As someone who has traveled to 45 countries, many extensively, during my career, it was a real pleasure to say “yes” when Mark Rectanus, professor of German and co-director of Languages and Cultures for Professions at Iowa State University and Chad M. Gasta, Professor of Spanish and Chair, Department of World Languages and Cultures asked me to spend a day in Ames and speak to students about the most important trends in digital media, as well as provide career advice.

With the backdrop of language, we met with several students who were bi-lingual or tri-lingual, had often studied abroad and aspire to work internationally once they graduate. What they may not always realize until years from now are the advantages that studying a language and exploring new cultures provides for them in the business world.

Here are five key reasons why your investment in learning new languages and cultures is important:

Ability to Understand ANY Culture – when you spend time in another country, it helps you see your own country through different eyes. To succeed abroad, you must pay attention to how the new culture works and understand what traditions and people and media are important and why. It is like getting a new pair of glasses.

Back in the business world, you have developed the ability to approach a situation with an open mind, so you can connect. Even if you never travel the rest of your life, imagine entering a technology company vs. a food and beverage company vs. a hotel vs. an accounting firm. All have distinct cultures, and all require an open mind to learn how to interact.

Self-Awareness – when you enter a new culture or country, you realize no one cares who you are. When you learn a new language, you can barely count to ten in the first days of learning. It is humbling. It is also foundational to entering a situation with higher self-awareness than the normal person.

In business, how will you learn that company’s “language” inside and out? What will you ensure you teach yourself that others may overlook?

Historical Perspective – there is a reason why certain countries are friends or antagonists. There are reasons why idiosyncrasies within cultures exist. It often has to do with the history of the country and the way it has been and continues to be governed. Learning a language often means continuing that curious streak to learn the “why” of a nation. I cannot begin to tell you how many American friends I have seen stumble over the years from not knowing their history.

In business, you realize that the “American way” to do business works great in America. It needs to be customized for the other 190 or so countries remaining.

Realizing the Power of Words – when you learn words one by one, you develop an appreciation for each one. When you can’t speak a new language as smoothly at first, you work hard at being brief. You also learn how to listen more intently. All skills we covet in the business world in any language.

Self-Confidence in Exploring the World – hey, it’s hard enough growing up. We graduate and then we wonder what we can do. Learning a language or traveling abroad is a real sense of accomplishment. It shows us we can do more, we can handle the global stage and we’re going to be okay. An early dose of self-confidence can accelerate one’s career.

I enjoyed speaking on digital trends. I must admit it was more fun to listen to the students who asked questions and see how their curiosity today will turn into opportunities for them tomorrow. They just don’t know that yet.

Best, Bob

P.S. We had our first meeting of the day in Pearson Hall. The Hall was named after Raymond A. Pearson, the 7th President of ISU. No relation to me, but the Hall was completed in 1962, the year of my birth.

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When it comes to defining brand outside the creative community there are several misconceptions. Some say it’s a logo or a color, maybe even a slogan, but those definitions are incomplete and incorrect. According to Matt Dong, Group Creative Director at W2O, “Brand isn’t a logo, it’s not a color, it’s not any of that stuff, it’s really an experience…a perception of a company.” 

Listen to Interview Now.

Matt is a brilliant creative, who’s incredibly passionate about his craft, it’s truly a pleasure to call him my colleague. I was able to sit down with Matt the day of W2O’s participation in SF Design Week’s Studio Crawl, sponsored by AIGIA. For this event our team was tasked to create a concept that spoke to who we are as a firm, that showcased our adaptability, agility, and dynamic-nature. Enter a fluid state of mind.

Matt and I discussed many things during our conversation including our W2O rebrand (which Matt played an instrumental role in), why creative needs strategy, UFO, and his days as a DJ. Take a listen to our chat below (Oh, and check out a pic of Matt, very on brand, in his UFO band tee).

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About and Creative pages.

Want to chat? Drop us a line.

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Put simply, our firm would not be what it is today without our working Moms. That’s not to say working Dads (I count myself among them) aren’t also a big factor in our success, but working Moms have a special place in the W2O story.

At back-to-school time, I am always struck by the heroic efforts of our working mothers to successfully juggle a multitude of duties. Summer may have brought more fun and relaxation, but this time of year, the anxieties of “getting back to it” whether that be school, business, or just real life, start to kick in.

Working Moms carry multiple challenges ensuring all the plates are spinning in the right manner. They are often the CEO of the household – running the family business of raising the kids and all that entails: sports and activity schedules, class selection and homework, back to school paperwork, meal prep and logistics, as well a host of other unsung tasks. Running a busy and active home would stress out even the most hardened professional – but she also contributes half or more of the family income. W2O working moms do all of this while managing their work tasks, projects, travel to clients, overseeing new business pitches, organizing and leading large accounts, meeting deadlines, managing financials, and supervising the operations of day-to-day business.

We count on them as much or sometimes more than their own husbands, partners and kids.

That’s why we’ve always listened to working mothers about having parental support benefits to reflect their reality. From a generous parental leave policy to flex vacation to our novel and our unique Your Fourth Trimester program, we take being a working Mom very seriously.

So, as we prepare to “get back to school,” I ask that all of us, especially at this time of year, be especially supportive and thoughtful to each other.  It will make a huge difference!

Let’s give a shout out and R.E.S.P.E.C.T. to all our multi-tasking wunderkind working mothers making sure we are always doing what we need to make us all best we can be.


Want to work with us? Check out our Culture & Careers’ page!

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About page!

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Do you wake up each morning with a plan to be super productive? Tackle everything on your to-do list? Attend every meeting well prepared, with ideas that are sure to wow your colleagues or your clients? Participate in the 5 p.m. networking event across town, then hit the gym, go out to dinner or put dinner on the table, and then get the kids to bed by 8 p.m.? It’s all in a day’s work, right?

I don’t know about you, but I have come to expect – and even embrace – that no matter how great my intentions are to get through my never-ending to-do list, something ALWAYS derails it. That is the beauty of life – right? But how do we stay focused and remain productive in a world that is ALWAYS ON? I was discussing this issue with a friend over dinner last week. With exasperation, she said, “I can get it all done, I just need to find more time.” I’ve been thinking about that comment a lot lately. We all say we just need to Find. More. Time. Unfortunately, you can’t really FIND more time in the 24-hour day. You have to MAKE more time, which means learning to work smarter, not longer. Do you have any fool-proof productivity tips? If so, I’d love to hear them! Following are my five tips for a more productive workday:

  1. I apply the “Ivy Lee method” to my to-do list: If you’re in the marketing and communication field, you’ve probably heard of Ivy Lee, a pioneer in our industry. In the early 1900’s, he came up with a simple, yet effective, method for achieving peak productivity that is still relevant today: (1) Write down the six most important tasks you need to accomplish tomorrow. (2) Prioritize the six items in order of importance. (3) When you arrive at work the next day, concentrate on the first task and do not move on until it is completed. (4) Approach the remainder of the list in the same way. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to your new list of six tasks. While this approach doesn’t take into consideration the chaos and disruptions of everyday life, it does make you commit. Take a deep breath, deal with the unexpected as it arises, and then get back to your list.
  2. I’m in control of my calendar: In our organization, colleagues can view each other’s Outlook calendar. While convenient, it can mean that my entire day is scheduled with back-to-back meetings — All. Day. Long. This means I don’t have time during the day to get my work done, and must do it after office hours or in the wee early mornings. To avoid this overload to my calendar and being derailed by unexpected meetings, I block out time each day to tackle important tasks. While this method doesn’t always work as planned since client and team needs will arise that require immediate focus and attention, I remain in control by prioritizing accordingly and determining what’s most critical for me to accomplish during a given timeframe.
  3. I have mastered the art of delegation and collaboration: The people who are the most productive know how to “let go.” I have hired and surrounded myself with exceptionally talented people. I trust my colleagues and expect them to make smart decisions and execute to the best of their ability. However, I also understand that very little gets accomplished by one person alone, especially in the fast-paced world of healthcare marketing and communications. Collaboration is critical to overall success. In a world where teams are highly interdependent, the old adage that W2O has adopted as part of our core values rings true: We are always better together.
  4. I check my email first thing in the morning: Yes, I know this is controversial and many organizational psychologists disagree. However, checking my email first thing in the morning ensures I start my day on the right foot. W2O has offices in four time zones, so, depending where I am on a given morning, many of my teammates and clients have been up working for three+ hours while I’ve been asleep. It’s important that I check in before I start my day to address important issues that need my attention and determine whether I need to adjust my day or proceed as planned.
  5. I take time for professional development: Whether you’re a CEO or an intern, there is always something new to learn – through a company lunch & learn, a 10-minute Ted Talk (Seth Godin’s The Tribes We Lead is a regular go-to for me!), an industry conference (make time to go and get involved!) or the newest business best-seller (I’m reading Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in A Silicon Valley Startup). It’s important that I further my business and leadership knowledge, learn new skills and gain fresh perspective. If a new skill has the potential to help increase my value to my team, my clients or my own personal and professional growth, which inevitably impacts my productivity, you better believe I’m going to master it!

Remember, mastering productivity isn’t rocket science. You simply have to make it a priority. Send me a note with your thoughts on how you stay most productive I’d love to hear your ideas! 

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When I anxiously rang the doorbell at W2O in Boston for the first time, I had no idea what to expect as my only previous office experience was from watching the TV-series The Office. I wondered: would I sit in a cubicle? Would my boss be anything like Dunder Mifflin manager Michael Scott? Would I even survive my first day having never taken a communications class?

I survived the first day, and the next day and the next. In fact, my two months working here have flown by. I’m struck by how much I’ve learned not only about communications, but also about how to succeed as an intern in the crazy world of agency-life. As I get ready to close out this great experience, I’m sharing some of my top lessons learned. For future newbies, take note: here’s what you need to know to kick butt at your communications internship.

Smart Multitasking

Upon starting my internship, I was being pretty confident that I was a multitasking pro. Despite my experience fitting homework, sports, clubs and my guilty pleasure reality TV shows into an average day, I quickly learned I still had a lot to learn about managing work in an efficient way. Once I learned how to simultaneously monitor a handful of news outlets for updates, I accepted that I would never again have one window open on my laptop. I got used to having several projects open at a time, but I also learned that it’s okay to put some projects temporarily on the back burner — in fact, you must.

In managing projects for various supervisors and clients, it’s necessary to prioritize. At first, I struggled to discern how projects were ranked in terms of importance, so I learned to ask some important questions: when do you need this by? Would you like me to prioritize this over my other projects? How long should this take me? Asking questions upon receiving assignments was intimidating at first, but I quickly learned that it’s essential to set yourself up for success in the long run.

Get Scrappy

Be prepared to get resourceful as you navigate tasks that you’ve never done before. Before my internship at W2O, I’d never put together a media list or a coverage report. Although my coworkers were always more than happy to help, I learned to figure logistical things out myself so I didn’t always have to ask for help. From teaching myself about the PESO model to figuring out how to dodge paywalls for news sites, this experience pushed me to get the job done, even when I wasn’t 100% sure what I was doing. What’s more, when I took a first stab at a new project, my coworkers were always impressed that I had put in the effort to use my own resources to figure things out.

Fast-Paced is an Understatement

In line with multitasking, be ready to push yourself a bit when it comes to deadlines. A fast-paced agency like this is not for the faint of heart. I was struck by how efficient I was when the website I was using started accusing me of being a robot because of how quickly I was researching different companies’ funding. Similarly, after a summer’s worth of client research, be prepared to hit the commercial use limit (apparently there is a limit) on LinkedIn searches per month.

Speak Up

As someone who hasn’t always loved speaking on the phone, I’ll admit that the social part of this internship was intimidating, especially when it came to our intern project. Each year, W2O challenges interns across all offices to collaborate and develop a PR campaign. This experience really pushed me out of my comfort zone as I had to learn how to make sure my ideas were heard, even with group members hundreds of miles away. Although it was hard at first, being my own advocate and speaking up was crucial throughout my internship, especially when working with colleagues in so many different cities and time zones.

Another part of speaking up means managing up to supervisors in order to own your workload. Whether it’s asking for extra assignments when things slow down or raising your hand when you have too many deadlines on your plate, I quickly realized that sitting back quietly doesn’t get you anywhere.

Be Confident

I was surprised when I realized that feedback in the workplace is nothing like getting an A on a paper. As an intern in an agency environment, where you are constantly completing interesting projects across clients, you don’t get a report card when you press send. Since supervisor feedback isn’t always immediate, it’s important to reach out, but also to find validation internally whether or not you get a pat on the back right away. This summer taught me how to be confident in my work and focus on doing a good job rather than the immediate reward.

When I leave W2O in a week to go back to school, I’ll be walking away with an invaluable experience. Beyond compiling briefing documents and media monitoring, the satisfaction and confidence I’ve gained from succeeding in an agency setting is priceless. If there’s one thing I would tell my nervous self on my first day as I waited for someone to answer the door bell ring, I would say that you can do it— and the experience will be your most eye-opening summer yet.

 If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About page!

Want to work with us? Check out our Culture & Careers‘ page!

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A Conversation with Barbara Palmer, Executive Career Coach

A recent study published in the journal Work, Employment and Society has working moms breathing a little easier when it comes to the social and emotional development of their children. Conducted by researchers from Harvard Business School, the study found that working mothers are more likely to raise successful daughters and compassionate sons. Compared with individuals who grew up with a stay-at-home mom, women who grew up with working mothers are more likely to obtain better, higher paying jobs and men are more likely to spend more time engaging in household chores and caring for their children.

As a working mother with two young sons, I’m relieved by these findings, which sure help alleviate my working mom guilt – but I also recognize the challenging job of the stay-at-home parent. My husband has taken on that role since our youngest son, now almost 5 years old, was an infant, and it is certainly as taxing – if not more so – as my work outside the home. He teaches our boys amazing things that feed their curiosity and broaden their horizon. Every. Single. Day.

At a time when so many of us are trying to figure out how we can make all of this work, we recognize that having it all is really hard. Moreover, trying to raise children in an era of total transparency and immediate access to information is frightening. So how do we balance it all successfully? I sat down with Barbara Palmer, founder and president of Broad Perspective Consulting and executive career coach extraordinaire, to get her advice.

Barbara, as a veteran career development coach with a successful practice that focuses primarily on women in the workforce, what are your key takeaways from this study?

I LOVED the stats shared in the study. FINALLY, that silver lining every working parent looks for to help them feel better about their working parent status! What I have found is that parental guilt is an equal opportunity emotion. If you work outside the home, you lament about not being home all day with your child or not being the class mom or not…not…not…it never ends! However, I also know from experience that parents who take on the work of raising small humans all day are also riddled with guilt. They feel they aren’t contributing to the family financially; they demean and downplay their contributions to the home, school and community. We need all members in our village.

The study confirms that working parents are positive role models for their children and are contributing in quantifiable ways to help their children achieve future success. Working parents are showing their kids what work-life integration looks like in a positive way.

Although this new research is interesting fodder for a working parent, the “guilt mentality” is hard to overcome. What is your advice for overcoming working parent guilt?

Guilt is persistent and it’s really unfortunate. Parents need perspective to keep that guilt in check:

  1. Own that you work for a good reason – either because financially it is good for your family and/or because you enjoy and feel fulfilled by your career. It is okay to like your work!
  2. Remember guilt goes both ways – working parents feel guilty for working, and stay-at-home parents feel guilty for not contributing financially or not using their talents to their potential. The grass is not always greener.
  3. Quality matters. When you are with your children, focus on them. Unplug, take an interest, play, be involved – make your kids your priority when you are together. Be present.

In 2017, W2O implemented Your Fourth Trimester™ program as part of our benefits package to support employees as they become working parents. Since then, several new parents at W2O have participated in the program – all of whom said it helped them smoothly and successfully transition into the working parent role. What was your impetus for developing this innovative program and what do you hope participants ultimately achieve from the curriculum?

Interestingly, when we first conceived the program, we initially thought of it as a parental leave benefit. However, as more working parents went through the curriculum, it became evident that the coaching and support it provides is actually professional development for employees. It isn’t about the baby. It’s about the employee and supporting them as they navigate this chapter of their career.

Your Fourth Trimester was created to:

  • Provide a confidential third-party resource to help employees transition to their role as a working parent.
  • Complement more generous leave packages with an equally generous and supportive transition coaching program.
  • Lower the attrition of new parents, which can be debilitating to a team that “held space” for the employee’s return.

Thank you for the valuable insight, Barbara. We are thrilled to be working with you on a regular basis within our organization.

At W2O, we employ approximately 125 full-time working moms and dads, and we promote a culture that values both work and life outside of the W2O walls. Through trailblazing programming such as Your Fourth Trimester and other people-first initiatives, we aim to ensure that our staff have a voice in shaping their individual careers and building unfair advantage for themselves, their families and our clients.

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About page!

Want to work with us? Check out our Culture & Careers‘ page!

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This article was originally published on PharmaVOICE

For Being an Industry Visionary

A visionary in the digital marketing and healthcare communications space, Jim Weiss is paving the way for what’s next. Jim is the CEO and founder of W2O Group, an integrated marketing and communications agency that he built from the ground up 17 years ago. Today, the company generates $170 million in revenue and spans 12 offices and hundreds of healthcare and technology clients. He built the firm on one platform: to be the best. And on two tenets: focus on the client first and foremost, and never be satisfied with the status quo.

“This requires focus,” he says. “You have to know where you’re going to get there and can’t go to too many places at once and still be the best.”

He has carried this philosophy through the firm’s evolution, resulting in consistent business growth, creation of innovative models, and development of progressive methodologies, such as inclusive programs in diversity, mentorship, and community involvement. Jim is justifiably proud that his efforts have resulted in several industry accolades, including being named Best Large Agency To Work For by the Holmes Report.

Over the years W2O has been agile, pivoting its infrastructure, leadership, offerings, and footprint based on client needs or industry changes. In 2016, Jim partnered with Mountaingate Capital to expand the agency’s reach with the strategic acquisitions of three companies: Sentient, an agency with a focus on data and insights; Marketeching, a market research and social listening consultancy; and Pure Communications, a communications agency focused on start-up life-sciences and med-tech clients. These acquisitions expanded the agency’s portfolio, strengthened its financial position, and enhanced overall capabilities and services.

Jim has more than 30 years of experience in healthcare and corporate communications, and he has been involved in nearly every aspect of brand, product, and organizational communications.

Colleagues admire Jim’s leadership style, which is based on courage, fortitude, constant curiosity, openness, and an ability to pivot.

His objectives remain lofty: to become the best firm in the sector to work at, to continue to disrupt and change the healthcare communications landscape, to stay ahead of the curve, to be the most valued counselors in the biopharma sector, and to work with increasingly larger and more groundbreaking clients to help them impact and/or transform their businesses in a meaningful way.

As a leader, Jim motivates his management team to deliver great results through encouragement, recognition, listening, and allowing them to lead their operating companies in an entrepreneurial, innovative, and collaborative culture.

Jim also invests in career development by supporting W2O University, an internal training program that includes webinars, presentations, and internal team sessions for all employees. The firm also offers one-on-one career and presentation coaching.

“One of the priorities I’ve set for myself is to make time to mentor dozens of my staff across W2O,” he says. “I have learned a tremendous amount over my career and want to share that same knowledge.”

With his wife Audra, he founded and sponsors of the W2O Group Center for Social Commerce at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, his alma mater. Now in its sixth year, the center is viewed as one of the most successful industry-academic sponsorships aimed at preparing students and professors for success in a digital age.

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I remember when my social media timelines were filled with #MeToo as friends, family members and acquaintances talked about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault. As a communications professional and millennial woman who is active on social media, it was an amazing experience to witness firsthand how women of all backgrounds stood together to raise their voices on such an important issue. Following the #MeToo movement, individuals rallied together to take a stand against issues they face inside and outside of the workplace. Through these movements, conversations around gender disparities in the workplace including assault, the pay gap and diversity in leadership have become part of the public discourse. With these conversations now part of a public dialogue, individuals and companies are taking a stand and perceptions are shifting.

Now that we are now living in a post-#MeToo age, what does that mean for our society and in particular, the workplace? Companies are now implementing changes to make corporate culture more inclusive for women, which is exciting and long-overdue in many industries. Although the biopharma and tech sectors tend to be predominantly male, five of our seven presidents are female, including W2O’s newest President, Jenn Gottlieb. We also are proud to work with clients who support female leadership; in fact, we provided onsite public relations support to seven female CEOs presenting at the 2018 J.P. Morgan conference (30 percent of the total number of female CEOs presenting at the meeting). At a conference with an overwhelmingly male presence – and one that many have criticized for its lack of gender diversity – this demonstrates our commitment to innovation in healthcare, no matter who is leading the company.

As a company that prides itself on its strong female leadership, we should be a leader for those working to make their companies more diverse. Our track record has proven that not only are we leaders in this area, but that having individuals from different backgrounds makes us a stronger company overall. So what can we do to continue to improve and ensure that W2O stays true to this movement? What can we do as a company to continue to foster a sense of belonging where all are welcome at W2O?

In the Next Six Months:

Many women speaking out as part of #MeToo stated their workplaces did not have protocol or channels in place to report harassment. W2O recently held workplace harassment training and has open-door policies in place with HR and other leaders in the company, which provides channels for individuals to speak confidentially and receive guidance on navigating a difficult situation. However, we could take it a step further by conducting an internal survey so that employees to anonymously submit feedback regarding potential areas of improvement regarding culture, and other flag issues we may unconsciously be missing.

In the Next Few Years:

W2O has shown its commitment to diversity, particularly in the healthcare sector. In addition to supporting female leaders, we also have a partnership with The LAGRANT Foundation (TLF), in which W2O Group is funding the Future Leaders in Healthcare Fellowship Program – a $50,000, three-year commitment. The goal of this partnership is to support those from ethnic minorities seeking a career in health communications, resulting in a more diverse workforce, activities with client partners to increase diversity in their communications functions, and provide more robust insights and results to clients.

As a leader in this area, we need to continue build on our efforts to support diversity and continue to foster a diverse and inclusive environment. Taking that mentality one step further, as this company continues to grow, we can look into making sure our strong pool of talent is diverse, not just in terms of race or gender, but also in terms of professional background and strengths that individuals can bring to their teams.


While it is important for us to work to maintain our leadership in diversity as well as continually develop an inclusive environment, there are things that every one of us can do today to foster inclusivity and belonging, such as:

  • Actively seeking out the opinions and ideas of others on the team, from the intern to the senior manager. Additionally, find ways for those of all levels to contribute to a project.
  • Not interrupting someone when you are having a conversation can foster an environment where everyone’s opinions and input are valued, and can provide an opportunity to really listen to the input from others. You can learn something new or get a different perspective through listening.
  • Encouraging meetings between those in junior positions and those in leadership positions to discuss accounts and where things can be improved
  • When building teams, if possible, playing to everyone’s strengths. If someone has an analytic mindset, they can be an asset to a team that is very creatively driven (and vice versa) in order to make a project stronger overall

I hope that W2O can continue to be a leader in inclusivity and push for diversity at all levels. I truly believe that pushing for these initiatives will make us a better and stronger company overall. Ensuring that there is a place for those of all backgrounds at W2O falls directly in line with our belief that we are #BetterTogether.

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About page!

Want to work with us? Check out our Culture & Careers‘ page!

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By 2025, millennials will comprise 75 percent of the U.S. workforce. At W2O, those born between 1980 and 2000 represent 70% percent of our staff today, a figure that will continue to rise sharply over the next decade. I have worked alongside many members of this most studied and scrutinized generation for the last 16 years and can honestly say that, collectively, they are among the most intelligent, engaged, purpose-driven leaders of our time. The value they place on innovation, teamwork, corporate social responsibility and workplace culture is inspiring to say the least – pushing those of us who are Generation Xers to be better, more open-minded and agile managers.

Last week, I was invited to participate in W2O’s Committee of Millennials (COM) monthly meeting. The committee includes 85 interns, associates and managers across our “long hallway” (i.e., across geographies and time zones) whose purpose is to share, collaborate, integrate and become empowered as young professionals. Cool, huh?! I was eager to ask them questions about influencer engagement as they’ve grown up in this “always on” world and query them about the growing trend to create more branded content.

AdWeek recently published a GIF depicting the ins and outs of influencer behavior. The most interesting stats, which didn’t come as a surprise to any of the COM members, included:

  • 93.2% of influencers are between the ages of 24 to 44
  • 95% are female
  • More than 50% have produced branded content over the last two years
  • 79% stated that they plan to create more branded posts than they currently do

Given the digital inclinations of the COM members, who better to look to for insight regarding how influencer engagement can be further harnessed and improved. They literally grew up with social media. In fact, a recent study showed that 47 percent of millennials affirm that the Internet is the one thing they cannot live without. They look to social media for information about specific brands to and, more importantly, who is endorsing and recommending those brands.

Here’s what I learned from the COM members:

1. You can’t escape interacting with influencers…they’re ever-present: As marketing and communications professionals, we must understand how important it is to utilize influencers in a meaningful and transparent way. Millennials don’t want to feel like they are being “sold to” or duped. They are motivated to follow influencers who have an intrinsic desire to genuinely connect with their followers.

2. Authenticity reigns: Influencers need to be personally passionate about what they are promoting, period. It’s easy to spot the influencers who truly support a brand versus those who are simply looking for a paycheck. The experience, whether branded or unbranded, should be real.

3. Cause-based marketing helps: If an influencer can also speak to the brand or company’s social responsibility or support for a worthy cause, it’s a win. It makes the experience as a whole more palatable.

4. Digital creators are considered more believable than traditional celebrities: This goes back to authenticity and the importance of truly believing in what you’re selling. A traditional celebrity is more likely to use his or her influencer status to garner the big bucks, while digital creators have worked long and hard to develop their voice, follower-base and overall influence.

Anna Hodge, Account Manager at W2O and chair of COM said it best: “Influencers have an overwhelming digital footprint and tend to overtake my social media feeds on a daily basis, but what attracts my attention most is not an endorsement with a catchy lingo or a trending hashtag, but rather something authentic. To me, the most compelling content draws on an influencer’s lived experiences and reflects emotions to which I can easily connect. Successful influencers empower their audience and elicit a response, whether it’s as simple as leaving a comment or as complex as mobilizing on behalf of a particular cause. That is true influence.”

Thanks Anna and company for allowing this Gen Xer to take a spot at your meeting! I hope to get the chance to engage with this vibrant group of young professionals again soon.

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About page!

Want to work with us? Check out our Culture & Careers‘ page!

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