DAM in higher ed

I know why people in higher ed need digital asset management (DAM) systems, and I know how hard it can be to get them.

Yesterday I was lucky to attend the High Ed Web conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was particularly interesting for me because before working as a content specialist for DigitalAssetManagement.com and Widen, I was the Communications Manager for a research center at the Univeristy of Wisconsin–Madison.

That experience gives me an interesting perspective. Working at a University is very rewarding. After all, you are helping make the world a better place, encouraging education and supporting important research. Those days feel like this:

Digital asset management and higher education

It can also be frustrating. Bureaucracy and budgets are the main challenges when it comes to adopting new technologies, alongside security concerns. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect, though, is convincing your boss (and possibly your IT person, or webmaster, or both) that a system like a DAM is a good investment. Here’s one of those days:

Digital asset management and higher education

To help you out, I’ve created a handy list of how a DAM system can benefit your school, division, department, or campus. I’ve included tips and ideas from sessions I attended at Higher Ed Web on content, community, and web communications.

After you read through, let me know what’s missing, unique challenges that you face, or a success story on how you got digital asset management in your higher ed workplace.


Save time (and therefore money) by centralizing digital assets and making them easily available. Having a DAM system means that people can find the photos, videos, and illustrations they need quickly and easily. No more responding to email requests for a photo, followed by a request for a different crop, followed by a format change (I know this happens). The time it takes for a marketing specialist or graphic designer to deal with image requests could be used on more creative, productive, and enjoyable workplace activities.

Create structure in a decentralized environment. Universities are well-known for being…kind of scattered. Across buildings, cities, states, and in the case of some research projects, across the planet. Having a place to house digital assets, brand guidelines, and other important documents is important.

Georgy Cohen talked a lot  about the challenges of decentralization a lot in her session “Building internal communities to support your content strategy”. She maintains the people want to connect to information and others, they just need to opportunities. DAM is one of those opportunities.

Foster awareness, involvement, and transparency. Giving people access to digital assets and not “siloing” them on your own computer or network can lead to higher engagement. By being transparent with what assets you have and making them available, it shows that you trust people. It also empowers people to use your content, sharing key messages and maintaining brand standards. If a DAM includes analytic capabilities or direct embeds, you can also know where and how people use your assets.

Creating an environment of inclusion is something else Cohen talked about. She urged people to “subvert politics and turf wars” and focus on inclusion among campus units.

When it comes to transparency, it’s important to note that many universities and research groups encourage or require transparency. Land-grant colleges like the University of Wisconsin make it their mission to connect people to knowledge, and funding agencies like the National Science Foundation have clear guidelines about public education. The right kind of DAM will allow you to share simple, stylish collections with public audiences.

Provide people with approved images and maintain copyright and permissions standards. There are dangers to grabbing images off the web. It’s easy to violate copyrights or use images without permissions, as Todd Barber mentioned during “Web Strategery: An Effective Way to Say No to ‘Click Here’”.

Giving people the right kind of digital assets a DAM system can reinforce your brand, mission, or communications efforts by providing content creators with approved (and legal) digital assets to use. Through sharing, collaboration, and transparency you can showcase school spirit, top-notch academics, innovative research, or outstanding sports programs.


That’s my short list for higher ed. There are plenty of other reasons you need a DAM, like supporting content marketing, maintaining brand standards, and not losing artwork and images. If you are interested in DAM, check out 10 signs you need a DAM or our return on investment (ROI) resource.

Got questions? Leave them in the comments or tweet me: @neutrinosky. Looking forward to hearing from you (and good luck!).

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