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Every time I land at Heathrow, I feel the energy of London-town envelope me – my trip this week was no different. Yes, the weather was gray and cold despite the season, (hello, it’s London!) but the vibe was crazy cool – especially when entering our offices at 16 High Holborn, our burgeoning global center of excellence.

I was lucky enough to be in the office yesterday when the UK PR Week Leagues Tables came out, to join the team in celebrating: we moved up 31 places, to number 56!

It’s no easy feat to be amongst the top 150 UK consultancies after a mere five years of existence and to continue on the growth trajectory we’ve set for ourselves. It is thanks to an incredible team that makes it happen every day by believing in the WCG vision, themselves, each other and our clients. The ranking is a celebratory milestone – one we’re quite humbled by – but it is the day-to-day courage, camaraderie and collaboration that continues to amaze me.

The PR Week announcement has allowed us to reminisce – we certainly had a stellar year growing with our long-term clients and adding 5 new clients to our roster, as well as a fantastic collection of new team members. Interestingly, though, I was in London this week to look ahead, or in WCG vernacular, to “Go Ahead.” We spent time talking about where we’re headed in 2013 and beyond, and it became overwhelmingly clear that in our quickly evolving industry, our team is making its own way and taking calculated risks to deliver “next practices.”

Our 12 new analytics colleagues are working with our strategists and marketing experts to develop new models to guide our clients. Our digital team is creating new ways to evolve relationships via apps, sites and two-way communications. Our communications team is implementing advocacy work that, in many respects, is re-writing the patient/consumer decision journey.

WCG London isn’t having a strong finish as rankings often suggest…it is merely getting started. We’ve found our calling!

 

This was an exciting week within the halls of WCG. The analytics team, now approaching 40 people, was assembled in Austin for two days of training and development. It was the first time that the entire group has been assembled to talk about our models, our work and, most importantly, share our collective experiences with the goal of producing high quality work for our clients.

The WCG analytics team has grown tremendously over the last three years. When I joined the team in January of 2010 we were in a small office outside of downtown and there were only a handful of us doing analytics work for clients. Now, the team brings a wealth of experience beyond social analytics. We have a strong, and diverse team now with skills in web analytics, search, and traditional market research. These new team members have come in and built on our strong footprint in social analytics.

These two days in Austin have left me super-charged to be back at a firm that places such a high value on analytics. WCG is unique because everyone has bought into the idea that analytics is at the foundation of everything we do. It’s one of the reasons I was excited to rejoin the firm back in January. Want the rest? Well, here you go…

  1. Executive leadership has a deeply rooted belief in the power of analytics Jim Weiss, Bob Pearson, Tony Esposito, Diane Weiser, Paulo Simas, Gail Cohen, Jennifer Gottlieb, Leslie Wheeler, Craig Alperowitz and a host of others at the senior leadership level believe analytics is at the foundation of everything we do. They’ve invested time and energy in helping to build analytics models that benefit clients, and also position the firm as an innovative thought leader in a very crowded space. For someone who works in analytics and had their value challenged frequently, having senior leadership approval is a comforting thing.
  2. Jim Weiss and Bob Pearson – I know I mentioned Jim and Bob above, but I want to call them out separately for taking a chance on me – twice! I asked to come back to a place that I left, and they welcomed me back with open arms They have also given me a simple mission: “Help us do great work for our clients and continue to innovate.” How can you not be charged up by something like that?
  3. The best analytics team in the business – As I mentioned above, the team has grown and added some incredibly strong people like Tim Marklein, Seth Duncan and Amy Jackson. If you don’t know them, you should. Keep watching for what the analytics team develops. Shock and awe doesn’t even begin to describe it.
  4. Brian Reid – There are not many people in communications whose opinion on the media I trust more than Brian’s. It could be because he was a writer at the Washington Post, but more likely it is his intense curiosity to understand the evolving digital landscape. I have had some great discussions about the topic of online influence with people who you might know better than Brian, but I’ll tell you that few (if any) will make you rethink your stance on the topic more than him.
  5. Everyone who has welcomed me back or believed I could make a difference when coming back – Again, it could be seen as cliché to say that it feels like I never left, but it’s true. It really feels like I never left. This group of people is literally too long to list, and I’d be afraid of leaving someone off. If I haven’t thanked you in person yet, rest assured that I will at some point soon.

So there you have it… I could literally list 60 reasons why I am happy to be back at WCG, but that would make for the longest blog post in history. It’s great being in a place where I feel like I belong. Lets keep doing great work for clients, and making some serious thought leadership waves. It is time to GO. AHEAD.

While at the airport heading to WCG HQ, SF, I picked up the Feb 2012 edition of Fast Company — clearly my mailman not so fast on my regular delivery — b/c I was intrigued by the cover story: Modern Business is Pure Chaos. But Those Who Adapt Will Succeed. The Secrets of Generation Flux. Which made me chuckle and think…aha, so I have just been re-labeled Gen Flux and the WCG secret sauce, isn’t so secret anymore.

Those working in communications, or any business for that matter, have been living in a state of change/evolution for over a decade…but labeling it a state of flux… a state of uncertainty about what should be done preceding the establishment of a new direction of action; “the flux following the death of the emperor”…put the world in which we conduct business/live life in a totally new and enlightening light for me.

This cover story hits the mark (no surprise for Fast Company) comparing the business climate to the weather and that “we’ve entered a next-two-hours era.” Fueled by global adoption of social, mobile and other new technologies — the fundamentals of a business can change overnight and like the weather, we may not always get it right.  Yet “despite recession, currency crises and tremors of financial instability, the pace of disruption is roaring ahead….no long-term picture emerges….” and no long-term careers (” ‘career planning’ is an oxymoron” – The Four-Year Career another strong article reinforcing the birth and rise of Generation Flux in the same edition of Fast Company making Feb 2012 an especially good edition…check out Cheryl Edmonds).

This ability to be fluid and thrive…lies with Gen Flux — “less about a demographic designation (thankfully!) than a psychographic one.” It is a “mind-set that embraces instability, that tolerates – and even enjoys – recalibrating careers, business models and assumptions.” The most important ability: ability to acquire new skills and continuously evolve, “need to be open-minded.” And the piece I like best — “future focus.”

The article highlights the professional evolution of several standout individuals and their businesses and notes that businesses and institutions weren’t built to reinvent themselves…especially not big companies with too much structure, processes, order.

Well known futurist Ray Kurzweil, has written that it’s not just advancing but advancing further each year. If you’re comfortable with the rate of change today, then congratulations, you will be uncomfortable tomorrow and not relevant the next day.

All in all, it makes me further value what I already know is in our secret sauce:

– WCG is about the positive future of communications — in this mission we are clear
– For those fortunate enough to be working here, it means thriving in a constant state of flux — as an independent agency, we can go there….and do so regularly
– We’re looking at how we can

  • Best align the business to meet client needs faster and better…
  • And how we can continue to grow but still be agile
  • How we break down silos and integrate with less hierarchy more focus on team

– And as Fast Company points out, it’s about creating the right environment so “the new” can be exhilarating and empowering
– And hiring the right mix of talent to deliver on the new…and enhance the standard.

We ourselves flux, flex, change constantly. Change/flux may not be easy, but it certainly keeps it interesting. And nearly two years in, it is why it still feels so new and exciting. WCG Generation Flux is ready. 2012, bring it on!

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I  joined WCG in 2009 as the global practice leader and friends, agency colleagues and clients rolled their eyes at WCG’s lack of global presence (and by “lack of” I mean we had “none”).  Yes, WCG is a strong independent healthcare firm they noted, but 100% US focused were the words I heard.

Well, of course, there was a global capability as WCG had supported clients globally since its inception but the global footprint wasn’t much. Rather than not take the role, it became the reason to take the role: a challenge and opportunity. And thanks to the support of Jim, the broader WCG leadership team and a  fantastic group of people, today, we are humbled to accept the distinction of Global Healthcare Agency of the Year from The Holmes Report – an accolade we are even more honored to receive given the other amazing agencies in the running.

Why have we been so honored? It’s a formula for success that WCG has been engineering for a decade:

forward-looking clients in partnership with WCG

+ talent that is passionate, experienced and curious for the “next”

+ a sense of team spirit + remaining independent and investing in clients and talent

= priceless success

Add to that mix over the past two years:

  • other like-minded independent agencies (some members of P.R.O.I.),
  • individual talents across the globe (with a new gravitas in London of nearly 20 outstanding WCG team members),
  • an integrated approach (having added 50+ analytics, research, social media engagement, content, creative specialists)
  • clients that have grown with WCG for ten years and new global clients that believe
  • a healthcare landscape that pushes us to creatively problem solve
  • an internal and external team that are brave enough to trust in solutions we propose

= WCG Global Health today.

We are forging new ground in partnership and taking to heart the famous quote from Gandhi: We must become the change we want to see.

Today, WCG is delivering the positive future of communications…globally. It is a journey that is just beginning. Watch out world. Can’t wait to see where the next ten years takes us.

 

 

 

 

Here is the second in a four part series about my experiences in helping ReSurge make a difference in the lives of young children with deformities and injuries repairable by surgery:

Day 2: Early bird gets the worm

Today is the first day of surgery for the ReSurge International team in Pucallpa, Peru. And if the early bird gets the worm, we should be more than good to go considering the early rooster wake-up call. Yes, we were literally woken by roosters on the hotel property. As my friend Jenn once said to me, “we’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.” So true!

I had the honor of being part of this morning’s scenario-planning discussion in the OR (in full gear: scrubs – graciously bought for me by Rene, shoe covers, mask and hair cap, too) and saw how this good natured, jovial team quickly become serious. It is truly about life-changing surgery but also about the risks of any procedure…especially when dealing with such young patients.

The team reviewed protocols, “what-if” scenarios and how to handle an emergency. For a moment, knowing the control freak I am, I wanted to jump in, as I love a good war game. But I reminded myself that I’m not medical, this is not my gig, and I’m so lucky to be a guest (of course, need to keep reminding cousin Barbara of this too). 🙂

The five patients for today range from 7 months to 9 years of age, four boys and one little girl.

I stayed in the OR while the first patient, Angel, a 4-year-old boy whose double cleft lip (and palette but only addressing lip) was a difficult case, was anesthetized. Roy, one of the surgeons, explained it is a tricky case as this procedure is usually completed at a younger age. At this age, they need to deal with the open cavity, the lip that is raised very high, teeth, lack of tissue, and so much more. Truly fascinating. Roy and Eric tag-teamed this surgery which took over 4 hours. We saw the results of their work immediately in the recovery room, and I personally helped the child drink some water via syringe I emptied into his mouth while his mom held him.

Literally on the next table, was a 2-year-old boy who, while his cleft palette was the main problem, it could not be addressed due to massive tonsils at the time. Realistically, his tonsils need to be removed, then he needed to wait 6 weeks before addressing the palette. Given this health challenge, Richard, the Webster Fellow, performed a less complicated surgery that was more cosmetic to help even out his lips.

And yes, after they were both asleep and before the cutting happened, I stepped out of the room.

I spent 3 hours sitting on the floor playing with the half dozen little boys in the waiting room prior to their surgeries speaking broken Spanish and gesturing grandly.  SO fun. Got a good laugh when I attempted to tell one of the 10-year-olds he was tall and said I was too … or at least that is what I think I said. One mother asked me how old I was, and I replied I was too old to ask. I was going to respond with my standard answer: 29 for the 10th time (or maybe more) but couldn’t figure out how to translate it in my broken Spanish! Not sure if she asked because I was so into the game with the kids or because I look so young. 🙂  Shared a picture of my dog Barkley, of course, but they were much more interested in the snake photo I had from the Bronx Zoo. Ninos! And at the picture of  the Statue of Liberty – lots of head nodding from the moms when I said I was from Nueva York , Estados Unidos.

After playing, I made my way back into the OR to see the final touches of surgery on the 7-month-old little girl. She is beautiful baby and is now even more beautiful with her cleft lip addressed by Richard. Her mom was so happy holding her in the recovery room. The baby was able to breastfeed right away and no complications are anticipated.

Yes, I made it into the OR and stayed a bit longer. I saw a 2-year-old coquette (flirtatious) boy, who stole my heart while we played games earlier, under the surgeon’s knife. He was originally scheduled for a cleft palette but due to some infection noticed once he was asleep, Roy switched gears and worked to improve the lip cosmetically. He will certainly have all the more reason to be an even bigger flirt now! His mom was very relieved.

Last, but not least, was a 9-year-old boy. This nino was repeatedly my game challenge winner and clearly muy inteligente. He came into the OR very brave, without tears, and I helped Mike lay him on the table once he was a bit groggy from the anesthesia. I left the OR before the first incision and can’t wait to see the results of the team’s work tomorrow. As I exited the hospital, I saw his mom who seemed reassured as I told her in my broken Spanish her son was in good hands.

As you can begin to see, today’s surgery is probably one of several surgeries these children will need. Ideally, ReSurge International will make the Pucallpa, Peru trip an annual trip and we will be able to come back and finish the work the team started today … and begin to help many others as well.

As a board member for ReSurge, I am given the unique opportunity of joining a trip and chose the medical mission in Peru that sees a variety of deformities and injuries as my first trip. Many insights about life, personally and professionally, have emerged from this experience, so I felt compelled to offer up a window into the impact that ReSurge has here in Peru and around world. This is the first in a four part series:

For those of you not aware of ReSurge International, it is a not-for-profit that helps transform lives by restoring the health and dreams of those with deformities and injuries repairable through surgery (cleft lip and palate, burns, hand and other conditions). ReSurge works in many of the most impoverished countries on earth, serving the bottom billion of the world’s poor who have limited or no access to health care.

My heart melted

I received a chocolate heart tonight at dinner from the pediatrician, Janice, to celebrate Valentine’s Day and the first day of the ReSurge International mission in Pucallpa, Peru. The fortune — your heart will melt — said it all. My heart melted today during the first day of clinic. We saw more than 60 patients and 30 are currently approved for surgery.

The 1st day

It was a day of many firsts for me:

  • Took my first moto-taxis (aka a tuk tuk for those who have been to Asia) in Pucallpa to the hospital to start the day
  • Received an education from the surgeons on clefts and burns and developed a new-found respect for their patience, willingness to educate me/others and their ability to change lives
  • Observed up close double- and single-cleft lips, cleft palates, and burns and formed a new appreciation for the complications and the personal heartache
  • Witnessed hope live and die in many a mother’s eyes…hope at having their child seen and their tragedies “erased” as one woman articulated it…and despair as the doctors said they couldn’t help either at this time…or ever
  • Some patients were not cleared for surgery due to age (too young) but mostly because of malnutrition, overall health concerns, lack of ICU capability for more intense and complicated surgeries. According to Eric, the medical team leader on the trip, this is typical.
  • One particularly sad case, a mom traveled more than 4 days by boat with her 9-month-old son and 10-year-old big brother. The baby has a single cleft lip but due to an ill-timed cold, scabies, malnutrition and overall health concerns, they were informed surgery isn’t an option at this stage. The ReSurge team worked with the local health authorities to help set her up for greater success though and provide food and shelter provisions.
  • Had my first vasovagal episode. (OK: for those that know me, it wasn’t my first, but it was my first watching someone else give blood. I survived without passing out and then went back into clinic.)
  • My first full day of clinic ended on a high note; I was able to help a woman with severe burns on her face, neck and chest.

In this episode of  WCG ThoughtLeaders – a new podcast series that features conversations with influential people in organizations around the world – guest Gail Cohen of WCG and host Neville Hobson discuss Gail’s role as Global Managing Director at WCG and some of the issues and challenges confronting global companies in an age of increasing informality in engagement and the inexorable rise of instant online communication. Plus, some advice for the C-Suite.

To automatically receive future episodes as they are published, subscribe to the RSS feed. You can also subscribe at iTunes (coming soon).

About Our Guest

gailcohen Gail Cohen joined WCG in January 2010 as Global Managing Director where she works closely with the leadership team to build and lead a cohesive global communications practice across all geographies.

Gail joins WCG from Burson-Marsteller where she was the chair of the Global Healthcare Practice and as such oversaw the strategic growth and development of the Practice across all regions.  She was responsible for helping the healthcare teams drive success and strengthen new business, while addressing the complex communications needs of clients.

Bringing 20 years of experience to her position at WCG, Gail has pioneered some of the industry’s most successful pharmaceutical campaigns and has led numerous award-winning programs.  She is a recognized expert in pharmaceutical marketing and issues management.

Gail holds a Bachelor of Science degree, magna cum laude, from the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University.

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Podsafe music from Moving On Swiftly by The Smallvilles.

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