10 tips to manage your visual content

If you’ve ever spent hours creating a piece of content only to find someone else at your organization already created the same thing, this article is for you.

How many visual assets does your organization have?

I’m talking about all visual content: videos, artwork, photographs, diagrams, animations, infographics—the list goes on. The number could run into the hundreds of thousands, but what counts is how well you manage those assets.

Not being clear about what visual assets exist, where they’re located, and how they relate to other marketing campaigns can be a logistical headache. Visual assets don’t lend themselves to easy archiving and retrieval.

Why managing visual assets is important

Let’s look at some problems that occur when you don’t manage visual content properly:

  • People waste time looking for the right files.
  • People call their agencies when they can’t find the right content, and they ask the agencies to find and send it. This wastes time and money.
  • Someone uses expired artwork to build a campaign.
  • One department creates a new batch of videos, because it didn’t know the content already existed.
  • Brand or copyright infringement. (If you don’t have the history of a piece of visual content, you’ll have a hard time proving to the company accusing you of infringement that you created it.)

All these problems could become a lot worse, too.

As Robert Rose of the Content Marketing Institute observed at a recent London seminar, we can expect owned media—content organizations create and distribute on their own platforms, such as websites and social media pages—to continue to grow, and that visual storytelling and brand identification will play a big role.

The benefits of digital asset management

Digital asset management doesn’t sound exciting, but it can eliminate headaches, reduce mistakes, and save money.

The simplest way to implement digital asset management is through software systems, whether you build them in-house or buy them through a vendor. That aside, there are some best practices to consider when adopting a digital asset management strategy:

1. Think widely.

The strategy (and system) should encompass every part of the organization that shares visual content: creative, PR, Web, social media, etc.

2. Have a smart system.

Content should exist in standalone form (say you want an image of a car-not a car driving through Paris in the rain), but the system should also tell you about other associated assets (such as images of Paris) in case they’re useful.

3. Make it easy.

People, especially those who aren’t tech-savvy, will use only those management systems that are user-friendly. Use processes and systems that are intuitive; don’t expect users to become IT experts.

4. Curate wisely.

Do you want everyone to be able to add content to the system, or just one person? Think about appointing a “cybrarian.”

5. Control access.

Consider giving agencies, management, and team members different access levels. There’s no point letting people clog up the network by downloading stuff they don’t need.

6. Don’t take away control.

People should be able to crop and manipulate content without affecting the original asset’s integrity.

7. Be picture-friendly.

The system should be designed with visual marketing assets in mind (for instance, smart-tagging using metadata). It shouldn’t be a document management system with a new name.

8. Ensure the system can encompass both traditional and digital content.

9. Do less with more.

Make sure the system lets people easily reuse existing assets. Assets should be easy to find, understand, and adapt. The system also should reduce content duplication. (This is particularly important for organizations with offices in multiple countries.)

10. Track and measure the cost.

You’ll probably have to demonstrate the return on investment, so put some measurement in place.

One company saved $100 every time someone downloaded an image rather than calling the agency, burning the content to disk, and sending it. With 33,000 downloads annually, the company saved more than $3 million in one year.

Visual assets are the crown jewels in a marketer’s treasure box, and they represent a big investment. Digital asset management can make it easier for marketers to track and use the right visuals while reducing risk, unnecessary costs, and wasted time.

Liz McClellan is CMO of North Plains, a leader provider of digital asset management solutions. A version of this article originally appeared on MarketingProfs.

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