In her role as senior director of content strategy for Hilton Worldwide, Meghan Walsh's responsibilities include more than publishing content.
She champions digital asset management (DAM) and often sits at the center of web technology selection and implementation. She helps Hilton Worldwide ensure its massive set of digital assets can be found, tracked, licensed and used across global outlets.
The management, storage and distribution of the company’s assets must connect with its established workflows, she said, adding there can’t be a disconnect between web content management (Web CMS) and DAM.
Hilton tackles digital asset and content management through content strategy, product management and technical architecture. Walsh will speak about these efforts at CMSWire's second annual DX Summit Nov. 14 through 16 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago.
Content: The 'Connective Tissue'
Walsh calls content strategy a “connective tissue.” Organizations should define what content is, how it comes to be, where it goes, who makes decisions around it and what expectations there are for it.
Platforms that manage content — Web CMS and DAM — are “too often left to languish," she added, "and costs to upgrade are often more than a company wants to regularly invest.”
All tools must align with the company's technical architectures, which, Walsh said, generally get “unfairly underrated by the business.” Walsh’s IT partners work with her on the company's DAM project. Through this, they've gained new priorities and approaches.
“Even though we are going (Software-as-a-Service) SaaS for our DAM solution, it still needs to fit our architecture vision and IT's assessment of the company," Walsh said. "Product was a critical input to our decision on the technology vendor."
Balancing Content Advocacy, Care
We caught up with Walsh about her content and digital asset management efforts at Hilton:
Nicastro: What in the realm of web CMS can potentially stall innovation?
Walsh: Designing the CMS structure before knowing what you need. Too often we design how we will use the technology without defining what role the technology needs to play in our work. If you set up the CMS to do one thing and then need it to do another, it's going to be a roadblock. That's not the technology's fault.
By understanding goals and then designing a content architecture that aligns with them, the CMS will be a facilitator of innovation rather than a hindrance. Expecting a CMS to support your omni-channel strategy and then embedding web presentation controls in the content sets you up for failure. Think strategically about the content big-picture first, then validate that the CMS technology you have enables your goals.
Nicastro: How does a solid web CMS help deliver on the promise of digital experience?
Walsh: Done well, a CMS implementation is a response to business goals. How content is structured in the system enables the delivery the business needs, the workflows in place facilitate the content lifecycle the business defined and metrics are captured to ensure everything is working as expected. The consistency of a good CMS implementation is what increases a team's capacity for creativity, innovation and leading digital experiences.
If your structure, process and product management are sound, then the CMS itself should rarely be an issue in delivery of experiences. It should just work. That's my goal for any content technology — clarity on its purpose, thoughtful structure, reliable performance — so that it's just normal for it to work, rather than an exception.
Nicastro: Can you give an example of how Hilton has transformed workflow or tools?
Walsh: My first day at Hilton, I was given the DAM project. DAM is often thought of as a tool for the creative team, generally marketing or production or an extension of a Web CMS, especially when "digital" is involved somehow.
That wasn't the case here.
Leadership recognized a repeated problem across the organization in finding, tracking, licensing and appropriately using photography and video. We spend millions of dollars a year in creating and acquiring assets across the enterprise, not just in marketing or digital.
So, we took a step back and determined the problem we needed to solve wasn't just the connection between our current web DAM and the web CMS, but our storage, management and distribution of valuable business assets across the company. This changes the conversation around workflow and tools in major ways.
We have broad needs for the same capabilities and so rather than each team doing its own slightly different thing, we are building competency in the enterprise practice of digital asset management.
By building a core team with expertise in the practice, not just the product, we can support the entire company, ideally liberating teams from repeated, centralized activities so that they can focus on what they are best at, whether it be selling hotels, designing interiors, telling team member stories, driving reservations, increasing corporate awareness or creating marketing campaigns.
This wouldn't be possible if we hadn't taken the time to understand the underlying need rather than the surface one and engaged business and IT differently in addressing the challenge.
Nicastro: What is your role in this transformation, where are you currently and who else is involved?
Walsh: I've got a couple of roles. I'm the product owner for the DAM, which we are using as the launch pad for this transformation. I'm also the content strategist, looking beyond assets to the lifecycle of all content, and, finally, I'm a stakeholder in connected conversations around the bigger MarTech efforts such as CMS, digital products, personalization, etc.
So I'm not bored.
There are independent projects and programs that include our CRM, innovation, content operations, marketing activation, marketing, hotel support teams, loyalty, etc. Each have specific efforts to look at how they work, but change is hard.
The DAM has been a good way for us to start conversations because everyone will use it. It is an enterprise DAM. We are interested in how the hotel development organization, which sells to owners, engages and what tools they use. So as we look at workflow, how do we need to connect? What information will help them deliver better experiences, and is the DAM a good source for that?
We are using the centralization of assets to better align how different teams work, tools they use and connections with other parts of the organization. We have selected our enterprise DAM and are in the process of implementing it. We have a cross-functional core project team helping us do this so that we don't lose sight of the different sectors of the user community. This project has opened opportunities for us to address data and distribution challenges that weren't known earlier. It’s a really exciting time.
Nicastro: What's important to you about DAM as a content strategist?
Walsh: The digital asset management system is one of the ways content strategy is activated. A critical component in a content strategy is how we, as an organization, define content. How do we describe it? What taxonomy or common vocabulary do we use? How do we approve what types of assets will be used for what types of experiences? What expectations are there for connectivity between and across content channels?
I need to be sure that the capabilities in DAM technology can help us answer these questions and then deliver on them. At Hilton I have the less-usual dual role of both product owner and content strategist for DAM. Having to balance the content advocacy with the content care means something is going to out-prioritize something else at any given moment.
I encourage content strategists to get involved in technology selections. Even if you will never sign in to the system yourself, challenge the product owner to ensure that your goals for content can be met using the systems under evaluation.
Nicastro: What resonates the most to you about Hilton's customer experience delivery?
Walsh: Focusing on the moments of difference. Think about using your phone to check in, choosing your room and opening your hotel room door. No other hotel company has delivered on that to the level Hilton is.
These are moments of importance for our guests, and we are working to give them choice. Don't want to talk to a person? Tired because your plane was late and want room service to deliver to your room before you arrive? It's about making our guest experiences better, not necessarily different.
Guests have responded really well and let us know what works and what doesn't, which helps us focus on those moments of impact. At Hilton we are willing to try things, some of which will work and some which won't, in order to figure out what works best for our guests. And, guests are responding to that, with increasing use of digital capabilities and stellar feedback.
Nicastro: Stepping aside from your role as a digital content practitioner, what else are you passionate about or engage in for fun?
Walsh: I'm an amateur photographer. Don't try to talk to me in too much photo-speak, though. I know enough to shoot pictures, but not enough to have an intellectual conversation about the ins and outs of the practice!
Texture, colors, patterns and shapes are really interesting to me, which I've discovered is also important to me in travel. It used to be I bought something whenever I traveled somewhere, but now I hope to take one or two good photos that I can print out and hang up when I get home.