Karen Dietz
December 6, 2013

How Can Curation Tell Your Story? 6 Steps to Finding Your Voice

Someone asked me recently, “I want my curation to be telling a story. How do I do that?”

Yikes! Curation is telling a story??!! I had to laugh because I’d not considered it in that way – even though my expertise is in business storytelling. And yes, my KarenD1curation does tell a story! Once I got over the question though I immediately began to come up with answers.

When you’re curating content you are telling a story–your story–through the material you curate, the reviews you write, and the voice you bring to your topic.

This holds true even if you work as a curator within a company. A curator is not some nameless faceless cog shoveling information at people. You are a talented organizer of information that you share with others, and you provide a meaningful context for them so they can make sense of the material you provide. They become better informed and can make better decisions. Who you are as a person always shines through, as does the story you are telling

And when curating, you are also in the content business. Your curation is a massive content creation and sharing process. Here’s some data on how creating and sharing content increases — by outrageous percentages — lead generation, website traffic, engagement, loyal follows, and ultimately more business.

When think of your curation as an ongoing story, you too can realize similar benefits. So how can your curation reflect and tell your story? Pay attention to these six steps to leverage who you are and rock your world.

1. Figuring Out Your Authority

If you are a newbie to curation, figuring out your specific areas of expertise is important. If you’ve been curating for a while and want better results, refining your area(s) of authority can be a helpful step.

For example, in my own curation on business storytelling I’m not as strong on marketing applications as others. So when I write reviews I acknowledge I’m learning along with my readers. I do this at the same time while sharing why I think the article is important. I speak with much more authority on story applications in leadership, corporate culture, and the dynamics of storytelling experiences. These different areas of expertise, and the areas I’m gaining in, all reflect ‘my story’.

So what are you an authority on? What do you think the world needs to know about, and why? What do you bring to the table that helps people out?

2.    Purpose and Goals

When curating content you probably have a number of reasons for doing so: it’s a topic you’re interested in, you want to share your knowledge, build authority and expertise, build a community, and perhaps ultimately grow your business by sharing the content you collect with others.

My goals and purposes securing content are several. I want to educate others about the topic of business storytelling and expand other people’s knowledge. I think this was important to do because there is a lot of junk out there on the topic. People need to become wiser and better informed about this is storytelling. I also wanted to start collecting best practices for business storytelling and advocate for its spread in business.  My goal is to help folks and share the best knowledge I can find. I also wanted to offer people articles that shared great examples of business storytelling that also offer solid advice and how-to tips.

Include an editorial statement about your curation up front. This orients readers to your topic and you as a curator. You can see mine here at http://www.scoop.it/t/just-story-it

All in all, I am very clear that I am also curating as a way to promote and gain more business. Other people have different purposes and goals. Once you have these clear, what you curate and why will also become clearer, providing more focus to your work. And you can share these with your readers as part of your story.

What is your purpose and main goal in curating a topic? Are there other goals you want to accomplish through your curation?

3. Find Your Voice

KarenD2Finding your voice is critical when curating content. It’s a fallacy to think that you are objectively gathering material to share with others. You do have a point of view. People want you to have a point of view. Your point of view will help others think critically about the content to offer them. Your voice and the tone you bring to your curation also reflect your personality. Your readers want you to be real, authentic, and fallible. They want to know who you are.

The voice, tone and personality of my curation is bright and breezy. I try to provide substance as I review articles. I am not afraid to call a spade a spade but try to do it nicely. When I’m cranky I admit it. When something makes me laugh I’ll share it. Sometimes I make mistakes and I might be too harsh in my reviews. I have no problem apologizing or rewriting my reviews and letting people know. I can change my views and let people know that too. In other words I’m human and I think that’s a good thing.

What kind of a voice do you want to bring to the table? How do you want to be perceived? What is important to emphasize? 

4. Create an Identity

Be very conscious about how you want your curation to look and feel. The fonts you use, the colors you incorporate, the photos you share with your readers all create a specific look and feel to your site. I ultimately worked with a graphic designer to have my curation match my website so that everything had a consistent look, feel, and brand identity.

As a culture we are kind of ambivalent about storytelling. We think if it as telling stories to kids or librarians with toddlers during story hour on Saturday afternoons. To build literacy and foster brain development, that’s fabulous. But it also means there is a stigma against storytelling in business. So my general rule of thumb for photos accompanying articles I curate is to avoid cute campfire scenes, kids reading books, fairytale images, and the like. If I curate an article with those images, I will replace them with more appropriate business related photos.

What look and feel reflects you and the story you want to tell? What images support that? What images do you want to avoid?

5. Know Your Audience

Once I figured out the audiences that would be interested in my curation two pieces fell into place: I could find articles that met their interests, and I could write reviews to speak directly to them. If I’m curating on article on storytelling and project management, I envision a middle manager slaving away in an organization and I write my review for that person. Or if I curate an article on storytelling and social media, in my minds eye I see a blogger in front of their computer working hard at his or her craft. I can write my review as if I’m talking directly to them. This is great and is another way that my personality and voice can really shine through because I feel I’m having a conversation with them.

Who are you writing for? What are the 3 or 4 personas you can create that reflect the majority of your readers? What are their needs and how do you want to curate and write review for them?

6. Broaden your Audience via Values

Being clear about your personal values is also a huge assist in bringing out your story. The personal and business values that I try to incorporate are fun, expertise, fairness, honesty, helpfulness, and inclusiveness. All of these help me create an emotional connection with my readers.

I added inclusiveness because often times when I curate an article that is geared towards a particular audience–like leaders—I need to get creative and show how insights gained in the article can also apply to marketing, employee engagement, or other applications. That way my readers don’t feel excluded. And I’ve broadened my audience because I’ve shown more people how to gain benefit from the article.

Figure out the values you hold dear that you want to bring into your curation to help you make connections. Here’s a free online tool to help you http://www.valuescentre.com/pva/

Take The Time

In the rush to get everything done immediately, I want to encourage you to take your time going through these steps. Your voice, audience, identity, and values will take time to develop. Test and experiment. My first three months curating was an experience of allowing my voice to emerge. By the end of six months I felt pre-confident about what I was doing and how I was reviewing articles. And I knew my audiences better. At the end of two years I’m still learning and refining and getting better, although now the changes are much smaller and more incremental.

My point? Give yourself the time to develop your voice and your story. You don’t have to figure out everything now. This is good news. Just get started and keep practicing and keep getting better at your curation.



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Karen Dietz has been working in business storytelling with organizations for over 2 decades. She is also the top global curator on business storytelling at www.scoop.it/t/just-story-it. Karen is the co-author of the just published book "Business Storytelling for Dummies" by Wiley. You can find this and more at her website here.