How do you capture the spirit of a city?
“One important way is with powerful images,” says Robin Franzen Parker, a former print journalist who now serves as digital media specialist for the City of Gresham, Oregon.
We interviewed Robin and asked her what life is like for a journalist-turned-photographer/videographer who places digital media at the center of her approach to public relations and marketing.
The role of digital media at the City of Gresham
Robin works for the City of Gresham, Oregon, Communications Division. The five-person team she is part of handles newsletters, web content, print products, photography, videography, graphic design, and social media including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. The City of Gresham is the 4th largest city in Oregon, a community of about 108,000 people located just east of Portland. It is a full-service city offering everything from public safety and city planning to environmental services, community development and more.
As Robin explains, “In the Communications Division we support storytelling for all departments across the city. Doing so requires strategic use of photos and other forms of graphic media. Photos and videos are crucial elements in the toolbox that we use to tell our stories.”
Transforming Digital Strategy
The Gresham Communications Division created its first Digital Media Studio in the fall of 2015 to up its game in the world of graphics, photography and videography.
“While some of us previously dabbled in video for small projects, we primarily outsourced for larger projects. In the last year or two, we really started to dig deeper into taking a more professional approach to creating video with quality DSLR equipment.”
Now Robin splits her day between photography, video production, and guiding outside photo and video vendors creating additional content for the City.
Robin explained: “In large part, the work we all do is strategized by our City Council, which comes up with an annual roadmap that defines 15-25 yearly projects and focus areas.”
Bringing a journalistic approach to digital media at a governmental organization
Prior to joining the City of Gresham, Robin worked as a print reporter for more than two decades. She worked for The Oregonian, as well as smaller weekly newspapers. About 6 years ago she made a career shift and came to the City of Gresham.
“What I really love about my career over the long haul is the people. I love being out there where things are happening. Gresham is such a great place. It’s important to capture and share the stories behind the development and growth of our community. That’s why it is so critical to have a strategy and solution in place for creating, organizing and capturing it in photos and videos.”
Telling the story of City of Gresham, one event at a time
Robin’s typical day involves a combination of photo/video shoots and editing and archiving work in the studio. At the moment, she’s really working to improve her photography, though she’s spent the last five years adding video production to her skill set. “Now that we’ve got our studio space, we are working to assemble all of the hardware and software required to create smooth workflows for photography, videography and graphic design. MediaValet is an important part of that.”
What inspires Robin?
“As a public employee, I think my job is to help make this the best city to live and work in that it can be, and to serve the residents of Gresham. My passion is the creative work. I am energized by the creative part, especially because there are so many different platforms for creating things. And they are changing all the time. I get to learn something new every day.”
Finding the right DAM partner in MediaValet
Why did Gresham choose MediaValet as its digital asset management solution?
“While we recognized the need for a Digital Asset Management System quite a while ago, we implemented MediaValet fairly recently. We’ve been up and running for about six months. Before we chose MediaValet, we had been exploring various DAMS options for more than a year. We completed a thorough evaluation of each, ultimately finding the right partner in MediaValet.”
Challenges of managing digital assets without a DAM
The City of Gresham, an organization of about 500 employees, previously managed photos in folders on a computer network and stored video on an external hard drive. Each folder, and subfolder, was named by the event or program captured in the assets, with very little associated metadata. Employees across the organization shot photos and video, sometimes with cell phones, and over the years the collection had started to build up.
Robin reflected on what it was like before DAM:
“We had 63,000 photo files in 1,600 different subfolders. How we found anything, I have no idea. Many were duplicates, or not of exceptionally high quality, so we did not end up moving all of them into the DAMS.”
“Finding photos in that environment, for internal staff or external partners, was highly inefficient. Whenever there was a request, we had to wade through lots of images to find what we thought the person was looking for. This took a lot of time.”
Searching for a DAM solution that would fit the City’s needs
What kind of DAM functionality was Gresham looking for?
“We looked at half a dozen DAM vendors. We wanted a DAM that is simple. One that could handle many different file types, including images, video and different kinds of graphics. We wanted it to be cloud-based for mobility. We wanted it to be accessible by people both inside and outside the organization. We wanted the ability to capture complex metadata, and robust search functionality. We wanted to be able to enter descriptive information for each asset, and we needed secure and redundant backups. All of this had to be available within our budget. With MediaValet, we found all of these things.”
The City of Gresham chooses MediaValet
Once the City’s Technology Steering Committee approved MediaValet, implementation began. Here’s how Robin describes the process:
“We went through all of our assets folder by folder and selected the best ones to upload into our MediaValet collection – about 5,000 to begin with. Our first-phase goal was to use a DAMS to hold all of our high-resolution pictures representing departments and activities across the city. In the future, depending on our budget, we may decide to upload video and graphic content as well since the system is capable of storing such files."
Life with MediaValet
About 45 users across all City departments have the ability to browse MediaValet, download images and share them in various formats and resolutions. The Communications team has the sole ability to upload assets. Two administrators act as gatekeepers to approve keywords, add descriptions, and make sure that the DAMS holds the best high-resolution assets from the entire collection.
Efficiency & Simplicity with MediaValet
When asked what are the most important benefits users are experiencing, Robin told us:
“Efficiency. Everything we need can be found quickly. We no longer spend hours searching for one photo. The other important benefit is simplicity. Everyone has found MediaValet easy to use.”
Advice from a DAM professional
We asked Robin if she had any recommendation for others considering a DAMS:
“First, make sure you go through the processes necessary to truly understand the needs of everyone in your organization who might become a user of the DAMS. We did this by having conversations with our managers and employees and talking with them about what they needed. From there, you can build a list of requirements in a DAMS. But it has to start with understanding the need.”