Every creative seeks the Holy Grail when it comes to choosing the right tools to help you get the job done. Beyond standard production software, we’re taking a look at applications that can give you and your team the leading edge when it comes to building out your content supply chain.
Picture this: your project team is full speed ahead, churning out content, uploading it online and getting it out to your customers—who are devoted fans of everything that you do. Sounds good, right? Except for the part where your project manager is using four different apps to keep the team on track, the Head of Marketing (while brilliant) has gone rogue with their social strategy, your lead photographer routinely sends client files on an unsecured server, and important external requests are routed to a different team member each time they come in. Yikes.
It’s a common and unsustainable scene for those of us working in the wonderful world of content. We all know that there’s an endless number of tools out there to help you get the job done, so here are the ones we’ve seen that marketing and creative teams are gravitating toward..
Ideating, Learning, and Planning
One of the most noticeable trends in creative operations over the last few years is that brands and agencies are putting more focus on content production as a core part of their business. In order to make the content flow better, teams are actively seeking out ways to continuously improve on their day to day operations.
If you’re anything like us, you think visually. And a lot of times the mapping, diagramming, brainstorming, and whiteboarding apps out there can feel confining for big ideas. That’s where Miro comes in.
Miro places user experience at the heart of their design with the ability to map out ideas and information in a way that feels very natural for someone who might prefer working on a giant whiteboard. Miro boards are also highly collaborative where team members can edit together in real time with shared tools, video and chat baked right into the app.
Key Takeaway: Miro is hands-down the best app we’ve seen in a while for ideating and sharing concepts.
Big ideas come alive through small tasks. When planning for a production (like a photoshoot or even a product), things can get lost quickly.
Asana’s ability to split larger tasks into subtasks, add followers and multiple task owners, include links and attachments and track related conversations all in one board helps fight off miscommunication. The cherry on top? You can view your whole production plan in multiple views but our favorite for this type of project is Gantt chart or calendar view.
Key Takeaway: Asana will help you keep it all together when you have 100 small things that lead up to one big production.
Deliverables, deadlines, performance reports, file versions, and all the other details— creative teams need to be hyper-organized in order to survive these days.
Monday’s massive marketing effort towards creative teams appears to have paid off, with an increasing number of creative professionals gravitating toward this platform. Unlike the other common project management tools out there (Asana, Trello, Wrike, Workfront, etc.), Monday is all about simplicity and its clean visual design allows team leads to quickly hone in on project delays.
While the project management discipline has become more popular with creative teams in the last few years, we find that the more traditional alternatives can be cumbersome for some users. Monday’s signature bold color statuses, timeline view and reporting are best suited for tracking tasks that have minimal dependencies. It reminds us of Tumblr, but for organization.
Key Takeaway: Monday.com’s design and UX is highly accessible, requires minimal training to get started and can be a great entry point for teams who want to keep better track of their projects without getting bogged down by the heavy feature sets from some other tools.
Another popular alternative PM tool we’ve grown to love lately is Airtable. Calling Airtable a database feels like a disservice when you use it to navigate around tables and dive into related data.
The thing we really like about it, is that you can easily view team data from several perspectives. Want to see a full task list for a project, then easily jump over to its related production call sheet? No problem. Even Cole Haan’s creative operations team and others in the Airtable Universe can show you how it’s done.
And for those who are only mildly tech-savvy can build tables, records, and trackers that take your creative operation musings a to the next level. Airtable may be one of the more integrated apps out there, with dozens of plug-ins and connectors available to access its data.
Key Takeaway: Airtable can be really, really powerful but it will take some effort from your team to set it up. While the app may be a bit too much of a “clean slate” for some, Airtable does do a great job of providing templates and crowdsourcing bases from its user community to help get novices started.
Proofing software has been around for years, but there are a number of newcomers to the game If you’re still approving creative manually, it’s time to start looking at apps that can manage your approval workflows for you. CageApp was designed specifically for designers, agencies, and in-house teams. More than just proofing software, CageApp is a collaborative tool that is straight-forward and elegant to use.
The real differentiator for CageApp is its impressively robust feature-set. This software can be used in a myriad of ways and integrates with some of the most popular tools already used by creative teams (Adobe, Dropbox, Slack). CageApp is proofing, digital asset storage, delivery and project management all rolled into an easy-to-use tool at an insanely low price point.
Key Takeaway: CageApp is a complete game changer because it was designed with absolute flexibility in mind and can be configured to meld into your existing workflows.
Spark has been around for about 4 years now, and seems to be one of the best-kept secrets for those who want to create easy videos and social content. It’s not perfect, but this app is a great way to create simple, fun branding pieces on the go. It’s incredibly easy to use and has an ever-growing library of templates to start with, so we’ve seen creative teams coming back to using Spark over and over again to make content production simple.
Key Takeaway: Adobe Spark is a free app that is included with most subscriptions to Adobe Creative Cloud. It’s one that we couldn’t live without!
Pro Storage and File Delivery
Digital asset management is front-of-mind for teams that deal with a lot of content as these systems are essential to keeping large content libraries up-to-date and organized. These days, we’re seeing a wave of DAM use that is less like a library and more of a complex ecosystem where content needs to be stored, managed and interact with other platforms.
Tenovos is a new breed of DAM, a cutting edge platform that has a growing library of connectors and plugins that allow content files to move freely between project management systems, proofing tools, transformers, and distribution platforms. Assets stored inside the Tenovos system are in a GraphQL database, which allows users to explore the different ways in which content is related.
Tenovos will be a major market disruptor in the digital asset management space. We were lucky enough to work on one of their earlier projects, and it’s unlike any other in terms of UI, integrative capabilities and vision for the future. Early adopters of this technology will have a huge advantage against their competition if they’re serious about building out a fully-streamlined workflow system.
Key Takeaway: The Tenovos system is definitely not an entry-level platform, but it is an extremely wise investment for upstart brands that place a lot of value on their content. It’s a tool that is built with scalability in mind and clearly focuses on giving its customer base a leading edge to building out their marketing supply chains.
Cloudinary CDN is for businesses who prefer a more customized approach to managing the lifecycle of their digital assets. This platform is particularly suited for production teams and agencies who need to push out high volumes of content to several channels (websites, social media accounts, portals, image collections, etc.)
In short, Cloudinary can store, reference and display content in any way you specify, and they have recently released a digital asset management application layer that allows designers and photographers to access the files stored in Cloudinary. With all assets stored in Cloudinary, production and multi-channel distribution are essentially seamless. And even though you will need a developer to build the apps and portals you need, the core Cloudinary system controls are dead simple to figure out.
Key Takeaway: Businesses with a high volume of content production that want to build custom tools will find Cloudinary extraordinarily simple to use.
So there you have it, the Holy Grail, just as we promised. It all comes down to one word (our favorite might we add): organization. Finding the right tools for your team brings is what brings you one step closer towards hitting those goals—without the kind of carnage that makes you regret accepting the brief in the first place.
Lauren started off her career as a photographer, eventually learning that she had a knack for building systems and thriving in highly cross-functional creative environments. Over the last decade, she has helped bridge the gap between creative production, operations, marketing and technology teams in industries ranging from fashion, beauty, television, publications, financial services, and non-profit organizations. Her highly varied experiences always have a common thread: helping people working with creative content to break down complex situations, and provide them with a plan to help them reach their goals.