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Planning a digital signage system

How to plan a digital signage project. Considering the many available digital signage solutions might seem like an overwhelming task. But taking some time to research and understand your options will be well worth the investment for your institution. Follow these key steps: 1. You need to understand and articulate the objective at the start. Clearly define the goals and determine how you will measure and analyze against the goals. Determine what information you want to communicate and for what purpose. You may want it to give you one or more of the following: • Sales uplift. • Brand messaging. • Entertainment for waiting customers. • Better internal communications. • Public messaging. • Third-party advertising. It is not only imperative to understand what you want the signage to accomplish but also how it will be evaluated. In short, “How will the success or failure of the system be judged and by whom?” What metrics of judgment will be used: ROI, ROO, or other qualifiers? 2. Clearly define the content: The success of any digital signage system starts, of course, with the content. It must look fresh, exciting, and professional. Who will create it and how will it be presented? Do you have internal resources and expertise, or will you need to outsource content creation? A good source of creative and editorial help can be found in aspiring graphic designers culled from the student ranks, in addition to your school’s art department, yearbook and newspaper staffs, and TV studio (if you have one). 3. Invest the time to understand your options: Once you’ve decided on content, you need to consider the infrastructure that will deliver it and study your display options: LCD vs. plasma? RSS feeds? Live video? Remote management? Playback verification? The options will seem limitless, so taking time to sort through them is imperative. 4. Involve all the appropriate stakeholders: The communications/information department should be involved at the start, considering that your digital signage will likely be used for external community relations. If it‘s a K–12 application, you’ll need to include not only your district’s superintendent, principals, purchasing personnel, and IT staff, but also quite possibly instructional technology and AV staff, as well as maintenance, curriculum, athletic, and cafeteria directors. 5. Figure out how you’re going to pay for it: Digital signage is often viewed by some as a luxury item? —? particularly in the face of shrinking school budgets. But because it can also be used as a tool for emergency communications and notification, administrators can easily make the case that digital signage is a must-have component of any crisis plan — especially in this day and age when school violence incidents capture news headlines. Consider government sources of funding for your digital notification system (federal funds are available from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for pre-disaster mitigation and preparedness, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice, for instance). Whether it’s earmarked entirely as an IT expenditure or apportioned across multiple departments in your budget, you need a spending roadmap in addition to a developmental one. The hardest part with this may be determining the total cost of ownership over the life of the system, including any nickling-and-diming with ongoing licenses and upgrades. College administrators, however, can easily make the case from a cost-savings perspective. Having to constantly update traditional signage across a campus can be quite costly. Paper signage is expensive to print and replace regularly. With digital signage, no printed material is necessary, so both time and cost savings can be made, and the environmental impact is minimized. 6. Decide how to implement the solution: Based on your deployment size and scope, decide if you can implement it in-house or if you need the help of a professional integrator. A number of “out-of-the box” systems can be set up with relative ease. But the more dynamic and complex the system, the more complicated the implementation and ongoing management? — ?and the more likely you’ll need outside help.