This is a picture of Cathy McPhillips, who was interviewed on the Rethink Podcast discussing why marketers should consider a digital asset management tool

When You Need a Digital Asset Management Tool

Learn why marketers should consider adding a digital asset management tool as their content libraries grow.
Article Outline

“When do I need a digital asset management tool?” is not a question that is top of mind for most content marketers … but it should be.

How are you tracking all the content you’re creating for your company? This includes blog posts, videos, eBooks, white papers, infographics, data sheets, case studies, memes and so forth. Also, how are you tracking all the assets – such as stock photos or music – that went into producing that content?

At Act-On, we’ve been house cleaning our content library for some time. Recently, we choose to work with a digital asset management (DAM) vendor that can inventory and track all our content, as well as make it readily available for our sales teams based on their current needs with prospects.

In this episode of the Rethink Podcast, Karrie Sundbom, Act-On’s Senior Manager for Content, interviews Cathy McPhillips about when marketers should consider adopting a digital asset management tool.

Cathy is Vice President of Marketing at Content Marketing Institute, where she leads marketing efforts for all of CMI’s properties, from Content Marketing World to CCO magazine. You can follow her on Twitter @cmcphillips.

Enjoy the conversation, and we hope you get one or two takeaways that you can bring to your business.

Karrie Sundbom: Can you tell me a little bit more about yourself and about CMI and your role there?

Cathy McPhillips: Well first, thanks so much for having me. We’ve been a partner with Act-On for a number of years, and it’s nice to meet some of the folks within your company. I’ve been with CMI for about five years. And I head up our great marketing team. And my day-to-day focus is on increasing our email subscribers and working to get people to attend our in-person events, specifically, Content Marketing World. Our team handles everything from social, to community management, audience development and marketing automation, PR and media, and I also personally focus on the website, our marketing strategy marketing for each of our properties well beyond Content Marketing World. We have education, our CMI university, we have another event, we’ve got a magazine, so we’ve got a lot going on. And I kind of oversee a team of marketing specialists in all those different areas.

Karrie: Sounds like you definitely have your hands full there and you seem to touch on just about every piece of marketing that I think will affect the things that we’ll be talking about today, which is digital asset management. We are super excited. Our team is registered for Content Marketing World in September. Do you have any sneak peeks about what we can expect? Anything you can share?

Cathy: You’re in for such a treat. It’s my favorite week of the year. It’s the year that we’re anticipating about 4,000 marketers from over 70 countries to come to Cleveland, Ohio. And it’s such an amazing event. It’s like a big family reunion, and we just love seeing everyone who we’ve talked to all year long from all over the world. And when you just see the people see each other and give these bear hugs, it’s like: “It’s so good to see you!” It’s such an awesome event. You’d think with 4,000 people that it’s so big, but it really is such a great and small event in many, many ways.

Karrie: I’m really excited because today we’re talking about some things near and dear to me, and a pain point that I’ve been working through for a couple years here at Act-On. And that’s digital asset management. Can you just give a brief explanation of what that is?

Cathy: I’m in your boat. I’ve been working on this with members of our team for a number of years. I’m not the expert in digital asset management, but I’m a user, and I’ve learned so much going through the process that I found very useful. For a definition, I went to one of our friends, the team at Widen, and they define DAM as the management, organization, and distribution of digital assets, like videos, images, and creative files, from a central content hub. So, potentially having a systematic way to store, organize, and to find and reuse your content and assets.

Karrie: In my mind, I’m thinking we’ve been doing it based on content. But now that you mention it, all of our assets, like our logo assets, all of our visual assets, our templates, should be living in the same place. Has digital asset management been around for a while? Is this a new thing?

Cathy: Well that’s the terminology now. But I think it’s kind of like the term “content marketing.” It’s been around for a long time, but I think with the growth of the term and the huge amount of content out there, many marketers have been thinking that it’s time we look at organizing our assets and being smarter about our content. So, DAMs were born. And I think there’s nothing worse than creating this epic content and using or distributing it only once because you don’t keep track of it the way you should. And I think that’s kind of how it all just became this new thing.

Karrie: Had you been doing what we were doing, which is Excel spreadsheets and Google Drive, until we implemented a tool recently? How have you guys been managing – and how do you think other companies across the board from what you’ve seen are managing their content and other assets?

Cathy: I’ve talked to a number of solutions and the people in those solutions. And when I say we’ve been using Excel, Google Drive, Dropbox, and now we’re using Box, they laugh and say, ‘well, that’s normal.’ That’s what a lot of people are doing. That’s a great first step to implement a DAM. Because if you already know how you want your content organized, you’re that much closer to determining what solution is right for you.

Going in and saying, ‘we need a DAM’ without talking to each member of your team to see how they want to use the system is definitely not the right way to do it. So I think the way that you and I are doing it may seem inefficient to us, but it probably is an amazing first step to get to where you want to be.

Karrie: I would agree. Like you, we have a Box folder, we have Google Drive, we have Excel spreadsheets, and we try to share them with as many people as possible. But it just seems that no matter what we do, nobody’s ever been able to find the content, even though it seems pretty organized to us. Is that an issue that you’ve also faced, and maybe one of the pain points that drove you to sort of further your interest in finding a DAM tool is maybe the lack of ability for people to find what they’re looking for ‒ you’re always sending stuff out, the same stuff over and over?

Cathy: Right. I think we’ve kind of become masters of how to search within Dropbox or email. But the things I type in to actually find a piece of content I’m looking for, that’s a really weird search. How I knew that it was actually going to work is just very funny. But for someone else to find what I’m looking for would be really hard for them. So, I can find my stuff and you can find your stuff, but if someone else is trying to find it, then it’s just a time suck. Sometimes, when I’m writing a blog post for the Content Marketing World blog and I want to find a picture of a speaker from Content Marketing World 2015, I’m saying, ‘OK, let me get my program out, they spoke on Wednesday, Wednesday afternoon, OK….’ And I sit there and I click through all these photos. And it’s like, there has to be an easier way to do this.

I have my system, but it’s just not efficient. And time is money. Even though we’re making a pretty substantial investment getting a DAM, over time it’s going to, hopefully, be a wash and then a money saver.

Karrie: Absolutely. And you mentioned something you had done, which is a content audit. Is that a good first step? Maybe somebody who doesn’t even have an Excel spreadsheet, maybe to start that way, but create an audit and sort of list everything out in a spreadsheet form?

Cathy: We’re looking through all of our content to see what is relevant, what is evergreen, what is outdated, and looking and saying, the outdated ones ‒ are they evergreen enough that we can update some key points and republish them? Is this so outdated that it’s not even worth having up anymore? Where can we redirect that URL? Are things tagged properly? We’re redoing all of our categories right now, building a new taxonomy. Our taxonomy goes across our website, which goes across our blog posts, which goes across our emails. If things we’re doing are coming from the same categories, and we do get ready to implement the DAM, we already have our categories established. And that should be a very clean movement into the DAM.

Some might say to put everything in the DAM and then do it that way. But I feel like just because we have so much content, why would we use the space and pay for the space to do that if we’re not going to actually use it all in the long run?

Karrie: Right. It’s just like a closet cleanout, essentially, before you get your beautiful new organizers. You clean out stuff you don’t want to put back in.

Cathy: Right. You put those piles on your front lawn where you have your keep, save, and sell. So, that’s the way we have done it.

Karrie: What kinds of things should be involved when you’re selecting a tool?

Cathy: I think one of the things that was important to us was basically making sure that every member of our team who was going to use the DAM was able to get what they needed from it. Our content is our most valuable asset. And in many companies, it’s the same thing. We went through many different scenarios on content organization, and management, and usage, to make sure everyone was able to get from it what they needed.

Karrie: Are there any other best practices other than getting buy-in from involved parties that you can think of?

Cathy: I think it was just really important for us to talk to a lot of them. I was talking to people and there were some that just said, ‘we’re not the right tool for you,’ which I thought was wonderful.

Karrie: As we wrap up here a little bit, for people who maybe aren’t quite ready for a formal digital asset management tool, other than tagging, is there anything – like taxonomy – else you can recommend they do to prepare for when they might be ready for a more formal tool?

Cathy: I would just say a lot of documentation. Spreadsheets worked for us for – we’ve been in business for 10 years and we’ve been using spreadsheets. And they work. Just having your system and having your whole entire team using the same system is super helpful from the get go.

Karrie: We covered a lot today. I got really great, useful information I know I’m going to take with me. How can people learn more about CMI?

Cathy: We can be found at There are a few dozen of us on the CMI team and, let’s see, we’ve got a bimonthly magazine, Chief Content Officer Magazine. We have our CMI university, which is quarterly – we have quarterly enrollment periods. Next one’s in June. We do three free webinars a month. We have daily blog posts you can subscribe. And so much more.

And our big flagship event is Content Marketing World. It happens in September in Cleveland. Most of what we have on our website is free. Even if people can’t come to the event this year, there are a lot of other ways that we would love to connect with like-minded marketers. So, I really appreciate you having me on today. We love working with you guys.

Karrie: Thanks, Cathy. I appreciate your time. And I know, speaking for myself and our team, we’re excited to meet you in person come September at the event.

Cathy: Me, too.

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