Back in Medieval times, a ruler wouldn’t eat food that hadn’t been tested for poison first. With many rivals vying for power, there was no assurance that any food was safe. One deadly plate could mean the fall of a city or a regional power vacuum sparking a decade of war. Because of this, the role of court food taster was crucial. While it seems backward, the person whose life was most endangered was also the most important in all the land.
While not a matter of life and death, there's a role of similar consequence in almost every organization: the role of asset approval manager. This responsibility often falls within the scope of the digital asset manager or the team governing the digital asset management (DAM) program. Just as a food tester is a final defender against poisons coming into contact with a leader, the asset approval process is the principal line of defense against off-brand assets making their way in front of consumers or prospects.
Built-In Approval Processes
Today, disaster strikes when inconsistent, inauthentic, or off-brand content reaches the marketplace and confuses consumers. The market has become increasingly visual and story-driven, with authenticity, corporate social responsibility, and consistent value statements being rewarded with loyalty from consumers.
Digital asset management practices and processes offer several ways to prevent off-brand assets from affecting your brand. The first line of defense is your brand’s content guidelines. DAM processes ensure these guidelines are followed by making your content easy to find, organize, understand, and refer back to. The second line of defense is the practice of regularly archiving out-of-date or irrelevant content. Like asset approval, this is also the responsibility of your DAM program manager or governance team. Your organization should have standards around when assets are removed from the DAM system, how often, and where they go. Consistent and well-managed metadata empowers these vital barriers
The third built-in line of defense is well-managed and robust permissions systems. These permissions affect individual users and teams in terms of what they're allowed to see and edit, as well as assets themselves in the form of copyright or usage permissions. Depending on the type of system your DAM program is housed within, implementing and maintaining these permissions can be fairly easy. Many DAM platforms have robust permissions functionality. If this is the case in your organization, be sure to map out your permissions groups during the DAM program planning process to make their implementation easier.
The Formal Asset Approval Process
These built-in safeguards are important and have other significant benefits to your organization and the health of your DAM program, but you shouldn’t depend on them to keep your brand completely secure. That would be like a ruler trusting their cook and kitchen staff, the locks on the doors, and the people’s love for them to ensure no poison makes its way into their food. While these are all necessary things, they don’t guarantee that nothing will happen. There needs to be a final, ultimate layer of protection, for the good of your brand.
That final line of defense is the formal asset approval process. Paired with the built-in defensive mechanisms listed above, your organization won’t need to worry about inconsistent branding making its way to consumers. Below are the steps in the formal process with a brief explanation of each:
- Asset Creation
As assets are created, they must align with brand guidelines and fill a specific need within the priorities and campaigns of the organization and its creative team. Make sure your creators have access to brand guidelines and that the goal of their creative efforts is clear and understood before they begin creating assets regularly. If assets from specific creators are consistently off-brand, meet with them to clarify your brand guidelines and asset creation standards.
- Upload & Notification
Once assets are created, they must be uploaded to whatever system the approval process uses. If your organization enriches assets with metadata manually, be sure to consider where in the process you want that task to occur. For example, if you produce large numbers of assets, it may be best to wait to tag them until after they're approved. On the other hand, if you’d like your metadata to be quality controlled as part of the approval process, enrich your assets before uploading them. Once assets are uploaded, the creator should notify the approval manager. Some systems have features to automate this process.
- Asset Evaluation
Now that your assets are in one place awaiting evaluation, the approval manager can quickly and easily access and review them. Be sure to provide the approver with clear and prioritized criteria for how digital assets can meet the required standards. These directives make the approval process quick and easy. One thing to keep in mind for this step is that many DAM platforms have automations involving artificial intelligence that can execute the asset evaluation process immediately. These features are often expensive and require time and effort to set up, but can be very beneficial if the evaluation process is a bottleneck.
- Acceptance / Rejection
The outcome of the asset approval process should be either approval or rejection of newly-created assets. Once a decision has been made, the approval manager should notify the creator if an asset wasn't approved and why. Like previous steps, this one requires specific evaluation criteria and clear brand guidelines that allow the creator to learn from their mistakes and make adjustments accordingly.
- Movement of Assets
Finally, approved assets should be moved into the DAM system. At this point, they may need to be enriched with metadata or have their usage and copyright permissions documented. Be sure to organize assets using permissions, file naming conventions, and clear and consistent metadata application. This ensures that approved assets are easy for your marketing teams to find and use and for your creative teams to reference as they make new assets.
If the process of approving assets, developing approval standards, setting up collection spaces, or doing the preliminary steps to get your built-in safeguards up and running is overwhelming, you’re not alone. Many organizations fail to implement an approval process because the preceding steps are difficult to achieve. If this is the case for your organization, don’t hesitate to contact Stacks! We work with teams wherever they are on their DAM journey, from Day 1 to 1,000. We'd be happy to offer our expertise and make recommendations to you and your organization—serving as your food tasters to keep your kingdom protected from harm.