How Digital Asset Management Can Help Universities Transition to Remote Learning During Times of Crisis and Much More

How Digital Asset Management Can Help Universities Transition to Remote Learning During Times of Crisis and Much More

As Covid continues into fall we’ve made great progress into defining and living a new normal. Society is monumentally different than it was in the winter of 2020, but some things will never change. For example, the technology that we’ve used to run our new normal hasn’t changed, but our reliance on it has. Since people are hesitant to change, the technology to force change upon people is vital to keeping society running. In no sector has that been more true than education. 

Kids want to go to school. College kids want to go to school and enjoy the after-hours. Teachers want to teach and make an impact on students lives. No one wants to be kicked off Zoom calls for lack of bandwidth or confused about which link to click on for which class. It’s one thing to sign up for a remote course that is properly planned by a trained remote teacher, it’s another for millions of people to be forced into it overnight. 

That was spring. 

Now it’s autumn and we had a summer to plan. For the most part colleges did a great job of figuring out how to social distance and planning a hybrid in-person and remote semester. There are certain variable that are out of administrators hands though. They can’t control how contagious Covid is and they can’t control how what students do off campus. The New York Times tracks campus Covid cases and it’s clear that this fall is becoming a Covid debacle for universities


How Can a Marketing Tool Help a University Work Remotely?

Traditionally, tools like digital asset management systems have been used by marketing departments to ensure that they’re using the latest version of an asset, that they own the license or copyright of an asset, to set up workflows to ensure the right staff members own the asset for the right time, for work or approval, and eventually to push the asset to a channel to be placed in front of the right audience. 

Guess what though. Covid threw traditional out the door. Now we need to look at available technology that can be used to solve new problems, such as the issue of social distancing and the need to ensure accurate and private communication. 

Infrastructure Is Key  

As many companies found out the hard way, it’s really difficult to successfully go from in person one day to remote the next. If corporations struggled with it, imagine elementary schools having to sort out, not only how to communicate online, but also students varying in technological experience, age, and privilege.  Elementary school is an extreme example of the difficulties that leaders in education have had to face in 2020, but every level has had to adjust and take stock of their technological infrastructure. 

Since technology is a given in higher education in this day and age, the burden placed on them was not the ability to conduct courses online, it was the ability to do it at a level befitting the tuition they charge. This goes beyond the devices that students and faculty use and the software they use for classes and meetups.  Higher education has to think of themselves as a corporation with different subsidiaries (colleges) and departments (administration, marketing, etc…). As anyone working in a corporation, from office managers to the CEO, knows, infrastructure is imperative. 

Technological Infrastructure 

What is the difference between having a solid technological infrastructure and not having one? Let’s start at the top and work down – not comprehensively and with an understanding that some colleges at some schools are uber advanced due to funding and necessity, ie Ivy League medical schools. 

  • Hardware – At most colleges today it’s compulsory to own a computer 
  • Communication tools –
    • Meeting Links such as Google Meet or Zoom
    • Email – non-school related, ie gmail,
    • Texts
    • Social Media 
  • Servers
    • School specific email domain
    • Billing
    • Student Info
  • Storage – Needs are different per department or school
  • Foundation
    • ERP – enterprise resource planning

One (or two) Problems at a Time

While not comprehensive, the above list is still overwhelming. Starting from scratch this list would seem overly complex and expensive. Most of the infrastructure has been taken care of already though. Common sense tells you that you need email and billing solutions.

Communication and social media marketing go without saying. But, the management of it all, the data, the assets, the overall workflow that dictates messaging, brand, and security, that’s the infrastructure that’s vital to having a successful remote semester. 

Once upon a time it was the marketing department that relied on a DAM to get the message about your university to prospective students or to make sure students knew the athletic calendar. Now, every teacher could take advantage of the software to ensure that their students are using the right documents to learn.  

Product wise, the campus bookstore might no longer be a place to pick up books and t-shirts. The campus bookstore has already been under pressure from Amazon, so why not take the reigns and use a PIM to power your ecommerce store?  It’s critical that every SKU is accounted for and that every student knows where they can find, not only the specific book a professor assigned, but also the latest t-shirts and ancillary items that make the college experience worth it – whether you’re on campus or not. 

 

 Life After Covid – Back to Marketing

Of course, no matter the disaster Covid seems like now, it will pass. Once again the hallowed halls will be as noisy as marketing on social channels and technology will revert back to life like the rest of us. Which means that, while DAM (and PIM, although PIM might remain permanently in place for students, faculty and even fans to purchase necessary books and paraphernalia) will always be useful for remote learning and imperative during disasters, it will eventually be a primary marketing tool again.  

As a marketer for a university you understand that while all marketing might be the same in theory, that there are nuances that separate a chaotic atmosphere such as higher education with the super-process oriented corporate world. Higher education audiences are unique through the entire funnel and different colleges within the same university system have different targets, while the alumni and athletic offices have the power of their content being shared by a large audience, assuming that the university does its part and puts the right stories into their hands. 

In the world of higher education, the right content is just another step in a long process. Compliance and approval of content is a must. There are many schools within the school creating their own content, examples include law, medicine or business, but can’t send out unapproved imagery or defunct messaging supplied by the main marketing department. Still, despite the need for caution, they have to be able to showcase what makes them unique and the specialties and values that differentiate them from their competitors.

The channels you advertise on might not have changed tremendously over the last five years, but the necessity to get to market faster and the amount of content you create likely has. As a result, the infrastructure that allows you to compete is the next frontier in marketing procurement. In an industry with many departments, an unfathomable amount of content that quickly becomes obsolete, and endless competition, a solution that allows for this is a must.

 

Higher Education Current Challenges

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably looking for a solution that will house and manage your marketing material both efficiently and effectively. Marketing in a university setting has unique challenges that require both operational oversights among different colleges but also specialized software to ensure accuracy across the entire organization. In this regard it’s not a lot different to a global corporation, except that your departments are spread both locally, across the campus and globally, among your satellite schools.

Before we even get to the supposed organized chaos of ensuring accuracy from various colleges and satellites of your university, ask yourself how efficient your marketing process is to begin with. Remember, it’s easy to trick yourself into believing you have an efficient marketing machine, but how many hacks have you created to work around solutions that are not effective? How many small investments have your team made on their own because it’s easier to spend a few bucks a month than deal with the clunky systems the school invested in years ago?      

As proud as you might be of your bandaged solutions, how many times have you dealt with the following scenario… You know the latest file was approved, but you can’t quite remember where it was stored or what the file name was.  Back to square one!

It was one thing when you and a handful of users were using a complex file naming structure to manage your content, but trying to keep track across satellite departments and the overwhelming challenge of using images of people who have agreed to their depictions being used, it doesn’t take long before organized chaos has turned to mass chaos. 

 

 

The DAM (Digital Asset Management Approach)

There is such a thing as a central location for content, a single source of truth, or whatever you want to call it. A digital asset management (DAM) is the begin all and end all of content, meaning it is where it’s housed from creation to dissemination and finally the data on how a piece of content performed, as well as where and by whom it was used. A DAM is the first step of a very large leap into efficient content publishing, let’s take a look at what such a step will allow for… 

 

Clear and Consistent Overall Message

By centralizing your content you strengthen your brand from day one. You can rest assured that the most up to date logos, imagery, videos, written content, and anything else will be visible and available with clarity. One of the biggest arguments for rationalizing new software is the ROI associated with it. While often it’s hard to put a price on perfection, there’s no industry that it fits more than higher education. You are, after all, marketing to highly intelligent people who often notice the slightest of details. But, as was alluded to earlier, there’s a much more serious implication to a lack of detail. When a university uses imagery of their students, student athletes, staff, and community they have to sign off on the use of their image. A central location that is able to tag images along with names will ensure compliance. 

Managing your publication across various channels from a single source of truth will allow for every school or department to easily reuse content that they know is both approved and compliant for their own purposes, fully knowing that the central message is being adhered to.  

It’s a Social (Media) World     

It’s no secret that the university audience today is pretty adept when it comes to social media. It could be argued that the best channel to reach a future higher education student today is by social media. Nothing can go wrong there, right? 

Consider this, when Oreo had the famous you can dunk in the dark Tweet during the black out in Super Bowl XLVII their social media agency had to run it up the ladder before pressing the button. As fast as the world moves, you still have to follow processes and workflows to ensure that mistakes aren’t made. By having workflows set up in advance, your social media efforts can be as flawless as possible. 

Who’s In for the New DAM (Digital Asset Management)

As a marketer you’re probably tired of new systems and ways of doing things. That’s definitely a concern for a group of people that routinely are pitched new products, solutions, and have often built their own system from the ground up. So the question is, why do you need another solution, another change? Let’s take a look at who it might help…   

 

Faculty and Students

Above we concentrated on how DAM technology can be used to facilitate workflows between teachers and students. In an unlimited seat environment this can be useful as a marketing tool as it ensures a seamless learning environment with a secure system to ensure student/teacher confidentiality. 

 

Recruitment and Admissions

Recruitment and admissions are ground zero for marketing at a university. New students are what keeps a university moving forward, after all. This might be the most straightforward department for a centralized solution. 

Remember the fear, the doubt and the overwhelming excitement that you felt when you signed the paperwork for your school. The trust that the content shared by the admissions department helps to calm those fears. It helps students continue down the unique customer journey that new students unknowingly enter.  

 

Student Engagement

Being able to engage students once they get settled into school is vital to keeping them happy and comfortable. Students need to know where they can engage with events and opportunities, they need to know their way around campus and while the football schedule might be published across the web, certainly the tryouts to intramural sports are not. 

 

Athletics

This could be an ebook unto itself. Everyone knows that the NCAA is a multi-billion dollar industry. While most schools football and basketball schedules and results are highly visible, there are many other student athletes that deserve the recognition and support of the students and staff. By having promotional material at hand you can more easily…

  • Encourage athletes to want to join their teams
  • Improve attendance at games
  • Improve support for teams
  • Attract sponsors for the teams
  • Boosters: large and influencial donors who create job programs for athletes, help with recruiting, involved in promotion and provide benefits
  • And, the big one, drive the sale of sports apparel and merchandise

     

    Research

    Research isn’t as glamorous as a national champion in football or basketball, but it’s how universities are really measured. Your US News and World Report ranking doesn’t come from athletics, it comes from the research that is done at the institution. With a central database for researchers to access they can spend their time researching and working on grant proposals. 

     

    Alumni

    Alumni are perhaps your most valuable marketing tool. Keeping them engaged is vital to your marketing success. Not only will they encourage their children to go, but they’ll wear hats, t-shirts, have bumper stickers and donate heavily. 
     

    Community Engagement

    And, last but not least, universities usually have a lot of homegrown support from the community. Often the local university is the replacement for a major league team as they are located in small towns, especially in rural states. Keeping the community in mind and having material specific for them is just as important as keeping the student body in mind. Without the community’s support your school’s core values and diversity wouldn’t succeed.

     


    The Higher Purpose of Higher Education Marketing

    While having a purpose and a responsibility that most people would agree are inspiring, schools are still businesses that depend on an array of departments to run and promote them, just as in any other industry. Just because the product you sell is unique to each individual, attracting students, fans, influencers, research dollars and a number of other visions the efforts are still done via marketers marketing, and they can’t do that without the right software solutions in place.

     

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