Shel Holtz has more than 35 years’ experience of organisational communications, in in-house and consulting roles with mostly Fortune 500 companies. He is a Fellow of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), the author or co-author of numerous books in the communications arena, and a frequent speaker.
These days he is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology, helping enterprises communicate better in the online space. One of his focus areas is watching how the social world uses online technologies, and applying that in enterprises to improve internal and external communications.
We asked Shel about how mid- to large-sized organisations can focus their curation efforts, and he outlines four ways organisations large and small can benefit now:
1. Curating news around events as an alternative to pitching for traditional media coverage
At the moment a lot of organisations are curating on a longitudinal basis. You can see what they’ve curated for the last week, the last month etc. I would like to see organisations curating around an event. Take a product launch — they could curate who’s saying what from among their customers, partners and consumers.
What got me thinking about this was a news event. Back in 2011, when the New York Police Department evicted the Occupy protesters from Zuccotti Park, many people posted tweets, videos and photos. A guy in his apartment was watching and curating it in Storify. The Washington Post, rather than try to do their own story afterwards, pulled his curation into their website.
The same thing can work for an organisation. It’s an opportunity to create a resource and put it up on their media page. It could work for any event, say, a shareholder meeting. There are people tweeting, blogging, taking pictures. Go curate it yourself, and it may generate interest from a media outlet.
2. Curating trusted, publicly accessible resources to increase reputation
A high quality curation of content can reflect well on the organisation, increasing its reputation. It could be done by a team or a single employee.
Take a chemist, for example. As a subject expert, she can curate good material and become known and respected as a resource in her specialist community. The content already exists, but she is selecting what is relevant, pulling it into one place, commenting on why it’s important, and then making it accessible.
Anyone can curate this way — a communicator, an engineer, a team. They could curate around the issues an organisation is dealing with. Take environmental sustainability as a corporate initiative. Instead of only communicating articles from the company magazine, the corporate communications team could curate what other organisations are doing, advances, new developments etc.
A nice example here is IBM’s Tumblr collection, Smarter Planet. This has a team of people curating news around the smarter planet theme. Readers and followers can submit post ideas.
3. Giving employees access to social media, so they can share internally curated news outside the organisation
When you give employees access to social media, along with curated content, you see the authentic sharing of real information.
Take an example from PepsiCo, which has an employee email newsletter. Around 70 per cent of articles in the newsletter are also suitable for external consumption. So each article has a share button for Twitter, Facebook etc, which makes it very easy for the employee to share if he wishes.
Let’s say there was an item about sponsoring a soccer tournament in North Africa — if the employee is a soccer fan, and has Facebook friends who are also interested, it is so easy for him to share it. This is one reason why employees need access to social media.
4. Curating to help employees work smarter
Again, let’s take PepsiCo. They are making their first forays into curation. I was working with the internal communications department to develop some social media training for employees, and we started off with a survey to find out where they were at. One of the interesting things we found was that when they were talking to someone outside the enterprise on a specific topic, some employees preferred to share links, rather than use their own words.
But the information and the links were all over the place — so PepsiCo got a librarian to curate them all into a central location.
Another example is external news on the intranet. Lots of intranets offer it, but often it comes from an external provider and is like a firehose — some of it not so relevant, and you can have multiple versions of the same story from different media outlets.
Over at American Electric Power, a team reads all the news and decides what will help employees understand the external perspectives relating to its business. Employees everywhere say they need to understand the forces at play in their sector much better than before, so the news on the intranet needs to be more focused.
Employees can also curate for other employees. There’s a hospital curating videos from YouTube showing how to restrain violent patients for internal training. Why create your own materials when videos that already cover the information exist and are available for public consumption?
What about tools? Do enterprises have to put curation on a specific platform?
Not necessarily. If an employee likes Pearltrees for example, the company might just say, tell us the URL. It’s the same as when corporations started blogging — IBM did not use one platform, but others like Sun Microsystems did.
How are you personally curating information?
I’m trying out a lot of tools at the moment, experimenting. My favourite of the moment is Storify, but I’m also using the Stacks in Delicious and Paper.li. I’ve got a collection dealing with internal communications on Paper.li, and there’s The Shel Holtz Daily, pulling together links my Twitter followers have shared. This is embedded on the Resources section of my website and it gets tweeted out automatically.
How do you put Paper.li to work for you?
I use the Daily to pull together the links people I call my “Top Follows” have shared on Twitter. It makes it very easy for me to see what people are sharing in a nice visual format, because rather than tracking Twitter all day I get the links all in one place.
I don’t need to see every tweet — not even from my Top Follows — but I’m not willing to miss the links people share and Paper.li takes care of that. This Paper.li was not created with others in mind — it’s for me, but it does get re-tweeted. Because I don’t proactively edit the content I would call it more of a smart aggregation exercise than a curation practice.
But I’ve also created another Paper.li called Internal Communications that is still a work in progress. I found some Twitter lists of people working in employee communications and I’ve been manipulating these lists, so now it’s bringing up some nice content.
This one is taking more time. That’s the thing with curation — high quality requires high effort.
My pick of Shel’s posts on curation from his blog
- Presentation: Curation: the communicator’s new responsibility
- How American Electric Power curates external news for employees
- Examples of enterprises using paid-for curation platforms
- Five curation opportunities in employee communications
- Employees as content curators
Are you curating inside a mid to large-sized enterprise? Let us know how — and what –you’re doing.