Blog

Jane Dornemann

An avid explorer of both continents and consonants, Jane matches her passion for travel with her enthusiasm for words. A former journalist and PR pro, she brings the one-two punch of a well-written story and solid strategy.

Storyteller
Illustration of two figures looking at sunset landscape

03/16/2022

Are there really only two types of stories?

By Jane Dornemann

Illustration of two figures looking at sunset landscape

Image by Brandon Conboy

A few years ago, someone told me a theory about stories that has stuck with me ever since. He said that every story in existence fits into one of two buckets: a person goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town. With a little bit of loose interpretation, this holds true.

Think about it. Hansel and Gretel? A person goes on a journey. Rapunzel? A stranger comes to town. Or, we can get symbolic, too: the first Spiderman movie can arguably be that Peter Parker goes on a journey (an emotional and physical transformation) and a stranger comes to town (the Green Goblin). Look in the newspaper, even: COVID is the stranger who keeps coming to town, and Facebook is on a journey to bring Meta to every business.

When I first heard this theory, it was kind of a downer. Really? Of the infinite number of stories told and yet to be told, they all boil down to two? This seemed against the very nature of storytelling. A good storyteller is always looking for new ways to tell a tale, so imagine being told that’s not possible.

But I came to realize that just because a story can fit into one of two buckets doesn’t mean there aren’t new ways to tell them. Because another thing is true of good storytellers: We give in to convention when it serves us and we color outside the lines when it serves our audience.

And, the persistence of rule isn’t all bad. It keeps us from saying “Let’s eat, grandma” instead of “Let’s eat grandma,” after all. Maybe we keep returning to this particular journey-or-stranger convention because it has served us so well. We can color outside the lines through mediums, tones, word choice, and perspectives. We can write about the same journey in a million different ways; if we couldn’t, Barnes and Noble wouldn’t have an entire section devoted to travel writing.

At 2A we are all about adding colorful layers to this (seemingly inescapable) two-bucket theory—and our clients agree. In 2019, a stranger came to town in the form of Microsoft’s new SQL Server, so we turned it into a helpful case study. When the Seattle Public Library launched a summer reading program, we encouraged kids to go on a journey of their own. After AWS traveled along the West Coast to educate IT pros on the benefits of modernizing with containers, we were there to tell the tale.

When a client tells us a story, we think about the best approach to communicating it. For example, does a particular case study work best if told in chronological order (detailing the journey from challenge to solution), or is it better presented as a yin-yang scenario (things weren’t great until this strange new solution came to town, and now look!)

Another way to play around with the two-bucket truth is perspective. In another ebook, we demonstrated the value of a client’s solution by writing about it through the eyes of the user (a software developer) as he took on various challenges at work—a departure from the vendor-centric narrative.

Looking for other creative ways to tell your story? Don’t be a stranger, and come to our town (….or you can just shoot us an email).

Tammy, the air traffic controller of content

02/15/2022

Tammy, the air traffic controller of content

By Jane Dornemann

Tammy, the air traffic controller of content

Image by Thad Allen

Being a program manager is a lot like being an air traffic controller (but in this case, the planes are ebooks, animations, case studies, and decks). It can be a high-stress job that requires a laundry list of essential skills—communication, organization, and maintaining a cool-as-a-cucumber disposition chief among them.

That’s why we were so psyched that Tammy Monson joined 2A as our newest control tower extraordinaire, a.k.a. program manager. Her personal and professional experiences have provided Tammy plenty of opportunities to sharpen her skills.

There’s nothing Tammy can’t do

She started out as a first-grade teacher (how many of us are so brave?). Then she had children of her own—and THEN took on a new job while chairing events like charitable auctions on the side. Which is to say, Tammy walked (or ran) a pretty solid path to mastering the art of juggling it all.

For more than a decade she was a consultant who contracted with tech companies, primarily Microsoft. That meant each year she had to enter a new logistics-centered role with new processes and new team members. Sometimes it was business management or executive administration, other times it was strictly program management. Some people would bristle at having to relearn much of their job every year, but not Tammy. She saw the challenge as a growing experience.

“Doing something different each year made me realize I can learn anything if I put my mind to it. You start to realize you can do whatever you dig your heels into,” Tammy said.

Since that’s exactly how we feel at 2A, we hired her when her contract with Microsoft ended. It was a match made in technology-marketing heaven.

“2A is always trying new ways of doing things. The agency is all about discovering how to do better work, and that means not doing the same thing every time,” Tammy said. “How can we be more creative? How can we elevate our work? You can never ask a dumb question at 2A, and I love that freedom to be curious. It’s how we develop.”

Overseeing every day at 50,000 feet

In her day to day, Tammy is the control tower for our workflow management, operating with a 360-degree, bird’s-eye view of projects coming into and out of 2A. She’s the liaison that coordinates client work requests with consultant workflow management. She knows how to quickly learn the details of what each client needs, communicate that effectively to the team, set up meetings, and coordinate deadlines—conducting all the moving parts needed to ferry projects from initial request to a finished product.

When she’s not directing our projects’ take-offs and landings, she’s spending quality time with her college-aged daughters, binge watching her favorite TV shows, and exploring the great outdoors. It’s no surprise with her ability to take on challenges that she loves adventures. While the pandemic has paused those activities, she plays tourist in her hometown of Seattle, exploring Pike Place and taking long walks.

We’re so grateful that this talented woman has joined our group of high-flying marketers!

Part 2: Case studies are a marketer’s best friend

01/25/2022

Part 2: Case studies are a marketer’s best friend

By Jane Dornemann

Part 2: Case studies are a marketer’s best friend

Image by Brandon Conboy

Now that you know why it’s harder for brands to land news coverage that converts, I’ll explain how that adds value to content marketing investments—specifically, case studies.

There are several reasons why content marketing has always been a great investment. If nothing else, every dollar spent results in an asset produced, which unfortunately is not the case for our hardworking PR friends. They’ll agree that changes across the media landscape have amplified the ROI of brand journalism in recent years. Having worked in each of these arenas, I only see that return continuing to grow. I feel that way particularly about case studies. Here’s why:

Case studies have higher engagement rates. People love stories. We’ve loved them since the inception of language. And we really love stories to which we can relate. We consume case studies much like we do news articles, but unlike opening to some random story in a magazine, we’ve arrived at a case study because we were already on the path to it. People who are reading a case study didn’t happen upon it, they had somewhat directed themselves to it. This means they start with a significantly higher level of engagement, which translates to much higher conversions rates. If you choose to gate your content (releasing it in exchange for an email contact), you’ve just doubled your lead generation power (#1: adding to your sales team’s contact list, #2: converting with effective content).

Case studies are a lower-maintenance investment. Brand-generated assets like case studies offer businesses a unique advantage over news articles, namely via narrative control. If your PR team lands a pitch with a top-tier reporter, the prepping is intense; there’s much to do over what to say, what not to say, and practicing deflection and non-answers to potentially damaging questions. After a story runs, you may feel like it didn’t explain the product accurately, or it didn’t put your company in the great light you’d hoped for. It will live on the internet forever and there’s not much you can do about that. But with case studies, you decide where the focus is. You direct the story, you control the language, you can align it with key messaging.

Case studies can be multiplied. Unlike the one-and-done customer story you may get into a newspaper’s business section, case studies can regenerate—they can be repurposed for other forms of content or can be replicated to reach different customers. For example, a brand can take one product or service within its arsenal and create multiple case studies for it. For example, a cloud feature that helps hospitals better treat patients can also help truck part manufacturers save money. In this way, you can not only reach different niche audiences with the same story focus, but you can strategically adjust them to meet potential customers at different points in the sales funnel. The broader your case study portfolio, the more you have to multiply, from inclusion in ebooks to slides in your conference presentation deck. Or even—dare we dream—as customer references you can give to an interested journalist.

Case studies are socially confirming. Case studies can increase sales by 185 percent—in part due to the fact that case studies give people what they need to trust a business. 93 percent of customers read online reviews before purchasing a product, and a study by the Wharton School of Business at University of Pennsylvania showed that customers earned through referrals have an 18 percent lower churn rate. After 3 years, there’s an 82 percent chance they’ll still be your customers. In your personal life, if you had to select one house cleaning service to hire, you’re far more likely to go with the one your colleague has used and approved over an unknown service, right? Especially if they provide a real-life scenario (“Green Cleaners did a great job of turning my post-holiday disaster of a house into a sparkling home, and even took all my gift wrap to the recycle bin.”) Case studies provide that powerful, much needed social validation. At its core, a well written case study isn’t that much different from a passionately written, exuberant, I-finally-found-my-forever-hairstylist Yelp review.

Speaking of referrals, might I recommend 2A?

There are a million content agencies out there, but I took my love of quality storytelling and relatable content to only one of them: 2A. Our cadre of creatives come to work every day ready to produce the kind of captivating content that clients love and audiences remember—which I bet goes a lot further than following up with that uninterested journalist for the fifth time.

Part 1:  As newsrooms change, content marketing sees its heyday

01/19/2022

Part 1: As newsrooms change, content marketing sees its heyday

By Jane Dornemann

Part 1:  As newsrooms change, content marketing sees its heyday

Image by Brandon Conboy

This is the first post in a two-part series on how a changing media landscape is making content marketing more attractive for brands.

I was once a journalist who went into public relations, then back into journalism, then finally settled into content marketing here at 2A. For companies looking to spread the word about their work, I’ve got a hot tip: it’s time to rethink your strategy.

Last year, the Pew Research Center found newsroom employment has fallen 26 percent since 2008.

So, what does this mean for you, my dear brands? Well, ask your public relations teams. They’ll tell you that those new product announcements, amazing customer stories, and executive spotlights have become far more difficult to land in just about any media channel.

It isn’t just that newsrooms are cutting staff down to the bare bones, leaving fewer reporters to cover the same amount of news. The subject matter itself has also become more intense. The pandemic, visible effects of climate change, and political infighting all have relegated your product-centered business story into the shadows.

There’s more.

Many of those journalists cross over to public relations jobs, pitching their former colleagues on corporate stories. The result? A terrible 6:1 ratio of PR pros to journalists. Understandably, overwhelmed journalists are increasingly vitriolic about the volume of business-related pitches that flood their inboxes every day, decreasing the chances that your cool story will ever meet the journalist’s eyeballs, much less cultivate a headline. During my years in PR, I saw genuinely great brand stories—ones that I would have picked up in a second as a journalist, had I a leaner inbox—go unpublicized.

To generate revenue, bigger news outlets like Business Insider, Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times have gated all or some of their content behind paywalls. So even if you do land some killer coverage, a fair portion of your target audience won’t ever read past the headline. Additionally, PR teams have become fond of sweetening the pot for journalists by offering exclusives, meaning only one journalist can write about it first. That makes the story less desirable to other journalists, who usually don’t want to recycle a news story that another outlet already broke.

All the while, brands are paying hefty annual retainers to PR firms regardless of whether those dollars translate to media coverage or not.

The difficultly of attaining journalist-written coverage (known as earned media) has prompted brands to turn to owned media—brand-created assets like social media, blogs, case studies, and whitepapers.

But why? What makes content marketing so extra special all of a sudden? Find out in part 2 of this series.