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In 2016, it should be no surprise that many doctors have translated their offline influence into social influence, sharing health information with colleagues and patients. While HIPAA and the need to maintain patient privacy are well understood by physicians, what is less understood is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidance on social media. In order to protect the general public and ensure that online influencers are transparent about payment and gifts, the FTC issued Endorsement Guides. The FTC suggests that this be accomplished using hashtags such as #ad, #paid, #sponsored or #promoted in posts.

STATNews recently highlighted a few physicians who did not make their relationship with biopharma companies readily apparent when commenting on the company products. When we work with physicians to educate them on using social media, central to this effort is how to use it appropriately, including an explanation of the FTC regulations. The FTC notes that “if there’s a connection between an endorser and the marketer that consumers would not expect and it would affect how consumers evaluate the endorsement, that connection should be disclosed.”

phone

 

What’s a Physician To Do?

If a physician is working with a biopharma company and is being compensated for their expertise as a key opinion leader (KOL), we recommend that this be disclosed. One way is to add a hashtag with the name of the company and the acronym KOL (#CompanyKOL) to social posts. This makes it clear that the physician has a relationship with the company. In order to provide this clarity, one of our clients requests the healthcare professionals use #spokesperson in their posts. And, because the relationships between healthcare professionals and biopharma companies can be multi-faceted, another way to highlight the connection is for the physician to add a link to in their bio that explains the details, such as involvement in clinical trials.

It’s also important to note that, similar to bloggers, the physicians are not being paid for their positive opinion, but for their expertise. Consumers want to hear from physicians and learn from them. It’s just important that the context is apparent.

Always Keep Fair Balance in Mind

Many physicians also aren’t aware of the complex Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations on promoting drugs. This includes the need to include “fair balance” (i.e. if you feature the benefits of a medication, you need to equally feature the potential risks). The FDA is clear that this requirement needs to be maintained even when there are only 140 characters on Twitter. A link to the important safety information does not suffice.

When working with influencers, whether patients or physicians, we always share the FDA and FTC guidelines so that they can make educated choices when sharing on social. No matter who you are, authenticity and transparency are essential to building relationships via social media.

 

 

It is that time of year again… South by Southwest (SXSW). Once again, our company will be hosting some awesome events leading up to (and slightly overlapping with) SXSW Interactive. For those not familiar, SXSW is a giant conference/festival comprised of three parts: Interactive, Film and Music. Given the importance of Interactive or “digital” to our clients’ business, we take this opportunity to invite many of our clients and partners to town to learn, network and celebrate.

Recap video from our awesome 2015 events

Our signature event, the PreCommerce Summit, takes place on Thursday, March 10 from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM and is packed with speakers from well-known brands like Bayer, Hewlett Packard, Best Buy, Medtronic, Intel and Overstock.com. We will also have thought leaders from companies like Techonomy, Politico, NewCo and Crowd Companies providing a look at what the future holds in store. This event focuses squarely on innovation and its fast-paced formats (10 to 20 minute TED-like talks, power panels and pithy fireside chats) allow for learning on steroids. And of course there is the networking.

This event will be attended by about 450 plus customers, partners and other industry thought leaders. A cocktail reception will follow with special WILCO side project, Autumn Defense. The event is complementary, but invite only. If you are interested in attending, please email us at info@w2ogroup.com. In that email, be sure to provide name, title and company. We will also be live streaming the event if you can’t physically be there. Registration is open to the public.

In addition to PreCommerce, we also host a digital brunch at our swank offices located in East Austin. If you like food trucks, cold-brewed coffee, music, cocktails, cool demos and lost of interesting people, you will enjoy this. We have also ordered sunny weather so this is a good opportunity to work on your tan.

Every SXSW, we do our best to cover “what’s next” in the world of  business. This year, we’re planning to host an event called “Movers and Shapers” (formerly GeekFest) on Saturday at CB’s (the new VIP event space at Stubbs) from 10:00 A.M – 2:00 P.M. Speakers include senior level marketers and thought leaders from companies like Intel, AbbVie, Galderma, Techonomy and Bayer. Featured speakers will include Ray Kerins, SVP Comms. & Govt. Relations at Bayer and Robert Scoble, Futurist at Rackspace.

In addition to these three amazing events, we will also host our seventh annual Geekacue Saturday night at iconic Stubbs BBQ on Red River. This year, we’ve booked Red Bull Sound Select artist, Not in the Face along with new festival darling, Black Pistol Fire (check out their video below).

If you need more proof that these events are amazing, check out my 2015 wrap up post.

You can find information on all of our events here.

Thursday, March 10th: Sixth Annual PreCommerce Summit –  It will be a series of 10 minute TED-style talks, panels, and fire side chats.

  • Eventbrite here (password required – email info@w2ogroup.com to request invite)
  • Zach’s Theatre: 1510 Toomey Rd, Austin, TX
  • Sessions run 9:00 A.M.-5:00 P.M.
  • Cocktail Hour from 5:00-6:00PM featuring band, Autumn Defense
  • Live stream available for those not able to attend coming soon
  • Complementary but invite only.

PreCommerce 2016 Speakers Include:

Friday, March 11th: Digital Brunch (350+ director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)

  • RSVP Here (no password required)
  • 3000 East Cesar Chavez, Austin, TX
  • 10:00 A.M. – 2:00 P.M.
  • Food trucks, music, innovative demos, coffee, brunch, and mimosa/Bloody Marys to fuel your first festival day
  • Shuttles available from the Stephen F. Austin Hotel starting at 9:45am

Saturday, March 12th: Movers & Shapers Summit (150 director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)

  • RSVP Here (password required — email info@w2ogroup.com to request invite)
  • Stubbs BBQ — VIP area called CB’s — 801 Red River St, Austin, TX

Movers & Shapers Speakers confirmed include:

7th Annual Geekacue: Saturday, March 12th:  (800 director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)

  • RSVP Here (password required – email info@w2ogroup.com to request invite)
  • Stubbs BBQ – 801 Red River St, Austin, TX
  • 6:00 P.M. – 10:00 P.M.
  • Roundtrip shuttle available from the Stephen F. Austin Hotel starting at 4:45 PM
  • To RSVP contact info@w2ogroup.com (space is limited)

As you can imagine, space is limited at these events so please make sure to RSVP soon. And if you do RSVP and decide after that you can’t make it, please be courteous and let us/me know that your slot is available.

We are over-the-moon excited to have Bayer and SysomosDynamic Signal, Synthesio as our sponsors this year (2-3 more to be announced shortly). We greatly appreciate their support.

We are excited to be participating in the NewCo tour and welcome folks into our offices to share a deeper look into who we are, what we practice and our philosophy. Bob will be sharing insights on trends within the digital marketing industry and how we fit into the ever-changing landscape. Below are some high level takeaways which he will discuss in more detail at the event.

Aaron: When building a website, we regularly hear how important “responsive design” or a “multi-device friendly approach to design” is. What is your view on how clients should approach “responsive design or responsive experience” for their owned content and web properties?

Bob: Most content today is consumed by mobile phone. This will only increase in importance, so our first impression matters more than ever. As a result, we are shifting from responsive design, which is old school, to responsive experience. We need to provide the right content the first time to the customer visiting our site, based on what we know about them pre-visit.

Aaron: You’ve talked a lot recently about the fact that “influencer relationship management is more important than traditional CRM to shape markets”….can you expand on that a bit more?

Bob: You could have two million customers in a CRM database, but does this matter? What we are finding is that understanding who drives your audience (the 1% and the 9% of the 1,9,90 model) is the key to influencer relationship management. Volume isn’t the answer to gain the right reach. Precision of who you reach leads to the right volume/penetration of the market. A very simple and profound change in how we market is happening.

Aaron: The last trend emphasizes how one of our new processes – the creation of deeper audience insights through something we call audience architecture. Can you explain that a bit?

Bob: Audience architecture relates to how we identify and then listen to the right audience to understand what content we share, what keywords we use and what time of day we share content by channel. If we are tracking the right audience online, they will teach us what to do. The clues to success are right in front of us.

Aaron: Can you share an example of how audience architecture works?

Bob: Let’s say you want to find health conscious customers who are millennials, live in 15 specific cities and like to have an occasional burger. We can build a profile that leads to a panel of representative people online matching this group. We then watch what they do and say and can develop a highly targeted strategy. Basically, we’re starting to evolve how media planning and engagement occur.

Thanks for your time Bob. We look forward to hearing about these four insights and more at the upcoming event on Friday, May 29th 12:30-1:30.

 

W2O Group, an independent global network of leading marketing communications firms, today reported another year of growth and progress with a 10 percent increase in revenue to nearly $83 million in 2014 from $75 million in 2013. W2O Group companies, comprising WCG, Twist and Brewlife, now employ more than 425 people in 10 U.S. offices and a growing London office and EMEA presence.

W2O Group Pragmatic Disruption Ad copyThe company also announced key senior management promotions designed to enhance client service and delivery, foster continued innovation of software-enabled services grounded in state-of-the-art analytics and insights, and position W2O for future growth and evolution internationally. Exemplifying this evolution, the firm’s digital health ecosystem and insights platform, MDigitalLife, stores more than 500,000 unique digital footprints of the world’s doctors, patients and health systems. This resource is used by numerous global clients, including nearly 70% of the world’s top pharma firms.

“2014 was a purposeful year of well-managed, profitable growth that will enable us to further diversify and innovate with our clients on a more global scale,” said W2O Group Chairman and CEO Jim Weiss. “We focused on getting the right systems in place and people in the right positions to ensure that as we expand into new regions and industry sectors, our teams are optimized to deliver flawlessly for our clients and that our infrastructure is aligned to support international growth. The moves we have already announced in 2015, including the acquisitions of ARC2 and VinTank and the hiring of Dorinda Marticorena to lead our Entertainment practice demonstrate how we are continuously evolving the firm to partner with clients in the most productive way possible. We will do all of this while staying true to our foundational #GoAhead #MakeItHappen culture that values and respects quality results and achievement, intelligence, independence, curiosity, courage and a #ChooseHappiness mindset.”

Key management promotions include the following:

Bob Pearson, President of W2O, will now also serve as Chief Innovation Officer to accelerate the firm’s software and technology offerings and facilitate and incubate new practices, offices and game-changing talent.

Jennifer Gottlieb, formerly President of Twist, which has more than doubled in size in the last three years, will become Chief Operating Officer and Head of Client Service for W2O Group and will run its three integrated marketing and communications firms.

Annalise Coady, who has run W2O’s London office and EMEA region, will become President of Twist, expanding the firm’s global footprint to accelerate and facilitate international expansion.

Aaron Strout, who has led the exponential growth of the Technology practice in the last few years, has been promoted to President of WCG. He is moving from Austin to the company’s Silicon Valley office to further focus and grow this area of expertise.

Carolyn Wang, who has been with the firm for over a decade, overseeing investor relations and corporate communications capabilities for life sciences and digital health clients, has been promoted to President of BrewLife to grow that firm in much the same way Jennifer Gottlieb led the growth of Twist.

Paul Dyer, who pioneered the firm’s social media, influencer analytics and digital capabilities, will become President of the firm’s centralized, yet-to-be renamed Analytics and Insights company and shared SaaS capability, which will serve W2O clients as well as its own client base. Seth Duncan, who has been integrally involved in creating the firm’s well-respected, industry-leading Analytics and Insights offering, has been promoted to Managing Director. He will work closely with Paul Dyer to enhance the current offering and develop a differentiated market research and influencer audience targeting sciences business.

Paulo Simas, formerly President of BrewLife, and Gary Grates, formerly head of W2O’s Global Change and Corporate Reputation practice, will now lead and grow a Global Business Design practice. That new practice will comprise those existing capabilities and expand beyond them to bring a differentiated branding and reputation offering to clients that will leverage the firms’ collective integrated analytics, insights, creative, digital technology and strategic media planning capabilities.

Mike Hartman, Chief Creative Officer of W2O Group, will expand the remit of that shared service to include strategic account planning and digital agency services such as customer user experience, e-commerce and social CRM planning and execution. He will also enhance the firm’s media and engagement and entertainment offerings with agile content development through W2O Group Films.

“Bob Pearson and Jenn Gottlieb will work together with this amazing group of people, who are stepping up into new roles and responsibilities, and their capable teams to deliver services, software and solutions that will exceed the expectations of our clients,” added Weiss. “We are expanding our healthcare offering, building technology into a practice as important to our future as healthcare, and developing our capabilities to create unique advantages for any brand in any industry. I have never been more excited about our future than I am today, and remain committed to making W2O Group the very best it can be for our clients and our people.”

Click here to view the press release.

Hard to believe after three full days of events that we could bring more education, networking and fun to our clients, sponsors and friends, but via our newest SXSW event, Geekfest, we once again delivered. This post will focus on the Future of Tech and Marketing portion of the event with speakers Zita Cassizzi of Toms Shoes, Becky Brown of Intel and Pete Blackshaw of Nestle.

Here is a little more background and some key take-aways for each:

Zita Cassizzi is the Chief Digital Officer at TOMS.  She joined TOMS in 2012 and is currently the Global Chief Digital Officer. She is responsible for all things digital including the P&L, social, mobile, customer experience, web development as well as building out the digital international presence. Zita is a dynamic leader with over 20 years of experience in creating and leading global businesses, marketing and global e-commerce. She loves creating global strategies, solving complex business challenges based on data and analytics, and building high-performing teams and businesses as a result. Zita is passionate about women’s issues. During her 16 years at Dell and now at TOMS, she serves as a co-founder of a women’s networking organization.

Zita Cassizzi

Zita opened up by talking about taking technology and leveraging it for the sake of better customer service. And even that starts with some basic grounding tenets:

  • You don’t own your brand.
  • Your customers thoughts and emotions about your brand are more important
  • You must inspire and collaborate with your fans in co-creating brand stories and content with you, making them participants and leading stars
  • You should empower via site, social media to create and foster a sense of community and belonging both online and offline

One of the lenses Tom’s uses for curating their customer experience is via #travelingtoms and #tomsholidaycheer via photos. Online storytelling at its finest.

Another major component of tapping technology to empower the service of their customers is through creating events and moments (experiences) that connect their fans to the brand online and offline. They also leverage diverse online and offline touchpoints (stores, Instagram, installations) and ultimately through technologies like augmented reality.

My favorite point the Zita made is her stressing of the importance of delivering “memorable moments”  thus inspiring and motivating their customers to take action. This should create a dialog in the physical and online world.

___________

Becky Brown is the vice president in the Global Marketing and Communications organization and director of the Digital Marketing and Media Group at Intel Corporation. She has overall responsibility for Intel’s “connected customer” experience, which encompasses the company’s digital marketing and advertising investments and strategies. Brown leads a global team defining Intel’s roles and investments in a breadth of media, developing relationships across the advertising and digital ecosystem, and building marketing capabilities and solutions to connect the customer journey.

Becky Brown

I love the fact that at an event called “Geekfest” where many of the speakers drilled down on how technology was helping us/changing us, Becky asked us to take a step back and think about the importance of People and Process versus being overly focused on technology and tools.

As part of her thought process, Becky talked about the fact that she turned over 30% of her team last year. Some of the new skill sets she is acquiring include:

  • Expertise vs. generalists
  • Trained vs. acquired
  • Strategic hires (data scientist, customer experience, operations)
  • Comfortable with data and technology
  • New vocabulary
  • Deepen partnership with IT

Becky also noted that she loves hiring Millenials because of their curiosity and the fact that they are really good at asking questions (inquiry mode).

During her talk, one of the visuals she shared really hammered home her message of there being an overabundance of tools (below).

tools

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Pete Blackshaw is the the Vice President of  Digital and Social Media at Nestlé, S.A. Leading global digital strategies for the top FMCG. Pete established the Digital Acceleration Team (DAT) and the Silicon Valley Innovation Outpost (SVIO). DAT is an 8-month digital immersion program for 12 aspiring leaders around the globe, that has now been replicated in 10 markets in Nestlé. SVIO is Nestlé’s connection to the innovation ecosystem in  Silicon Valley, tasked with identifying and leveraging leading digital partners to enhance the health and wellness of consumers. Pete previously served as CMO of  NM Incite, a  Nielsen-McKinsey social media research venture, and earlier, helped Procter & Gamble win Ad Age’s “Interactive Marketer of the Year” distinction. He is the author of  Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000 (Doubleday), founder of PlanetFeedback.com, co-founder of  the Word of  Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) and former Chairman of  the Board for the National Council of  the Better Business Bureau. He  was awarded the Advertising Research Foundation’s (ARF) “Great Minds” distinction in 2010.

Pete BlackshawPete’s talk focused on his company, Nestle’s Innovation Trifecta which talked about:

  • Digital Acceleration Team’s (DAT) model and programming
  • Silicon Valley Outpost
  • Enterprise social media

Pete’s talk created an interesting juxtaposition to that of Becky’s (a technologist talking about the fact that we need to focus more on people and process versus tools and technology). As the head of digital at one of the largest consumer package good companies in the world, he sounded every bit technologist talking about speed, agility, start-ups and digital acceleration.

Pete did echo his belief in the importance of many of the same values and skill sets that Becky mentioned during his talk with a premium being placed on sharing.  In particularly, he stressed sharing across global markets.

Lastly, Pete made a request from the group asking them for help working with Nestles to bring new, innovative solutions into the enterprise. Sounds like a good bridge to the PreCommerce panel on adopting and scaling innovation, Josh Kampel of Techonomy, led the other day.

There are three certainties in life… death, taxes and the fact that our company, W2O Group, will once again be hosting some awesome events during SXSW Interactive. Unless you live under a rock, you know this is one of the largest interactive conferences on this planet. Over 100,000 of the top digital, social and mobile minds from around the world haling from companies large and small, agencies, startups, etc. come to Austin, TX to network, attend panels and catch up on the latest trends. Many of these attendees are influential bloggers, senior marketing and communications professionals and journalists who report back on who is doing what in the interactive space.

Because a significant number of our clients at W2O Group (WCG, Twist and BrewLife) are now involved with SXSW Interactive, over the last six years we have developed a series of events during SXSW that complement all of the activities that go on during that time. Our signature event, the PreCommerce Summit, takes place on March 12 (Thursday) from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM and is packed with speakers from well-known brands like H&R Block, Google, Twitter, Verizon, Intel and Bayer. We will also have thought leaders from companies like Techonomy, NBC and Bloomberg providing industry insights. Did we mention that we are honored to have none other than Al Roker, co-anchor of the Today Show, and a special fireside chat between Tech moguls, David Kirkpatrick (author of The Facebook Effect) and Vyomesh “VJ” Joshi (former EVP of printing at Hewlett Packard)?

We are interviewing a number of these speakers on our blog here.

ALRoker

Jon Harris (former head of comms at Hillshire Brands and media personality), will be interviewing Al at our event. You can hear more in our Live from Stubbs interview with Jon here on what he and Al will cover.

This event will be attended by about 400 plus customers and other industry thought leaders. A cocktail reception will follow. The event is complementary, but invite only. If you are interested in attending, please email us at info@w2ogroup.com. In that email, be sure to provide name, title and company. We will also be live streaming the event via UStream if you can’t physically be there. Registration is open to the public (RSVP here).

We will also host a digital brunch at our (not so) new office located in East Austin. If you like food trucks (hint: Gordoughs will be one), music, cocktails and lost of interesting people, you will enjoy this.

Every SXSW, we do our best to cover “what’s next” in digital. This year, we’re planning to host our first GeekFest on Saturday at The Austonian between 10am – 2pm. We have 12 speakers including Becky Brown, VP of media at Intel and TK Keanini, CTO of Lancope to give 15 minute talks with some time for Q&A every 3-4 talks. We will have no more than 70 people in attendance. This event is being sponsored by Synthesio.

In addition to our PreCommerce Summit (selected talks from last year’s event), Digital Brunch and Geekfest, we will also host our sixth annual Geek-a-Cue Saturday night at the historic Charles Johnson House (on the Colorado River). This is the house MTV uses to host its SXSW Music parties so you know it’s good. We were sad to not host our Geek-a-cue for a fourth time at world famous Franklin’s BBQ, but with their new expansion we simply ran out of room. Not to worry, however, because we are pleased to bring you one of Austin’s newest gems, Terry Blacks. While we won’t pretend anyone can cook brisket like Aaron Franklin… the Black brothers (their grandfather is Terry Black who opened Blacks in Lockhart 83 years ago) come pretty damn close.

Oh, did we mention that we have two AMAZING bands this year as well? For openers, we’ll have Austin favorite, Monte Montgomery. And then for our main act, we are featuring Black Joe Lewis (yes, that Black Joe Lewis that has appeared on Letterman and countless music festivals).

Check out my 2014 wrap up post to get a better flavor of the awesomeness you will experience this year.

Here are eventbrite links/descriptions of the events:

  • Friday, March 13th: Digital Brunch (400+ director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)
    • RSVP Here (no password required)
    • 3000 East Cesar Chavez, Austin
    • 10:00 AM – 2 PM
    • Food trucks, music, innovative demos, coffee, brunch, and mimosa/Bloody Marys to fuel your first festival day
    • Shuttles available from the Stephen F. Austin Hotel starting at 9:45am
  • 6th Annual Geek-a-cue: Saturday, March 14th:  (800 director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)
    • RSVP Here (password required – email info@w2ogroup.com to request invite)
    • Charles Johnson House – 404 Atlanta Street, Austin, TX
    • 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM
    • Roundtrip shuttle available from the Stephan F. Austin Hotel starting at 4:45 PM
    • To RSVP contact info@w2ogroup.com (space is limited)

As you can imagine, space is limited at these events so please make sure to RSVP soon. And if you do RSVP and decide after that you can’t make it, please be courteous and let us/me know that your slot is available.

We are over-the-moon excited to have Sysomos, DataSift, ClarabridgeSprinklr, Businesswire and Bayer as our sponsors this year. We greatly appreciate their support.

Jim Wins In2

Back in October our CEO and Chairman, Jim Weiss, was awarded Innovator of the Year by The Holmes Report. As stated in the 2014 Innovator 25 post announcement by Aarti Shah of The Holmes Report, “We launched the In2 Innovator 25 in 2013 to celebrate those who have contributed great work or ideas that have pushed our industry forward. The 2014 Innovator 25 now takes another glimpse at our industry’s future, shining the light on those individuals who are shaping what influence and engagement will look like tomorrow.” Our fearless CEO has done just that.

Jim has been relentless in pushing our industry forward by hiring the best in the business, and transforming the agency from a strictly healthcare PR and IR firm to an integrated firm grounded in marketing and communications across health, tech and consumer, underpinning these offerings with analytics and software. Most impressively, Jim has done this without taking in any outside money, working on client (and new) business and maintaining one P&L even after splitting the firm into separate companies.

Jim’s passion for the business shows through not only his work, but also through the way he interacts and cares for his employees.  He is always encouraging and enabling people to maintain their personal brands at the firm whether it is through writing books, blogging on our company blog, teaching at schools or internally, or speaking at events. He even offers employees a  five week sabbatical program after 5 years of service (I can’t wait to take mine next year)!

For anyone that saw our recent announcement about W2O Group’s acquisition of boutique (and award winning) communications and media agency, ARC2, understands that Jim has an uncanny ability to spot, support and partner with fellow entrepreneurs. To that end, three of W2O Group’s clients — Becky Brown of Intel, Andrew Bowins of Mastercard and Mark Stouse (formerly) of BMC have all won this same award. Birds of a feather!

If that wasn’t enough, Jim has also partnered with leaders like Bob Pearson and Gary Grates to launch the W2O/Newhouse Center for Social Commerce (funded by Jim and his wife, Audra), which is the best and largest communications school in the country.

Congratulations again, Jim! This award is well-deserved.

p.s. The “IT Came from Syracuse visual was created by our Chief Creative Officer, Mike Hartman as an homage to Jim’s legacy. This cover was on the back program of the In2 Summit’s program.

For any of you that have seen our Live from Stubbs video podcast series, you are familiar with our format. Our guests include CMOs, book authors, innovators and other movers and shakers in digital. We ask them about business, music and BBQ. Our original vision for the show was to also include musicians as part of the series. Well, that day has finally arrived and we are honored that legend in the making, Lord Huron, was our special guest.

BUT… this time around, we decided to focus on the music in the video formats and kept the interview in text format for you all to read. We do have video of the original if you would like us to share it with you privately but in the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy the interview and more importantly, four songs that the band played for a small audience at historic music venue, Stubbs BBQ here in the live music capitol of the world, Austin, TX.

Aaron Strout: Hello, welcome to a very special edition of Live from Stubbs, we are here at Stubbs at the inside stage today and were really excited to be here with the band, Lord Huron. We have Ben Schneider who is the lead singer, founder of the band and guitarist. We also have Mark Barry who is the percussionist and producer and then I am joined by special guest today, Jim Rudden, CMO of Austin-based Spredfast. I am Aaron Strout of W2O Group and we’re going to have fun today talking to these guys about their music, some BBQ, and what they’re doing these days to engage their fans.

Jim Rudden: I’d actually like to start with the art… I read online that a good way to think about Lord Huron is as a visual art project supported by music. Would you agree with that characterization or how do you all think about it?

Ben Schneider: If you want to enjoy the music, that’s cool. But there are all these other elements that you can kind of dig deeper and get into if you’re so inclined. Beyond music, there’s art to look at, there’s videos to watch, there’s other ways to engage and live inside universe if you can.

Aaron: Mark, you joined the band about three years ago. What did you think when this guy said… ”Here’s my vision”

Mark Barry: We grew up together in Michigan and I’ve always known him to be such a creative guy and he put the first EP together and played it for me while I was in Nashville. I thought it was crazy amazing so I called him up on the phone.

Ben: Yeah, he was session musician in Nashville and luckily had a pretty flexible schedule.  I had been offered a couple of shows but didn’t know any musicians in Los Angeles really because I wasn’t in that world; I was more in the art side of things, at first. So he was the only guy I knew to call… the only one I knew that had the skill to help me get this thing going. He helped me get the band together and found some really great musicians right off the bat, thanks to him, and we’ve been at it ever since.

Jim: I want to go back to the experience you mentioned. You know Aaron and I come from a digital media/ social media world so we’re fascinated by some of the things you guys are doing. In particular, the post cards, can you talk a little bit about the genesis of that idea and how it’s played out… maybe what’s next there.

Ben: Yeah, you know a lot of people started to lament the loss of physical copies of music. You know a lot of people think that’s gone because nobody buys albums anymore in that way. The reality of it is now there’s a whole other sort of playing field we can use which is the internet. For me, it’s just another way to expand the universe that we’re trying to create. Every little bit of content that we can get out there and express our point of view and our aesthetic and hopefully get people excited about it… we take that opportunity.

Aaron: You’ve opened for Dave Matthews Band, you’re opening for Alt-J now, you were on the Leno Show, and we heard that your song was on the show Nashville’s premiere the other night. This has got to feel pretty exciting. How do you guys take that in? What do you make of it and how do you keep grounded in all this coolness?

Ben: We’re just moving so fast that its hard to really gauge. All that stuff you’re talking about is great but we don’t even think about it that much because we just keep going.

Mark: Since we’ve been playing music together since we were 12 or 13, it’s what we’ve always wanted to do and now it’s happening…so we’re just riding with it.

Jim: So have you evolved a specific song-writing process?

Ben: We’re still sorting it out to be honest, since it started with just me, I tend to be the one that starts all the songs and gets them sort of into shape at first and then I share it with the guys. Mark helps me arrange stuff and all the guys contribute different parts so it’s really just a work in progress. We did that one record and before that it was just me doing the EPs by myself so we’re kind of just letting it grow naturally and be what it wants to be. There’s no set prescription for how any of it works, at this point.

Aaron: That’s cool. Inevitable there’s always a favorite song and then there’s the song that you really feel passionate about. Is there a song that you guys have written recently that either may be popular or not that really speaks to you?

Ben: A song like “She Lit a Fire” which wasn’t a single at first but we noticed people at shows were really responding to it. That was a cool feeling. That was one of the first times where I saw someone singing the lyrics in the audience. That’s a surreal feeling- first time you see that it’s very odd.

Aaron: What do you guys listen to? What’s on your iPhone or your MP3 player these days?

Ben: There are definitely some common influences for us. I think all of us are pretty big Paul Simon fans… you know the classic American stuff like Bob Dylan. Everyone listens to a lot of country and we let that all in but world music is big too. I know Miguel is really into Indian music and I’m into African and Middle Eastern stuff. I think what’s been cool about this project in particular is I haven’t allowed myself to deny any of my even somewhat guilty pleasures. I just let all of the stuff that I like influence the music so I think that’s been one of the reasons why its been success. We’ve just accepted all of that, not trying to be cool or anything just try to make music that we like.

Aaron: Well and I think you’re being somewhat timeless if you’re able to do that, right. You’re not pinned to a particular “oh this is what was hot in 2013”…

Ben: Hopefully not. And we occasionally get lumped in certain genres that are happening right now that in some ways I see the connection and some ways I think wow “we seem totally different from that” in my mind. In an ideal world, people are listening to music without any pre-conceived notions at all but I understand those things help us. I’m sure they’ve hurt us in some ways but getting anyone to listen to the music is really all we want people to do.

Jim: We’re here at Stubb’s BBQ, one of the capitols of BBQ in Austin, TX. You guys have been out on tour there’s St. Louis BBQ, then there’s Memphis BBQ, then there’s Texas BBQ…. do you have any favorites?

Ben: I’ll take it any way I can get it to be honest. I do like Texas BBQ… every now and then I feel like a dry rub or St. Louis stuff too… but I think Texas is my favorite.

Aaron: Want to thank you guys both for being here today. We have Mark Berry and Ben Schneider of the band Lord Huron, we have Jim Rudden who’s the CMO of Spredfast, Aaron Strout of W2O Group. This has been a blast and I look forward to keeping an eye on you guys.

If you would like to watch the entire four song set, check it out here. Special thanks go out to my colleague, Michael Westgate, for getting Lord Huron to agree to do the interview with us and local video production company extraordinaire, UPG. They are awesome.

14 Posts to Take You Into 2014

A year ago my colleague Aaron Strout did a nice wrap up of the most interesting/appealing posts of 2012 on this blog. As Aaron noted, reviewing which posts resonated over a period of time can be informative to better understanding the interests of customers/employees/followers. By collecting the top performers in one place, I’m hoping to provide you with some relevant content you may have missed during the year. Like last year, you’ll notice some themes here – rankings, how-to’s, and analytics-based posts, in particular, continue to resonate.

In 2013 we’ve seen a marked increase in the frequency and number of colleagues contributing to this blog, which is great. And, with 50+ posts having over 2,000 views each, we had to be more restrictive with this wrap up than in the past. As a result (and with a goal of keeping it to less than 15), this year’s list is ranked based on the number of post views – with a minimum of 3,600 views required to make the cut. Of course, there are a ton of other great posts and I encourage you to go back and read these from Bob Pearson, Jenn Gottlieb and Jim Weiss. (Selfish plug, you might also want to read my post-ASCO blog post.)

This year’s list brings us some familiar faces – like Chuck Hemann and Brian Reid as well as some new comers to Common Sense such as Michael Brito and Michael Westgate.

So here it goes – our top posts from 2013 to take you into the New Year:

And the number 1 post of the year – with over 35,000 views…

#SXSWPickUpLines by Aaron Strout (35,847 views!)

I hope you’ve found this list helpful and that you’re looking forward to more engaging content in 2014!  What do you think? Are there topics you’d like us to cover? Interviews you’d like to see?  If so, please let us know in the comments below.