Telling a story with curated content
Telling stories is a key part of communicating with people. We do it every day, even if we’re just talking about what we did over the weekend. Tell a good story and people will remember it – and they’ll remember you.
When you’re curating a story, you’re going to need source material. You’re not creating something yourself – that’s the whole point of curation. Someone else will have created what you need, but you need to put it all together. After you’ve read this, get in touch if you want some advice on how you can improve your own content curation.
There are five typical components to a story – characters, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution. Not all stories use all of these, but it’s worth bearing them in mind when you think about curating content to tell a story. Who are your main players? Where are you going to tell your story? Do you need to give any background? Is there a conflict to highlight? How do you resolve the story?
Your characters are where you get your source material. They’re the tweeters, the pinners, the bloggers, the YouTubers. Search online for posts, tweets, or videos that help tell your story. Use a wide range of sources where you can – having a mix of voices in your story will bring different perspectives to bear.
Do you have a setting for your story? Are you telling it on your blog, or on Storify, or perhaps as a Twitter collection? Whatever you choose, make sure the medium suits the story you’ll be telling. Even if you find yourself compiling a story entirely out of tweets, you might want to create a blog post with embedded tweets instead of a Twitter collection – this way even non-Twitter readers will be able to follow the story. In the case of Derby University’s degree shows, it made perfect sense for them to use Pinterest boards to show off students’ very visual work:
This is the important bit. With the basics of your story gathered together, you need to put them into a coherent narrative. Be judicious in your choices – don’t just use everything you find, pick the best bits of material to tell your story. If you hosted an event and there are a dozen videos of it, choose one or two of the best – the ones which actually help to tell your story. Check out the curation of Harvard University’s 2014 Commencement ceremonies. For a university like Harvard, the amount of pictures, videos, and posts of any kind around an event like this was always going to be huge, but the team has kept it to a manageable level when they told the story online:
— Harvard Education (@hgse) May 29, 2014
Now, you might be thinking that you don’t want conflict in your story: you want it to be positive. Of course you do. And that’s fair enough. But there will often be some struggle or challenge involved in any story, however positive it is. One of my favourite recent examples of a curated story with some positive conflict in it comes from the Natural History Museum in London.
The museum used Storify to document what happened when they announced that the famous diplodocus skeleton in their entrance hallway was to be replaced with that of a blue whale. They actually used the conflict between the supporters of the dinosaur and the supporters of the whale to generate the narrative of their story.
— NaturalHistoryMuseum (@NHM_London) January 29, 2015
When you tell a story through content curation it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed with options, so make sure you don’t overload your story. Choose a defined end point – and if you’ve got a message or a call to action you want to include, don’t swamp it by including extraneous information. A great example of this is the University of East Anglia’s #GoatsForVotes event from earlier this year. The story ends with an encouragement for students to register to vote in the general election – which was the whole point of the campaign in the first place.
— Michelle Robson (@MRobsonHE) February 4, 2015
The important thing about telling a story in this way is that you get to show off your expertise. You’ve managed to put together a narrative using some great material, making you a trusted source of information – so your readers will come back to you again and again.
Content curation can save you a lot of time, especially in situations where you need to tell a story quickly. I’ll leave you with an example of how trending worldwide news can be turned into a simple story in almost no time with the University of Glasgow’s tale of their involvement in the saga of #TheDress:
If you’ve got any examples of great stories told through curated content, let us know.