It was almost a year ago. I was walking through Philly’s holiday market, sipping mulled cider and finishing my Christmas shopping, between business flights and train rides up and down the East Coast. I was later stopped going through TSA thanks to a bacon bourbon hot sauce I bought for my dad. Ah, the days of business travel.

Amid my yuletide merriment, I got a call from a colleague. She said her client was seeking a “big idea” for 2020 and she was hoping that our analytics team could brainstorm ways to use data to help. The ask: What would happen if we peeled back the curtain on chronic kidney disease (CKD) and looked at the holistic patient experience, beyond being defined by traditional quality of life measures or creatinine levels? How could we develop a better understanding of the whole person, not just the patient, living with CKD every day?

This question reflects a challenge that many of our clients are grappling with as we hurdle toward “modernized healthcare,” where personalization and consumerization are becoming tablestakes and patients have more access to their own health data and more choice over how they manage their disease. As such, our clients are asking: how do we capture and support the human, lived experience – with a focus on how the burden of disease can impact every facet of a patient’s life? And how can data help us be more precise and thoughtful with our actions?

As an applied sociologist and analyst at W2O, my question is never “can we find answers to these questions?” Rather, my question is “what types of data can we leverage from our robust data engine?” In partnership with a team of smart colleagues – a scientific strategist, a communications specialist, and a seasoned marketer researcher – we developed a three-phase multi-modal approach that aggregated data from a geographically diverse cohort of patients living with CKD. Leveraging social media data, qualitative phone interviews, and an online quantitative patient survey, we created a global CKD-Personal Impact Index (PII) that derived the daily personal impact of the disease on individuals diagnosed with CKD (and their families). The CKD-PII uncovered the direct and indirect impact of living with CKD on patients’ activities of daily living and overall quality of life (QoL), providing unique insights into the patient experience that other studies have not traditionally assessed.

Our research showed the burden of a CKD diagnosis is profound: 56% of patients living with CKD said the disease has an extreme impact on their overall QoL, and 13% said they felt an impact almost immediately post-diagnosis. Mental well-being and sleep schedule were most severely impacted by CKD, followed by planning of life events/holidays/trips, diet/meal management, exercise schedule, and time for medical appointments. These findings were recently presented in a poster session at the American Society of Nephrology’s Kidney Week and are being submitted for presentation at the upcoming World Congress of Nephrology.

But beyond garnering recognition in academia, this research reflects an emerging imperative in the healthcare industry. How do we use data to humanize the patient experience? How do we uncover the real, lived day-to-day burden of disease and its outcomes? If living with CKD results in poorer mental health and running on little sleep, how can we better reach and serve the patient community? In a year where COVID-19 has had mental health implications for many of us, we have gotten a taste of how it feels to have a disease interfere with our day-to-day life. Perhaps we can carry this perspective into the future – leaning a little more into the data and appreciating the whole person behind the patient.

A very special thanks to Jillian Guiglotto and the AstraZeneca CRVM team, who were instrumental in pushing this important work forward.

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages.

Today, we’re proud to announce that W2O is launching a new video series – Privacy Perspectives.

The privacy landscape is changing rapidly. New legislation around the world is combining with rapidly evolving consumer attitudes to create a lot of questions both for the healthcare industry and for marcomm generally.

W2O takes privacy seriously, and as our Global Data Privacy Officer, I field a lot of privacy-related questions that our clients ask. Those questions range from the very tactical (do I need a cookie controller on my website?) to the deeply strategic (how do I build privacy into my brand as a key differentiator?).

The primary goal of Privacy Perspectives is to answer your questions. I’ll be sitting down with other industry and privacy experts in a series of short videos to discuss the most frequent questions we hear. These videos will each tackle a specific privacy question, and are designed to provide you with answers you need in just a few minutes.

In addition to answering common questions, we’ll be discussing significant privacy news and legislative changes that impact the majority of our clients and partners, as well as the healthcare industry at large. Future videos will cover questions raised by complex regional laws, including  GDPR and LGDP, as well as state and sectoral regulations such as CCPA/CPRA and HIPAA. Our guest experts will also discuss data ethics, risk assessment and cybersecurity topics.

Privacy Perspectives provides a repository of information and expert opinion in a format that directly addresses the specifics you need to know – all in a format that makes it easy to find exactly what is most relevant to you and your organization in that moment. In the future, you can return to the series any time as your business faces new privacy challenges and the privacy landscape evolves.

We hope you’ll find these videos useful. If you have a question, comment or suggestion for a topic you’d like us to cover, please email us at

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages.


At W2O, we define corporate Relevance as being thought about, sought out, talked about, engaged with and believed in among your stakeholders. Relevance is attuned to cultural, societal, political urgency and currency with organizations that reflect consistent, persistent, clear, and often bold stands that invite dialogue, discussion, debate and action.

Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and global awakening on racial and social injustice, Relevance has never been more important, critical and powerful to an organization’s sustainability. The dueling pandemics we’re bearing witness to have made true equity one of the most urgent corporate and societal priorities of our time.

I recently had the pleasure of serving as a faculty member for the annual Fierce Life Sciences Pharma PR & Communications Summit on a panel titled “Relevance is the New Reputation: How Companies are Staying Relevant Amidst Crises.”  During this conversation, we explored how current global and U.S. events have made it clear how central Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) is to relevance and why corporations need to tear up the standard playbook and lean into the DE&I journey with authenticity, commitment and powerful resolve.

During the panel, I unveiled findings from W2O’s latest study, “Remaining Relevant Amidst Crisis & The New (Ab) Normal,” which outlines the current U.S. societal landscape identifying where select companies are in their DE&I maturity journey. The report provides considerations for how companies can and should move forward, no matter where they are in their commitment to DE&I.

The study’s findings solidify just how transformative 2020 continues to be, and the unveiling of a new era of corporate citizenship. With companies navigating the lightning rods of upheaval and the resulting new expectations their actions are under the microscope, with powerful shifts in perspectives from the general public – including employees – to commit, lead and engage on social and civic issues. “Walking your talk” has never been more important, and there’s a clear need for strategic, authentic action around DE&I to positively impact the path forward.

To help ascertain what this next normal can look like, we qualitatively analyzed the DE&I progress of five companies – across Fortune 500 and the healthcare industry – to establish a DE&I maturity journey. Maturity was mapped across five key pillars: Authenticity, Accountability, Action, Transparency and Frequency.

All of the companies analyzed fell in the middle of a 5-point scale of stages from Novice to Champion, pointing to the inroads made and work that still needs to be done.  Addressing growing stakeholder expectations around DE&I in a transformational moment for society can be daunting.

Following are four key considerations for moving forward:

  1. DEI is a mindset not a message
    Recent societal shifts have highlighted the critical need for companies to commit to and take clear, measurable action around DE&I. Start where you are, take ownership of where you’ve fallen short to date, and be ready to embrace discomfort as you grow.
  2. Authenticity starts with Clarity about who you are
    Throughout the journey, remember that authenticity is key. Make authenticity a North Star in foundation-setting efforts and beyond. Stakeholders, particularly employees, should believe that DE&I efforts align with the brand and its core purpose/values.
  3. Educate. Highlight. Share.
    Education and policy are top-of-mind for stakeholders. Authentic partnerships are a way to address this need, no matter where you are on the maturity journey. Showcase how the company is listening, learning and sharing information, and be ready to go well beyond “performative” monetary donations.
  4. Connect the Dots
    Civil unrest has sparked a realization for some that there is uncertainty around what DE&I truly means. In many cases, this has been a catalyst for increased consumption of educational resources. Companies can, through their educational efforts, help create interconnectivity between education and DE&I topics within search.

Why does this matter? It all comes back to Relevance. How relevant are you?  In today’s social and digital world, if you aren’t relevant you don’t exist.

Organizations are being judged on Purpose as much as Product. As such, they need to allow stakeholders to discover rather than sell their narrative regarding DE&I. The world is watching, and there is an imperative to close the gap between rhetoric and stakeholder expectations by aligning with the societal and cultural urgency of DE&I​. Embracing the maturity journey now will align action with urgency – authentically, thoughtfully and transparently.

Be unafraid to take a stand. Now more than ever, Relevance is your most potent path to the future.

It’s always a unique pleasure when I get to chat with one of my colleagues for What2Know. W2O’s Global Privacy Officer, Dan Linton, joins the show to discuss how our recent survey serves as a data privacy playbook for healthcare companies, how our findings were impacted by COVID-19, and what this research means for the healthcare industry as a whole. Take a listen below.

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages

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W2O study uncovers sentiment of internal dynamics and perceptions shaping organizational confidence in U.S.

 “Just tell me what’s next?”

If you can sum up the sentiment from today’s employees regarding COVID-19, then providing answers to that question is a start. W2O undertook a comprehensive study on U.S. employee attitudes and perspectives toward COVID-19 in order to understand overall perceptions of the pandemic from an employee standpoint including concerns, interests and beliefs. The study also examined how companies are addressing these issues and how they are shifting over time as society and business moves to the next phase of this public health crisis.

“Employee relationships and engagement have become front and center during COVID-19 as leaders discern the right balance of providing clarity, recognizing effort, maintaining performance and ensuring safety, said Gary F. Grates, Principal, W2O and a leading authority on organizational communications and change management. “Our deep-rooted analytics expertise allowed us to explore the multiple dimensions of employee attitudes and behaviors and how companies should recalibrate and design effective solutions to adequately respond to this new reality.”

View full study results can be found here.

Highlights from the study, conducted with more than 1,000 employees representing various business segments from the overall U.S. population, include the following:

Addressing Employee Concerns and Needs Improves Organizational Confidence

Projecting a strong, vibrant persona as a business is critical to stakeholder belief and confidence. Virtual working models, while efficient, raise issues of isolation and myopic thinking that, if not addressed, can negatively impact brand relevance.

Communication that is Empathetic and Clear Impacts Attitude, Behavior

Improving and continuing communication of company plans and relevant information around the COVID-19 pandemic is important. Companies must establish expectations around working from home and provide daily/weekly updates from the CEO and higher level management. They must create awareness efforts surrounding plans to reopen, strategies to ensure safety, and updates about employees who have contracted the virus.

Clean and Safe Policies Are Expected Before Individual Decisions Are Made

Taking a number of actions that identify the needs and wants of employees and recognizing each individual concern over returning to an in-person working environment is necessary. Companies must utilize sanitation services and provide PPE to make employees feel comfortable returning to work.

Putting Employees First Garners Loyalty

Employees admire employers who set standards and a plan of action to move the company forward. Commitment to employees reassures them that their job is secure and ensures confidence.

Flexible Work Schedules Will Become the Norm

Flexible scheduling gives employees better options to balance home and work responsibilities. Employees want various options to adjust their schedule. They also want the ability to work from home whenever they want or have the option to go into the office when needed.

“We found numerous levels and dimensions of employee perceptions that define the character of organizations. These are extremely important to how employees think and operate, said Dave Johnson, Managing Director, Integrated Intelligence, W2O. “This foundation provides a basis for new and different approaches to policies, decision-making and communications during the pandemic to maintain or exceed employee expectations. As the pandemic continues to unfold, these findings and insights will prove to be more valuable than ever to leaders and communicators alike.”

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages.

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