By Melanie Hodgman, Michaela Ayers

Image of a street with the words

Image credit to the members of the Vivid Matter Collective

When our lives were disrupted by COVID-19, out went the well-worn grooves of daily routines and life as we knew it. That disruption, combined with the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Manuel Ellis, and George Floyd were a catalyst for expanding how 2A incorporates diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into the fabric of the organization. Recognizing we needed outside expertise, we turned to Michaela Ayers, founder of the social impact organization Nourish.

From my first phone call with Michaela, I knew Nourish’s approach of incorporating human-centered design, action learning, and anti-racism principles into her DEI solutions was a good fit for 2A. Her background as a facilitator and artist brings a depth and beauty to her bespoke workshops. Her trainings met us where we were–individually and as a company—and brought us along what can be an uncomfortable journey of learning and practicing anti-racism and inclusion.

We have taken the resources, tools, and language from our first Nourish workshop series to center DEI more consistently across the company. It’s in our recruiting strategies, hiring process, onboarding, internal mentorship opportunities, and spaces to talk about racism and exclusion with colleagues. As one employee commented in their workshop feedback, “The biggest thing I have learned in all these trainings is that working against racism and building a company that is inclusive will be something I do forever. It’s not one initiative, it’s part of every initiative.”

So, what’s next for 2A and for Nourish? At 2A we are collectively working towards meeting the DEI goals we set last summer and looking forward to our next engagement with Nourish in the fall with a focus on power & privilege, and inclusive allyship during two all-team workshops.

I reached out to Michaela to find out what’s on the horizon for Nourish, and they are busy!

They have just successfully completed a crowdfunding campaign that will allow them to take their service offerings to the next level while continuing to serve corporations and communities through facilitation and consulting. 

They are working towards the development of an online learning platform that would support both individuals and organizations who want to deepen their understanding of diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. Nourish is committed to making these courses artful, accessible, and doable so more people can be a part of building equitable and inclusive communities. 

Outside of the e-learning platform, Nourish is also laying the groundwork to become the first DEI employee-owned cooperative. An employee-owned cooperative is a values-driven business that puts worker and community benefit at the core of its purpose. This democratic business model would allow Nourish to expand its consulting services, take on larger projects, and most importantly build wealth through cooperation.  

While the future remains uncertain, we can’t deny that this is a potent moment where we get to redefine what normal looks like. We’re looking forward to the evolution of Nourish and can’t wait to see what happens next!

Not knowing where to start the work of anti-racism isn’t an excuse not to begin. Thankfully, organizations like Nourish are there to guide us on our journey.

By Tammy Monson

Image of a notebook. The left hand page says

Image by Thad Allen

Parenting my daughters is one of my greatest joys. I fully embrace being a mom and savor each stage my kids enter with new enthusiasm and wonder (including pregnancy, newborn sleepless nights, and most recently the transition to adulthood!).

Over the last 9 years, I have primarily worked out of my home office as a program manager and enjoy modeling the balance of a career and parenting for my kids. Starting a new role as a program manager at 2A helped me realize how much parenting has taught me about program management.

Flexibility is the name of the game in parenting. Plans can be made, but rarely end up just the way we envision. The camping trip that gets sidelined by a surprise fever the morning of departure, the hurt feelings that cause us to pause and process, or the homework assigned that isn’t uploading correctly and misses the turn-in deadline. These unexpected changes translate well to project management life—another round of revisions, changes in the scope of work, an idea that seemed to flow great at first that no longer hits the mark—it is all about being able to adjust, pivot, and recalibrate when necessary.

Organization is the oil that keeps the engine running smoothly. In today’s world where we are fighting busyness and overcommitted lifestyles, maintaining personal health, the health of your children, and simplicity at home require lots of organization. In project management, identifying all the steps and actions from start to finish is the first step in getting organized. Creating a timeline, gathering resources, communicating set-backs, and following up on feed-back all keep the project organized. That translates to a satisfied client and repeat business.

Communication is the key to successful relationships. Although teenagers may not always seem like they enjoy communicating with you, it truly is the anchor in the ebb and flow of their day-to-day lives. Similarly in project management, ample communication helps all collaborators on a project. Consistent communication keeps the project on time, the team on the same page, and clients feeling heard.

Parenting is not always easy, but it brings so much joy. The same is true for a well-managed project—there is nothing more rewarding than a great team and happy clients at the end of a successful project.

By Nora Bright

3 lessons from Top Chef about B2B content marketing

Image by Thad Allen

I started my job at 2A the same week Top Chef: Portland premiered. Though I love to cook, I somehow missed the popular cooking competition until quarantine, and have binged through more seasons than I’d like to admit. While we’re all at home just trying to get by, there’s something inspiring about watching the show’s chefs strive to achieve their dreams.

While watching the premier I was struck by the parallels between creating a winning dish that will delight the Top Chef judges and crafting a content marketing piece that will make potential customers hungry for more. Here are three lessons from Top Chef that can be applied to B2B content creation:

1. Don’t forget the challenge

It’s heartbreaking when a contestant makes an incredible dish but ends up on the chopping block because they lost sight of the challenge. Like, thanks for the truffle mashed potatoes but how does that relate to Edo-period Japan…?

In content creation, it’s essential to keep your eyes on the prize. Whether you’re generating leads or educating customers, your content must help you achieve your business goals.

2. Highlight what makes you special

A common pitfall for Top Chef contestants is to cook food that seems worthy of a win, instead of the food that brings out their passion and unique stories. Adrienne on Top Chef: Colorado struggled when she tried to mimic other contestants, and finally got the attention of the judges when she got back to her roots.

When crafting content, stand out from the competition with assets that convey your company’s unique expertise and brand.

3. Be realistic

Foie gras terrine. Chicken Ballantine. Handmade ravioli. These are all dishes that got Top Chef contestants eliminated who weren’t realistic about time constraints.

Creating content can be time- and resource-intensive. Instead of good intentions leading to something sub-par because you lack the in-house resources, how about bringing in 2A?

Does this mean my many hours watching chefs vie to become culinary champions was not all for naught? It’s hard to say, but I sure did learn a thing or two about making great work, whether that means salt-crusted snapper or an ebook on the merits of cloud-native applications.

By Liz Mangini

Wonder Team activates to deliver superhuman marketing solutions

Image by Thad Allen

While chatting with a Microsoft marketing lead recently, I heard about a presentation challenge that’s all too common. She told me it was difficult to create slides that serve two purposes—supporting presenters and flying solo without commentary. Either the deck would be too dense and full of text, or lack enough information for readers to understand the story.

She asked me, “How do I provide enough context, tell the full story, and frame it all on a limited number of slides?”

At 2A, we get it!

When it comes to solutions, the 1970s extraterrestrial superhero duo comes to mind—The Wonder Twins. They activated their superpowers by touching hands and saying, “Wonder Twin powers, activate!” Zan metamorphosed into a form, and Jayna into a shape. Together, they solved any problem and always saved the day.

Although 2A storytellers and designers may not be from another planet, their creative expertise is out of this world! Storytellers magically form ideas into impactful copy and designers shape concepts into appealing visuals. Together, they transform words and shapes into a compelling story that resonates and drives action.

In fact, 2A is composed of more than the Wonder Twins (storytellers and designers). We have a Wonder Team, which also includes whip-smart, innovative consultants, program managers, and developers.

Whether you need help with a pitch deck, case study, video, eBook, or messaging framework, the Wonder Team works with you to understand your challenges and goals. Then, we strategize to come up with simple, innovative solutions that empower you to deliver successful business outcomes.

Do you need a Wonder Team?

We are ready to activate!

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.

By Mike Lahoda

Image of a baby pushing a toy ruck on top of the planet earth

Image by Guangyi Li

Let’s talk about diapers.

Not being a father myself, I’ve never actually changed one.

But if you’re a new parent like several of our 2A staff members, you’re likely waking up at odd hours of the night to sounds of wailing and whining on the baby monitor that you now instinctively know translate to “change me.” Or maybe you can vividly recall how your once-tiny human laid on the changing table in front of your sleep-deprived eyes. And now you’re in awe at how much they’ve grown, and how much more they’ll continue to grow.

Thinking back, were you at all concerned about whether or not you could afford a fresh diaper to wrap your precious cargo with? Studies show that up to 36 percent of families struggle to afford diapers. This can lead to high rates of depressive symptoms among new moms, as diapers, unlike baby food and formula, are not covered by programs like WIC or SNAP.

You may be wondering why this B2B marketing company is blogging about diapers. While, yes, we are trying to contain a few messy projects right now, really this is a celebration of Evelyn, Lucy, Maren, Nolan, Oliver, Rowan, Ruth, Sophia, and the 2A babies we’ll soon welcome into the world.

We invite you to join our rapidly growing 2A family in supporting WestSide Baby—a Seattle nonprofit that provides essential items to children in need by collecting and distributing diapers, clothing, and equipment like car seats. We’re glowing with the pride of new parents to share 2A’s sponsorship of WestSide Baby’s annual Beyond the Basics event that enables the organization’s extraordinary impact in our community. In addition, our team donated a total of 5,930 diapers to help keep kids safe, warm, and dry.

Diaper need stinks. Change it.

By Abby Breckenridge

4 business villains every marketer should fight

Image by Thad Allen

“But what happened that was bad?” my 5-year-old asked after I wrapped up an improvised bedtime story about a boy named Chugapie who likes to eat a lot of pies. And while his question was certainly a stall tactic, and he was probably just hoping for a sword fight instead of a child-driven, problem-solving narrative, he did have a point.

A good story needs some tension—or something “that was bad.”

As students of business-to-business marketing, we’re well versed in the tensions that compel decision makers to act. Fear is a tested marketing lever, but the business audience has a unique set of worries. As we support our B2B marketing clients to create stories that resonate with their customers, we’ve found common themes. Here’s our short list of business villains that smart leaders pay money to avoid, and clever marketers position their products to combat.  

  • Innovative competitors—nothing spells the end like getting left behind by a business that reinvents your space.
  • Security threats—if your data is compromised, so is your future.
  • Inefficient teams—employees make the engine churn, don’t let old tools and bad training slow them down.
  • Disenchanted customers—they vote with their dollars, so you’d better make sure they’re voting for you.

Whether your business customer is looking to digitally transform or empower their team, make sure you’re offering a solution that fights their villains and smooths the arc to resolution.

By Tracey Whitten

Tips for starting a new job during a pandemic

Image by 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.

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.

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.