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Katy Nally

Katy is a digger, of information and earth. It just depends if her clients want an eBook or some endive. She helps companies across industries find their voices and speak the language of their audience. She’s also fluent in tomatoes.

Sr Storyteller | LinkedIn
Meet Brandon, our very own Picasso of PowerPoint

06/09/2021

Meet Brandon, our very own Picasso of PowerPoint

By Katy Nally

Meet Brandon, our very own Picasso of PowerPoint

Image by Guangyi Li

What do Hawaii, Gears of War, and PowerPoint all have in common? They’ve shaped Brandon Conboy into the designer he is today.

Though he’s a Seattle native, Brandon grew up with close ties to both Hawaii and Guam. As a kid, he flew to Oahu several times each year to visit his grandparents. It’s where he learned to keep a mellow head— as his dad calls it—and the value of being calm and collected. That cool, island attitude would come in handy as Brandon carved out his fast-paced, multi-faceted design career.

At Washington State University, Brandon earned his first bachelor’s degree, this one in fine arts, allowing him to continue dabbling in all things design—from photography to illustration. When he graduated, Brandon landed a dream gig doing quality control for the Xbox game Gears of War. As a game tester, he honed his eye for graphical issues like incorrect textures in backgrounds. While the job satisfied his love of video games, it didn’t push his design skills as much as he had hoped.

Brandon made the courageous move to return to WSU for a second bachelor’s degree—this time in digital technology and culture. He even asked the dean to overload his schedule so he could graduate faster. After graduation, Brandon landed at Silver Fox and got his first glimpse into the world of corporate presentations.

When his colleague—who went on to design Satya Nadella’s presentations—showed him the possibilities of PowerPoint, “it was like watching someone play piano,” he said. In no time, his own PowerPoint skills went from zero to 60, as he provided round-the-clock design support at Microsoft conferences. Brandon loved the life of an event-bound designer, traveling once a month to work on-site and cashing in on perks like front-row seats to see Macklemore.

By the time he reached 2A, Brandon was a PowerPoint pro with a sharp eye for design and the ability to stay cool while juggling multiple projects. When asked what are his favorite kinds of assets to work on, Brandon reflects, “I enjoy projects that allow me to create custom graphics, such as key art and cover images; decks and blog posts give me a chance to create something interesting.”

These days, you can find Brandon lending his creative eye to projects ranging from everything to social cards and eBooks as well as PowerPoint and blog posts. Looking for a design experience that brings calm to the chaotic, look no further than Brandon Conboy!

Cats off to a new kind of eBook

04/28/2021

Cats off to a new kind of eBook

By Katy Nally

Cats off to a new kind of eBook

Image by Brandon Conboy

Welcome to the feral world of eBooks—where even the way you write “eBook” can get catty (is it ebook, Ebook, e-book, or eBook?!) First off, many clients confuse eBooks with whitepapers. The former delivers a high-level taste of your product while the latter provides a technical deep dive. And once you finally sort out the deliverable you want, there are many ways to get eBooks wrong, leaving customers disappointed that they handed over their email addresses for a supposedly juicy asset.

The biggest mistake? Content that sends readers straight into a cat nap. They’re longwinded duds. The main points may be there, but readers had to slog through 20 pages to find them. And the next biggest mistake? The story doesn’t connect to the reader’s needs. Without relevant context as to why someone should care, m-architecture diagrams—no matter how beautiful—just won’t land.

Our eBook breakthrough: informative ≠ boring

eBooks can be exciting! Ours take you on big cat adventures and still land the main points. Fancy Feast that! For instance, in our eBook about a NoSQL database, we thought, how about a cat hotel to explain the nuances across database models and entice the audience to dig in—right meow!

While we could write cat puns all day long, for an eBook to land, it has to be built on a solid framework.

Our eBooks are like catnip because:

  • We break down tough concepts: Technology is complicated, but your audience shouldn’t need a PhD to understand how your product works. We break down the technical concepts—and sometimes bring in the purrfect metaphor—so anyone can understand how it works.
  • We grow the flow: There’s always more to the story than just product specs. We keep readers engaged with a narrative that’s easy to follow and doesn’t break the flow with a million marketing benefits or buzzword soup.
  • We put it in context: If the audience doesn’t know why they should care, then a marketer somewhere should be fired. We frame the benefits of your product in a way that resonates with the reader.

So how about an eBook as thrilling as a laser pointer darting along the floor?

Take the leap and land safely with 2A.

Image of Mike in a neon blue and yellow suit next to a license play that says

03/18/2021

Mike—the fresh prince of marketing

By Katy Nally

Image of Mike in a neon blue and yellow suit next to a license play that says

Image by Thad Allen

I always feel a certain kinship with a fellow East Coaster. And beyond that, Mike Lahoda and I both arrived in Seattle—sight unseen—after cultivating an appreciation for the West Coast mostly through pop culture and 90s TV shows. So, in the spirit of our childhood understanding of the sunnier side of the country, I bring you this employee spotlight about Mike, our newest consultant, entirely based off the theme song to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. (Many thanks to Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff for this 1992 track.)

Now this is a story, all about how
Mike came to Seattle and made us say “wow”
I’d like to take a minute, so sit right there
I’ll tell you how he became a marketing ace—it’s rare!

In southern New Jersey, born and raised
In the suburbs is where he spent most of his days
Chillin out, biking, walkin to school
While chasin his friends, and actin real cool
When he got an idea, “Let’s do some good”
He started planning ways to help his neighborhood
He studied philosophy and got his bike in gear
Then he moved to Seattle to start tutoring for City Year

The mountains were calling, and when they came near
Mike was ready to climb—he had no fear
If anything they proved he could take on a dare
And he thought, “What’s next—nonprofits? You got it, I’m there”

Mike climbed up through the ranks at a homebuilding biz
His MBA classes made him a marketing whiz
But he still wanted more—to grow with a team
So he joined 2A
now he’s living the dream

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.

Rachel’s hot designs thaw the Seattle freeze

10/15/2020

Rachel’s hot designs thaw the Seattle freeze

By Katy Nally

Rachel’s hot designs thaw the Seattle freeze

She might not wear flannel (all the time) and has more warm than freeze, but Rachel is firmly rooted in her adoptive city of Seattle. In a classic, Meg-Ryan plot twist, Rachel gave up her fast-paced, New-York-City job as design director at Pearhead to move across the country for love. But just because she’s made a new home in the Emerald City, doesn’t mean she’s abandoned all that she learned in the Big Apple.

From intern to director

As soon as Rachel graduated from the University of Miami—where she double majored in creative advertising and graphic design—she set her sights on New York City. Something about the hustle of the Big Apple pulled her in. Against her mom’s apprehension, she answered a job listing on Craigslist for a design internship, then traded in her sandy beaches for skyscrapers. The small startup gave her lots of room to grow. Within six years she was directing a team of product designers and visiting manufacturers in China to talk shop.

She became that high-rise creative

The career she envisioned for herself had come true. She was leading a creative team, exercising her design skills, and breathing in the artistry of the city. From Pearhead’s office in Brooklyn, she developed her love of typography and print, finding inspiration from Pentagram’s Paula Scher and discovering new ways to use words as design elements.

When she decided to leave New York, Rachel was ready to give up the fast-paced hustle of the city. But she still held on to her vision of working at a creative agency. At 2A, she found her New-York-City equivalent, happily trading in her view of the East River for a peek at the Puget Sound. Rachel was excited to dig in to design for the tech industry, and work with big-name clients like AWS and Microsoft. As a senior designer, she’s brought invaluable efficiencies to the creative process and redefined 2A’s approach to ebooks.  

Soaking up all Seattle has to offer

Rachel’s inner flower child fit in perfectly with the Seattle backdrop of farmers’ markets, weekend water floats, and free-for-all blackberries. Even she acknowledges how she’s “leaned in” to Seattle-themed hobbies, from fawning over fresh-cut dahlias to paddle boarding on Lake Union. At this rate, she’s probably hunting for a Tom-Hanks-style houseboat.

Donations on the half shell

09/24/2020

Donations on the half shell

By Katy Nally

I find myself saying “Damn you 2020!” more frequently the closer we get to wrapping this dumpster fire of a year. So many bright spots were snuffed out by 2020, including dozens of events that ended up on the chopping block. For 2A, we skipped our annual summer party, which is normally a non-stop, oyster-and-champagne-fueled mingle-thon.

But fortunately, some good came from canceling our summer event. Turns out 2020 can’t take away our ability to support organizations in our community who do tremendous work. We polled the office and donated to a shortlist of nonprofits, including:

Friends of Youth
Atlantic Street Center
Mary’s Place
Africatown Community Land Trust
Mockingbird Society
Choose 180

We’re bummed our summer party was nixed, but we’re glad to see our donations make the rounds—even if we can’t.

Here’s looking at you, 2021!

Amazing case studies start with radio-worthy interviews

07/09/2020

Amazing case studies start with radio-worthy interviews

By Katy Nally

Amazing case studies start with radio-worthy interviews

Terry Gross could interview a ham sandwich and I’d still sit enrapt on the edge of my seat. Terry is an interview master, no doubt because she’s been doing it for 47 years. On her show, Fresh Air, she’s interviewed presidents, journalists, authors, musicians, you name it. If I’m lucky enough to be cooking dinner when her show is on, it’s a good day—especially now that COVID-19 has squashed my entertainment plans. 

Lately (let’s just say I’ve had more time for the radio) I’ve paid special attention to how Terry conducts her interviews, hoping to garner some wisdom I can apply to my own day job. As a writer for a marketing agency, I often interview customers or partners and use their insights to build out case studies. My goal is always to channel my inner Terry and stick to these best practices that earned her a black belt in asking questions.  

Construct a narrative arc with questions 

This isn’t just Terry’s trick for engaging radio. Organizing your questions into a beginning, middle, and end will help warm up the interviewee to feel more comfortable and make it easier for them to follow your thought process. The narrative arc for case studies is pretty straightforward—situation, challenge, solution, results—and that can serve as the framework for your questions. That being said, don’t be afraid to go off script and ask follow-up questions that are outside your conversation guide. If it seems like a juicy thread to pull, by all means, yank it.  

Give quick context to frame questions 

There are three kinds of interviewees—the talk-too-much, the talk-too-little, and the talk-just-right. I’ve never actually encountered that last group, but they’re rumored to exist. For the other two, giving enough context will save you time and dignity. For the talk-too-much-ers, you’ll want to frame your questions in a way that tells them what you already know, then you need to be very explicit about the answer you’re looking for. This will stop them from spending 10 minutes of your precious interview describing the landscape you’re already familiar with. For the talk-too-little-ers, questions with no parameters might freak them out and lead to three-word answers. A little context will go a long way to make them feel like they’re talking to someone in the know who’s actually listening. Of course, that means you have to do your research up front! 

Ask what we’re all thinking 

Terry asks the questions we’re all dying to know—not right away of course, where’s the suspense in that!? But it’s a good reminder not to shy away from tough questions just because they’re potentially uncomfortable. For case studies, that could mean asking how a customer could have done it better, or faster. Or asking how much money they made. This requires some tact and transparency, making sure the interviewee knows they’re allowed to push back.   

All that in mind, the best advice is to shut up and listen. You likely only have 30 minutes to an hour with the interviewee, so try not to waste precious minutes giving your opinion on things. And when in doubt, ask yourself what would Terry do.  

Three tips to add public-speaking pizzazz to any conversation

05/21/2020

Three tips to add public-speaking pizzazz to any conversation

By Katy Nally

Three tips to add public-speaking pizzazz to any conversation

Sharpening my public speaking skills wasn’t exactly a priority for me. I’m not a big deal (I only have a few leather-bound books), and I don’t appear at conferences. I figured public speaking just wasn’t in my future, so why bother improving? Montana Von Fliss made me think again. Her take on public speaking is so fundamental, within the first few minutes of her course I realized I had room to grow in so many places. In our all-team training, Montana showed us that public speaking is the art of taking your audience on a journey—telling them a story so they understand your perspective

Here’s how you can bring some public-speaking pizzazz to any conversation.

Use storytelling to add emotion

It’s easy to dive right into the tactical tidbits of a conversation, for instance, showing your boss all the amazing progress you’ve made on a project. But it pays to step back and set the scene a little. Tee-up your spiel by giving some context on the problem you were trying to solve. Add some emotional flare by explaining the potential damage the challenge could have caused, then tell how your perspicacity saved the day. After all, a story without emotion is just a chronology…more like a yawn-ology.  

Keep it relevant

Now that your audience is listening and smitten with your insightful decision making, don’t lose them by talking from the wrong perspective. Remember to frame your discussion from their point of view. Explain how everything you did will benefit them, not the other way around.

Ooze confidence

I tend to start off strong, then run out of steam halfway through presentations. Don’t do that. Remember, you’re the confident captain of this conversation. How can you keep the audience hanging on your every word if your delivery is weak sauce? Channel your Captain Kirk and stand up, project your voice, try to pause instead of inserting filler words like um, and bring them along for an unforgettable (in a good way) journey.

Unicorn on an island

04/14/2020

The legend of Darren Bendel—how not to be a consultant

By Katy Nally

Unicorn on an island

This is the legend of Darren Bendel. He’s all about that ROI. Sometimes he’s so intense, his neck veins bulge out and intimidate his coworkers. Darren needs to take it down a notch, but that’s not in his vocabulary.

Darren doesn’t work at 2A, thankfully. He’s just a figment of our design team’s imagination and a reminder that you don’t have to be a Darren to be good at consulting. In fact, you shouldn’t be. Sure, intense drive is an element, but we like to balance it out with camaraderie, grace, and thoughtfulness.

Here’s what it’s like to work with Darren; just know that, in real life, our team at 2A is the exact opposite.

He’s got it all figured out

Darren isn’t exactly humble. When he’s working on a project, he doesn’t bother to pull in his team members and ask for input. He knows he’s right and skips out on taking a second pass to refine. This wouldn’t really jive with our work-in-progress mentality, where we acknowledge that we don’t have it all figured out. We value outside perspectives because they improve the end result. And we always leave time to refine—the final tweaks are more than icing on the cake, they pull the whole story together!

He shoots down ideas

Creativity thrives on yes, and halts when it hits a no-block. Unfortunately, “no” is Darren’s favorite word. Can we tweak the intro to have a security pillar? No. Can we show an emoji in our animation? No. Can we use a bird migration metaphor? No. You get the idea. We try not to shoot down ideas, and instead use a tip from improv: when your teammate or client has an idea, build on top of it with “yes, and.” That’s how many of our best ideas are born.

He’s strategic for no real reason

Darren is quick to come up with a solution, but when you dig a little deeper, you find it doesn’t really solve the problem. At 2A we know that not all strategy is created equal. Finding the right path forward comes from truly understanding the content, then weaving a story that connects the dots.

Hopefully the legend of Darren Bendel didn’t bum you out and make you hate consultants. But if it did, just swing by 2A for a dose of doing things differently.

Meet 2A, greener than Oz

02/04/2020

Meet 2A, greener than Oz

By Katy Nally

Meet 2A, greener than Oz

There’s always a chance of disappointment when you reveal the face behind the curtain. For Dorothy, the Great and Powerful Oz turned out to be a green hologram operated by a stout, bald guy. So you might think that glimpsing behind the scenes at 2A would be a letdown—but when filtered through the demiurgic mind of our graphic designer Li, everything is a bit more glittery.

Let’s take a walk through the world of 2A according to Li.

First stop, the consultants. They’re always ready to take your call—happy to wheel and deal over landline, cell phone, Teams, or Owl. The footstool-supported power stance helps promote the body’s natural flow of creative juices so they can build the world’s greatest keynote presentations.

Now, the designers are a little more relaxed. They like their databases like they like their LaCroix, cold and bubbly. They’re the brains behind our shapes, handling all the triangles, squares, and circles we’re known for. Go ahead, see if there’s a shape they’ve never heard of, impossible!

How about our developers? Diligent as always, jamming to their own tunes, and working too hard to take their empty coffee cups to the sink (but not working so hard that they can’t get more coffee—it’s called a dev’s paradox). They handle our pest control (hah! Bug joke) and our beautiful websites.

Next up, our storytellers. They’re up to their elbows in ideas, so one draft is never good enough. It’s just a matter of sifting through every word for that perfect sentence. But don’t feel bad about their cluttered desks, the number of books they have is directly correlated to their intelligence…

And finally, the Coonis mesmerizers, our operations team. They’re ready to go Law and Order on that job posting to help us find our next, favorite 2A-er. Don’t be fooled by their feet-up attitude, they mean business. They keep this place running! And they make sure our snacks still surprise us.

We hope you enjoyed your tour through 2A! We’re certainly more exciting than a green talking head…and the shy showman behind the curtain. Come see for yourself! Swing by if you’re in the neighborhood.