I just took a quick peek at the early results from our 2013 Nonprofit Communications Trends Survey (please take it!) and can you guess what the top challenge for nonprofit communicators is so far?
"Lack of time to produce quality content" was selected by half of the people taking the survey to date, from a list of more than a dozen challenges.
If you can relate, I encourage you to embrace two essential strategies for creating great content quickly: repurposing your own content and curating content by others.
We do a lot of both at Nonprofit Marketing Guide, so I thought I'd give you a back-stage glimpse at how we curate content. It's not all that glamorous or sophisticated, but it works for us. The core of the strategy consists of three parts: following, tagging, and intent.
At the core of my strategy is following smart people, and letting them do the first cut. Curating is all about sifting or filtering, and there's no reason you can't use other smart people to help you do it! I follow people with a variety of different specialties that all circle back around to nonprofit marketing somehow. They sift through all the stuff they see on their issues, and share the best via their own blogs, social media, e-newsletters, etc. Then I watch what they say, do my own cut on that information, and decide what to share out through my own communications channels.
I follow those smart people in a few key ways:
I use a personal Alltop page to follow bloggers. You'll find people who specialize in nonprofit communications, fundraising, technology, social media, corporate marketing, creativity, and a few more random topics on my custom page. It's public, so you can use mine, or better yet, create your own. I love how Alltop gives me the five most recent blog titles from all of these sources, all on one page. It's easy to see not only what particular individuals are writing about, but also the at-a-glance trends in what this broader community that I follow is writing about. I also love that I can mouse over a headline and get the first paragraph or so of the post, so I can see if it's worth clicking to read the whole thing. I do wish there was a way to import other RSS feeds into Alltop as there are some bloggers who I want to follow who aren't in the Alltop database. So I make sure I follow them in other ways, like on Twitter.
I use a Must-Read List on Twitter. I've created lots of Twitter lists, including a private Must-Read List on Twitter that I look at regularly via a Hootsuite tab. I follow thousands of people, but obviously can't read all of that, so I use lists to categorize different people in different ways, some by topic, some by my relationship with them. One of those relationships is how much I trust them to be a good curator. While that particular list is private, as it contains some people I follow for personal reasons, it does contain a lot of the same people on the Alltop page, along with some bloggers who aren't on Alltop.
I participate in a few social media groups. I'm a member of a few groups on Facebook and LinkedIn that I find helpful, because again, smart people congregate there, answer each other's questions and share good stuff.
Following great people helps me find the good stuff. But I need a way to save and identify what I want to pass on to others. I also get information from other sources too, including my email inbox and random web surfing. I keep track of everything I want to keep for later curation in a couple of different ways that revolve around tagging. (I also curate instantly by retweeting and sharing on Facebook -- tagging is more for the longer content.)
I use both Diigo and Evernote to save and tag content. I use Diigo primarily as my "public" bookmarks and Evernote primarily for my "private" bookmarks. In other words, if I am collecting a list of examples or additional resources that I'd want to make available during a webinar, I would use a tag to create that list of links in Diigo. If I am saving something that I might want to quote in a blog post or a book, or incorporate into a training, I tend to save those with my own personal notes, in an Evernote notebook.
I've tried to get more consistent over time about the tags I use in both systems, but it's still definitely a work in progress. I also use some of the same tags in my Gmail account (where they are called labels), although I'm trying to get better about moving the stuff I really want to keep into Evernote (you can email things into Evernote notebooks directly, which is nice.)
I tag everything I save with at least one topic tag (e.g. Facebook, fundraising, etc.), but whenever possible, I also include a tag that reminds me of what I intend to use that content for, such as our Mixed Links round-up blog posts -- which brings us to the third part of my approach.
I find it very helpful to categorize content and ideas by how I intend to use them -- or at least how I think I'll use them the first time. For me, this breaks down into the primary communications channels where we do longer content (email newsletter, blog, and website) as well as training content (webinars, workshops, e-books) and paperback book chapters. This is especially true for Mixed Links on the blog, which is 90% curated content.
I've found that if I don't tag the content I save by intent that I often don't get back to it, or when I do, I don't remember exactly how I intended to use that particular piece. And that means it just sits there, saved but not really curated as content out to our community.
What's Next . . .
You may have noticed that I don't really talk about keyword searches here as a way to find content to curate, which is another common strategy. That's mostly because I get plenty of content from what I am already doing. But I do occasionally check out some custom Twitter searches on keyword phrases that I have set up in Hootsuite. That sometimes leads to new voices that I (and the smarties I normally rely on) would have otherwise missed.
Here are some additional tips on sharing all that content you've save for curation.