Weary from a transatlantic flight and the effort of moving into our new house, I thought I’d depart from my usual format and respond to an email from Richard. Here is an excerpt from his question:
The problem I’m facing is the overwhelming task of managing 1,000’s of PowerPoint slides across our organization. How do product marketers find solutions for managing these assets without shelling out large chunks of budget? How might we use home-grown solutions to control brand and story across the organization and across thousands of pieces of electronic material?
Richard suggested that I might respond in my blog. So I’ve taken the bait Richard, but I’m not going to recommend one vendor or another. I know of a company that invested in one of those fancy systems that your email mentions. Here’s their story.
My client selected a knowledge management tool was incredibly simple and elegant, and then spent a boatload of money customizing it for their purposes. It looked like it was worth it. Through a single screen the presenter could use “drop-down boxes” to specify the job titles of the people in his audience, their industry and company size, and the products under consideration. Another box asked the presenter to select either an “overview, expanded, or in-depth” presentation. With a click of a button the tool would search its database for slides that matched the presenter’s criteria and serve them up in thumbnail format, where they could be further sorted and exported to PowerPoint.
I was delighted when I first saw the tool. The presenter’s dream-come-true seemed within reach, as a large database of material could be searched to find the slides that were exactly relevant to the audience. But within a year of its launch the project was on a shelf. The knowledge management tool was not at fault — it worked as specified. But the content database was a hodgepodge of material developed by product experts, marketing communications people, and for specific sales calls. Rather than delivering persona-based messaging and content that was specifically tailored to that buyer’s problems and the correct stage in the sales process, the tool returned endless slides that were irrelevant and bloated. The project failed because there were not enough buyer persona experts who could confidently develop and tag slides that were meaningful to the target audiences.
I am not doubting that Richard has a content delivery problem, but his statement that he has “thousands of slides” suggests that there is a much more difficult issue here. Perhaps one of my readers has used one of these tools and will recommend something for him. But proceed with caution. The users will ignore the system unless it delivers content that is well targeted to the specific audiences they are addressing. Personas are not the only way to think about the audience and develop this content, but they are a great proxy for the people who will ultimately have to sit and listen to the presenter’s pitch.
Choose a tool that is homegrown, inexpensive, or the best that money can buy. If your presenters make an attempt to use your tool and find content that isn’t a fit for their exact situation, they will return to their laptops for familiar presentations. Just a bit of editing and customization for the next presentation, and soon you will have tens of thousands of slides to manage.