By Cathy McPhillips published September 1, 2016

How Digital Asset Management Can Make a Big Impact on Your Content Marketing

digital-asset-management-impact-content-marketing

Many companies producing great content at a consistent pace soon face a predicament — they have so much content that they:

  • Don’t know or remember everything they have
  • Can’t track down content assets efficiently
  • Struggle to collaborate with others involved in the process
  • Aren’t leveraging existing content for reuse

Enter digital asset management (DAM), one of the hottest subjects in content marketing this year. Digital asset management is all about how you manage your broad portfolio of content assets — from the way assets are annotated, cataloged, and stored to methods of retrieval and distribution. DAM technology solutions automate many aspects of the process, meaning your team can use and reuse content more efficiently, while minimizing errors and inconsistency.

Don’t mistake it, however, for a simply super-organized filing system. Set up properly, a DAM tool is less like a card catalog and more like a dynamic storage and delivery system.

A DAM tool is less a card catalog & more a dynamic storage & delivery system says @cmcphillips Click To Tweet

For many, DAM entails a mix of free and low-cost options (e.g., Dropbox, Google Drive, and Excel) pieced together into a makeshift solution. Once you’ve reached a certain scale, however, an enterprise-worthy system is needed — both for continued growth and increased efficiency.

Making the case for DAM software

DAM software offers much more than storage; it automates tagging, storage, and retrieval, meaning that when team members and clients request articles, images, logos, and other pieces of content, the software saves time by removing much of the manual, hunt-until-you-stumble-upon-it efforts. For example, your solution can automatically tag your content by year, topic, event, and content type (white paper vs. blog post, visual storytelling vs. analytics) based on the taxonomy and systems your company puts into place.

Finding a particular asset or collection of assets by date, type, or topic (or some combination) takes seconds. And because DAM tools impose a system on your asset-storage methods, it forces each member of your team to fall into line (once they see how efficiently DAM technology works, they’ll be willing accomplices).


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It’s important to realize, however, that using a DAM technology isn’t as simple as buying the software and running out of the starting gate. Using DAM means you’ve committed to organizing and tagging your content in a predictable, consistent way. As Jake Athey, director of marketing at Widen, explains, “At the rate marketers are creating content today, many organizations have a Big Content problem. They need a central source to not just manage all that content, but also a system that will automatically serve up content to each channel, device and user.”

Organizations need systems that automatically serve #content to each channel, device & user says @jakeathey Click To Tweet

Making your company’s content available to your organization (not just the marketing or editorial departments) increases brand visibility and consistency. All of those five-minute interruptions (e.g., “Is this the latest artwork for the event in October?”) are avoided. Plus, the software allows you to see how each asset is being used and by whom.

DAM software also offers much-needed consistency. What if your company is going through a rebranding and a logo change? DAM software pinpoints all of the locations across your website, email, editorial, sales, PR, and media (among others) where that asset is used and automatically updates it. A few years ago, Content Marketing Institute founder, Joe Pulizzi, changed his Twitter handle. Oh, the time we could have saved by using a DAM tool to hunt down all the spots where the old handle was used.

DAM solutions make your content more accessible for curation and reuse. For organizations with vast libraries of content, DAM technology can surface existing, evergreen content to be repurposed into something else.

Finally, DAM software helps with the less visible but critically important area of protecting your content assets in the event of a technology failure or data loss. It also lets you archive outdated content, preventing it from being used while keeping it visible as a reference to those with access.

DAM software protects your #content assets in the event of a technology failure or data loss says @cmcphillips Click To Tweet

Not only do these changes make for more efficient processes and fewer headaches internally, they also offer a keener view of the customer journey. You can combine the data from multiple points (e.g., social, website) to better identify patterns across all content types and be proactive about future content development and delivery.

Before choosing a DAM solution

Make sure your team is committed to using metadata. Metadata is data about your content that describes what it is (think: categories and tags in blog posts). Content marketers use metadata to make content more easily discovered by your target audience and, in the case of DAM, help create connected content collections and identify future content needs.

Locate your allies and influencers. Investing in DAM is about much more than buying the technology; it also requires a commitment to modular and adaptable content. Athey says three key people will help push your DAM initiative forward:

  • Internal marketing influencer – Whether it is your chief marketing officer or head of content, you need someone who is ultimately responsible for the success of digital asset management.
  • Change agent – This is the person on the ground, pushing the process forward. This person may be a designer or other creative responsible for visual assets or a member of your content team. Larger organizations may even opt for a consultant to push the process forward.
  • Marketing technologist – This individual sees the big picture of what systems and processes you need to support customer experience, because DAM is just one piece of the puzzle.

Consider a digital librarian. Few organizations have a digital librarian on staff, but Athey believes the role will become more common as digital transformation takes hold and content libraries become more vast and complex.

DAM technology trigger events

Companies tend to invest in digital-asset-management solutions when they face one of these triggers:

  • Rebranding – Updating all of your identity materials and related assets is a massive headache during a rebrand. With a DAM tool, something like a logo change automatically cascades those revisions through all content assets that use the old logo.
  • Merger/acquisition – If it’s true content marketing is an asset, a merger or acquisition is the perfect time to get a handle on what you have, as well as determine how you’ll leverage existing assets into new projects.
  • Leadership change – Investing in a DAM tool usually comes after a company has committed to structured content, a transformation that often comes about with a change in leadership.
  • Digital transformation – As organizations embrace digital as a source of innovation and growth, adopting a DAM strategy is a critical step.

DAM inside a high-capacity content team

For an organization like St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which relies heavily on user-generated content, having a system to collect, categorize, and tag images; track image usage; and measure the engagement and conversions of each piece of content is imperative to its mission.

St. Baldrick’s Foundation started in 1999 when a group of friends shaved their heads in solidarity with children who had lost their hair in chemo treatments, and in doing so raised money to fight childhood cancer. In 2015, the organization raised almost $37 million through a fundraising model based on head-shaving events all over the country.

These events generate tens of thousands of photos each year — assets the St. Baldrick’s marketing team can repurpose for digital and print messaging.

“We love using volunteer images from events because it gets people excited when they see themselves up on our Facebook page,” explains Kathleen Ruddy, chief executive officer of St. Baldrick’s Foundation. She says that in the past, some participants emailed their photos, others sent a link to Dropbox, and still others posted directly to sites like Flickr.

DAM5

St. Baldrick’s needed a way to streamline its UGC with a simple upload process sent to all event organizers. Its tool helps filter photos by location, date, and, where appropriate, content topic. Plus, it has a robust permissions feature to ensure that photos are stored securely.

“We have no shortage of stories to tell or information to share. Now we’re honing in on best practices and building a foundation that’s ready for the future,” Ruddy says.

This article originally appeared in the August issue of Chief Content Officer. Sign up to receive your free subscription to our bimonthly print magazine.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Cathy McPhillips

Cathy is the Vice President of Marketing at the Content Marketing Institute, leading marketing efforts for CMI, Content Marketing World, Intelligent Content Conference, CMI University, CCO magazine, and other CMI properties. She works hard to get you to CMI events - online and off - and gets extra excited for opportunities to meet #CMWorld community members in person! Cathy is also a board member for The Orange Effect Foundation. You can follow her on Twitter @cmcphillips.

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  • Abigail Meisterman

    As a Content Strategist who has managed a DAM and is librarian, I say “Hear! Hear!” Using a DAM to manage the images, videos, infographics, etc. that populate your content types makes our jobs so much easier. Additionally, while you may not be able to get a digital librarian on staff, look for Content Strategists with that background — lots of us have it.

    • Cathy McPhillips

      So happy to hear you’ve found it an asset (pun intended) to your arsenal of tools. What has been your biggest benefit? What other advice could you offer?

      • Abigail Meisterman

        Hah! I think the biggest benefit would be that library science is so strong in classification and organization, that those skills are perfect for creating sitemaps, taxonomies, content types, etc. A lot of times it’s just a matter of using a new/different word for the same thing. Unfortunately, I doubt a lot of content professionals will be signing up for ML(I)S programs, but maybe doing some reading on those principles could help.

        • Cathy McPhillips

          I really understand that. When I talked to our editorial team leader we were already talking taxonomies and classifications so that we set everything up right from the get go, and that we needed to train everyone to load and classify in the same manner or it would be pointless. You’ve inspired me to dig deeper into this! Maybe my love of libraries will prove useful?

  • Shannon Lee

    Would love to hear from the audience on what DAM solutions they are using.

  • Samantha S

    What DAM solutions are recommended by those using them?

  • Cathy McPhillips

    Hi John! There are so many tools all with different lists of capabilities and points of differentiation. Check out our directory which offers a list of suggestions. Thanks! http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/directory/categories/digital-asset-management

  • Cathy McPhillips

    For sure. Thanks, Peter. Cloud-based was an important factor for us for a number of reasons, particularly for virtual teammates and a variety of devices (PC vs. Mac, etc). We also talked about the most important first step would be structure and taxonomy. Findability is key!

  • http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/author/roger-c-parker/ Roger C. Parker

    Dear Cathy: You caught my attention with your opening list, which resonated. Thanks for the clear explanations of the benefits of DAM.

    As I read the article, what kept running through my mind was “DAM is not just for enterprise-level content marketers!” It’s for all content marketers. It’s as important for solopreneurs as larger firms. I’ve heard too many stories of business owners, or authors writing a book as a series of blog post, who lost decades of work because of a “hosting problem where, unfortunately, our backup failed, too.”

    Or, platforms “changed their rules.”

    I used to encourage individuals who wrote online to “always copy and paste a word-processed copy in a separate folder for each media where they post.” Now, I see how inefficient that approach actually is.
    Roger