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Content Management and Automation

Over the past few years Cella’s consultants and in-house agency staff have been witnessing an increased emphasis by companies on more effectively managing and leveraging their content assets and intellectual property.

This initially showed up as a focus on developing best practices, processes and dedicated resources for managing content being pushed out through online Content Management Systems (CMS) platforms. Talent, usually with editorial expertise, have been recruited into Content Manager positions. In this role, they typically both curate content sourced from subject matter experts and create new content depending on their level of expertise and the industry they are working in. The Content Managers can either live within the department that owns and generates the content, the company’s marketing department or in a creative team/in-house agency. In addition to the Content Managers, some organizations have established content development teams with the capability to create graphics, photographic imagery and videos to accompany content being pushed out on social media.

The other area relevant to in-house agencies that this first iteration of content management often supports is the delivery and management of internal corporate communications. Business units, departments and even individual teams now establish and maintain a presence on their company’s intranet. While much of the content on these sites is static, much of it is dynamic and in need of curation and updating on a regular basis.

Often the groups who create these team sites rely on creative teams to design and implement the site and if they don’t have the internal bandwidth to maintain and keep the content current, the site owners rely on outside providers to take this responsibility on as well.

More recently, companies have expanded their content management efforts to include packaging up previously developed marketing materials and communications in a form that can be tapped for other purposes outside of their original use.

The content assets pulled from source documents are typically broken up into pieces that can later be mixed and matched with other assets allowing users more flexibility in customizing new marketing and communication materials (think of this as content Legos). This practice is generally referred to as Content Automation and the initiative as a Content Factory.

The formatted assets are then housed in a content database and distribution solution to allow for efficient searches and access. In highly regulated industries, these assets are also often pre-vetted to ensure regulatory and legal compliance, expediting the process of repurposing the content for new uses.

It’s important to note that this is not what has sometimes been incorrectly referred to or considered as digital asset management. Content assets are typically text-based and adaptable for inclusion in designed deliverables that may or may not include images or graphics. Guidance on how these assets can be assembled and wedded with visuals often is provided by the content automation solution.

In-house creative agencies have a unique value proposition to offer in engaging in and supporting this new business practice. Most obviously, in-house groups may have created the content being formatted and ingested into content automation tools and therefore be the best option for assuming the responsibility of managing the solution.

Even if external third parties developed the original assets, internal creative teams possess the functional, regulatory and branding expertise to efficiently prep and ingest any content designated for enterprise-wide use. Some in-house teams even design the solution/platform itself if they possess a strong digital development capability.

Another powerful reason for in-house groups to become a key stakeholder and potential owner of content automation is the fact that they will most likely be one of the primary users of the Content Factory. Clearly, whether or not the in-house agency drives the content automation process and manages the solution, they will be interacting with it since most in-house groups work on projects that rely on previously created content and visual assets.

Companies are adopting content automation as a necessary driver of their communications and marketing efforts and in-house creative teams have a big part to play in those initiatives. It’s critical that internal creative leadership work their way into the adoption process in its early stages so they can determine where and how they can bring the most value and what organizational and operational enhancements they’ll need to undertake to support their assumed role in their company’s content management and automation efforts.


Andy Epstein

Andy Epstein is an industry thought leader in the field of in-house creative. He currently serves as the Director of Studio Operations for Cella Solutions where he has oversight of the managed in-house agencies run by Cella. Andy has written and spoken extensively on in-house issues and published “The Corporate Creative,” a book on in-house design in the spring of 2010. He is a co-founder of InSource, the former Programming Director for the InHOWse Managers Conference, and a key member of Cella’s professional development team. Andy is focused on empowering in-house teams to raise their stature in the design and business communities.