Thank You for Voting Avid Core as the 2021 Best Government Contractor in Prince William

Winning an award that calls your company “the best” is always incredible. But being voted the 2021 Best Government Contractor in Prince William means even more to me because it’s an award voted on by my community, the county I have been proud to call home for more than 30 years.

InsideNoVa received a record-breaking number of votes in its 2021 contest, and I want to offer my sincere gratitude to our clients, family, friends, and staff for making this honor possible. Your support means so much to me and you make this work worth it every day.

Avid Core was born out of a desire to provide comprehensive and inclusive public engagement processes in local communities. Northern Virginia has proven to be an excellent region to grow, and we have been fortunate to have outstanding clients that share in our commitment to transparency, equity, and inclusion.

I promise to make sure our company continues to live up to our new title and to continue to give back to the community that has given me so much.

Thank you for voting Avid Core as the 2021 Best Government Contractor in Prince William! We can’t wait to see where we grow from here.

Around the Table with Matthew Shapiro

Welcome to Around the Table, a regular series where we talk to people in our network and share the incredible work they are doing in their industry. Pull up a chair and join us for conversation and connection.

Square grey image with purple circle in the center that says "Around the Table with Matthew Shapiro." Four cartoon characters surround the circle. Avid Core's logo is in the left corner. An image of Matthew Shapiro is in the right corner

Name: Matthew Shapiro

Company: Six Wheels Consulting

Where to Find You: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn

How did you get your start as a disability and inclusion consultant?

Growing up working with youth with disabilities, I always knew that I wanted to work in the disability space.  I felt that my voice could impact and help other people with disabilities who don’t have a voice.

After several interviews with local disability organizations that ended without job offers, I decided to take the bull by the horns and create my own opportunity.  In December 2014, I established 6 Wheels Consulting, LLC to challenge the way people think about, talk about, and approach people with disabilities and disability issues.  Through professional consulting, dynamic public speaking, and lobbying services, 6 Wheels Consulting, LLC strives to educate and guide organizations to strengthen their understanding of inclusion and disability culture and the issues that affect this population. We achieve this using common-sense, cost-effective solutions to address disability-related concerns. Through this enhanced education, we hope to broaden society’s understanding and appreciation for those with disabilities.

When people work with you and Six Wheels Consulting, what do you hope is their biggest takeaway?

Whenever I start working with a new client, I always have one primary goal in mind — to have them realize that being more accessible and inclusive is not as intimidating as they think. In all the work I do, I strive to provide common sense and cost-effective solutions to make things more accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities.  I understand that not everyone will spend millions of dollars to make a space fully accessible. However, they can take many small steps to provide an incremental change that would allow for someone with a disability to engage with the space more easily. Hopefully, I can get the organizations I work with to see the value in implementing these changes from a business standpoint or a morality standpoint.

People with disabilities make up 20 percent of the U.S. population. We must be more than ADA compliant to truthfully guarantee that they can be fully included in everything our society offers. If all entities can buy into this idea, our world can be a better place for everyone.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing companies or public sector agencies trying to become more inclusive and disability-aware?

The biggest challenge I face is getting them to understand the value of my services.  Many times, when I approach businesses and other entities, they say, “I’m already ADA compliant, so why do I need to work with you?” Getting them to go above and beyond ADA compliance is challenging and getting them to see the value of doing more around accessibility and inclusion to draw more potential customers, workers, and community members into their organizations can be frustrating.

Changing this mindset takes time. If I can get organizations thinking beyond ADA compliance to a bigger inclusion picture, they are my right client. In some cases, I can do that, and in others, I still struggle to overcome this challenge, but I am not afraid to tackle it head-on.

What’s the best advice you’ve received in your career?

The best advice I’ve ever received in my career is advice given to me by my brother before I started high school. He said, “Get involved and stay involved.” This has served as my life’s mantra from my high school years to now as an adult in the working world. I am always getting involved in projects, speeches, and boards to help impact people with disabilities.

I don’t do any of the work I do seeking the spotlight. Instead, I do it to make the world better for people like me.  I will always get involved and stay involved, and I encourage others to do the same. If you want change to happen, make the change happen yourself.

When you aren’t working, what do you spend your time doing?

When I’m not working, I am your typical 30-year-old. I enjoy hanging out with friends and family, going to sporting events and movies, or exploring new places.  I also enjoy playing video games and getting caught up on the latest episodes of my favorite TV shows. The Good Doctor is my number one favorite show right now.

If we were literally around the table right now, what food would you have brought to share and why?

If we were literally around a table right now, I would bring baked mac & cheese with bacon because who doesn’t love baked mac & cheese with bacon? Seriously though, food always brings out the best conversations with people and I would hope that this comfort food would help spark that kind of conversation among those of us around the table.

Interested in building a relationship and joining us around the table? Let’s connect.

Connecting the Community with Transportation Projects: Avid Core Receives DBE and SWaM Certification

Avid Core has been certified as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and small, woman-, and minority-owned (SWaM) business from the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity (SBSD). These certifications will help Virginia agencies and contractors meet small business contracting goals by working with Avid Core for communications and public outreach services.

“I founded Avid Core with the vision that agencies can better engage with the public—especially underserved communities,” said Virginia Quiambao Arroyo, partner and chief operations officer. “The DBE certification paves a path forward as we continue to grow Avid Core and transform the transportation public engagement process as a minority, woman-owned small business.” 

Avid Core’s transportation qualifications include robust public engagement during the environmental planning process, assistance with communications and outreach throughout the execution of a project, community engagement strategy and Title VI plan development. Avid Core brings experience supporting the development of large infrastructure, roads, rail, and policy working with the U.S. Department of Transportation, local Virginia planning agencies, and the private sector.    

Want to discuss potential partnerships or new opportunities? Connect with Virginia Quiambao Arroyo at vquiambao@avid-core.com or Amanda Roberts, at aroberts@avid-core.com.  

To learn more about Avid Core’s transportation practice, download our project qualifications document below.

Avid Fans of: Ice Cream

Avid (adjective) – having or showing a keen interest in or enthusiasm for something. It’s more than just our company’s namesake. Passion for our work and for the things we love is part of our core values. Each month we’ll share some of the things we’re Avid Fans of with you. 

July 18 is National Ice Cream Day and we’re celebrating here at Avid Core! While this time of year leaves us craving a scoop of ice cream to cool off, we don’t need an excuse to enjoy a dessert that satisfies the sweet tooth in all seasons of the year. 

Ice cream used to be created mainly with whole milk, and the classic chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavors were typically the only ones around. This once-simple dessert has become increasingly versatile with coconut or oak milk-based foundations, organic, sugar-free, and vegan options, and just about any flavor imaginable. Whether you prefer a creamy texture or a light and fluffy consistency, nobody can resist the joy and deliciousness ice cream will bring. Here’s the scoop on some of our team’s favorite flavors and the ice cream shops that we can’t resist. 

Amanda – Cinnamon! 

It’s so hard to choose my favorite, but the only flavor I’ve actively sought out and had a hard time finding is cinnamon (thanks, Wegmans, for coming to the rescue). I’ve had to be dairy free for the past year, and there are many great dairy-free ice creams now that are made with coconut milk, cashew or almond milk, and sunbutter. So glad the ice cream industry is on board with expanding options for those with dairy allergies!

Photo via @BlueBellIceCream on Instagram

Ashley – Blue Bell’s Homemade Vanilla 

I’m going to go back to my roots for this one. As a native Texan, the only answer to this question can be Blue Bell’s Homemade Vanilla. It has everything you can ever need in an ice cream – delicious flavor, creamy texture, and a heavy dose of nostalgia. It tastes like school field trips to the creamery, childhood birthday parties, and a hug from mom.  

While Blue Bell offers many delicious flavors (Hello Mardi Gras King Cake flavor!), you simply cannot go wrong with a bowl of homemade vanilla. Eaten by itself or topped with M&Ms, chocolate chips, or Oreos, it’s my favorite ice cream by far. 

Photo of Steph’s family enjoying the frozen birthday treats shared via @pennstatecreamery on Instagram.

Stephanie Mace – Penn State’s Berkey Creamery 

We take the “best ice cream” award very seriously in my family. My daughters were raised to believe that Penn State’s Creamery ice cream is the best and there will always be a bottomless supply of their favorite flavors stocked in Nana & Poppa’s freezers. It is a delicious treat on a hot day or post-tailgating. Every Penn State alum will be quick to tell you that happy cows are raised in Happy Valley and Ben & Jerry (yes, the Ben & Jerry) received their ice cream education from Penn State in 1977. While I can’t dispute the facts, I am on a mission to fill up my ice cream passport and learn all about the delicious types of ice cream out there! 

Photo via @amorinogelato on Instagram

Michael – Amorino Gelato 

In July 2013, I traveled to Europe with my best friend and while in Paris and Rome, we stumbled across a gelato shop called Amorino. Within seconds after my first bite, I understood why this chain has expanded to nearly 200 locations worldwide (and 13 in the U.S.). Its signature is its rose-shaped gelato, but the rose shape never holds its form for long because it’s just too good not to dive right into. 

When we came back from Europe, we thought we’d never taste Amorino again because we thought it was only a European gelato chain. Two years later, we visited friends in New York and randomly saw one store while walking around Manhattan. All the feelings of nostalgia from the greatest adventure of our lives took over just by reading the sign and multiplied as we dove into sweet tooth heaven. Every gelato cone we eat from Amorino will always bring back that happiness into our hearts and our taste buds.

Photo via Cuisinart.

Andrew – Raspberry Sorbet 

My family made a quick stop on my first trip to DC — long before I knew I’d be living here — at Larry’s Cookies and Ice Cream, where I had the raspberry sorbet. It was life changing! I’ve never had much of a sweet tooth for chocolate/caramel/etc., but I do like fruit-flavored ice cream. I haven’t made it back to Larry’s recently, but raspberry sorbet is still my favorite and now I have a couple of go-to brands at the grocery store. 

Virginia – Ube/Halo-Halo  

We’re all fans of ice cream in my house. Ice cream sandwiches, soft serve, traditional, blizzards, McFlurries…you name it! The ice cream man even pulls into our driveway because nine times out of 10, we’re buying! It is hard to choose a favorite so I’ll represent the Filipino favorite — Ube and Halo-Halo. Ube ice cream is a Filipino ice cream made from purple yam as the main ingredient and it is the center of stage of Halo-Halo, a popular Filipino dessert! 

Tremayne – Vanilla Ice Cream  

After discovering the churro dog last year while watching the Arizona Diamondbacks game, I can no longer deny having a sweet tooth. I’ve always enjoyed sweet treats like donuts and churros, but it took a genius to think of pairing them with three scoops of creamy vanilla ice cream. This Chase Field exclusive fuses these satisfying treats into a beautiful granular creation and I think it’s the vanilla ice cream that brings everything together. Can anything ever go wrong with vanilla ice cream? 

Avid Fans of: Slowly Returning to ‘Normal’

Avid (adjective) – having or showing a keen interest in or enthusiasm for something. It’s more than just our company’s namesake. Passion for our work and for the things we love is part of our core values. Each month we’ll share some of the things we’re Avid Fans of with you.

2020 changed the world with the emergence of COVID-19; the way we worked, learned, interacted, and lived transformed as restrictions and social distancing became the new norm. Masks and hand sanitizer became everyday accessories, traveling was either limited or out of the question, and everyone wondered when they would finally get to physically embrace their loved ones again. More than 15 months have passed since the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic, but after enduring many obstacles and uncertainties, society is slowly transitioning back to life as we once knew. Check out some of the activities the Avid Core team is grateful to experience again.

Amanda – Getting My Hair Done

The first thing I scheduled when I received my vaccine was a hair appointment! I am not particularly concerned about looks, but after a year of not having any excuse to look nice, I was eager to shake things up with a new ‘do!

A blonde woman takes a photo of herself with her phone in front of a mirror.
Photo by Amanda Roberts

Ashley – Seeing Family

As soon as our whole family’s vaccination dates were set, my parents booked a flight to visit. In early May 2021, we were finally reunited for the first time since January 2020. We spent the week soaking up time together, visiting restaurants that we had previously only been able to do takeout from, and taking our dogs to our favorite bar/dog park combo, Barkhaus.

While I’m infinitely grateful for the ways technology kept my family connected during the pandemic, there is no Zoom call that can compare to that first hug in person! My sister lives in Wales and I am eagerly awaiting the day the U.K. eases its travel restrictions for vaccinated travelers so we can also have that beautiful moment.  

Four masked adults and two dogs take a photo in front of a green backdrop. Text in the background reads Barkhaus with a dog logo.
Photo contributed by Ashley Dobson

Stephanie – Exploring New Restaurants, Wineries, and Breweries

With an amazing vintage picnic basket always packed, we are ready to drive a few extra miles to visit new places to eat, unwind, and play games. My family created a post-pandemic checklist, which included hugging grandparents, going sailing, hanging out with friends again, and water balloon fights. Now that we’ve gotten those important activities out of the way, we’re turning our attention to other places to be explored! There are so many fun small towns that offer a much-needed change of scenery within 1 hour of DC. Whether it’s a local farm that provides horseback riding lessons for my daughters and delicious brews for parents, a trip to Fort Monroe, or a Middleburg winery for a besties day out, people of all ages can experience something new. Really, it’s a win-win situation. We are getting the opportunity to discover new favorite places/drinks/treats while supporting small business owners. Feel free to let me know what else to add to our never-ending checklist!

A girl rides a horse in the grass beside a pond
Photo by Stephanie Mace

Andrew – Attending Food Festivals

After having been a regular at Taste of DC since I moved here more than eight years ago, I’m looking forward to the return of food festivals to the DC area the most. While I’ve done my best to support restaurants in my neighborhood throughout the pandemic, there’s nothing close to the experience of wandering through all the stalls and food trucks to sample street food from around the world.

Patrons walking through various tented food stands on a narrow street. The United States Capitol sits at the end of the street.
Photo by Taste of DC

Tremayne – Spectating Basketball

As life seems to slowly return to normal, I am looking forward to a few things like live concerts, local farmer’s markets, and spectating basketball games. We all remember when it seemed like the world stopped turning, but it didn’t connect with me until after basketball games at the local and professional levels were canceled.

Across the Navajo reservation, basketball is king. You’ll understand what I mean after watching Basketball or Nothing on Netflix – a show based on sharing the struggles of high school basketball players from the reservation. My nephew is featured in the final episode. I come from a big basketball family and am a former player, coach, and now an avid spectator. I cannot wait until I can attend a basketball game to cheer on my nieces and nephews playing at the local high school level and cheer on the Phoenix Suns as they make a run for NBA Western Conference Finals.

A baby sits in a stroller in front of a giant basketball. Phoenix Suns logo is painted on the basketball.
Photo by Tremayne Nez

Michael–Planning My Wedding with My Fiancée

When my fiancée and I became engaged in December 2019, we were set on having our wedding in the Spring of 2021. After watching couples across the country either cancel, postpone, or adjust their wedding format to comply with their respective state regulations, we were worried about taking that route for our wedding as well. We weren’t crazy about the thought of looking back at our wedding photos years down the road and seeing us and our wedding guests masked or knowing we had a 10-guest wedding, but also, we weren’t willing to jeopardize putting our loved ones at risk, especially since many of our family members and some friends had underlying health conditions and higher in age, so we were willing to push our date further down the road in hopes life would return to normal sooner rather than later. Thankfully, it did.

Planning a wedding during the pandemic was difficult and full of unknowns because vendors weren’t operating and venues wouldn’t allow us to physically visit, which made solidifying a date, booking vendors, and financially and logistically planning nearly impossible. Also, nobody knew when we would be able to travel or be able to hold and attend gatherings of any sort and how many could congregate in one place, indoors or outdoors.

Now that life has come back to normal, we’ve booked our venue, locked our ceremony to September 2022, and can plan and have the wedding we anticipated on creating and celebrating with everyone we love without the worries COVID-19 gave us in the past.

A man rests on one knee and proposes to a woman in front of Christmas lights at night
Photo contributed by Michael Chan-Lok

Virginia – Traveling

I love to travel, internationally and domestically. We took COVID-19 precautions very seriously, especially before my parents, in-laws, and all of us who were eligible for vaccination were vaccinated. Needless to say, we have not travelled much during the pandemic, certainly not by plane. Now that we’re all vaccinated, I can’t wait to travel again and continue to explore the world with my family.

Our first stop is southern California at the end of July! My husband was born at Camp Pendleton and a few years ago, we were able to see the house he grew up in before moving to Virginia and ate a bakery his parents frequented when they were first stationed there. We realized that there is so much more to see…including Disneyland!

A sign of Lake O’Neill at Camp Pendleton is shown in front of two trees in desert land.
Photo by Virginia Quiambao Arroyo

Podcast Feature: Amanda Roberts on NAEP’s Environmental Professional’s Radio

Promotional image for the NAEP podcast featuring the headshot of Amanda Roberts

Avid Core co-founder Amanda Roberts was featured on the latest weekly installment of NAEP’s Environmental Professional’s Radio to discuss her experience launching a strategic communications firm during a pandemic and how she helps organizations make decisions based on community input.

Roberts joined hosts Nic Frederick and Laura Thorne to share her perspective on how public engagement is critical to effective environmental planning.

“A lot of people think communications is so intuitive and so easy. It is much more complex than that. You have to understand the work. You have to really get into you audience’s mindset and understand how they like to receive information. You have to understand what resonates with them,” Roberts said on the podcast.

“You telling them in technical terms what you are trying to achieve, depending on who you are talking to, if it’s the general public, it may just go right over their head. It will not translate to something they can actually take action on…Knowing that piece and being able to pivot is really important.”

In the episode, Roberts also discusses how public engagement processes played out in the 2021 Academy Awards nominees and shares her newfound love of morel hunting. 

Listen to the full episode on the NAEP website, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and YouTube or read the full show transcript.

Around the Table with Kate Mueting

Welcome to Around the Table, a regular series where we talk to people in our network and share the incredible work they are doing in their industry. Pull up a chair and join us for conversation and connection.

Name: Kate Mueting

Company: Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP

Where to Find You: LinkedIn

What drew you to working within the gender equality and equity space?

I am passionate about social justice and equality.  I don’t like being told I can’t do something, and when someone tries to limit or stereotype me or other women I get really fired up.  I feel very fortunate I get to “fight the good fight” on behalf of my clients every day in my work.

As the co-chair of your firm’s Discrimination and Harassment Practice Group, how do you represent the voices of people that do not have the resources to defend themselves? 

Regardless of someone’s level of resources, I find that people are nervous to raise a concern at work.  People fear they may be retaliated against by being criticized, marginalized, or even fired.  And work is so important in our lives.  In addition to a paycheck, work provides many with meaning and purpose and identity, as well as health insurance or even visa opportunities.  Even people in very bad discrimination and harassment situations are reluctant to risk all of that by going it alone. 

In representing them, I educate them on how the law protects against discrimination and retaliation.  I give them tools to protect themselves in communicating with their supervisors.  I intervene and request an end to the discrimination and better treatment for everyone, as well as monetary relief.  And I do so on a contingency basis, so people do not owe me anything unless I am able to recover something for them. 

Do you have recommendations for organizations and businesses to create inclusive environments that don’t leave themselves open to litigation?

The Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California Hastings College of Law has published best practices for businesses that want to prevent discrimination based on family responsibilities, and I also think the recommendations apply more broadly.  They include, for example, raising awareness of discrimination through training, conducting audits to assess your personnel policies to ensure that they are fair and not hindering diversity at your organization, and holding managers accountable for their diversity and inclusion efforts.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has also published tips that include having clear policies stating that discrimination will not be tolerated and providing channels for employees to report concerns.

What’s the best advice you’ve received in your career?

When I was an extern at a federal agency, the General Counsel advised me to avoid saying no. Instead, they told me to figure out what someone actually wants and learn how you can get to a yes.  I think having that solution-oriented mindset has enabled me to get successful results for my clients. 

How do you make time to prioritize your own mental health and self-care?

I am a first-time mom of a one-year-old, so I am having to learn this all over again!  I love going on long walks with my daughter in the stroller and connecting with friends and family over the phone or listening to an audiobook.

If we were literally around the table right now, what food would you have brought to share and why?

I would have brought a green salad because the arugula, kale, and lettuce in my husband’s backyard garden is really exploding right now!  And red wine.

An Update on Avid Core’s Commitment to Racial Justice and Ending Systemic Racism

This time last year, outrage and calls-to-action against racial injustice, violence, and hatred spread across the globe after the tragic murder of George Floyd – among countless other victims of systematic racism and hatred. Simultaneously, the deadliest pandemic of our lifetime brought to light how inequities within our health care system impact historically underserved and marginalized communities.  We witnessed violence and saw an alarming surge of hate crimes against Asians and Pacific Islanders. And, while we recognize that much of what we saw sparked a “reckoning” of some sorts, we acknowledge that these injustices are not isolated incidents, and that we have seen similar calls to action throughout history. The important work that goes into ending systemic racism is critical and long overdue.  

At Avid Core, we take our corporate responsibility seriously. We made a commitment to advancing the cause of racial and social justice and doing our part towards eradicating systemic racism by identifying opportunities for growth and working to improve our hiring and workplace practices, support our team, and advocate for change in our community.  

We made it clear that we wouldn’t stop at just promising to be better—we’re reaffirming that commitment today, recognizing that there are gaps within our company that still need to be addressed, and providing an update on our progress.

Here are some ways we’ve upheld and expanded on our promises from one year ago:

#1 Implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace

We’ve developed and implemented a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) plan that is shaped by feedback from our whole team and will be routinely reviewed by a third-party expert to ensure our plan is practical and executed. We intend for the DE&I plan to serve as a living document that provides guidance and ways to measure our progress toward building a workplace that works for all. Some of the goals and metrics included in our plan are:

  • Creating an inclusive environment where all staff members are provided equal weight into management decisions
  • Providing for staff members to celebrate additional holidays, including a paid day off on June 11 to celebrate Pride Month and an additional paid day off for staff to observe a non-federally recognized holiday. We also welcome feedback from staff to recommend other holidays that should be celebrated and recognized and are committed to re-evaluating other holidays as our staff grows.
  • Providing meaningful unconscious bias and inclusive language training for leadership and staff
  • Integrating DE&I into the work we do for our clients

#2 Evaluating our Hiring and Pay Practices

As part of Avid Core’s DE&I plan, we are taking steps to fulfill our commitment to evaluating and improving our recruitment, hiring, and pay practices with the goal of building a diverse workforce across all levels of the company.

  • Working with a consultant to develop a recruitment and hiring strategy and plan with a focus on diversity and inclusion
  • Including a salary range for all new positions
  • Establishing a $15 per hour minimum wage for all employees, contractors, and interns

#3 Supporting our Team

We pledged to support each other and prioritize the wellbeing and mental health of our employees, and we’ve kept up by checking in on each other during our staff meetings—providing a safe place for our team to share their concerns.

#4 Supporting our Community

We promised to provide a charitable fund for employees to draw from to support the causes and organizations they care about deeply. Through the past year, we’ve kept up our giving to organizations advancing the cause of racial justice and other areas that we care about, including:

We’re also working to implement practices to ensure historically underrepresented communities have a voice in the projects we manage, and educating others on how they can build inclusive virtual public involvement programs.

More about ways we’ve contributed to our community—and information about future efforts—can be found on our blog At Our Core.

Offering a Fresh Perspective: An Intern’s Guide to Developing a Marketing Plan

To commemorate Hana’s internship with Avid Core, we have donated in her honor to the non-profit of her choice. Hana selected the Fair World Project, an organization that advocates for fair trade for small-scale producers and labor justice for workers around the world. We are proud to support this organization and the important work they do.

Spring intern, Hana Chabinsky, smiles for a selfie and shows the title page of her marketing plan.
Photo by Hana Chabinsky.

My first day as Avid Core’s Spring 2021 Communications Specialist Intern was not typical. I met the team virtually, all sitting down via Zoom with a smörgåsbord of Grubhub-ordered lunches. After the rounds of enthusiastic introductions, we naturally began talking about that morning’s event: Inauguration Day.

As we chatted about the powerful speeches and celebrity performances, I couldn’t help but get distracted by the commotion of the closed-off street right outside of my building— full of Secret Service agents and police patrolling Kamala Harris’s apartment (fun fact: I was neighbors with Kamala Harris before she became the Vice President!). The excitement of this day—marking the beginning of a new presidency, internship, and my last semester of college—carried through my entire time at Avid Core.

I’m no President of the United States, and my work as an intern may be slightly less stressful, but in hindsight, there was something symbolic about joining Avid Core on the same day a new presidency began. I felt inspired and eager to make my mark, offer a fresh perspective, and, most of all, absorb as much as possible and learn from my hardworking colleagues.

My capstone project seemed simple on the surface: create a marketing plan for Avid Core’s second year. From interviewing internal stakeholders (my lovely co-workers) to copywriting a value proposition, to developing a website assessment report with short and long-term recommendations, the learning never stopped.

The best part of creating the marketing plan was taking on the role of head chef. The ingredients were all there; I just had to find a way to weave them together to make a cohesive dish that told the story of Avid Core.

Screenshot of the Avid Core team smiling during a virtual meeting, all with different Billie Eilish photos as their backgrounds.
Photo by Hana Chabinsky.

For example, when I interviewed each team member, one of my questions was: What does Avid Core do better than anyone else? Avid Core does lots of things better than anyone else. But I took each answer—each ingredient—and found the underlying consistencies and themes, added a little spice, and told a succinct story in the form of a value proposition.

If you’re currently working on a marketing plan or just thinking about how to best position your company or product offering for the future, I have a few tips.

  1. Interview your key stakeholders. What does your company/product do better than anyone else and why does your company/product exist? These interviews will serve as an excellent baseline and guide the direction of the plan.
  2. Get a fresh perspective. As a new team member, I wasn’t overwhelmed with the things we didn’t have or hadn’t done yet. I focused on the present and the future, not the past, to offer new insight to the team.
  3. Create both short-term and long-term goals to set your team up for present and future success. Make sure these goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based (S.M.A.R.T). For example, a goal could be: Increase brand awareness and reach. A S.M.A.R.T goal would be taking it a step further: Increase brand reach by growing LinkedIn followers by 5 percent by the end of 2021.
  4. Develop a process for allocating your budget, even if it’s just posing a few questions before deciding whether to invest your resources into a marketing tactic. Ask yourself: How will this opportunity serve our goal(s)? How will we determine if this tactic was a success? What will be our return on investment? What is the next best alternative?
  5. Check-ins are your best friend. There were so many components of the marketing plan that it was easy to get overwhelmed by the big picture. Looking at it as smaller components and getting edits and feedback for each one along the way kept this project from veering away from its goals.

While I enjoyed and appreciated learning about and practicing the technical aspects of writing a marketing plan, my favorite part was the sense of comradery I developed with my team as I asked countless questions, bounced ideas off everyone, got constructive feedback, and brainstormed what Avid Core’s future would look like. The symbolism of my fateful first day turned into a palpable energy and passion that not only carried throughout the last five months, but that I will take with me in my next chapter.

Hana Chabinsky is a recent graduate of the George Washington University, where she concentrated in International Business and Marketing. She will be continuing her work in the communications field post-grad at ICF as an Energy and Sustainability Communications Coordinator. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Digital Inclusion on Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Hi there! My name is Kaylee and I’m a Design SHINE Specialist for Deloitte Services LP. While I spend most of my time creating layouts, concepting for visual identities, and making sure no one uses Comic Sans, I also am passionate about educating others and myself on accessibility. A big thanks to Avid Core’s Stephanie Mace for letting me share my experiences through a guest post!

A website popup window showing an icon of a person using a wheelchair. A mouse cursor is pointed at the popup window. The image has a light blue background.

Before we dive into the core of this, I want to make it apparent that I don’t speak for all disabled people. I have my own experiences with my disabilities and have been afforded privileges others may not have. I want to use that privilege to elevate voices in the community and continue to learn about new perspectives, because I don’t always have all the information. Disability is not just a person in a wheelchair—disability comes in all types, and each disabled person’s experience is equally as valid as another’s.

Did you know there are one billion disabled people in the world? Did you also know that according to a WebAIM Million Report, 98.1% of home pages have at least one WCAG 2.0 failure?

The purpose of those statistics and Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), is to show how important digital inclusion is. Everyone who has access to an internet browsing device should also have access to the content.

According to access-board.gov, Section 508 states that “Federal agencies must ensure that this technology is accessible to employees and members of the public with disabilities to the extent it does not pose an ‘undue burden.’” This keeps people accountable and ensures disabled people have equal access to information. So how can you help make technology accessible?

One of the most important parts about integrating accessibility in your work flow is to get the proper training related to the platform you’re working on. While it would be great if you or your company could source an outside vendor that was an expert on content accessibility, I know that’s not always available. Instead, you can look at resources online to integrate inclusivity in your work and not rely on automated accessibility companies. Each platform you work on is going to have a different accessibility measure to take on, so I’ve included a few tips to help you get started.

#1: Use Alt Text (or more technically, Alt Attributes), any time you have a visual in your document or on your website.

Alt Text is important for screen readers, which is an assistive technology device typically used by blind or low vision individuals. The screen reader will take the Alt Text, or text describing a visual it’s attached to, and read it aloud so blind or low vision viewers are able to better understand the visual content. You may have seen this feature on social media platforms like Instagram or on applications like Adobe Acrobat under Accessibility.

Here’s a link from Adobe on how you can make your PDFs accessible through Alt Text.

#2: Make sure that all of your videos have closed-captioning or open-captioning.

Closed-captioning, which can be turned on and off, and open-captioning, which stays on the screen, is text shown during a video or webcast. The text displays spoken dialogue and any audio cues of the surroundings. Because there are a variety of platforms you can post videos on, there are different ways to caption them for anyone who is deaf, hard of hearing, non-native speakers of the content’s original language, or someone in an environment where they need the sound off. It is detrimental to rely on automated captioning capabilities because these features are rarely ever accurate and are a disservice to the viewers who need those captions.

Here’s one link from Jessica Kellgren-Fozard, a deaf YouTuber, so you can learn how to caption your YouTube uploads.

#3: Pair all of your podcasts with transcripts.

Since podcasts typically do not have a video feature attached to them, you need to have a transcript, or a typed version of the audio, readily available for the same audience included in tip number two. There are pros and cons to providing a PDF versus plain text/HTML on the site, so it might be best to do both if possible.

This website provides examples, how to set up podcast transcripts, and more.

#4: Ensure that the website you’ve created is accessible.

There are a variety of points to keep in mind when it comes to website accessibility, including the tips I’ve already listed. It’s also important to use a color palette with enough contrast, which makes it easier for blind and low vision viewers to separate content. Any flashing or moving elements that last for three or more seconds should have the ability to be paused for epileptic viewers.

The WCAG is the industry standard for website accessibility. If you want to go through a checklist to ensure your site is accessible and learn about other related information, you can check out the W3 website.

Accessibility is integral to incorporate through a variety of digital mediums for equal access. These few tips and links I’ve listed are by no means an exhaustive list of everything that involves inclusive technology and the disabilities they assist. I implore you to do your own research, listen to a variety of disabled perspectives, and continue learning and adapting to the evolving accessibility standards. Don’t just do the bare minimum because Section 508 says you have to—go above and beyond to make equal access for all a possibility.

You can learn more about GAAD on the GAAD website.