One question we often get while helping customers through their unified content strategy and implementing a component content management system is: “But what do we do about images?”
Images seem daunting because, in many cases, the move to structure and strategy is also the first step toward true image management.
The move to structure and strategy is also the first step toward true image management.
Typical image management processes
We often work with teams who start out with an entirely manual process to manage images. Usually the process involves network folders, file naming conventions, and everyone’s best attempts to comply with procedures and standards.
In more organizations than you might think, there is no image management at all. Images are handled on an entirely ad-hoc basis. Each individual creates images as needed and uses the image assets in the content with whatever format, size, resolution, and other attributes seem best to them at the time. There is little or no attempt to maintain raw source files or reuse the image asset in other content.
In teams that have a digital asset manager (DAM) — a system for storing and tagging images for ease of identification and retrieval — people are still frustrated because people do not follow a standard way to tag images or the tags do not contain all of the useful metadata. Image source files may be stored in a network drive or on individual laptops.
Typically, the DAM is owned by marketing, and other teams do not have access to it. This results in images that are created, stored, and managed differently in each silo. Worse yet, customers do not have a cohesive experience as they move through the content from marketing to sales to product to training to support.
In more organizations than you might think, there is no image management at all.
Image management and content strategy
So what do you do about images when you develop your unified content strategy and move to a structured authoring environment? The same thing you do with any other type of content.
- Identify the types of images in your content
- Define the purpose of each image type
- Develop structures for “like” images
- Develop guidelines for image usage
- Leverage the taxonomy and metadata strategy to make images easier to manage
- Design an image workflow that automates what can be automated and streamlines what can’t
- Provide ongoing governance and grooming
Beyond the text
The reason we talk about structured content instead of structured writing is that writing is only one piece of the puzzle.
The writing usually gets the most attention in the beginning. For one thing, text is where you’ll see the most immediate return on investment. For another, most organizations have more prose than any other type of content.
However, to achieve personalized, dynamic content delivery — to provide the information your customer wants, when and where they want it, in the language of their choosing — you need structure for all of your content. This includes images as well as text. And also video, audio, animations, 3D mechanical diagrams, customer service conversation prompts, demo bots, and augmented reality overlays.
Unified content strategy
That’s why we embrace the “unified” in “unified content strategy.”
We want all of your content to work well together regardless of who creates it, who assembles it, who publishes it, and who receives it. We want product content to benefit from the professionalism of the images created by marketing, and we want support and training and documentation to provide a harmonious customer experience.
We don’t want your customers to find an image in the product documentation that contradicts what they encountered in training, or that differs from what they saw in the marketing.
When you define the strategy and develop the structures for images, then the image assets become reusable across business silos and across content delivery platforms.
Your employees benefit from more efficient processes and the ready availability of images. Your customers benefit from the consistency of visual messaging.
It’s simple, but not easy
Consistency is so easy to consume and so difficult to produce. But if you can apply structured content best practices to your image management processes, you’ll be well on your way to higher quality content produced in less time at lower costs.
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