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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Recently, several colleagues and I had a chance to network, share best practices and brainstorm solutions to industry challenges with more than 50 of our agency peers, pharma clients and top-tier media at the 13th exl Public Relations and Communications Summit. The energy was high and the crowd was never at a loss for words or ideas, with discussion centering on the following themes.

Analytics: Use It or Lose It

From condition education to the value and pricing debate, Analytics helps guide content and channel strategy, customize messages for optimal audience impact and measure ROI – a challenge PR and Comms professionals frequently face compared to other Marketing disciplines. If you are not employing Analytics, you will fall behind the competitive curve.

Deep and Meaningful Engagement: Yes, We Can…

Digital and social communications play an increasingly important role in the overall patient experience, including reaching, influencing and supporting people with divergent needs. The review process may be daunting as pharma continues to become more comfortable with digital and social engagement. But, it is possible to establish branded and unbranded Facebook pages, coordinate Facebook Live events and push the envelope further. Vet concepts in advance, share real-world case studies and trouble-shoot potential issues with Legal, Regulatory and Corporate teams to help minimize potential roadblocks.

Content: Still King if It’s Relevant and Authentic

With the multitude of current and emerging social and digital communications channels, we can expand content reach and impact by repackaging or tailoring it to address the needs of multiple audiences. As an industry, we strive to be authentic and build engaging voices. It can be challenging in our highly-regulated industry, but we can be successful by listening carefully to what is important to our stakeholders, incorporating feedback, flexing based on broader industry trends and being relevant and real as we engage with various audiences.

Value: Like Beauty, It’s in the Eye of the Beholder

Many speakers addressed the value and pricing debate head on. They urged communicators to take a more proactive approach to shape and share the story.

Celgene CEO Mark J. Alles, for example, implored attendees to focus on patient outcomes and clearly convey the life and death difference that pharma innovations make as critical to the industry’s value proposition. Value and price, two separate concepts, do not resonate with detractors, but you can’t argue a patient outcome.

Among other points, Acorda Therapeutics’ CEO Ron Cohen, M.D., noted that the money needed to innovate in healthcare is an investment in the future. Eventually pharma innovations, which may appear costly initially, go generic, broadening their reach, which can improve patient outcomes and decrease cost of care over time. The focus must be on the patient and patient outcomes, as well as healthcare’s impact more broadly.

What’s Next?

As communicators, we are uniquely positioned to play a critical role in helping inform and guide people as they seek health solutions and in demonstrating the value that our industry brings to patients, their caregivers and healthcare providers.

Analytics can help us understand the landscape more clearly and how to be relevant to our audiences. Insights garnered from Analytics, research and our relevant experience combined allow us to create content and communities that educate and meaningfully engage diverse audiences about important health issues.

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Teaching & Transitioning Veterans to the Public Sector

There are some causes that know no boundaries.  They are not democrat or republican.  They are not state or federal.  They are simply important and deserve the attention and focus of all of us.

One of these causes is how we educate, train and prepare veterans for their transition back into the corporate world.  Yes, it is important to get a job.  It’s even more important to build a career and that is what The Vetted Foundation is focused on.  The Vetted team is creating a unique educational curriculum, built by leading universities, to take the skills learned by our veterans in the field of battle and complement them with new business skills that prepare our veterans so they can succeed and grow their careers in their next phase of life.

Today was one of those special days as the Chancellors of The University of Texas (Admiral William McRaven) and Texas A&M (Chancellor John Sharp) spoke at a press briefing along with Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, who served in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom and as a member of the US Naval Reserve, State Representative Pat Fallon of Frisco, Texas, a member of the 1988 Notre Dame championship football team and US Air Force, Linda Mays McCaul, who worked in Naval Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency and is Vice Chairman of the Vetted Board, Tracy King, Vice President of Public Affairs for AT&T and Michael Sarraille on the importance of Vetted and the commitment of their institutions and foundations to this pioneering effort.  They were joined at the podium by Admiral Bobby Inman, the Chairman of the Vetted Board and Molly Mae Potter, who is Ms. Veteran America 2016 and an executive at Dell Technologies.

The founder of Vetted is Michael, a Special Forces veteran who worked under the command of Admiral McRaven, the past leader of the United States Special Forces Command.  Michael is focused on building a program that translates military skills into business skills to give veterans the opportunity to prove their worth.

The initial goal is to enroll more than 80 veterans per class who will learn from the best at The University of Texas, Texas A&M and other participating universities, such as Rice University.  They will receive training on business topics plus counsel on how to navigate the corporate world.  With time, this number will increase and it is expected that this program will evolve into a national model.

Texas is a great place for this type of program to start, since we have over 1.7MM military veterans in the state today.  Texas A&M has graduated more military officers than any university in the country, according to Chancellor Sharp and we have government leaders, such as Land Commissioner George P. Bush who care deeply about the future of our veterans and how they integrate into U.S. society.

Admiral McRaven made a great point this morning as I said, “We need to get over the stigma that veterans are broken.  Absolutely nothing is further from the truth.  Veterans are ready for corporate challenges”.

In this statement, Admiral McRaven summed up the idea of Vetted.  Military veterans are future leaders of departments, future leaders of companies, future entrepreneurs who will start companies of all types and they represent untapped intelligence and knowledge for today’s company.

Equally exciting to see is the creation of Vetted from an idea to reality.  I give a lot of credit to AT&T and Tracy King for stepping up and being the first major corporate sponsor.  It takes courage to be the pioneer and show the way.  There are many more pioneering leaders at companies who will soon join and show the country how we can do this well.  I also want to thank Commissioner George P. Bush, a military veteran himself, who leads key initiatives for Veterans in the State of Texas that are forward-thinking.  Admiral Bobby Inman and Linda Mays McCaul are critical to Vetted’s success as Chair and Vice-Chair of the Board. In addition, Linda mentioned that her Foundation will become an official partner along with AT&T.  Representative Pat Fallon represents the spirit of legislators who are always ready to make the decisions necessary to help the transition of veterans.

Great causes lead to innovative new approaches.  Every new model that succeeds needs a team that believes passionately in the vision of what can be done to make a difference.

This morning we witnessed who this team is and why The Vetted Foundation will start to make a difference in the lives of our most heroic and important leaders and how future business leaders will start moving through the Vetted program to continue to make a difference in our world.

If you are already helping Vetted, thank you.  It is making a difference and it matters.

Best, Bob

(Note: I am a volunteer co-chair of the strategic advisory board)

Check Presentation During W2O at SXSW 
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Today, I had the opportunity to keynote at The Advertising Research Foundation meeting on Audience Measurement in Jersey City.

In my keynote, I addressed eleven trends that are increasing the value of market research, redefining what we mean by the term “research” and how media, behavior and machine learning are teaming up to make it possible for insights we could only dream of a few years ago.

Here are the eleven trends.

#1 – Human beings are telling us exactly who matters, what they want and why.  Earned and shared media hold the clues that can make paid and owned more powerful.

#2 – The 1,9,90 model works worldwide.  We’ve been banging on this important media model for a decade.  It works as well in China as in Brazil as in the UK.  We know who tells the story.  We know who shares the story.  We know who impacts SEO.

#3 – We can identify and track our exact audience online.  The emergence of audience architecture allows us to “align” with our audience, rather than “promote” to it.  This is more important than ever, as we leave a 2016 election season where 72% of voters said their primary source of candidate information was Facebook, up from 12% in 2012, according to Brad Parscale, who led the digital work for the Trump Campaign.

#4 – The ability to micro-segment is game-changing in how we target our audience.  We are flipping the segmentation model on its head.

#5 – The personality of each audience becomes clear over time.  Which words accelerate, decelerate or change behavior?  More importantly, how do you measure silence or apathy?  Time points and lack of movement are often more revealing than actual use of words in a community.

#6 – Our brains prefer to learn visually first, text second.  How video is evolving and what it means for agile campaigns is a critical new skillset.

#7 – We can finally determine what WOM is really all about.  We can see which people have influence on a specific topic in a specific town and what content type they prefer.   Prospective planning of WOM is possible.

And there are four important trends that are emerging as we speak.

#8 – We are entering the era of “object influence”.  The shift is from “strings to things”.  Strings link words.  Things like objects.

#9 – We will learn how to tell stories without words.  We are doing this, to a degree, via Instagram, Snapchat and our use of emoji’s.  This can make it easier for comprehension (we like visual content) and can cut through language barriers in new ways as we globalize.

#10 – We can see how thought leadership has shaped a category over a period of years.  We can see exactly which publications and people make the difference, which may not be related, at all, to the perceived power of certain publications.

#11 — A new form of ESO-driven media planning will optimize media budgets. If we know exactly what customers want, where they hang out and who they respect, we can also see outlets won’t perform BEFORE we spend.

We are entering a new era that will continue to enable us to evolve media models and derive a wider and more precise set of insights.  The hard part will be evolving the status quo approaches to marketing and communications as our intelligence and market knowledge explodes.

Best, Bob

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This past week, I participated in PRWeek’s Hall of Femme breakfast in New York recognizing “breakthrough women” in the communications profession. The Hall of Femme honors women who have made a significant mark on the work, people and the growth of the industry.

The event had special meaning for me on a number of levels and I experienced a range of emotions, some overwhelming at times.

First, our very own Jenn Gottlieb and Annalise Coady, were honored as 2017 Champions of PR! Jenn and Annalise are certainly “champions” and their contributions and leadership are felt by all of us and our clients each day. We extend our heartfelt congratulations for their respective personal sacrifices and professional commitment to making the firm the best it can be!

Annalise, Jenn & Eric at the #PRWeekUSHallofFemme
Photo Credit: Eric Bacolas

Second, my life has been shaped by tremendous influences, many of them women, starting with my mom who died two years ago of advanced lung cancer. She was a successful business owner and CEO in a very male-dominated industry and I witnessed first-hand her incredible intellect, drive, perseverance and integrity. She and my dad, an optometrist who owned his own practice, instilled an understanding of equality, inclusion, confidence and respect in me and my siblings Beth and Harry, which directed our beliefs, attitudes and actions through our careers and in our lives.

Third, when I started the firm, it was literally me and what came to be known as the “Marin Mommies,” women equally dedicated to their families and their work. Together, we forged through the early years building a strong foundation for what was to become W2O Group years later. Our work ethic and philosophy based on equality, inclusion, quality work, client service, empathy and diversity catalyzed our relationship and set the tone for the future.

I’ve always taken this all pretty personally and that hasn’t really changed.

So, I applaud PRWeek – particularly organizers Julia Hood and Bernadette Casey — for driving the discussion and creating a forum to explore critical issues of gender work and pay equity to ultimately improve our collective thinking and behaviors. I plan to remain a major voice and active catalyst to drive real action and change in the industry.

In assessing the topic of women leaders, the profession has come a long way in terms of diversity, inclusion and respect but certainly there is more to do.

Much more.

Accepting that perfection is an aspiration not a destination and learning is a continuous path for firms like ours, corporations, practitioners, peers and colleagues, allows us all to seek deeper knowledge.

The keynote address was by Michael Sneed, CCO, J&J, who spoke of being encouraged by his grandmother, an early entrepreneur in the healthcare field, and infusing the lessons she taught him regarding values (knowing your job, your business), resilience (bouncing forward through adversity), confidence (turning thoughts into actions), and impact (leaving your mark on everything you touch).

Listening to the formidable women honorees tell their stories of perseverance, struggle, anxiety, self-worth, and achievement was incredibly moving, personally inspiring and professionally enlightening. In addition to listening to these various women leaders share their experiences and insights, I was privileged to sit on a panel called “Everyone’s Issue: Male Execs Weigh In” with Richard Edelman, CEO-Edelman; John Brockelman, Global Head of Marketing and Communications-State Street Global Advisors; and Tony Wells, Senior Vice President and CMO, Schneider Electric.

So what did the men have to say?

Photo Credit: Eric Bacolas

There was no debate among the male leaders that pay equality, respect, inclusion and career advancement must be an organizational imperative permeating the entire business, and all pledged to continue ensuring values, policies and behaviors reflecting such commitment.

In W2O’s case, I shared some important and exemplary facts – three of our five “OpCos” are led by women, 67% of our entire workforce are women with 57% at/above director level. Our pay scales are regularly reviewed and updated to ensure pay equity mostly based on value, first and foremost, an individual brings to their jobs, clients, colleagues and the company, regardless of gender or any other factor.

But these are just numbers and by that measure we are doing pretty well compared to our and most every other industry.

While I’m proud of this, we must recognize continuous improvement is necessary from listening to and really hearing your needs, working with different styles of managers and colleagues, addressing unconscious bias and encouraging and developing mentors who reflect our values and motivate the right actions and behaviors.

Getting there is a mission we all need to sign up for.

It comes down to staying awake, showing up, listening fully, and taking action!  In other words, we are always ready to #DealWithIt.

As a firm, an important step was bringing in our first Chief People Officer, Eric Bacolas, to lead our HR area and the dedicated pros who work diligently to help us scale and strengthen our culture and work environment. Eric and team are in the throes of designing systems, processes and tools to help us improve our ability to work collaboratively and deliver at scale as #OneTeamOneDream that is #BetterTogether. We are fielding a survey soon to get your input and welcome your input and ideas proactively at any time.

Beyond that, as a leadership team we are actively involved in creating and sustaining a diverse environment supported by a culture of inclusion — whether it’s by investing in recruiting, training and development, succession planning, relatively free ability to move to new offices or new roles, innovative programs like The Fourth Trimester to ease job re-entry for returning parents or other ongoing or planned cultural initiatives.

We are also committed to developing the next generation of professionals through partnerships with organizations such as The LaGrant Foundation – to foster diversity in healthcare communications – or through our relationship with Syracuse University and the W2O Center for Social Commerce all of which actively help change our professional landscape for the better.

Our goal is clear and has never changed: to create and sustain a firm where ideas count and people can do their best work for clients regardless of gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity! It has been and will always be a meritocracy where those that do their best and make us the best firm we can be for clients do the best.

My mom and dad (and certainly all of you) would not let me or us have it any other way … you have my word on that.

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“If you want to truly achieve something, then learn to thrive in ambiguity. No rule books. No instructions. Envision the reality you want to happen and then Go. Ahead.”

“Moral and intellectual courage can be harder to find than physical courage!” 

 “Actual fake news is a gateway drug to say that everyone you disagree with is fake news.”

 “In 2016, 72% of voters got their candidate info from Facebook vs. 18% in 2012.”

“Growth isn’t something you get. It’s something you do.”

 “It’s about the why. Helping people find meaning.”

 “Information saves lives.  Never hesitate to communicate.”

 “We have to get rid of perfect. We have to be fearless.”

 “Authenticity takes on many forms. How we act defines us.”

The above quotes uttered by leaders from business, academia, media, military, government, and nonprofit sectors last week at the 8th Annual Summit on Strategic Communications capture the range and dimension of topics, insights, and lessons shared among more than 100 attendees. Sprinkled through hard hitting stories from the last presidential election (former Digital Director, Donald J. Trump For President, Inc.; and Media Producer, Showtime’s The Circus: Inside the Biggest Show on Earth), deeply insightful lessons on talent curation (Characteristics of Highly Effective Entrepreneurial Employees – our own Jim Weiss), and warnings about “fake news” and the dangers inherent in calling anything you don’t agree with fake, there were inspiring tales of heroism from Colonel William Reeder recounting his brutal captivity in Vietnam.

The common theme throughout this year’s Summit was focused on a world in constant motion, driven by technology and its impact on perception, opinion, realism, productivity, and purpose. Respected brands such as Hershey’s, FedEx, Takeda Pharmaceuticals (W2O Group client), Johnson Controls, GE Oil and Gas, Capital One, and Arrow Electronics shared the stage with the U.S. Army, Politico, Bell Helicopter, and others to paint both a challenging yet hopeful picture for finding success.

As Summit Co-Chair, W2O Group, including Jim Weiss, Bob Pearson, Aaron Strout, and myself injected both a strategic archway supporting the new weight placed on communicators and marketers in a world of big data and the comforting cushion of translating information to insight and precise action.

Check out the panel I moderated on the foreign policy of global business.

Bob Grupp, Summit Director, who created the forum, moderated the two-day session, called it the “best overall content in the eight years it has been held.”

In capturing the top-line takeaways for use in our day-to-day experience, four specific points emerge:

  1. Communicate in Tight Windows…Brevity Breaks-Through
  2. Explore Behaviors to Understand Cause…Stop Chasing Symptoms
  3. Challenge Your Truth…Experience Life Through Other’s Eyes and Ears
  4. Instead of Hitting Back…Try A Little Humor

We captured most of the speakers in our “What 2 Know” podcast – moderated by our CMO Aaron Strout. You can experience for yourself the energy and expertise emanating from the summit – simply subscribe and listen for yourself.

“It’s so important to our future to be engaged in meaningful conversations directly and indirectly impacting business and society,” offered Bob Pearson. “The Strategic Communications Summit provides a 360 degree view of the world today and a glimpse of what’s ahead.”

Check out Bob’s panel on data that turned the world upside down

Perhaps the most practical comment came during Jim’s talk, when he told the group a key to individual success is contained in the phrase: Pick up the trash. 

Check out my conversation with Jim on the traits of entrepreneurial employees 

“This is personal to me,” he said. It’s a metaphor When I started W2O Group, I picked up every piece paper I saw on the floor and now 16 years later I still do. And I notice when people do the same. It speaks of ownership. It speaks of respect. It speaks of attitude.”

Learn about the National Summit on Strategic Communications.


PS:  Special shout-out to Ally Masi who managed the event from beginning to end providing discipline, creativity, and support throughout!

Check out some of our favorite moments from #STRATCOMMS17 on Twitter!

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It’s 8:00 pm on a Wednesday night at a Silicon Valley law firm. 70 accomplished medtech executives sit in a conference room, doing meditative deep breathing, with their eyes closed. Wait, what?

Strange scene? Yes. Did this actually happen? Yes – at MedtechWomen Bay Area’s March event “The Impact of Chronic Stress on Women’s Health,” part of the organization’s women’s health series. During the evening, we listened to four impressive panelists, led by moderator Donna Petkanics from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, as they talked about how chronic stress affects women’s long term health and how we can more effectively handle the stress that comes our way.

As someone who’s always lived a very full life (rigorous MBA program while working full time? Bring it on!) I’ve always written off stress as a necessary evil of trying to pack as much action as possible into my days. Since I became a parent in 2015, however, I’ve been more acutely aware of the impact living at such a breakneck pace can have on both me and my family. So I was excited to attend this event – and left with three main takeaways:

  1. Stress is necessary – From my perspective, Panelist Rachel Abrams, MD, MHS, ABIHM, from Santa Cruz Integrative Medicine hit the nail on the head when she said “How can we be inside our busy lives in a way that’s joyful?” In fact, stress is a necessary part of living life. Stress that’s “good” can keep us focused and energetic, and may be the push we need to go that extra mile personally and professionally. “Bad” stress, however, can lead to breakdowns and burnout. The blog Precision Nutrition has a link to a great chart on this topic.We need to find the right amount of stress – one that will inspire us, not leave us feeling overwhelmed. For more information on finding your own personal stress “sweet spot,” see the full infographic from Precision Medicine.
  2. Stress can have serious health consequences – Panelist Deborah Rozman, Ph.D., President and CEO of Heartmath, Inc. cited a startling statistic from JAMA Internal Medicine: 60-80% of primary care doctor visits are related to stress, yet only 3% of patients receive stress management help.[i] So stress is a common cause of emotional and physical symptoms – from the obvious like anxiety, headaches and muscle tension to the less apparent, like digestive disorders and heart disease.[ii] And there’s evidence that women are affected more seriously by stress than men (I’ve got an infographic on that one too – enjoy.)[iii] Thus, learning how to manage stress – not ignoring it or pushing it down to deal with later – is really important to a healthy lifestyle.
  3. We can change how we think about stress – A big topic of conversation throughout the night was around changing our stress response mindset. Perhaps our natural inclination is to panic, and all the associated physiological symptoms get triggered. Or, can pause, regroup (because really, is the world ending?), take some deep breaths and try to calm ourselves down. Both Dr. Rozman and panelist Manuela M. Kogan, MD and Clinical Associate Professor at the Stanford Center for Integrative Medicine led the group through some simple breathing exercises that frankly could be done at your desk, on the train, or in a meeting without your boss taking notice.
  4.  During the Q&A session, at the end of the workshop, someone asked the panelists what they would do if they only had a few minutes a day to try to manage stress better. Dr. Abrams commented that every morning, before she gets out of bed, she takes a couple deep breaths, says a few gratitudes and then sets one intention for every day. It helps her feel more prepared for what life throws her. I love this idea, and feels “right sized” for my chaotic life. I’m adding this to my daily routine.

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[1] JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(1):76-77.



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