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.  

06/25/2020

Case studies worth putting on repeat

By: Erin McCaul

Case studies worth putting on repeat

Some songs are so good they deserve to be on repeat, like my current favorite, 25 or 6 to 4 by Chicago. The upbeat guitar riffs, sprinkle of trombone, and clever lyrics make the song worth hearing over and over any time I find myself facing a creative block.

Here at 2A, we recently redesigned our website—giving our storytellers, designers, and devs a unique chance to flex their creative muscles, explore new sources of inspiration, collaborate, and think big. The part I keep playing over and over? Our shiny new case studies.

GreenSock animations make our stories dance

When we sat down to brainstorm ways to make these stories stand out, a key theme bubbled to the surface: interaction. Inspired by the layouts, transitions, and animations on Apple‘s website, we went to work exploring ways to bring our case studies off of the page. But first, we had to learn: How does Apple make their website look so cool? The answer? GreenSock.

While Apple’s product technology is historically secretive, their website uses open source technology called GreenSock to make a lot of the magic happen. Open source code is all about collaboration. It’s accessible for both tech giants like Apple, and small-but-mighty agencies like 2A. GreenSock makes creating animations and transitions a breeze with readable code, cross-browser and device compatibility, and modular code that allows developers to create an animation once and reuse it where needed. You can see this on our case study buttons. When you click a button to view a case study, there’s an animation that loads the page seamlessly. Once the page is loaded, a reverse animation makes the button disappear. GreenSock magic!  

Leaning in to fun concepts like a Grateful Dead spin on an AWS road show and a stadium-level roar for  The Sports Institute at UW Medicine, let us shake up the generic case study format and surprise viewers with unexpected content.

It’s not often we get to be our own client, and these opportunities to explore, experiment, and play recharge our creative batteries. If you’re looking for a little creative inspiration, take our case studies for a spin…again, and again, and again.  

06/18/2020

Decks without talk tracks are like dancers without pants

By: Kelly Schermer

Decks without talk tracks are like dancers without pants

We’ll be the first to admit that building a PowerPoint deck is a strange dance. First, you whittle the key points into slides using design to make them visually compelling, then you write the talk track to tell the overarching story. It seems out of order, but over the years we always come back to it. We’ve learned that by carefully deconstructing and then retelling the story it gets stronger and clearer.

In the race to the perfect presentation, talk tracks are often overlooked. The energy goes into developing the slides, and when they’re done, the presentation seems ready. But it’s important to remember that presentations are about speakers presenting. Slides provide smart visuals that give the main points wings, but it’s the talk track that determines how well your speaker lands the story.

A talk track is a well-constructed script that can be practiced by the speaker to ensure they’re interpreting and sharing the story the way you intended. It provides an easy-to-follow narrative that gives speakers confidence and enriches the slides. From a pitch deck to a keynote, every presentation needs a talk track. It can make the difference between a sale and a goose egg, or a high-earnings projection and a slip in market confidence.

By following the 2A approach of whittling, prodding, and testing, you can build a better story for your slides and your speakers. And be confident that speakers from anywhere—with any level of expertise—can bring the story to life.

Want some help practicing your presentation dance moves? Let’s give it a twirl together!

06/04/2020

We stand in solidarity

By: The 2A Team

We stand in solidarity with the protesters and organizers working to end police violence toward black people and systemic racism in the US. While we are heartbroken by the murders of George Floyd and countless others, we are not surprised. That, in itself, is a tragedy.

We’re posting this statement because we wish to speak out publicly against this ongoing violence and blatant murders. We also recognize that simply sharing our solidarity is not enough. Actions can make progress. We will support the movement by listening, giving money, buying from black-run businesses, signing our names, and amplifying black voices.

As a company, we’re digging in to bias training, inclusive hiring, and spending with purpose. We’re also doubling our employee giving match to organizations run by black people working for equal justice. It’s a few steps of many.

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.

05/12/2020

Fill critical gaps in your project teams with an embedded consultant from 2A

By: Kelly Schermer

Fill critical gaps in your project teams with an embedded consultant from 2A

We’ve all been there before: spread too thin at work, in desperate need of a specific skillset, without the time or open seats to hire. Considering it takes more than 40 days to fill an open position and costs 75 percent of the employee’s salary just to get them started, lobbying for additional headcount at the moment you’re most vulnerable can feel like a tragic plot twist. Suddenly, the solution to your biggest challenge has just become your new biggest challenge.

That’s where 2A embedded consultants (EC) come onto the scene! We handle the legwork of sourcing someone who can hit the ground running in the role you need, saving you the time and money that goes into it. 2A ECs act as temporary teammates who provide support and subject matter expertise. From junior to senior, left brained to right, and everything in between—our ECs complement your team’s existing skills to help you tackle your gnarliest challenges.

Whether you start off thinking of our ECs as project or program managers, in no time at all you’ll see they’re really the number cruncher, go-to-market guru, or channel whisperer your team needed all along:

Number cruncher—This all-around business manager makes sense of IOs, POs, SOWs, and more to prevent your team’s expenses from going MIA. See how 2A finds teammates, like Amy, to talk some dollars and sense into your budget.

GTM guru—Need someone to help you identify new market opportunities, develop partner and sales programs, and drive revenue growth? 2A marketing masterminds, like Kyle, are ready to help.

Channel whisperer—If you’re looking to increase partner engagement through program planning, training, and recruitment, we’ve got seasoned channel captains, like Laura, who can rally the troops.

Tell us what you’re looking for, and we’ll help you make a match. A few weeks with a 2A EC and you’ll wonder how you ever got along without them.

04/30/2020

This pandemic is a shit show

By: Erin McCaul

Child riding a bike with a helmet

Like a lot of working parents, my husband and I are juggling our full-time jobs while caring for our 2-year-old, Connor. We fit work into the armpits of our day, keep Toy Story 4 on a loop, and collapse into bed every night feeling like we suck at parenting and our jobs.

One silver lining has been the extra time we have to teach Connor how to ride his bike. The empty parking lot across from our house has the perfect 2-degree slope to give him enough speed to hold his feet up and send it on his Strider. A few days ago, Connor asked to take his bike down a much steeper grassy hill. He’d been doing so well in the parking lot, I decided to let him go for it. Minutes later, I watched his face go from stoked to terrified as he crashed.

He took a handlebar in the chin and bit his tongue, with enough blood to be scary. He didn’t cry for long, and I sat there just holding him for a while after the fall—quietly giving him space to process what happened. I spent that shared silence thinking about how proud I was of this little person for trying something new, bold, and scary—staying curious as he tests his limits.

I thought about how each failure is an input that informs the way we try again. Later on, Connor asked to watch his favorite YouTube video from his hero, professional cyclist, Danny MacAskill. His new favorite part? The crash reel at the end. When Connor woke up the next morning, the first thing he asked was “Momma, we go ride my bike today?”

Adjusting to this new normal feels akin to crashing my bike on Connor’s grassy hill every. freaking. day. I still can’t figure out how to feel good at my job, be a good mom and partner, check in with my family and friends, clean my kitchen, drink enough water, or sleep enough on any given day.

Instead of expecting that I’ll do this new thing perfectly, I’m ready to accept that I’m going to crash, get up the next day—and try again.

04/23/2020

Creating can’t-look-away videos in an era of social distancing

By: Abby Breckenridge

A collage of film strip, smart phone, scissors, and graphical flourishes.

Did you have plans to create an awesome video case study for your upcoming conference, or an explainer video to tell customers how to get started? Well, your plans have been changed. In an age of distancing we’re not gathering film crews and talent to make marketing videos, it’s just not essential. But there are some good alternatives, and we’d love to help. 

Combine amateur footage with a
professional edit

We’re all spending a lot of time looking at low-quality video of our friends and colleagues talking into the computer—so lean into it. Piece together footage from customers, partners, or subject matter experts, and make a compelling story from afar. We’ll work with you on a concept, point you to some helpful equipment, prep your speakers, edit your footage, add sounds and graphics, and deliver you a final asset. You’ll be amazed at what a professional edit can do to turn your homegrown footage into a powerful, customer-ready video.

Spruce up your webcast

There’s a lot we can do to make a webcast more engaging for the viewer. And these remote events can be the perfect stand-in for that video you just can’t make right now. Start with your customer need, add an expertly crafted talk track, engaging slides, a professional voiceover, some animated transitions, and you have yourself a watch-worthy show.

Make an animation

When live-action footage isn’t available—and even when it is—animation is powerful tool to make your stories mesmerizing. Switch gears away from live-action footage and embrace the power of a well-crafted animation. Your words have more sticking power when they’re choreographed together with illustration, voiceover, and music. And your audience won’t be able to look away.

Your video plans have changed but don’t let that stop you from making a powerful marketing tool your prospects and customers can watch online.

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.

04/03/2020

Let’s get virtual—hosting captivating events from afar

By: Abby Breckenridge

Let’s get virtual—hosting captivating events from afar

Switching your in-person event to a virtual one is this season’s must-have marketing move. Everyone’s doing it. So how do you make your webinar a showstopper? Here are our top tips to ensure success.

  1. Invest in getting people there. Send multiple, targeted email invitations and drive them to an engaging registration page with clear takeaways, ideal attendee personas, well-crafted session descriptions, and presenter photos.
  2. Practice makes better. A virtual event can still run into the same logistical kinks as an in-person experience. Be sure to gather all your presenters together for a dry run beforehand, and practice hand-offs between speakers.
  3. Agree on a presenter dress code. Just because it’s virtual, doesn’t mean we can’t see you! When you have multiple presenters, it’s nice to standardize the mood so someone doesn’t show up in a robe broadcasting from their closet, then hand it off to a colleague in a tie.
  4. Anticipate more attendees. It’s far cheaper to send 30 people to an online event than on a plane across the country, so make sure you track registration counts, confirm your online meeting platform can handle high traffic, and give your IT department a heads up—nothing says failure like a mid-session app crash.
  5. Keep sessions short. People get distracted more quickly when they have the whole internet at their fingertips, so limit sessions to 30 minutes.
  6. Plan for too short. Talks tend to tick along more quickly when the speakers don’t have the energy of an in-person audience. Presenters won’t know if their joke leads to chuckles, so there won’t be pauses for laughter. In case of wrapping early, keep your attendees engaged with a fun break experience and a note about when the next session will start.
  7. Tell breathtaking stories. Talk tracks and slides will carry a heavier load than usual, so don’t skimp. Here are our tips for what’s hot in slides.
  8. Share the screen. It’s most engaging to share a visual mix of the speaker, demos, and their slides—that’ll require a producer on the backend to do it well.
  9. Be ready for questions. Attendees will still want to ask questions and make themselves known to the presenter. Use a moderator to gather and share questions or schedule a Q&A where attendees can queue up to ask in their own voice.
  10. Give your content legs. Plan to share resources like event recordings, decks, whitepapers and other related content to capitalize on the momentum.
  11. Don’t drop the marketing ball. Capture and segment all engagement, then plan your next touchpoint, whether it’s a follow-up email, a private demo, exclusive access to an eBook, or something else.

We’d love to help make your just-turned-virtual event a worthy marketing investment. From start to finish—promotion, registration pages, speaker training, talk tracks, slides, follow-up, and project management—we’ve got your back. Drop us a line.