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Jim Wins In2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In his book Powers of Two,” Joshua Wolf Shenk argues that the chemistry of creative pairs — of people, of groups — forms the primary basis of innovation. He makes the case that creativity is most commonly the result of two people interacting in a variety of ways: complementary collaboration, mutual inspiration and creative rivalry.

The publication of this book gave us the explanation of why our decade-long professional pairing had continually kept us moving forward together to seek the next interesting way or place to innovate on behalf of our clients. As a duo or creative team, we were more capable of pushing the envelope, challenging the status quo and breaking the mold on healthcare communications than we were on our own. Now it’s time to bring that philosophy to life again and pair our creativity with the innovators at W2O.

A little background:

We met in the communications department at Amgen and subsequently moved on to head the H+K Strategies West Coast Healthcare team.

But while there, we felt the ground shifting. We realized there were new ways to reach the healthcare consumer that involved the entertainment and media world that no one in healthcare was exploiting. Many of these companies and opportunities were in our backyard – Hollywood.

Although we were learning, growing and leading, we felt that we lacked the freedom to explore a new phenomenon — the blurred lines of PR and marketing. We knew we were missing an opportunity to reach audiences vital to the business objectives of our clients.

Therefore, we struck out on our own to form ARC2 Communications & Media. We had many supporters and mentors as we made the transition from employees to entrepreneurs. One of those was Jim Weiss, a name synonymous with bold entrepreneurialism and innovation in healthcare communications. From the beginning, Jim was both a supporter and a mentor. We wanted to be like Jim. In fact, one of ARC2’s first blogs thanked Jim for his amazing advice and friendship.

Our three years at the helm of ARC2 gave us the opportunity to create and execute award-winning leadership programs and take pharma companies into territory previously only leveraged by consumer companies. We will save details of that for another post!

We have stayed in touch with Jim and his leadership team and have watched as they have expanded beyond their roots in healthcare to bring innovation in data-driven insights and content creation to technology, financial and consumer clients. We admire the way W2O continues to evolve and challenge the status quo and to do things differently. Jim and his team are not afraid to experiment and take risks. And that’s why this “Power of Two” has decided that it’s time to exponentially expand on what we’ve created by joining the Power of the W2O Group.

Andrea Rothschild & Christine Cassiano

Poster: Congrats Jim Weiss

We are excited to share the news of W2O Group’s CEO and Chairman, Jim Weiss, winning Innovator of the Year via The Holmes Report! Full disclosure: BrewLife is a proud W2O Group company.

In the first part of my year-end message before Christmas, I shared two important characteristics of an entrepreneur: Perseverance and Perspective. While both are essential to achieving individual and business success, and foundational for what we have accomplished to date and will accomplish together in the future, no factor is more important than Execution.

Over the last four years, our firms’ revenues and headcount have nearly tripled – an incredible achievement. During this time, we expanded into new areas and more fully dimensionalized and diversified our capabilities. This enabled us to offer clients a more complete end-to-end solution set to handle a variety of challenges and opportunities facing their businesses. We created new practices and revenue streams, which opened new career paths for our people and new markets for our services.

In studying companies with similar growth trajectories from a number of industries, one insight came through. Successful companies recognize the need to digest growth! That is, they provide a runway for people, policies, programs, systems and new behaviors to calibrate with existing and new revenue.

It doesn’t mean they stop innovating or growing. Rather, it means they do so within a construct that allows for consistent execution in all phases of the business.

And this is how I see 2014 – the year we focus on flawlessly executing programs and delivering on promises between one another throughout the firm and on those made to our clients and channel partners.

Companies that execute consistently do so when people, individually and collectively, focus on the right details at the right time expecting to create the right results.

In his seminal book on this fundamental tenant – Execution – Larry Bossidy, former CEO of Honeywell and Allied Signal, describes Business Execution as “not only the biggest issue facing business today; it is something nobody has explained satisfactorily. It is a discipline of its own. Execution is a specific set of behaviors and techniques that companies need to master in order to have competitive advantage.”

Bossidy’s point about nobody explaining execution satisfactorily is very interesting and worth noting. In 2014, we will be talking about execution a lot from many different angles inside the firm. But we will also be talking about it with clients and prospects. Our differentiated point of view, based on a deepening knowledge of analytics and insight generation, can also be directed at helping clients make execution a critical discipline for their success.

It is my strong belief that flawless execution will make us all better professionals. It will engender confidence and courage and enrich our planning and pacing as a business.

To that end, among other things, we established a new learning and development program – W2O University – in large part to unleash your full business execution potential. We also launched the Client Relationship Leader (CRL) initiative to ensure we deliver the highest level of strategy, quality service and delivery to our clients through an integrated client service matrix team. And we began a concerted effort to strengthen our infrastructure including investing in, installing and training you on new systems, policies and programs in finance, HR, project management and service, as well as resource allocation. All of this is designed to foster more seamless, efficient and profitable business collaboration among offices, geographies, practices and capabilities.

We also will continue to support the W2O Center for Social Commerce at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School — a one-of-a-kind partnership with arguably the world’s leading communications program — to ensure students are better prepared to execute as interns and entry-level talent in today’s and tomorrow’s social and digital business world.

Each new year brings with it an incredible sense of invincibility, of hope and accomplishment – a can do attitude. 2014 is no different.

I’m sincerely grateful to be working with such an awesome group of people. And I’m very much looking forward to making this year one where we digest our growth and execute and at the same time continue innovating and disrupting the status quo!

May you and your family have a healthy, happy 2014!

Now Let’s Go. Ahead. And Execute. Because Vision Without Execution is Hallucination.

14 Posts to Take You Into 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This year, I’d like to break down my end-of-year message into two parts — one post now just before Christmas and another post as we start the New Year .

This first part is an attempt to put 2013 — another year of amazing growth and change at W2O Group Companies and in the world around us — into perspective, which I’ll try to do here.

As we all experienced, the past 12 months, like the past 12 years, has been an incredible run. New clients, new people, new opportunities, new ventures, new knowledge coupled with more than just a few hiccups, challenges and sidesteps along the way.

It’s why I continue to call us a “start-up,” because we are truly constantly learning and experimenting to get it right. We don’t apologize nor do we look back and make excuses. We just Go.Ahead.

Recently I read a piece about Amazon and the sometimes winding and difficult road it was for founder Jeff Bezos, particularly in its “start-up” days. After its IPO in 1997 and a stock price hitting $107, Amazon and Bezos were thrust in the dot.com implosion in 2000 and 2001. Suddenly, Bezo’s vision of a viable on-line business was called into question.

A young analyst named Ravi Suria began writing negative reports about the company raising the possibility that Amazon would eventually go out of business. Suria based this analysis on how other dot.com’s had performed during this time lumping Amazon into that category and misreading the company’s plans to realign its workforce and shift distribution. Suria’s commentary started to shape media coverage and for a time much of what the company did was characterized in a negative light.

Of course, the company fought back but instead of letting others sap its energy and steal its future, Amazon kept experimenting and in the process kept learning. It translated customer data into rethinking distribution center locations and rethinking pricing; it entered new categories and negotiated better shipping deals; it opened up better relationships with third-party sellers, and it invested in marketing at higher than industry standard rate.

My point: Amazon and Bezos persevered and today dominates — at a recent stock price of $400 — in profound ways challenging almost every industry’s business model.

And so I come full circle to us. We too are challenging the status quo in ourselves and in our industry. Every day we’re here — thinking and doing, questioning and pushing, succeeding and failing fast — is a day we’re learning and ultimately winning together. What we are trying to do here to create authentic impact and transformation is not easy. But nothing truly good comes easy.

It takes tremendous perseverance and perspective.

It’s why I started this firm and why I work so hard with all of you to Become the Best. Because of everything you do and how you all come in here ready to play every day, I’ve never been more resolute or excited about our future.

My next post will provide perspective that is informing our business goals, strategies and focus in 2014. It will be the Year of Execution on Our Vision — during which we will methodically and purposefully integrate our new products, ideas, approaches, offerings, innovations and expertise and deliver them at the highest quality with measurable impact and ROI for our clients.

In the meantime, thanks for another great year of growing, changing, risk-taking and going ahead to pragmatically disrupt the status quo.

I wish you and your loved ones a very happy healthy holiday and look forward to a breakthrough new year.

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The W2O Health Summit convened talent across our organization to reflect and strategize on how our integrated assets can drive leadership and growth in our health care business. It was packed with insights and thought leadership from our colleagues and special guests, who discussed the current and future state of the industry, the changing digital landscape, best practices, and what’s to come. These past two days gave us a great look at what we have to offer and more importantly, it reminded us of the caliber of people we have at our company.

It’s clear that we are optimistic about the future of our health care business and are looking forward to continuing to integrate our offerings and develop broader internal partnerships to benefit our culture and the work we do for our clients. This is an exciting time for the company, so we are looking forward to giving you recaps of the sessions held over the past couple of days.

 Objectives & Vision (Diane Weiser and Jim Weiss)

Diane and Jim kicked-off the meeting highlighting the key points that allow us to do the best work for our clients, and how we can help them transform in the digital age. It was emphasized that we provide two things for our clients, insights and execution. If we continue to focus on these cornerstones of our business and establish and connect our sub-practices, we can rule-out speculation and help our clients see, think, do and change in real time. This is more important than ever in the evolving digital age, as we have power to educate people trying to access health care through these channels.

 Keynote (Jeff Arnold, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Sharecare)

Jeff Arnold joined us to speak about welcoming change and thinking differently in a changing digital health world. Jeff was previously CEO of WebMD. He stressed that our success will rely on coming to market with thought leadership to get people to think in a different way. If we take risks, maintain discipline in the perspectives we choose and believe in our partners and clients we will unlock opportunity. When approaching these opportunities we have to ask how DATA + KNOWLEDGE = ENGAGEMENT based on the needs of our clients.

We are amidst a change in the way consumers interact with their health. With so many trends pushing for consumer interest in personal health, we will be seeing more physician engagement due to increasing consumer demand. We will have to watch this evolution closely and make sure that we approach our work accordingly.

Global Industry Trends (Colin Foster and Danielle Whitney)

Colin and Danielle spoke about global trends that are shaping pricing, access, and communication and how health is evolving on a global scale. They noted as technology advances and digital platforms become more utilized in emerging markets, the opportunity for information exchange will grow exponentially. Digital social platforms will be key areas for health communications. Mobile strategy should also aim to determine how to leverage technology within divergent markets to ensure point of care engagement

Pharma companies are making massive investments in these markets to address the challenges they are facing. Our clients need our integrated expertise to break into these markets and partner with them in developing conventional and unconventional relationships. Through this partnership we will establish resonance and loyalty.

Stay tuned on Monday for insights on the patient perspective from a special guest from Susan G. Komen and the future of integrated health care delivery from panel members from Proteus, Availity and Evolent Health.

— Your Roving Reporters

To Become the Best, we need the best people to work here.  That has been a cornerstone of our business strategy since the beginning and has only become more important as we scale, diversify and grow.

We are pleased to announce another round of well-deserved promotions of the following people who inspire, lead and set the example every day about what it means to Go.Ahead and get ahead at W2O Group Companies.

In addition to the previously announced promotion of Dave Milhalovic to W2O COO earlier this summer, one special call out is the promotion of Jennifer Gottlieb to President of tWist who has helped so many of our clients, companies and people achieve greatness here.  As we move to a diversified Operating Company focused structure, it was important to recognize Jenn’s contribution and leadership and our expectations for her to grow tWist into the powerhouse company it is well on the way to becoming.

Please join me in congratulating Dave, Jenn and the other 48 people listed herein (by operating company and alphabetically) on their ongoing achievement and continued commitment to quality, culture, our clients and to each other.

WCG

Kathleen Bradley, Account Manager
Brooke Bullen, Senior Account Manager
Kelsey Carroll, Manager
Joanna Cochran, Director
Natalie DeNike, Manager
David Fossas, Director
Emily Friedman, Manager
Tracy Garcia, Account Director
Valeria Kaplan, Manager
Alison Klibanoff, Manager
Alexis Medina, Manager
Greg Matthews, Managing Director
Allie McCormick, Director
Kursten Mitchell, Group Director
Kimberly Muscara, Account Director
Mike Nelson, Group Director
Chelsey Nostro, Account Director
Abigail Rethore, Director
Chantal Roshetar, Account Director
Scott Shadiow, Client Relationship Leader
Brooke Shenkin, Account Director
Adam Silverstein, Account Director
Melissa Solomon, Account Manager
Martina Spranger, Senior Account Manager
Kelley Sternhagen, Manager
Jessica Vanner, Manager
Walt Whitman, Group Creative Director
Stephen Yoon – Manager

tWist

Jamie Bennett, Account Director
Mark Bennett, Group Director
Mindy Bobkin, Senior Account Manager
Toni Haubert, Account Director
Amanda Loder, Senior Account Manager
Jennifer Ma, Director, Project Management
Kaitlyn Murphy, Account Manager
Greg Reilly, Managing Director
Dawn Sciortino, Account Director
Elise Trent, Senior Account Manager

BreWLife

Nicole Foderaro, Group Director
Catherine Kyroulis, Group Director

W2O Digital & Operating Group

Ozzie Cerna, Sr. Staff Accountant
Blaire Clause, Senior Marketing Associate
Matt Hager, Director
Michelle Gunn, Art Director/Sr. Manager
Chris Leedy, Manager
Luis Mendoza, Sr. Staff Accountant
Beatriz Quezada, Assistant Controller
Paul Russell, Managing Director
Amelie Sozzi, Director

Over the past several years, the success of our Health Practice has enabled us to diversify and develop new practices, offerings, clients, companies and leaders.  Despite many changes and our continued evolution, rest assured, Health is central to the future of W2O Group.

It is my long-standing belief that there is nothing more important than one’s health and that the ultimate consumer products and services are those designed to improve it.

Its economic importance in nearly every country in the world is indisputable, and we don’t see that changing anytime soon with Obamacare coming and as the population ages around the world.

Whether it’s Consumer products (Nike Fuel), Technology (Health IT), Government (health exchanges) or a myriad of other industries, strength in Health will be a key differentiator for the firms in W2O Group.

While our business has changed in light of the technology and digital revolution over the past few years, the need for accurate, reliable information has never been greater in the age of reform, cost-consciousness and the “consumerization” of healthcare.  Education, access and advocacy are more critical than ever, and now we have the digital tools and technologies to leverage to reach those in greatest need more effectively and efficiently than ever.  It’s a great time to be in this business.

So many here have played an integral role in building out our Health capability and Practice over the years and we expect many more to join us as we enter this next stage and iteration of the Practice.  We have never had as many tools, talented people and expertise to tap to serve our clients than we do today and our commitment to and passion for this sector of our business remains as deep and robust as ever.

Now is the time to bring it all together and take it to the next level.

As a holding company in the best sense of that phrase, the W2O Group supports, nurtures and powers entrepreneurialism, innovation, talent and growth in WCG, TWist, BreWLife, NextWorks and future companies — from the ground up versus from the top down.

To maintain focus and leadership and to differentiate, compete and grow like we always have across our operating companies in this important area, I am going to be playing a more hands-on leadership role in Health.  Our President, Bob Pearson, will continue to be a major partner and driver in this essential business that is at his core, but we will divide and conquer so I can focus here while he focuses on building our Next Practices, partnerships, technology and innovation — all of which will further enhance our Health businesses, as well as our other mission critical areas of Technology, Consumer and Corporate.

I’m pleased to formally announce that Diane Weiser will also assume a new(ish) role as Leader, W2O Health, and join the W2O ET reporting to me to help accelerate, coordinate and facilitate the operational and growth aspects of our Health capability so that every client, company and practice benefits from it.  As she transitions, she will keep her direct reporting relationships and account assignments, although this is likely to morph in the future (as it always does).

To be clear, Chris Deri still leads WCG, Jenn Gottlieb leads TWist and Paul Laland leads BreWLife, reporting to Bob.  All those firms will have their own health practice/revenue stream leaders and client relationship leaders (CRL’s) reporting to them while they also build out other diversified practices and services.

In the meantime, Diane and I will be partnering (with many others across the long hallway from SF to LA to NY to Austin to London, Minneapolis, Chicago, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Wilmington, North Carolina and Lincoln, Nebraska) to “connect the dots” to truly Become the Best in Health — driving, supporting and coordinating optimal integration and collaboration; fostering business development that maximizes new business wins and organic growth (which rules); facilitating conflict resolution and coordination, and, above all, optimizing talent and career growth and development so that our Health clients get the best teams, services and innovation that we have to offer each and every time.

Not only does Diane bring a unique historical perspective that will be important as we continue to integrate and scale the Practice, but her passion for and knowledge of the business, strong relationships across our internal and external networks, and track record of experience partnering closely with me are key ingredients for success.

Diane already led an offsite of key leaders over the summer, and she continues to spearhead the Health business development process with colleagues across the firms.  We will also continue to partner with our innovators to adapt current and develop new tools and offerings to keep our Health clients happy and engaged and attract many new and exciting ones.

The continued growth and development of current and new offerings and business focus areas such as Pharma, Device & Diagnostics, Biotechnology, Digital Health, Clinical Trial Recruitment and more will benefit from focused support and leadership at the W2O level.  Diane and I in close collaboration with our operating company (WCG, TWist, BreWLife) and Practice (Analytics, Media & Engagement, Digital, Software) leaders will do just that to Become the Best and establish What’s Next in Health.

Our firms were built on a health-oriented foundation and these moves are meant to ensure our continued leadership and preeminent position in the industry and further improve our ability to develop and optimize all of your career opportunities, hire new talent and identify, create and build thought leadership, value-added strategic partnerships and client engagements.

We have and will continue to set up in-person meetings, office visits and videoconferences to answer your questions and go into much more detail on this in the coming days and weeks. Diane and I are always available to you to answer your questions by e-mail, phone or on The Hallway or W2O Haps.

Together, we will Go.Ahead and improve Health information delivery and access in the digital age.  Everyone is invited to join this movement as it takes shape!