“Curation” is more than just a new word for “Integration.”
The term “Curation” doesn’t yet score a hit in the archive of Scott Adam’s “Dilbert” cartoons, which means it’s still living the short half-life between entering the pop management lexicon and becoming the object of ridicule. Trust me. There are enough people running around the marketing world babbling about “curating,” that it won’t be long before Dogbert or the Pointy-Haired Boss skewer us all for using language that no real human being would ever utter.
We hear a term like “curate” crop up in a few business conversations. We assume it’s the hot new topic, and thus begin employing it in our conversations, whether we understand it, or not. We’ll use it as a noun, a verb, an adjective. Heck, we’ll use it as a whole sentence, if that’s what’s necessary to get someone to think we know something new about marketing that they don’t. It can be pretty pitiful to watch at times.
When “curate” first showed in our world, it was being used as a new way to speak about integration; of activating the various disciplines of marketing communications to work in synergistic harmony with one another. Indeed, curation has something to do with that, but only in an evolutionary sort of way, kind of like Integration 3G.
In truth, curation has more to do with the multi-participant communications flowing in the steam of social media conversation. The original broadcast model of marketing communications required definition only in terms of the message. The novel interactions of the original dot com world were contextualized by knowledge of the customer. Now, marketing communications must be framed by the conversation, and not just by the marketer, but by all the parties to the conversation. This requires curation.
Someone has to be the raconteur, the one who shares anecdotes in a skillful, amusing and engaging manner. Someone has to either begin or redirect a conversation; to put it on a path. The definition of that path, what we’re going to talk about, teed up in a thoughtful, strategic way, but never in a way that is didactic. Shaping and guiding conversation in a very intentional but seemingly unintentional way will be one of the requisite gifts of the great brand curators.
The other role the curator plays is that of succeeding at rallying other good raconteurs to the conversation stream. It’s not quite the heavy-handed role that a museum curator plays in deciding what gets into the exhibit, or not, but similar. The social media stream curator spots participants and content that ought to be served to the conversation and encourages it into the stream. Like the museum curator, the brand curator says to the interlocutors, “Here’s what we’re talking about. Let me highlight this good observation or example. What do you have to share?”
A conversation is not like an exhibit hall. It’s physical boundaries are potentially limitless, though most can and will exhaust in time. The membership of a conversation is certainly not always well-controlled. A new meme or raconteur can abscond with it, if we’re not careful. Not everything that shows up belongs. But the great curator, like the great raconteur, is always two or three stories or anecdotes ahead of the rest of the table. The raconteur knows how he or she is going to play the others to orchestrate the best repartee.
It’s the newest art form of marketing communications. It’s more than Integration, though it requires it. It’s conceiving conversation streams in the way we used to conceive one-dimensional campaign themes and USPs in broadcast blasts. It’s encouraging, even manipulating, the direction and outcomes of conversations. It’s amazingly difficult and complex, but it represents yet another fascinating growth area for those us employed in counseling companies and individuals in the best ways to communicate.
By Rick Segal, Worldwide President and Chief Practice Officer at b2b agency, gyro