Interview With David Diamond About DAM Guru
Ralph Windsor interviews David Diamond about the recently launched DAM Guru Program which he has helped to set up.
Can you give us a short introduction to the DAM guru programme and explain what it’s all about?
After the release of DAM Survival Guide, I started getting a lot of email from people who were getting into DAM and had no idea where to begin. In addition, I get lots of email from DAM professionals who are looking for new positions. It occurred to me that if I could match these people, the “Newbies” would get the info they needed, and the “Gurus” could share their knowledge and, perhaps, even find job leads.
That was the origin of the idea, but I knew it would take resources and money to make it happen. Picturepark (my employer) was just closing a very strong year in which revenues were up more than 25%, so I figured our senior management might be in the mood to give something back to the DAM community. I took the idea to our CEO and he immediately saw the value it could provide the community, so he gave me the green light and my team sprang into action to make it happen.
While we were designing the program, we realized that it made sense to open it up to employers who were looking for DAM professionals. HR departments often have no idea where to find DAM pros (or even what to call them), and we figured it would be an added benefit to the program’s Gurus who were looking for work.
Is there a cost to participate in DAM Guru, either as someone looking for advice or a consultant?
All DAM Guru Program services are free to everyone.
Can consultants charge for their advice?
Yes. Gurus are asked upon signup whether they offer free or paid help, or both. When Newbies sign up, they choose whether they’re interested in being connected with Gurus who charge or offer only free services. The Guru/Newbie relationship is entirely separate from DAM Guru Program. Once they are connected, they are free to enter into any agreements they see fit.
DAM Guru is being subsidised by your employer, Picturepark. Some readers not fully trust how impartial this scheme is because of that. Can you tell us a bit about how you ensure it remains neutral?
We knew going into this that some people would be sceptical about our ability to run this as a “clean” service that’s not a lead-generation trick for Picturepark. Of course, Picturepark is a business, so our aim is to sell our product. But DAM Guru Program is not a sales tool for us.
First off, DAM Guru Program isn’t all that different from other community initiatives the company has founded or been involved in. Those programs range in scope from helping to build a leprosy clinic in India, to running an intern program at our Swiss headquarters that offers students real-world experience, long before they’re ready for the job market. The list goes on.
Most of these programs have been under the radar because the company didn’t see any reason to make people aware of the company’s more philanthropic activities—that’s the Swiss way of doing things. But now that this Swiss company has an American marketing director, rest assured, we’ll be more vocal about all the good things this company does that have nothing to do with selling software. (laughs)
More specific to DAM, though, Picturepark has an education-focused relationship with the market, which your readers probably do know about. For example, last year we launched a series of webinars that speak to DAM best practices. We steer clear of speaking about Picturepark in these webinars because DAM education is bigger than one vendor or product. We wanted them to be truly useful resources for the entire community, not just Picturepark users.
In addition, Picturepark sponsors free downloads of an abridged version of DAM Survival Guide. Though this version doesn’t contain all the material from the original book, it does contain more than 100+ pages of what we think is the most relevant information for those just getting started. Most vendor white papers are about 4 pages long, so this is quite a nice free resource. And we have many more things like this in the pipeline.
All that said, it’s difficult for us to prove to people that DAM Guru Program is run as a legitimate resource. I had many phone calls with industry leaders at the launch of the program to explain how we run it because I wanted them to feel comfortable in participating or recommending the program to others. Without exception, they all said they felt the program was warranted, well designed and trustworthy.
It’s important for people to know that Picturepark sales personnel do not receive leads from DAM Guru Program. The program is managed entirely by my team. If someone in the program contacts Picturepark for Picturepark info, they’ll hear from our sales team. But if they don’t, they won’t.
If we made DAM Guru Program a sales tool, word would get out about that. Not only would this destroy the program, it would damage Picturepark’s reputation. Picturepark has invested a lot of money and resources into this, and we plan to increase that investment throughout this year. We want this to work. And to work, it must remain clean and credible.
Are you willing to allow other vendors to participate?
Absolutely—we encourage it! The only requirement for becoming a DAM Guru is that you have to be willing and able to offer some real help. Knowing a pricelist is not real help, so we reject applications that appear to be sales motivated. But this doesn’t mean the employees of DAM vendors and their partners can’t offer legitimate help.
For example, I work for a DAM vendor, and I like to think I could help someone do more than just buy software. Plus, you’ve got people in this industry like Jason Bright from MediaBeacon or Edward Smith from Extensis, both of whom have demonstrated over the years that they know DAM. And there are many DAM vendor employees less visible than these guys who can do the same.
But we’re not shy about rejecting applications. In fact, we recently rejected one from a new employee at a Picturepark partner. He’s a great guy and, in time, I have no doubt that he’ll learn the art and science of DAM to the point where he can provide great guidance. But, though his employer has been in DAM for many years, he hasn’t. By contrast, the manager of Picturepark’s support team was eager to sign up. She’s been working with customers like Swatch and Hilti on workflow-related issues for years. She’s not only seen hundreds of different use cases for DAM, she’s made them happen. That’s the kind of experience we expect from DAM vendor employees.
Have other DAM vendors agreed to support the program?
We have asked all vendors via Twitter to participate. All they need to do is retweet the #GuruCall hashtag messages the program sends out. These tweets indicate where we’re looking for Gurus, based on Newbie requests, and we ask everyone to retweet them. Extensis and Widen have so far been the only two companies to say they would help, and I’m hoping that help starts soon. (laughs)
We’ve also sent #GuruCall tweets for a few people looking for help with Canto Cumulus. Canto has not retweeted those calls, but we do now have at least one Canto employee signed up as a Guru.
I’m hopeful that in time other vendors will see that this helps the entire community. After all, we don’t always need to be in competition with one another. At some point, we need to focus on what’s best for the community that supports us. Perhaps I’m starting to sound Swiss, myself. (laughs)
But seriously, if I were another DAM vendor, I would want to participate if only to make sure that people who could offer help about my product were among those being matched up with all these Newbies.
Where else are Gurus coming from?
You know what’s interesting, I’ve been in this business for more than 15 years, and I sort of thought I knew everyone who knew anything about DAM. But I’m seeing many people sign up whom I’ve never met, which is wonderful. In addition to those people, many of the industry’s influencers are on board.
When a Guru signs up, we ask if it’s okay that we announce they’re part of the program. Some of those who have agreed include:
- Dan McGraw from Seven Dials Media. Dan is a super knowledgeable guy who’s been a featured speaker at Createasphere and Henry Stewart events.
- David Riecks, who owns ControlledVocabulary.com, and participates on panels with the IPTC and other metadata organizations.
- Heather Hedden, who authored the wonderful book, “The Accidental Taxonomist.”
- Nick Sincaglia, who’s a long-time recognized expert on DAM-related topics that are specifically geared toward Entertainment.
- Emmy-Award winner, Bryce Bagwell, who’s been working with content and media management since 1984.
This is just an example of the talent we already have enrolled in the program. There are many others, but some Gurus ask that we not mention their membership publicly.
What do Picturepark hope to gain from DAM Guru? Why have you decided to set it up?
People who are better educated about DAM and their needs with regard to DAM can make better decisions about DAM software. That is, when you know what you’re doing, you’re more likely to choose the best solution. We want people to know more about DAM because we think that the vendors who offer the best solutions will benefit from a more knowledgeable community. And though my Swiss counterparts typically prefer a more modest approach to the market, I have no reservations about telling the world that I think Picturepark is awesome. We win when people know better, and that’s one reason we’re trying to educate.
But there’s more to it than this. We want to move things forward in Digital Asset Management. The most interesting advancements in this industry have come from the demands of an increasingly knowledgeable user base. We’re convinced that the more people know, the more we’ll advance as an industry. And, yes, this will thin the herd with regard to DAM vendors who can’t keep pace. But that’s evolution.
We’re both familiar with the various LinkedIn groups devoted to DAM. Often, when someone asks a question, they get deluged with spam, mostly from vendors but there are consultants also who are equally guilty. What measures do you have to help ensure that this won’t happen with DAM guru?
When a Newbie joins, we ask them to report back about their experiences with the Gurus we send their way. If we hear that a given Guru is just trying to peddle software or services, we’ll look into it. If warranted, we’ll revoke that Guru’s membership.
We hope to avoid this situation entirely by ensuring that all Gurus really have something to offer. If a DAM professional with something to sell really knows something about DAM, I believe he or she can provide value without having to get into a sales pitch. When someone doesn’t know anything about DAM, that person is more likely to slip into a sales role.
Of course we’re not naive enough to think that people won’t make recommendations based on what they know or sell. This is fine, provided that the solution makes sense for the Newbie and that the recommendation is the result of a good exchange of knowledge.
What’s interesting is that we do get a number of Newbies who say they want to find out which DAM software to buy. In these cases, we contact them back to learn more about what they’re trying to do. “Which DAM should I buy?” can be easily turned into “I need help trying to figure out the best way to manage video that’s sent in from my remote promotions teams.” Once we have those details, it’s easier to find a more suitable Guru.
What do you do if you can’t find a Guru match for a Newbie?
We search for one using Twitter, LinkedIn, the DAM Guru blog, personal connections—everything at our disposal. So far, we have a match record of nearly 100%, which is great. But we expect this to become more challenging over time, as Newbies ask for more specific help.
How many gurus and newbies do you have so far?
We’re celebrating our 100th member this month (March, 2013) by offering a (US) $100 Amazon gift card. That drawing takes place at the end of this month, so if people want to enter to win, they should visit http://damguru.com/win100-giveaway. Membership is not required to enter.
Where can our readers find out more?
A pretty extensive FAQ is available at http://DAMGuru.com. A sign-up form is available on the site, and they can also see where we’re currently looking for Gurus. People can also follow @DAMGuru on Twitter.
I can’t thank you guys enough for helping us promote DAM Guru Program. Since this article went live, signups have increased by almost 25%. Best of all, people are writing in that they now better understand the program’s purpose and think it’s a great idea, thanks in no small part to this article.
Director of Global Marketing (and proud DAM Guru Program daddy!)
No problem David, hope you get a few more sign-ups from this. A scheme like this is long overdue in our industry.