Being a Widen DAMster: An interview with Britta Charbonneau, E-marketing Specialist at Sheridan College

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When it comes to connecting marketing content, many people don’t realize that a digital asset management (DAM) system can be a key resource for their organization. DAM can help users make better decisions about their marketing strategy and also promote better market positioning. That’s why we hit the road to talk with Widen customers about the different ways they’re using the Media Collective to help leverage their digital content and improve marketing efficiencies. 

This is Britta Charbonneau’s story from Sheridan College in Toronto, Canada. Sheridan College is an almost 50 year-old undergraduate college with a reputation for creativity and innovation. You can feel it as soon as you arrive on campus!

Britta Charbonneau – E-marketing Specialist at Sheridan College
1. How long has Sheridan College been using the Widen Media Collective?
I’ve been here a year and a half and it will be a year in January that we’ve been using the Media Collective.

2. When did you know you needed a DAM system? Did something happen to indicate it was time?
I think management made that decision based on Stewart, the head graphic designer, having a large group of the college’s images sitting on a server. The decision was made from an image management standpoint.

3. If someone asked you what the Media Collective does, what would you tell them?
I would say it houses a large collection of images. And allows us to easily distribute the images to staff members. It also provides us with one spot – a repository that we keep organized – and the search functionality for users to find what they’re looking for instead of asking Stewart for images. It used to always be someone emailing or telling him, “I’m looking for an image of_______”

4. Which groups within your organization are currently using your DAM system the most and what are they doing with it?
It’s mainly for Marketing and Brand Strategy. The Faculty of Continuing & Professional Studies and the Alumni Group are also currently using it. Most users are accessing the DAM system to download images. I’m an admin and I manage the system with Stewart.
I’m also responsible for email marketing, but I got into digital asset management and the Media Collective project because I have a library science degree. The DAM system is a good fit for my skill set. I created the categories and still work on the metadata. 

We have a large set of images and it takes a lot of time to get through all the tagging. I work full-time on email and only have a certain number of hours each week that I can dedicate to the Media Collective. Maybe an hour or two every day and I’m only here three days a week. 

I volunteered to do the setup because of my background and created the metadata strategy, so that’s why I now do most of it. It’s always interesting to hear how people get into Library Science. I was drawn to it because I’m a very organized person. I’m kind of OCD that way, I love categorizing and organizing things. Aside from one year when I worked in a library, I applied that skill set to every other job. Web development, DAM management, email marketing. That taxonomy skill set crosses many jobs.
I hope our users will be able to find what they’re looking for in our DAM system. That’s my primary concern. There are still a lot of images that haven’t been tagged properly or tagged at all and I want to make sure that we do that right, so all of our images can be found and used.
Previously, we used free form metadata fields. You could enter a lot of, and any kind of, metadata. Now I’m moving towards metadata with dependencies because it wasn’t working with free form. Users were getting too many results and those results were not as specific as they need. I hope that, when we’re done with all of the tagging, people can type in what they want and only the relevant images will come up. 
5. How did you go about getting the system setup?
I talked to users before setting up the DAM system. I asked them how they wanted to search in the Media Collective, and what they would like to see. The results were quite different. Everyone had a different way of searching, which I guess I knew, but it was great to get that knowledge up front and apply it to our system setup.
Some people like to search the category tree. When looking for brand assets that’s probably the easiest way to find an image or logo because it’s a much smaller collection. But when it comes to photos, people were searching under ambiguous terms like “two students on campus” versus program-based keywords that have some control. Images haven’t been tagged yet as “chemical engineering” versus “electrical engineering.” We haven’t narrowed the naming that far yet. So that’s what I’m trying to fix in order to help users search how they want and still narrow things down better.

Sheridan College Asset Collective

6. What unique things are your teams able to do with the Media Collective that you didn’t initially realize you could do?
The metadata with dependencies. When I found out I could do that, I went and looked deeper within Widen’s resources about dependent metadata and was like “Whoa – this changes everything!” That was really great. 

Being able to add such a large list of subject terms is great too. There’s no limit or cap and that’s great. There is less room for errors now. Consistency in terms is key, so a standardized vocabulary for tagging assets is key. I’m using the vocabulary from the website to hone in on terms that Sheridan uses, and I’m hoping that will help because that’s the way people are seeing terms and talking about it so it’s hopefully something they’re familiar with. When we let people describe things the way they want (free form) everyone describes things differently. 

Having one person run the system certainly helps. Whether it’s me or someone else, that person needs to understand the vocabulary being used and the background of what we’ve been doing. If not, the consistency is broken. 

7. How did you roll out the system to your user base? Do you have any communications or training materials you can share with us?
We started with a presentation on what a DAM system is that was shared with our team. I created the presentation, with the basics of search – metadata, getting everyone on the same point. A lot of people didn’t know what metadata was or how to search. 

We’d like to roll it out on a more college-wide level and we’re not there yet. It’s a challenge that we’re working through. We’re looking at the collection for the creative team, Alumni, and Continuing and Professional Studies as a way to use the images for creating marketing materials. We’re also creating a public group, for others outside these groups to use, that’s approved by marketing.
We don’t have any training materials yet, but if time permits I’d like to create materials to help users with advanced search – to help them find for what they’re looking for and to help with training on the Media Collective in general.

8. How do use the Media Collective to connect the marketing content you create? To curate the content you create?
Stewart provides images and I tag and categorize them. I create passwords and logins for anyone who needs them and I help manage the system as a whole. Stewart does more of that content creation and connection than I do.

9. What is the greatest value you've gained from making use of a DAM system?
We have everything in one spot and are able to provide access to other users who are not in marketing, like Alumni. They’ve seen it change their workflow in a lot of good ways!

10. How do you prefer to consume content?
I like reading, videos, and podcasts. I’ve always worked with media and love it. Sometimes my preference has to do with if I would disrupt others. I watched the Corey Chimko webinar [about DAM and higher education] and it really helped me. I listened to it at home, then I followed up with reading to learn more. Sometimes I like reading because I can stop and start again at my own pace. 

I’ll also watch videos. For something how-to I prefer a video, but for something subject-based or knowledge-based, I prefer reading. Ideally, I like the combination of both. For the higher education webinar, I liked that there was the video and the transcript, too. That was great.
Awareness has something to do with it. I approach things first with a Google search and then weave my way through. In terms of the Media Collective, your resource collection is excellent. The website it great. I would watch a video first to get familiar with something, then read to learn more and gain knowledge.
The Admin playbook was a wonderful resource when I was getting started.

11. Where do you see your usage of the Media Collective going in the future?
I have grand plans for it. I would like to see the faculties – in particular art and design who have a lot of images – have a college-wide repository where everything can be found. Primarily the images in our Media Collective are used for marketing – for websites, brochures, magazines, and emails.

12. What three, individual adjectives would you use to describe the Media Collective? 
Dynamic (it offers a lot more than you initially think. There’s a lot it can do once you really learn it), it’s very intuitive and easy to use. I like being able to create collections and I like that we can customize our login screen. I like to move things around on the dashboard.

13. What is the most important thing new DAM users should know about making use of a digital asset management system? 
That metadata makes the DAM system work. Without the metadata you won’t be able to find anything. You need to have the expertise on hand (to tag and pay attention to metadata) and determine what you want the system to do before you make a decision about what system you choose.

14. Are there any tips or advice you would you share with other Media Collective users?
Instead of just dumping in all of your images, weed them out beforehand. Choose the top ten images from a photoshoot and get them in the system, then archive the rest. Know the images well before you upload them to the Media Collective.

Watch the video interview with Stewart Dick, Senior Designer at Sheridan College, to learn more about why his marketing team loves the Widen Media Collective.

Or, read what other Widen users are doing with the Media Collective.

Contact our DAM advisors to see how the Media Collective can work for you!

Topics: Customer Stories, DAMsters

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