.

Content Marketing Award finalist, actor, and social marketing mastermind Ryan Reynolds also gives fan- and staff-contributed photos the star treatment by curating them for use in the Instagram feed and stories he posts on behalf of his Aviation Gin brand. Ryan and his team also add a splash of brand personality to each curation-fueled post with captions and commentary written in his distinct comedic style and voice.


Do’s and don’ts

Ultimately, how you creatively execute on your curation strategy will depend on your audience goals, available creative and production resources, and ability to deliver high-quality efforts on a consistent basis. But no matter what approach you take, you’ll want to follow these general guidelines:

  • Add distinct value: Don’t crib from others’ hard work and share it as your own. To demonstrate your brand’s value as a thought leader and credible resource, go deeper into the source material by adding personal commentary, placing the information in a context to your business niche, or including unique insights and analysis absent in the original.
  • Always credit (and link to) your sources: Attribution goes for the content assets you curate, as well as for any original content you create that includes the work of others. It also doesn’t hurt to give those sources some recognition by tagging them or mentioning them by name in any social media updates to promote your curated efforts.
  • Comply with copyrights: In a similar vein, when curating licensed images, audio, or other copyrighted creative, make sure you secure the artist’s permission, compensate them for use of their assets where required, and comply with all terms of use they’ve established under their licensing agreements.
  • Mix and match media and channels to add dimension and depth: Curation efforts are most successful when they capture the essence of the original yet transform it into something new and uniquely valuable to your audience. A great way to manage this is by switching up the media format and/or its distribution channels: If you’re curating from a blog post, don’t just create another blog post. Turn a summary of takeaways into an interactive user quiz, reformat relevant research findings into data visualization charts or infographics that can be shared on social, or take the audio track from a video interview and add voice-over commentary to turn it into a podcast that your audience can listen to when watching a video might be inconvenient.

When it comes to content curation, there’s no limit to your brand’s options. As long as you source your materials ethically, apply them strategically, and add your brand’s unique insights and creativity into the mix, you’ll always have enough fuel to keep your content engine running at peak levels of marketing performance.

Need more guidance to hone your content marketing skills? Enroll in CMI University and get 12-month on-demand access to an extensive curriculum designed to help you do your job more effectively.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute