Tips for starting a new job during a pandemic

02/25/2021

Tips for starting a new job during a pandemic

By: Tracey Whitten

Tips for starting a new job during a pandemic

Image: Brandon Conboy

For some, the prospect of starting a new job elicits feelings not unlike meeting your significant other’s family for the first time. You may ponder questions like, Will they like me? Will I fit in? Can I bring value? Maybe not that last one, but you get the idea. The stakes feel high. Now, starting a new job, remotely, while amid a global pandemic, can feel downright abysmal. There are the normal jitters that come with trying anything new and then there is the pandemic-induced anxiety.

I should know, I’ve been there! It can feel overwhelming at times. But after a few months in my new role as a program manager for case studies, I’ve discovered some tips that have helped ease the transition.

Tip 1: Coffee, tea, kombucha?

Yes, some of us need it to function, but I am alluding to time in this case. Schedule coffees with people. Spending 15–30 minutes in get-to-know-you chats can help humanize your co-workers in this strange dystopian time. Learning about your new colleagues in this informal setting allows you to pick up on their working style, personality, and quirks, then they get to know you in return. I recommend scheduling as many as possible in your first few weeks.

Tip 2: Sit in on all the meetings

Saddle up, get cozy, and mute yourself. But seriously, sitting in on meetings that may not directly involve my role has helped to form my 360-degree view of life at 2A. From internal revenue meetings to client branding calls, getting a peek behind the curtain in different scenarios has helped connect the dots. It has given me context about where I fit in and where I might bring value. While you’re ramping up, I recommend asking your manager if there are meetings you can sit in on.

Tip 3: Finally, slack

Cut yourself some! This is uncharted territory for everyone. We’re all learning and growing, so it’s okay to make a few mistakes along the way, and luckily at 2A it is encouraged. For a self-proclaimed perfectionist, I won’t lie, this one has not come easily. But across the board, this notion has been reinforced by my patient colleagues and for that I am grateful!

It’s not the easiest, but these different tactics have definitely made starting a new job amid a pandemic less jarring. Now, when I finally do meet my co-workers face to face, that will be a different blog post entirely.

image of a green car hood with a supercharger engine

02/17/2021

Supercharge your pre-pandemic messaging to keep pace

By: Clinton Bowman

image of a green car hood with a supercharger engine

Over these past months, we’ve seen digital transformation make quantum leaps forward. According to a recent McKinsey study, several years’ worth of digital transformation has occurred since COVID-19 began. In the car race to keep up with the needs of today, it’s easy to push off your longer road-trip activities like messaging. Yet, with no clear end in sight, now is the time to make sure your messaging is keeping pace.

At 2A we’re story geeks. We know that in order to build compelling content you need the right foundation. Messaging is the framework to ensure you and your team are ready to deliver captivating content to your customers that addresses their needs of today and tomorrow. As your customers’ needs evolve, you should revisit your messaging and make sure it still resonates. Kick the tires. Get the tune up you need. And set a course for the new road ahead.

Our team of storytellers and consultants are ready to be your co-pilot, navigating the map and maybe the playlist. We’ll work with you to evaluate your current messaging, identify what can be scrapped and supercharged, then build the framework to gas your rendezvous with customers. From there, we can create other itineraries, be it sales tools or your brand identity to help land the new and improved you.

Wondering how to get your messaging back in the fast lane? Pick us up and let’s get you back on pace together.

Ideas born in quarantine to help with your 2020 pivot

02/10/2021

Ideas born in quarantine to help with your 2020 pivot

By: Rachel Sacks

Ideas born in quarantine to help with your 2020 pivot

2020 hit us hard. It brought upon more challenges than any of us could have ever imagined. But I’ve been so impressed with the creative ways companies have pivoted in order to keep their businesses running. I saw restaurants offer dining experiences in a yurt, museums offer virtual tours, libraries offer virtual story time, and more! There was so much innovation born from the world shutting down because of the Coronavirus.

At 2A we pivoted in our own way. With everyone going remote, we were challenged by the increasing demand for digital content and focus on virtual experiences. We pushed ourselves beyond what we already knew to expand our offerings.

Here are a few ways we pivoted in 2020:

  • Full-stack case study – We put engaging copy and arresting design into motion, creating a scrollable, interactive web experience. These full-stack case studies take the digital web experience to the next level to tell classic customer stories.
  • Click-through demos – These click-through product demos help sellers demonstrate the value of technical products to potential customers.
  • Video from afar – Don’t have a videographer on call? No problem! We’ll send you a kit with all of the tools you need to create video content from the comfort of your home office.
  • Virtual keynotes and talk tracks – Our virtual keynotes wow remote audiences with exciting morph transitions and talk tracks that hold their attention. Even though we pivoted to design keynotes for smaller screens, they still had a big impact. Dance moves included.
  • Animations – Animations are blazing hot sauce in marketing today. They’re informative, persuasive, and add a spicy zing that keeps your company top of mind. Last year our animation practice grew 250 percent.
  • 2A culture – Even though an impromptu Teams call doesn’t quite replicate the water-cooler chat, we have connected with each other in different ways from our home offices. We’ve enjoyed virtual ice cream parties, happy hours, and even baby showers!

I’m not sure when life will go back to the way it was before COVID-19 but until then, we can help with your pivot. Let’s ride this wave of virtual experiences until we can collaborate in person again.

The entrepreneurial force is strong in Joe Belcher

02/04/2021

The entrepreneurial force is strong in Joe Belcher

By: Katy Nally

The entrepreneurial force is strong in Joe Belcher

Joe likes to get in at ground zero. He likes facing limitless possibilities and the ability to shape what’s yet to come—even if it means getting his hands dirty. His entrepreneurial streak has led him from marketing kids’ bunkbeds, to building a craft-brewing curriculum, to carving out a market for Tombolo Institute.

“I love coming in at the ground level—the spirit, the hope, the opportunity—there’s this energy where people are so willing to work together to achieve a broader goal.” —Joe Belcher

The spirit

Joe got his first taste of marketing straight out of college at Walt Disney in Los Angeles. But the organization didn’t deliver the startup pace of change that Joe’s entrepreneurial spirit craved, so he started looking around. At the time, Hollywood Video was in its infancy with huge potential to take off. Joe jumped right in, accumulated as many hats as they’d let him wear, and finally left his marketing position after the chain had established 3,000 stores nationwide.

The hope

By 2014, Joe had founded his own company, Joe Belcher Marketing, helping companies stand out with targeted marketing strategies and assets. When his professor friends in Portland reached out about a new venture to enable the craft beer scene, Joe couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Crafting A Strategy brought hope to the little guys—the ones driven by their passion for hops and obsession with the perfect pour—to compete against mass-production labels. With all the craft breweries popping up, the three founders saw the chance to educate brewers on the business side of things through an online curriculum. Joe helped launch the new company and led the brand and website creation.

The opportunity

Steeped in continuing education, Joe made his next move to join 2A as an embedded consultant for Bellevue College. 2A had led the brand development for the school’s tech-focused spin-off, Tombolo Institute, and Joe was ready to add some meat to its bare-bones framework. The marketing plan, the reporting, the outreach, the assets—Joe tackled it all. And then, the pandemic. While many industries made cutbacks, tech seemed to be immune. For those who were out of work, the opportunity through Tombolo presented new meaning. And Joe dove right in to energize his team for a new pivot.

The view is of a computer screen with a view of Microsoft teams

01/26/2021

Product demos—the greatest thing since sliced sourdough

By: Erin McCaul

I’m the proud new owner of a quirky old house on a 2-acre homestead, and I don’t know how folks fixed things before YouTube. Video walk-throughs have taught me how to swap outdated light switches, build raised beds, re-plumb a laundry tub, and use a maul to split firewood. I’ve even taken up bread baking. Unexpectedly, the do-it-yourself trend recently cropped up in my 9–5 life outside the farm. At 2A we’ve been crafting click-through product demos that help sellers demonstrate the value of technical products to potential customers.

Ramp up quickly

Like a YouTube tutorial, snackable product demos are a great way for marketers to help sales teams ramp up quickly. Taking the prep-work out of product walk-throughs, these clickable demos can help teams sell new tools, brush up on product functionalities, or onboard new hires.

Visually engage customers

With an intuitive and engaging design, customers will feel like they’re in the actual product rather than a demo. This realistic experience makes it easy for potential customers to understand what makes your solution so valuable.

Tell value-first stories

Our clickable demos pair screenshots with comment boxes to prompt sellers on talking points throughout the demo. Sellers also have the ability to toggle the commentary off, giving more seasoned team members some breathing room as they walk through the product.

We’ve got a process that takes the guesswork out of demos. After an hour-long interview to learn about your product, our team does the rest. We craft a demo story to capture the featured use cases, mock up designs, write a script, package it all up for development, and deliver ready-to-deploy code packages in eight–12 weeks.

Ready to help your teams and customers re-plumb a laundry tub, master your product? We can help!

Turning up the heat on wikis with technical animations

01/14/2021

Turning up the heat on wikis with technical animations

By: Kelly Schermer, Annie Wegrich

Turning up the heat on wikis with technical animations

Animations are blazing hot sauce in marketing today for good reason. They’re informative, persuasive, and add a spicy zing that keeps your company top of mind—in less than two minutes. With nearly two-thirds of customers preferring to watch a short video over reading a document (Wyzowl), animations offer the biggest bump for your brand. They have the potential to deliver a higher message density (think Scoville Heat Units) per second than other types of video by giving you full control over the auditory and visual elements as well as the interplay between the two.

A lot of animations today target the check-writing, decision-making customer at an organization. Typically, these animations stay at the organization or product level to help business leaders make the best choices for their teams. However, in the B2B technology space, staying at a higher level can sometimes mean burying the details of your main differentiator in technical wikis, docs, and blogs. In short, not giving it the marketing props it deserves.

This strategy can be troublesome as your offering gets vetted down the sales funnel. It forces developers and engineers, who are the key influencers and ultimate implementers of your solution, to slog through technical documents to find and unpack crucial nuggets. Who can blame them if they can’t find your buried differentiators?

A technical animation targets tech-minded influencers  

At 2A, we help B2B clients troubleshoot for these potential pitfalls by considering how a technical animation can be used to round out their marketing strategy. Technical animations target the developer/engineer influencers, homing in on a single feature or capability and describing both how it works and why the audience should care about it—in under two minutes. They can be especially useful if you want to:

Land a technical concept that’s not well understood and explain your product’s advantages

Demonstrate key features and controls you offer that exceed current industry capabilities

Investigate different scenarios and/or environments that might create new use cases

Our technical animations give you the old two-for-one punch by educating influencers about nuanced topics and promoting the value of your solution. If you’ve been relying on classic technical documents to help communicate what sets you apart, you could be missing a valuable chance to stir up more interest with a technical animation.

Spice up a technical story with us!

Emily Maryatt—webinar maestro extraordinaire!

01/07/2021

Emily Maryatt—webinar maestro extraordinaire!

By: Kelly Schermer

Emily Maryatt—webinar maestro extraordinaire!

In the best of times, writing up a spotlight blog means grabbing a drink with a colleague to dish on work. Seeing as we’re still reeling from 2020, let’s just pretend I’m sitting down with Emily Maryatt at her favorite hangout. Emily’s been with 2A for over a year working as an embedded consultant for Microsoft. She runs the MSFT research webinar series doing everything from branding, pitching, recording, hosting, and reporting. She calls it a marketing-PM-producer role all in one. While most of the presenters are engineers, scientists, and/or researchers under Microsoft Research, they often have guests join from other universities who are working on the same project.

Join me in my imaginary social outing. The scene opens on a small café table where a woman (Emily) sits alone sipping a drink, while a second mug waits in front of an empty seat across from her. Another woman (Kelly) enters and inaudible pleasantries are exchanged. As Kelly sits and unwraps her scarf, the interview begins (okay, this next part is all real).

Kelly: Hearing about your role gave me serious job envy! You must learn a ton of cool stuff! What’s been the most interesting project so far?

Emily: Oh gosh it’s endless. There have been so many topics from improving accessibility in image search, securing election fraud, importance of quantum cryptography, drones, and how you can manipulate data to tell almost any story you want. I think the data visualization webinar was my favorite because it was so applicable beyond our typical researcher audience. It felt like something almost anyone could watch. Then, we had just one last week on how an avatar’s virtual reality environment changes user behavior. 

Kelly: Wait! What does it mean? Is my avatar controlling me?

Emily: It means people tend to make decisions differently based on how much an avatar looks like a real person and what the field of view shows in VR. The less life like, the less they take it seriously. Also when it comes to pain, if a person feels connected to the avatar they are less likely to take risks or more afraid of someone hurting them, say stabbing them in the hand in the VR experience.

Kelly: Oh, that’s very cool, so there’s like a threshold of VR that triggers empathy?

Emily: Haha, I’m no expert, but it seems to imply that people have a different decision path depending on how they connect to the experience.

Kelly: I see that you’re a serious photographer too. How does your experience behind a camera help with your role on the webinar team?

​​Emily: I think having a creative eye always helps in marketing, especially branding. Since I have a lot of freedom in this job, it’s allowed me to choose the design aesthetic, and work with our graphic designer closely. I’m sure he really appreciates all my feedback. lol

Also, I deal with a lot of new clients in photography and am always working with them to achieve their goals and bond with them to make them feel comfortable. I take that same approach when I reach out to new researchers pitching webinars. Once they sign on, I walk them through the process and show them what they can expect while always trying to make it painless and fun. 

Kelly: I love that! You sound like a real asset to the webinar team!! Last question, if we could meet for a drink, where would we meet and what would you order and why?  

Emily: hmm let me think. Pre-COVID I’d probably say Percy’s in Ballard. They have a drink called the awaken one, and it’s the best dang drink around. It’s also just good music and a fun vibe.

Kelly: Let’s plan it for next time! Thanks so much for meeting up with me today. It’s been super interesting to learn about your work.

Emily: Of course! Thanks for the interview. Back to real life, I guess. haha

2A’s favorite albums of 2020

12/29/2020

2A’s favorite albums of 2020

By: Kyle Luikart + the 2A Team

2A’s favorite albums of 2020

The beginning of the year had me slipping out of the office between meetings, spending what should have been my lunch money on tunes from our neighbor, Everyday Music. Digging through crates of musty cardboard sleeves and jewel cases was a wonderful way to come up for air after being submerged in the world of cloud data platforms and AI/ML. But round about March everything changed, and I no longer found myself next to the record store between meetings. And my commute was axed, so things like FM radio, and podcasts silently slipped out of rotation. My listening habits changed, and I began looking forward to old-music Mondays and new-music Fridays, unintentionally leaning into music recommended to me by algorithms at a time when human interaction had taken a most extreme decline.

Creating marketing materials for machine learning puts an optimistic glow on what technology can do for us, but there’s a lot that goes into how an individual connects with music—time, place, receptiveness, emotion—that’s harder to train into a machine learning model. Just like when your favorite DJ plays a new song on the radio, a good friend suggests an artist they love, or you uncover a gem in a bin after sinking countless hours sifting, discovering new music can bring a tiny thrill of connection.

We hope you connect with some of 2A’s human-selected favorites of 2020.

Adrianne Lenker – Songs (folk/indie) – “Recorded in a tiny Western Massachusetts cabin, Lenker’s songs capture the solitude of 2020 without making it the primary subject. Dreamy finger-picking, gripping vocals, and poetic lyrics make the Big Thief front-woman’s solo album a must listen.” – Mike Lahoda

Bad Bunny – YHLQMDLG (Latin trap/reggaeton) – “Not necessarily what we did this year since the pandemic kept us in and far from concerts, however this album fueled my running in 2020 with its Latin beats and overstimulating electronic arrangements.” – Renato Agrella

Becky and the Birds – Trasslig (R&B/pop) – “Becky and the Birds track “Paris” transports me to a lighter, sexier place, which I needed a lot this year. And those magical, fairly-like vibes carry over to other tracks, building an album that is both moody and uplifting.” – Abby Breckenridge

Chromatics – Faded now (electronic/indie) – “There are so few new albums that I dove into this year, but Chromatics Faded Now is the album that stood out the most to me and made its way into my rotation of regular music pretty easily. Chromatics is such a distinct sound—club bass beats, heavy synth, echoing vocals—and this album follows that legacy. It did really make me miss shows and cocktail bars where this music bleeds seamlessly into the background. Here’s hopin’ for new places to listen to this in 2021.” – Clinton Bowman

Khruangbin – Mordechai (psychedelic/funk) — “This trippy album has been our hypnotic soundtrack for the last several months. It’s been a welcome space to spend time in.” – Daniel Schmeichler

Left at London – Transgender Street Legend, Vol. 2 (alternative/indie) – “Since 2020 had meant staying local, I’ve been listening to KEXP all day long and came across Left at London’s Transgender Street Legend, Vol. 2, which I’ve kept on repeat.” – Annie Unruh

LOOK MUM NO COMPUTER – These Songs are Obsolete (electronic/rock) – “A one-man band and DIY superstar, Sam Battle does some outlandish circuit bending work and skirts using traditional software based production tools to create unique and deftly performed synth rock.” – Kyle Luikart

Neil Cicierega – Mouth Dreams (mash up/electronic) – “Internet titan Neil Cicierega strikes again with his latest ‘Mouth’ mashup album. This fourth installment features remixing and reworking everything from classical orchestra pieces to pop music to commercial jingles to create bizarre, idiosyncratic, and comedic songs. Dreams of a baby wishing it could be a train, a super psycho demanding not to touch his bed, bells ringing on the moon, and rocking Ewoks form a surreal tapestry of sound that had me laughing and baffled in equal measure.” – Thad Allen

Run the Jewels – RTJ4 (hip hop/electronic) – “Killer Mike and El-P released ‘RTJ4’ two days early in response to the protests against police brutality after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. This year has been hard, and this album beautifully captures this very raw moment we’re all living.” – Erin McCaul

Taylor Swift – Folklore (indie folk/alternative) – “Like many, I underestimated Taylor Swift. She released not one but two new albums during a global pandemic. “Folklore” is layered and sharp, and it is the album I find myself asking Alexa to play again and again. Taylor’s voice as a true storyteller, musician and songwriter only gets better.” – Laurie Krisman

Yves Tumor – Heaven to a Tortured Mind (electronic/pop) – “Yves Tumor creates funky experimental pop that feels like a romantic fusion of Prince and David Bowie. When I want to escape from 2020 on a psychedelic audio spaceship, I put on this album.” – Nick Dwyer

Elevating Stories #6: Rodolfo Agrella

12/16/2020

Elevating Stories #6: Rodolfo Agrella

By: Daniel Schmeichler

Elevating Stories #6: Rodolfo Agrella

Image: Daniel Schmeichler

I knew I was going to enjoy Rodolfo Agrella’s Elevating Stories talk because of our common Venezuelan backgrounds and my appreciation for his work. But what surprised me was the pride I felt seeing him showcase so many home-country inspirations to our non-Venezuelan team. It made me nostalgic for the days when I had more reasons to think about architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva’s iconic Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV). And I realized that the accumulation of time and distance has left me with fewer opportunities to celebrate these cultural influences—with the countless other Venezuelans who have left, and with those who remain.

While telling us about some of the influences on his creative journey, Agrella gave us a quick tour of UCV, which he attended as an architecture student. He shared photographs of outdoor passageways edged by seemingly simple, perforated, cinderblock walls where the strong tropical sun passes through to create an astonishing play of light and shadow. Villanueva’s vision was that the walls would deliver a shifting environment for passersby. Agrella harvested the playful details created by the shadows as a jumping off point for his work.

In a small moment of happenstance, Agrella shared a portrait of Villanueva taken by a friend of mine—the celebrated Venezuelan photographer Paolo Gasparini. The photograph depicts the architect proudly standing in the concert hall he designed with Alexander Calder. What he didn’t show was a beautiful series of photographs Gasparini created decades earlier of the same shadow-and-light passageways at the university. I wrote to Agrella afterward to share the series, and of course he was familiar with them.

In some ways, we are still connected.

Scrolling bling for marketing

12/04/2020

Scrolling bling for marketing

By: Kelly Schermer

We’re coming into the holidays, and you know what that means—it’s time to add a little sparkle and get a little tinseled. After all, there’s nothing like sprucing up to get attention. You might say it works the same way in B2B technology marketing, although (spoiler alert) it’s highly unlikely that blow-up characters and garish lights will seal the deal for you. Not to worry, we’ve got something better to last the whole year through. 

At 2A, we’ve come up with a full-stack approach to lighting up your marketing assets. We put engaging copy and arresting design into motion, creating a scrollable, interactive web experience. You can full-stack just about any written content—from case studies to ebooks to you-name-it-we-can-do-it! It’s a surefire way to put a fresh spin on an asset that’s just too good to miss.  

Recently, we created a full-stack experience for WeaveWorks to add some twinkle to their GitOps ebook. While the content is the same as our PDF version, the experience appeals to a whole new audience and effectively extends the asset’s reach. 

“Removing the barrier of logging in, downloading and waiting for an email allows us to deliver our ebook content to prospects faster,” said Sonja Schweigert, VP of Marketing at Weaveworks. “Giving ours the full-stack treatment allows people the option of scrolling through the content from the convenience of their phone or tablet instead. It’s a nice change from a typical webpage asset, because we can meet the reader on the device and channel of their choice and still give them the full story. 2A Consulting not only wowed me with timely and superb execution but also delivered an outstanding content and design experience for our clients.”  

Curious about how the full-stack technology works? Erin, 2A’s head orchestrater behind the process, takes you behind the scenes of our case studies on the 2A website.  

Curious about how to make the full-stack experience work for you? Give us a ringle jingle!