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.


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

Don’t miss an episode of What2Know, subscribe to our podcast on iTunesStitcher or Spotify!

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.

AMEC Barcelona Principles 3.0 Unveiled – Playing Catch Up, Keeping Pace and Striving to be Bolder

Performative measurement? Superficial metrics? Social as a new channel? Welcome to the dark ages of communications measurement, circa 2010. Measurement has thankfully edged forward over the last decade, and today’s comms practitioners crave integrated, innovative and audience-centric measurement that drives real business results. Without it, practitioners fall further behind their marketing peers, failing to optimize programs and prove the value of comms to the C-suite. 

But are industry standards keeping pace? Are we still stuck in the dark ages? Do we still need to educate on Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE)?

It’s been five years since the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communications (AMEC) refreshed its Barcelona Principles and 10 years since the original launch. The Barcelona Principles provide a foundational basis for comms measurement and evaluation, setting an overarching framework and alignment for industry associations, think tanks, commissions and practitioners from 33 countries.

This week, AMEC unveiled the long-awaited Barcelona Principles 3.0 on the virtual stage of its annual global summit. Drumroll…. please.

Here’s our breakdown of where the industry has caught up, what feels on pace, and where we can be bolder.

Caught Up

  • Taking a holistic approach to measurement. A long overdue evolution of the original “social media can and should be measured principle,” it’s hardly news that the industry has moved toward a holistic measurement approach. At W2O, we believe counseling clients on a fully integrated cross-PESO approach is more important than ever as CCOs are increasingly integrating with CMOs and CTOs to deliver holistic measurement to the CEO. We are constantly exploring new ways for comms measurement to look, feel and behave more like marketing. Comms falling five years behind marketing peers? It’s no longer an option.
  • Goal setting is a must and should be flexible. We wholeheartedly agree with this long overdue update that goals should be dynamic and revisited on a consistent basis. We build in regular reviews of client goals to ensure measurement plans are living, breathing documents to capitalize on optimization opportunities.

On Pace

  • People and society matter. The refreshed principle acknowledges the importance of identifying outcomes and impact for stakeholders and society, in addition to the organization. At W2O, we are examining new ways to measure social good and important stakeholder groups such as employees who are increasingly having an impact on long-term company performance.
  • Rooting our work in integrity. Data privacy remains one of our top concerns as we work with sensitive healthcare data and new AI technologies to ensure we are protecting the end user and delivering unbiased results.

Be Bolder

  • Potential impact was left undefined. The updated principle speaks to measuring outputs, outcomes and potential impact, but detail around potential impact is missing. Potential impact, or rather predictive, is where we need to be innovating as an industry. We see predictive as the NOW – not just the future – as we experiment with coupling new technologies with seasoned data scientists to lead comms to predictive modelling.
  • Audience-centric measurement as a stand-alone principle. Audience is more important than ever, and our measurement framework takes an audience-centric approach to understand if the right message was delivered on the right channel to the right audience. New quantitative audience data, combined with qualitative methods, is enabling the industry to push further in this direction.
  • Re-evaluating metrics beyond AVE. As an industry, it’s time to broaden the “do not advise” metric list. Impressions or unique visitors per month are antiquated metrics. Automated sentiment is far from perfect. At W2O, we regularly re-evaluate the metrics we are using to counsel clients and explore new tools, data and methods.

We have edged forward as an industry, but it’s time to be bolder and to critically examine industry guidelines on a more frequent basis, bringing on new talent with diverse perspectives, and experimenting with new methods and technologies to bring comms measurement into 2020 and beyond.

For more thought leadership on measurement, please check out AMEC and Institute for Public Relations (IPT).


In “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” renowned African American author Zora Neale-Hurston writes, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”

Six months in, 2020 has proven to be the year of seismic questions that are poised to trigger significant change. The murder of George Floyd, coupled with the protests of the past few weeks and the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, have led to many urgent and important questions across all sectors of society, including corporate America. Over the last few weeks, corporations across the country have been pressed to address questions about racial and social inequity; their engagement and support of their communities; and their leadership approach in these turbulent times – all of which have influenced their overall relevance.

Through our W2O Relevance framework, we sought to understand the effect of corporate responses to recent events on corporate relevance, surface trends and share guidance for consideration. We analyzed social conversations on racial and social inequity, along with corporate responses and employee commentary to solidarity statements. We found one thing that’s abundantly clear: we are entering a new era of corporate citizenship. There is increased pressure and expectations that companies lead and engage on social issues from the inside out and in the communities around them. What’s more, employees and stakeholders are demanding swift, actionable changes, pointing to the need to focus on authenticity and inclusion. Our analysis shows that companies that  are rising to the challenge in open and honest ways are being rewarded with increased relevance.

For a copy of the full “Relevance in the Era of 
Social Change and Disruption” Analysis, click here.

Trends that had been simmering for the past few years have reached a critical inflection point through the convergence of COVID-19 and racial injustice.

W2O has tracked the relevance of 62 Fortune 500 healthcare companies’ racial and social equity efforts for the past two years. This data shows several emerging trends that have intensified with the events of 2020:

  • A growing focus and increased conversation on social equity, with a specific emphasis on diversity and inclusion (D&I)
  • A push for transparent communication and engagement on D&I and social equity issues
  • Mounting stakeholder expectations for action and measurable results

In the wake of the social unrest following the death of George Floyd, corporate America has found itself at a crossroads. While 36 of the top 50 Fortune companies responded to the event and the larger question around racial injustice, the data shows that platitudes weren’t enough. Companies that acted quickly and robustly not only bolstered their relevance, but their commitments went beyond the playbook. Those companies leaned into comprehensive social actions that not only aligned with their values, but were aimed at addressing some of the tenets/issues that have contributed to the systemic racism and social injustice that have plagued the United States for centuries.

2020 continues to be not only the year of questions, but the year of potential change. Companies can no longer go by the playbooks that they have always used. By living and breathing their values in partnership with their employees and communities, companies that are part of the corporate fabric of our society can serve as agents of change.

In the past few weeks, W2O has taken action and made new commitments to D&I. We have made a cash donation of $50,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, two nonprofits working to address racial inequity. W2O has also created a matching program for employee donations and outlined steps for W2O and our industry to do more. We will continue to work toward change, and know we must do more.

Contributions to this content were made by Marianne Gollub, Kayla Rodriguez, Katy Hagert, Meredith Owe, Kendall Tich, Alan Chumley, and Daniel Steffen of W2O.

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages

The idea of moving scientific and medical conversation online is not a new concept. Indeed, when the online world began to open to a broader swath of people in the early 1990s, one of the first uses brought people together around various health topics.

But in the new COVID-19 era, consuming scientific and medical data virtually is not a novelty. It’s not even one of many options for accessing information: it’s become the only way. With major medical congresses, such as ASCO 2020, going completely virtual, it’s critical that we re-think not only the end of the process – the presentation or the publication – but indeed the entire span of how we think and talk about research.

It means understanding usability, optimizing for data-sharing, and analyzing each decision and each channel to make sure that the right stakeholders are getting the right information.

Planning for the Future Now

The best way to ensure virtual dissemination of data is to plan from the beginning!

During the publication planning process, we should incorporate virtual distribution into the plan for seminal data releases as they are developed for both congress presentations and more finalized manuscripts.

A successful publication plan will consider secondary congresses with unique, specialized audiences to maximize the reach of the data to all interested clinician types, payers, and patients. Important considerations can include how the timelines for development may be impacted, what additional resources (graphic design, digital expertise, IT) may be needed, and which key stakeholders may need to provide feedback.

Virtual—What Does it Mean?

The concept of virtual can mean a lot of things to a lot of different folks, so it’s critical not to use the word as shorthand or stay at a superficial level. The same goes for “digital.” Some people associate those concepts with social media while others might think of any electronic communication as falling into those buckets.

Virtual data dissemination, done right, is about multiple channels, many with significant overlap. For every effort, we need to specify what those channels might be,  including webinars, social media, email, PDFs, websites (eg, company, congress, database), pre-print libraries, for starters. And we need to be specific about how we can use them to highlight the right virtual data, at the right time, to the right audience.

Speaking of the right audience, it is important to think about how doctors, patients, and pharma companies are viewing and consuming virtual data, with the days of only abstracts, congress booths, congress posters/presentations, and manuscripts a bygone era.  So, how can we leverage virtual dissemination of data to extend the reach and life of these traditional channels, especially in the new era of virtual congresses?

  • Our Old Friend, the QR Code! In years past, QR codes in the corner of a poster would take the view to a website or link to the poster PDF. That, in the virtual and digital world, was always redundant and the subject of some mockery. But in the new normal, there is potential here. What if scanning our QR codes linked us out to a mini, poster-specific website that included more interactive content, such as a podcast author narration of the poster, a video abstract, an interactive/animated mechanism of action, a graphical abstract, an infographic, a lay summary, and an expert video commentary? Couple the virtual extenders with responsive web design, and then, the data can be viewed properly on a myriad of different devices!
  • Sharing is Caring. Another important consideration for virtual data dissemination is how the data will be shared through different channels after its initial release. By its very nature, virtual data are more enduring once shared. Take the graphical abstract mentioned above—we should consider how we optimize it for shareability across multiple platforms (e.g., email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, YouTube) wherever we and our audiences my share it.
  • Analytics to Measure … With extension of data from the traditional formats into the virtual realm, we can embrace the expansion of our metrics to include so much more than a journal impact factor! Moving into the virtual space allows us measure things, such as number of site hits, shares, time spent viewing data, location of viewer, and device type.
  • … And Analytics to Manage. Of course, having metrics for metrics sake doesn’t really help anyone. Deriving insights from these metrics with appropriate healthcare analytics is key to understanding how virtual data dissemination can be optimized for the future. For example, where are the data being shared (e.g., platform), how are the data being shared over time (e.g., just around a congress), and what parts of the data are being viewed and for how long (e.g., survival vs safety) can continually inform how to best optimize virtual data dissemination.

So while COVID-19 may be forcing us to adapt, dissemination through virtual channels can help maximize the reach and impact of medical and scientific data.

Read more of our ASCO 2020 content.

Interested in learning more about W2O? Check out our About or Healthcare pages.

Uncertainty pervades. Restlessness overcomes. When can we get a haircut? Nails done? Maybe a tattoo? Walk around without a mask? Work at the office? Work out? Travel? When will our kids go back to school? When will the economy rebound? When can we live again?

To help guide companies through the uncertainty of how and when best to engage with stakeholders, approximately 10 weeks ago, our firm refocused the W2O Relevance Quotient and examined how companies are maintaining engagement with key stakeholders.

Tracking the relevance of 240 companies for three years before COVID-19 and since January 1 specific to the pandemic, we now have a strong, longitudinal body of data to analyze. Unlike past reports, where we focused on shifts in a two-week period compared to the prior two weeks, this report takes a more aggregate look at patterns regarding what it means to be relevant throughout the entire crisis thus far.

For a copy of the full W2O COVID-19 Relevance Analysis, Vol. 5, click here.

Our analysis found four main determinants of COVID-19 relevance as the pandemic continues to evolve:

  1. Being a first-mover matters.
  2. Dormancy drives irrelevance.
  3. Engagement is fatiguing and, as a result, relevance is in decline (mostly).
  4. Relevance before the crisis has led to resiliency now.

Let’s unpack each of those.

1. Being a first-mover matters.

The difference between first movers and fast followers is clear.  First movers are those organizations that, mid-to-late March, announced a robust, multi-pronged, multi-stakeholder response initiative via multiple channels. This effort was focused initially on employees and customers. Fast followers fell short and struggled with timing and authenticity. For example, Delta CEO Ed Bastain’s decision to forgo his salary was an early initiative met with praise. Companies that waited several weeks to follow generally did so in the context of announcing furloughs or layoffs. These moves were seen as too little too late and inauthentic.   

2. Dormancy drives irrelevance.

To be relevant is to be thought of, sought out, talked about, engaged with, and believed in. Organizations can hardly be relevant if they are conspicuously absent on an issue. If they aren’t visible, vocal and engaged with stakeholders, relevance is at high risk. We noticed companies that played too small while stakeholders were craving big and bold suffered. Companies that were dormant, inconsistent, disproportionately focused on too few stakeholders and too few channels either maintained low levels of relevance or dropped significantly. Relevance is hard to gain, hard to keep, and quick and easy to lose in the absence of an always on, multi-channel, multi-stakeholder engagement.

3. Engagement is fatiguing and, as a result, relevance is in decline (mostly).

As stakeholders have engaged less with COVID-19-related news, relevance for healthcare companies has been in decline, after peaking in April – but we predict this is temporary. Highly engaging media coverage of company announcements surrounding COVID-19 vaccine development and testing has begun to slow among the Top 20 Healthcare companies.  However, companies that are extending the narrative by providing updates on potential vaccines, safety precautions, back to work protocols, and partnerships via multiple channels are continuing to drive relevance. There are two notable exceptions to the trend of stakeholders engaging with less COVID-19 news generally: an uptick in engagement on topics related to the economy and the disproportionate effects on minority populations.

Non-healthcare companies have experienced a minor increase in relevance in the last two weeks given technology partnerships around testing and tracing. Big tech companies have led the way with extending work from home policies until the end of 2020 or forever in some cases.

4. Relevance before the crisis has led to resilience now.

The strongest predictor of relevance amid COVID-19 is how relevant companies were before the crisis. Of the 19 of 20 most relevant healthcare companies in 2019, the same are among the most COVID-19-relevant in 2020. They have remained relevant for all of the reasons outlined above, operating with an engagement mindset and empathy in all decision-making.

From our data, it is important to note that Relevance leaders are:

  • Not necessarily the most revered
  • Transparent and open to some risk
  • Emboldened to take a differentiating stand on issues meeting stakeholder expectations
  • Focused on values and purpose
  • Sharpening their narratives and aligning narratives internally and externally
  • Leveraging all stakeholders to help
  • Employing always-on, integrated cross-PESO content, storytelling and thought leadership strategies

W2O will continue to refresh the Relevance Quotient data to identify new trends, determine how these trends evolve and uncover key themes related to moving forward beyond COVID-19.

In the meantime, stay safe and healthy.

Contributions to this content were made by Gary Grates, Chuck Hemann, Katy Hagert, and Justin Harris of W2O.

Interested in additional COVID-19 content? Sign up to receive updates directly to your inbox or check out our full COVID-19 coverage on the blog.

W2O is proud to join the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) New Drug Development Paradigms (NEWDIGS) LEAPS (Learning Ecosystems Accelerator for Patient-centered, Sustainable Innovation) Project. We’re excited to continue our mission of making the world a healthier place by partnering with an impressive cross-sector group of healthcare leaders in their efforts to develop a first-of-its-kind platform for identification of opportunities to improve treatment decision-making and patient outcomes.

Like many in the healthcare analytics world, we are often thinking about ways to mine our myriad real-world data sources for the holy grail – algorithms and predictive approaches that can improve patient outcomes. But as we sit on top of our mountain of big healthcare data with all the machine learning and artificial intelligence tools in our arsenal, several things become clear – the data is challenging, the possibilities in the data are vast, and the patient’s path to care is complicated.

In such a complex system, how do we define the problems and isolate the levers that can impact solutions in a scalable way?

This is where the LEAPS Project has taken a clear leadership position in its approach to driving meaningful change through data, and why we are thrilled to be a partner in this innovative collaboration.

In LEAP’s singular focus on driving impact, it has taken a patient-centered systems approach built on a foundation of collaborative and step-wise decision making to ensure the paths it is exploring are the right paths:

  • The LEAP Project has brought the right players to the table to define the challenges faced across the healthcare system.
  • It has created a structured approach to defining and executing against multiple datasets, focusing on hypothesis-driven testing to ensure the problems it seeks to solve for are 1) issues that have true impact and 2) are solvable through specific, measurable actions.
  • It is using an approach to democratize the end product to incentivize the best thinking and ensure that cross-sector innovation can be sustained and utilized throughout the healthcare system.

We are excited to provide our expertise in patient social listening as an input to LEAP, to bring forward the unique value of this organic, unfiltered perspective, and its ability to uncover the unique context, psychosocial hurdles, and quality of life impact that patients face.

In a patient-centered approach to improving outcomes, we’re proud to elevate the qualitative patient experience as a crucial input to understanding why certain pathways to treatment and care occur. These patient stories will serve as a strong foundation for further data mining in additional real-world datasets to pinpoint the actionable, achievable and impactful solutions to improving patient outcomes.

W2O’s additional COVID-19 coverage

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages

For a copy of the W2O COVID-19 Relevance Analysis, click here.

It seems like we’re coming out of the dark.  That the curve is largely flattened and we’re now on the road to recovery. Some Governors are easing restrictions to reopen the economy in phases. Yet many of us are not venturing out even with masks.

All this creates tension.

Tension both of the challenging and productive sort is defining the differences stakeholders are addressing with regard to government and private sector response initiatives. 

At the intersection of how companies are behaving and what stakeholders expect in the midst of COVID, is where Relevance resides.  Approximately eight weeks ago, our firm refocused its Relevance Framework and Model to better discern how companies are maintaining a connection to an engagement with key stakeholders amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The result is a strong covenant of data that shows company responses to COVID-19 and the evolution over time as the pandemic continues to unfold and our knowledge becomes more acute. Among the most interesting findings are the tensions resulting from maintaining relevance:

Relevance Peaked Two Week Ago

The data indicates that relevance peaked two weeks ago and appears to be plateauing as fewer articles are being written on the subject and people are sharing less. We’re finding that relevant companies are embracing the following tensions not as diametrically opposite but something to be balanced.

National vs. Local

Relevant organizations are recognizing and engaging within the tension between national, state, and city-level leadership. They are doing so by providing a point-of-view on the resulting differences and engaging especially employees in a discussion. Trust has shifted away from the federal government and toward state leadership and local media.

Public Health vs. The Economy

Relevant organizations are mindful of the tension between public health and the economy and civil liberties by indicating their policies for returning to work and protecting jobs during this time.

Societal Good vs. Long-Term Business Sustainability

Relevant organizations are stepping up providing goods and services for free or at significantly reduced prices for the common good and, thinking ahead about the long-term sustainability of their operations. These efforts are being down without much fanfare.

New Type of Marketing

Relevant organizations continue to empathize with and support stakeholders more than marketing to them. Some organizations have significantly curtailed or completely suspended advertising.  Some have donated their ad space to small businesses.  Consumers seem to be indicating that it’s OK to market to them on something outside of the virus.  In fact, 90% of ads on Google are non-COVID-19 related and performing well.

The New Normal vs. the Next Normal

COVID-19 has put a magnifying glass on pre-existing macro trends such as organizational digital transformation and innovation.  It’s accelerating those macro trends. Organizations that are seeing a relevance bump as a result of accelerated transformation are thinking about how to sustain it post-COVID-19.

It’s taken some time for stakeholders and organizations to embrace these tensions as an ‘AND’ not an ‘OR.’  As we observe that consumers are engaging with less news on COVID-19, it’s ever-more important that companies continue to recognize that:

  • Empathy is key
  • Actions speak louder than words
  • Response initiatives must account for all stakeholders and be long-term-centric
  • Transparency is a not optional
  • Partnerships drive faster innovation
  • Agility is essential
  • Stability is expected

Maintaining Relevance in a time of uncertainty is incredibly difficult as stakeholders are more demanding holding organizations, brands, governments, leaders accountable for action. We will continue to refresh the W2O Relevance Index and Model to identify new trends, determine how these trends evolve, and uncover key themes related to moving forward beyond COVID-19.

In the meantime, stay safe and healthy.

Contributions to this content were made by Gary Grates, Chuck Hemann, Stephen Yoon, Marianne Gollub, Katy Hagert, Becky Vonsiatsky, Barbara Pinto, and Justin Harris, of W2O.

Interested in additional COVID-19 content? Sign up to receive updates directly to your inbox or check out our full COVID-19 coverage on the blog.

A window into how healthcare organizations continue to connect key stakeholders at a time of distraction, confusion

 For a copy of the W2O COVID-19 Relevance Analysis, here.

COVID-19 continues to dominate our lives and as such the business environment and the media narrative. The pandemic has captured our attention because it has changed everything about our daily lives. It has reshaped how and where we shelter, eat, exercise, socialize and entertain. It has rethought how, where and (in too many cases) whether or not we work. Unemployment applications are at an all-time high. Two million Americans have already missed a mortgage payment.

In terms of the media, since January 1, 2020, approximately 135,000 news articles in the United States have been written on the topic, with those stories generating more than 449 million shares on Twitter, Facebook and Reddit. To say that COVID-19 is capturing the world’s attention would be an understatement.

This unprecedented crisis has also rewired the rules of engagement between companies and their stakeholders. Long before COVID-19, employees, customers, and investors were increasingly expecting companies to take a stand on issues of cultural, societal and political currency and urgency. They expected it. They’ll reward it.  And they want to help with the solution(s).

With COVID-19, such expectations have been increased ten-fold.  Given the cultural, societal and political dimensions – some of them visible to us now, and some becoming increasingly visible over the coming months, organizations and brands are recalibrating policies, programs, investments, and staffing to better reflect a more socially conscious business model. While we experience how the pandemic is impacting society, companies are taking action and, in many cases, their key stakeholders are reacting positively.

At the intersection of how companies are behaving and what stakeholders expect is where W2O’s Relevance Framework and Model resides.

Approximately six weeks ago our firm refocused the Relevance Framework and Model to understand how companies are maintaining a connection with key stakeholders amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Our analysis provides organizations with an early roadmap to assess the situation with an eye toward growing tighter connections with the people who shape their businesses every day.

Among the key findings of our analysis were the following and they remain core tenets:

  • Relevance is About Sensitivity, Empathy, and Action. The most relevant companies demonstrated these characteristics in both their communications and decision-making.
  • Relevance Strengthens Organizational Confidence. Employees working in a virtual environment tend to question the value of what they do, given the loss of community and networking. Being relevant to stakeholders improved overall confidence in the organization.
  • Collaboration Emerges as a Key Relevance Driver. Companies that exhibit internal collaboration, work with regulators and policymakers, and partner with philanthropic organizations were viewed more favorably.
  • Timing and Information Make All the Difference. What companies said and shared publicly was backed up by strong action.
  • Stakeholders Must “Discover” Policy, Approach to Trust. Selling an organizational narrative will be dismissed as rhetoric or worse.
  • Employee “Value” Must be Reinforced in a Virtual Workplace. Keeping employees informed, interested and connected is critical to reinforcing their value and confidence

What’s Shifted? What’s Emerging?

We now have a strong covenant of data that shows us how companies’ responses to COVID-19 have evolved over time as the pandemic continues to unfold and our knowledge becomes more acute.  Among the core themes that have emerged since our last report are the following:

  1. Relevance is increasingly playing out at the local level.
    • State and local government health officials and policy-makers are on the frontlines and are driving the agenda and key decisions.
    • By late March, governors became more proactive in directing policy, often leading or running counter to the federal government’s recommendations.
    • Local (un)employment, state budget, Medicare budget, Medicaid budget, and tax revenue emerged as key policy issues.
    • Mayors (of San Francisco and New York, in particular) became highly visible and vocal on shelter-in-place and voting issues.
    • The disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on minority populations is emerging as a critical issue.
    • Relevant companies realized that local news outlets were being hit hard and leveraged the rise in service journalism in new ways to engage.
  1. Relevant companies understand— that people come first. Brands bonded at a personal level.
    • Relevant companies demonstrated that they have customers’ backs and that they “get” the new normal experience of sheltering in place.
    • They recognized that we’re getting tired and emotional as we try to get together while staying apart.
    • They connected with consumers on an emotional and experiential level.
    • Companies authentically tugged on family heart strings with campaigns using real employees’ families in their own homes.
  1. Relevant companies continued to pivot and partner.
    • Companies partnered in unexpected combinations, such as Medtronic and Tesla.
    • Companies pivoted with agility and wartime-like scale to re-tool manufacturing facilities, adapt existing products, or design entirely new ventilation products.

To get people (stakeholders) to hear you again and establish that first step in attaining relevance, organizations need to adhere to the following tenets:

  • Say something different
  • Have people find you somewhere different
  • Partner with brands and organizations that enhance your brand

The W2O Relevance Framework and Model will continue to assess, how companies are maintaining this connection with key stakeholders breaking through and engaging the right behaviors.  What we have seen as this crisis has grown is that relevant companies are:

  • Guided by their values and principles
  • Hyper-focused on stakeholders broadly more than strictly shareholders
  • Pivoting with agility and acting with transparency
  • Focused on actions aligned with their purpose and values
  • Operating with the long haul in mind

Maintaining Relevance in a time of uncertainty is incredibly difficult as stakeholders are more demanding holding organizations, brands, governments, leaders accountable for action.   The Relevance Index and Model will continue to refresh its data to identify new trends, determine how these trends evolve and uncover key themes related to moving forward beyond COVID-19.

In the meantime, stay safe and healthy.

Contributions to this content were made by Gary Grates, Chuck Hemann, Stephen Yoon, Marianne Gollub, Jessica Carlson, Becky Vonsiatsky, Barbara Pinto, Justin Harris, Kate Hawker, Olga Larina and Laura Mucha of W2O.

Interested in additional COVID-19 content? Sign up to receive updates directly to your inbox or check out our full COVID-19 coverage on the blog.

Medical professionals and researchers have flocked to open digital platforms, such as Twitter, in recent years to share medical education and pre-prints and engage, for the most part,  in friendly debate. The medical and scientific community’s top voices are not just fringe members of scientific society or a small handful of respected, outstanding social media stars, such as Eric Topol. Many of the world’s most respected clinical experts and researchers are represented. For those of us outside of hospitals and labs, reading the social posts from these top voices provides a fascinating and valuable glimpse into the cutting-edge of science.

Physicians and researchers have been more active on social media during the COVID-19 pandemic than ever before. In response to what the WHO has called “an infodemic” of “myths and rumors” on social media, physicians and scientists have been in an epic fight to provide a clear and authoritative voice on the pandemic and, ultimately, how we can overcome it. This is in addition to working virtually around the clock to bring new therapies and vaccines to the market, route PPE where it’s needed most, and ultimately save patients’ lives.

When W2O partnered with the California Life Sciences Association to create a COR (COVID-19) communications dashboard for its members, we knew that select views into what the medical and scientific community are saying and sharing would be the best way to cut through the noise and see the developments that really matter.

The scientific community in the COR dashboard, which was compiled by W2O’s data science team and our partners at Symplur, is especially interesting to watch. It consists of hundreds of researchers globally and includes content from leading researchers in virology (especially coronaviruses), epidemiology and infectious diseases, such as Drs. Florian Kramer at Mount Sinai in New York and Ralph Baric at UNC. This content has been a good predictor of what happens next in the news and at a policy level. By paying close attention to the “top retweets” in the dashboard (i.e., content that is being shared most often by the scientific community), you can see epidemiologic models being covered in the news and influencing public policy in the following days. You can also see patient pathways that provide helpful information to other medical professionals who have yet to encounter patients with COVID-19. Even more importantly, this content is providing a clearer lens into advances in COVID-19 testing, vaccines, and therapies than any other source I’ve seen to date.

Obviously, this is important for CLSA members and our clients who need to keep a close eye on clinical advances and how the media and public are responding. But, on a personal level, this view into the scientific community has been one of the most anxiety-reducing and actionable tools I’ve had at my disposal since shelter-in-place orders were delivered where I live in the Bay Area.

One of my favorite examples occurred on March 26 when this community first shared the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) model for peak cases within each state in the U.S. Like many other Americans under “lockdown,” I had arm-chair hypothesized the actual date of “return to normal” and, perhaps, was overly optimistic about my three young children returning to school this year so I could finally get some work done. But, that clearly wasn’t going to be the case given the IHME’s epidemiologic model for California, which was both horrifying but also very specific: a peak mortality rate in the last weeks of April, finally returning to pre-March rates in June. While the media covered this in the coming days, it was the scientific community that really “broke the story.” Two weeks later when California closed schools’ on-campus activities, it seemed like yesterday’s news.

My second favorite example also comes from March 26, when Sui Hang at the Institute for Systems Biology posted a paper on Medium titled, “COVID-19: Why We Should All Wear Masks—There Is Now Scientific Evidence.” In his literature review (not peer-reviewed), he shared evidence that home-made masks can partially reduce transmission of the novel coronavirus. Others in the scientific community shared that paper (and others) that day, capping a week of scientific debate about broad public use of medical or home-made masks. Based on the scientific community’s response to Hang’s paper, I quickly realized that masks were definitely in my future and that: a) I do not own a sewing machine, b) I would rather not wrap a t-shirt around my face in public, and c) it could take over a week for Amazon to deliver cloth facemasks to my home, so I placed an appropriately responsible order of five very unfashionable cloth masks that afternoon. I realized this was not a traditionally peer-reviewed paper, but the general consensus was enough for me to take action. Eight days later, Surgeon General Jerome Adams and the CDC recommended that all Americans, even those who are non-symptomatic, wear DIY masks in public spaces. You could also see, in the COR dashboard, local public health officials across the U.S. issuing recommendations to wear DIY masks shortly after the announcement, including very own Marin County. To my relief, five very unflattering face masks arrived the next day.

While these two examples might seem trivial, given the magnitude of this crisis, they speak to the leadership among the scientific community and their value in making a tangible impact on public health. I know that they have helped me make better decisions for the safety of my family and my community, and I am deeply grateful to all researchers who share their data, knowledge, and recommendations in these public forums. Even when the models they share are imperfect (and they certainly are), this is still among the best information that we and public officials have available to us right now. I hope this trend continues after the pandemic ends.

W2O’s additional COVID-19 coverage

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages

A window into how healthcare organizations continue to connect key stakeholders at a time of distraction, confusion

For a copy of the W2O COVID-19 Relevance Analysis, click here.

According to Johns Hopkins University & Medicine, as of April 2, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have reached more than 1 million worldwide and over 50,000 people have died. As these numbers continue to climb, an increasing number of state and local governments in the United States and around the world have issued stay-at-home orders, restricting the movements of people and preventing them from participating in common, day-to-day activities. Restaurants, bars, non-essential businesses and theaters are closed, social distancing has become a part of our everyday lexicon, grocery store shelves are nearly empty, the stock market is plummeting, and sports have been cancelled at every level.

While the world struggles with how to deal with this global pandemic, organizations find themselves in a tenuous position. Employees are now working from home, which presents challenges to productivity, effectiveness and confidence as they try to juggle their personal lives and professional responsibilities. Customers expect brands to do more in this environment as the government struggles to provide the services and support necessary to maintain some semblance of normalcy.

At the intersection of the growing number of COVID-19 cases and organizations grappling with how to keep employees engaged and customers supported, healthcare marketers and communicators are struggling to protect the reputation of companies they work for. They are grappling with such questions as: What is the policy for a virtual workforce? How will we staff critical functions to better support patients, customers, suppliers, etc.? How will we support organizations involved in producing drugs to treat COVID-19? What will we do for employees with vulnerable family members? What should we be saying to the marketplace that is meaningful? In effect, how can my organization remain relevant during this crisis?

Being relevant had already become challenging as digital channels exploded exponentially over the last 10+ years, the number of audiences they were serving grew at the same rate of speed, there was greater demand to do more with less investment, and competition from all sectors of the market grew. Today, the primary job of protecting reputation has never been more important – or more challenging. How do you stay relevant, though, as investor sentiment drops, your customers are not nearly as engaged as they were two months ago, and your employees are dealing with more than they have ever dealt with before?

That is where the W2O Relevance Framework comes into play. Two weeks ago, we refocused the Relevance Framework to understand how companies are maintaining relevance with key stakeholders amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Our analysis provided organizations with an early roadmap to assess the situation with an eye toward growing tighter connections with the people who shape their businesses every day. Among the key findings of our analysis were the following:

  • Relevance is About Sensitivity, Empathy and Action. The most relevant companies demonstrated these characteristics in both their communications and decision-making.
  • Relevance Strengthened Organizational Confidence. Employees working in a virtual environment tend to question the value of what they do, given the loss of community and networking. Being relevant with stakeholders improved overall confidence in the organization.
  • Collaboration Emerged as a Key Relevance Driver. Companies that exhibit internal collaboration, work with regulators and policy makers, and partner with philanthropic organizations were viewed more favorably.
  • Timing and Information Make All the Difference. What companies said and shared publicly was backed up by strong action.
  • Stakeholders Must “Discover” Policy, Approach to Trust. Selling an organizational narrative will be dismissed as rhetoric or worse.
  • Employee “Value” Must be Reinforced in a Virtual Workplace. Keeping employees informed, interested and connected is critical to reinforcing their value and confidence.

We now have two more weeks of data for our Relevance Framework that shows us how companies’ responses to COVID-19 have evolved. Among the core themes that have emerged are the following:

  • Companies Broadening Their Response to the Pandemic are Maintaining Relevance. One of our early findings was that companies that were maintaining relevance with key stakeholders were doing so by focusing very narrowly on customers and employees. Fast forward two weeks and companies are still focused on those two audiences but have since expanded the circle to include patients and healthcare practitioners, as well.
  • Marketers and Communicators Who Have Helped Their Organizations Keep the Business Context in Mind Have Maintained/Increased Relevancy. COVID-19 has fundamentally disrupted supply chains around the world. The companies that are maintaining relevancy have pivoted their operations to respond and have done a successful job communicating that message to a variety of stakeholders.
  • Partnerships Have Remained a Key Driver of Relevance. This trend has continued and even grown in importance. Whether Facebook’s partnership with 30,000 small businesses in 30 countries, Apple’s partnership with the CDC to update Siri and create a website to help patients diagnose COVID-19 symptoms, or Medtronic’s collaboration with Tesla, we are seeing multiple examples of strong partnerships driving relevance.
  • Focusing on Being a Global Citizen Strongly Impacts Relevance. Two weeks ago, we took note of the many companies making contributions to a variety of different organizations. Now, many of these companies are continuing to donate, and even more additional companies are doing so. These contributions are happening all over the world. Additionally, there is a sense of openness and information sharing with all interested parties that was previously unseen. In order to maintain relevance, companies need to think about their role more broadly than where they are geographically based.

Over the coming weeks, we will be refreshing and sharing our data and insights.

We certainly are living in an unprecedented time where the world seems to be standing still. Moving forward as individuals and organizations is going to take determination, perseverance, information and connection.

Staying relevant amid such a turbulent time is critical, especially once things do return to normalcy.

In the meantime, stay safe and healthy.

Contributions to this content were made by Gary Grates, Chuck Hemann, Stephen Yoon, Marianne Gollub, Daniel Steffen, Kate Hawker, Olga Larina and Laura Mucha of W2O.

Interested in additional COVID-19 content? Sign up to receive updates directly to your inbox or check out our full COVID-19 coverage on the blog.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents unprecedented public health and economic challenges for global society. However, it also provides opportunities to show that new types of collaboration are not only possible, but that they can be implemented very quickly with the focused allocation of resources and expertise. In these uncertain times, prompt access to information is critical to the safety, efficiency and sustainability of the entire healthcare system. The volume of COVID-19 conversation, especially on Twitter, has exploded since the outbreak began, and it is critical for healthcare leaders to be able to cut through the noise, understand the landscape, and make informed decisions. We believe strongly that W2O has a role to play in meeting this need – by leveraging our technology-enabled analytics platform.

We recently became a sustaining partner in the California Life Sciences Association, the state’s largest and most influential life sciences advocacy and business leadership organization, with W2O Group President and Managing Partner Paulo Simas joining the Board of Directors. We’re proud to share the first collaborative effort to come out of our partnership: a unique platform, powered by W2O analytics, that provides a one-stop source of curated COVID-19 information, enabling anyone to track and share the most relevant content and voices about COVID-19.

This platform, COR, provides several “slices” of information that users can explore. The platform is refreshed every 60 seconds and only analyzes posts that mention the coronavirus. It can be browsed through the following lenses:

Coronavirus – Topline, unfiltered posts from all of Twitter about the coronavirus

California – Posts that either: (a) mention a major city, any county, or the entire state of California; or (b) come from handles operated by California state or local government channels

Life Sciences – Posts that either: (a) mention a life sciences company (not limited to or inclusive of all CLSA members); or (b) come from handles operated by a life sciences company

HCPs – Posts that come from handles operated by healthcare providers (HCPs) (i.e., physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, etc.)

Media – Posts that come from handles operated by major media outlets and personalities with a focus on healthcare

We will launch additional features and lenses to the COR dashboard in the coming weeks, including COVID-19 data and preprints being shared by respected researchers and scientists, as well as communications from global and local health officials. So please look for more announcements as we roll these out.

We invite you to explore this new platform and let us know what you think. We see it as an essential tool that will help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus by enabling easy access to the latest information about the pandemic from reliable sources.

W2O’s additional COVID-19 coverage

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages

A window into how healthcare organizations can connect with key stakeholders at a time of distraction, confusion

For a copy of the W2O COVID-19 Relevance Analysis, click here

The last month has been nothing short of surreal.

A little more than four weeks ago, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was something we witnessed through the lens of our televisions and the internet as citizens across Asia and Europe were struggling to treat patients and manage the spread of a previously unknown virus. Fast forward to today and, in the United States, our entire lives have been upended. Restaurants, bars, stores and theaters are closed, social distancing has become a part of our everyday lexicon, grocery store shelves are nearly empty, the stock market is plummeting, and sports have been cancelled at every level.

We are now restricted to our homes until the rate of the spread of the virus is contained.

While the world struggles with how to deal with this global pandemic, organizations find themselves in a tenuous position. Employees are now working from home, which presents challenges to productivity, effectiveness and confidence as they try to juggle their personal lives with professional responsibilities. Customers expect brands to do more in this environment as the government struggles to provide the services and support necessary to maintain some semblance of normalcy. Given the uncertainty around how far and wide the virus will spread, investors across the United States are looking to turn their investments into cash. Supply chains are being disrupted with fewer employees working in warehouses and normal shipping methods are being disrupted. Customers, concerned about the economy and their livelihoods, are holding onto whatever cash they have.

At the intersection of this new reality, marketers and communicators are struggling to protect the reputation of the companies they work for. What is the policy for a virtual workforce? How will we staff critical functions to better support patients, customers, suppliers, etc. How will we support organizations involved in producing drugs to treat COVID-19?  What will we do for employees with vulnerable family members? What should we be saying to the marketplace that is meaningful?

And so on.

In effect, how can my organization remain relevant in the midst of such a crisis? Being relevant was already challenging with digital channels exploding exponentially over the last 10+ years, the number of audiences they were serving growing at the same rate of speed, greater demand to do more with less investment, and growing competition from all sectors of the market. Even with all that, the primary job of protecting reputation has never been more important – or more challenging. How do you do that, though, while investor sentiment drops, your customers are not nearly as engaged as they were even two months ago, and your employees are dealing with more than they have ever dealt with before?

It is our perspective that, in a social/digital world, companies that are not connecting or engaging with key stakeholders have lost relevance with the people who could shape the brand and move the business. In effect, if you are not relevant, you don’t exist.

The companies that maintain a high level of relevance with their key stakeholders are constantly mindful of closing the gap between what they want to say and what their stakeholders want to hear. Never has that been more critical than during this pandemic.

With that lens in place, we refocused our W2O Relevance Framework, the analytically driven framework that is designed to assess an organization’s and brand’s stakeholder relevance, to address the following:

  • Do we understand our stakeholders in terms of concerns, interests and priorities?
  • Do our employees believe in our premise?
  • Does our positioning resonate with all of our key stakeholders? How?
  • Is the potential value of our business meaningful to media, employees and investors?
  • How relevant are we compared to direct competitors, a few aspirational comparators, and hundreds of other companies?
  • Are people searching for information about our business?
  • Are people engaging with our content online?
  • How are employees rating us and what are they saying and expecting?
  • Do people support our CEO?
  • How are financial analysts rating us and what are they saying and expecting?
  • Are policymakers talking about us and what are they saying and expecting?
  • Are influencers, buyer segments and the healthcare ecosystem, talking about us and what are they saying and expecting?
  • Are we ahead of the curve on new thinking?

With the novel coronavirus impacting everyone and everything, now is a critical time for corporations to be actively addressing the above questions with swift and decisive action in order to maintain and increase relevance.

COVID-19 Relevance Analysis Insights

The W2O COVID-19 Relevance Analysis provides organizations with a roadmap to assess the current situation with an eye toward growing tighter connections with the people who shape their businesses every day. What does that roadmap look like? What are the elements that have made companies relevant to their stakeholders as they deal with this pandemic?

In looking at healthcare organizations, we learned:

  • Relevance Now is About Sensitivity, Empathy and Action. The most relevant companies demonstrate these characteristics in both their communications and decision-making.
  • Relevance Strengthens Organizational Confidence. Employees working in a virtual environment tend to question value with the loss of community and networking. Being relevant with stakeholders improves overall confidence as an enterprise.
  • Collaboration is Emerging as a Key Relevance Driver. Companies exhibiting internal collaboration, working with regulators and policy makers, and partnering with philanthropic organizations are viewed more favorably in this environment.
  • Timing and Information Makes All the Difference. What companies say and provide publicly is about when and how they do it.
  • Stakeholders Must “Discover” Policy, Approach to Trust. “Selling” an organization’s narrative will be dismissed as rhetoric or worse.
  • Employee “Value” Must be Reinforced in a Virtual Workplace. As cited earlier, employees are working remotely and may feel like they’re in a bubble. Keeping them informed, interested and connected is critical to reinforcing their value and confidence.

Over the coming weeks, we will be refreshing and sharing our data and insights.

We certainly are living in an incredible time where the world seems to be standing still.  Moving forward as individuals and organizations is going to take determination, perseverance, information and connection.

Staying relevant amid such a turbulent time is not just important, it’s critical, especially once things do return to normalcy and they will.

In the meantime, stay safe and healthy!

Contributions to this content were made by Gary Grates, Chuck Hemann, Stephen Yoon, Marianne Gollub and Daniel Steffen of W2O.

W2O’s additional COVID-19 coverage

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages

Right now, people everywhere are using social media to cope with isolation (i.e., #stayathome). Overall, the pace of news related to COVID-19 has become so rapid that social media feeds seem the only way to keep up with an ever-evolving reality. As a result, these platforms are so inundated with information, it can be difficult to distinguish misinformation or breakthrough the noise to connect with one another.

Now, more than ever, it is critical for health care leaders to communicate in the most effective ways.

Using MDigitalLife – W2O’s integrated online and offline health care data platform – we zoomed in, filtering more than 124M posts on Twitter related to COVID-19 or coronavirus from January 1 to March 17, 2020 for 330K posts from physicians, advocacy groups, and industry players. We then used our audience map to analyze the specific specialties, geographies, disease areas, and company types who engaged – and, ultimately, tied it all back to the “WHEN,” in an effort to understand the “SO WHAT.”

In a global health crisis that is evolving and advancing at an exponential rate, there is much to learn from the thought leaders and influencers who are engaging in the discussion. Understanding how physicians and advocacy groups are stepping up as leaders in the dialogue; how health care professionals and companies can be more effective in addressing the information and support needs of patient communities; and, what information health care stakeholders need and expect from biopharma and pharmaceutical companies to help them during this time.

Here are nine insights we found from our data:

1. May the real coronavirus expert please stand up? Abundance of expert voices blur out the real-time facts.

Physicians and advocacy groups are using social media to call on their peers, media, and health care leaders to share their perspective on the evolving situation while caveating that they are not coronavirus experts (so that too much stock isn’t placed in an opinion from a non-expert that could quickly become outdated).

One of the first coronavirus tweets (January 2020) from a US physician, a professor of emergency medicine at a major research hospital, said: “Good news is no documented person-to-person spread, and no health care worker cases.”

As another physician put it: “Lots of misinformation about #coronavirus. What can we do? First, if you’re a general #globalhealth person, make it clear to your followers that this doesn’t make you a #coronavirus expert! I’ll start. I don’t know much about this disease.”

2. Infectious disease and emergency medicine experts are not the only one’s engaging – from cardiologists to oncologists, pediatricians and dermatologists – specialists are working to understand the impact.

There are three common questions that the health care community is asking – and certain specialties are more engaged because questions 1 and 2 are especially relevant to their patients.

    • Q1: How do we deliver treatments, with a reduced workforce, through the increased use of virtual visits and by postponing elective procedures?
    • Q2: What risks to our patients can we mitigate by reducing clinic visits? How do we manage the increased risk for severe illness for patients with kidney disease, cancer, as well as immunosuppressed patients?
    • Q3: Should we delay or change certain treatments? How should this be informed based on safety and toxicity data?

In the last 72 hours, conversation has started to emerge around a fourth question: How do we treat a patient with confirmed COVID-19?

3. Community physicians are serving a critical role in effectively sharing hyper-local information.

Initial conversations were focused in “first case” cities or cities with a large research hospital or center of excellence. However, as more communities are affected by outbreaks, physicians are participating at higher levels, primarily focused on overcapacity issues that already exist within their local health systems. These community doctors are also sharing expert perspectives on the response to the crisis from mayors and governors.

4. The health care community is seeking a more open source and transparent flow of information, which continues to increase as we learn more.

In late January, physicians started using social media to demand free access to research related to coronavirus. Journals responded. Seventy organizations and medical journals including New England Journal of Medicine and Lancet made all content free.

“An important thread: access to the latest and best scientific data needs to be open access during an epidemic outbreak such as #nCoV2019 or #Ebola. May warrant alternative ways of $ rewarding them, but in short run, priority needs to be on protecting human life.”

“I see some extremely important #nCov2019 research studies are behind firewalls at scientific journals. Just tried, e.g., to pull one off a Wiley journal today, Elsevier yesterday. IT IS IMMORAL in an epidemic to hide science behind paywalls. Period.”

5. Advocacy groups have been cautious to engage to-date, and although certain disease areas fall outside of the norm, most advocacy organizations have acted as amplifiers of content from public health institutions.

Sixty-two percent of advocacy posts on twitter are retweets, the majority of which are shares of content from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Health and Human Services (HHS), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This may change in response to evolving needs for patient communities in the coming weeks. Notably, over the past week, there has been a shift among advocacy groups whose constituents are most at risk, with many creating or consolidating “verified” content and materials with guidelines for non-symptomatic patients on COVID-19. 

6. It’s important not to dilute the conversation with unnecessary or unhelpful comparisons.

Health care leaders may have done more harm than good by using COVID-19 as an opportunity to address anti-vaxxers and make comparisons to the flu in the early weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Recently physicians have hypothesized: “Please stop comparing #2019nCoV with influenza. Not equivalent – at all. You might as well remind people to stop smoking to save more lives than the coronavirus will take.”

7. Online conversation among industry analysts and investors is still very much in the moment versus thinking about longer-term impact.

To date, the online discussion has been largely focused on pharmaceutical companies and the status or starting of coronavirus vaccine clinical trials. Companies with the most mentions related to coronavirus are (in descending order): Gilead, Moderna, J&J, Sanofi, and Regeneron. There will be more information forthcoming on how the largest health care brands are maintaining relevancy with key stakeholders in an upcoming report scheduled to be released tomorrow.

8. Physicians and advocacy groups are increasingly engaging in a politicized dialogue, and many health care leaders worry about the impact on the scientific dialogue around pandemics.

Continuing to track this dialogue will be critical for health care leaders to understand how to add value to these conversations. For example, discussion around potential economic impact and health care access is likely to drive increased focus on patient access programs.

“There is also a growing partisan divide over how Americans interpret scientific expertise and health policy, leaving decisions about public health vulnerable to the kind of partisan squabbling you hear on cable news every night.”

“As #coronavirus spreads, political support is key but politicization of scientific decisions is dangerous. In @CFR_org @ThinkGlobalHlth I outline past inspiring collaboration and potential for unity against humanity’s common enemy: dangerous microbes.”

9. This is a moment to be inclusive as a health care community.

In response to gratitude expressed toward health care professionals, many physicians and advocacy groups aim to highlight the broader community of health care workers, such as janitors, hospital employees, and everyone who continues to work to address this disease every day.

This report was powered by W2O Analytics & Insights Team. Authors: Meredith Owen, Kelly Moulds, Garrett Bond, Daniel Steffen + the W2O Coronavirus Core Team.

(Note: This report focuses on US-insights. W2O will be sharing regional insights on the online conversation globally throughout March in April.)

W2O’s additional COVID-19 coverage

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages

Real-world data (RWD), or clinical data derived outside of traditional clinical trials, and resulting real-world evidence (RWE) are increasingly being used to drive innovation across the healthcare industry. The impact of this data is being seen in everything from clinical development to regulatory decision-making to pricing and access to healthcare delivery. The excitement surrounding RWD is equally palpable and seen everywhere from scientific conferences to Silicon Valley’s VCs’ conference rooms. This trend looks to have a long trajectory as well, especially given the FDA’s recent focus on creating standards for and encouraging the use of RWE for regulatory decision-making (see here), and the proliferation of new technology platforms, such as Aetion and Roam Analytics, that make RWD more accessible to various industry professionals.

W2O recently entered into a licensing agreement for full access to medical claims, pharmacy claims and electronic health record data for over 300 million (anonymous) patients in the U.S. Because we take data privacy seriously, it’s important to note that this licensed data is completely de-identified and fully compliant with HIPAA privacy and security rules. When we combine claims and EHR data with other forms of non-traditional RWD that we use, such as social media data, mobile data and search/web data, we find incredible high-resolution views into the clinical landscape. This helps us and our clients better understand why what we see in the lab or in controlled experiments doesn’t always match reality in the real world (big reveal: not all patients and providers make optimal decisions based on the literature, and they are as susceptible to cognitive biases as you would see in any other industry). More importantly, this 360-degree view of the patient population and their care providers gives us much clearer direction on how we, as an agency, can help our clients improve clinical decision-making, patient access and health outcomes.

The commercial applications for RWD and RWE are more established than those for clinical development and regulatory decision-making, and some might even find it surprising that a marketing and communications agency, such as W2O, would use this data across its clients’ commercial activities. But, as former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has repeatedly discussed, RWD provides a crucial missing link between clinical trials and clinical care. By bridging that gap, we’re quickly modernizing how new therapies are brought to market. Specifically, we can now create models of the provider and patient populations that will most benefit from new therapies and procedures using RWD, rooted in clinical trial results, that is far more accurate and actionable than traditional market research could ever be. The fact that commercial, medical and scientific teams can all speak the same data language now is a sea change for medical marketers and communicators, who have just been propelled from a 20th century world of surveys and qualitative interviews to one that looks much more like consumer technology companies, which are successfully using the same first-party data for everything from product development to digital advertising.

We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of how RWD is useful across a broad range of medical and commercial activities. Following are a few ways we and our clients are using RWD today:

  • Clinical trial design: Identifying patient markers in RWD that predict clinical response and adherence, and selecting appropriate outcome measures
  • Clinical trial recruitment: Identifying eligible patient populations, particularly for rare diseases, more quickly so clinical trials are more cost-effective and new therapies can be brought to market more quickly
  • Market intelligence: Understanding gaps between clinical trial efficacy and actual real-world effectiveness for long-existing therapies, including why patients don’t respond to therapies as expected and other issues that affect broad adoption or adherence
  • Audience segmentation: Identifying groups of providers and patients that are high priorities from a communications and education perspective, given their clinical practices, social determinants and unique patient journeys
  • Media planning: Using machine learning to predict clinical practices and preferences given providers’ medical education preferences and media consumption habits
  • Pricing and access: Demonstrating the value and cost of new therapies and indications  to the healthcare system
  • Campaign optimization: Continuously testing whether our pre-launch and post-launch marketing activities are having a positive impact on clinical practices and patient outcomes

Again, we’re just beginning to realize the full potential of RWD applications for communications and marketing. But, even in these early days, it’s clear that we’re quickly advancing from a data dark-age in pharma marketing to one where we’re able to bring innovative new therapies to the market faster and more effectively.

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

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Privacy and data protection regulations impact the work of every advertising, marketing and PR communications professional around the globe – especially in healthcare and medicine. As the focus on privacy by consumers and regulators continues to increase, W2O’s team is tracking the most important news and changes that directly influence our industry, including the latest on legislation, new privacy technology, enforcement actions, analysis and thought leadership in privacy and data protection.

Here’s the news we’re paying attention to right now.

1. People wary of health technology over privacy issues

Recent research by Kantar shows that privacy and security concerns impact American’s willingness to use health technology. The survey included more than 1,000 adults and showed that while Americans believe that technology can help with their healthcare, only 38% believe there are proper safeguards in place. The findings indicate that adoption of health technology is hindered not by lack of innovation, but by lack of consumer trust.

Main TakeawayAs healthcare and technology become more interwoven than ever, the implicit trust that patients extend to their doctors and their medical organizations is being eroded by the arguably well-deserved privacy scrutiny that other industries are now receiving. Healthcare and medical organizations must think beyond HIPAA and embrace the privacy principles of transparency, choice, and accountability along with data protection and security.

2. Microsoft releases new service terms in response to Dutch GDPR investigation

An investigation by the European Data Protection Supervisor which identified “serious concerns” with Microsoft’s collection of data from Office 365 users has resulted in a change to the Microsoft Service Terms. The new terms and a Data Protection Addendum, which apply to all commercial customers globally, specifically exclude the processing of customer and personal data for the “purpose of profiling, advertising or similar commercial purposes”.

Main TakeawayMicrosoft has chosen to extend privacy tools and rights to all users, and not just European Users for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), or California Consumers for the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Only four months after they launched new privacy tools in response to GDPR, the highest engagement with those tools came from millions of Americans. Brands with complex global operations should consider Microsoft’s example, including their embrace of privacy as a core principle and the extension of privacy tools and controls to all users, not just those in specific jurisdictions.

3. European Parliament discusses California’s CCPA for adequacy decision

The European Parliament recently discussed whether California could be considered for an “adequacy decision” under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR allows for the transfer of personal data to third countries where the commission has decided that third country ensures an adequate level of data protection. The question discussed was whether California could receive such an adequacy decision separate from the United States – which currently uses Privacy Shield as a transfer mechanism. The opinion from that group was that yes, the language of GDPR does allow for “territorial” application, and the CCPA could be considered for adequacy – although the scope of the hearing was not to actually determine that.

Main Takeaway Global marketing and communications professionals should be watching developments related to adequacy and Privacy Shield closely, as they govern the flow of data between the United States and Europe. The Advocate General of the Court of Justice has concluded that Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) are a valid transfer mechanism, and if Privacy Shield becomes invalidated, SCCs may have to become much more prevalent.

* The opinions expressed in this post do not constitute or represent legal advice. No liability is accepted by the authors or W2O Group for any action taken or not taken based on the information or any associated communications.

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Few marketing communications disciplines have undergone as dramatic a transformation over the last 10 years as paid media. A decade ago, the most dominant form of media was linear television, with brands and agencies alike focused on advertising on cable and local television. Now, much of the content we consume is distributed via programmatic media and over-the-top (OTT) media services. Not only have the types of media changed dramatically, so have the technology and regulations. According to the latest Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic, 7,040 different technology solutions are available now for brands and agencies to buy. Ten years ago, we could never have imagined a world governed by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which are fundamentally changing the way paid media is executed.

With great change, though, comes great opportunity. Paid media has never been riper for disruption. Increasingly, the conversation is shifting from “how much do we spend with the major networks in a given year” to “how do we leverage data and technology to reach our key audiences and deliver value back to the business?” This conversation shift is why W2O has rooted our paid media capabilities in being transparent, results-oriented, channel agnostic, global and agile so we can respond to changing market dynamics. These are all differentiators that clients want from a paid media agency partner.

The new conversation advertisers are having about paid media requires a different type of leader – one who understands the old model and how it’s broken and can adapt to the changing environment. At W2O, that leader is Jake Vander Linden, who recently joined the firm after spending the last 20 years at various media agencies. He brings a fresh perspective to building the right paid media activation model for W2O’s clients. We asked him to share his perspective.

Tell us about your background in paid media.  

I have an atypical background for W2O, which is great because this is a place that welcomes different backgrounds. I’ve spent most of my career at big holding company media agencies supporting clients in the consumer-packaged goods, automotive, travel and luxury, and beer and spirits industries.

I spent nearly eight years working in Asia – in the Philippines, China and Singapore – and then in Berlin before returning to New York about five years ago. I have provided communications planning as well as strategy and agency and account leadership. In everything I’ve done, I’ve enjoyed building things, whether opening a new office or building a team for a new client win. I love pitching new business and have been part of some remarkable new client opportunities.

I most enjoy, and have been most successful at, stitching together various capabilities or parts of an organization to make the product bigger than the sum of its parts – such as analytics and media or content partnerships.

What trends in paid media activation should W2O’s clients be paying attention to?

One of the biggest trends – and this is by no means a “new” trend – is personalization at scale. As an industry, we’ve been building the infrastructure to handle identifying and messaging to the right consumer, at the right time, and in the right way for a while now but it’s not really been applied as a lead strategy. Rather, it’s been a nice element below traditional media like TV. And that’s been easy to defend – most measurement tools, especially for CPG – are biased toward big, blunt force instruments like television.

At W2O, we have a unique opportunity for our clients to build a very addressable and response-oriented paid media system on top of our robust analytics framework. This type of innovation  can have a sizable impact on a communications plan.

Additionally, we have lived in an epoch of continuous fragmentation for years, and there are many incidental trends that create new opportunities to connect with audiences and build relevance – from podcasting to voice search and sonic marketing to technologies in digital health.

Increasingly, paid media is serving as a silo buster. Communicators and marketers alike are buying different forms of media. How do you see paid media serving as an integral part of the overall paid, earned, shared and owned media ecosystem?

Paid media can’t exist only to amplify content. It’s often one of the larger line items in a marketing budget and creates the biggest opportunities for an audience to see a brand or message. Specialization is important, but the reality is that audiences don’t consider silos when they are experiencing a brand or product or service.

I think it is particularly attenuated in healthcare. The information we deploy has much more gravity to peoples’ lives as it is used to inform important decisions so it’s imperative that we are linked up and consistent.

At W2O, paid and earned/social integrate closely, and we make sure our processes, briefing documents and reporting are consistent. I think we’ll see more patient-centricity even if our audience is a healthcare provider, and a deeper strategic understanding of the audience journey in communications as a way to prioritize and build plans across paid, owned, earned and shared media.

Paid media activation has become a very tech/data driven discipline. What is the interplay between technology and data, and the need to balance the opportunity to creatively explore reaching our core audiences?

There are a couple different ways to think about the tension between creativity and technology. Many articles have been published in the trade press about how we’ve lost our way as an industry by prioritizing creating versions of banners rather than focusing on creativity. From my experience, the demise of the Big Idea has been greatly exaggerated. I can’t think of a recent experience that didn’t prioritize content over distribution. And that’s fine as long as the idea is media agnostic and we have the flexibility to execute in a way that reflects what we know about the audience.

To reiterate what I said before about the audience journey, for many of our clients, we need to understand the practical nature of how audiences are making decisions and what content our PESO plans need to deliver. A lot of what we do begins with search, but we also need to make sure insights from our data analysis inform the creative idea upfront, so the creative outputs are that much richer.

What similarities and differences have you seen in paid media activation between the U.S. and other markets? 

The biggest difference is the speed of innovation. The U.S. is a very cautious market whereas many ex-U.S. markets, particularly in Southeast Asia, are very quick to identify opportunities to test and scale. Some of it is cultural, but it’s important to remember that the size of the U.S. means that mistakes can be very costly.

Overall, all media are local. Local customs, insights and language skills must be prioritized and leveraged. Relationships are fundamentally important when activating anywhere.

What’s a fun fact about you that you’d like people to know?

I’m an identical twin.

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

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The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) comes into force in January 2020 (with proposed regulations released not long ago), and it gives California consumers and businesses both new rights and new obligations.

W2O recently held a webinar, moderated by Larry Dobrow, Senior Editor at MM&M, to discuss the Top 10 things organizations need to know about the CCPA.

Following is a recap of our recent webinar on the topic. You can also view the webinar recording here, or watch it below.

1. The CCPA applies to California residents. Specifically, it applies to “every individual who is in the state for other than a temporary or transitory purpose.” Most legal experts are assuming this means a resident as defined by the California tax code, although it’s not stated explicitly in the CCPA. There are a few possible methods of determining residency that organizations may consider, including using an IP address or a third-party verification service. Some organizations are simply treating all Americans as if they were California consumers.

2. Employees are mostly exempt – for now. In a last-minute amendment, CCPA has exempted all employees, job applicants and vendors of organizations subject to the CCPA until January 1, 2021. While organizations still must disclose to consumers the categories of information they collect, they do not yet have to respond to other requests such as requests to delete their personal data.

3. Not all businesses are subject to the CCPA. Only for-profit organizations that do business in California are impacted. The CCPA does not apply to government or non-profits. Also, at least one of three thresholds must be met – an organization must either exceed a gross revenue of $25 million, handle the personal information of 50,000 or more consumers / households / devices, or realize 50% or more of revenue from selling personal information.

4. The CCPA has new notice and disclosure requirements. Generally, this means that most organizations must update their privacy policies to include descriptions of new consumer rights, and disclosure of the categories of information they collect.

5. California consumers have new rights to their data. This includes the right to know what data is being held, what data is being sold, the right to request deletion of their personal data, and the right to opt out of the sale of their data. Those rights must be explained in an organization’s privacy policy, and businesses must enable direct consumer requests via a toll-free number, web form, email address and other methods.

6. Businesses must respond to consumer requests in a timely manner. Requests to know what personal data an organization holds and requests to delete that data must be acknowledged in 10 days and acted upon in 45 days. Requests to opt-out must be acted upon “as soon as possible” but no longer than 15 days.

7. Businesses must provide a specific opt-out of sale mechanism. That mechanism is prescribed by the CCPA to include a “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” link conspicuously displayed on the website, and a webform where a consumer can make that request.

8. Identity verification requires careful attention. Consumer identity must be verified, and the best case scenario is to use a secure customer account to do so. In the absence of an account, the regulations provide specific criteria. For example, requests to know categories of information must match two data points, requests to know specific detailed information must match three data points, and the consumer must provide a signed declaration that they are who they say they are. Verification for requests to delete personal data depend upon the sensitivity of that data.

9. Businesses using third-party information must ensure notice was provided by the source. Any organization using the data of a California resident that it did not collect directly from the consumer must either contact the consumer directly to provide notice or obtain an attestation from the source that notice was provided at the time of collection.

10. Collecting data from minors requires opt-in consent. The CCPA adds special rules for minors. The data of anyone under the age of 16 can only be sold with opt-in consent, or with the consent of a parent or guardian for anyone under 13 for both the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the CCPA.

Bonus – 11. Privacy is good for business. Beyond simply compliance, privacy is now a key competitive differentiator. As privacy awareness has grown, consumers are actively seeking out brands they trust. Having a reputation as a business that protects consumers’ personal data will clearly differentiate a business from its competitors. When individuals know that their data is being used only in ways they expect, and in service of their best interests, the result is increased trust, loyalty and engagement.

While that trust is important in all industries, it’s particularly critical in healthcare. Delivering on the privacy promise at every stage of a relationship with a doctor and patient builds the trust required to make healthcare decisions – ranging the gamut from prescribing/taking a new prescription medicine to inserting/being implanted with a pacemaker or other life-saving medical device.

Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies must take proactive measures to build robust data privacy programs across every interaction and ensure that their audiences are aware of these steps. With marketing and communications now reaching so many patients and healthcare professionals, and with patient preference and marketing having a large impact on prescribing decisions, data protection and privacy has become one of the primary methods of building trust.

In addition to gains in audience trust and engagement, comprehensive data privacy and protection programs result in a plethora of other benefits. These include a reduced risk of data breaches, increased shareholder value, more desirable M&A positions, and higher operational efficiency, among others.

If your organization hasn’t yet embraced privacy as a fundamental value, now is the time to take action. The CCPA is the direct result of an increase in the public’s awareness, and it’s just the beginning. Multiple states have their own privacy bills coming soon, and a new and more robust ballot measure in California for 2020 is already being promoted for signatures. Organizations that take action now will be far ahead of their competitive set, winning audience trust and gaining market share.

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

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