Avoid content chaos: the top 8 file management best practices

Is your work server made up of folders with random titles, duplicates everywhere and versions out of control? You’re not alone - it’s by no means an issue that only affects marketing teams. In a survey of workers 21% said document issues affected their productivity and a whopping 83% said they struggle with version control daily.

You might not be ready for a digital asset management (DAM) system yet - that’s okay, it can take time to figure this stuff out! But until then, you can still work on your file management strategy. Here’s how to label and store files so they can be found easily by colleagues, present and future.

1. Agree your folder structure as a team


Picture one person filing content based on the campaigns they’ve been made for. Then think of the person next to them, who likes to make folder trees based on which team did the work. Next to them is someone who files based on what platform the assets are made for.

No one’s going to be able to find what they need from the others’ systems - and nor will any of their teammates. Inconsistent, scattered file storage kills the chances of getting the best value out of your content; if people can’t find it again, it won’t get reused. There’s no wrong way to file your work - but there can be only one agreed.

2. Record your software choices

This scattergun effect can also apply when each team member uses different storage and sharing tools like WeTransfer, Dropbox and Google Drive. If everyone’s using their own favourites, files can and will go missing over time. You can find our handy guide to online tools here; make your choices as a team and everyone will stay on the same page.

3. Mark differences they can’t see

It makes no sense to spend time opening up files - especially the really big ones! - to check size or format. Whether your team is storing different crops for social or separate files for digital (RGB) and print (CMYK), labelling these clearly saves everyone time. This will also prevent uninitiated teammates from using the wrong formats - ever seen what a CMYK image looks like loaded to a website? It’s not pretty.

4. Add codes for version control

When core publications are regularly updated or translated into different languages, it’s easy to lose track of which is which as time goes by. Keep a spreadsheet of codes - even as simple as YY-MM-01, 02 etc - and add this to the brief for the designer. 

They can then assign each new version a tiny code to that layout. With this added, teammates of the future will be able to spot your 2022 version if it gets mixed in with their 2023 update. Just remember to regularly clear out old versions. You don't want to end up with this. 👇😬

file management

5. Date your docs!

Adding dates to documents needn’t stop at those codes. Using the dates of the first use will help you eventually weed out the stale content - and search by posting, publication or launch date.

Starting filenames with the desired year and month (even day) means everything stays chronological, even if files are amended in a different order. After all, who searches for the start date of a project?

6. Make records, but keep it smart

This is a quick hack to help you make sure the contents of audio and video are also searchable. Audiovisual files are usually hard to locate if you’re looking for something inside it - but you can increase your team’s chances.

Running this kind of file through otter.ai will give you a rough transcription of everything said in it. File that text doc alongside it in the same folder, and hey presto - now it’s searchable!

7. Mark content with keywords

Once your copy has made it online, it’s important to keep the original doc. At the time of publishing you’ll know where it all is, but will this be the case a year later? Storing copy in a centralised bank means you and your teammates can continue to draw from those key messages you so carefully honed - no sense duplicating that hard work!

But even then, it’s easy to lose track unless certain keywords are already in the text - like internal terms you wouldn’t use in front of your readers. If your copy docs start with any kind of briefing information, adding a section for key storage words means that file is more easily findable in the future.

8. Upgrade to metadata

If you and your team put in a bit of time for some group discussions and decisions (and stick to them afterwards!), these tips will help protect the value of your content while minimising the frustration everyone feels when they can’t find what they need.

But if you really want to take how you work to the next level, you’ll need a DAM library. It’s the most efficient possible way of ordering and storing your files, photos and documents. You can read more about how our customers RJ Living got a hold on their file management chaos with ours - Dash. Check out a screenshot below. 

Screen Shot 2022-01-12 at 11.26.50 am

A simple yet powerful solution, it takes care of most of the file admin processes we’ve outlined. It gives you the ability to tailor the information people use to find content files to fit your specific marketing requirements and ways of working. The payoff? More time for the ‘bigger picture’ work that will make a real difference to your business.

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