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San Francisco International Airport: A Site Overhaul Success Story

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Customer stories from the Widen Summit.

The San Francisco International Airport (SFO) implemented their first digital asset management (DAM) platform, the Widen Collective®, to store and organize all of their marketing assets — from creative files to employee photos. 

When they were ready to start, they created a metadata structure and assembled a team of interns to upload assets. However, many of these uploaders lacked the institutional knowledge needed to create meaningful metadata, and as a result the values entered were incomplete or inconsistent. Further, SFO didn’t have a governance policy, archival strategy, or a designated site administrator. Their DAM system became so ineffective it was barely used. 

Six years later, SFO decided to overhaul the entire DAM site; and Robin Brown, their Brand Manager, was asked to lead the effort. At the 2019 Widen Summit she shared how she turned this underutilized platform into an essential tool across their organization, and beyond. 

One step at a time

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Robin knew that overhauling their Collective site was going to be a monumental effort. “I am a graphic designer and a brand manager, and had no experience managing a digital library,” she shared. “But I love a challenge, and overhauling SFO’s media library was a big one.”

“At that time, our digital media was all over the DAM place,” Robin explained. Some assets were in the Collective with erratic metadata, others were scattered across shared drives, private drives, and camera memory drives. “We assembled a team to excavate and rebuild,” she said. Here is how they executed their overhaul plan — one step at a time:

Leverage your resources

Often, it can be hard to know where to start but fortunately, there are some helpful resources if you just know where to look. Blogs, training videos, and support resources are all great — and free — tools that can help you find your way. Understanding your options for learning and training will give you the support you need to reach your goals. 

Tip: It's likely others have had the same, or similar, questions as you and your team. Support articles often answer frequently asked questions, so this is a great place to start your knowledge search. 

Solicit internal feedback 

Robin’s team needed user feedback to ensure the DAM system was designed to support various workflows. “We had meetings and focus groups, and after surveying users and stakeholders we came up with a strategy,” Robin shared.

Tip: These sample questions are a good place to start in creating a DAM interview or survey.

Create a governance plan

A governance document outlines why the DAM system exists, and controls how it’s managed and used. This guiding information creates consistency across DAM processes now and into the future. It’s no wonder Robin’s team calls their governance document “the DAM Bible.” 

Tip: This template can help map out topics to include in an effective governance plan.

Update the metadata schema

Robin’s team evaluated the existing metadata structure and updated it to include new fields and terminology. User feedback helped Robin identify preferred search terms, which informed their metadata fields and controlled vocabulary. 

Tip: Brainstorming exercises like this can solicit valuable user feedback.

Conduct a content audit

A systematic review of the content in their existing DAM system helped Robin identify the content that was outdated, off-brand, or simply no longer needed. “We moved 20,000 untagged assets to an archival asset group to give us a clean slate,” she shared. “Then, we began the process of retagging the assets we wanted to keep, and trashing the assets we no longer needed.” 

Tip: This article offers a step-by-step guide to conducting a content audit.

Apply your brand

Branding a Collective site helps users connect to, engage with, and keep using the system.

Robin applied the SFO visual identity to their login page and Dashboard. “We now have a new login page with SFO iconic images and SFO branding,” she shared. “And I created a DAM good Dashboard with a new message and custom graphics that highlight spotlight collections and brand assets. The new look completely changed the impression you get when you log in. This one change had the biggest impact in how we were perceived.” 

Tip: If you’re running short on time or resources, design services can be a great way to get your Collective site on brand quickly.

Enhance the user experience

Robin updated two functional components of their site to streamline their user experience. The first was adding single sign-on (SSO). “We added SSO through our company site to make it an easier process for employees to get to our DAM,” she shared. “Team members who previously could not find us, can now access images and video quickly and painlessly.” 

The second was updating their conversion formats — which are options for changing the file type when assets are downloaded or shared. “We revamped conversion formats,” Robin shared. “Less, and easier to understand.” These changes made it easier to use their site.

Train your users

Robin created training materials that are now part of SFO’s onboarding process for all new employees, so everyone knows where to go for visual assets. These resources are housed in their DAM system and are available to anyone that has questions or needs a refresher on using the system.  

Bolster user engagement

Ongoing efforts to raise awareness of the DAM system will help users understand the value of the DAM, and use it! Robin’s team found several creative ways to keep their site top of mind with their users.  She shared, “We have instituted ‘upload Fridays’ as the day when new assets are uploaded, so our power users know when to look for new assets.” Further, they promote the Collective on their intranet with success stories, scavenger hunts, and contests. As a result, their internal login and download activity is on a steady upward trajectory.

Create a roadmap

Any effective site overhaul strategy includes a plan for ongoing improvements. “With the help of my new team, we created a roadmap to steer us in the right direction, and keep us focused," Robin shared. "The admin team now meets on a regular basis, to brainstorm how we can keep SFO’s media library the only place to find and access SFO digital material.” 

As they look to the future, Robin and the team will continue to prioritize metadata application as a big part of their strategy, and will begin exploring the possibility of using Portals. 

Tip: Get tips and ideas from your customer success manager (CSM) when creating your roadmap.

Celebrate your success!

After months of thoughtful and focused effort, Robin’s hard work paid off. She shared, “We recently opened a new terminal — Harvey Milk Terminal 1. For the first time we were fully prepared to share assets with the media and marketing firms ahead of the opening.”

“We created a curated collection of photos and videos for media and international marketing partners. Instead of playing catchup and scrambling, we delivered a well-thought-out collection in front of the opening. Team members, stakeholders and media had access to the photos and video they needed to showcase our new terminal.”

They were also measure this success in terms of asset activity. The top ten most downloaded assets came from this new collection, Robin explained. 

Further, their current general user activity is astronomically higher than before the site overhaul. “We had a 498% increase in downloads from July 2018 to 2019, and we increased users by 12%.” 

Robin constantly receives positive feedback about their new DAM site, and her stakeholders are getting what they need. So although the overhaul was a lot of hard work, she feels it was worth it! “It’s been a DAM interesting journey,” Robin said. “And the ride’s not over yet!”

Watch Robin's full presentation from the 2019 Widen Summit:


Topics: Widen Summit, Customer Stories, Best DAM Contest

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