I came into this B2B services company in its first year to direct the brand and marketing. From design to content to live events, I do a helluva lot.
I'm very proud of what I've accomplished supporting this team doing very important work inside one of the world's largest bureaucracies, the US Government.
I often joke that I have TikTok to thank for this job. Just before sending my resume to Rise8, I saw a TikTok video for a coach who said to put my guiding principles on my resume. I popped "move fast and fix things" on there and that's what Bryon says caught his eye because a key principle inside Rise8 is "move fast and learn things". Our principles aligned and so did we!
-Aaron Heber, Cloud Engineer, Rise8
GOOD BRAND COSTS A LOT. BAD BRAND COSTS A LOT MORE.
The first project I sunk my teeth into was selecting a brand agency and rolling out a beautiful rebrand. Although the business was less than a year old, Bryon knows the value of an excellently turned-out and well-rounded brand. As long as the business can answer important questions about its customers and place in the market, there's little benefit in waiting to do a rebrand, even if the business is young.
When we started the rebranding process, Rise8 had a logo, a set of Google fonts, and a color: red. We also had a team of people who were communicating with customers daily, a Linkedin page with not much going on, and a lot of work going out into the domain in the form of documents, slide decks, and slicks.
We were also about to be awarded a federal contract that was going to set a lot of eyes on us. We had no brand to speak of and a website that didn’t align with who we were. We needed the rebrand to happen yesterday.
If your brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room, how do you know what people say about you when you’re not in the room? You get someone to ask them. And stay out of the room.
The conception phase of this rebrand started with a phase of discovery which informed our choices regarding positioning. Discovery digs up things we have little control over (what people say about us when we’re not in the room) and, armed with those insights, we’re able to then make choices about how we’re going to position ourselves for the future to influence what people say about us from that point on.
We carried out:
The end result was:
With our north star in place and our compass calibrated, we started the longest phase of all: developing the building blocks of our brand — our brand foundation. Time to give this baby a beating heart.
This is important because the results of this work will inform all future brand communications. The output of this phase was our:
We co-labored to end up with pages and pages of copy that accurately reflected our story, values, and promise for all different audiences. Something I appreciated greatly about the final delivery of this phase was that Spark remembered that we are speaking to many different audiences including federal customers, end-users, and recruits. All of these points of view were considered in the penning of these words and that really spoke to the empathy Spark promised to bring into our brand.
This is where labor begins in earnest and we get to see the fruits of the last few months take shape visually.
Building upon our positioning, story, and values, we developed the visual manifestation of our brand:
To describe the visual direction of our brand is to say that the direction utilizes mirroring & pairing to represent our approach to creating impact.
The final phase is to deliver it all into the world and this is where I, as a brand person, catch the baby and take over. Without me in the picture, Rise8 would have continued working with outside suppliers to activate the brand and turn it into social media interactions, video content, blog posts, etc.
These engagements would require teams of many people and lots of cash. Or one in-house brand & content marketing director. Remember at the start of this epic story that Bryon hired me because he was about to have a sparkling new brand and needed someone to run with it.
At this point, armed with a library of assets and very specific guidelines for how they are to be used, I set out to achieve a number of things:
We also worked with Spark on the design and development of a powerful new website that housed so much meaningful content and opportunities to connect with our customers and audience who we enjoy spending time with each and every day.
This brand is incredibly honest and masterfully turned out. It’s classy and elevated, inwardly serious and outwardly spirited just like Rise8.
You can learn more about the rebrand in this article I wrote for the Rise8 blog.
You don't just take your new brand assets and start showing them to your audience. Activating a new brand is a bit more complicated than that. We activated through social and an owned space on the web. And before we could do this, we needed a new website.
On launch day, I scheduled out a campaign we called "8x8". They were 8 pieces of content every hour starting at 8am. This made a big splash and acted as a great palate cleanse for our social channels, especially our Instagram grid.
A big part of our brand look & feel is a striking style of photography first suggested by our agency. The cost suggested for one shoot to capture just a few of our people was over $20k but, as a longtime photographer myself, I felt I could do better if I sourced the right photographer and did the art direction myself.
I've also been able to deliver this style myself with one portable softbox which means that when I travel and meet new Risers, I can get their photos on the fly without booking a photographer.
Our website's newsroom was designed to be an active hub for thought leadership and other timely content. This means I needed to formulate a robust content strategy and deliver it regularly.
At first, I did this by getting Risers to contribute one or two pieces of content per month. This became impossible due to their workloads and also, they weren't exactly hired to be content creators! I was just lucky to get what I got and I loved acting as an editor teaching these software folx how to write for web.
To really deliver this, I needed to hire a copywriter to deliver my content calendar.
I now manage in-house and contracted writers to deliver content for our newsroom.
-Clark Pain, Product Manager Rise8
using my experience as a video producer
I've been a video producer since 2014 when I started working in corporate video in the UK. I love bringing my skills in video and animation to my creative roles whenever I can. I've personally filmed and edited a number of pieces for Rise8.
For the video shown here, I filmed everything, including the b-roll, and edited the end product. It now lives on the Rise8 YouTube channel and is embedded on the careers page.
A big piece of real estate in the communications puzzle, especially when working with the government, is the use of slide decks. Heading into a slide deck, especially when rebranding an old one, is kind of like doing a remodeling project on your house. It's a can of worms. Pull down the wallpaper and the whole wall comes with it. In this context, the wall was graphics.
The decks I needed to redesign contained screenshots and graphics lifted from other sources and I needed to redesign these to fit into our decks without looking odd. Many of these decks contained 100+ slides. This meant setting a standard for many different kinds of graphics from business graphs and charts to highly complex models of software factory pipelines.
I create new decks, update old ones and help the team finesse their decks to keep them on-brand.
I was given just a few days to design and print a brochure for our business development team to take to the Air Force Association Symposium.
Originally, I was asked to print a slide deck but I like like “Oh no. This should be a brochure.” I designed this over 24 hours. It went from not existing to being printed and in their hands in 4 days.
I would never recommend that kind of time crunch for a piece of work like this but a couple of things made it possible:
I went along with the team to observe the peope who received the brochures to gauge reactions and it was received very well.
At the center of every product or service is a bleeding, human pain point. I carry this truth into everything I do and so when I set about to elevate the conversation happening in our space, I turned to Linkedin. This is where defense contractors and military personnel go to talk about the pains of working inside one of the world's largest bureaucracies.
But first, I turned to Reddit. Reddit proved to be a great place to listen to the users of the software we help our customers build. This is where I went to be anonymous and ask questions like "what's the worst piece of software you have to use on a daily basis?"
I took insights like these to our most popular social channel: Linkedin. I created series like "No User Ever" and "Overheard at Rise8" to share these sentiments with our audience who were people well acquainted with the pains of being warfighters armed with horrible software.
On our Linkedin, I posted, I listened, and I tested. I tested all kinds of posts and time after time, the thing people engaged with the most were (no surprise, here) MEMES.
I credit our rapidly growing Linkedin audience to memes.
The most successful moment for us on social media was the med school interview meme. I caught this meme somewhere in observing our audience online and posted with the caption "we call these transferable skills". For context, the screenshot is from a piece of software in the Air Force called AFFMS (Air Force Fitness Management System) and the waterfall of menus is so exhaustive that you have to have a very steady hand to make it to the end.
Well, Lauren Knausenberger, the CIO of the whole damn Air Force saw our post and got it fixed. I will always use this as an example of why there's a place for memes in any kind of business, even in B2B. We're talking to people. And people are people wherever they are.
I believe that the most important customers we have are our people. In fact, I wrote about it in a piece called Inspiring Employees to be Brand Advocates.
Businesses with the best internal brand think about their employees as a very special category of customers. Employees choose to buy a brand when they accept the job offer and they pay for it with the most valuable years of their lives. We compensate them for this time with money. But don’t be mistaken: they ARE buying something. They’re customers, too
Using Shopify and Printful, I built an ecomm store of merch that Risers love. While it's for Risers-only, I've caught employees of companies coercing a link from a Riser so they can own a piece of Rise8 for themselves and that is SO. DAMN. RAD.
As an aside: building this store taught me something about UX. Or, rather, pointed out a practice I was ignoring which is testing assumptions. I pride myself in being a person who tests my assumptions but I didn't think about left-handed folx when designing our coffee cup with a logo only on one side. And I'm left-handed!
I made sure to fix that quickly and send a replacement to our leftie Risers.
-Jamaal Sampson, WeWork
I made sure to get us certified as a Great Place to Work® and also capitalize on our certification as a DoD Skillbridge partner for active duty service members in their last 180 days of military service. This program helps bridge the gap between the military and their future civilian career.
The things I shared here are only a fraction of the things I accomplished in my first 18 months at Rise8. I also manage our content platform, produce live events, lead our PR team, and spearhead agency engagements.