Curation is about marketing (marketing is not a dirty word)

Three things that are probably true at least some of the time:
  1. Online curation began as a marketing technique. It’s a way to build a brand and a relationship with customers/ audiences without trying to directly sell them anything.
  2. Internal learning and development teams are not very good at marketing what they do or what learning opportunities are available.
  3. Despite what you read on Twitter, a lot of learners are not learners they’re just people you work with. They don’t really care much about learning.

So instead of thinking of curation tools like or Pearl Trees as learning tools, start thinking about them as marketing tools. Use them in the same way as a marketer does. If we start thinking about them in this way, it follows or perhaps leads, that it should be part of your marketing mix. You may think you don’t have a marketing mix, but you do.

You send emails to people telling them about development opportunities, you write content for your intranet to advertise what you and your team can do for the business. You may put posters up around your offices or factories . Hello! You are marketing learning, but if you haven’t recognised this already, you could probably find a few ways to improve how you do it.

We need to think about this side of our activities as seriously as learning analysis or design.

How do we do this? Learn from marketing. Find out what your audience care about, figure out how learning can help them with that then tell them about it using a variety of media. If you are marketing internally you are dealing with a range of demographics so you need to find the common interests that unite the group or you need to target different groups with different messages.

I work in an internal Learning and Development team so I’m certainly not the best person to give advice on marketing. What else should we be doing?

Why not join us in Bath next week and share your ideas and experience? Find out more

Post by: Sam Burrough (39 Posts)

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9 comments on “Curation is about marketing (marketing is not a dirty word)
  1. I would almost disagree with your final paragraph. As an internal resource you are ideally positioned to see the fruits of an internal marketing effort; to paraphrase the old saw, “you may not know much about marketing, but you’ll know what you like”. You’ve also likely seen when people rely on “if we build it they will come”.

    I really like your take on and other similar tools. Those are ones I had not considered and will definitely have to add to the internal marketing toolkit.

    Great post!

    • sam says:

      Thanks for commenting Mark. I really like – here’s our L&D team page . We started out creating topics for each of our main competency areas which changed earlier this year. We’ve also started a few extras like MS Office support and general communications skills. I even managed to get the content sliders working on our intranet without getting in trouble (yet). lets you export an iframe for each topic with a jquery slider showing the latest content

  2. Mark Britz says:

    Today social media allows for the greatest but most misunderstood marketing opportunity – getting people to talk about your stuff. Yes, L&D folks can curate but the biggest success comes from “learners” themselves passionately talking about the resources, classes, courses, etc that L&D created. So in a nutshell build your brand around quality and push for the connect company so people can talk up your L&D outputs and help others find the value and spread the word.

  3. I’ve nearly always been on the outside looking in, a ‘creative’ on the outside who is commissioned regularly to deliver learning content – historically a great deal of video, interactive DVD then online. There was always an interesting difference between projects for internal audiences and how or whether they were well promoted and sponsored learning that had to attract and retain a large external audience. In both cases this publicity got a fraction of the budget spent on producing the thing in the first place. Looking at it we came to understand that in the UK we are very good at making stuff, but not so good at getting the message out. We used the ration of 5:3:1 to suggest, for example, how £80,000 migth be spent on what by 2001 was interactive and online – £50,000 on the design, writing, graphics and build, £30,000 to support it over a a shelf life of a year or two and £10,000 to publicise while it North America it went the other way. Have a neat idea, but keep it simple and sweet – spend far more marketing it and then with audience engagement and from lessons learned improved the product and develop a relationship with the audience so that they keep coming back for more.

    • sam says:

      Thanks for your comments Jonanthan – was the US approach more effective overall then?

      • I think the US approach IS more effective because it pulls audiences in, motivates them to take an interest, gets the ‘buy-in’ – so yes, using some of the communication skills that come out of advertising, PR and marketing. I’ve worked for many companies internally and am proud as an external supplier when I see posters up, a promotional video clip on the intranet, or the CEO saying something in a newsletter to drive learners to the material or inspire them to give it a shot. I’m coming late to experimental psychology too, but know a bit as a parent – it matters what you say about food that you are preparing before it appears on the plate!

  4. A fascinating couple of presentations. I warned that it would be good for a 5,000 word blog – maybe five or more posts over the next week. The nature of and value of curation is just one line if thought – the other for me, indeed anyone, is why ‘being there’ is impossible to replace with a webinar or livestreaming. The essence of this post can be reduced to a few words – curation pulls in content and a targeted audience.

  5. Notes and views on the presentation and several spin off posts have gone up so far – as I thought this is a rich topic and should be a way to get more people engaged in following threads or drawing in their own and through dping so i proving the currency of their knowledge. Mostlsts here: with others on postgraduate Open University blog – I’m on the final module of the Mastersin Open and Distance Education. Aggregators form part of the course but in a way that fails to capture how valuable and intriguing them have become – finding a curator with a similar mindset is the key, with enough difference in their choices so that you are getting something fresh and beyond what you may have stumbled upon on your own.

  6. ‘You need to understand that it’s not a cut-and-paste job. You need to participate in the conversation and adapt the content for the environment.’ This said in Digital Strategies for Powerful Corporate Communications’ Agenti and Barnes (2009:Kindle page 1159). As I go through 33 months of postgraduate blog posts (the Masters in Open and Distance Education with the Open University), I stumble upon a great deal that some might call aggregation, but a year or so ago was linking and tagging. In the module ‘Innovations in e-learning’ we were give a list of aggregating tools to try. Personally, the curator – and potentially their team, as in the real world of museums and galleries must surely add value above and beyond the mere pulling of content using a set of terms in an off-the-shelf bundle of software? Over the last week or so since the meet up I have returned to various tools and tried new ones. I’ve gathered screen grabs and given it some thought – and largely concluded that as a result of this exercise I will be dropping them all in favour of reading a few choice blogs and receiving feeds from them – blogs where an opinion is expressed, you can leave a comment and expect feedback. At the heart of this is socially constructed learning.

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