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
hot air balloon with the title cloud cover vol. 4

10/05/2022

Is hybrid work just for lazy liars?

By Jane Dornemann

hot air balloon with the title cloud cover vol. 4

Image by Evan Aeschlimann

Wheelin’ and dealin’

  • AWS got a free pass to pahk its cah in hahvad yahd: In an alliance with Harvard, AWS is working to advance quantum networking research with a bunch of awesome nerds. The goal is to inform development of the quantum internet, which I hope involves the ability to grab real doughnuts through my computer screen, and other crucial-to-humanity innovations.
  • If you haven’t heard about this, I’d like to rent some space in that rock you’re living under, but: Adobe acquired design platform Figma for $20B. Adobe will likely bundle Figma with its Adobe Creative Suite, which includes its Creative Cloud that runs on Microsoft Azure.
  • Management consulting firm McKinsey has joined forces with Microsoft to create an integrated solution that will help companies move toward more sustainable operations.
    • Funny timing because Microsoft has announced it will help oilfield company Schlumberger make “data-driven decisions.” Chevron is also in on this partnership.
  • Our Future Health, a UK-based health research program, is going to use Azure for its initiatives around personalized disease detection and treatment.
  • Palo Alto Networks’ VM-Series Virtual Next-Gen Firewall is now available on Azure Marketplace for the infamous private 5G* network with multi-access edge compute.
  • In a historic move, Oracle has made its MySQL Heatwave database available on AWS, which sounds more like a hair crimping tool from the 80s than anything else.
  • AWS named OutSystems its software partner of the year, a “testament to the high-performance power of low-code.”

*4G, ok? It’s 4G right now. Not the creative “4G/5G” they pull in this article. You can’t be married if you’re still engaged.

Gossip (for nerds)

  • Former Microsoft Azure IoT partner Bert Van Hoof (love the name) is now president AND CEO (greedy, Bert, greedy!) of Willow, a digital twinning proptech firm. Microsoft Teams VP Bhrighu Sareen has moved to software startup Highspot.
    • Some of the Microsoft execs who are sticking around will be richly rewarded with high-stakes projects they better not blow. How do we know this? My fave gossip source: leaked documents.
  • Microsoft announced that it will not label fake news on social media as false to avoid any claims of censorship. So, you know, if you want to believe that Joe Biden is the 46th president and he’s 79 years old and 4+6+7+9=26 and 2+6=8 and it’s 2022 so 2+0+2+2 is 6 and…well well well look at that, another 6. You know what 3 sixes are? That’s right. SATAN.
  • There’s more research out of Microsoft Viva that dishes all the dirt on the workplace, such as: 85% of employers don’t believe you’re being more productive in your hybrid work setup, you lazy liars. How can companies fix it? By buying Viva with its new enhanced capabilities.
  • A communications watchdog in the UK has opened an investigation into the market domination of AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. The three own 72% of European cloud spend.
  • Security, reliability, and performance improvement company Cloudflare has AWS in its sights. Cloudflare is pulling from the AWS playbook, wooing startups by connecting them with VC firms looking to invest in Cloudflare users. Weird flex, but OK. “We’re not ‘stealing’…we’re earning it,” said the Cloudflare CEO, which is the same argument I’ve heard millionaires make about tax evasion through Panamanian bank accounts.
    • Cloud storage company Wasabi Technologies is also set to compete with AWS (psshh sure) after a $250M investment.
  • The secrets to AWS’ growth strategy? APAC/Japan expansion and telco partnerships—as reflected in its investment in India and recent partnership with Sateliot, a satellite telecoms operator, to build a cloud-native 5G service.

New stuff

  • Microsoft released a bunch of new security features for Windows 11, emphasizing Zero Trust. Their differentiator? A focus on hardware-based protection.
    • They also released some other features for Windows 11, which is growing in popularity now that support for Windows 10—which accounts for 72% of its Windows users—ends in 2025.
  • In a bid to compete with AWS’ custom Graviton systems, Microsoft has unveiled its family of Azure VMs running on Ampere Arm-based processors. Like every family, these VMs pick fights with each other when bored and “borrow” clothes without asking.
  • AWS Glue is great if you don’t sniff it, especially now that it supports a bunch of stuff that will take me 100 years to understand.
  • New Relic has some new blood after poaching some AWS and Salesforce execs.
    • To get even, AWS and Salesforce are not inviting New Relic to their strategic expansion party, which will be Buzz Lightyear-themed. An integration between Amazon SageMaker and the Salesforce platform will allow mutual customers to easily build AI models.
    • To make nice, New Relic announced support for Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) Flow Logs.
  • AWS has established a startup accelerator for sustainable cities. Smart infrastructure entrepreneurs will be “rewarded” with $10k in cloud credits, some Snickers bars, and other things that don’t actually pay the rent.
  • AWS has also created the brand new AWS Smart City competency, largely intended to help the public sector. AWS Partners can get this competency in part by sharing customer case studies.
  • AWS can’t get enough smart stuff—it has also launched AWS IoT FleetWise for general availability. Like an overly possessive boyfriend, the service collects vehicle data from built-in sensors.
  • AWS customers can now deploy Amazon EKS clusters on AWS Outposts, making AWS even more Kubernetes-friendly.

Ma’am, I’m going to have to call security

  • Researchers found a vulnerability that would allow malicious actors who have Microsoft file system access to steal credentials from Teams users. This impacts all Government Community Cloud Desktop Teams customers, including defense contractors and infrastructure operators.
  • The storytelling team doesn’t have to worry about a hacker “mimicking users while online” because as soon as they see that our chat is full of debates about commas and citations, they will peace out faster than you can say, “Dirimens copulatio” (look it up!).
  • Even with all this, analysts over at Seeking Alpha say Teams is overtaking Zoom in the corporate world.
  • Another security firm found ways to exploit flaws in Azure Active Directory. The good news is that one of the crypters is named DarkTortilla, which sounds like a super cool nightclub residing in a strip mall that I’d go to. Because I go to those.

World domination

  • People who are glad they weren’t on Microsoft’s M&A legal team this past year? Me. Microsoft Teams is merging with Deutsche Telekom’s mobile network, dubbed “Mobile für Microsoft Teams” and you HAVE to say it in an angry scary German accent or else it means something else.
  • More München! German open-source software company SUSE has entered into a multi-year collaboration with AWS to offer migrations acceleration programs for customers moving from SAP to AWS.
  • Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” stores are set to expand their merchandise, and new ones recently opened in Dallas-Fort Worth and DC airports. After 2A worked on the latest promo video for Just Walk Out at Lumen Field, Amazon has decided to make our very own Guy Schoonmaker their mascot. Because who doesn’t want a super nice dude greeting you on your milk-and-bread run?
  • AWS had so much fun at DarkTortilla with us that it has decided to expand its presence in Mexico starting in 2023. Aside from opening a few offices in various Mexican cities, it will construct a new Local Zone in Querétaro, considered the country’s “third most beautiful city.”
Image of a hot air balloon with the words cloud cover vol. 2

09/14/2022

Cloud cover Vol. 2

By Jane Dornemann

Image of a hot air balloon with the words cloud cover vol. 2

Image by Evan Aeschlimann

As a marketing agency focused on cloud technology, 2A stays on top of industry developments.

Every few weeks we scour the internet for the latest on AWS and Microsoft—and now we’re bringing that news to you. But in typical 2A style, we’re we’ve made it an entertaining read.


Wheelin’ and dealin

  • AWS has been going after healthcare and life sciences (HCLS) hard (2A has helped them write toward their dreams). It’s working—a KLAS survey shows that while Microsoft is still the industry’s preferred platform, AWS is nipping at its calloused heels.
    • Since we’re on the topic of hijacking your DNA to make human copies of you in a matrix-like plastic uterus that harvests organs for the rich, AWS wants you to know that 23andMe is doing ANYTHING BUT WHAT I JUST MENTIONED using AWS high-performance computing.
    • And for hospitals that want to deploy Epic EHR on AWS, Sapphire Health and Cloudticity are here to guide the way.
  • I’m rubber and you’re glue and everything I say bounces off me and sticks to you…unless you’re Bridgestone, a global leader in tires and rubber building, which has partnered with AWS to move to the cloud, launch new customer solutions, and become more sustainable (rubber factories do scream sustainability).
  • Malls are dead, which in America means one less place to find yourself in a shooting. But for AWS, it means so much more. Amazon will shift tech teams for its physical consumer stores (like Just Walk Out…or Run Out if there’s a shooting) to its cloud division. The goal is to use their experience with shootings retail to expand the company’s retail technology play.
  • Microsoft has selected Siemens to design a prototype of some semiconductor stuff, part of a Department of Defense initiative. It’s top secret except for this widely distributed press release about it.

World domination

  • A second AWS region in the Middle East is munjaz! It’s located in the UAE, so it’s made of pure gold and is encrusted in diamonds.
    • Then there are the new Edge locations in two Vietnamese cities, good luck to the employees who have to cross the street to get there, iykyk
    • Finally, should one set up a data center in the next war zone? We’ll see.
  • Read this in Taika Waititi’s voice: Auckland Transportation is moving to Microsoft Azure.

Gossip (for nerds)

  • Someone’s being a sore loser about a geospatial intelligence contract, MICROSOFT. The CIA had awarded AWS a $1 billion task order (not gonna pretend to know what that is) to do some super spy shiz. Microsoft is making several complaints, including that the agency didn’t properly justify a competition exception. Sometimes our own medicine be tasting bitter.
  • VMware employees describe “aggressive” recruiter outreach from AWS following Broadcom’s announcement that it will acquire VMware. (Imagines email titled, You WILL work for us!)
  • In the digital equivalent of paying farmers to burn crops, Microsoft told Brazilian regulators that Sony is paying developers not to add content to the Xbox Game Pass. Microsoft’s counter-strategy? Giving Xbox customers free dogs*. Because that will absolutely end well. Gamers don’t even remember to feed themselves! Or bathe.
  • Leaked document time! I love leaked documents unless they are sitting on a hideous carpet at Mar-a-Lago. In short: Microsoft is sick of all the success that AWS has had with giant government contracts, and it’s recruiting Google and Oracle to stop it. The plan? Pushing a “multi-cloud or bust” narrative.
  • It’s been a decade since Microsoft embarked on its CloudOptimal program, which aims to move Office 365 and Microsoft 365 services to Azure. Still not done. This is like when I tell my husband I’ll be ready in 5 minutes. Sure, 5 minutes. 5 minutes on Venus, maybe.

New stuff

  • WE ALL LOVE CHIME SO MUCH, especially those of us who need to restart our computers after using it so we’re not inexplicably muted on Teams all day. Now we can love Chime even more because AWS is live streaming capabilities. Which means nobody has to miss that Loverboy concert at the Jiffy Lube if they don’t want to.
  • Snowflake, don’t melt with all that hot revenue—80% of your users want to run you on AWS (then Microsoft and then…look at that, Google comes third. Maybe Google ranks first at coming third?).
  • More targeted ads, same false sense of privacy? That’s what’s coming with Bastion, a new AWS service that lets companies pool data to better target existing and potential customers.
  • Amazon is previewing AWS Wickr, a managed service that helps businesses and governments meet security requirements using data encryption. So, they get privacy but we get pooled data. Seems fair.
  • In capitalism’s never-ending strategy to manufacture scarcity, corporations can now have their own 5G networks SO GET YOUR OWN. AWS has launched a new service to help companies deploy these private 5G networks, but here is my favorite part: it’s actually only 4G LTE. It’s all in the marketing baby, just put a little asterisk next to 5G* and make the notation impossible to find and voila, you got yourself a private 5G network.
  • 2A’s animation was shown at AWS Storage Day event, where the cloud provider announced added features for Amazon Elastic Block Storage to boost data resiliency.
  • HoloLens wasn’t the massive hit Microsoft expected it to be on the consumer market, so execs were like, who spends a ton of money on crap? Oh, right, the military! Let’s tweak these for carnage, they said. So now $21.9 billion of your tax dollars are going to “high-tech combat goggles.” Phew, good thing none of that money is going to clean drinking water!
  • VMware is strengthening its collaboration with Microsoft by issuing several new updates to its Azure VMware Solution. Let’s hope the VMware staff working on this aren’t ether-ragged and bagged by AWS human resources.
  • Datadog now offers its monitoring and security platform for Microsoft SQL and Azure.
  • It’s a week for Teams news. Barclays has taken a shine to Microsoft’s messaging about how great Teams is and has deployed it as the bank’s preferred collaboration platform worldwide.
    • Also, Azure Communication Services now integrates with/supports Microsoft Teams.
  • Azure Managed Grafana is now generally available. It helps cloud users detect tech issues in their infrastructure.

Ma’am, I’m going to have to call security

  • The ease with which one can build and host a webpage on AWS has backfired, making it a popular avenue for phishing attacks, according to a report from Avanan. How they do it is quite interesting, particularly if you are preparing to be tapped by Anonymous, like myself and our editorial lead, Forsyth.
  • Those evil phisherman better watch out, though, ‘cause AWS and Splunk and some other important peeps are developing the Open Cybersecurity Schema Framework. Among other things, it’s meant to support organizations in de-complicating data management, a crucial aspect of security.
  • Microsoft rolled out Azure MFA Server Migration Utility, a tool specifically for migration security…but once you’re there, MFA may not be able to save you from Russia.
  • In addition to Russia, there’s also good ‘ole American complacency. Why have one vulnerability when you can have 121? And why patch them when you can….not patch them?  In a recent Patch Tuesday, Microsoft addressed a zero-day vulnerability dubbed “DogWalk,” a.k.a. the thing gamers won’t do with their free dogs. It was discovered like a million Tuesdays ago in 2020 but was “meh’d” and then the U.S. government had to issue a mandatory update.
  • And then Microsoft employees were like, we can play hardball Uncle Sam….catch this.

*parody news site

image of a hot air balloon with the words cloud cover vol. 1

08/11/2022

Your Teams went from green to yellow while you read this

By Jane Dornemann

image of a hot air balloon with the words cloud cover vol. 1

Image by Evan Aeschlimann

As a marketing agency focused on cloud technology, 2A stays on top of industry developments.

Every few weeks we scour the internet for the latest on AWS and Microsoft—and now we’re bringing that news to you. But in typical 2A style, we’re we’ve made it an entertaining read.

AWS

  • Maybe flying Delta won’t feel like the eighth circle of hell now that the carrier has chosen AWS as its cloud provider. Yes—believe it—a company that spends most of its time in the clouds has not yet moved to the cloud.
  • AWS Cloud WAN is now generally available. It’s a managed service that simplifies global network operations by unifying environments and connecting on-premises data centers, colocation facilities, branch offices, and AWS cloud regions. Finally! The only reason I’m still on this spinning rock is because I refused to die until this happened.
  • As Uber Eats knows, it’s not modern if it requires effort, which is why AWS unveiled three new analytics offerings for serverless that removes a lot of configuration and management work. AWS took a note from Delta’s playbook with the “without worrying about capacity planning” part.
    • About that lack of effort: 68% of organizations plan to rely more on AWS managed services in the next year. Skills shortage is one reason. Or maybe Kim Kardashian is right, maybe “nobody wants to work these days” was the wisest thing ever to leave her chemically enhanced lips as she cattle prodded the children making SKIMS in a Bangladeshi sweatshop. But it’s unlikely.
  • In a revamp of its Security Competency program, AWS worked with security experts to create 8 categories that correspond with customers’ most in-need security capabilities.
  • Procore, which sounds more like an ab workout machine than a construction software company, is using AWS IoT TwinMaker to help customers create digital twins for buildings, factories, industrial equipment, and production lines. Waiting on my digital twin of Miles Teller from Top Gun.
  • Siemens has joined the AWS Partner Network with its MDR industrial cybersecurity solution now on Marketplace. 2A saw this one coming from miles away when we did a case study on Siemens’ role in propelling (get it?) Amazon Prime Air’s drone design.
  • Microsoft isn’t the only cloud provider moving into the world of video games—Riot Games has chosen AWS AI, ML, and deep learning to power its esports content delivery for games like League of Legends, which is played exclusively by people with severe rage management issues (source: gamer husband).
    • Perhaps taking another cue from Microsoft, a TechRepublic writer thinks AWS is shifting some weight to open-source projects. And wouldntchaknowit, they just released Cloudscape Design System as open source on GitHub.
  • Want more drama than my 9-year-old’s Pokemon card trading exploits at summer camp? Look no further than this Linkedin post, where an AWS SVP calls out Microsoft’s alleged superficial licensing practice changes to appease the European Commission. TechRadar even reported on it.
  • You know when you intro one of your besties to your other bestie and they become…besties? We feel that now that Fortinet has launched its cloud-native protection service on AWS. Fortinet will also be the launch partner for Amazon Guard Duty Malware Protection. Just don’t have a sleepover without us, OK?
  • After sending its Snowcone into space last month, AWS just can’t get enough of that star stuff—it will help Japanese space tech developer Warpspace to develop a satellite communication relay network service. (Memories of Rick Moranis ordering Ludicrous speed, for those of us over 40.)
  • President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenksyy says Slava AWS and Microsoft, handing over a peace prize to the cloud providers for their efforts in remaining on “the light side of digital.” Find out what they did here. Google got the prize in May.
  • Once again, 2A is the sole reason why Amazon’s earnings call was so hot for cloud—AWS revenue rose 33%, beyond analyst expectations.
  • Cybersecurity firm Trend Micro wants you to know that it achieved AWS Healthcare Competency status. Sorry, I left my thanks for participating prize for you at home, Trend Micro.
  • AWS continues to set its sights on startups and is investing in programs to help them scale—like SaaS Central, an “intensive five-week program.” First stop: India.
  • Boring hyper-technical stuff you may not care about unless you dream in Ruby on Rails:
    • The people want more serverless, and we shall give it to them! AWS has enhanced its Step Function with Function Workflow Collections, which allows users to create easier workflows.
    • I SAID MORE SERVERLESS: AWS has made Lambda Powertools TypeScript generally available. It helps developers follow best practices because nobody wants to work these days.
    • AWS has fixed Amazon Redshift classic resize so that clusters stay online. So, if you ever want to resize your clusters when restoring from a snapshot, well, now you can.

Microsoft

  • Canada welcomes its first cloud-only bank, Equitable Bank, thanks to a “strategic acceleration” using Microsoft Azure. Sounds like something I’d say to get out of a speeding ticket.
  • Microsoft will expand its relationship with space companies via its Azure Space Partner Community. There’s also this puff piece on Azure Space. How many martinis did Microsoft PR buy this reporter over lunch? Probably several. And that’s OK because martinis make us more pleasant people sometimes.
  • Keeping its eyes on the skies, Microsoft has launched Project AirSim, a new platform running on Azure that builds, trains, and tests autonomous aircraft using simulation.
  • “BUT WAIT!” someone at Microsoft said—we can’t conquer sky and space until we conquer the Earth, and we can do that with a Cloud for Sovereignty because governance is all the rage these days.
  • Less dazzling news from Inspire 2022: the preview of the upcoming update to Azure Stack HCI 22H2I as well as Azure Remote Support and Marketplace.
  • While the Microsoft/Activision deal is likely to go through in the U.S. (and Microsoft’s lawyers try and fail to wash those sweat stains out of their clothes), it still has to fight the final boss: The United Kingdom.
  • If AWS can’t give me a digital twin of Miles Teller, I bet Microsoft can—but only after it joins its digital twin platform with Cosmo Tech’s to help cloud customers monitor their emissions in real time, which is the plan.
  • For a few precious hours, Teams users around the world didn’t have to worry about that green dot turning to yellow just because they looked away for two whole seconds. It was because of a software update. Someone buy that developer some martinis!
  • Microsoft reported double-digit quarterly revenue growth, and Azure revenues are up 40% from last year. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’ve been doing more work for them and then its stock goes up. I know this because I had to take macroeconomics twice in high school—once during junior year, and again in summer school after I failed the final. So, trust me, I KNOW.
  • Network infrastructure provider Commscope has deployed a solution with Azure to help factories adopt agile practices. Pretty sure Kim Kardashian knows a factory that might want it.
  • Microsoft Azure has joined Intel’s Foundry Services Cloud Alliance as an inaugural member. Good timing with the House having recently passed a billed to rev up U.S. semiconductor manufacturing.
  • AWS went heavy on the gas with contact center tools, and Microsoft got on that like white on rice with its new Digital Contact Center Platform.
  • Anyone who has binge-watched a show on Netflix will understand that sometimes we need somebody to save us from ourselves—and that somebody is Microsoft. The cloud provider will power Netflix’s first ad-supported subscription offering. I am not going to begin my fifth consecutive hour of Ozarks if I have to watch another Tide commercial, so this is a good thing.
  • But not everybody agrees. This dude says Microsoft isn’t saving me from insufficient sleep but rather saving Netflix from certain doom—and that Microsoft may have plans for an eventual buyout.
  • Microsoft is joining the Zero Trust love pile, with Windows 11 forcing its trust issues on user hardware.
  • Oracle and Microsoft announced the general availability of Oracle Database Service for Microsoft Azure.
  • The public preview of the updated Management Center is out.
  • What do SMBs really want? Microsoft will tell you. It’s also expanded its partnership with Sage, which sells operational software to SMBs, and will integrate products.
  • Microsoft fixed 32 vulnerabilities in the Azure Site Recovery Suite, 30 of which allowed privilege escalation.
  • Telstra, one of Australia’s leading telecom and tech companies, has entered a five-year deal with Microsoft, one of the largest telecom partnerships to date for the cloud provider. This is great for anyone who had plans to ring a Kangaroo in the outback.
    • Microsoft must love it down unda’ following another Aussie deal. Leading Australian agribusiness Elders has selected Microsoft Dynamics 365 to…grow corn…and stuff. I dunno, TLDR.
decorative image

06/22/2022

What does it take to construct a talk track for Microsoft Build?

By Jane Dornemann

decorative image

Image by Rachel Adams

Talk track
/tôk trak/
noun: A script that accompanies a presentation deck or video.

Why create a talk track if you really know your stuff? In the case of this year’s big Microsoft Build event, you create a talk track because presenters have a lot of information to cover and they’re on the clock. When they’re on stage presenting to hundreds of thousands of people, having a track talk helps them focus on their presence instead of trying to recall a list of details in a limited amount of time.

Building a talk track isn’t as simple as churning out a few bullet points—it’s more like constructing a house. The presenter and the writer begin with a few ideas, and through an iterative and highly collaborative process, those ideas become a final presentation.

2A has written executive talk tracks over the last few years, which means we know a thing or two about going from the blueprint to the front door. There are four main parts of the Building process (get it 😉).

#1 Lay the foundation. First, you’ll need to determine which comes first: the talk track or the visual presentation. Either you’re building a talk track to align with a finished presentation, or you’re designing the presentation around a talk track. This is a personal preference and one that may be influenced by available resources. And because the talk track and presentation must be timed to match each other, it’s important they aren’t built independently.

#2 Put in windows so the audience can really see the person. When presenters read a talk track that doesn’t sound like them, that disconnect is going to come across to the audience. Writers should have several calls with speakers to get a strong sense of their voice and personality. What tones do they naturally use? Are they fast talkers (this will affect timing, too!)? The more a writer can adopt the speaker’s style, the more naturally the presenter will deliver the track. You’ll also want to consider the subject knowledge of the presenter versus the knowledge of the audience—sometimes you’ll need to help the speaker translate what they know to a more general audience.

#3 Make renovations. A first draft will never be the end, so be flexible. Expect revisions depending on content—you may need to re-order information, add details, or cut down on certain sections. Through iterations, you need to ensure you’re staying within the time limit, that the track still aligns with the presentation, and that there’s room for introductions and conclusions.

#4 Decorate. Add small details for big effects. Don’t underestimate transitions—not just openings, closings, and moving the audience into the next part of the presentation, but also little transitions between ideas within the same subject. Additions like “well,” “so,” and “now let’s talk about” make for a much more natural delivery.

Do you need an expertly written talk track? Whether it’s for a sales pitch or a big company event, 2A can help!

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.