The W2O Health Summit convened talent across our organization to reflect and strategize on how our integrated assets can drive leadership and growth in our health care business. It was packed with insights and thought leadership from our colleagues and special guests, who discussed the current and future state of the industry, the changing digital landscape, best practices, and what’s to come. These past two days gave us a great look at what we have to offer and more importantly, it reminded us of the caliber of people we have at our company.

It’s clear that we are optimistic about the future of our health care business and are looking forward to continuing to integrate our offerings and develop broader internal partnerships to benefit our culture and the work we do for our clients. This is an exciting time for the company, so we are looking forward to giving you recaps of the sessions held over the past couple of days.

 Objectives & Vision (Diane Weiser and Jim Weiss)

Diane and Jim kicked-off the meeting highlighting the key points that allow us to do the best work for our clients, and how we can help them transform in the digital age. It was emphasized that we provide two things for our clients, insights and execution. If we continue to focus on these cornerstones of our business and establish and connect our sub-practices, we can rule-out speculation and help our clients see, think, do and change in real time. This is more important than ever in the evolving digital age, as we have power to educate people trying to access health care through these channels.

 Keynote (Jeff Arnold, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Sharecare)

Jeff Arnold joined us to speak about welcoming change and thinking differently in a changing digital health world. Jeff was previously CEO of WebMD. He stressed that our success will rely on coming to market with thought leadership to get people to think in a different way. If we take risks, maintain discipline in the perspectives we choose and believe in our partners and clients we will unlock opportunity. When approaching these opportunities we have to ask how DATA + KNOWLEDGE = ENGAGEMENT based on the needs of our clients.

We are amidst a change in the way consumers interact with their health. With so many trends pushing for consumer interest in personal health, we will be seeing more physician engagement due to increasing consumer demand. We will have to watch this evolution closely and make sure that we approach our work accordingly.

Global Industry Trends (Colin Foster and Danielle Whitney)

Colin and Danielle spoke about global trends that are shaping pricing, access, and communication and how health is evolving on a global scale. They noted as technology advances and digital platforms become more utilized in emerging markets, the opportunity for information exchange will grow exponentially. Digital social platforms will be key areas for health communications. Mobile strategy should also aim to determine how to leverage technology within divergent markets to ensure point of care engagement

Pharma companies are making massive investments in these markets to address the challenges they are facing. Our clients need our integrated expertise to break into these markets and partner with them in developing conventional and unconventional relationships. Through this partnership we will establish resonance and loyalty.

Stay tuned on Monday for insights on the patient perspective from a special guest from Susan G. Komen and the future of integrated health care delivery from panel members from Proteus, Availity and Evolent Health.

— Your Roving Reporters

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Over the past several years, the success of our Health Practice has enabled us to diversify and develop new practices, offerings, clients, companies and leaders.  Despite many changes and our continued evolution, rest assured, Health is central to the future of W2O Group.

It is my long-standing belief that there is nothing more important than one’s health and that the ultimate consumer products and services are those designed to improve it.

Its economic importance in nearly every country in the world is indisputable, and we don’t see that changing anytime soon with Obamacare coming and as the population ages around the world.

Whether it’s Consumer products (Nike Fuel), Technology (Health IT), Government (health exchanges) or a myriad of other industries, strength in Health will be a key differentiator for the firms in W2O Group.

While our business has changed in light of the technology and digital revolution over the past few years, the need for accurate, reliable information has never been greater in the age of reform, cost-consciousness and the “consumerization” of healthcare.  Education, access and advocacy are more critical than ever, and now we have the digital tools and technologies to leverage to reach those in greatest need more effectively and efficiently than ever.  It’s a great time to be in this business.

So many here have played an integral role in building out our Health capability and Practice over the years and we expect many more to join us as we enter this next stage and iteration of the Practice.  We have never had as many tools, talented people and expertise to tap to serve our clients than we do today and our commitment to and passion for this sector of our business remains as deep and robust as ever.

Now is the time to bring it all together and take it to the next level.

As a holding company in the best sense of that phrase, the W2O Group supports, nurtures and powers entrepreneurialism, innovation, talent and growth in WCG, TWist, BreWLife, NextWorks and future companies — from the ground up versus from the top down.

To maintain focus and leadership and to differentiate, compete and grow like we always have across our operating companies in this important area, I am going to be playing a more hands-on leadership role in Health.  Our President, Bob Pearson, will continue to be a major partner and driver in this essential business that is at his core, but we will divide and conquer so I can focus here while he focuses on building our Next Practices, partnerships, technology and innovation — all of which will further enhance our Health businesses, as well as our other mission critical areas of Technology, Consumer and Corporate.

I’m pleased to formally announce that Diane Weiser will also assume a new(ish) role as Leader, W2O Health, and join the W2O ET reporting to me to help accelerate, coordinate and facilitate the operational and growth aspects of our Health capability so that every client, company and practice benefits from it.  As she transitions, she will keep her direct reporting relationships and account assignments, although this is likely to morph in the future (as it always does).

To be clear, Chris Deri still leads WCG, Jenn Gottlieb leads TWist and Paul Laland leads BreWLife, reporting to Bob.  All those firms will have their own health practice/revenue stream leaders and client relationship leaders (CRL’s) reporting to them while they also build out other diversified practices and services.

In the meantime, Diane and I will be partnering (with many others across the long hallway from SF to LA to NY to Austin to London, Minneapolis, Chicago, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Wilmington, North Carolina and Lincoln, Nebraska) to “connect the dots” to truly Become the Best in Health — driving, supporting and coordinating optimal integration and collaboration; fostering business development that maximizes new business wins and organic growth (which rules); facilitating conflict resolution and coordination, and, above all, optimizing talent and career growth and development so that our Health clients get the best teams, services and innovation that we have to offer each and every time.

Not only does Diane bring a unique historical perspective that will be important as we continue to integrate and scale the Practice, but her passion for and knowledge of the business, strong relationships across our internal and external networks, and track record of experience partnering closely with me are key ingredients for success.

Diane already led an offsite of key leaders over the summer, and she continues to spearhead the Health business development process with colleagues across the firms.  We will also continue to partner with our innovators to adapt current and develop new tools and offerings to keep our Health clients happy and engaged and attract many new and exciting ones.

The continued growth and development of current and new offerings and business focus areas such as Pharma, Device & Diagnostics, Biotechnology, Digital Health, Clinical Trial Recruitment and more will benefit from focused support and leadership at the W2O level.  Diane and I in close collaboration with our operating company (WCG, TWist, BreWLife) and Practice (Analytics, Media & Engagement, Digital, Software) leaders will do just that to Become the Best and establish What’s Next in Health.

Our firms were built on a health-oriented foundation and these moves are meant to ensure our continued leadership and preeminent position in the industry and further improve our ability to develop and optimize all of your career opportunities, hire new talent and identify, create and build thought leadership, value-added strategic partnerships and client engagements.

We have and will continue to set up in-person meetings, office visits and videoconferences to answer your questions and go into much more detail on this in the coming days and weeks. Diane and I are always available to you to answer your questions by e-mail, phone or on The Hallway or W2O Haps.

Together, we will Go.Ahead and improve Health information delivery and access in the digital age.  Everyone is invited to join this movement as it takes shape!

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Headstand as a Life Lesson?

Two weeks ago, I found myself upside down and scared out of my mind. After 12 years of religiously practicing Bikram yoga, I decided to begin exploring the wonders of the headstand in my power yoga class. It was not a decision taken lightly.  As I lifted my feet to a decidedly unnatural position above my head, I pondered two great unknowns: 1) would I break my neck? and 2) could I really become “one of those people” who invert with such confidence and ease?

But before I could answer either of these questions, I was out of the pose, resting comfortably in child’s pose (and slightly in awe of myself). Since that first attempt, I’ve done it about 3 or 4 more times, each time with a little less trepidation, a little less fear and a lot more pride.

I then realized my exploration with the headstand provides four great lessons for personal and professional development:

  1. Being uncomfortable is OK: In a company where change is a constant, I often hear “get comfortable being uncomfortable,” which always struck me as an incompatible state. In hindsight, and with my new “headstand lens,” I realize it’s not only OK to be uncomfortable but it actually makes you grow as a person.
  2. Let go of the outcome: In our formative years, WCG worked with a wonderful professional coach, Pat Newman, whose mantra was “let go of the outcome.” A more recent life coach I’ve worked with, Kelsey Lowitz, helped me find a related mantra – “Let the River Flow.” In other words, life will bring you challenges – that’s guaranteed – but how you deal with them is up to you. Stay open to any possible outcome, whether or not that outcome is one that you brought to the table. Had I not been able to let go of the outcome, my feet would have never left the ground.
  3. Push your limits and change: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Don’t buy it. From small, incremental tweaks to major life changes, new routines can all be good for the soul … and the career. Ten years ago, my old job moved me from New York City to San Francisco. A moment of panic, insecurity and major fear led to the best changes of my life. It brought me to WCG, enabled my husband and me to forge a new chapter in our life together and, most recently, led me to the joys of suburban homeownership.
  4. Surprise Yourself: No one quite knows what they are capable of until they plunge into the unknown. In my personal life (marrying someone unexpected, uprooting my New York life, cycling through the devastating loss of my parents) and in my professional life (joining a start-up, leading a ridiculously fast-paced company through growth and change, shifting roles along the way), it’s all been a journey of self-discovery and surprise. If you don’t dip your toe in the water – whatever it is – you’ll never have the chance to experience what’s possible.

Since my major headstand accomplishment, and the realization that I’ll only get better and better as I release my fear, it’s been remarkable to see how much of my life fits that wonderful upside-down lens.

What’s your headstand lens?

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Reflecting on my nearly nine years driving healthcare communications at WCG, I’ve seen the company evolve and innovate to meet the changing communications needs of our clients and the patients they serve. We’ve educated countless patients to ask for targeted cancer therapy, get screened for abdominal aortic aneurysms, look forward to getting old, learn about MRI-compatible pacemakers and take a fresh look at fertility. Through our proprietary analytics tools, we’ve uncovered passionate, influential voices driving conversations on diseases from Alzheimer’s to heart disease to depression.

And now, with the acquisition of Partners for Medical Education, Inc. we’re ready to take our patient education and engagement offering to a whole new level. I’m personally very excited to partner with Sharron Ames and her great team who have been transforming the lives of patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals through the power of peer-to-peer communication for years. Together, we have an opportunity to reach patients in ways that today are just kernels of ideas but tomorrow will become the “next practices” in patient education.

Imagine mobilizing patient influencers and creating avatars to mirror the patient journey from initial diagnosis through treatment as a means to truly help cancer patients prepare for what’s ahead. What if consumer-based word-of-mouth marketing approaches were applied to patient advocacy models to better surround patients with the support, inspiration and access to information they are looking for today?

These are just a few examples of what’s to come. Stay tuned to hear more about how we’re continuing to innovate on the patient education front from Sharron, Allison Solomon and Jamie Machala!

For more information on the acquisition, check out the press release here.

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This was an exciting week within the halls of WCG. The analytics team, now approaching 40 people, was assembled in Austin for two days of training and development. It was the first time that the entire group has been assembled to talk about our models, our work and, most importantly, share our collective experiences with the goal of producing high quality work for our clients.

The WCG analytics team has grown tremendously over the last three years. When I joined the team in January of 2010 we were in a small office outside of downtown and there were only a handful of us doing analytics work for clients. Now, the team brings a wealth of experience beyond social analytics. We have a strong, and diverse team now with skills in web analytics, search, and traditional market research. These new team members have come in and built on our strong footprint in social analytics.

These two days in Austin have left me super-charged to be back at a firm that places such a high value on analytics. WCG is unique because everyone has bought into the idea that analytics is at the foundation of everything we do. It’s one of the reasons I was excited to rejoin the firm back in January. Want the rest? Well, here you go…

  1. Executive leadership has a deeply rooted belief in the power of analytics Jim Weiss, Bob Pearson, Tony Esposito, Diane Weiser, Paulo Simas, Gail Cohen, Jennifer Gottlieb, Leslie Wheeler, Craig Alperowitz and a host of others at the senior leadership level believe analytics is at the foundation of everything we do. They’ve invested time and energy in helping to build analytics models that benefit clients, and also position the firm as an innovative thought leader in a very crowded space. For someone who works in analytics and had their value challenged frequently, having senior leadership approval is a comforting thing.
  2. Jim Weiss and Bob Pearson – I know I mentioned Jim and Bob above, but I want to call them out separately for taking a chance on me – twice! I asked to come back to a place that I left, and they welcomed me back with open arms They have also given me a simple mission: “Help us do great work for our clients and continue to innovate.” How can you not be charged up by something like that?
  3. The best analytics team in the business – As I mentioned above, the team has grown and added some incredibly strong people like Tim Marklein, Seth Duncan and Amy Jackson. If you don’t know them, you should. Keep watching for what the analytics team develops. Shock and awe doesn’t even begin to describe it.
  4. Brian Reid – There are not many people in communications whose opinion on the media I trust more than Brian’s. It could be because he was a writer at the Washington Post, but more likely it is his intense curiosity to understand the evolving digital landscape. I have had some great discussions about the topic of online influence with people who you might know better than Brian, but I’ll tell you that few (if any) will make you rethink your stance on the topic more than him.
  5. Everyone who has welcomed me back or believed I could make a difference when coming back – Again, it could be seen as cliché to say that it feels like I never left, but it’s true. It really feels like I never left. This group of people is literally too long to list, and I’d be afraid of leaving someone off. If I haven’t thanked you in person yet, rest assured that I will at some point soon.

So there you have it… I could literally list 60 reasons why I am happy to be back at WCG, but that would make for the longest blog post in history. It’s great being in a place where I feel like I belong. Lets keep doing great work for clients, and making some serious thought leadership waves. It is time to GO. AHEAD.

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For many, blogging has opened up an amazing new channel or bully pulpit to express opinions, share experiences, and openly engage with others. For others, opening up so broadly to the on-line world represents a scary and intimidating frontier.

I am one of those “others” – not ready to open up, blocked about what I could possibly tweet, blog or yammer about (well, that one is internal so a little less intimidating), desperately searching for my on-line “voice.” Simply put, my name is Diane and I am a blogophobe. As a leader of a global communications company – leading the way in digital communications – I realized this clearly presented a conflict and one I had to resolve quickly.

Fortunately, help was just across the pond and I recently had the chance to chat with our resident digital expert in London and one of the world’s most influential bloggers, Neville Hobson. In a matter of minutes, Neville provided some key insights and tricks of the trade to help me face my phobia head on:

  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew; start with some simple tweeting
  • If you don’t know what to proactively tweet about, look for a message or topic of interest and respond to someone else’s post
  • Ask a colleague to address you in a tweet with a topic you are passionate or knowledgeable about
  • Send an interesting link based on a trend or interesting piece of news
  • Write a blog about something you feel passionate about

According to my blog therapist, I mean Neville, the theory is that one of these things will unlock the fear and before you know it you’ll be tweeting and blogging away. And then it finally hit me – why not blog about by fear of blogging? It hits close to home, it’s a topic I am interested in, albeit wary of, and it’s something I’m sure others are experiencing. I thought, by sharing my own story, could I unleash other dormant bloggers out there?

So with this – my first official blog post – I may not have fully overcome my blogophobia but feel I am well on the road to recovery. Stay tuned for more  and please share this with any blogophobics you know and love.

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