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Digital Asset Management Streamlines School Spirit

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Nicolas Antonio Jimenez avatar

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When people think about the institutional challenges faced in higher education, they mightconsider graduation rates, diversity, research and fundraising. We all know there’s a lot goingon at colleges and universities, but many might be unaware of the marketing and public relations side of running a top-notch school.

When you consider the diversity of goals and activities that exist at a typical college, though, it’sapparent that these organizations face some of the biggest hurdles when it comes to things likemanaging brand consistency.

There are events, research organizations, academic programs, extracurricular programs, grant competition and a host of other things going on in a wide variety of fields -- from liberal arts to engineering to law to medicine. From a branding and messaging standpoint, there’s more there to juggle than there is at some multinational corporations.

Naturally, all this activity means a virtually constant generation of digital media related to theinstitution and the brand. As in any other kind of organization, colleges and universities havedigital asset libraries (containing images, videos, presentations, illustrations, audio, documentsand other file types) that can grow to the point where managing, tracking and governing the useof those assets becomes unwieldy without specialized digital asset management software.

Taking on the Biggest Jobs with Digital Asset Management

Across the higher education world, communications needs are similar -- but they’re notidentical. At Corinthian Colleges, Inc., the advertising team is responsible for messaging for aninstitution with over 90,000 students in associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs.CCi also has about 17,700 employees.

At that scale, managing a digital asset library is a practically impossible task without DAM software.

Corinthian Colleges Advertising Director Camille Ortiz elaborates:

I oversee project management teams. We’re modeled like an in-house agency team, managingall aspects of the communications.We manage thousands of files and we’re generally responsible for anything printed, andthat’s thousands of pieces. We also use the system to house assets we share withpartners outside of marketing, like photography and logos.”

CCi knew from simply observing its own workflows prior to a DAM implementation that asoftware investment to make processes more efficient was worthwhile.

Ortiz continues:

Before DAM, when we would get a request internally, the process of fulfilling that asset requestcould take up to 20 minutes. We use the DAM tool to facilitate common needs like this. Now,they’re already pre-approved and compliant images available to send and download in seconds. We also get questions about logos several times a week and the DAM system hashelped us so much in that respect."

Elementary as it might sound, managing logos and names -- perhaps the most basic elementsof a brand -- can get very difficult for any organization.

Universities aren’t the exception; on thecontrary, the structure of educational institutions can sometimes make managing brand identityeven more difficult. Diverse stakeholders and actors with disparate interests are often liableto take branding into their own hands for niche projects and subgroups. As another universitymarketing office has found, DAM software goes a long way in reining in a school’s own name.

Role and permissions features are a big part of the reason why DAM is useful here. If peoplehave one central repository of marketing materials, their access to images and graphics(like logos, for instance) can be governed as strictly or loosely as is necessary to serve the overarching branding goals of the institution.

Using DAM Software to Streamline Workflows & Create More Responsive Media Relations

At one university in the northeast, DAM software has helped make staff more nimble and effective when faced with asset requests from the press. This particular university’s staff cannotbe identified because the institution has a policy that keeps its staff from offering statements onthe school’s software purchases.

“It’s pretty busy here,” said one member of the university’s press relations office. “Tracking downphotos is not how we want to use all of our time.”

The school is among a growing list of the academic institutions that have found new levelsof efficiency in digital asset management software. To hear the school’s digital media andresources coordinator tell it, the difference between pre- and post-DAM implementationworkflows is night and day.

“Our photography department is tasked with producing marketing content for the entireUniversity,” he said. He started at the institution six years ago, when he says the universitywas struggling to manage growth in both the size of its digital asset library and the user baseseeking access to that library as a source of media for communications.

The school needed a way of managing its rich media “without our staff having to go throughimages and without people having to physically come to us.” He and the photographydepartment are expected to have institutional knowledge for every department at the institution. This is, to use his own word, an “impossibility.”

That’s why they sought out a DAM system.

“The first major benefit was time saved,” the asset manager said. “It’s great because (the DAMsystem) acts as a repository for our data. Our current system also allows us to track imageuses.”

“It’s also heightened our profile among universities. I’ve received a lot of calls, including from IvyLeague universities, from people who want advice and are looking to learn more about DAM.I’ve been shocked at how many calls I’ve received.”

Learning Opportunities

That other universities are turning to this staff for insights is probably a result of the success thatthe school has had in streamlining its communications workflows with DAM software.

Their communications team was able to use its DAM system to make the process of supplyingoutside journalists with digital media far easier and more painless than it had been before.

“The first time I used it, someone from public radio had called. They had a program called aboutrare musical instruments, and we had a new organ,” said the media relations officer. “Theyasked for a picture of the organ. With this new system, it was really easy. The whole processtook about five minutes. Before, something like that could take days.”

The same process plays itself out regularly, although it’s more common for his office to getrequests for faculty photos. Most DAM systems (at least any worth looking into) will performon-the-fly file conversions, meaning that the software will only deal with one master asset andconvert it to different sizes and formats as needed. This cuts storage costs and makes versioncontrol and consistency much easier than, say, storing several parallel files and having to makeidentical edits to each every time there is an update or branding shift.

Ensuring Consistency by Facilitating Governance

Martha Dennis is the director of the Office of Marketing and Communications at the Universityof Georgia’s Terry College of Business. At one time, though, Dennis developed databases. Sowhen the new dean of Terry made it a priority to consolidate the branding in and around the college, Dennis knew the school would need to find itself a good DAM system.

“We had a big shared drive with several gigabytes of photos in a folder structure,” Dennis said.That folder structure is good to have, but it doesn’t give you much in terms of searchability.

Dennis and her team were charged with finding a way to consolidate the brand identity, but alsoto manage the brand into the future by streamlining workflows and putting mechanisms in placethat ensured brand consistency.

Now that there is DAM software in place at Terry, “search time has been cut down,” Dennissaid, and the Terry College is able to more effectively leverage its talented staff, student andfaculty community and build greater brand equity around the Terry name.

What This Means for Universities More Broadly

What these stories have in common -- aside from their having taken place in higher education -- is that the organizations identified a singular pain point (unwieldy and inefficient digital assetprocesses) and took initiative to alleviate that pain.

So what does this mean for you and your school? Just about any college or university canexpect a return on a digital asset management software investment. No matter how fast andorganized your people are, there are some things that only software can do for your rich medialibrary. Metadata entry, on-the-fly file conversions and version control are just some of thebenefits that DAM software brings to any organization that adopts it as part of its tool set.

The biggest benefit, though, is that DAM software enables you to repurpose your labor,time and talent. Every minute that DAM saves you on redundancies, asset searches and fileconversions is a minute that photographers can photograph, writers can write and strategistscan strategize.

Take some time to look into how your staff spends its time in your digital asset library. Once youunderstand what your workflows look like and how long it takes to complete tasks, you’ll be ina much better position to approach DAM software providers and get a sense for what kind ofbenefits you can expect from a best-fit solution and how much you should be prepared to spendon it.

Title Image courtesy of Dani Simmonds (Shutterstock).

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About the author

Nicolas Antonio Jimenez

I'm the marketing coordinator at Widen Enterprises, a Madison-based pre-media and digital asset management services company.