10 Tips for Managing Your Visual Content (Without Going Crazy)

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How many visual assets does your organization have? We’re talking all visual content—videos, artwork, photographs, diagrams, animations, infographics… The list goes on. The number could run into hundreds of thousands worldwide, but what counts is how well those assets are managed.

The impact of not being clear about what visual assets exist and where they are located (as well as how that visual content relates to other marketing campaigns) can be a logistical headache for any organization, large or small. Visual assets don’t lend themselves to easy archiving and retrieval.

Does Managing Visual Assets Really Matter?

Let’s look at some problems caused by not managing visual assets properly, which can range from the everyday mundane to a fast-track to a lawsuit.

Here’s a quick round-up of some typical problems I’ve seen…

  • People wasting time trying to find the right file
  • People ringing up their agency when they can’t find the visual asset and asking the agency to find it and send it over (resulting in wasted time and money)
  • Expired artwork that someone at the company has used to build a campaign’s entire artwork
  • Duplicated effort (For example, one department created a new batch of videos because it didn’t know the hard-to-find 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 you invented it to the company accusing you of infringement.)

And the challenge could be about to become a whole lot worse.

As the Content Marketing Institute’s Robert Rose observed at a recent seminar in London, we can all expect the growth of owned media—content that companies generate themselves and distribute on their own platforms, such as websites and social media pages—to continue, and we can confidently expect that visual storytelling and brand ID is going to play a big role.

The Benefits of Digital-Asset Management

Digital-asset management doesn’t sound very exciting, but it has the potential to eliminate a lot of headaches for marketers, reduce the risk of mistakes, and save marketers money.

The simplest way to implement digital asset management is through software systems, whether built in-house or purchased through from one of the growing band of vendors (of which North Plains is one). That aside, there are some very specific best-practices to look at when adopting an effective digital-asset management strategy for visual content.

Here are 10 tips for visual-asset management.

1. Think wide

The strategy (and system) should encompass every part of the organization involved in external sharing of visual assets: brand, creative, channel relationships, PR, Web, and social teams.

2. Link it

Assets should be able to exist in standalone form (for instance, you want the image of a car, not the 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 these assets are useful.

3. Make it easy

People, especially those who aren’t tech-savvy, are only going to use 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 able to add content to the system or just one person to act as a central control point? Think about appointing a full- or part-time “cybrarian.”

5. Access control

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

6. Don’t take away user 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), not a document management system that has been relabeled.

8. Ensure that the system can encompass both traditional, offline content as well as new digital content

9. Do less with more

Make sure the system lets people easily re-use existing assets as much as possible. It should be easy to find, understand, and adapt. The system also should reduce unnecessary duplication of effort. That is particularly important for brands with offices in multiple countries.

10. Track and measure the cost

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

For instance, one brand we know worked out that it was saving $ 100 every time someone downloaded an image file, compared to the previous situation in which it would ring up the agency, get content burnt to disk, and couriered. With 33,000 downloads per year, the company was able to demonstrate over $ 3 million saving in one year.

* * *

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

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