Each semester at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, thanks to the ongoing commitment and gift provided by Jim and Audra Weiss, a group of W2O Group industry professionals and invited executive guests travel to campus for a series of events to help bridge the gap between the classroom and the industry. Last week, I was fortunate enough to help produce a series of activities in collaboration with Lauryn Botterman, Maria Russell and the fall 2015 Social Commerce Days crew, including:

  • Jennifer GottliebGroup Panel Discussion Photo_Fall2015SCD SMALL
  • Gary Grates
  • Kieran Fagan
  • Ryan Flinn
  • Eileen O’Brien
  • Jennifer Kaplan (Jennifer Katz)
  • Blaire Clause
  • Alex Levine

A quick recap:

This semester we were invited to visit a record number of classrooms, spanning Research, Campaigns, Writing, Advertising, Ethics and more. Along with speaking to students and faculty in their classes, we hosted several networking events and continued our popular, immersive Analytics to Strategy Workshop, facilitated by Jennifer Kaplan and Blaire Clause and attended by over 50 students.

TheHergStudents_Fall2015SCD SMALLWe also expanded the usual keynote address into an executive panel featuring our own Jennifer Gottlieb, as well as Chris Preuss, SVP of marketing and communications at Delphi Automotive and Craig Rothenberg, former VP of corporate communications at Johnson & Johnson. Moderated by Gary Grates, the executives discussed the concept of gaining and sustaining relevance as the new reputation.

To cap things off, we honed in on crisis in today’s digital age, highlighting the work our ambassadors, Anna Hodge and Andrew Petro, executed over the summer in our New York office and showcasing our new digital tools and approaches in a professor session, led by Kieran Fagan.

We’ve been receiving overwhelming positive feedback from students and faculty alike. And digital conversation and engagement only increased from last semester’s events. Check out our Storify created by ambassador Anna Hodge, highlighting #SocCommDays interaction.

A few reflections from this semester’s team:

Eileen O’Brien: Why Writing Matters More Than Ever

“It may seem counter intuitive, but writing matters more than ever in our digital age,” according to my colleague, Ryan Flinn, director of earned media at W2O and former Bloomberg reporter. “It used to be a top down approach – journalists relied on access to CEOs, government officials and key opinion leaders in order to develop a story. A reporter made their name by breaking big news. In our new media environment, breaking news has become a commodity since everyone is a publisher.”

Ryan and I recently spoke before several classes at Syracuse University and the students were relieved to hear this as they worked their way through their writing classes. And the professors enjoyed this validation of their focus on writing skills. Ryan made the point that after news breaks (whether via Twitter or CNN) people are looking to learn what the news means and its potential impact. This is where smart writing comes in.

We also talked about the fact that reporters’ success is increasingly being tied to clicks and shares. The author (and their employer) are able to get feedback on whether the article was of interest. We debated with the students whether this resulted in “click bait” and whether it was good or bad for the industry. It’s interesting to note that with so many traditional newspapers laying off reporters, new media sites such as Vox and the Daily Beast are providing jobs for these journalists.

During class, we encouraged live tweeting and it was great to get real-time reaction from the students to see what was resonating with them.


Blaire Clause:

I already knew that the Center for Social Commerce was an exceptional program, but it was energizing to see first-hand the impact that it has on campus.  I thoroughly enjoyed presenting some of our analytics models, case studies and speaking candidly about the day-to-day life at W2O. My (high) expectations were surpassed by the genuine curiosity and enthusiasm expressed by the students, especially around our analytics approach and how they apply to different business challenges. Aside from the full classrooms, the executive panel and workshop were packed with bright minds who asked thoughtful questions. Some of my favorite parts included getting to know some of them 1:1 through the networking session, and working with them as they eagerly accepted the client example/challenge we presented in the workshop. Jim and W2O Group have truly created something special for the students— it allows for them to enhance their education through exposure to real client examples, W2O’s models, and industry leaders.