Is your DAM a Horror Story? October Chat with an Expert

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Logan: Hi everyone! Welcome to MerlinOne’s October Chat with the Expert! We want to thank everyone for joining today. So we thought we would shake things up a bit. Typically, our webinars only focus on our product, though sometimes taking a step back to strategize is vital for successful content management in DAM. So for October we have something spooky brewed for you and the topic a bit more in vein of the season…..IS YOUR DAM A HORROR STORY? I would like to introduce myself and my co-host as some of you tuning in might not know who we are. I’m Logan Fleck and I’m the Marketing Director here at MerlinOne, and I will be presenting with the lovely Sarita Morrison, our amazing Customer Success Manager.

Sarita: Hi everyone! Happy Halloween!

Logan: Before we get started, I just want to go over a few house keeping items. To keep to the agenda and so that we are mindful of everyone’s time, we’re going to answer questions individually and not on the webinar today. If you have questions or comments that you will like our team to answer, please email to me Logan at I’ll field your questions to the most appropriate members of our team and make sure they’re answered as soon as possible. Also, don’t fret! We’ll be sending a follow-up email with a link to the presentation, questions asked, and other resources so you can keep as reference. 

So let’s look at what we’ll be talking about today. Many of you listening might already have a DAM, some of you might even have Merlin, and  some of you might not yet have a DAM though could be considering a future implementation. This topic will be relevant to any of you. So 9sometimes a DAM, just like your bedroom, your car, your garage can get a little messy if you aren’t giving it and your users the proper attention. Things just aren’t where they should be, people aren’t taking responsibility for keeping things organized, or you may not even want to go in your basement or garage or whatever, because the disorganization, or the area itself just horrifies you. That can sometimes be the same with DAM. So, if you think your DAM or content management process in general is a complete Horror Story or at the very least a little bit haunted, there may be things that you can do to help keep that nightmare at bay. The first reason is that you may not be cleaning the database enough. Secondly, you might have bad metadata alignment, or you could have inconsistency to your keyword structure. Another reason is You could be experiencing poor user adoption and user engagement. And lastly, not Effectively Proving the ROI of your DAM can be haunting you. And lastly, you may not be planning enough for the future and how your business and library could grow.


Sarita: Alright so let’s get started, the first reason is not cleaning your objects enough or assets enough in the DAM. So proper content management starts with maintaining a clean asset library. We want you to think of DAM kind of like a car, it’s incredibly useful to help you get around, though typically there is a driver is behind the wheel guiding you to your destination, so it’s up to the main administrators to be in the DAM driver’s seat really. They are tasked with maintaining order, and periodically cleaning out the system. DO you see dead assets? Some assets may have a shelf life, for example things like stock images might have a really strict expiration dates, or if you have pictures of people in the DAM, there might be expired consent forms. So we want you really to think about the outdated content in your dam and if its worth keeping. And if it is worth keeping, you should consider if it makes sense to consider who can see and access these assets, because you don’t want to risk people using them inappropriately. Do you have duplicates in your system? Let’s say you work for a company who creates thousands of images per month in dozens of different markets? Do you really need hundreds of the same image because a photographer had his camera on shutter mode or would it make more sense to just keep the selects? How are you storing and managing content files that have multiple different versions, specifications, sizes and how are you organizing the different renditions of the same piece of content?  Are you really separating final versions that are ready for use versus the ones that are outdated? We want you to think about who is ultimately able to make the decision of whether to get rid of content that’s not useful and if you don’t have someone assigned to doing this its important to have someone who can look into what is important, what you should be keeping, and what should go, otherwise you’re really opening up to have unusable content in the dam that really could clutter your system. Keep in mind if you have thousands of useless files they could really be costing you money by wasting space in the dam and muddying the search results for users who are using the dam. You must consider if it’s worth the time and resources to create a process for good housekeeping. Think about time versus functionality, and the potential costs of taking the time to clean out your dam. 


Logan: so the next reason as to why your dam might be a horror story is that your metadata alignment is not in the best shape. So when thinking about a content cleanup project, consider how you’re currently storing and managing your files. How is your organizational method aligned with your overall business and user objectives? For instance, if your business goal was to leverage the power of your dam to lets say maintain brand governance, or facilitate consistency, and now you have countless files in there that don’t really assist in reaching those goals, to what extent are those files hurting you overall, how is it impacting your workflow? This idea is actually the same for metadata, if you have a ton of fields that you aren’t currently using or will never use, why are they there? Why are they there clogging your system and potentially confusing some of your users. So it’s true that every DAM user is a little different. You need to look at your metadata structure so you aren’t organizing things just like your most recent items, but so users can find what content and fields are actually most specific and important to them. So really the importance of your metadata framework is to help users make better connections and make contextual information to other aspects of the content itself that might not otherwise be there at capture or just by looking at it. For example… Let’s say there’s a picture of Dracula eating pizza at a movie theater. One might see that he is eating pizza, but not necessarily what type of pizza he was eating, at what specific movie theater, not to mention what movie he was seeing, who took the photo and other things that the person looking at the picture wouldn’t necessarily know without directly asking Dracula himself or someone else that was in the photo. Metadata helps make the context connections of that asset WAY more precise and WAY more tangible. So briefly I just wanted to quickly go over some of the most important types of metadata for DAM. Of course, this may be a review for some of you power users out there, but will be helpful for the newbies. So one type is called descriptive metadata, and this type describes a resource for purposes such as discovery and identification. It can include elements such as title, abstract, author, and keywords. So another one is structural metadata, and this indicates how compound objects are put together, for example, how pages are ordered to form chapters or scenes from a video/movie. THe next is administrative metadata, and this type provides information to help manage a resource, such as when and how it was created, file type and other technical information, and who can access it. There are several subsets of administrative data; two that are sometimes listed as separate metadata types are rights management metadata, which deals with intellectual property rights, and preservation metadata, which contains information needed to archive and preserve a resource. So when it comes to building out your metadata framework…YOU NEED TO THINK LIKE A LIBRARIAN. It’s very important. Every so often (we recommend every year or so) re-evaluating your metadata structure and asking yourself questions like, Are you using your current fields? Should certain fields be mandatory at point of ingest? Should you tweak certain fields? Should you add fields that have been recommended by various user groups? Are your metadata fields allowing you to access the content your various user groups need, when they want it? Though before completely revamping your metadata structure, remember what Sarita said before. Consider time vs. functionality.  What I mean by this is that is you don’t want to have too many metadata fields where it becomes too cumbersome to manage or you just end up getting lazy or inconsistent. Or, on the flip side, having too little metadata fields as to where you aren’t pulling all the contextual data you need for the DAM to be most efficient for your various types of users. 


Sarita: Another reason as to why your DAM might be a scary scene is that you have no continuity to your keyword structure. People may have different references to words/phrases. Let’s take the color below, as an example: Some of you may consider this color Orange. While others might refer to it as Copper or Rust. The point here is, we may all have different descriptions when we see the same thing. Is it a Remote or a Clicker that you use when you change the channel on the TV? This is where an organized keyword framework comes in. It makes your keywords and content references more systemized. If you allow all users to add new keywords you run the risk of having people tag content in different ways which will directly impact the searchability of the assets. Some Administrators opt to have a defined list of keywords and only a select few users can add new keywords to the database. Others choose to have it open to all users but they review and manage the existing keywords list often. Keep in mind if the list goes unmanaged that can negatively impact searchability.  To create a Keywords list you need to put on your librarian hat again. 

To do this: First, you may want to build out a template that details your overall metadata structure. This would outline everything in your DAM with a standardized set of attributes that are important to capture Think of how users in your system will search for content and your overall business goals; draft out the categories and terms. Think of what words or themes will be associated to your assets so they are easily found? 

In MerlinX, it’s easy to manage your keyword list. If you already have a keywords list you should review it regularly. Go to the keywords section of the Admin Panel and use the generate keywords option for the full list. You can also view the list here in alphabetical order by scrolling and jump ahead by typing the letter up top.  If you see things like misspelled keywords or any that you’d like to replace with a different word that can be done easily by finding it in the list and using the find and replace option. This will actually goes through the dam and finds any instances where it is on an asset and replaces it with the new keyword. You can also easily add and remove keywords here. 

In addition to a Keywords list it is helpful to create a Thesaurus. The thesaurus helps people find what they are searching for when they use different terms. Remember when we discussed the color orange! I might search for Fall, but Logan might search for Autumn however, We are both looking for the same content. If we build out the Thesaurus to connect Fall as the Parent word and Autumn as the Child word and vice versa that will allow us to search either word and still find the result we want. 

The thesaurus is also great for Acronyms. For example someone might search JFK instead of John F Kennedy or Students might search SC instead of student center.We recommend building out a Thesaurus of commonly used terms and acronyms so when a user searches in different ways they will still find the result they are looking for. Administrators can get an idea of how people are searching in Merlin by running the search summary report. This report shows what people are searching for in the DAM and how many results they are getting.  Keep in mind if you are creating a new Keywords list or Thesaurus List for your Merlin DAM, support can easily add it to your Merlin instance for you. I recommend Reaching out to support prior to creating the list to ensure it is in the proper format. 

Another reason why your DAM is as effective as it could be is that your user adoption & engagement is scary There is real risk when it comes to lack of user engagement. If the DAM is not being used consistently by your user base. This can ultimately put you into the situation many find themselves in when they don’t have a DAM at all.  

Let’s discuss the major risks when it comes to lack of engagement. 

First, your processes will continue to be fragmented. With staff members all doing their own thing instead of working towards the common goal. For example if they are still using a shared drive or saving things to their personal computers. This will cause issues with others being able to find the content they need with ease.  It will also bring us to another host of potential problems. Second, you may have Hiccups in approvals, brand governance, lost or misuse of assets. The Approvals process will be out of sync if you have some rebels doing their own thing. Keeping content in the wrong place will cause a lack of Quality control when it comes to assets with expiration dates. It will become the wild west with the potential misuse of content.  This can also waste company money if a person leaves the organization and no one knows where they saved the photos and videos for a specific shoot. We often hear the cost of redoing a shoot when assets can’t be located happened often prior to having a DAM. 


Logan: So, user adoption and engagement are one of the biggest challenges for champions of DAM, but what actually make users NOT want to use the system? One reason is simple, for some people, change is terrifying. People get used to the way they do things. You wake up, get out of bed, take a shower, put on clothes, brush your teeth, do your hair, make coffee, eat breakfast, get out the door. But, let’s say you were forced to do your morning routine in a completely different order. You’ve been doing it this way forever and it works for you, so why change it? This is how a lot of people feel when businesses change processes or implement new technologies. It’s a disruption to their already formed habit, a habit they are comfortable with and rely on day in and day out. Another reason why users may be scared to use the DAM is that they were poorly trained and therefore don’t have confidence. We really can’t stress training enough. Some people fear the DAM because they lack the knowledge, skills, understanding or confidence to use the system. Or, they were taught once a month ago and forgot how to do things. Also by training I mean not only quick set-up training. I actually recommend bucketing out your training plans based on your different user groups as various users will be accessing the DAM differently. For instance, you’ll have your admins and power users that will be using it all day, day in and day out, and then you’ll have more casual users that might not need to know everything about the system but should constantly reminded of the fundamentals. So another reason why you may be having lack of user engagement is that you have a lack of champion enthusiasm. People need leaders, people need to be inspired, people need to be reminded what is important and why they are doing something. By not having those DAM champions in place rooting for how the system will help all users do their jobs better, why would anyone care. If they can’t see the vision and there isn’t a fire of excitement towards a common goal, it’s without a doubt your users will start relying on old habits yet again. Sometimes people need help and if they don’t have easy access to support, they may either run away or get disenchanted. Also, sometimes people do need oversight. Some people actually need another person somewhat hanging a bit on their shoulder to ensure they are being accountable and staying on task, adhering to best practices and using the system based on how the business has outlined their requirements. Some people need to be there to ensure that cowboys don’t go rogue and that everyone is being accountable for the integrity of the DAM. It’s also quite possible that your current workflows are really cumbersome and incorporating a DAM into those already complicated workflows just adds another level of complexity that a DAM should ideally help to alleviate. If you already have complicated workflows, it may be a good idea to reexamine them and think of DAM as a way to help simplify those processes. For instance, maybe doing your approval process there are too many cooks in the kitchen slowing the entire project down. Who needs to be involved and at what points of the content production cycle? So there are several stages in the Content Lifecycle. From ideation to performance tracking, A DAM can fit comfortably in many of those content phases. However, sometimes people don’t use the DAM as much as they should because businesses don’t sometimes think of the bigger picture when it comes to content development and how the system itself can fit into each stage. For instance, during content creation and content editing phase, does your DAM have an Adobe plug-in so your creative team can easily access the DAM and design interfaces without having to toggle two different systems simultaneously. If not, maybe you should consider adding that capability or searching for a solution that offers it if that would be helpful for your team. The next reason why usability might be low is that you have Poor DAM organization and metadata. The main point of DAM is for people to find what they need quickly and easily whenever they want. If for some reason, if metadata fields that are important for certain users aren’t completely filled out, those users might not find all the content they need, when they want it. Maybe your filing structure is a mess; let’s say you have multiple folders for the same pieces of content. Which ones should your users access? Poor organization and bad metadata oversight can be incredibly frustrating as it makes it harder for your users to find their stuff. So the last reason we’re gonna mention here is that permission structures haven’t been built out correctly.


Now as a side note, some businesses and industries can be quite specific when it comes to permission requirements and scenarios. However, most DAMs allow for more granular type of permissions. Work with your vendor to ensure that your permission scenarios are built out to meet your objectives for all of the users that need to have their hands on content at different phases. Theses permission structures might not always be perfect, but at the very least you are ensuring some gatekeeping at these different phases. 


Sarita: So what are the things that companies can do to ensure user adoption and engagement? The first thing companies can do is to rally a team of cheerleaders. It’s important to have people who are enthusiastic about the DAM, ideally a cheerleader in each department who utilizes the DAM regularly. They can assist with encouraging others and act as a resource if anyone runs into challenges. The second thing you can do is to have a phase out strategy for previous processes & legacy file management systems. As mentioned before, you don’t want people putting content into older systems, or falling into the habit of keeping it on their own personal computer. Another thing you can do is to draft out a Standard Operating Procedure that way you are documenting DAM best practices & outlining any user expectations to avoid confusion. This is important to Ensure accountability, governance & compliance. It’s also important to work with your users or vendor by providing additional resources like How-to guides, videos, webinars, for Merlin users specifically, remember you have access to the  MerlinX User guide in the options Menu of the DAM.  You also want to have a clear and comprehensive on-boarding process & training schedule. This will help when rolling out the DAM or just for when new hires join the organization. You will also want to set up a feedback loop. Having your administrators  communicate very closely with all user groups to assess how they are utilizing the system to see if there’s any room for better efficiency and improvement as we all know, communication is key! Administrators can run a login report to see who has been accessing the system regularly and who has been uploading and downloading. If they are not, then the administrator can reach out and offer training. Offering Ongoing education & certification courses will also aid in user adoption and engagement. For Merlin users, Merlin University is a great resource for getting trained on how to navigate Merlin and for refresher training. It is available for all of our customers at under Merlin U. Register easily by providing business name and Business email address. Once registration is approved users will be able to take A course on how to navigate merlin that includes short tutorial videos with short quizzes. Once the course is completed you receive a Merlin U Certificate! Coming soon to Merlin U is an Administrator Course and also access to our previous webinars offering more specific tutorial-style learning. Another way to get a higher level of engagement is by opening up your DAM to other departments. For example, typically your Creative, Marketing or Archival teams would need primary access to the DAM. However, there are growing use cases for other departments to have access to the content within it. Like legal, HR, or Sales. Think of who in your organization might want to have access to valuable assets or a way to store assets that could be valuable. Ultimately giving more freedom for people to get the content they need, when they want it, without having to flag others down. Remember Merlin is flexible and you can restrict what different groups can see and do within the DAM as needed. People are always on the go, some work remote or businesses or departments are located in various places using the DAM can help make the content important to them easy to access. 


I want to touch on another Major thing that can haunt the DAM: If you can’t effectively prove ROI. If you have new management in your organization or it’s simply time to review the annual budget, you want to easily be able to explain why you’re paying for a DAM, and you’ll eventually need to prove its overall value. Proving your DAMs worth will also certainly help with getting your users on board, not to mention those stakeholders signing the checks. There are a few ways to highlight the value of DAM such as rights management of assets and version control. If you have assets with limited consent to use/publish what is the financial impact if you use these assets past their expiration? Being able to search for assets easily and know which assets are published and where is hugely important for DAM users. How much time is wasted by your staff looking for assets in an unkept folder structure or on a shared drive?  If coworkers are storing assets on personal computers, what is the cost of staff time searching unsuccessfully and then booking unnecessary photo shoots because they can’t find pre-existing assets? For instance, if you update the logo you want to ensure that someone isn’t going to pull and publish the outdated one. What is the negative impact to your brand?Another way to prove the value of the DAM is showing how much it is used and how many internal processes are tied to it. These are just a few examples of the potential financial impacts not successfully proving your DAMs value. We actually have a GREAT ebook on “how to prove DAM ROI” that can be shared with internal teams and added to a resource bank for later reference. 


Logan: So the last reason why your DAM may be turning into a complete horror story is that you may not be crystal balling for scalability potential enough. While we don’t know what the future holds for certain, we should certainly plan holistically for business changes such as growth. As your business grows, your content library and number of users are growing with it. Make a scalable plan so as your needs change the DAM it can be adjusted to meet your needs. Think about the other departments or teams that might find value in utilizing the DAM. So certainly think long-term in regards to your dam system and strategy. So there you have it, folks. There are some things you can do on an ongoing basis to ensure your DAM system doesn’t become a scene from a horror movie. It all comes down to organization, communication, training, future planning and always showing the value of the system to both your users and stakeholders. And as a side note, work with your vendor and utilize their knowledge as they’ve been around the block and can help assist in many of these areas. Thanks so much for joining our Webinar today! Following the Webinar we will be sending you our slides which will include links to our ebooks on proving DAM ROI, the Content Lifecycle, the DAM ROI calculator As well as a link to our MerlinX User Guide and information about how to enroll for Merlin certification and courses through MerlinU


Remember please don’t hesitate to email us with questions at


From all of us here at MerlinOne we wanted to wish you a very Happy Halloween!