We Should All Be Curators

March 28, 2010 Blog 4 comments

The art of curating and storytelling drew 8.5 million visitors to the Louvre in 2009 – many just to catch the Mona Lisa here!

One of the insights which I have gleaned in the hectic past few days from Steve Rubel and his thoughts on digital curation was this:

We should all be curators. Every single one of us in the fields of marketing, public relations, and advertising. And not only in the digital realm, but all others too.
The use of the term perhaps needs some explanation.

In the world of museums and galleries where I come from, curators are considered the erudite gatekeepers and custodians of not just an institution’s collections, but the body of knowledge focused on those areas.

Curators are tasked with the acquisition and maintenance of artworks or artefacts for display. They decide on how pieces should be displayed, as well as the order in which they appear. The most tangible outcome of a curator’s work are exhibitions both permanent and temporary.

Curators may also work with programmers and educators to see how different audiences at different levels could be reached. These could take the form of tours, workshops, forums, films, children’s activities, and festivals which are often thematically aligned to the exhibition which forms the core of the institution.

Curators are also scholars and researchers who specialise in specific disciplines. Art curators may specialise in particular art forms like sculpture, painting, films or photography, science curators may specialise in specific disciplines in biology, physics or chemistry, history curators may specialise in specific historical periods and regions, while ethnological curators may specialise in specific civilisations and cultures.

Prolific curators publish regularly, either in the form of catalogues of their collections or scholarly articles in peer-referenced academic journals.

How does the seemingly academic and focused work of a curator relate to us as marketers? Plenty!

For a start, we should all be schooled in the fine art of storytelling, just like curators in a museum. Rather than push forward endless value propositions, promotions, catchy taglines or gimmicks, marketers could look at ‘curating’ corporate and product information in a way that can educate, enrich and entertain stakeholders.

What is the main plot? How should clients and consumers be a part of this?

More importantly, how can we keep a customer engaged and entranced on whatever physical or virtual platform in which we are operating in?

Marketers should spend more time hitting the books and understanding their main subjects – customers and clients – in more precise terms. This may mean market research with some depth rather than merely skimming the surface.

Establishing credence as thought leaders and voices of authority may also help improve the reputation of a marketer. Here’s where blogging, publishing white papers, or speaking at conferences and workshops could help.

Finally, marketers may want to consider an integrative approach, involving all facets of an organisation, in the weaving of a compelling tale. They should become experience architects, examining every single touchpoint and seeing how these help to add mystique and allure to an organisation and its brands.

Instead of viewing Integrated Marketing Communications as a means of developing consistent messages on multiple platforms, consider it from the perspective of your customer. What is the best way for me, as a customer, to partake in the grand narrative? How should the various visual, textual, tactile and audio cues help to flesh out the entire experience?

Better yet, how can you draw me in not only as a purchaser of your product and service but a very willing participant and even fan?

Perhaps, if we all don the hats of curators (as opposed to communicators), we could develop truly 360 degree marketing initiatives. Ones that look at engagement instead of entrapment.

By Walter
Founder of Cooler Insights, I am a geek marketer with almost 24 years of senior management experience in marketing, public relations and strategic planning. Since becoming an entrepreneur 5 years ago, my team and I have helped 58 companies and over 2,200 trainees in digital marketing, focusing on content, social media and brand storytelling.


  1. Hi Walter, thank you for this post. It gave me a glimpse of what a curator does. Somehow I have been interested to know more about what a curator do and this post gave me some ideas.

    A thoughtfully written article. Well, I would summed up that marketers have to make marketing both an art and a science. 😉

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