There is a saying in business “what got you here won’t get you there.” The premise being that as time moves forward and the environment changes,  organizations evolve and so must its people in order to thrive and get to the next level.

Starting with customers who are constantly raising expectations and getting smarter; to new technology, which changes the game and increases the complexity of it; it forces all of us to keep ahead of the curve to keep up.

In our world, the last 17 years have been nothing short of a rocket ride. We have experienced incredible growth, driven new ways of thinking, and caused organizations to rethink the marketplace and how to engage with stakeholders at a much deeper level.

We have also navigated change – change thrust upon us as a result of technology and innovation and our quest to Become the Best. Some of the highlights shaping our narrative include:

  1. A New Lens to See – Analytics and Insights – At our foundation was early recognition and investment in the use of data and insights in guiding strategy and programming to achieve precision in spend and results
  2. From Coverage to Influence – Discovering that media was becoming not only fragmented but personal and influence was informing opinion allowed clients to identify the types of discussions — including language, cadence, tonality – taking place and more importantly, who was influencing the topic
  3. Blurring the Lines – Communications, Marketing, Analysis, Strategy, Creative – No longer would these disciplines operate in silos.  Rather, together they would work in concert like an orchestra to create InteGREATness.
  4. Digital Transformation This shift in power to customers and employees has had the most profound impact on organizational and customer behavior
  5. Holistic Solutions The impact of digital on communications and marketing forces a more dynamic, holistic approach to brand and reputation building
  6. Hybrid Skills –  The most challenging area has been migrating from a specialized skill set to one that encompasses a variety of capabilities and incorporating innovative thinking and a strategic mindset that looks to the future while addressing the current reality

As we go forward, we are in the midst of the next evolution driven by several factors:

  1. Relevance – In a social and digital age relevance is the new reputation.  If an organization or brand or person is not relevant they don’t exist
  2. Empowerment – The rise of expectations is leading to more power and control by customers and employees causing businesses to hone their listening and curiosity to respect this new mindset
  3. Higher Purpose – Beyond CSR and social programs, organizations must be in sync with making a real difference in people’s lives. For healthcare organizations this takes on even greater meaning as patients and customers will look for how they are making the world a better place and making healthcare work better in the world
  4. Predictive Knowledge – Analytics and data were just the start. What if you could know what customers or consumers or competitors would do before it happens? It’s all about leveraging information, digital knowledge, insights, ecosystems, and social behavior to determine how activities are emerging
  5. AI – All the talk about artificial intelligence and what it will or won’t do boils down to one question: when will AI become a legitimate replacement for the work we do?

Digital is table stakes today. The game is now being played in the connective tissue that holds everything together. It’s all about riding the wave of complexity and convergence and factoring in human emotion and mindset to arrive at new conclusions.

It’s no longer what got us here. It’s about forward. No roadmap. No playbook. Just information and insight. Discovery and experimentation.

Looking back we created much of what we see today by staying nimble and taking the rivers of change versus letting them take us. Looking forward, it will be much of the same but with a completely new set of technologies, realities and circumstances to navigate.


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

Want to chat? Drop us a line.

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I started W2O with a mindset I learned at Genentech, a scientific company where our CEO Art Levinson taught us that if you follow the data you will get to the right outcome and it guides future direction and decision making.

With all the data out there today, there is no reason to guess anymore as to what strategy is needed to reach the right audience with the right messages at the right time.

We can apply what I have always referred to as Marketing and Communications Science to ensure how we deploy money and resources that produces the desired ROI and to make real-time adjustments before it’s too late and the money is gone.

My story was featured in one of our first books Pre-Commerce describing my e-Commerce journey that led me to the right surgeon for bariatric surgery that led to a 100-pound plus weight loss and arguably healthier lifestyle.

But it’s not all science and never is.  Science combined with expertise, know-how and instincts and some good old fashioned artistic creativity can lead to the most powerful engagement strategies.

Data just helps us verify our best instincts and could steer us in a direction we didn’t see at first.

What we hope coming together like this will produce is that scientific and creative exchange you can only get in a group setting that catalyzes and sparks connections you wouldn’t otherwise get or make on your own in your day to day slog.

We hope to see this expand and grow into something much more over time – maximizing the adoption and deployment of marketing science to enhance your businesses.

What will it take to see this more widely adopted in an integrated marketing model?  I would say it’s a commitment and conviction that if data drives financial and strategy decisions in the C-suite, it should do the same in the M&S -suite or marketing and sales suite.

Because we are so often the tail that wags the dog we might as well verify that with data and secure our rightful place at the center of a company’s business strategy and value creation.

Let’s get everyone out of their silos and let’s see the data unite and align everyone in a company in a common mission and vision.

YOU can be that catalyst and game-changer armed with the scientific data and proof required to convince boards and investors which way to pivot and when.

So let’s spend this day united in data and science to create iron-clad marketing and sales plans and execution that delivers value every day and can be measured to show impact and contribution in ways never thought possible before.

Let’s continue to innovate and advance the field together and, especially in healthcare, make a positive difference in people’s lives.

Thanks for spending the day with us. We are privileged to partner with you all.


Can’t make in person? We’ve got you covered. Head over to our Facebook page to catch the livestream. 

Stay tuned for recap posts from CMO Aaron Strout and MM&M.

Learn more about W2O, check out our About and Analytics pages.

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The only purpose of disinformation is to deceive us.

That statement alone should be enough to motivate us to ask “how can we not be deceived and how do we know more about how it happens”.  There are many ways, of course, but we can counter disinformation if we are willing to educate our citizens on what disinformation is all about.  This is why I was very pleased to meet with Milan Tanceski of Blink 42-21 during my recent visit to speak at the first annual Media Innovation Forum in Skopje, Macedonia.

Macedonia has had its share of issues battling disinformation, as have virtually all countries in the world at this point.  The big difference is that Milan and his team are working on educational solutions to help the citizens of Macedonia learn what to look for and to be more aware of the perils of this type of propaganda.

I agreed to join the series and did a brief video interview (see below) on how bot networks take advantage of Twitter to drive us towards illicit goods, services or extreme views.  In the video, I describe how it often works.

An Internet Bot often seems very mysterious, but it is really quite straight forward.

A bot is just a software application running automated tasks over the Internet.  They are excellent at performing repetitive tasks, like retweeting certain accounts or dumping in keywords via tweets over and over.

In today’s world, it is very easy for bad actors to set up a bot network in days that looks real, shares tweets, fools search engines and drives us to the wrong place.  It drives people to counterfeit goods, services that are shams and groups that hold extreme views.

We can all improve in how we educate our countries and the world to increase our self-awareness.  The team in Macedonia is making an important step forward, which I applaud.  This series, which is just starting, can serve as an example for countries worldwide.  I hope you take a moment to watch this video and subsequent videos.  Please share ideas on what you believe the series should cover in the future, as well.

Let’s always remember that our world is filled with people who prefer a peaceful existence.  Very few of us are bad actors.  Let’s outlearn and outsmart them.

Best, Bob

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“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized.”  Daniel Burnham, the famed Chicago architect, knew a thing or two about big ideas. For those not steeped in Chicago history or Erik Larson’s book Devil in the White City, Burnham had a big, bold vision for Chicago as the “Paris on the prairie” and he overcame tremendous odds to make it reality.

Today, nothing embodies the concept of big ideas more than Chicago Ideas Week. This year, from October 15-19, big ideas will be on full display.  Now in its 8th year, the event is based on a single belief – “when a broad spectrum of thinkers and instigators share ideas, we have the power to transform our world.” The week will feature an eclectic mix of stage programs and hands-on educational ‘labs’, designed around a wide variety of topics and curated to encourage dialogue and inspire attendees to take action to drive change. 

For the first time, W2O, driven by its Chicago office, will be participating in the week by sponsoring a lab focused on content marketing and helping attendees learn how to compete in a crowded, often noisy online space.

Attend W2O’s Lab on Content Marketing at Chicago Ideas Week

As we were concepting our lab, I was struck by how naturally the idea of focusing on analytics and content strategy came to us. I couldn’t help but think about how far I’ve seen our agency come in the last decade I’ve been at the company as the industry has gone through a monumental shift in how communications is practiced. About how far I’ve personally come from a ‘traditional’ communications practitioner to a truly integrated marketing communications professional.  And about how Burnham-esque we have been in our vision to challenge industry norms and create unfair advantage for our clients.

What underscores both our company’s approach and the mission behind Chicago Ideas Week, is the notion that no one can tackle these problems alone; we need to bring together different voices and perspectives to approach the challenges of the world –  or of the communications industry – in a new way.  Daily, I’m reminded of this as I work with a highly integrated team, including analytics experts, creative strategists and social media phenoms, who all bring a variety of ideas to the table and work to create smarter, more cost-effective strategies for our clients.  Sometimes it still feels like magic when it all comes together!

And this is what we hope to show during our lab – how marrying data with a fully integrated PESO (Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned) strategy can be a kind of magic formula to help companies better reach their target audiences and help their messages resonate among the noise and distraction of today’s online environment.  And we’ll have a little fun doing it, too!

At W2O, we’ve always considered ourselves a company that challenges status quo so it’s only natural that we’re part of a week that embraces the instigators, the big thinkers and those who dare to make no little plans. And what better place to do this than the Windy City, the city where big ideas come to play.


Attend W2O’s Lab at Chicago Ideas Week.

Learn more about Chicago Ideas Week.

Who is W2O? Check out our About page.

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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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As we reflect on our summer internship experience and kick off our senior year at Syracuse University, we wanted to share our key takeaways from a summer well-spent at W2O Group, part of our year-long experience as 2018 Student Ambassadors for the W2O Center for Social Commerce program. Our summer in the New York office can be summarized in three words: fast-paced, experiential and exciting. Not only did we get to work with the Center for Social Commerce, but we were also involved with projects on various client accounts across a number of industries, including technology, healthcare, manufacturing and more. Here’s what we learned along the way:

Learning the agency life

Leah: I thought I had a pretty good grasp of agency life from working at an agency in my hometown. But coming to W2O Group, I had the opportunity to grow in a different type of agency setting. Over the course of the summer, I worked on many different teams, learned new skills, and began to understand various industries. And now, having worked on more than ten client accounts in one summer, I can say that learning and experiencing something new every day is the best part of an agency to me.

Kris: I came to W2O with three years of in-house corporate communications experience, so agency life was very different for me! This summer I had the opportunity to jump in on multiple accounts, and get my feet wet with a variety of asks. From working with media relations, to drafting corporate social content and helping with an investor day, the experience I gained was extremely well rounded. Perhaps the best parts of working at an agency were having the opportunity to work with so many intelligent people and seeing our work come to fruition for our clients.

Collaborating with other interns

Leah: At W2O Group, we were lucky enough to work with almost 40 interns from offices across the country for our summer intern project. Every intern had a different path in getting to W2O and having the opportunity to learn from my peers in different practice areas was incredibly unique. Not only did they share their perspectives and experiences, but the other interns made coming to work fun! I’ve made relationships here I’ll take with me into the next year and beyond.

Kris: Collaboration is king at W2O Group. Whether it’s with your fellow interns that sit right next to you or teammates across the country, there is always an aspect of working together to successfully complete a task. As a business student, I spend most of my classes engaging in group work. I was pleasantly surprised to find similar collaboration in the public relations world. This experience has opened my eyes to new ways of thinking and creating that I will keep with me as I head into my senior year.

Working under deadline

Leah: This internship taught me how to work under strict deadlines. You might wonder, “Leah, didn’t college teach you that?” At school, I learned time management skills by balancing my class work with my extra-curricular activities; at W2O, I refined this skillset by balancing diverse client work, while still engaging in my own professional development and related activities. Unlike the extended deadlines offered for class assignments, I often had to complete asks within more limited windows, usually just a few hours or even minutes. I didn’t have late nights in Bird Library, but I did have busy days filled with multiple projects and tight turnarounds.

Kris: Deadlines are real. And they are no joke. Earlier in the summer, at one of our intern speaker series sessions, an executive gave us some advice that I think about almost every day. She filled us in on an industry secret— each client is going to expect to be treated as if they are your only client— and it’s true! In the client service industry, each account deserves equal attention from the team, so meeting deadlines becomes a part of daily life to keep all the wheels turning. It can be overwhelming when you have to stay late or get in early just to complete everything you must tackle in one day, but in the words of Jenn Gottlieb, President of W2O and Newhouse alumna, “live by your Outlook calendar, it will save your life!”

Finding your squad

Leah: Early on, I discovered that I was working with some of the most intelligent people I have ever met. Not only are they incredibly passionate about their jobs, but they are so knowledgeable about the communications industry and their clients’ industries. Throughout the summer, I found mentors, resources and connections that have provided me with a strong foundation as I establish my future path. I was surrounded by associates, managers and directors who drive me to bring my best every day, because they bring their A-game always.

Kris: From junior employees to top level executives, there is nothing more important than finding your squad. These are the people who will have your back when work gets tough, will encourage you to manage up, give you confidence in your own ideas and will be there at the end of the day to celebrate your victories (even the little ones). This summer, I was lucky enough to find a group of incredibly driven interns, associates, managers and more, who made walking into work every day exciting and pushed me to be my best self at everything I did.

Nerding out about your job

Leah: I loved coming to W2O Group every day because of the people, the great snacks, but most importantly— the work! I feel fortunate to have worked with many different account teams. Not only did I have the chance to be ingrained in client work, but I also learned about the broader industries in which they operate. Who knew topics like healthcare could be so compelling!?

Kris: Work is fun! I’ll admit it— I love interning, especially at W2O. There are challenges, but the proud feeling that comes along with finishing a difficult project makes it all worth it. Between the people who made the days go by so fast and after-work activities like company kickball every Wednesday, this summer has flown by! My job has easily become my favorite topic of conversation, and I’m sure will continue to be while I’m back on campus this year.

Our summer at W2O has been filled with life lessons, new friends and mentors, and fresh perspectives on the PR world. We have experienced exponential growth both professionally and personally and are excited to build upon our new skill sets while we are back for our senior year at Syracuse. As for now, we can’t wait to continue our support of W2O Center for Social Commerce programs this fall!


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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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.

Jim


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 agillespie@w2ogroup.com. I’d love to hear your ideas! 

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