May the keynote Force be with you

12/01/2021

May the keynote Force be with you

By Kelly Schermer

May the keynote Force be with you

Image by Annie Unruh

If you fell asleep during any of the Star Wars movies and felt annoyed when you awoke because the red and green shooting lights were STILL piercing the dark screen, you are not alone! And, if you think I’m a heartless jerk for falling asleep in the first place, get in line—colleagues are picketing my apathy as we speak. In the past, I would have argued that Star War-iors and Star Snore-iors inspired Rudyard Kipling’s saying “…ne’er the twain shall meet,” but recently a colleague and I tag teamed a keynote address that drew on the strengths of both camps. And what we ended up creating together was quite the force to reckon with!

Building a technology keynote from the ground up is a labor of love (and my oh my, do we ever love it!). At its core you might think, a keynote is just a PowerPoint deck and a talk track. While that’s not wrong, the practice of building a keynote looks nothing like what it takes to make a normal pitch deck. A keynote is its own special snowflake for a lot of reasons (sounds like fodder for another blog, doesn’t it?), but from a writer’s perspective, what makes it especially fun is the added challenge of making the content relevant within the context of the event and weaving in the speaker’s personality to help them engage and connect with the audience.

A couple months ago, my brilliant teammates, Guy and Forsyth, were asked to create a keynote to kick off a multi-day developer event. It was kind of like they got a box with a bunch of parts (most of which were still under development) and were asked to build something new with them. Forsyth started by sifting through the pieces for a story that would make their final product inspire the developers in the audience. Fast forward a bunch of zany brainstorm sessions later, and they had landed a fun Star Wars theme in which the technology describes a bridge to a universe of possibilities.

While we call it a theme, Forsyth made it so much more. She wrote a highly nuanced storyline comparing the capabilities of Jedi at different levels of their training to the benefits of specific databases. She referenced inter-character backstories and iconic movie scenes. It was a sheer work of art for anyone, especially pro-sci-fi developers and Star War-iors.

However, as it tends to happen in keynotes about burgeoning technology (and war-torn galaxies), our heroes faced setbacks. Forsyth was called on a higher mission (the highest really—her first family vacation post-COVID), and I stepped in to get the keynote over the finish line. Whereas she wrote her Star Wars heart into every line of that talk track, I picked, prodded, and googled every reference to find the ones that would appeal to a broader audience, so Star Snore-iors would connect with it too.

The final keynote talk track struck a solid balance between the Star Wars enthusiasts and…the rest of us. In hindsight, our tag-team approach worked better than we imagined. We delivered a fun, relatable, and highly informative keynote that our clients loved—and so far we haven’t heard of one person who fell asleep lost in space.

The recipe for the perfect customer evidence video

11/18/2021

The recipe for the perfect customer evidence video

By Guy Schoonmaker

The recipe for the perfect customer evidence video

Image by Thad Allen

Have you ever started to make pasta, and then realized you forgot the sauce? It sucks. I never think of grocery shopping as part of cooking, but you can’t follow a recipe without the right ingredients.  

The same goes for creating great customer evidence videos. It’s all in the preparation, with some improvisation sprinkled in (we’ll get to that). 

Preparation is important in a lot of the marketing assets we build at 2A, but maybe none more so than filming videos. Why? Because in most cases, you only have one shot to get it right!  

The grocery list of factors you need to consider before filming can get long: 

  • Interviewees – Are they prepped? Have they done this before? Do you have the right questions to get the best soundbites? 
  • Shot list – Think through the story you’re trying to tell—what are the visuals you need to support it? 
  • Location – Will there be background noise? Or giant digital disco globes right next to your set? 
  • Equipment – How much space do you have to work with? Or maybe you’ll need to keep your equipment to a minimum so you’re nimble enough to move through a crowded airport while shooting b-roll
  • Permissions – Do you need any special permissions from your filming location? How do you get consent from people that will be in the background? 

The list goes on! While preparation is the most important ingredient, you should always come to filming wearing an improvisation apron, just in case things get messy.  

Maybe an unexpected thunderstorm is rolling through town, messing up the natural light for your interview. Or a marching band decided to take a right turn down the street you’re filming on. It’s more the rule than the exception that something completely unexpected will happen.  

But if you’re prepared and ready to roll with the punches, then a willingness to improvise will help you quickly figure out solutions to those little speed bumps.  

Wait, speaking of improvisation, I already have olive oil, diced tomatoes, garlic, salt, and pepper—I can make my own sauce, and it will be even better than the original recipe. 

6.6 million steps to give back (and get stronger)

11/01/2021

6.6 million steps to give back (and get stronger)

By Laurie Krisman

6.6 million steps to give back (and get stronger)

Image by Guangyi Li

During a recent cycling class, in the middle of a particularly tough climb, Peloton instructor Denis Morton shouted out something like “I’m getting better and stronger every day.” Then he shook his head and said, “sometimes it’s the truth, sometimes it’s a mantra.” I wiped away my sweaty tears and smiled because what he said captured my general philosophy of exercise, business, and even parenting. In my experience, when you keep showing up and do  the work—especially when you’re tired or too busy or don’t think you can do it—the work fuels you and pushes you forward into something better, something stronger. I sometimes dread exercising, but I never regret how I feel after getting those extra steps in. And it felt extra rewarding to step it up for 2A Giving this September.  

Research from Iowa State University confirmed a hunch that too much sitting can do a real number on morale, so the 2A Giving team came up with a challenge to boost wellness and productivity, and contribute to our community. This fall, we stepped away from our laptops and got some much-needed exercise in an agency-wide competition to support four incredible community organizations: Page Ahead, Washington Building Leaders of ChangeShoes that Fit, and No Kid Hungry.

Who doesn’t love a win-win?  

As one of the Step It Up for 2A Giving participants I can tell you, with all the WFH-induced extra screen time and homemade banana bread I’d indulged in, I was happy to have a little extra motivation to exercise. 

In a fierce national competition, 2A collectively logged enough steps to travel 3,234 miles! That’s like walking from Seattle to Oaxaca, Mexico, or about 6,648,388 steps.  

Wellness experts say the best kind of movement starts with, you guessed it, movement. It’s all about picking an exercise you like and sticking with it. If you hate treadmills or hiking don’t do it. Choose downhill skiing, Zumba, quiet neighborhood walks, or cycling instead. 2A team members engaged in a wide variety of exercises to meet their step goals and shared fun photos of their workout journeys in action.  

Along the way, we all discovered that making the decision to exercise was a lot easier than following through. Here’s how 2A team members found their motivation to get moving and stay consistent:   

 My “To Do” list stares up at me from my desk every day. Running is always on the list, and I’ve tricked myself into thinking that it’s just as important as anything else on the list. I also add exercise to my work calendar to make sure I fit it in before, during, or after work. Once I’m outside, I never regret it. I often think of solutions to challenges or have creative breakthroughs while I’m exercising. I bring my phone to take notes, so I don’t forget fresh ideas. Sometimes I walk; sometimes I run. Who cares?! I love the way I feel after! I get to cross something off my list and do something good for my body, mind, and soul. It’s never too late to Step it Up!  

Liz Mangini, 2A Consultant 

I recently parted with…almost all of my shoes. As much as I didn’t want to accept it, my feet grew for each baby I grew, and after welcoming three children into the world (two within 6 minutes of each other), my shoes were a literal pain. New shoes for me this year. New shoes for three kids every year. New shoes x new shoes x new shoes x new shoes. New shoes matter. No jungle gym should be unclimbed because their shoes are too tight. No puddle un-stomped because boots are a luxury. When a donation for Shoes that Fit was up for a competitive vote, my partner and I schlepped those strollers and STEPPED IT UP!  

Annie Wegrich, 2A Senior Consultant 

So, make sure to move your eyeballs away from the screens from time to time and keep on stepping it up, friends! The goal of adding movement to your day is to improve your mental and physical health. This feels especially important as the shorter days of winter will soon be upon us.

A nightmare on helm street

10/27/2021

A nightmare on helm street

By Katy Nally

A nightmare on helm street

Image by Rachel Adams

His name is Mano: He’s amorphous, invisible, and slightly threatening. And he’s the latest addition to a family of monsters who persuade my 2-year-old, Rowan, to complete basic tasks.  

The book Hunt, Gather, Parent inspired the creation of Mano, who convinces Rowan to wash his hands when he comes home. You see, Mano lives in our sink drain and eats the dirt from your hands. Luckily for me, he’s insatiable. If you don’t feed him as soon as you get home, he’ll suck you down the drain. Mano is very effective. 

Just a few weeks after introducing Mano, Rowan not only washes his hands, he also polices everyone else to make sure we all wash our hands, lest Mano escape and chase after us. Mano is so effective, in fact, it made me want to invent some technology monsters I can hide in ebooks who persuade technical decision makers to act.  

So, in the spirit of Halloween, here are a few spooky buggers lurking in the shadows of your cloud technologies. 

  • Niner: He jumps up and down on your cloud trying to hamper your availability. Every 9 he finds, he swallows whole. It’s getting serious—you’re already down to 99.9999. 
  • Corny: She eats the last two rows of data in any table you migrate, making it a dark and scary journey to the cloud. Beware! 
  • Webs: He lives in your data warehouse, pulling out APIs and gumming up the works so you no longer have real-time insights. You have (gasp) yesterday’s data! 
  • Kondo: She swims in your data lake and is sick of bumping into mismatched data. She’s on a mission to organize, culling sources so you’re only left with one size, shape, and speed.  

The good news is, 2A knows how technology monsters operate and can help you convince your audience to fight back!  

From sink to swim: A shift in the Shark Tank

10/20/2021

From sink to swim: A shift in the Shark Tank

By Clinton Bowman

From sink to swim: A shift in the Shark Tank

Image by Thad Allen

Back in 2015, when my nose was to the grindstone studying for the GMAT and applying to business schools, I found myself seeking content that was going to help me be a more well-rounded applicant. That meant ditching (most) of my binge TV and reading the Economist, tuning into Marketplace, and watching Shark Tank. What can I say? I loved that show.  

Kevin O’Leary, aka Mr. Wonderful, had a laser-focused philosophy on investing back then. For him, it was all about creating shareholder value, which depended solely on cash flow projections and the presence of a hard-working, business-savvy leader. His algorithm didn’t allow a whole lot of room for creatives. It simply came down to the thing that mattered most to him—money—which makes sense since he’s fairly obsessed with adding as many zeros as he can to his net worth.  

I don’t devour Shark Tank like I did in my pre-MBA days, but recently I stumbled across some clips of Mr. Wonderful that I couldn’t click past. Imagine my shock when I saw him doing interview after interview after interview not about just shareholder value and cash flows, but also about the importance of hiring people who can tell the business story.  

At 2A, we congratulate Mr. Wonderful on his breakthrough, and we wholeheartedly agree that a business needs to be able to tell the right story to the right people in order to get traction with customers. Because, while businesses need positive cash flows and savvy leaders, they also need a heart and a history—that’s what the right story provides.  

It’s a shark-eat-shark world out there. If you find your products or services aren’t reeling in the cash the way you planned, maybe you need to cast a stronger storyline to catch some attention.   

Thank you, Renato

10/13/2021

Thank you, Renato

By Abby Breckenridge

Thank you, Renato

Renato is leaving 2A. This is a big deal for us and comes with so many emotions.  

There is no doubt we’ll miss him. Renato started 2A on his own back in 2010, then Daniel and I joined him a few years later. It’s that entrepreneurial spirit, the sauce that emboldened him to start 2A, that we’ll miss the most. He brings the guts it takes to break out on his own, paired with the vision to see how something can be made from nothing. That, his sunny sense of humor, and his deep commitment to caring for the people around him will leave the biggest legacy.  

I’ll always remember the first time Daniel, Renato, and I got together. It was a breezy summer dinner around a fiery grill in my backyard, after Renato and I had finished the MBA program at Foster and Daniel had moved to Seattle with his girlfriend (my childhood friend). It was a lot of fun, included a lot of wine, and set the stage for the fruitful relationship we now share.  

Since then, the three of us have led 2A through countless wins and humbling challenges—a journey that looks more like a doodle than a straight line. From a team of four to almost 40. From one amazing client to over 40. From a shared room in a to-be-torn-down house, to 6,000 square feet on Capitol Hill. And from the youthful idea that all the steps are laid out in front of us to a more seasoned view that plans are just that.   

What we do know is that 2A, the team, Daniel, and I are all stronger because of Renato. We also know this change is a great move for all of us. Daniel and I will get to flex our skills in new directions as Renato’s departure, even with all the planning, will surely leave gaps. There’s an ocean of new possibilities for Renato as he unleashes his entrepreneurial spirit toward new ventures. And while our partnership in 2A is over, breezy backyard dinners around a fire will surely continue.  

Nora blends creativity & people skills for the ultimate mix of marketing magic!

10/07/2021

Nora blends creativity & people skills for the ultimate mix of marketing magic!

By Mai Sennaar

Nora blends creativity & people skills for the ultimate mix of marketing magic!

At 2A Nora Bright has found a place where her prodigious people skills and acuity for creative approaches to business problems work in tandem. Her knack for the arts, culture, and imaginative business strategies lead to the surprising and innovative approaches to marketing that her clients can’t get enough of. 

Nora first explored her creativity as a multi-instrumentalist musician. Before killing it on the drums as part of the opening act for some major artists (Ty Segall!) on campus at Scripps College, Nora was already uncovering her knack for leadership. She worked in the non-profit sector at several prominent arts and culture organizations in Los Angeles including the Colburn School, a music conservatory where she studied clarinet with world-class instructors. She impressed the leadership of Colburn, eventually following the director to New Roads School, where she had her first formal position as a Development Assistant. 

But Nora truly discovered the extent of her talent for people management when she served as a 23-year-old co-owner of her family’s recruiting business. Instead of taking a backseat to more seasoned team members or sticking close to the script of how things had always been, Nora immediately took on the challenges of leadership, managing the day-to-day operations of the company with an eye on growth. She sought one-on-ones with colleagues and clients with a sincere interest in gaining a more nuanced understanding of their challenges. She understood that her greatest strength as a leader would lie in her ability to empathize with and understand the perspectives of her collaborators. It was the beginning of Nora honing what she refers to as “servant-leadership”, an approach that allows her to see her role as one of service, even when it comes to employees. 

Through a commitment to gaining greater awareness of the needs of her customers and team, Nora managed to quickly build a positive rapport with the company’s clients. She supercharged the work culture, successfully diffused internal conflicts, and brought new creative strategies to the company’s marketing challenges. Her hard work paid off, ultimately propelling the company into a new era, with a 47% increase in revenue. As a testament to her people skills, many of the new clients under her tenure at the recruiting firm were former employers, including the Colburn School, where she successfully placed several key roles, including a Deputy Director. 

Following a transformative experience with her family business, Nora was inspired by the depth of her impact on people. She was excited by her ability to help others realize their strengths and was prepared to take her leadership and marketing skills to new dimensions. She decided on an MBA at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. 

It may have been the oysters that first attracted Nora to 2A’s on-campus recruitment happy hour, but the more she learned about the company’s reputation for combining creativity with marketing expertise, the more she wanted to know. Once she had an opportunity to personally meet with several members of the 2A team, things really clicked for Nora. She found the culture extraordinarily creative, welcoming, dynamic, and nourishing.  

When she’s not brainstorming fresh marketing strategies for her clients at 2A, Nora’s grooving to Yo La Tengo, Riot Grrrl, and honing her own electric guitar skills. 

2A’s favorite coffee shops from Seattle and beyond

09/29/2021

2A’s favorite coffee shops from Seattle and beyond

By Joe Belcher

2A’s favorite coffee shops from Seattle and beyond

Image by Rachel Adams

I look forward to coffee shops a little more as we head into fall, my favorite of the four seasons. Something about pants, a warm sweater or light jacket, and a walk to Ampersand on Alki Beach for a half-caf Americano with one cream and one sugar. And on the weekends, I treat myself to the homemade biscuit, egg, and bacon breakfast sandwich. Battling the dad bod, I limit myself to one per week. 

As we continue to face the challenges with COVID-19, we continue to support and enjoy our local coffee shops. Masks, takeout, outdoor seating. In fall, we get to enjoy the walk. Not too hot. Not too cold. A little exercise. A little coffee. Two wonderful things to keep you moving. 

My local favorite is Ampersand on Alki Beach in West Seattle. I like the Kona beans, the chef’s homemade biscuits, and any of the food he makes. 

2A employees are in the Seattle area but also reach other parts of the country. Let’s look at some of our favorite coffee shops from Seattle and beyond. Give them a try! 

203 Degrees Fahrenheit (Kirkland, WA) – Cozy place to study, outdoor seating by a fire and fun specialty drinks like a Latte with Rachel’s Lavender. – Tammy Monson 

Alexandras Macarons and café in Capitol Hill (Seattle, WA) – Alexandra herself is super nice. The croissants are fresh-baked every morning – and if you catch ‘em right out of the oven you will never look back. Plus, on Thursdays they have amazing pizza. So basically, good coffee and bread-based things, all I really need in life. – Guy Schoonmaker  

I want to second Alexandras and say that their focaccia is the best! – Sarah Silva 

Caffé Fiore in Sunset Hill (Seattle, WA) Granted it was the closest coffee shop I could walk to, but it is a cute little corner coffee shop at the top of the steps to Golden Gardens Park. It had delicious drip coffee and a variety of tasty treats. They have nice big Adirondack chairs out front that you can sit in and enjoy a pick me up. – Rachel Adams 

The Coffee Scene (Fayetteville, NC) Indoor and outdoor seating, great coffee drinks, great snacks, and a bonus for hot Fayetteville – gelato! – Forsyth Alexander 

Cultivate Coffee & Tap House (Ypsilanti, MI) An amazing place to work quietly on your own projects or meet up with friends from morning ‘til night. My go-to coffee drink there was a black walnut latte, which I had not seen before and have not seen since. – Kimberly Mass 

Fresh Flours in Phinney Ridge (Seattle, WA) Nourish with my fave granola, treat with a citrus-forward macaron, indulge in a green tea muffin, and caffeinate in all the ways. Ted and I are boring and just get Americanos. But I see people getting very fussy with their oat-golden-milks and… smells great. – Annie Wegrich 

Kaladi Brothers in Capitol Hill (Seattle, WA) the vibes are amazing, the baristas are cooler than you will ever be, and the playlist is great. Very queer + trans friendly. Based in Alaska. – Annie Unruh 

Luck Bros Coffee in Grandview Heights (Columbus, OH) Here’s a C-bus local. Small-batch roasted coffees run by a serious coffee enthusiast. – Kelly Schermer 

Espresso Vivace in Capitol Hill (Seattle, WA) My fav! It’s just a coffee sidewalk bar focused entirely on making the best cup of espresso. – Daniel Schmeichler  

image of an octopus with headphones

08/22/2021

Octopuses and podcasts—yep. That’s what this blog is about.

By Annie Wegrich

image of an octopus with headphones

Image by Annie Unruh

The words “I see two” really shook up our plans last year when the doctor told us that our future baby was actually going to be babies. Twins. We were already the elated parents of an almost one-year-old. Fast forward nine months, and we plunged into the waters of three tiny kiddos and only two arms. So, we came up with a simple solution: become an octopus. With 8 arms, we could hold three little ones, cook dinner, and maybe brush our hair. “Octopus” is now a household verb (“I’m going for a run, can you Octopus?”).

All of our worlds changed significantly in the last year, and we’ve all had to shake up the way we do things. We’re balancing working from home with disrupted childcare, dog walks, and a new reliance on takeout. Thank goodness for the podcast, right? An on-the-go, always-on way to hear news, learn something new, and keep up with the cool kids. With no time, and no hands, short episodes of my favorite podcasts shook up my way of engaging with what’s important to me.

From 0 hands to 8 arms – with 2 earbuds

Which takes me to: Podcasts are the octopuses of marketing, and your employees and customers are listening. As a marketer, podcasts enable you to extend your reach and wrap your tentacles around your over-taxed audience. Swim with me while I share an eight-armed answer to why you should add a podcast series to your marketing ocean (and dive deeper if your toe is in the podcast water.)

  1. Podcasts make marketing personal and allow you to share your story or pump your products in a way that feels one-on-one to your listener.
  2. You enable your audience to engage on their terms, and likely, on their phones, while commuting, doing chores around the house, or working out. You are not inconveniencing them or interfering with their schedules—a major plus for those with busy lives.
  3. Podcasts are a great medium for establishing thought leadership and highlighting your expertise in the market via a series of entertaining, deep-dive stories.
  4. Each episode has a purpose, whether you’re interviewing a different industry expert, highlighting a company value or success story, or guiding your customers through new features, each episode in a podcast series can serve to educate and inspire your listeners.
  5. Subscribers automatically get new episodes as you publish for easy, continued engagement.
  6. Podcasts are as versatile as a mollusk and appropriate for stories targeted at prospective or current customers, industry experts, or even broadcast internally to your employees.
  7. Audio is an accessible option for the vision impaired or anyone with screen fatigue.
  8. 80% of listeners finish podcast episodes and when they’re done, these listeners can follow you on social and re-share your content.

2A knows octopuses

2A can help you create your marketing octopuses. Podcasts are swimmingly delightful stories, and we’re storytellers who know how to make a splash. Whether you want to teach customers something new, speak with authority to product power-users, share technical insights, or tell company stories, we’re here to help.

Ready to dive in? Connect with us!

Image of a row of records. A hand pulls out one record from the pile that reads

08/10/2021

DJ Forsyth Fresh drops the Writing Bling

By Kelly Schermer

Image of a row of records. A hand pulls out one record from the pile that reads

Image by Brandon Conboy

You know who gets one big name? Rockstars get one big name. We’re talking show-stopping, stage-rocking, mind-blowing rockstars that know how to shake up their genre and make audiences think and feel in new ways. These are the stars that possess so much raw talent and energy they only need the one name to stake a claim in the hearts and minds of everyone they meet. Think Beyonce, Lizzo, Eminem. Forsyth.

For those of you who haven’t met Forsyth Alexander yet, you’re in for a treat! Forsyth approaches storytelling for business with a fun, can-do attitude that gives her platinum-artist status at 2A. She’s a whirlwind of smooth jazz, bubbly pop, and marimba beats wrapped up as a storyteller extraordinaire. Thinking that sounds eclectic and interesting? That’s not even half of it!

DJ of technical writing

From a young age, Forsyth knew she wanted to be a music DJ and a writer—in that order. She got her degree in radio/television and motion pictures at University of North Carolina while working as a DJ at night and taking as many creative writing classes as she could. After graduation, Forsyth landed a job at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (now called the Horton Museum), where she became the go-to person for IT, editing, and design questions.

These experiences helped her realize her love for learning about new technologies, and her gift for editing other people’s writing to help them sound like the best version of themselves. Armed with this newfound awareness, Forsyth went on to build a vibrant career as a one-of-a-kind tech savant and writer, working for organizations across industries—from an engineering group to a home furnishing catalog company to a tech startup.

Today, Forsyth offers 2A clients her expertise in explaining different technologies as well as skillful guidance on positioning emerging capabilities. Like a rockstar DJ, who knows how to appeal to the audience in the club, Forsyth uses playful words and smart metaphors to draw in her reader and make new ideas stick like fresh melodies.

Spoken word poet

All great artists attribute stars that came before them, for Forsyth there’s no one main influence. “My music playlist looks like I blew up a record store, and it landed on my Spotify account,” she likes to say. But given her time as a DJ and her ability to transition seamlessly between industries, organizations, and writing voices, it’s no surprise that she thrives in variety. From Rolling Stones to Talking Heads to REM, Forsyth’s got great tunes to share, but my favorite Forsyth original is the song she sings about her home.

If you haven’t heard it yet, just ask her where she lives. In her smooth southern accent, she’ll tell you, “I live with eight cats, three dogs, two chickens, two ducks, and a bunny in a big old stone house on an acre of land.” There’s no pear tree in this version, but the rhythm sticks with you all the same.

Forsyth. The woman. The storyteller. The legend. Let her shine for you!