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

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

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

Key management promotions include the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to view the press release.

I’m excited to announce that Twist Mktg has expanded its team and offerings. We now have offices in Atlanta and Austin and will focus on building a strong consumer practice. Check out more on the Twist blog.

I learned a very important business lesson recently and it happened on the little league field of all places. As a business leader and a parent, often my worlds collide and sometimes those collisions lead to remarkable insights that help me on both fronts.

My ten-year-old daughter Sam started playing softball only last season. At first she was very focused on understanding the game, playing on a team, having the courage and confidence to hit and catch the ball.  As we entered her second season we were very focused on helping her continue to develop these skills.  A few games into the season she told me she was going to ask the coaches if she could pitch.  My immediate reaction was to encourage her to continue to hone her basic skills and if the coaches asked her if she wanted to pitch she should say yes.  Her reaction was “Mom! Do you not think I am good enough to pitch!?!?”…I struggled with how to answer that and simply said, “no, but it would be good to take your time and work on you basic skills for now.” I was wrong.

Sam proceeded to boldly ask her coaches if she could pitch. Their reaction was similar to mine except they said that they would give a few girls a chance to try in the next few games and she would get her shot.  Fast forward eight games later, Sam was one of the three starting pitchers, made it to the playoffs where she shut down the game at the top of the 6th with a man on 3rd, and made the All Star team due to her pitching. She had a natural ability to pitch and none of us knew this….except her.

Besides being a very proud parent who was proven very wrong, my lesson as it applies to business is always allowing people to dream and act on what is possible.  This is especially important as it relates to coaching and developing millennials who can’t stretch enough or get enough opportunity.

Many of us grew up in business achieving certain milestones that enabled us the skills to move up the ladder.  The ladder is now a jungle gym (to quote Sheryl Sandberg in Lean In) and we need to flex as leaders and managers and allow people to go with their guts, maximize their natural skills and abilities, and skip a few rungs here and there to get to the place where they will flourish and maximize their talent…. and maximize our opportunities.

It is vitally important to observe and listen to uncover people’s talents.  When they ask to take a chance and try something new we should let them and give them the appropriate coaching, support and guardrails to do it.

Take it from me, to have a team of All Stars it is vital to let them play the field and find their position.

Top 5 tips on bringing out the best in your team and yourself:

  • Understand strengths and talents of all team members and maximize them in the right roles rather than trying to fit everyone in the same box.
  • Support people’s desires to try new things and support them to take risks.
  • Create an environment where people grow horizontally…learning different skill sets to grow vs. climbing the ladder.  This is much more valuable for the company and team members in the long run.
  • Provide an environment with a lot of running room – keep hierarchy and levels to a minimum and ensure there is plenty of opportunity to flex up, down and sideways.
  • Do not wait for an invitation.  If you want to expand your skill set, take on a new challenge or have a great idea you want to blow out, make a case, write a plan and go ahead!

For additional lessons from the baseball field to the boardroom see another recent blog post from my colleague Jack LeMenager.

I attended my First TEDMED last week and wow, what a right brain moment. One speaker to the next captivated me at every angle. What a way to look at health and medicine in terms of what is possible, less about the challenges and roadblocks that bombard us every day.

Some key takeaways and learnings from the event included:

  1. We are moving from engineering to imagineering and we are going to be focused less on how to perfect a technology and more so how to systematize technology for populations, possibly for the masses.
  2. Cancer is not something you get, it is something that you grow per David Agus, M.D.  Keeping the body in optimal health is worth the investment every day.
  3. The hypothesis that maybe the vicious cycle of diabetes is actually reversed raising the question: Is it possible that we have an insulin resistance epidemic that is causing obesity and not the other way around?
  4. Data, analytics and mobile technology can dramatically improve how people can proactively embrace their own health and healthcare and will allow for connecting of the dots, provider to provider, provider to patient and beyond.
  5. If all influential leaders “walked the walk” on population health like Mick Corbett, the mayor of Oklahoma city, we could all do what he did and go from one of the Fattest Cities in America to one of the Fittest Cities in America… this one literally took a village and a great leader.
  6. Physicians need to take a bold approach via new channels to increase disease awareness and get people to take action like ZDoggMD does by rapping on a music video.
  7. Lastly, everyone was rushing to get a Smartphone bodyscan looking at their ear drums, retinas and Carotid arteries… pretty awesome and doesn’t seem so far off for all of us!

TEDMED brought out the 2nd grade scientist in me… when science was first introduced and we developed our very first hypothesis and worked to figure out how to test it. This is the core of science that even bench scientists sometimes have a hard time holding on to in this fast-paced, high pressure world where we are all racing to find answers and find them fast.

If TEDMED is supposed to inspire us to look at science in new and different ways and help push our minds into what is possible… job well done!

Despite current challenges and uncertainties in healthcare, this sector of our industry continues to evolve and expand faster than we have ever seen. 

As the #2 ranked Healthcare communications agency by O’Dwyers , W2O Group continues to stay one step ahead of the changing landscape of our business to partner with companies in all areas of the health industry — from pharmaceuticals to health IT to health insurers .  What makes us different?   1) We have the best, brightest and most dedicated people in the industry, all who come from different sectors of our business converging here to deliver a more holistic, streamlined, flexible, 360 model across one long hallway; 2) We are deeply rooted in analytics to gain a deeper view of what and who influences patients and healthcare professionals in real-time.  This has enabled us to develop meaningful educational platforms and tools to that make a difference and improve patient outcomes.

Having spent the last two decades immersed in health, I can say there is no question that those of us who choose to focus in this area come with an intense passion to make a difference in the lives of people fighting and living with some of the most challenging diseases.  Nothing is more gratifying than that feeling of creating a groundswell of awareness of an important diagnostic test to get ahead of a disease, helping bring a new treatment to market, or simply creating a screening tool that brings a physician and patient one step closer to working together to improve that patient’s health.

I have always found that if you let your passion guide you will find yourself on the most gratifying and fulfilling journey you could ever have imagined.  I am a science geek at heart and being able to apply that passion to my career has made my journey more fulfilling.  I can only hope that it is an inspiration to everyone else who has found or is searching for a career that allows them to fulfill their personal passion through their work.

Jennifer Gottlieb, Practice Leader of WCG’s sister company Twist Mktg, has been working on her “work-life balance” for more than 20 years. In that time, she’s realized that it’s not about balance – it’s about blend! She doesn’t see technology such as her Blackberry to be a constraint, rather, she sees it as the key to her freedom. As more Millennials move in to the work force (they will make up more the 46% of the workforce by 2020), she’s pleased to see that they are looking for the same blend of work and life. To see her full blog post and her other insights, head over to the Twist Blog!

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.