By: Tracey Whitten

Tips for starting a new job during a pandemic

Image: Brandon Conboy

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

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

Tip 1: Coffee, tea, kombucha?

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

Tip 2: Sit in on all the meetings

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

Tip 3: Finally, slack

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

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

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.

By: Erin McCaul

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

Ramp up quickly

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

Visually engage customers

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

Tell value-first stories

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

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

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

By: Kelly Schermer, Annie Wegrich

Turning up the heat on wikis with technical animations

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

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

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

A technical animation targets tech-minded influencers  

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

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

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

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

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

Spice up a technical story with us!

By: Kyle Luikart + the 2A Team

2A’s favorite albums of 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Kelly Schermer

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Erin McCaul

Tips for the 2020 holiday season

When November rolls around each year, my friends and family who celebrate Christmas divide into two groups: those who put their trees up before Thanksgiving, and those who wait until their turkeys have time to cool. I personally fall into the latter camp—and throw some serious side-eye at anyone who plays “All I Want for Christmas Is You” before Black Friday.   

But this year has been heavy, and 2020 isn’t closing out like any other year. My entire workday has turned digital, and like many families—we’ve decided to take our holiday gatherings digital too. However you celebrate, here are a few tips to help make the holidays special this year.  

Shop early and support small  

COVID-19 closures have hit small businesses hard. If you’re gifting, consider buying local, buying handmade, buying gift certificates for services, or buying from people you know. A key to supporting small is shopping early. Lots of independent bookstores, small shops, and artisans take online orders, but they need some extra time to package and ship everything off.  

And if you’re as sick of your own cooking as I am, consider restaurant gift certificates—or getting takeout over cooking your own holiday meal. Love libations? Many local breweries and wineries are offering curbside pickup as well. 

Get creative with your digital celebrations  

This year, everyone in my family is getting a Christmas package that includes Christmas crackers, over-the-top Christmas costume gear, and paintable wooden ornaments. If I can’t see them in person, I want to see them in reindeer antlers and blinking Christmas-light glasses over FaceTime. If your crew isn’t excited about blinking glasses, consider a holiday slideshow of old pictures to reminisce, or throwing together a trivia night to keep things light. 

Give to a charity  

2020 has brought unimaginable hardships to our communities. Food insecurity—already an issue—is on the rise. Millions of Americans are out of work. Schools are closed. Already vulnerable communities are suffering the most. Consider setting aside some of your holiday budget for charities or food banks, or even setting up recurring donations to give organizations near and dear to your heart steady funding throughout the year.   

I miss hugging my grandma. I miss seeing my friends. I miss schools. I miss my office and sitting in an actual conference room with my team. I miss crowded bars and waiting to be seated at restaurants. I’m tired. But I’m starting to see Christmas lights in yards and in town, like little lights at the end of 2020. And if your Christmas tree was up in October, I now say good for you.   

By: Kyle Luikart

Be present, think lateral with Oblique Strategies

Ask your body. Turn it upside down. Do something boring.

We’ve all heard of thinking outside of the box, but how do you really do it? Famed non-musician Brian Eno and multimedia artist Peter Schmidt developed a unique approach called Oblique Strategies to break through creative barriers. Oblique Strategies is a deck of cards with short phrases meant to introduce constraints or reframe the problem at hand and encourage lateral thinking. Prompts like Ask your body and Turn it upside down help kickstart creativity with somewhat removed and roundabout thoughts.

This year has presented us with a plethora of new challenges to overcome, and it’s obvious that our old way of doing things isn’t cutting it. Curiously enough, the Oblique Strategies hinting at mindfulness have been surprisingly helpful for me lately. I’ve been questioning if I’ve made good use of the time I’ve gotten back from the disappearance of things like commutes and recreational shopping. Strategies like Do nothing for as long as possible and Remember the quiet evenings have a meditative quality and are grounded in gratitude. We’re often so driven by our goals that the pleasure of the moment is lost in the desire to get somewhere as quickly as possible.

There are no correct ways to apply Oblique Strategies. The journey is the destination—lateral thinking puts us in a place to see and understand more. Perhaps the ultimate secret is to stay mindful of where we are and what’s right in front of us. Here are three examples of how to interpret Oblique Strategies to stay in the moment while overcoming obstacles.

Embrace the constraints

A line has two sides. Instead of trying to see through something, look around it. Accept the boundaries you have to work with (like time, medium, or purpose) and spend your time exploring the open space that exists around them. That doesn’t mean accepting things at face value, but truly understanding the box that you’re trying to think outside of. Constraints present a structure, and once we acknowledge the structure, we can begin to create ways to use it in our favor.

Practice the failure bow

What mistakes did you make last time. We’re fallible. To deny that is to deny room for growth. Not all strategies will lead directly to the end goal (they shouldn’t, really), but gracefully accepting failure and letting it flow through allows us to get one step closer to true success. If we look closely at the most embarrassing details and amplify them we are welcoming the opportunity to learn from mistakes and cultivating a culture with less ego. In essence, failure is far more powerful for learning than engineering a string of successes—so celebrate those moments!

Unlearn what you’ve been taught

Discover the recipes you are using and abandon them. Many of the processes we’ve learned were developed for a different time and place, so it’s more important than ever to truly step away from the orthodoxy. When time is of the essence this can be a challenge, but prioritize the idea and allow yourself a moment to view something with a child’s eyes and entertain the ridiculous or unexpected.

No matter what you do, accepting what cannot be changed, welcoming failure, and not being afraid to let go will enable out-of-the-box thinking. But maybe more importantly, just Go outside. Shut the door. And Breathe more deeply.

By: Laurie Krisman

3 cures for healthcare storytelling

Sometime in early March of this year, just when kids exited playgrounds and rushed home to continue learning online, healthcare organizations pivoted. Almost overnight, COVID-19 dramatically accelerated the pace of digitization. Pilot projects like remote patient monitoring, telehealth, and scalable remote work environments suddenly took center stage. And as contact tracing and vaccine management changed our lives, the value of integrated data became more important than ever.

As storytellers at 2A, healthcare marketing is on our minds. Considering how healthcare technology has evolved and patient expectations are changing, now is the time for healthcare organizations to rethink how they engage customers. If you’re building marketing strategies that target specialized clinical personas, here are a few timeless guideposts to follow.

1. Balance self-promotion with education

It’s simple: organizations that create high-quality, strategic content generate more leads than those who do not. It makes sense that customers tend to engage with material that brings them entertainment, new knowledge, or skills. So, when building marketing assets like eBooks, infographics, and whitepapers, aim for a balance of educational and self-promotional content that’s relevant to your customers’ lives. For example, this eBook we created for Amazon Web Services and Infor gives healthcare organizations ready-to-deploy ideas for implementing cloud technologies to become more resilient in the face of healthcare transformations.

To generate new content, it always helps to stay up to date with the latest technologies, news, and challenges, so you can be the first to drive home a new insight. 

2. Aim for re-posts and shares on social

Content is key, but so is the vehicle. When it comes to social media, there are many platforms where you can share your message, but finding the right placement helps ensure you’re reaching your target audience. In B2B healthcare marketing, Twitter and LinkedIn are typically good choices. Why? Because influencers and subject matter experts can re-publish your content, giving it the added component of advocacy. Take this approach a step further by being creative and finding new ways to be seen.  

3. Remember, B2B loves animation

In the world of digital content, animation is becoming the crown jewel. As a response to digital fatigue, when people see a moving illustration our brains make a heroic effort to understand what it’s looking at. Plus, animations usually include expressive visuals, an interesting narrative, and music—a great recipe for memorable content that communicates your business value to customers. Take, for example this animation we created for the enterprise patient mapping solution, Verato.

As innovations in healthcare evolve, we’re excited to drive new content marketing programs that continue to amplify the message with proven tactics. Need more eyes and ears on your latest breakthrough? Give us a ping.