As you may have guessed from the title, today we’re sharing real-world, proven strategies on how to make your visual content easily accessible so you never “wake up” wondering where your content is ever again.
Some of you may have already caught the analogy to the movie trilogy, “The Hangover.” Since the information we’re sharing here was originally presented at the Intelligent Content Conference (ICC) in Las Vegas, NV, we thought it would be fun to include some movie references throughout the article.
Since you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance your job involves at least one of the following:
- Managing a content management system for your company or client
- Managing a digital asset management (DAM) system for your company or client
While a handful of professionals have mastered content or DAM for their organization, the rest are dealing with “the content hangover.” But it doesn’t have to be that way.
In contrast to the popular topics of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, we’ll be talking about something just as important (if not more so): human intelligence roles for content strategy and marketing today — which require strategic thinking and leadership by people like Jennifer Hurley, Director of Marketing Operations at Clear Channel Outdoor.
Jen co-presented this material at ICC with me, and she loves sharing real-world strategies on how you can transform your DAM system into a robust content marketing hub.
Jen manages the DAM system at Clear Channel Outdoor, which is a billboard company. They’ve been using the Widen Collective (our DAM product) for about three years and have over 700,000 assets in it, and support about 1,000 users across the USA.
Jen’s background is in communications and journalism, but she went back to grad school to get a library degree. Although she figured she’d work in special collections or academic libraries, as life would have it, she ended up at a billboard company.
Her experience keeping massive amounts of content tidy (and findable) is why Jen’s input and advice is so valuable. Plus, we also believe librarians are THE best steward for any content system, AND they know some great recipes for “hair of the dog” (trying to keep to the hangover cure theme here).
Top three takeaways
In this article, we’ll be focusing on:
- How good content libraries make assets discoverable
- How digital librarians empower people to find what they need
- Why the digital librarian will become a standard role in content / marketing organizations
Well-managed content libraries share workflows, technologies, and metadata strategies that make assets discoverable. There’s a lot of chaos that needs be reined in to create a structure for more usable, and useful, content.
Here’s Jen’s take on what a well-managed content library looks like…
The most important step in creating any sort of well-managed content library is first defining the WHAT.
For Widen, we only curate assets that represent our company’s story and showcase our products in the best possible light. So, our WHAT contains photos of our products, brand elements (like logos, templates, etc.), digital examples, and stock photos — ingredients we use to build our story.
Once you’ve established your WHAT, you can start to assess the WHERE. If your content currently lives somewhere, is it working for you? There are a lot of vendors out there who would love to help you get organized; I’d say something cloud-based is the way to go.
For the WHO, content systems usually have a permissions level to them so you can control who has access to what. Our primary user groups are creative, marketing, and sales, who each have different access to different assets and are trained differently. I think my sales training manual is half the size of the one for creative and marketing. But that’s ok, because each of these teams use their DAM content marketing hub differently.
HOW you organize your visual content (assets) is based on what system they live in. Some systems are search-based, while others are folder-based. Our DAM system allows for different types of searches — a search bar, category search, collection search — so there’s more opportunities for discovery.
WHY is good to ask along the way, like a kid being truly curious about the answer. It’s a good tactic to just ask why to make sure you’re thinking about all the questions!
Countless hours wasted hunting
We know marketers waste countless hours hunting for assets inside the DAM software that’s supposed to make it all findable. Typically, there’s only one person — a.k.a., “the finder of stuff” — who knows where anything is. Yes, all your assets are under one roof (a good thing), but for various reasons, like poor metadata and unclear collections, they are still a challenge to find. This is how “content overload” creeps up and takes hold of your assets and your team.
Content overload has left marketers like you with piles of disorganized, wasted, and wandering content — and no one can seem to remember where it is.
Given the volume and variety of content that’s created and consumed every day, the hangover can cause a real bad hangover effect! In extreme cases you might find a jungle cat in your bathroom. Companies are losing valuable resources with time, money, and content waste. Scattered assets, siloed teams, content misuse, duplicated efforts, and many other daily struggles, leave us thinking…
There’s got to be a better way!
My goal with this post is that you leave with an understanding of why DAM software is important, and more importantly, know that DAM success is not just about the technology. It’s also about people.
The reason it’s about people is because great software in and of itself is insufficient to solve the problem we outlined above. That’s why companies of all sizes, especially enterprises, hire a digital librarian (or acquire librarian principles) to organize their visual content in an effort to make them accessible, findable — and usable!
As a content technology vendor, I’m here today to tell you:
DAM software is great, but don’t fall for the trap of technology alone as your solution.
Some people think you can just throw a bunch of money at software and all of your problems will be solved. That’s not the case. The machines aren’t there yet!
My promise is that technology allows humans to be better humans. Technology allows designers to design, writers to write, and producers to produce content with stronger, faster, and more consistent output.
The success or failure of marketing and content technology is determined by vision, creativity, and strategy. These are all human attributes. Machines can’t do these things; people can!
Which means, at the end of the day — it’s not tech or human … it’s both!
The Widen AI vision is that AI isn’t ready for primetime. Artificial intelligence is worth exploring, and it’s getting better, but it will (at least for the foreseeable future) require human intelligence to make sense on how to apply the data.
This is especially true with DAM!
What is DAM?
Before we get too far into this subject, let’s make sure we come to a common understanding of what DAM is.
Simply put, DAM is the management, organization, and distribution of digital assets from ONE central repository.
Content management systems have been around for decades, but DAM tools are working to manage the plethora of visual content types today. The tools are still evolving!
Digital asset management, when applied consistently, will help you increase marketing efficiency and effectiveness, connect you to revenue opportunities faster, and improve brand consistency — all of which help to build brand equity.
Essentially, tell better stories, more consistently (over time), and you’ll better serve your customers. And securing, controlling, and appropriately using your digital assets is part of this process.
Why DAM is important to Clear Channel Outdoor
Clear Channel has over 30 offices across the U.S., and more than 1,600 employees. Their content systems are cloud-based and are “sources of truth.” This means they don’t store the same content in more than one place, so users understand where things live. Their DAM software gives them the ability to maintain relevancy and accuracy by allowing them to update shared materials rather seamlessly.
The top five primary functions of a DAM system
The following functions help teams work at higher levels of quality (and consistency) to reach and influence their audience. You attain this when you have a central source of truth for the creation, distribution, and measurement of your digital assets.
These are only quick overviews of the primary functions. If you have further questions about how our DAM software works, feel free to talk with a Widen advisor or request a live demo of our cloud-based DAM.
Also, keep in mind, these are technical AND human functions.
- Governance: In the form of user roles and access controls. It helps make the right content accessible to the right people, at the right time, to use it when they need it.
- Metadata and taxonomy: These help you organize, find, and discover your best, most relevant, and most valuable content.
- Automatic processing: This makes content reusable and adaptable with on-the-fly file conversions. It drives repurposing and saves a ton of creative time from having to convert and transcode creative assets to other file formats.
- COPE (Create Once, Publish Everywhere): This is a central concept to DAM, with sharing, linking, and embedding assets (to extend the value of your content) across multiple systems, channels, and websites. This is the beauty of DAM in tandem with your web content management, e-commerce, and marketing automation platforms (through easy integration)!
- Analytics: The fifth function of a DAM system helps you understand your “best-performing content assets” across all channels. Having insights into content engagement, intended use, and what your internal and external audiences want is critical today. Which is why we love data!
Since the human element is so important, just who are the major stakeholders within your DAM content marketing hub?
- The internal marketing influencer: Whether it’s your CMO, or head of content, you need someone who is ultimately responsible for the success of the DAM system.
- The change agent: This is the person “on the ground,” pushing the process forward. This person may be a creative, responsible for visual design, or a member of your content team. Larger organizations may have a consultant push the process forward.
- The marketing technologist: This person sees the big picture of what systems and processes you need to support the customer experience, because DAM software is just one piece of the puzzle.
- The digital librarian, of course!
In Jen’s case, she’s all of those roles.
In your case, we encourage you to either consider a digital librarian or help someone on your team “acquire” librarian principles.
On that note, let’s get finish our DAM-centric detour and get back to the second takeaway:
How digital librarians empower people to find what they need.
Here’s what Jen has to say about her role.
“We have this tremendous archive that spans 115 years of billboard advertising, and our company cherishes it. It’s always been a goal to digitize this collection, but we never got around to it until the need for a DAM solution for digital-born stuff became a priority. I was brought into the library around 2007 and have been part of three different DAM solutions over the years.
I find technology to be both a blessing and curse. It’s really opened up discoverability, accessibility, and work efficiency, but all of that can be a challenge when there are a bunch of complicated systems available for our users to use.
I like to think of the DAM system as a respite. It’s fun to look through images and get ideas.
Digital librarians like myself excel in content management roles, because we’re masters at connecting people with information.
Not only are librarians well organized, but they help others do their jobs better because they present the right information.
Librarianship is a service industry. We provide a service of connecting users to information.
Most assets now are digital-born, so there’s a heightened need to be comfortable with tech. And you have to understand that you’ll always have users that don’t like tech or are uncomfortable learning new systems. So, I train certain users differently based on that understanding.
I believe that content systems live and die by how awesome an organization’s evangelist is. The system’s survival must be tied to someone’s job function, written into their job description and yearly goals.
If I was a company in content hell, I’d take the advice of looking into getting a librarian to help. If that’s a no go, try to find someone who has librarian tendencies (maybe be a little OCD, detail oriented to the max, strategic then tactical, really want people walk away with a positive experience in finding what they need).”
Some DAM librarian guidelines:
- Be sure that WHAT content you’re storing is meaningful to your organization — hence the big orange box up there. Does it match your company’s mission?
- Create standards and document them.
- Figure out what to keep and what to throw away and when.
- Find someone who WANTS to manage it. Jen loves what she does, but thinks this job would be torture for the wrong person. Find someone who sees this as an exciting opportunity!
A digital librarian can improve your ROI
To begin, let’s look at the astounding ROI differences between organizations that do versus organizations that don’t have a dedicated digital librarian.
Simply put, DAM ROI is greater when you have a dedicated person in the role. Of course, this is the ideal situation, and here’s why it’s worthy of serious consideration.
We did an analysis of our customers to uncover that 20% staff at least one person (like Jen) who dedicates more than 50% of their time to DAM.
Whereas, 80% dedicate less than 50% of their time to DAM. (62% spend less than 20% of their time on DAM.)
This isn’t surprising, but it’s important to consider having at least one person dedicating a majority of their time to DAM.
We also compared those who dedicated more than 50% of their time to those with less than 20%.
Companies who have a dedicated content manager have a larger library size and more users. They may be bigger companies, but we common-size this by looking at the ratios.
The average number of times an active asset is downloaded is more than DOUBLE with companies dedicating more time to DAM.
This could indicate better/more recent content, more users and usage, improved user engagement and training — or their content is better tagged and organized for greater findability. Plus, with a dedicated content manager in place, the average active user has downloaded more than two times as many assets.
Just think how much more value you could get out of your content if it was used twice as much! And the ROI of content reuse pays for the technology and human team member required to manage it — a worthy investment to avoid the content hangover!
For the foreseeable future, human input is still critical to a DAM system’s success
Based on everything we’ve shared with you today, and from continual feedback we receive from Widen customers, it’s clear that digital librarians will become a standard role in content marketing organizations in the future. Without them, the DAM process is missing an integral part.
In some ways, it’s similar to the relationship between a car and its driver. These days, technology has made cars very smart — they can do a lot of things! But they still need a driver to guide the car through turns, to stop, to turn up the volume of the radio when a good song comes on. Yes, self-driving cars exist, but they’re not yet ready for primetime. Maybe one day, but for now it’s just like DAM — machines are not the full answer, because they’re not tech or human, they’re both.
Jen puts it this way:
“When I was in library school about 10 years ago, DAM software wasn’t huge. I’ve hosted library interns over the years and we have conversations about old-school librarianship and emerging tech, and library schools now have classes on collection development and asset preservation. There are also courses on system evaluation, usability, data science, informatics — which has greatly widened the skill set to embrace technology and digital asset management.
They say that librarians are the second oldest profession, and if that’s true, it’s a good testament to our adaptability — and our importance.”
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