From speaker videos to event photos our recap page of W2O at SXSW has it all!

Each year, leading up to and following our live events in Austin, we host a series of blog interviews with the speakers from our PreCommerce Summit and Movers & Shapers talks. To kick things off this year, I interviewed Carla Pineyro Sublett who is moderating our fireside chat with CEO, Brett Hurt and Google’s Head of Brand Measurement and Analytics, Mike Clarke.

According to Carla’s bio, she is the SVP and CMO of Rackspace, a cloud services company, offering cloud management on the world’s leading public and private clouds. She has responsibility for all facets of marketing globally  from brand to demand generation. Prior to Rackspace, Carla was an executive at Dell where she ran marketing for Latin America and the Caribbean. Carla also has extensive sales experience and has worked across all customer types from consumers to Global enterprises.

Now onto the questions:

  • Aaron – What led you down the path of marketing in B2B Tech?
  • Carla – It picked me! I grew up in sales at Dell, doing or leading just about every type of sales role across the consumer to large enterprise spectrum. It culminated with my leading inside sales for the Americas, where I built a strong partnership with my marketing counterpart. Together we built a robust demand generation machine that caught the attention of our CMO, Karen Quintos. She recruited me to marketing, despite my trying to convince her otherwise. She challenged me and said: You are a marketer; you just don’t know it yet. She took a chance on me and gave me the opportunity to lead marketing for Dell for Latin America. In effect, it was a divisional CMO job – running every aspect of marketing for the region. She docked me under one of her strongest marketers who really put me through the paces. It was a crash course. In the end, it was an amazing learning experience and I discovered a strength that I didn’t even know that I had. All these years later, I am the CMO of Rackspace and I have a crew of amazing marketers/phone-a-friends to thank for it.
  • Aaron – How do you define innovation? 
  • Carla – Creative ideas that improve or solve.
  • Aaron – What are you or your organization doing to drive innovation?
  • Carla – It is something that I am trying to drive right now. We are stealing an idea from our developer brethren and standing up a marketing hack-a-thon – where we bring together cross-functional marketers to solve for challenges and bring new ideas forward. When I was in architecture school, this was called en charrette – we were given a design problem to solve inside of a 24 hour period and we had to work on teams to come up with the answer. It was tough but made for bonding and drove great creativity.
  • Who is someone in your industry (or outside) that you admire?
  • Currently I am so inspired by and full of admiration for my class of Henry Crown Fellows. They are an amazing group of diverse leaders, setting out to leave the world a better place.
  • Where do you see your industry being in 3 years? 5? 10?
  • Given the pace of change in marketing, I don’t know that I could even process what it could look like 10 years from now. Part of me wonders if we have gone too far down the path of technology and forgotten that marketing, in the end, is really about enabling relationships. I want to drive a back to basics, low tech movement that takes the best from old school and leverages the intelligence of new school.
  • What book(s) are you reading right now? What is one of the key take aways/themes?
  • Word of Mouth Marketing, by Andy Sernovitz. My main take away is that we as marketers like to over complicate our plans. There is something to be said for a simple play.
  • For fun: you are stranded on a desert island and can only listen to one album into perpetuity. What is that album and why?
  • How do I answer this? Shall I be clever? Christopher Cross.  Try hard to be cool? Chance the Rapper’s, Coloring Book. Or honest? My idea of torture is listening to one album, given how eclectic my music taste is. Thank goodness for Spotify. For what it is worth, I am on a Tom Mish radio kick. However, I could never pick just 1 love when it comes to music.

Great answers and who knew you liked such cool music! Thank you for taking the time to sit down with us. We are looking forward to an awesome session with you, Brett and Mike!

We know how poorly the future has been predicted via traditional approaches.  David Cameron’s return in 2015 as Prime Minister of Great Britain was considered to be a surprise, as he easily picked up 328 House of Common Seats.  Brexit was considered to be a no-brainer that it would be turned down as an option, yet 51.9% of voters voted yes.  Donald Trump was dismissed by many as a candidate, yet he picked up 306 votes or 36 more than he needed.

The good news is that what happens in politics often represents the tip of the spear for innovation. So we ask “why” and before you know it, we innovate.  Here is what our panel explored today.

I focused on five key drivers of change:

#1 — Subconscious behavior is more important to measure in highly emotional/partisan issues.  We won’t tell the truth if you ask us in a highly emotional setting, but our actions will tell the truth.

#2 — The “non-behavior” e.g. silence, apathy or a decrease in intensity is often more important than what we say.  If an important constituency starts to decrease its intensity or perhaps go silent, this may be far more telling than what we are reading or what people are saying.

#3 — Narrowcasting is leading to overinterpretation of what real trends actually are.  We are increasingly getting our information from the sources that are most comfortable for us

#4 — Highly partisan and/or even fake news has a cumulative impact even if we think it does not.  Advertising models taught us long ago that frequency matters.

#5 — A new set of peers are emerging as influencers (the interpreters).  As the 9% in the 1,9,90 model matures into a media force, what they do and say is often far more powerful than any set of media outlets.

Rebecca Haller, who leads audience insight for Politico, informed us that Politico just created a new department dedicated to understanding our audience two weeks ago.  This team is is focusing on what they can learn from their readers, subscribers and event goers, who are also their sources and advertisers.

Rebecca also said that “we are combining the best of first and third party insights to understand our audience’s lives outside of the Politico ecosystem.  We are looking at more ethnograpic research and combining the best of pyschographics with our basic knowledge of our audience, all to provide a better experience”.

This is real innovation at a major media outlet and is one to pay attention to in the months and years ahead.

Mark Stouse, founder of Proof said that “analytics is hard enough….predictive is fraught with peril”. He went on to describe seven key learnings:

We don’t first understand the past and present
We know what we want and that drives bias
We trust ourselves when we should not
We assume consistency v. inconsistency
We don’t understand the role of time
We like pretty pictures too much
We like large speculation v. small certainty

Dr. Alexander Krasnikov, assistant professor of marketing for Loyola University in Chicago focused on the value of brands and made several interesting points, such as:

We need to conduct continuous segmentation in real time. Continuous being the key word.

If we do this well, we start to uncover the customer’s hidden needs and preferences.  We see early warning signs.  And with time, we can start to become predictive of responses likely to occur in specific scenarios.

Just as important, finding “alike” consumers does not imply correct segmentation

We are entering a time where our ability to innovate in data science and behavioral models has never been more important.

I’ll conclude with the key message overall.  Major change leads to breakthroughs.  Yes, its often fun, even therapeutic to discuss what happened, but it is much more productive to evolve and change how we do business as a result of what we are learning.

Here is one example of what we are doing to get a better view of what is actually happening in the market place.

We have realized that we will now build multi-dimensional algorithms so you can get the full and real perspective for any market, avoid false positives and see how trends or movements or apathy is really occurring.

Here is an example of how we are approaching it.

We are building a new “Trump algorithm” that has six dimensions.  The first is the “brand”, in this case Trump and all of his followers.  Second, we look at his appointees and surrogates (the army). Third, we look at Congress and staffers.  Fourth, a wide range of normative data sets (the real secret sauce) ranging from normative sets of 1MM people are more per channel who represent the “average” to NGOs for a specific issue to all African American pastors who discuss politics in public to key journalists and more.  The fifth is time and motion related.  What is the duration for successful momentum and when do you know that a new idea or protest is taking hold for real? And the sixth relates to sensitization and desensitization to a topic.  We often forget to look at the rates of burnout for things we are passionate about or fail to see an ember turning into a fire early enough.

The result is a new way to look at how an audience is truly being built, shaped or redefined.  Not surprisingly, it is important to point out that a single group often does not automatically impact the audiences that matter.  They might…..they might not….and that goes for any one group.  Said another way, just because any group is vocal on a topic doesn’t mean that will ever correlate with success. You still have to win the hearts and minds of the right people.  In that respect, nothing has changed….but our ability to understand the psychology of the market via technology and how it is shaping our world is becoming a top priority for brands, companies and anyone in the world of politics.

Thank you to our leaders on today’s panel. Best, Bob

For the last eight years, W2O Group has hosted a handful of invite-only events leading up to (and slightly overlapping with) SXSW Interactive. If you haven’t attended, this 100,000 person event hosted in Austin, TX has become a “must attend” for marketers, communication professionals, entrepreneurs and investors alike. While there is no shortage of panels, keynotes, networking events and concerts during what the veterans call “Southby,” we are big believers in creating a highly curated experience for our customers and partners to maximize the event. In addition to recommending the best health and tech panels, keynotes and parties to attend, we also produce two different thought leadership events and an awesome party featuring local BBQ (Terry Black’s this year) and top notch music (more on that soon).

If you’ve never been to one of our events, here are a few highlights from last year’s festivities.

If you want to dig deeper, you can read recaps and watch some of last year’s speakers talks here.

Note, all of our events are invite only. If you would like to attend, click on the event links below and select “Contact Organizer” to request the password. We review every request and promise to get back to you with either a password OR a good explanation why you might not be a fit (of course we prefer more of the former, and less of the latter).

Now, a little more detail about the events:

Friday, March 10th
7th Annual PreCommerce Summit | 9:00 AM – 6:30 PM
AT&T Executive Conference Center | 1900 University Ave, Austin, TX

The PreCommerce Summit is one of our signature events (one track/one day) and is free to the 350 invite-only attendees. The event consists of a series of brief keynotes,  10-minute TED-like talks mixed with select 20 minute fireside chats and by industry leaders. The focus is on business innovation and spans the health, tech and consumer industries.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Dan Bartlett, former Counselor to the President (George W. Bush) and current EVP, Corporate Affairs, Walmart
  • Judith Williams, Global Head of Diversity, Dropbox (@judithmwilliams)
  • Mike Clarke, Head of Analytics and Research, Google (@michaelfhclarke)
  • Torod Neptune, Corporate VP, Corporate Communications, Verizon (@torodneptune)
  • Francesca DeMartino, VP of Communications, Medtronic Diabetes (@GetFrescaFresh)
  • Brett Hurt, CEO and Founder, (@databrett)
  • Lord Peter Chadlington, Chairman, Huntsworth
  • Robin Hauser, Director/Producer, Finish Line Features, LLC (@rubie226)
  • TK Keanini, Principal Engineer, Product Line CTO for Analytics, Cisco (@TKeanini)
  • David Berkowitz, Chief Strategy Officer, Sysomos (@dberkowitz)
  • Melinda Richter, Head of Innovation and JLABS, Johnson & Johnson (@melindarichter)
  • Rohit Barghava, Author, Founder of the Influential Marketing Group (@rohitbhargava)
  • Bob Pearson, Author and President, W2O Group (@bobpearson1845)
  • Ray Kerins, SVP of Comms and Government Affairs, Bayer (@raykerins)
  • Steve Cragle, CMO, United Health (@slcragle)
  • Angela Gillespie, Chief Strategy Officer, Global Medtech Practice, W2O Group (@AG_medtech)
  • Jim Larrison, President & Co-founder, Dynamic Signal (@jlarrison)
  • Bryan Kramer, Author and CEO, Pure Matter (@bryankramer)
  • Amy Lamparske, Managing Director, W2O Group (@amylamparske)
  • Matt Dickman, Head of Digital, Comcast (@mattdickman)
  • Jeremiah Owyang, CEO, Crowd Companies (@jowyang)
  • Mark Stouse, CEO, Proof (@markstouse)
  • Lorie Fiber, VP of Communications, IBM Watson Health (@loriefiber)
  • Mike Huckman, Global Practice Leader, Executive Communications, W2O Group, (@mikehuckman)
  • Katrine Bosley, CEO, Editas Medicine (@ksbosley)

Saturday, March 11th

3rd Annual Movers & Shapers | 10:30 AM – 2:30 PM
The Parish, 214 E 6th Street, Austin, TX

Movers & Shapers is our newest event and takes us back to our early roots of the PreCommerce Summit. With only 150 people in attendance, this event also leverages the 10-minute TED-like talk format with a few select fire side chats.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Jessica Mega, Chief Medical Officer, Verily
  • Jeff Haydock, VP Communications, (@jhaydock)
  • Dan Herscovici, SVP and General Manager, Xfinity Home (@danherscovici)
  • Stacey Higginbotham, Founder, SKT Labs LLC (Internet of Things Podcast) (@gigastacey)
  • Bret Greenstein, Vice President, Watson IoT Consumer and Volume Offerings, IBM (@brettgreenstein)
  • Ellen Jackowski, Sustainability Lead, Hewlett Packard
  • Chris Preuss Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Delphi (@cpreusscarwild)
  • Bryan & Amelia Thomas CEO/Co-Founder, PopUp Play (@popupplaytoy)
  • Larry Dobrow, Senior Editor, Medical Marketing & Media (@larrydobrow)
  • Nick van Terheyden, Chief Medical Officer, NTT DATA, Inc. (formerly Dell) (@drnic1)
  • Sandra Lopez, VP & GM of Wearables, Intel (@nycsf)
  • Asif Qasim, Clinical Director & Interventional Cardiologist, MedShr
  • Michael Plante, CMO, Inside Sales
  • Marie Baker, Senior Manager, Social Strategy and Community, Bayer (@marieveebee)
  • David Berkowitz, Chief Strategy Officer, Sysomos (@dberkowitz)
  • Mark Stouse, CEO, Proof (@markstouse)
  • Stephanie Agresta, Author and Cofounder, Virago Group (@stephagresta)

8th Annual GeekACue6 PM – 10 PM
Historic Scoot Inn, 1308 E 4th St, Austin, TX 78702

This eight-year long tradition started with 50 employees and clients out at local BBQ legend, The Salt Lick and has evolved into a 700-person party. This year’s event will be at the historic Scoot Inn and will feature Terry Black’s BBQ and two amazing bands — LOLO (recently on the Bachelor) and Eric Tessmer.

We hope you can join us for some/all of our events. As you may have noticed, all of the events are password protected but if you click, “Contact Organizer,” you can request permission.

Last but not least, none of this happens with out the support of our sponsors (whom we like to call, “partners”). We encourage you to introduce yourself to their senior leaders at our events at SXSW. And if you’d like an introduction before then, we are more than happy to facilitate.





They’re the questions on everyone’s mind. What is the fate of the Affordable Care Act? If “repeal and replace” becomes reality, what exactly does that replacement look like? And for those at the intersection of healthcare and technology, how will these policy changes that impact digital health investments in 2017 and beyond?

At the 35th J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, W2O Group hosted its 3rd Annual Digital Health VIP Luncheon to find out the answers to these questions and more. W2O’s digital health practice leader, Rob Cronin, teed up the discussion, reminding the audience just how much communications – from media to influencers – still matters in driving policy decisions and broader health IT discussions. “The election taught us a lot, or reminded us a lot, about communications,” he said, where data is at the core and influence is its own form of currency.

But when it comes to how the new administration will influence healthcare policy, while there will no doubt be significant changes, “I think value-based payments will stay,” said Jodi Daniel, partner at Crowell & Moring, formerly with CMS. Daniel spoke to the importance of population health management, noting that “anything that helps population health management will be very much aligned with the policy in Washington.”

Also emphasizing the importance of value, Sean Hogan, general manager of IBM Healthcare & Life Sciences, spoke to the needs of the consumer. Regardless of what shakes out at the policy level, “we need to help consumers make better health decisions,” said Hogan, who also pointed out that achieving success in a value-based environment “calls for tools that can help people deal with the enormous amount of information thrust upon them.”

Enormous amount of information is right. As of 2011, more than 150 exabytes — or 150 billion gigabytes — of healthcare data existed in the U.S alone. That river of information is only going to flow faster as industry interoperability (slowly, but surely) continues to progress.

For IBM Watson Health, this has meant doubling down on the application of cognitive, natural language processing (NLP), artificial intelligence (AI), and now blockchain, to improve care, control costs and advance health globally. On January 11, IBM Watson Health and the FDA announced a new partnership focused on using blockchain to enable the secure, efficient and scalable exchange of health data.

And to advance health globally, the industry needs to have a better understanding of both specific populations and the individuals within them. In fact, Lisa Suennen, healthcare’s Venture Valkyrie and senior managing director of health investments at GE Ventures, isn’t sold on the term population health. “What you’re really doing is personalized healthcare within a population,” Suennen said, reminding attendees that “one program doesn’t fit all. One program fits one in 57.”

The idea that care must targeted at the individual level is not a new concept in the industry. It is also one of the chief reasons that healthcare technology companies are starting to “look an awful lot like healthcare service providers,” pointed out Matthew Holt, panel moderator and Health 2.0’s godfather. Why? “That’s where the money is,” noted Suennen.

It’s also where the savings are – and the ability to guide consumers on the path to better health using a blended tech/services approach. Rajeev Singh, CEO of Accolade, Inc., has seen the impact that this can have on both consumers’ health and their level of engagement. The company’s on-demand healthcare concierge service is transforming how consumers engage with their care, with human compassion playing as big of a role as science and technology. Singh said that eighty percent of Accolade’s employer customers are already implementing some form of value-based payment structure.

“Services are where the solutions are,” said Singh, stressing that “you can’t have a real solution without a component of services in your story.” Singh also feels a shift in mindset needs to occur at the investor level before we see more significant movement. However, he does not believe that pending policy will stifle innovation or oust value-based frameworks – “undoing the private sector’s desire to move in one direction seems to go against the Republican ideology,” he said. Accolade’s latest $70 million series E round in 2016 brings total funding to $160 million.

One reason for the relatively early phase of investor interest in the space, said Livongo’s chief executive officer, Glen Tullman, is that “Silicon Valley tech has typically not understood how to navigate healthcare. Now, there’s a healthier level of respect.” Livongo is working to change the face of diabetes care management by using technology and health coaching to help diabetes patients better manage their chronic condition.

Given that chronic disease — diabetes included — is set to have a global impact of $47 trillion come 2030, the need to have both solutions and services dedicated to improving care and decreasing costs has never been more urgent. Tullman also believes the industry will see massive disruption in the way that technology companies, healthcare providers and healthcare purchasers – employers included – contract and integrate with one another.

Daniel said that we’ll continue to see new players in the healthcare space, but cautioned that the “technology is only as good as the improvement the services allow.” Her 15 years spent with HHS gave her a front row seat to healthcare technology’s growth. Her experience tells her that those tools that help reduce cost, increase transparency of cost and quality data and help consumers make smarter choices will take priority for VC dollars.

Speaking of those coveted VC dollars, as we are amidst one of the biggest shifts that healthcare has seen to date, what types of companies and services will reign supreme moving forward? Moreover, is now a good time for healthcare technology investments overall?

“Under any scenario, the focus on cost will continue,” said Hogan, noting that innovators and investors alike are going to focus on growing offerings that provide a better service at a better price. Singh agreed, saying that these types of technologies are where “there is money to be made and that’s what investors will follow,” regardless of what happens at the policy level.

Suennen was quick to point out that provider insolvency is going to be one of the main reasons that technologies designed for value will continue to see traction. “Value-based companies are making progress because hospitals still need to improve their efficiency,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if they buy in to (value-based care) or not – they’re going to have to.”

Please see here for the full panel replay, and be sure to follow both @W2OGroup and this year’s stellar group of panelists to stay in the know on all things #JPM17 and digital health.

Last week, W2O Group conducted its Fall Social Commerce Days at Syracuse University as part of the W2O/Newhouse Center for Social Commerce.  The Visiting Executive Forum  featured Tony Cervone, Senior Vice President, Global Communications, General Motors Corporation (GM), and Chairman, GM Foundation.

In addition to participating in several classes addressing such topics as Research, Campaigns, Writing, and Crisis, Tony was involved in a panel discussion attended by over 150 students titled: “Why Should I Care?  How GM Engages People on its Products, Perspectives, Technology, and the Future Transportation.”

Among the key take-aways from the discussion were:

  • GM is aggressively moving to become a Technology-oriented company as it competes for talent across the technology spectrum with the likes of Google, Amazon, IBM, Apple, etc.
  • From a communications standpoint, PR and marketing are connected like never before but refinement is still needed around influencer engagement and storytelling.
  • The lesson for Corporate Communications today is the need to “knit together an overarching story” vs. just telling stories if the organization is to achieve relevance.
  • From an influencer standpoint GM is working to discern between “larger conversations that drive opinion”  vs.  smaller conversations that may have volume but don’t generate specific actions or behaviors important to the company.
  • The game today lies in the “Pivot.”  Analytics need to uncover insights that determine the evolution of audience behaviors to understand when people pivot to the next thing.  For example, when young buyers pivot from information gathering to dealer visit or actual test drive.
  • As communicators, three areas are essential for growth and success: 1) Employing analysis and insights into planning, execution, and assessment; 2) clear and articulate writing skills and 3) global understanding of business, markets, customers, employees.
  • To be relevant, organizations and brands have to be “self-aware.”  GM is working hard to be smarter about who and what it is both internally and externally.  This transcends every decision it makes about products, services, people, market, etc.
  • Answering “Why your company exists” is probably the most critical task for communicators and marketers today.
  • Regarding Purpose and the GM Foundation, Cervone told students that GM thinks about Purpose as a foundation that eventually drives reputation. A focal point for investment is around STEM or educating the next generation of professionals in science, technology, engineering .

The W2O Group/Newhouse Center for Social Commerce is now recognized as the standard for industry-academic partnerships and in 2017 we will be celebrating our five-year anniversary!  To date, we’ve welcomed Chief Communications or Marketing Officers from Chevron, GM, Verizon, Medtronic, and Delphi as Visiting Executives to the Center as well as dozens of W2O Group staff from each OpCo.

The Center was created by Jim and Audra Weiss, both SU grads, to positively influence and inform the next generation of the profession.  It’s an important component of the W2O Group ecosystem blending staff, clients, notable brands, perspectives with students, professors, and a fresh curriculum.  The Center is fast becoming a beacon of progressive and practical thought leadership for the profession.  Maria Russell, professor of public relations at Newhouse and an icon in the communications field and I serve as co-directors of The Center.

All of us at W2O Group and its related firms are proud of the work being conducted at the Center for Social Commerce and our relationship with Syracuse University and the Newhouse School of Public Communications.  More importantly, we are excited about the future being shaped for students by faculty and professionals alike.



On Tuesday, October 18th, I spoke to a group of healthcare leaders at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Health Forward Summit on “innovations in healthcare”.  Here is my view below and my slides.

We have three key drivers of transformation change occurring simultaneously in healthcare, which I frame like this:

The Information Genome – we are learning how to harness the power of big data.  As we get better at ingesting and interpreting different data sets, we will start to create an “information genome” that will greatly improve the intelligence of providers, patients and the healthcare system.

Artificial Intelligence – we are just learning how to adapt AI to healthcare.  As an example, if we can study the brain waves of a person who is paralyzed, AI can help us see patterns far faster that we could via normal technology approaches.  Scaling the data made available from our own bodies will lead to breakthroughs we don’t fully understand at this point.

The Human Genome – we continue to learn about how own bodies work, how genes are expressed, which pathways we need to shut down or open up and much more.

The result is a new era where technology and healthcare together will lead to exponential advance in how we approach medical issues.  For example:

If we combine semiconductor and pharmaceutical technology, we can build an ingestible sensor that can accompany a drug and tell us what is happening inside our bodies during the journey of a single pill.  This is Proteus Digital Health.

If we utilize new technology platforms like CRISPR-Cas9, l we can edit genes and, over time, eradicate disease.

If we utilize virtual reality in new ways, we can help veterans deal more effectively with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The deck has more examples.  The key here is that it takes both disciplines together to create the next generation of breakthroughs.

All we have our challenges, which is why I ended with the four things that entrepreneurs need most to succeed in how they innovate in healthcare.  They are the following:

Clarity of Rules – we need to know what the regulations are, so we know the hurdles.  Just like a track meet, we can’t move the hurdles in the middle of the race.

Clarity of Payment – yes, pricing is an issue and always will be.  But to invest, you need to be able to estimate what payments will occur.  Consistency matters.  Entrepreneurs stay away from unstable situations.

Ability to Learn Together – It’s time for FDA and entrepreneurs to learn together from the beginning.  We all need to ramp up our knowledge and not wait until an application is made to start thinking through a new advance.  We can greatly improve here and this requires both groups to try harder to learn together.

Ability to Evolve Together – innovation will surely require change.  Let’s get educated together and evolve the regulations and rules that are necessary to improve or create as a team.

We’ve never had a better time to innovate in healthcare.  The only question is whether companies and regulators can move with the speed of the market.   Patients are certainly hoping we do so.

Best, Bob