(If you haven’t already, be sure to read our recaps from Day 1 & Day 2 of #W2OSXSW)

The key characteristic that sets SXSW apart from other conferences is the convergence of seemingly disparate subjects and speakers into exhilarating discussions on topics relevant to us all. This unique convergence was on display during Thursday’s #W2OSXSW sessions as speakers ranging from Intel, Dropbox & JNJ to Barstool Sports, Bell Flight & The NFL Players Association came together to expand the audiences’ minds and challenge our long-held assumptions.

With that, I’ll skip the lengthy introductions and jump straight into the meat of the panels. To give you an idea of what we learned, I’ve included the session titles, speakers, key learnings & top tweets from each panel:

Digital Playbook: Connecting Brands Fans & Athletes


Watch the Full Discussion Here

Day 3 kicked off with a focus on connecting brands and the athlete influencers they work with. To give you an idea of the session, I’ve called out three things that I took away from the conversation:

  • Programming & Cadence
    • Paul and Deirdre reiterated the importance of excellent programming published at a consistent cadence. Whether you are a media outlet publishing news content or a YouTube influencer sharing videos, you want your audience to become accustomed to when your content is released and begin to look for it at that time.
  • Authenticity
    • Authenticity was a theme we heard throughout the day’s panels and was identified as an absolute must for any brand-influencer Authenticity of both the athlete representing the brand and the media outlet authentically transferring their brand value to the brand partner. From the athlete’s perspective, Paul recommended having the influencer explain why he/she is endorsing this brand to establish authenticity. The influencer having a conversation with the audience they connect with daily can make a huge difference.
  • Workflow & Measurement
    • Two key aspects of athlete influencer activation are workflow logistics between the brand and influencer and measuring the value of the partnership. Bryant explained how Slyce addresses measurement by ingesting every social post an athlete makes online and analyzing the content to identify the brand’s earned media value from the partnership. Regarding workflow, Slyce streamlines communication and asset sharing between brands and influencers to drive performance and efficiency.

To close out the session, Paul asked each panelist to give their top recommendations for social influencers to follow:

News Integrity: Advocating for Quality Journalism OR “Can We Save The World from Fake News?”


Watch the Full Discussion Here

This was truly a fascinating topic and discussion expertly moderated by David Kirkpatrick of  Techonomy. To give you an idea of the sometimes contentious (in a good way!) session, I’ve called out three things that I took away from the conversation:

  • Journalism is essential to democracy.
    • The panelists reminded us that journalism is essential to democracy and though some may try, we cannot unlink the state of journalism and the state of our democracy. To put it succinctly: the media’s job is to inform the people; people who are informed are more likely to participate politically; participating politically is a good thing. If our democracy is to continue as designed, the citizens must participate politically.
  • What is the state of truth?
    • Trust is at an all-time low. Fake News (or misinformation as our panelists decided was a better term) is more popular than truth. A recent Science Magazine report proved this by showing stories that are not true can achieve as much as 100X the retweets as a true story on a comparable topic. The obvious next question then is how do we combat fake news? By focusing on solutions, not problems. Dr. Chen spoke of the University of Texas’ Knight Center for Journalism that is working to study discreet questions by creating research projects to try to solve problems for media outlets. One example, she gave was of a recent project to help a news organization understand how to improve their comments section, always a dangerous place to venture into.
  • Local news trumps national news.
    • When you ask people “do you trust the media?”, they say no. But when you ask if they trust specific journalists or local news outlets they say yes. KUT editor, Matt Largey, pointed to the NPR business model which is built on trust and partnerships with local outlets. And as an Austinite, I can confirm that I turn to KUT for trustworthy local news far sooner than CNN or other outlets. The panelists also pointed to Facebook’s recent shifts to include more local news sources as a positive step to improve trust in the media.

Honestly this panel had so many great discussions, I couldn’t come close to covering them all in this summary, so I recommend watching the full session via the link above.

Breakthrough Innovators Who Are Changing the World


Watch the Full Discussion Here

We did this one a bit differently, giving each panelist 10 minutes to outline the innovations they are working on and then followed it up with a conversation about innovations that are changing the world. I’ve outlined my key takeaways from each presentation below:

Melissa Schilling, NYU Stern School of Business

  • Melissa shared insights from her recently published book, Quirky – The science behind the traits and quirks that drive creative geniuses to make spectacular breakthroughs, which explains the traits that really distinguish the people who literally change the world. Interestingly, of the 8 innovators she studied, the only 2 living members (Elon Musk & Dean Kamen) attended and spoke at SXSW this year. If that doesn’t make you want to attend SXSW next year, then I don’t know what will.
  • For more on her book, read this glowing review in The Financial Times and watch this catchy 1 ½ minute video overview on CNBC.

Komal Ahmad, Copia

  • Komal is inspiring. She is literally feeding the world’s hungry with food that would otherwise be thrown away. After hearing her talk, we all left wanting to change the world. As a student at UC Berkeley she started Copia, a for-profit platform that matches unused food to people who are hungry. And since this group came out of Silicon Valley, of course they built an algorithm to efficiently match food donations to non-profits and seamlessly run all the logistics of transporting the often-perishable food to the folks who need it. Here are a few stats to give you an idea of the impact they are making:
    • At the Academy Awards they gathered unused gourmet food to feed over 1,100 people
    • At the Super Bowl they gathered 14 tons of food and fed 23K people
    • This year they will feed over 2 million people.
  • As Komal ended her session she channeled her internal Muhammad Ali to remind us “Impossible is Nothing”, and I, for one, believed it after hearing her.

Scott Drennan, Bell Flight

  • If you don’t think of Bell Flight (Formerly Bell Helicopter) as an innovative company, then you are wrong. Bell’s Director of Innovation, Scott Drennan, wowed the audience as he overviewed the new era of innovation at Bell. Driven by his CEO, Mitch Snyder, they have transformed from a product company into a technology company. With that in mind, Bell is innovating how we fly by building amazing machines like the V-280 Valor, which is a hybrid aircraft that uses tiltrotors to take off like a helicopter and fly like a plane (for more on the V-280 check out this WIRED article).
  • On the consumer side, they are partnering with Uber and others to build electric-powered urban air taxis that will eventually allow us to hop on an aircraft on the roof of a skyscraper in downtown and get home in a matter of minutes. I had a chance to experience their VR activation (check it out here) showing how this would work and I have to say I was wowed. I immediately thought of that scene in Star Wars where ObiWan & Anikan are jumping through flying cars to catch the bounty hunter. Thanks to folks like Scott, the future of air taxis is closer than you may think.

Seema Kumar, Johnson & Johnson

  • JNJ continues to impress me with their innovative breakthroughs across pharma, med-device and even business models with their JLABs initiatives. Seema embodied JNJ’s innovative spirit while reminding us there are many healthcare problems in the world and what we need are breakthrough innovators to uncover the next life-saving cures. Importantly, Seema reminded us that innovators are not soloists, they are “masters of an orchestra of people.” It takes an entire team to bring about change and JNJ is doing an amazing job of compiling those innovators across their organization to bring the changes the world needs. I can personally attest to that after spending time with many of their team members inspiring us all at SXSW this week.

Engaging Society via Life-Changing Innovation


Watch the Full Discussion Here

Another fascinating session punctuated by powerful personal stories of science impacting patient’s lives for the better. To give you an idea of the session, I’ve called out three things that I took away from the conversation:

  • Scientific stories are hard to tell.
    • Perhaps I’m stating the obvious here, but the panel made it abundantly clear that it’s difficult to explain complex technologies like 3D printing and the scientific aspects of clinical trials to the average person. However, doing it well and in a way that is relatable is absolutely critical to make patients and advocates aware of potentially life-saving scientific advancements.
  • Personal stories make it real.
    • By telling a person’s story we can make complex topics relatable to an audience. Katie demonstrated this by telling the moving story of twin boys born conjoined at the head and successfully separated using advanced 3D modeling & printing technologies. Her story won over the audience and set the tone for the rest of the panel.
  • Involve the patients & advocates!
    • Partner with these groups to authentically understand their situation and needs so you can accurately tell their story and communicate to them in a way that is relevant & relatable. Patient inspired communication is a positive trend in healthcare. Jim pointed out “In our best cases, we have co-developed the narrative with the community. When you do that you really nail it.”

Last Advice from the panel:

  • Katie: Healthcare is personal. Just like our treatments are personal, so too should be our marketing communications.
  • Sandra: It’s ok to not be mass. What we need are understandable, actionable communications to our patients.
  • Jim: All PR is local. You have to know your audience.

Evolving Business Models: Finding Next-Gen Customers


Watch the Full Discussion Here

We wrapped up our day of programming with a conversation between major brands converging to find next-gen customers. To give you an idea of the session, I’ve called out three things that I took away from the conversation:

  • Telling Great Stories
    • For Dropbox and Intel, their products are largely invisible. You often can’t see them even though they power numerous projects and devices. To get their message out they have to market through stories. They tell the stories of amazing things that are being created with their platforms. For example, Liz shared about their recent collaboration with Steve Aoki to
  • Authenticity & Transparency
    • Nothing is more important than authenticity & transparency. Alyson pointed to Intel’s use of their drones in the Olympics opening ceremony as an authentic use of their technology to reach their target audience. Liz referenced Delta providing consumers access to their data via their new mobile app. Delta has always had this data, but now they are sharing it with customers to improve their travel experience. Marcus explained how Adecco works closely with their customers to figure out what they need, their requirements, their desires and then builds them. As an example, he pointed to Adecco’s new YOSS platform which links freelancers to international companies looking for the services they offer.
  • Convergence
    • Let’s end where we started. Just as SXSW is distinguished by its convergence of interactive, film & music (among others), this panel gave significant conversation to the idea of a convergence of our personal and professional lives. This all started with the advancements in personal technology that drove us to demand the same tech and experience at work. Alyson pointed to people bringing their own Devices and illegally using them on the network which led Intel to realize this was something their customers wanted. We also learned that Dropbox is based on convergence. For example, Liz discussed customers driving the creation of Dropbox for business by repeatedly asking for business solutions, which led to the creation of a UX allowing users to toggle between professional and personal Dropbox accounts.

Final Advice from the panel:

  • Liz: If you aren’t engaging influencers in marketing I would recommend doing so. Today’s consumers are very savvy and won’t take your word for it. They trust their peers.
  • Marcus: In order to evolve business models, you have to understand your customer today and your customer in the future. Co-create with them and bring them along the journey.
  • Alyson: Inspiration. The most important thing is inspiring your target. Knowing who you are trying to talk to and inspiring and showing them the outcomes or benefits of your technology, not just the product itself.

And last but absolutely not least, I want to say thank you again to our sponsors who helped make the entire #W2OSXSW track possible: Bayer, Dynamic Signal, Proof, Lilly, & .Health.

Now we start planning for SXSW 2019!

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On day two of W2OSXSW, it was Pi Day! Quite appropriately, our featured panelists spanned the gamut of discussion on how technology and digital are impacting industries. From innovation in healthcare, to the implications of AI and how diversity has become a business imperative for organizations, our experts covered ground.

In short, there’s no shortage of smart, inspiring professionals here in Austin this week. Check out some of the main takeaways I captured below.

An Insider’s View into Healthcare Innovation


We know that the current system isn’t working, but what does the healthcare of tomorrow look like? Our first panel discussed how integrating today’s digital tools and data (from emerging apps to genomics) to enhance organizational performance, operations and preventative health is both the opportunity and the challenge.

  • Digitally enabled healthcare will soon allow individuals go to any healthcare facility, in any location, with consistent access to their health information. We will be able to predict and prevent health issues before they even become a problem, engage with nurses and doctors from the comfort of home or work and at low cost, in real time.
  • Finding just one solution to completely overhaul the efficacy of healthcare is so challenging because it’s critical to think of the person as a whole. We can now use data to pattern and predict, but individuals have completely unique paths. Nutrition, lifestyle, environmental triggers and so much more are a part of health.
  • People should be afraid of how much google knows about them, but they give up that right because the utility of Google is so high. Developments like consumer genomics are accelerating because of the same idea.

Allies in Equality: How Diversity Shapes a Brand


Creating an environment where people can come to work and feel comfortable, welcome and safe is a lever for business success. Ben, Wade and Trisa shared their perspectives on the importance, complexities and impact of diversity and inclusion on brands today.

  • Research shows that diverse groups provide better service and outcomes. However, diverse groups in a non-inclusive environment provide worse service. The companies providing an inclusive environment are differentiated.
  • It’s about getting people to the table who have not been a part of the conversation in order to achieve shared power at a company, guiding not just thinking, but action. People have to DO something. And it needs to be personal.
  • Diversity must be a priority at the most senior levels. Organizations must have that kind of commitment to move the needle.
  • You need to be disinterested in being right (open to other points of view). People all have different histories and experiences.

Next-Gen Content Marketing: Reaching Digital Natives


Whether through visual search, social proof or audio (yes audio), our third panel channeled diverse expertise to provide insight into reaching digital native audiences. It’s not a layer cake content marketing approach, it’s about intent. Who is your customer? Where are they? How do they make a decision? And of course, what content does it take to win them over?

  • Content must be visually appealing, vertically oriented, worth saving and fueled by insights. Great storytelling is relevant!
  • Digital natives want the ability to control and interact with an on-demand environment.
  • If we can figure out first where your consumers have fear or pain, then we can determine what assets can make a difference in their end-to-end experience.
  • How to balance making advertisers and customers happy? Put dollars behind what’s making an impact, ground everything in your purpose/principles and conduct quick, iterative testing.

Synthetic Creativity: When AI Takes Over the Arts


What is beautiful? What tastes good? What is good taste? What makes a hit song? Will machines ultimately tell us? In a lively debate, our panelists tackled the implications of AI on creativity in 2020.

  • Must there be mind AND consciousness for there to be creativity? Humans synthesize, but so do machines. However, reducing humans to synthesis is perhaps vastly underselling us. Humans have free will.
  • It’s about augmentation, not necessarily replacement. Technology is able to process more information, faster and while we’re sleeping. It’s going to help us prioritize and be more productive.
  • Imagine what making everyone on the planet smarter would do. There is a good deal of fear mongering around AI eliminating job. It may, but the flip side is optimistic. We need to be setting up the structure for this new dynamic now, regardless.
  • Skills in this environment must include an equal balance of IQ and EQ. We need to treat technology like language.
  • Who owns AI generated art and is there an ethical obligation for people/companies to indicate something is AI generated?

Mastering Corporate Relevance in a Distracted World


We have more information today than we’ve ever had in history. It doesn’t mean we have the answers. We’re just able to ask smarter questions. Marci, Rob, Noreen and Gary shared their experience with how managing corporate relevance looks different across industries.

  • Today’s challenges for business are a result of (among other variables) a new age of transparency. It’s spurred a new corporate ecosystem with a new balance of power, where everyone has a voice. The result? A growing sense of distrust in businesses.
  • Reputation still matters, but relevance must work in concert with it for a business/brand to be viable.
  • What does corporate relevance mean? It’s the corporate engagement whitespace opportunities to cut through the information clutter at the intersections of business and society.
  • Organizations and leaders have to have a point of view today and it can’t be vanilla.
  • CEOS are a critical ingredient for relevance, as well as owned content, which can (and should) stand out for you to lead (i.e. from managing patient experiences in new ways to 150 beds on UT campus).

A big thank you to all of our speakers for bringing incredibly timely content to our program and for their candor! Stay tuned for more to come in W2OSXSW.

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One of the unintended, but extremely valuable benefits that has come from digital marketing’s explosion has been the creation of many conferences and forums. That might not be an intuitive statement, but one of the things marketers and communicators are often guilty of is not seeking outside perspectives. Many of the challenges that our industry faces are common across brands, and so having a place where peers can share those challenges and collective problem solve is useful.

There is no larger example of that trend than South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW). Tens of thousands of marketers and communicators from around the world descend on Austin in mid-March every year to learn, share challenges, problem solve and network, all while enjoying the city’s excellent barbecue. Many of the foremost experts in our business come and share their perspective over the course of a week, which makes SXSW an unparalleled learning opportunity.

W2O has been an unofficial part of SXSW for the last several years by offering additional educational content for its clients and employees, while also helping to further the city’s brand as an excellent source of barbecue. This year our events are part of the official SXSW programming, which brings an even larger group of marketers and communicators together for the aforementioned learning and networking. Our lineup of speakers over four days represents an incredible cross-section of thought leaders from a variety of industries.

Our first round of presentations was yesterday, and the content did not disappoint. The remainder of this post will recap the day’s activities, highlighting a handful of takeaways that I had from each session.

Concierge Marketing: Customer Experience 3.0


The opening session set the tone for the entire day and delivered a lot of actionable takeaways for the audience. There were three things that I took away from all three of the presenters:

  1. We need to start acting on behalf of consumers, as opposed to treating them as targets. One of the benefits of having a mountain of data on our target audience is we can artfully target a message or piece of content to those people. Sometimes, though, I think we go too far and miss that our primary function is to make our consumers lives easier.
  2. A related takeaway was the necessity of balancing the human touch and automation. The marketing and communications industry needs to continually be mindful of the emotional importance an audience might place on a particular topic or message.
  3. We need to be mindful of the top 5 questions consumers ask of our brand. Understanding those key questions is a foundational model that we’ve established at W2O, but it’s an often-overlooked step by brands.

Balancing Brand Building vs. Performance


Our second panel of the day tackled an important topic, which was the tension between building the brand and focusing on performance. The topic is clearly top of mind for SXSW attendees because every seat was full, and the back of the hall was full of people standing and listening to the panel. There were three takeaways from this session from my perspective:

  1. The tension between brand and performance marketing will persist, but one consistent theme from each of the panelists was that whether brand or performance is the focus, all marketers need to be focused on delivering value to the business,
  2. A point made over-and-over by each of the panelists was that marketers need to focus on being business people first, marketers second. It’s a not-so-subtle shift, but an important one especially as marketing budgets continue to be scrutinized.
  3. A significant portion of the discussion centered around perceived tension between creative development and analytics. Each of the panelists talked, smartly, about the importance of analytics providing guardrails as opposed to dictating what should be created.

What’s Next After Advertising? The Jump to Content


At W2O we talk a lot about the role of Storytizing, a model that was codified in Bob Pearson’s book. The third session of the day highlighted a lot of fantastic thinking from CNN, Cadillac, Miller Coors and HP Enterprise. There were a couple of key takeays from this session from my perspective:

  1. The usage of analytics to optimize content has gotten increasingly more sophisticated as new types of assets are available to brands. As an analytics person, it warms my heart to see a focus on analytics to ensure we’re delivering the right content to the right audience(s).
  2. When a lot of brands hear about the concept of storytelling, they think it’s relegated to only consumer brands. Marissa Freeman at HPE spoke eloquently about how they use storytelling concepts to reach a more B2B audience. I think those sorts of learnings are what makes SXSW great. That the industry gets out of its comfort zone and embraces that a case study for HPE could be applicable across industry verticals. 

Evolution of Advocacy & Employee Communications


The panel on employee communications and advocacy featured singing, musical instruments and excellent insights. Employee communications and advocacy is an under-discussed part of the marketing and communications mix, especially because it does deliver value to the business. I took three things away from this session:

  1. Whether you work for a regulated industry or a large consumer brand, there is significant evidence to show that engaging employees and having them advocate on behalf of the brand delivers value to the business. All four panelists talked about the value they’ve seen from these sorts of activations and showed really compelling ROI.
  2. The usage of technology to scale is a fine line to walk. Many brands go too far with technology and make the message far less personal than it needs to be. Jennifer, Sean and Mary all talked about how they’ve used technology like Dynamic Signal to walk this line. Regardless of whether its advocacy and employee communications or some other discipline, it’s important to remember that technology’s role is to accelerate people and process. Technology’s role is not to be a replacement for people and process.
  3. Sean and Joelle shared some really interesting frameworks for employee communications, and one of my favorites took the audience from the creation of company news, outcome-centered communication, employee engagement and employee advocacy all while delivering valuable and interesting experiences for every employee.

Countering Hate: Understanding & Stopping Extremism


The second-to-last panel of the day highlighted the work Bob, Haroon and others have done around understanding how hate groups mobilize through digital (and other) channels. While not specifically about marketing and communications, it was incredible how many corollaries that could be drawn to the sorts of programs we build for clients. Three of the primary takeaways from my perspective:

  1. Whether you are talking about countering hate groups or brands executing a digital marketing campaign, audience architecture is still the key starting place. Without having a complete understanding of how the audience behaves, it’s almost impossible to activate any sort of programming.
  2. It’s always about the right language, at the right time and distributed over the right channels. Hate groups have adopted an approach that marketers have known forever, but often abandon in favor of a flashy execution.
  3. Our attention span as content consumers continues to diminish. Bob shared a statistic during his portion of the presentation that we have 2-3 seconds in order to get someone’s attention with a piece of content. It doesn’t matter if it is visually appealing if we’re not conveying a message in a concise way right as the person is viewing the content.

Music as a Corporate Responsibility Platform


Our last session of the day incorporated music, communications and corporate responsibility in an extremely fun and insightful way. Much like employee advocacy and engagement, corporate social responsibility is a huge growth driver for companies. There were a couple of things that I took away from this panel.

  1. Ray Kerins spoke at length about the importance of authenticity when executing CSR campaigns, but I think it’s an important takeaway for any marketing execution. Consumers are hit with more content than ever, and because of that it’s important that they know the message is genuine.
  2. All three panelists talked about how important it was for companies to take a stand. They highlighted that it is important for companies to articulate a position, and then not waffle from that position. Again, consumers are becoming increasingly smarter about our brands, and have no issue calling out conflicting messaging.

In summary, it was an excellent first day. Each session was chalk full of nuggets that all attendees could take away for their day jobs. Exactly what SXSW is intended to be. We’re on to day 2!

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Earlier this month we spoke at, attended and sponsored the Holmes Report’s In2 Summit. Bringing together top communicators from brands and agencies, the summit is designed to address the critical issues impacting engagement, ranging from analytics, digital tech and content marketing, to big data, visual storytelling and new talent.

This year there were an array of topics that our current industry is facing including the influence of micro-tribes and subculture , how CCOs should navigate and discuss change, the marriage between social responsibility and profitability, the role emotions pay in storytelling, and the connection between the #MeToo Movement and the marketing industry.

As communicators shaping the way the public interacts with the world’s leading brands, we hold an immense power in our hands. Despite the breadth of topics covered in the program – we at W2O pulled out a common theme that kept coming back to the forefront: responsibility.

As content creators, we have a responsibility to the influencers who are advocates for our brands and client’s brands to allow them to stay true to their voices.

As corporations, we have a responsibility to align and focus the causes for which we advocate.

As global citizens, we have a responsibility to balance profitability with doing the right thing.

As storytellers, we have a responsibility to use our platforms for good and inspire action.

As employers, we have a responsibility to serve as the conscience of the company culture and help break down barriers and support policies to allow a diverse workforce to flourish.

In perhaps the most intensely debated session of the day, our own, CMO Aaron Strout  moderated a keynote panel, The Future of Digital Transformation for Media, Brands + Politics, centering around the responsibility of media and technology platforms.  Joined by panelists David Kirkpatrick, Founder & CEO of Techonomy, Joanna O’Connell, VP & Principal Analyst of Forrester Research, and Teddy Goff, Co-Founder & Partner of Precision Strategies, Aaron led a passionate conversation on the future of digital transformation for media, brand, and politics.

There’s no doubt that today, technology platforms have an immense amount of influence and power – particularly in our current political and social climate. While some panelists had a more optimistic outlook on the change that major technology platform has had on society, some also acknowledged the downside. The panelists posited that consumer and regulatory backlash may build against platforms like Facebook as they struggle to monitor content and targeting techniques. Ultimately, the panelists agreed that marketers and communicators have a responsibility in ensuring that these platforms are used for good.

Check out a full of recap of the panel here.


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As a physician who spends his days taking care of patients, Dr. Albert Chan, chief of digital patient experience at Sutter Health, knows his colleagues are burnt out—and it’s not hard to see why. For every 3.08 hours of patient visits, physicians spend an additional 3.17 hours on a desktop machine, Albert told attendees at W2O’s 4th Annual Digital Health Luncheon on January 8, 2018, referencing a recent Sutter Health Study.

“Fifty percent of doctors have more than one sign of burnout,” said Albert, who shared the stage with a handful of health IT experts to discuss the potential for blockchain in healthcare. And while it might not be a panacea, as Ted Tanner, chief technology officer and co-founder of PokitDok, pointed out, he agreed with Tony Scott, former federal chief information officer and senior advisor of Squire Patton Boggs, in that blockchain is simply one of a number of building blocks that will change the way the healthcare ecosystem works.

Healthcare thought leaders also discussed what’s on the horizon for direct to consumer genomics and explored if AI is the key to freeing up healthcare’s state of friction. As Jonathan Bush, athenahealth’s CEO, told attendees, “Any time you have millions of examples and a relatively finite set of outcomes, you can use machine learning.” But as Jonathan also noted, the key to AI’s success lies in the availability of data, advising attendees to design their business so that there’s a lot of data flowing into the environment.

For more insights from W2O’s 4th Annual Digital Health Luncheon held during the J.P Morgan Healthcare Conference (#JPMHC18), please see below for video highlights and full panel replays, see here for the recap, and be sure to follow #W2ODH18 and @W2OGroup for the latest updates.

Highlights: W2O’s 4th Annual Digital Health Luncheon

AI: The Key to Freeing Up Healthcare’s Friction?

Blockchain: Healthcare’s Next Great Disrupter?

What’s Next for Direct-to-Consumer Genomics?

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How real is blockchain’s potential to improve healthcare? “It’s really real,” said Tony Scott – the former chief information officer of the United States and senior advisor for Squire Patton Boggs – at W2O Group’s 4th Annual Digital Health Luncheon. Held in tandem with the J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference (JPM18) – which effectively marks healthcare and life science’s annual pilgrimage to San Francisco, CA – this year’s luncheon explored what practitioners and patients alike can expect from blockchain, AI and genomics, and where we will continue to see the digital health investment dollars flow in 2018.

Jonathan Bush, athenahealth’s chief executive officer, kicked off the event, talking to attendees about how AI can help reduce healthcare’s state of friction. He also spoke about the industry’s tendency to put the cart before the horse when it comes to advancing new technologies.

Jonathan noted that “when we see a break, when we see an invention, when we hear a new keyword, we run with it in our minds so much faster than the gears of society and marketplace can move, that we find ourselves alone on a deserted island, with none of the things that we wanted.” However, he was also candid in saying that, when it comes to AI, “it’s okay to get excited.”

“Any time you have millions of examples, and a relatively infinite set of outcomes, you can use machine learning,” said Jonathan, though designing for data flow is a necessary piece of the puzzle. With the right flow of data and application of AI, “we can take tens of thousands of hours of work, and make it instantaneous,” he said.

What about blockchain? As John Moore, founder of Chilmark Research, shared at the start of the panel, “Frankly, there’s a lot of noise and not a hell of a lot of signal,” noting that most people do not yet understand blockchain technology in the context of healthcare.

Chief technology officer and co-founder of PokitDok, Ted Tanner, was clear to make the distinction that blockchain is not bitcoin, explaining that the former is an infrastructure and the latter is a cryptocurrency. Ted described blockchain, a distributed ledger technology, as a distributed database that allows all participants on a network to see operational transactions in a secure digital environment. So secure, Ted said, that blockchain “adds a level of resilience over and above anything that was previously applicable in tech.”

Tony, who was responsible for federal cybersecurity strategy and is credited with creating the first government-wide open source policy, agrees with Ted in terms of blockchain’s potential to disrupt the industry. Tony predicts that blockchain will change the way that the healthcare ecosystem works, highlighting the billions of investment dollars going into the space as one indicator of what is to come.

Something to watch for when it comes to blockchain’s impact on healthcare, said Tony, is elimination of the middle-man. He believes that blockchain will facilitate a more direct connection to the ultimate service provider, cautioning attendees that, “If you’re in the middle, you’re on thin ice.”

Sutter Health’s chief of digital patient experience (how great is that title?), Dr. Albert Chan, introduced the concept of human ROI to the blockchain panel discussion, explaining how blockchain can help combat the crippling effects of physician burnout. “Fifty percent of doctors have more than one sign of burnout,” said Albert, who spoke to the findings of a Sutter Health study that found for every 3.08 hours of patient visits, doctors spend 3.17 hours on a desktop medicine each day.

“You want your doctor doctoring,” said Albert, who discussed how blockchain can take dollars away from transactional and administrative costs and allow those resources to be spent on patient care. He also noted that what the industry really wants is better data utility and access, which blockchain can help facilitate.

Rounding out the discussions, David Ewing Duncan, author of When I’m 164, pondered the future of direct-to-consumer genomics with fellow industry experts Jessica Richman, chief executive officer and co-founder of uBiome, and Dr. Michael Nova, chief innovation officer of Pathway Genomics.

Michael considers medicine to be “a big systems problem”—genetics data cannot be used in a vacuum—and requires “a lot of other systems to make sense out of it.” In 2009, Michael was the doctor of record for the first human that Illumina ever sequenced, which at the time carried a price tag of US $300,000. In 2018, he says that will run a patient around $1,000.

Looking further at how the consumer genomics space has evolved over the past decade, Michael shared that, “When we first started this journey, I used to get a lot of questions,” but that now those questions are simply “who pays, and how much.” Jessica noted that, while wellness genomics tests are covered by insurance about 50 percent of the time, “we had to do a lot to get there.”

Clinicians attitudes and appetites for genomics have increased in recent years, with much of that having to do with patient engagement. “Compliance and patient engagement are two sides of the same coin” said Jessica, who noted that patients coming to their physicians and asking for testing is a good thing. “One in five women don’t get screenings they should,” and any kind of awareness that can drive them to stay engaged with their health over time is a positive.

In looking ahead at what is to come – and where he is focusing his writing these days – David shared that he is looking more at metanomics, or multinomics, which he described as starting with genomics and expanding to other areas, such as the microbiome. David believes that genomics is just the starting point – an important base, but one requiring far more dynamic systems (e.g., the other “omics”) to be built out on top of it.

“I’ve long been a skeptic, as you might be able to tell, of a lot of this data,” said David. But what he is no longer skeptical about today is the technology itself, nor does he feel it is what’s holding progress in genomics back. “In a lot of ways, the technology isn’t the barrier anymore. It’s really how society is going to receive this… It’s policy and politics less than technology, at this point.”

For more information on W2O Group’s 4th Annual Digital Health Luncheon, held in partnership with Squire Patton Boggs, please see the Facebook Live replay and follow #W2ODH18 for updates. Curious what happened at the 3rd Annual Digital Health Luncheon and if the predictions about value-based care driving investments came true? Find out here.

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Another year of ASH (American Society of Hematology’s Annual Meeting & Exposition) is in the books and the online conversation this year was bigger than ever. There were over 33K total tweets using #ASH17 between 12/9 and 12/12. Using W2O’s proprietary MDigitalLife Health Ecosystem database, we tracked 23,224 tweets from 1,876 unique health stakeholders (HCPs, Advocacy, Patients, Media, Industry, etc.) mentioning #ASH17. For comparison, that was a 6% increase in conversation volume and a 16% increase in unique authors compared to ASH 2016. Check out the chart below to see how each conference has fared since 2014 – notice the massive jump from 2014 to 2015 (89% increase in volume!).

Using MDigitalLife we were able to go a step further to determine how those 1,876 authors broke down by stakeholder type. Unsurprisingly, HCPs led the conversation with over 1,000 unique authors contributing more than 50% of the posts. Healthcare Industry and Advocacy followed with 371 and 188 unique authors contributing 17% & 18% of the conversation, respectively. Media and Patients rounded out the core stakeholder groups contributing 7% and 4% of the conversation. It is worth calling out that although the Advocacy stakeholders were half the size of Industry, they actually contributed a larger percent of conversation than Industry stakeholders. This heavy advocacy involvement is a good sign for the strength of the Hematology online community.

To get an idea of who was contributing the most conversation from each stakeholder group, we identified the most active authors from HCPs, Advocacy, Industry, Patients & Media in the chart below. At the top we saw a few HCPs we recognize from our work in the Hematology space, like Mike Thompson, an active HemOnc (Hematologist/Oncologist) at Aurora Health Care and one of the leading HCP voices online; Navneet Majhail, a socially active HemOnc and Director of the Blood & Marrow Transplant Program at Cleveland Clinic who even gave his top 5 tips for using social at #ASH17 in this great video and Mohamad Mohty, an engaged professor of Hematology who serves as President of the European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT).

Others of note include the wonderful @MyelomaTeacher, a myeloma survivor and passionate advocate for cancer patients and research; Robin Tuohy, Senior Director Support Groups at the International Myeloma Foundation and wife to a myeloma survivor and Jacob Plieth, a Senior Reporter at EP Vantage and very active voice in biopharma.

MDigitalLife Data


A boatload of tweets from key authors does not mean the conversation was valuable. The true measure of value at any medical conference is the level of connection and exchange between the various stakeholders involved. Is the content being disseminated and discussed by HCPs, Advocates, Patients, etc.? Are the conversations stuck in small silos or are they bridging gaps between core stakeholder groups?  How does the volume of content combined with the quality of the network create a lasting discussion?

These questions pertaining to how we measure the value of an online community are ones we have begun to answer in the past with our Network Scoring Algorithm, which we co-published with prominent social influencers in the journal, Seminars in Hematology earlier this year (to read the abstract and purchase the full text, click here). And for more info on the network scoring algorithm, see this blog from 2015. When we apply this algorithm to ASH conversation this year compared to previous years, we can begin to see how the conversation breaks down. To give a quick overview, the Network Scoring Algorithm measures 5 metrics:

  • Size (a combination of number of posts and number of health ecosystem participants):
  • Audience Diversity (the amount of participation from different health ecosystem stakeholder groups, e.g., doctors, patients, healthcare company execs, caregivers, etc.)
  • Topic Diversity (the breadth of the topics discussed)
  • Quality (the level of connection and conversation engaged in by participants)
  • Impact (The presence of industry “heavy hitters” in the conversation).

For ASH, we can see that 2017 led past years in regard to Size, Quality & Impact. However, it decreased or maintained in Audience and Topic Diversity. Audience Diversity was actually the lowest it has been since we began tracking ASH conversation in 2013. While on the surface this is a negative, the main contributing factor to the decrease in Audience Diversity is the large increase in audience size, specifically the number of HCPs who are activating on social every year. We have seen similar increases in other stakeholder groups participation in ASH social conversation, just at a smaller rate than HCP adoption. The increase in audience size and corresponding shifts in audience diversity will be a important metrics to watch for ASH 2018.

Topic Diversity, the other scoring metric not increasing at ASH 2017, remained the same in comparison to ASH 2016. Topic Diversity has remained fairly steady throughout the years after peaking in 2013. The spread from 2013-2017 is small enough that this does not appear to be of significant concern and is a range we would expect to see for a meeting largely focused on one therapeutic area.

To further understand the level of connectivity and conversation at ASH, we created an interactive network visualization showing those stakeholders who had at least 10 connections (mentions or RTs) within the #ASH17 conversation. The breakdown of stakeholders in this subset of the audience can be seen in the image below. Feel free to explore this network visualization by clicking on the image below.

If you are interested in understanding more about the online ASH conversation and how you can best engage with key health stakeholders online, reach out on our contact us form and we will be in touch!

Follow Steven Cutbirth on twitter @SvenC; Follow MDigitalLife on twitter @MDigitalLife & W2OGroup at @W2OGroup

 To learn more about how the MDigitalLife Online Health Ecosystem database can reshape the way you interact with doctors, patients, the media & all the important stakeholders of your healthcare company, learn more here.

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After successful forums in NY and LA our team continued our nationwide event series FUEL – Firing Up Emerging Leaders in Austin! The evening featured local Austin leaders from various industries who are embodying Austin’s entrepreneurial spirit. Among those leaders was Joshua Bingaman, Founder of HELM Boots. I was fortunate enough to participate in a fireside chat with Joshua during our event regarding the ins and outs of being an entrepreneur and frankly I could’ve picked his brain all night. He was kind enough to share more of his expertise in the interview below, check it out.

Can you provide a brief background of HELM? How did you all get started and what inspired the brand?

In 2000, my brother and I started a sneaker store in San Francisco. It did very well, my brother eventually bought me out and the stores franchised. Starting a new footwear business was always front of mind. I got married and moved to Austin. My wife and I opened a café and coffee roasting business. In 2009, I was visiting my aunt in Istanbul and met a guy there who owned a shoe factory. I was inspired to hire him on the spot. We designed and released the first 7 HELM styles. My original goal was to blend a work-hiking boot with a dressier style and include touch of sneaker cool. Versatility was key but classic long-lasting style was paramount. In 2012, we brought the entire manufacturing operation to the United States and the rest is history.

Can you explain why HELM decided to make Austin home? How does the brand fit into the fabric of the city?

My wife in I visited Austin in 2002 and ended up moving here soon after – we just fell in love with the city. Since I opened a cafe’ on the East side the community that grew around it really wove us in to the fabric of the city. So, it just made sense for Austin to be HELM’s home.

Being an entrepreneur is no easy feat. What fuels you to create and continue to build your business?

My family is of course first and foremost.  I need to know that they are taken care of so that I can have peace. I’ve definitely been putting them in a place of risk for many, many years (through my multiple startups) and I’d like for HELM to become a 100-year brand. I want to continue to build my business to inspire and bring confidence to men from all walks of life, everywhere.

Are there any lessons you’ve learned along the way that you wished you had known when you were starting out?

My answer here could be an entire book. I ate a lot of crow and learned a ton (and still do) from falling down and getting back up. I’m pretty sure that if someone were to tell me things to do and not do I’d still have to learn these lessons on my own. Some people call it hard headed I think. If I could go back I’d give myself more time to work behind the scenes of the kinds of businesses I’ve started so that I’ve have more hands-on skill sets developed. Watching people and leaders that are passionate and enjoying what they’re doing is something that teaches me.

You work in both the shoe business and coffee business – what are some lessons in agility you’ve learned from being in both industries?

I’d probably call it more flexibility than agility. I have learned that service is #1. You can have the best of anything and everything but if you can’t serve someone whole-heartedly then you shouldn’t be in the game. I would say that I’ve been agile in terms of risking everything many times and somehow being able to endure through what has seemed like the end multiple times. Coffee/food/service and retail (specifically footwear) aren’t often considered fields to jump into to make a quick buck.

During our FUEL event in Austin you mentioned “being an entrepreneur is in your DNA”. What goes into the DNA of being an entrepreneur?

Sleepless nights. Just kidding (kind of).  Hard work ethic. Joy and fulfillment in finishing what you set out to do (daily). The ability to do pursue and do what you love even when people (often) question you. Persistence. Endurance. Willingness to change.

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After successful events in New York City and Los Angeles, emerging leaders in the W2O Austin office brought the Firing-Up Emerging Leaders (FUEL) Forum to Austin last month to explore how individuals and organizations can embody the entrepreneurial spirit. This spirit is a natural occurring phenomenon in Austin as the city’s culture fosters the elements needed to be a successful entrepreneur, such as diversity, purpose-driven work and fearless ambition.

While the entrepreneurial spirit may pave the way for innovation, it is often filled with lots of doubt, fear and risks, leaving individuals unsure of how to move forward. To address these very thoughts, FUEL brought together emerging leaders from around Austin who embody this spirit to share their successes, challenges and advice on how to succeed in this ever changing time. Check out the recap below.

Panel: Cutting Through the Noise

Speakers: David Fossas, Director of Brand of WP Engine and Britt Knighton, VP of Marketing of Camp Gladiator

Moderator: Naimul Huq, Senior Director, W2O

David Fossas, Director of Brand of WP Engine and Britt Knighton, VP of Marketing of Camp Gladiator sat down to discuss the challenges and successes of their brands and how they navigate saturated markets – both in Austin as an innovative city and within their perspective industries. Additionally, they discussed how their companies empower their employees to raise the bar and foster the entrepreneurial spirit. Check out their panel below.

Panel | Am I Qualified? Looking Beyond the Degree

Speakers: Angus Cann, Senior Producer of Whole Foods, Katie Danielson, Co-Founder of ZenMonkey Breakfast & Nicole Mills, Director of Advisory Services, NewsCred

Moderator: Corina Kellam, Content Strategist, W2O

We had the opportunity to hear this panel discuss how their careers have evolved – and how their different experiences have led to their roles now – even if they didn’t necessarily go the “traditional route”. Nicole said it best, “It’s not about faking it to you make it. It’s about being up for stretch development opportunities.”

Panel | Side Hustle to Real Hustle

Speakers: Jane Ko, blogger at A Taste of Koko and Mica May, founder and CEO of May Designs

Moderator: Janelle Laqui, Analytics Associate, W2O

How do we transition a “side hustle” into a “real hustle?” Jane Ko, blogger at A Taste of Koko and Mica May, founder and CEO of May Designs, were there to answer that question.These women entrepreneurs discussed how they transitioned their side passions/ideas into full functioning businesses.

Did you attend our event? Check out the photos on Facebook!

Fireside Chat | From Introduction to Impact: The Importance of Building Your Personal Brand

Speaker: Justin Johnson, Global Marketing, Facebook & Host of the Jacob & Justin Show

Moderator: Blaire Clause, Senior Marketing Manager, W2O

During this fireside chat Justin shared his experiences that led him from graduating The University of Texas to his current role at Facebook. He touched on the importance of being intentional, authentic, curious and open to new opportunities. In our ever changing, digitally-focused world, he emphasized the importance of building true human connections and said it best with the follow up, “in order to be interesting, you have to be interested”.

Panel | Provider, Patient, Product – The New Prescription of Healthcare

Speakers: Dr. Skye P. Clarke, DO, Baylor Scott & White & Zac Jiwa, Co-Founder and CEO, MI7

Moderator: Steven Cutbirth, Product Commercialization, W2O

The healthcare industry has evolved so quickly due to the access to technology, data, and information. Dr. Clarke and Zac discussed how this evolution is currently impacting healthcare, what it means for the industry’s future and what role Austin will play in the future.

Fireside Chat | What Not to Do: The Entrepreneur Edition

Speaker: Joshua Bingaman, Founder of HELM Boots

Moderator: Maya Ollie, Marketing Associate, W2O

Being an entrepreneur isn’t an easy feat. There are challenges and victories along the way which ultimately means a plethora of lessons. Joshua Bingaman has founded 3 separate businesses and has a keen understanding of what to do and what not to do. He was gracious enough to share with us.

Thank you to all the speakers, attendees, volunteers and W2Oers who made this event possible!

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