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There’s been an outbreak of measles mentions on social media this year.

Unless you’ve been off the grid the past month, it’s likely you’ve seen, shared or even commented on the measles outbreaks happening across the U.S. My own Facebook page has become a battleground between parents angry at those who refuse to vaccinate and others who are concerned the shots could lead to adverse reactions. On Twitter, I’ve seen doctors argue about how to talk to patients who express unease, or hostility toward vaccines.

The overall flurry of social commentary on vaccinations rose in late January, as reports emerged that a measles outbreak could be traced back to a sick Disneyland visitor in December that exposed other guests. The stream of tweets, posts and comments subsequently became a deluge once top national politicians started weighed in on whether parents should be required to vaccinate their children.

Measles-Twitter Spike Chart

W2O Group decided to look at how doctors were addressing the topic on social media. We dove into our proprietary database, called MDigitalLife, which has created a ‘digital footprint map’ for more than 500,000 U.S. physicians. These digital footprints may include twitter accounts, blogs, Facebook pages, Instagram or LinkedIn accounts or practice websites. Like epidemiologists, we wanted to trace the outbreak of public, social commentary by physicians to see who was driving the conversation and spreading it the most.

Though the Super Bowl and the annual American Surgical Congress meeting were top retweeted topics in January, hashtags for measles and vaccines were also trending. In fact, while #health or #healthcare commanded a majority of the physician-originated tweets, #measles was the second hottest hashtag, with 25 percent of the posts measured. #SOTU, for State of the Union, came in third with 20 percent.

The volume of tweets mentioning measles went from a total of 92 in December to around 3,700 in January. There is a clear spike in mentions starting on January 21.

Measles-Infographic 1 

Interesting side note: while the jump in measles conversations is noticeable, it still is far below how much physicians were chatting about Ebola last year. That disease went from a single tweet mentioning it in February 2014 to 27,000 by October.

In January, the tweet from a physician that was retweeted the most by other physicians came from Dr. Jennifer Gunter, an obstetrician and gynecologist. It said: “Measles should be renamed McCarthy-Wakefield disease,” referring to Jenny McCarthy, the model, actress and TV host who is an anti-vaccine advocate, and Andrew Wakefield, the British former physician who’s (now discredited and retracted) 1998 paper in the journal Lancet linked the MMR vaccine to autism.

DocTweet1

Some of the top shared tweets among doctors on the subject included a retweet from “God” that says “I’m bringing sexy back! Sorry, not sexy, measles.”

DocTweet2

A tweet by NBC Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon also got a lot of play among this set. It read: “There are now 102 measles cases. You know things are getting bad when Disneyland opens a new ride called It’s a Small Pox World. #falonmono

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Another top retweet by physicians was a link to a letter penned nearly 30 years ago by Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, among other beloved children’s books. Dahl wrote the letter urging parents to get their kids vaccinated. He recounted how his seven-year-old daughter, Olivia, who had contracted measles in 1962 was seemingly on her way to recovery, when she suddenly seemed unable to move her hands like she wanted to.

“I feel all sleepy,” she told him. Then, he says, “in an hour, she was unconscious. In twelve hours, she was dead.”

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Image: http://paxonbothhouses.blogspot.com/2015/02/roald-dahl-lost-his-daughter-to-measles.html

The Washing Post’s Wonkblog’s article on “The devastating impact of vaccine deniers, in one measles chart,” was also widely shared by physicians. The post shows the cumulative number of new measles cases from 2001 to 2014. According to the chart, there were 644 new measles cases last year, in 27 states, per the CDC.

WaPo Measles Chart

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/01/22/the-devastating-impact-of-vaccine-deniers-in-one-measles-chart/

A tweet linking immigrants to the outbreak showed up among the top retweeted posts. Coming from Dr. Marty Fox, a self-described “Father, Grandfather, Husband, Patriot, Conservative, Plastic Surgeon, Former And Occasional Talk Show Host,” his tweet read: “Illegals with measles + reduced vaccination rates = a measles outbreak: @ChuckCJohnson”

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A tweet by Dr. David Gorski, a “A breast surgeon doing his best to defend science-based medicine against pseudoscience. His opinions are his and his alone. Still blocked by Andrew Wakefield,” as his Twitter bio reads, took a sarcastic approach to the idea that the government shouldn’t force people to vaccinate their children. His tweet read: “Those aren’t measles on your kid’s body. They’re freedom spots. ‘Merica!”

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The topic shows no signs of slowing down. There have been more mentions of measles alone during the first 10 days of this month than all of January. A noticeable jump occurred on February 5, when #MeaslesTruth was posted about 1,200 times on Twitter, driven in large part by Wendy Sue Swanson, aka @SeattleMamaDoc, a Seattle-area pediatrician, with 26,400 followers.

As outbreaks continue to be reported in Chicago, Santa Monica and other areas, and the media increasingly covering this from local, national, political and health perspectives, #measles and #vaccines are likely to stay trending for quite some time.

On my first day in PR, there was no rest for the newly initiated.

“Great to have you here – can you do some pitching today?” I was asked within an hour of being shown my desk.

This was the moment I had been dreading. After spending 13 years as a journalist, having PR people cater to me, now I was the one who had to sweet talk reporters into taking meetings with clients or ginning up interest in announcements and news.

But funny enough, it didn’t seem that different from what I had already been doing – in fact in many ways it was more enjoyable. Now that I’ve been doing this PR thing for half a year, I can say there are a lot of parallels between the professions (even if some journalists would be loathed to hear that). In particular, three areas stand out: cold calling, pitching and social media.

1) Cold calling: journalists cold call new sources all the time. Sometimes you’re working on a breaking story and need to just get a quick quote from anyone, other times you’re trying to match what the competition has already published. Just like PR people are tasked with harassing journalists until they get a response, so too do journalists have to continuously bother PR people as well as executives, analysts, companies and others to confirm news, get a quote or feel out if a potential scoop has legs.

These types of calls inevitably lead to awkward exchanges. Sometimes you don’t really know what you’re asking about – an editor tells you to make calls ASAP for a breaking story off of your beat. Or you call someone you don’t know and ask what seems to be a relevant question and they shoot back – “don’t you know who I am and what I’ve done?” Other times sources just aren’t saying anything useful or quotable, so you try ask them the same question over and over again in a variety of ways, hoping to get a sound bite.

Then there are the situations when you’re calling about bad news and have to ask personal or private questions – such as: did they have an affair with a subordinate? Or cheat their company out of money? The worst interviews are when you have to contact someone that lost a loved one. I’ve covered 9/11, military funerals, school shootings and other horrible events in real time. Understandably, it’s not uncommon to be hung up on or called horrible names.

When it comes to cold-calling journalists as a PR person, you don’t always have a deep knowledge of the company you’re pitching, or the journalist you’re contacting. We work as a team, so when my teammates need help getting press for a client with breaking news, we flood the zone with calls and emails to dozens, if not hundreds, of media people.

There’s usually a spreadsheet with names of reporters broken down by segments such as national news, local news, bloggers, industry reporters, trade pubs, TV and radio. We’ll all take a page of names and get to work. Sometimes the information about the journalist or outlet is outdated and a lot of times they don’t respond. Occasionally people will berate you for not knowing that they don’t cover what you think they do. Frankly, it’s a lot more pleasant talking to journalists, even the disinterested ones, than questioning a source that’s media-shy or even hostile.

2) Pitching: PR people aren’t the only ones pitching stories. As a reporter, I constantly had to pitch my features internally to get them published. It’s not always good enough to find a trend or feature idea that either hasn’t been written by the competition or tells readers the story in a new way. It also has to be deemed worthy of space.

At Bloomberg News, where I worked the past seven years, this meant features were often subject to many layers of approvals, from an editor, team leader, bureau chief, feature editor, managing editor and potentially others. It wasn’t unusal for each editor to take a stab at rewriting the story to reflect what they thought should be the focus. Other times they wanted more reporting, sometimes a lot more (one time a feature editor emailed me more than 80 questions on a 700 word feature).

And after all that time and work of rewriting, re-reporting and winning over numerous editors, someone high up could express skepticism on the newsworthy-ness of the story, effectively killing it. That was always a bitter pill to swallow.

If, on the other hand, the story did get published, the next step would be pitching it to editors at the magazine, radio and TV departments, to get it more airtime. I’d also try to bring it to the attention of industry leaders other experts outside of the company, with the goal of being invited on TV, or included in a forum or panel, or having someone else point to the story as important. That also could be a fruitless and frustrating process.

Same goes for PR. One of my favorite activities here is to continue doing what I did as a journalist, but for clients. So I’ll spend a day at a company, interviewing scientists, engineers, executives, and touring the facilities looking for feature ideas and anecdotes that normally wouldn’t make it out of a marketing meeting. I then come up with story lines and ideas of how to position a company as part of a trend or affecting the world in a unique way.

These are ideas I honestly think are interesting and news worthy, but they still need to get approved by several divisions at the client company before I can approach journalists with them, including their own communications department, legal and regulatory, and whoever manages the executives themselves.

Some clients are excited about these ideas and give me the go ahead to pitch them to the media. Other times, even relatively simple story lines get nixed or dramatically changed because of concerns over any potential of a negative or less than favorable article. It’s less frustrating than getting a story killed as a journalist, but it’s still not fun.

Once these story ideas are approved, I then have to do my main job and get journalists interested. Some reporters like the pitches and take meetings with my clients and write articles about them, while others don’t bother to even respond.

3) Social media: As a journalist, I felt constrained in what I could say on Twitter and other social media sites. For years, I never posted anything political or items that hinted of a personal opinion about subjects I wrote about, even on my non-public profiles. I felt free to tweet articles from colleagues and competitors and tried to spur conversations around the articles I wrote. But most of the time I felt like I had to bite my (digital) tongue.

In PR there are other concerns. My social media output has become much more opinionated about a wide-range of subjects, from sports, parenting, health topics, and politics, as I’m trying to build my influence, actively engage people and retain an audience that mostly followed me because I was a reporter at Bloomberg. But I’ve also felt much more constrained in terms of discussing industry news.

You want to be authentic in what you say on social media, but now that I’m in a client-serving role, I don’t want to be seen as endorsing anything that puts a client in a negative light or something that says a competitor is better. Many times I find myself ready to tweet out a good feature but hesitate at the last second, wondering “will any client be offended if they see I’ve tweeted this?”

These are just a few of the parallels I’ve found between the two professions. Despite my concerns that a career as a communications pro would be completely different from that of a journalist, I’ve found the opposite to be true.

A lot of times as a reporter, I’d get a call from a company spokesman after I publishes a story asking why I chose the angle I did. It wasn’t what they pitched me; they’d say. Or they were confused about why I brought up certain details they thought were unrelated to the news most relevant to their client.

The reason often is the news that companies are promoting is usually…boring. Or maybe I should say safe. As a flack, I’m getting a greater understanding on how much time and effort go into creating seemingly simple news announcements. Whole teams of people across different companies have to craft the message, sign off on it, and take into account so-and-so’s sensitivities, “must haves,” “avoid at all costs,” and then clear it for legal and regulatory issues.

Then someone on top has an issue with the way something is phrased and the whole process starts over again. (Journalists can go through a similar slog in getting a feature done with layers of editors adding in their two cents and suggestions). In the end what gets approved is sure not to offend anyone, contradict previous company directives or promise a goal that isn’t 100 percent certain.

So when journalists ignore the main message, and focus instead on why the company chose to put the release out when they did, or what the machinations behind it were, there’s going to be confusion (among other feelings) from the team that worked so hard and so long to put it together.

It’s something I call the reporter’s curse. I was trained to notice details, sniff out motives, “see the bigger picture.” Journalists rarely take things at face value – there’s that old saying – “if your mother tells you she loves you, get a second source.” Such thinking may help see details others miss, but it can also lead to difficulty living in the moment.

Here’s an example — I was at a concert last weekend, but instead of enjoying the music, I spent a good chunk of time wondering what the roadies were doing backstage, what the guitarists are actually thinking when they stand in front of each other jamming (for like the millionth time in their careers), trying to figure out a pattern to the light show, how much leeway the backup singers have with picking their outfits – mundane details that nonetheless could be an interesting lead for a story.

It’s part of the reason readers (like myself) get frustrated with political reporting – articles will focus on how and why a politician is arguing for a position on a hot topic, or what it means for them to be taking the position, instead of the legislation or solution itself. It also happens to be what the reporters themselves find the most interesting.

As a reporter, I’d always appreciate it when spokespeople gave me some insight into the context behind the news, even on background. Maybe there was a tidbit about competitive pressure, or a desire to be the first to market with something, or it was the new CEO’s pet project. These details might not make it into the article, but they could lead to additional tangential reporting to flesh out why the news is interesting to readers who don’t care about the topic, or the company.

I get that a lot of companies prefer this type of information stay secret, or at least not come from them. Some of it can’t be openly discussed, but a lot of it is mundane errata that can appeal to a reporter’s interest in the sausage-making aspect of the news. It might also get you coverage when a reporter would otherwise ignore it altogether.

If you’ve never heard of Adam Feuerstein, then you must not be in healthcare. For the un-initiated, Feuerstein is a columnist at The Street and writes about healthcare and biotech stocks. A decade or two ago, before the rise of social media, he wouldn’t have been that significant a player. Yet today he’s one of the most powerful voices in the industry.

I’ve seen company shares move simply by him tweeting a question about clinical trial data. He pretty much brought down the embargo policy at a major medical meeting a few years ago. Once, when I retweeted one of his posts about some bad news a company had, I got a call from the company’s CEO within the hour to make sure I understood their side of events.

He is also someone you don’t want to cross. Check out his twitter feed – it’s full of profanity and tear downs of drugs, companies, executives, business decisions and random people he happens to overhear talking at the hotel gym or at Starbucks. His feed can also be hilarious, and he says stuff lots of journalists think but would never write down anywhere traceable. You can easily freak out a biotech’s communications team by asking them, “hey, did you see what Adam tweeted about you guys?”

So what makes him so compelling and powerful? Well, like it or not, he speaks his mind. And he’s a self-professed skeptic, so a lot of what he says isn’t fluffy featurey bits but glass-half empty views. He’s also not afraid to antagonize investors who are particularly excited, sometimes unrealistically, about new drugs.

As a journalist at a top news company I got giddy whenever he mentioned me on twitter, even when he was trashing me. It meant that someone was paying attention, and frankly, I also hoped it would raise my social media profile.

What Feuerstein succeeds in is having a strong opinion (as a columnist, that’s his job) and broadcasts it freely on social media, no matter who he offends. This is something journalists can’t really do and exposes a weakness that the media face in an online world – a struggle to be relevant.

When it comes to social media, journalists are in a crux. Some actively seek to build their online reputations, others only linger long enough to post their own stories and still others choose to ignore it completely as a waste of time. The problem is, in order to get attention, you need to be interesting, which usually entails saying provocative things. But journalists also don’t want to expose any personal feelings on controversial topics, lest they be accused of having a “bias.” So they’re stuck tweeting their stories and talking about things not directly related to their beat.

Into that void stepped Feuerstein, and he has dominated it since.

While Feuerstein rules the healthcare social media world, he’s certainly not alone in wielding influence. The journalists that I greatly respected and paid attention to were bloggers and trade pub writers who are as prolific as they are smart. People like Luke Timmerman at Xconomy, Ron Leuty at the San Francisco Business Journal and Matt Herper at Forbes. They’re not as outspoken as Feuerstein, yet they also seem less constrained to speak their minds online than I at least felt as a journalist. And they often drive online conversations on industry topics, which can affect stock prices, investor perceptions, patients and other journalists.

This new dynamic is something everyone in the industry needs to understand.

 

Here’s a scenario I’m guessing happens pretty regularly: a reporter contacts a PR firm to ask a client some questions on a mundane topic, but the company doesn’t see any “upside” in it, so it decides to pass. Groans heard all around the PR firm.

Why is this so hard, people? While reporters expect companies to be hesitant to comment on a sensitive subject, a “no comment” on a non-controversial topic raises alarm bells. All of a sudden, the reporter is trying to guess the motivation behind the decision. Is the company hiding something? Is there a bigger story I’m missing? Who can tell me what the reason is?

Trust me, I was a reporter for a long time – the downside to not talking is that the reporter will talk to other people who will tell your story but perhaps in ways you don’t like. Since there are tons of people who do want to get their name out there – investors, analysts, industry experts, competitors, authors, detractors – finding others to say something about your business isn’t that hard.

Even if the news is terrible, journalists do want to get “both sides” of the story in their article. It not only makes them look good to their bosses, it also makes for a better story. At the very least, answering questions will give you a chance to hear ahead of time what sorts of things are being said about you.

One reason I heard on occasion for withholding interviews was that companies feel a certain reporter or outlet is biased against them. Maybe a previous interview went amiss, or the quotes used didn’t fully flesh out the company’s point of view. I can honestly say I didn’t know any reporters that were out to “get” companies. Sure, we all had our gripes with certain entities – usually because we felt snubbed by them at some point. But this doesn’t mean we were actively trying to make the company look bad.

A little engagement goes a long way to offset this perception – which is why ignoring that call doesn’t help your cause. In fact it’s much better to be proactive in your outreach and regularly schedule meetings and calls just to stay on their radar, say once a quarter. I personally got a lot of feature ideas this way. That mundane subject you rather ignore? It could turn out to be part of a larger story you’re missing out on – so take the call.

Jessie Frank was having a horrible day. Frank, who was trying to get home to pick up her daughter from a special camp for type 1 diabetic children, had been waylaid by weather, mechanical issues, rerouting and other delays, as a two-hour flight had turned into an all-day slog. Listed as eighth on standby for a flight with no extra seats, a glimmer of hope appeared when a Delta flight attendant waved her down the jetway, only to be stopped at the door. That’s when a mysterious passenger gave up his seat for her. That person turned out to be Richard Anderson, Delta’s CEO, who sat in the jump seat for the trip. Frank was so thankful to see her daughter on the last day of camp, she wrote a letter on Facebook about her experience.

“Thank you, Richard Anderson. As a result of your leadership and the actions of yourself and your employees, I had my special day with my special child,” Frank wrote. “You and your employees gave us both one more day of happiness, and for that, we are both very grateful. I have always been a loyal Delta customer, but Thursday solidified that loyalty for life!”

Her posting was shared thousands of times, and more than 100 news outlets covered the story, including CNN, UPI, Daily Mail and The Huffington Post. Why is this relevant? Because it shows how valuable social media can be in earning traditional media – a fact many companies don’t recognize. If Delta had pitched me a story as a journalist about how its CEO gave up his seat for a passenger, I would have shrugged my shoulders. “So what – it would only be interesting if he didn’t give up his seat,” I would have thought. Yet once the customer has told her version of things, and it started popping up on blogs, twitter and on Facebook pages, then it becomes interesting to the media.

If you hadn’t already noticed, customers are turning to social media to praise good service and air their grievances. They also expect an answer – within an hour. Many companies aren’t sure how to approach these comments – if at all. One study found 70 percent of corporations ignore customer complaints online. This is a huge mistake. There are plenty of examples where turning a blind eye to swelling online gripes can lead to ousters of executives, falling stock prices and unwanted changes in business plans, not to mention bad press.

Here’s a good example – when The Gap changed their logo a few years ago, it drew outrage online from some customers. Now at time, I personally didn’t see what the big deal was – yeah, sure, it looked like a 1990s clip art project, but it didn’t affect my life in some profound way like it seemed to have others. Either way I didn’t see a story in it – logo changes aren’t big business news. Until, that is, the complaints got more traction, more attention and eventually, reporters couldn’t ignore it anymore. I ended up writing two articles about it, along with NPR, CNN and other major outlets around the globe.

Imagine if Coca-Cola Co. could have listened to customers’ thoughts on New Coke in real time, instead of waiting for passionate people to write letters and mail them to the company (hard to fathom nowadays when you can just tweet your thoughts in seconds with no significant time or effort).

What’s even more unfathomable is ignoring those complaints now. Think of the blowback Netflix received for it’s suddenly announced plan to split its DVD and streaming business into two separate entities and charge customers 60 percent more. More than 12,000 people complained on its website, and the move, along with other decisions in 2011 sent shares down from nearly $300 a day before the announcement in July to $65 in November. A year later the Huffington Post was calling the incident “One Of The Great Tech Blunders.”

Not every complaint is at this level or requires drastic action. Many times, people complain about bad customer service or issues not controlled by the company, such as weather or traffic. Sometimes complaints aren’t even about real issues – like when people thought Instagram’s change of service notification meant the company was going to sell everyone’s photos.

Companies should have a plan in place to how they will react to such online situations before they happen. Being paralyzed for hours as lawyers, executives and communications people debate a response will only make matters worse. Journalists waiting for a statement will definitely hear from detractors happy to give interviews, and the longer the lag time, the greater the perception becomes that the company was caught off guard or isn’t competent enough to figure out what they’re doing. Of course, just reacting quickly isn’t enough if the message is bad — see what happened with Geeklist as a prime example.

Small efforts to help or alleviate the problem can turn out positive. An easy response to complaints can simply state: “Sorry to hear about this – let me look into it for you,” and leave an email where the person can contact you directly – and privately. People who receive this type of help often turn into positive commentators online. More than 80 percent of customers who received a response from a company “liked or loved” the fact they were paid attention to, according to a study. Knowing who the main influencers are in the online communities that discuss your company and its products and services can also help quell online storms, if you can reach them quickly and offer them your view.

And sometimes, knowing when to laugh at yourself can be the best reaction. Bodyform’s reply to a guy posting on Facebook that periods aren’t as fun as the company’s ad depicted is hilarious – and won a lot of positive media.

So companies – listen up – don’t ignore what’s being said about you online, because journalists certainly aren’t.

When I announced to my colleagues that after 13 years as a journalist, I was quitting for the so-called dark side – ie – public relations – one guy said he “hated” what I was doing.

Thankfully, he was the only one. A few people on twitter said something along the lines of “lost another good reporter,” to PR.

I would have felt the same way a few years ago. In fact, for most of my career I swore I would never do PR. To most journalists, people in the industry rank somewhere around used car salesmen and Nigerian princes looking to send you their fortune if you just email them your bank account number. PR needs some good PR.

That perception is built upon years of bad experiences. Most reporters are flooded with pitches at a relentless pace, many unrelated to the beat they cover or an issue not important to their readers. I was getting, on average, an email a minute before I left Bloomberg. Add to that the daily pressure of monitoring not just your competition but now also trade publications, bloggers and sources, all of whom are conversing on social media, as well as demands from editors and colleagues asking for help, it leaves little time to hear out a pitch from someone new about a topic you probably don’t have the time or interest for.

The truth is, a lot of PR is bad. There’s little understanding of what journalists want or need, or how or when to reach them. The communications industry’s growth, coupled with the continued decline of full-time journalists, means the pace of outreach seems to be at an all-time high.

So – why did I quit journalism for PR? Well, for one I didn’t feel like I had those bad experiences with W2O. The people I was in contact with were smart, had interesting clients and were fun to work with. I was also impressed with the emphasis on analytics to drive outreach and model strategy. Many PR pitches lack any measurable way to back up their claims, instead relying on jargon and empty phrases to sell something. Analytics can help validate claims and legitimatize a story. Most importantly was the time my contacts at W2O took to learn about what I was interested in and how they could help me with what I was working on. They understood the importance of relationships.

Journalism is also going through some big changes. A decade ago, when I worked for a local newspaper in Connecticut, I’d write an article and the best-case scenario for feedback was to hear “good job,” from the publisher. Maybe a few cranks would call in to complain. But that was it. You’d imagine (or hope) readers’ opinions were swayed by your article. Now you find out if that’s true immediately from online comments, email and tweets. If nobody notices your story today, you’re doing it wrong. You have to be promoting it on Twitter and LinkedIn, get others discussing it and feeding the conversation. For the modern media, retweets, Klout scores and shared links are the social currency imbuing importance. Innovative journalists are holding conversations online between their sources as well as their audience, crowd-sourcing insights on a broad scale.

The most important thing I’ve heard here, and what makes me feel comfortable as a journalist at a communications firm, is the emphasis on being authentic. Authenticity is the key to producing great work and getting results. Just as journalists work harder and write better about topics they care about, so too do communications professionals succeed more often when they believe in what they’re selling.

So some may think I’ve “sold out,” leaving a successful (and rewarding) career as a journalist. But I don’t see it that way. I still intend to change lives and influence the conversation – just my title is different.

“It’s not about ‘best practices’ – it’s about ‘next practices’ as learned my new colleague Annalise Coady and I, when we excitedly touched down at the W2O Media and Engagement Summit in Austin.

We knew we worked with some forward-thinking people, but the depth and breadth of experience (along with general awesomeness) blew us away. Here’s a quick and dirty summary of some of the things we learned and plan to pioneer across the pond:

  • Media has evolved and PESO is the future: Day 1 kicked off with Head of Earned Media, Jim Larkin, demonstrating how media has evolved from the 1960’s, and how we as communicators have had to continuously adapt in order to connect with our audiences in new ways. Jim introduced the PESO (paid, earned, shared, owned) model – the integrated future of media engagement for W2O.
  • Relationship is king – know your influencers and tailor your pitch to suit: Ex-reporters Ryan Flinn and Brian Reid, along with Earned Media Director Peter Duckler and blogger aficionado Carla Clunis, shared their insights into ‘What Modern Media Want’. The clear message being we must become part of the community we want to influence and ensure we’re always approaching media with meaningful and relevant content.
  • Bring in the experts, right from the start: When you see an opportunity for our client to integrate, deploy our experts across digital, social, creative and media fields.
  • Jump in the pool: Your career at W2O doesn’t have to be linear. Do great client work and pollinate across the company, teaching account teams to do what you do.
  • W2O’s new search capabilities are awesome: Creating content that’s not findable in search is almost meaningless. W2O Search, championed by Greg Reilly and Sri Nagubandi, enables us to ensure we’re always producing content that meets the needs of our audiences – and most importantly, can be found!
  • Influence can be created – passion can’t: 92% of word of mouth still happens OFFLINE. We have the capabilities to execute outstanding WOM campaigns allowing us not only  to keep track of what people are saying about brands online and offline, but also enabling us to insert ourselves into the conversation through the engagement of ambassadors to spread goodwill.
  • Our clients are looking for first class ideas, strategy and execution: As part of a panel discussion, ex-clients Jim Larkin and Lionel Menchaca shared what they look for in an agency:
    • Passionate and committed to the cause as they are
    • Know the ball park they’re playing in
    • Competitive zeal
    • Always offer strategy and counsel where possible
    • Constantly align agency work with client business objectives
  • W2O knows more about what physicians are doing socially than anyone else in the world: Sounds like a heavy claim, but our MDigital Life database has made it so – just ask Greg Matthews!

As a company at the forefront of innovation, we must continue to push the boundaries of conventional approaches; experiment and practice truly integrated planning for our clients, or as they say in Texas; “Always drink upstream from the herd!”