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I’m excited to share that W2O has partnered with The LAGRANT Foundation (TLF) with the first–of-its-kind fellowship targeting ethnic minorities pursuing careers in healthcare communications. It’s a $50,000 three- year commitment which will fund the Future Leaders in Healthcare Fellowship Program, placing 2 fellows per year in a 10 –week paid fellowship in one of the following offices: San Francisco, New York, Austin, Boston or Minneapolis.

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More than ever, we need to diversify our workforce and continue to help you, our clients, increase diversity in your communications functions. This is a win – win for everyone. It gives men and women something to aspire to and allows a venue for stellar, diverse talent.

When I started this company in 2001, it was grounded in healthcare PR, and the reason I’ve been in healthcare communications for so long is because it fuses two of my passions – communications and health. Now that W2O group has expanded into additional verticals (Tech, Consumer, Auto, Entertainment), I think it’s important to continue to leave a positive impact and I think this partnership is the perfect venue for that.

View this interview with Kim L. Hunter, The LAGRANT Foundation (TLF) Chairman & CEO, Dr. Rochelle Ford, a professor in Syracuse University’s School of Public Communications, and myself for additional insight.

I’m proud to partner with The LAGRANT Foundation (TLF). We’re going into our 15th year in business and I couldn’t think of a better time to team up with an organization like TLF which aligns with our principals of excellence and progress within the marketing and communications industry.

View the press release here for more details.

All the best, 
Jim

Our PreCommerce Summit started off our events with a bang. Hard to believe, but 2016 marks the 6th annual version of the summit. We built it around a series of 10-minute Ted-style talks, and rounded it out with a few panel discussions and a couple of fireside chats.

These discussions featured insights from executives and leadership from some of our top clients and partners. It’s a view into what’s next, the technology that’s impacting all of us, how its changing business, as well as other aspects of our lives outside of work.

  • Lord Peter Chadlington, Founder of Shandwick and Huntsworth Group; See Lord Chadington’s preview interview here.
    Lord Peter Chadington discussed global communications trends with our own Bob Pearson. In terms of global trends, Peter pointed out that 50% of the world’s population have just started getting access to the Internet.  Lord Chadlington is someone who’s dedicated much of his work to politics and shared his thoughts on the impact that social media is having on politics. According to research they did in the UK, 72% said social media and the Internet made them more involved in politics. They feel empowered. You can watch Bob’s interview with Lord Chadlington at about 33:15 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Amy von Walter, EVP Global Communications and Public Relations, Toys ‘R’ Us
    During Aaron’s introduction, he shared the news that Amy is now EVP at Toys ‘R’ Us. Amy gave a powerful talk about first impressions. She’s passionate about encouraging confidence in her employees. It’s an extension of her confidence which comes from her experiences overcoming first impressions.  And she’s an expert there, based on her reality of being from South Korea and raised in Minnesota by her adopted parents. She referenced the work of Dr. Hendrie Weisenger’s about the many ways you can build confidence. You can watch Amy’s session at 58:04 in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Manny Kostas, SVP and Global Head of Platforms & Future Technology, HP
    Manny discussed breaking through silos to get into more conversations with customers. He’s a person with unique perspective since he’s been CMO at both Symantec and a division of HP and now he’s responsible for 3,000 engineers working to reinvent HP’s printer business. Manny’s passionate about not imposing our business structure on our customers, which breaks the dialog with our customers. You can watch Manny’s session at about the 1:07 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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Before the first panel, my friend and someone I really respect, Robert Scoble joined Aaron on stage to share his recent news that he will be joining UploadVR as their Entrepreneur in Residence. All the best to you in the new gig Robert. Your early work at your Channel 9 days at Microsoft and you (and Shel’s) book Naked Conversations helped me prepare for taking the reins as Dell’s chief blogger back in 2006, Onward and upward, my friend! You can watch Scoble’s news at about the 1:24 mark in the PreCommerce livestream. Thanks to Jeremiah Owyang for the live pic.

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  • Susan Glasser, Editor in Chief, Politico and Peter Cherukuri, EVP Audience Solutions & President, Politico
    Susan and Peter discussed the evolution of sponsored content. Interesting perspective from the two of them and how they’ve made a new publishing model work for Politico. To do it, they re-invented what it means to be an online news platform in an era where journalistic speed a given in the space. That meant diving deep into new types of stories and experiences to stay ahead of their competition. You can watch their session at about the 2:16 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • David Kirkpatrick, CEO, Techonomy, author of The Facebook Effect and Graham Weston, Founder/Chairman, Rackspace
    David sat down with Graham to get his take on where the cloud was headed. Before jumping into the conversation, Graham took a minute to thanks Robert Scoble for his 7 years at Rackspace. Rackspace is a $2B company who provides cloud infrastructure and integration services for AWS and Azure clients. His company’s still focused on providing “fanatical” support in the midst of a changing competitive landscape. Lastly, David asked Graham about his considerable community efforts in the city of San Antonio and beyond. You can watch their fireside chat about the 2:47 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Jeremiah Owyang, Founder/CEO, Crowd Companies
    My good friend Jeremiah spent a few minutes getting into the future of Crowd business models. He shared examples of how the collaborative economy is already disrupting traditional businesses and also shared his take on how it would evolve moving forward . Key takeaways 1) Common digital technologies empower people to get what they need from each other. 2) The crowd is becoming like a company—bypassing  inefficient corporations. 3) Like the Internet and social, corporations must use the same digital strategies to regain relevancy 4) This requires a business model change: Product>Service>Marketplace>Repeat. You can watch Jeremiah’s session at about the 4:08 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Greg McCullough, Senior Director Partnerships, Medtronic and Gail Day, VP, Publisher Harvard Business Review
    Greg and Gail sat down to discuss what’s next in brand/ media partnerships. Gail attributed part of HBR’s success to the organization’s commitment to a goal to rid the world of bad management. That focus also extends to their partnerships. They’re strict about working with their brand, and that’s why they choose to work with limited partners. Medtronic was one of those partners. Their collaboration resulted iYou can watch their session at about the 4:31 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Becky Brown, VP Digital Marketing & Media Group, Intel
    Becky spent a few minutes discussing The New Digital. Becky reiterated that marketers are all aware of consumers’ aversion to ads—look no further than ad blockers and the fact that they are willing to pay a premium for services without ads. Intel is answering this co-creating with companies like Buzzfeed and Mashable. And now, taking that idea with new ESPN where they integrated technology into the X Games, which allowed both companies to create new kinds of content. And they are building on the success of their online magazine called Intel IQ, where they will introduce original programming next month. You can watch Becky at about the 5:28 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Amy Hoopes, CMO, Wente Vineyards
    Amy took some time to discuss how user experience is becoming the new marketing. The family Amy works for has been in the wine industry for 133 years, in the Livermore Valley area of California. They were always good at making great wines. To understand the history of Wente Vineyards, Amy did extensive interviews with the family. Through that research, it was clear that the Wente family had been doing many innovative things, like operating a full-service white tablecloth restaurant that recently celebrated it’s 30th birthday. Amy talked about here SMS strategy: Simplify, Motivate and Share. You can watch Amy’s session at about the 5:43 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • The third panel of the day, All Hype Aside featured 1) Michael Putnam, SVP Consumer Marketing, AmericanWell 2) Lorie Fiber, Global Corporate Communications, IBM Health and 3) Jeroen Brouwer Director of Marketing, Sales and Business Development, Philips
    Our own Rob Cronin moderated this esteemed panel of guests to discuss how digital health will impact our lives in the future. You can watch the panel discussion at about the 6:20 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Alex Gruzen, CEO, WiTricity Corporation
    Alex discussed the future of wireless charging and how it will impact us with all the smart devices we carry with us every day. When he says wireless, he means it. Their technology doesn’t require a charging pad to be plugged into on outlet. It’s about moving power over a distance. WiTricity Corporation’s technology works with all kinds of devices: from Bluetooth headsets, to laptops and tablets, and event electric cars. You can watch Alex’s session at about the 6:56 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Amber Naslund, SVP Marketing & Chief Evangelist, Sysomos
    Amber used her time to discuss the Future  of Analytics: Social Data and Beyond. She started by talking about how much customer expectations have changed. They expect answers in 30 – 60 mins, and they also expect those answers on nights and weekends. She  also talked about how creative design is even more important as a way to reach customers. Then, she discussed the importance of bridging the gap between data scientists and marketers or communicators. Analytics is currently a specialized skillset. But back in the 50s, typing was a job that was done via dedicated employees. Amber argued that data analysis will ultimately become a core skill just like typing did. You can watch Amber’s session at about the 7:10  mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Shiv Singh, SVP Global Head of Digital & Marketing Transformation, Visa
    Shiv discussed how to open source your brand.  He started with a simple but painful premise: that customers don’t trust your brand. And then he offered examples of how Visa reached out to the startup community for innovative ideas. One outcome: they are opening up the Visa network as an API for developers. You can watch their session at about the 7:20 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Hugh Forrest, Director, SXSW Interactive and John Battelle, CEO of NewCo and co-founder of Wired Magazine & The Industry Standard
    This fireside chat was a blast. John interviewed Hugh on the past, present and future of SXSW. See my earlier blog post here for a much more detailed summary of that lively discussion. The interview covered a lot of ground. My favorite quote from Hugh? “TED is this finely curated meal. And that’s wonderful. [SXSW] is a 24-hour all-you can eat buffet, and that’s wonderful at times too.” You can watch Hugh Forrest’s interview at about the 7:40 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

Make sure to tune into W2O Group’s Movers & Shapers event.

 

As each year passes, graduating classes of Millennials continue to join the workforce, bringing with them their media and technology focused minds and experiences. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Millennials are on track to make up 44% of the workforce by 2025. To say that Millennials and technology go hand-in-hand is an understatement. Luckily, they bring that insight to the PR industry day-by-day. With this in mind, we went to the movers and shakers themselves to discuss how the Committee of Millennials at W2O group believe that Millennials are shaping the industry and what is ahead for this “disruptive” generation.

Culture and Balance

First and foremost, office culture has drastically changed since we joined the workforce. We’ve said goodbye to the strict 9-5 and hello to connecting outside of the office. Now, thanks to social media many coworkers are able to connect outside of the common cubicle; and thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, offices across the nation as well as with our neighbors across the pond, are able to stay connected through Facebook groups, and up to date on the activities occurring throughout the company, regardless of location.

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Office culture overall has become more laid back, casual and many offices include an open floor plan to encourage collaboration and communication among coworkers. Additionally, Millennials are more focused on developing friendships with those they work with in comparison to Gen X or baby boomers. There is a large push to establish and maintain office culture through fun events throughout the year, outside of the typical annual office holiday party.

In The Know

Say what you will about Millennials being fully absorbed into their phones and social media, but in the PR industry, it is increasingly helpful for those to be “plugged in.” According to study conducted by the American Press Institute, 88% of Millennials use social media, specifically Facebook, as their primary source of news and check it regularly. In this industry specifically, there has been a shift from traditional practices to incorporating more digital media strategy and encouraging a larger presence on social media for clients. Being “plugged in” has us on the frontline of all things tech and consumer based, and with that we are able to suggest different platforms and ideas on how to expand a client’s reach to a different audience in a fresh, new way.

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However, we argue that it is more than just our strong connectivity that puts us at the cutting edge. Rather, it is our desire to question common practices, to ask and learn more, which sparks yet another difference between us and other generations. Millennials love to contribute and suggest new ideas so a company that promotes that kind of participation is key for prospective jobs.

What We Look For

 When asked, “What attracts you to a job,” or what made our Millennials choose W2O Group, many of us reported that the opportunity to communicate and bring ideas to the table is a huge attraction in a potential workplace. Overall, many noted that when interviewing, they highlighted that having strong and natural conversations with interviewers was something that they took into account when choosing a potential workplace. In this day and age, it is no longer only about a skillfully crafted job description and a decent salary, but rather the work / life balance and culture a company supports that this generation is looking for.

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Gone are the days where an entry level employee is discouraged to share their thoughts and ideas. Where previously, they would have to go through their manager and then their manager’s manager to get an idea pitched at a meeting. Now, we are encouraged to contribute wherever possible and at all times. Many also suggested that it was a lack of “red tape” at W2O that drew us here and what we saw was a company that recognizes the flexibility to do what is needed to get the job done.

Moving Forward

Regardless of the daily criticism Millennials receive, whether it be for being too self-involved, too out of touch with traditional concepts or pushing back more than some would like, this generation is shaping not only the workplace, but the public relations industry as a whole. We don’t claim to know everything and our tech savviness will soon fade with newer platforms emerging every day, but until then we will continue to ask questions, remain “plugged in,” and look forward to what is yet to come.

 

It’s rare that we have an opportunity to find out more about what makes CMOs tick, and more importantly to share what’s on their minds. Today, we had the rare privilege of having our W2o Group President and Chief Innovation Officer, Bob Pearson, sit down with three marketing leaders at Overstock.com, Interstate Batteries and Accel Partners at the Holmes Report’s In2Summit.

Here are quick questions and answers (with a huge infusion of wisdom) from Natalie Malaszenko (Overstock), Dorothy Jones (Interstate Batteries) and Larry Yu (Accel). Enjoy!

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Background and Thoughts on Being a CMO

Natalie: Over my career I have realized the importance of following my heart. Early on, I underestimated how important it was to be happy and passionate about your work. Having that alignment with your job is critical to getting to the next level. During my time at Hewlett Packard, I also learned how important it was to stay focused. Ignore the politics. Do a great job and concentrate on leading the people you lead courageously.

Dorothy: I have led marketing in three very diverse business. My key learning over those three opportunities has been to work with a purpose and to maintain a work life balance. It took me taking two years off to really understand what I wanted to do. During that time, I realized I had a choice regarding the people I wanted to work with/for.

Larry: The length of time people stay at organizations has changed. Making sure that you are picking companies to work for on paper as much as you are picking the people you will work for is underestimated. I’ll talk more about this later but during my early days of Facebook, it was clear that Facebook had a real mission and I now realize the criticality of this to a successful company.

Scouting Emerging Talent (Keys to)

  • No “one type” of marketer. Key to find story tellers. (Natalie)
  • Find people that have flexibility and multidisciplinary experience. Other key is leadership. Can’t teach people to have drive or to think ten steps ahead. When you see the raw gem, you take it. (Dorothy)
  • I have a communications background with a marketing title which speaks to the ambiguity of marketing these days. I like to look at people’s ability to take in data and translate that into the best possible story. Problem solving is also a needed skill. Do employees have the mental agility to figure things out? (Larry)

As we shift toward digital, what are we learning?

  • Everything is measurable which is a good and bad thing. And we are now looking at experience and journey versus single channels/pathways. Sometimes we can over-analyze and make the wrong decisions. (Natalie)
  • Data is your friend. But you can spin it however you want. And Digital is changing so rapidly, it’s critical to stay on top of it/out ahead of it. The whole purchase life cycle has changed. It is more important than ever to be in tune with what’s happening. Brand trust/positive sentiment can change overnight. I learned this firsthand at Susan G. Komen. (Dorothy)
  • How do you protect certain brand assets online? Example: trying to update your company’s logo on Wikipedia. (Larry)

What do you read? How do you learn?

  • I never miss an opportunity to learn from m,y network. At the same time, time is precious. I can’t read my daily “8,000” emails. Instead, I rely on my team to help me filter/seek out the most relevant topical ideas and news. (Dorothy)
  • When I am teaching classes/companies, I tell teams that if you aren’t willing to say, “I don’t know the answer,” you aren’t really learning. (Bob)
  • I ask experts, “who are three other people I should meet/talk to” about a particular topic. I also leans on social/aggregators to stay abreast of current topics. I have also found out how important it is to pick the people with whom you spend your time. (Larry)
  • Everything impacts ecommerce these days (Superbowl, Star Wars, David Bowie’s death so I am a student of pop culture. I also study business people intensely. (Natalie)

Additional Keys to Picking Best Talent

  • Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you. (Natalie)
  • Keep language simple and being mindful of not using terms like, “change management” while doing change management (it’s construed as a negative term). I also think about using language I would use with my grandmother who was not college educated to explain things. (Dorothy)
  • Great leaders keep messages clear and simple to make them understandable and repeatable. (Bob)
  • Organizations are very decentralized these days. People work from home more than ever. Orgs are also global. So it’s very important for companies to lock down the values and clearly communicate them. As an example, when Facebook did their IPO, it didn’t go well and employees were rattled. What helped keep the troops together was having  values (and a mission) as a touchstone. Even the leaders at the time were scared and didn’t want to let employees down. But the leaders got out there and helped bring everyone along. One other point is that values need to be organic. They can’t be handed down from the top leaders. (Larry)

Most pivotal part of your career

  • Mine wasn’t magical but was pivotal. “Peace in the midst of a storm” during time at Pepsico in the middle of a divorce. Had a baby (single mom) and working 75+ hours a week. Running a $2 billion division. Remembers running to pick up daughter from daycare, went to networking event with her girl. Took her back to office. At midnight, couldn’t find her and panicked. Realized she had crawled up under desk and fallen asleep. This was not a good “mommy” moment. It was pivotal because it taught her balance. (Dorothy)
  • Got to leave everything digital at HP. No politics among digital leaders within all the divisions at the company. Digital people find digital people and work hard to avoid politics. Had one mission and one cause. Lesson was, independent of companies goals/mission, you can always find people with a common cause. (Natalie)
  • Don’t judge people too quickly. Remembers seeing Zuckerburg at Web 2.0. Saw him on stage with hoodie and was wondering, “who is this guy?!?” Fast-forward two years, I followed my boss to Facebook. I remember one of Mark’s first internal Q&A sessions and was blown away by what he heard. (Larry)

What do you want your department to focus on?

  • What is the mission? A lot of time is spent focused on product but not on the “why” of the brand. (Larry)
  • Be idea generators. Money follows ideas. (Dorothy)
  • Don’t be afraid to kill things that are stale. The world is constantly changing so it’s okay to pause and sometimes weed. (Natalie)

How do you mentor?

  • I make time on the front end while being mindful of time and I always try hard to be willing to take calls/emails or even set up 30 minutes meetings at Starbucks on the way into the office. Sometimes I find just referring someone to the right person or providing the right business insight can be enough. (Dorothy)
  • I choose people that I can ultimately help be happy. My message is keep it simple. And then I work to make them feel comfortable with the idea of finding their own path. (Natalie)

Even though I can only assume, I think it is safe to say that most people with college degrees can relate at least a little to the job search conundrum facing recent graduates. Just six months ago, I was in that position myself. I had applied to many different internships and jobs over the course of a few months, but had not gained much traction. I was beginning to get a little nervous about my options after graduation, and then I found W2O Group. W2O Group was willing to take a chance interviewing an internship candidate without a degree in communications, but instead in Spanish Literature. Although I cannot deny my love of Garcia Marquez and Cervantes, something told me that I would not go on to write the next great Spanish novel. So I dove head first into the interview process, fully embracing the chance to work at an innovative company like W2O.

Andrew Echeguren and his rock-star team
Andrew Echeguren and his rock-star team

After the hiring process, I moved back home to San Francisco and walked excitedly through the doors of 60 Francisco St. thinking that I was about to embark on a two and a half month PR journey. I was wrong on multiple accounts. Instead of focusing solely on PR, my internship at W2O Group engaged me in many roles within the company. During the internship, I was able to combine account management experiences with media relations work, all while collaborating with my fellow interns to complete a challenging yet rewarding intern project.

All these experiences made a lasting impression on me, and I made it clear to my supervisors that I loved working at W2O Group. At this point, I knew my destiny of becoming the next Garcia Marquez was not in the cards just yet, and that instead I wanted to become a full-time employee of W2O Group. Thus, in addition to clearly communicating my aspirations to my colleagues and mentors, I worked hard to establish myself as an important member of my teams. All the hard work I put forth paid off, and I still clearly remember the day when I accepted an offer to become an Account Associate in the Tech Practice here. One of my coworkers even organized a welcoming party for me, which is when the thought crossed my mind, “This is the place for me, because they value what I can contribute to the company, but also, more importantly, who I am”.

After completing my internship, I transitioned into a more account management focused role, and I feel like I have grown tremendously, both professionally and personally, in these first few months. Truthfully, if someone had asked me six months ago if I had planned on doing what I do now, I would not have even understood my current job title. That just goes to show how much one can learn with hard work and support from the right people. After these first six months working here, I can safely say that this beats reading and writing about Don Quixote’s adventures in Spain (despite how awesome they are), and that I am even more excited about the next six months here at W2O Group than I was on my very first day.

Andrew Echeguren is now an Account Associate at the W2O Group office in San Francisco. Learn more about him on LinkedIn and at @therealbigech .

As millennials begin to hit one, two and three year anniversaries at work, their feet begin to itch. It’s time to uproot their lives and try out a new location! Who doesn’t love the idea of conquering a new city, trying out new bars, restaurants and coffee shops, and most importantly escaping the bitter cold, dreary rain or sweltering heat (depending on your current city that is). According to a recent Business Insider article, Americans are least likely to consider international relocation for a job. However, the one demographic of Americans who are far more likely to seek out career moves abroad are millennials. Fifty-nine percent of millennial professionals say that they would be open to moving to a foreign country for a job opportunity. We thought it necessary to catch up with some of our own W2O Group millennials who are traveling far and wide, home and abroad and near and far to see how and why they decided to make their own moves.Moving Boxes

Holly Batchelder: New York, NY — Boston, MA

My background is rooted in science, and I spent many years – during and after college – working at various research institutions and hospitals in the Boston area. After a couple of years, I realized my true passion was translating science into easy-to-understand health information for patients in need, so I went to graduate school to pursue a career in health communications. When I finally completed my program, I took a leap of faith and accepted a job in NYC at Twist.

I loved living in NYC. I reconnected with friends from my past, met fun new co-workers and indulged in a convenient little delivery service you may have heard of, called Seamless. However, there was still a lot I missed about Boston, including the nearby beaches, the health-conscious culture, and – of course – the lobster rolls!

In the end, I am so happy that I moved back. The Boston office is small (12 people), but we are thriving! We have an unbeatable office culture, and when we’re not at work, you can find us boxing at The Club by George Foreman III, or drinking Paloma’s at 75 Liberty Wharf in the Seaport.

moving dogsErin Scialabba: New York, NY — Austin, TX

Ultimately, I moved to move—to meet new people, to try new things, and to gain a fresh perspective on life and the work that we do.

At 25, I realized that I had a lot of growing to do; I’d lived in the New York area for my entire life, spending season after season doing the same activities with the same people. I loved my home, my family, my friends, and my coworkers, but I was itching for a plot twist.

So I set myself up to make the change. Months before I wanted to leave, I spoke with managers about my interest in living and working in Austin. I met with leadership in New York and Texas about logistics. I connected with other transfers around the company and asked them about their experiences. Not only was I taking responsibility and ensuring that I didn’t leave anyone high and dry, I was also creating external momentum to help me take a leap of faith.

So I jumped—and by jumped, I mean I slept for 20 hours while my incredible parents drove me halfway across the country, where I would later live with a roommate I found on Craigslist.

But since the initial jitters, I haven’t looked back. Not only have I had a great time exploring one of the coolest cities in the country, I’ve also made significant strides in my career. By switching offices, I was able to “start a new job,” but draw on a year’s worth of experience I had already gained in New York. Moving to a new office almost doubled my professional network and my confidence at work.

Brianna Kuhl: New York, NY — London, UK

I spent a good amount of time abroad in college, first in Austria and then in France, and ever since I’ve wanted to find my way back out ASAP. I joined W2O over 2 years ago knowing about our many amazing office locations. The London office has a lot of heavy digital growth goals and, after a quick visit last month, seems to be everything I’m looking for. So here I go, off to a new country in a new place where I need to learn how EVERYTHING works. I can’t really explain how excited/nervous/happy I am. It’s a decent amount of paperwork to get a visa for another country (and securing travel for your pet is EVEN harder, more intense than getting myself over there for sure!) but in less than 10 days I’ll be in a new place with a bunch of AMAZING folks out in the UK office. Definitely a learning experience going through the process but overall there is so much support at W2O it’s been much smoother than you would think. I am excited to start a new chapter with a supportive company.

 

 

Recently, after being briefed on the company’s internal communications strategy and plan for the year – the CEO of a global organization posed a compelling question: “Fast forward to December, tell me why all of this didn’t work.”

As we enter a new year, it’s always a positive and somewhat idealistic time. Strategies and plans come together with their requisite measures and synchronized business goals. For communications professionals, specifically those involved with organizational effectiveness, the challenge remains – how can we improve employee engagement.

Former General Electric CEO and leadership guru, Jack Welch, often describes employee engagement as the most important measurement for a CEO. “There are measurements you need to understand at a business to know if you’re on the right track, Welch once told a major business journal. First and foremost, is employee engagement.”

As you begin the year, ask yourself the following questions as a means to test your internal communications programming to ensure the results are met and possibly, exceeded.

What are you Solving for?

The most important question to answer is whether internal communications is directed at improving employee engagement. This can be done based on specific business goals – providing line of sight between people’s jobs and customer needs, marketplace expectations. Engagement includes but is not limited to leader rhetoric and commitment; manager involvement; feedback and discussion; and recognition.

Is it a Conversation-based model?

How are you planning to catalyze dialogue internally? Without dialogue, discussion, and debate, internal communications is nothing more than a cadence of information with no real intent or meaning. A key measure of this approach is to constantly discern what people are talking about inside, which leads to the next point.

In order to ignite discussion, are you provocative?

How is Data informing decisions?

Where do employees go to get specific information inside the company? Do they prefer video? Are they active on social channels? What is the volume and the key themes from feedback?

All of this is now available through technology and must be incorporated into your planning and decision-making. Data and insight provide precision allowing for course corrections during the year.

Is your plan Activity-based or Solution-based?

Step back and objectively size up your plan. Is it designed to solve the key objectives of the business. Or is it a series of activities? Do the elements connect and work together to create a better destination? Often this simple exercise is an eye-opener leading to a more strategic realignment.

Is the CEO involved ?

The most critical determinant in engagement, as Welch stated, is the CEO’s commitment. Engagement and effective communication starts at the top and is based on leadership’s view of the business, its prospects, challenges, opportunities, and competitive reality. Internal communications professionals must have access and influence in the C-Suite helping to direct the organization’s narrative and counsel the appropriate actions that link strategy to execution. When this takes place, companies achieve coherence and most importantly, clarity.

Are you Mobile?

With organizations increasingly featuring employees outside of their own offices and placed across the globe working across time zones, while more office stable or manufacturing oriented employees operate across boundaries, companies are building their IT systems including communications platform outside their walls. Mobile applications allowing everything from benefits updates, to stock price alerts, to CEO briefings, and up-to-date competitive news, are becoming more visible.

Delving into these questions at this point to avoid end of year mea culpas can prove to be a wise investment of time and talent.

Is the Organization Getting Smarter?

Ultimately, employee engagement and organizational intelligence are inextricably linked. At the heart of engagement lies information (content). Is it contextual? Is it relevant? Does it challenge assumptions? Does it encourage experimentation that leads to innovation? Does it help people to make the argument themselves?

One notable organization, upon naming a new CEO, went from focusing on what they knew to what they didn’t. Translation: Internal communications became more provocative and meaningful touching on competitive moves and products, societal shifts, internal issues such as quality and productivity, etc. It’s focus is on expanding people’s knowledge and building confidence in the future. Results thus far indicate a more robust interest in important company initiatives and a more active discourse among employees on topics that just a few months ago were never broached. A recent CEO blog to employees reflects this new found approach. In it the CEO asked a very profound question – “Who is our most dangerous competitor?” He explained that competition today comes in all shapes and sizes and is no longer confined to a company’s competitive set. After an incredible amount of employee posts, most offering key competitors as the answer, the CEO stated that Amazon was the most dangerous competitor because it keeps “changing the level of customer expectations.” Amazon, which is not in this company’s competitive set provides a different way to think about the business and is a proxy for a new business strategy about to be introduced.

This is particularly important to capture employee attention with so many distractions. It is also crucial for long-term business success especially as companies continually redesign business models in a social and digital context to be more fluid, agile, and omni-channel.

As business becomes more seamless and friction free the very nature of the workforce will be revolutionized. Analytics will provide more specific information on employee engagement making it easier to discern performance and thus merit compensation. This type of transparency will result in higher levels of organizational acuity that couple with new technology will force a more sophisticated approach to internal communications.

Now Ask Yourself …

The role of internal communications as we’ve reiterated is to improve engagement. To do that, it needs to move the workforce to become future smart or capable of recognizing and navigating the myriad changes taking place around them. It’s about balancing the marketplace with the organization and the individual. And then balancing the individual with improving the lives of others as well be it colleagues, customers, communities, etc.

Given all of that, how will your own performance be evaluated at the end of the year?

It’s December 2016…

Spending time now to address the inherent discrepancies or gaps in your internal communications strategy and plan will go a long way to ensuring you get the results you seek and the company demands.

It really comes down to seeing ahead … just as this CEO did!

In 2015, the Committee of Millennials (COM) stepped up its game to accomplish goals and objectives set forth by its members. As the year comes to a close and COM celebrates its 2nd birthday, we wanted to share a few highlights and key learnings from 2015.

2016-new-year

  • Slow and Steady Wins the Race… Sometimes:
    • In May and June, COM initiated peer onboarding sessions for all interns, associates and managers led by none other than the committee members. Who better to show new hires the W2O way than those who do the job every day! With courses including account management basics, media research, social and traditional media monitoring, and office basics, COM is taking an active role in helping the future leaders of W2O Group nestle into their roles quickly and efficiently.
  • Oh the Places You’ll Go:
    • One of the COM’s objectives since its inception has been to expand across the long hallway. Originating in New York, the Committee of Millennials is proud to announce that our meetings now include New York, Minneapolis, Boston and Chicago. Additionally, we are working closely with the AA’s and AM’s in San Francisco to align COM and SF Up and Comers, and to extend their meeting to all of the West Coast offices. Hold onto your cowboy hats, Austin. We’re coming for you next!
  • You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me:
    • Expanding COM’s reach across multiple offices created the opportunity for an initiative we’re calling “COMrades.” Our goal was to institute a program within the group to enable its members to get to know one another better. Thus, COMrades was born. Each month, committee members are matched with a designated COMrade and encouraged to take time to get to know each other over hipchat, a phone call or coffee break.

On top of the new and exciting additions to the Committee of Millennials, we continued to stay true to our roots with peer presentations on case studies, key insights from senior leaders and professional development workshops. 2015 was an excellent year for the Committee of Millennials and we have no doubt 2016 will be even better. As Jim would say, we #MakeItHappen.

We look forward to sharing what’s next in 2016!

Happy New Year!

Lauren, Meredith and Colleen.

When searching for the “perfect” job applicant, organizations are beginning to find more often than not that they are willing to overlook a lack of specific qualifications in favor of ensuring the applicant is a good fit for the existing culture.

More and more employers want to know who they are hiring and how they will relate and work with other employees. As many organizations have already figured out, recruiting shouldn’t only be focused on an applicant’s GPA and past experience anymore. Rather a focus on the individual and what their interests may be outside of the workplace.

Employment site Glassdoor has collected hundreds of thousands of questions asked by hiring managers, and the following four ranked among 2015’s 50 Most Common Interview Questions, though they have little to do with work:

  1. What are your hobbies?
  2. What’s your favorite website?
  3. What was the last book you’ve read for fun?
  4. What makes you uncomfortable?

Why does this matter?culture fit and experience

According to a research paper conducted in 2004 by Development Dimensions International (DDI), an international talent management company, 78% of respondents believed that organizations and hiring managers do not assess for culture fit because they do not know how to do this.

Oh how the times have changed. Employers now seem to have a much better understanding of the importance of colleagues being able to relate to one another to accomplish any given task. In recent years there has been a shift to hiring for culture and focusing on training and developing employees who may be new to the workforce, such as millennials.

With the workplace changing and more millennials climbing the corporate ladder, more research is being conducted by experts like Dan Schawbel, author of Me: 2.0, who identified specific needs of millennials in search of positions. According to Schawbel, “millennials want a culture that’s less hierarchical, more flexible, and more understanding of difference, because millennials are the most diverse generation.”

As culture continues to become increasingly important and effecting employee attraction and retention, making sure you pick the right people is crucial. You now not only need to make sure a candidate has the background criteria you are seeking, but can also thrive in your existing culture. As culture begins to play a bigger role within organizations keep these five questions in mind to help you identify a candidate who will help keep your business moving forward.

Read the person behind the paper.

  1. What unique talent does this applicant add to the existing team?
  2. What similarities do they have with existing team members?
    a. Did they attend the same school?
    b. Do they have similar interest outside of the office (traveling, sports, etc.)?
  3. Does the applicant’s personality match that of the existing culture?
  4. How will the company leverage the applicant’s expertise to help grow the current staff’s skill set?
  5. What will this applicant add to the team aside from their experience?