This past Tuesday, W2O Group had the pleasure of sponsoring/speaking at the Holmes Report’s 3rd Annual In2 Summit in San Francisco. The event focused on bringing together “the industry’s most innovative minds to explore the future of influence and engagement.” You can learn more about the summit here. At this year’s event, there were approximately 150 senior level communications and marketing professionals and nearly double that night at the awards dinner. The panels, keynotes and fireside chats focused on topics like the growing importance of corporate reputation, diversity, and how the evolution of earned and social media are requiring brands and their agencies to work harder at storytelling and better targeting.

For the mid-day keynote, we had the fortune of Bob Pearson leading a “CMO power panel” with Natalie Malaszenko, SVP of Marketing at, Dorthy Jones, CMO at Interstate Batteries, and Larry Yu, Marketing Partner at Accel Partners. There was a ton of ground covered which you can read more about here.

Last but not least, we were honored to pick up three awards: one for our events at SXSW (Best Live Event – Agency), our work with Tejava (Best Use of Social Media or Analytics for Audience Insights) and the granddaddy of them all, the new Business Value Award for our attribution modeling work with Autodesk. It’s worth noting that the Sanofi Pasteur team’s “Flu + You” was a finalist for several other awards. We are incredibly proud of our team!




The social team led by Matthew Heinrichs (who was a driving force behind the great work we did on Tejava) loaded the ‪#‎In2Summit‬ social streams before, during and after the event. Check out some of the most compelling social content from the event via Storify – embedded below.

As an important side note, over the last three years, we’ve had Bob Pearson, Jim Weiss and now Seth Duncan win the honor of being one of Holmes/In2 Summit’s “Top 25 Industry Innovators.” They are in the great company of numerous CCOs, CMOs and well-known agency leaders.

We are honored to have been recognized for our work in 2015 and look forward to raise the bar and continue to pursue innovation in 2016.

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If you’re a technology and digital health nut like me, you’ve probably already picked up on the fact that the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference has become a must-attend event for digital health companies and companies otherwise focused on digital health.

What’s that you say – JPM is for investors focused on biotech? That, my friends, is an accurate statement to be sure… but oh so incomplete.

For while the preponderance of presenters at #JPM16 are still biotech- and life sciences-related, the online conversation surrounding #JPM16 (which my colleagues and I track and analyze very closely), is showing only a slight lead for #biotech vs #digitalhealth. A leading indicator? Perhaps. Watch this blog for our post-conference analysis of #JPM16 happenings and conversation trends.

I Heart #digitalhealth – So Where Should I Go This Week?

Now, for those of you who may just be getting into the digital health game or have never been to JPM, you should absolutely start by attending the conference sessions. There are numerous digital health companies presenting this year and healthcare companies who will otherwise be articulating a digital health strategy. But there is life beyond the St. Francis, my friends! Luckily, you have your faithful narrator to guide you. Here is a list of events you need to consider (and possibly sneak your way into).

Rock Health’s Top 50 in Digital Health (Sunday evening) – Halle & Co do an amazing job not only investing in and advising digital health startups, but they are prolific publishers, marketers and advocates. To wit: Sunday’s event to recognize some of the most important peeps in digital health. Rock on, Halle!

W2O Group’s DH VIP Luncheon (Monday at Noon) – Pardon the shameless plug, but I’d like to think that me and the firm play a part in all this digital health goodness. Historically speaking, W2O Group has been a major presence at JPM since our founder Jim Weiss first hung out the shingle in 2001. Since then, our focus has expanded beyond biotech and life sciences to tech and digital health.

That’s where I come in… Jim allows me to hold a lunch that brings together a very unique set of digital health stakeholders (companies, providers, payers, press, investors, policymakers – you name it). This diversity ensures an intriguing discussion, a valuable networking opportunity and a fun way to kick off the week. This year, we will feature a panel moderated by none other than athenahealth CEO and co-founder Jonathan Bush. Jonathan will be joined by the experts below who we are just thrilled to host. We look forward to seeing many of you there! (Follow live via Periscope here.)

  • Michael Blum, Chief Medical Information Officer at UCSF & Director of the Center for Digital Health Innovation
  • Paul Markovich, CEO of CA Blue Shield
  • Aman Bhandari, Executive Director of Data Science and Insights at Merck
  • Susannah Fox, CTO at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

JPM DH Panel (Monday at 5PM) – You may or may not know Dan Wilson, but he is one of the main reasons JPM is focusing more and more on digital health. Dan and his colleagues originated the annual digital health panel discussion at JPM as a way of shining a light on some truly innovative companies – companies not in biotech or life sciences, but technology companies focused on solving problems in healthcare. This year’s panel – led by the incomparable Lisa Suennen (aka @VentureValkyrie) – is entitled: “Can Data Deliver Us from Our Healthcare Dilemma?” It will feature yet another bumper crop of innovators, including Grand Rounds, Syapse, Evidation Health, Aledade and HealthReveal. And remember to get there early – last year’s digital health panel was SRO!

StartUp Health Festival (Monday-Tuesday) – Steve Krein, Unity Stoakes and the gang at StartUp Health have been evangelizing digital health for years. Though headquartered in New York City, they are committed to supporting and accelerating the growth of startups – what they call “transformers” — the world over. I am a huge fan of their research reports and their ability to attract experts from a variety of fields to advise and assist their transformers. The runaway success of their past efforts at JPM led them to create a two day program for #JPM16.

Venrock’s 5th Annual Healthcare IT Celebration (Tuesday evening) – Venrock has compiled a distinguished track record amongst many successful VCs in digital health. Bryan Roberts and Bob Kocher lead the digital health investment strategy at the firm and, in their spare time, regularly speak and publish as top industry thought leaders. If you don’t have a ticket already, chances are slim you can get one. But, hey it’s always worth a shot…see how many degrees of separation you are from Bryan or Bob on LinkedIn…they are so connected that you will probably find somebody to introduce you.

Health 2.0 Winter Tech (Wednesday) – For Health 2.0 fans who can’t get enough of a fix in October, founder Matthew Holt created a cold weather version. I’m a fan of everything Matthew does, including his dancing. Seriously, anything that Matthew and his partner Indu Subaiya put together is worthwhile. In this case, they seized upon the idea that attendees at JPM want even more digital health investment talk. And they were right. Matthew and Indu know all the smart VCs. They do a great job at curating them, along with startups and more.

UCSF Informed Health (Thursday) – Our friends at UCSF anchor the week with their very own gathering of digital health experts. The agenda features many experts at UCSF and from provider-land writ large as well as technology leaders from some of Silicon Valley’s leading companies. Dr. Michael Blum and Dr. Aenor Sawyer have combined efforts to create yet another high quality program that underscores UCSF’s leadership in digital health.

Who to Follow

Here are several folks that I regularly follow and who can be relied upon to keep you in the know when it comes to digital health and #JPM16. (Note: For the purposes of this list, I am excluding my many friends in the media as I love them all dearly and would not want to show favoritism. Funny, I say the same thing to my children. I hope you believe me, as they do.

Rasu Shrestha – How could he possibly have time to be as active as he is on social media? Well, there’s a reason Dr. Shrestha is the chief innovation officer at UPMC… and I’m not. Follow him and you will learn all you need to know about real innovation happening at UPMC and beyond. He is a one-man curator of the most important developments in digital health news.

Lisa SuennenI mentioned Lisa earlier as the moderator of this year’s digital health panel at JPM. Formerly with Psilos where she led the VCs digital health investing, Lisa was one of the first VCs to really focus on digital health. Her experience and deep knowledge make her the perfect filter of what’s meaningful and what’s fluff.

Cris De Lucaalthough new to JPM, Cris is no stranger to digital health. As one of the primary movers and shakers behind J&J’s digital health efforts, Cris is prolific on social media and my early choice as “Top Newcomer” to JPM.

Brian Ahier – Brian is one of the best curators of digital health content on the planet and he’s probably been at it the longest. He is a must-follow to keep abreast of many digital health topics and conversations.

Hope that’s helpful. Tweet me at @robcroninNY and let me know what your best experiences are this week at #JPM16.

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In 2015, marketers set the bar for memorable brand experiences, from the hi-tech U.S. Open American Express Fan Experience to Disney’s show-stopping Star Wars premiere.

As we head in to 2016, brands continuing to put more dollars behind event marketing. In fact, a recent study by the Event Marketing Institute predicted a 5 percent increase in experiential marketing budgets last year. It’s easy to see why once you realize that 74 percent of participants who purchase a brand once are likely to become regular customers after engaging with the brand at an event, and 93 percent say events are more effective marketing tools than television commercials.

As we ring in a new year filled with major national and global events including political conventions and the Olympics, there’s no better time to look back and highlight the biggest event marketing trends from the past year, and what’s on the horizon. Check out our key learnings from the past year that will continue to drive event marketing, and what we’re most excited to see in 2016.

  1. If it isn’t on social, your event didn’t happen. Unless you’re planning events for a secret society, one of your event goals is most likely to spark social conversation about your brand. It used to be that events allowed for a high-touch brand experience, but only reached a small audience. Social media has completely opened up the potential for an event’s reach, providing a greater ROI for marketers. However, it’s not necessarily enough to expect that people will post about your event just because they were invited. Brands must create an environment that will inspire guests to share their experience, whether that’s designing a visually evocative display that ties back to your brand’s narrative, or providing an opportunity for guests to create their own share-worthy content. When we partnered with DigiFest – the world’s largest social media festival – to target Gen Z on behalf of a new teen-centric brand, our key priority was to make our activation share-worthy. By incorporating fun, eye-catching designs that referenced the brand and an interactive GIF booth for attendees to create content, SOV about the brand among our target audience skyrocketed.
  2. Attendees vs. Participants. At this year’s BizBash Live conference, the leading meeting for planners from around the country, a key theme heard from more than a few presenters is that attendees are no longer passive. As with other forms of media, control is shifting from marketers to guests who can shape the event by streaming and creating content. For brands that are up to the challenge, this is a good thing. Seek ways to make your event attendee-centric at every turn.bizbash
  3. The infiltration of influencers. It’s all about the influencer in marketing these days, and the same holds true for events. Brands are bolstering their events’ reach by incorporating influencers – paid or organically. Sponsoring a live event? Consider negotiating influencer content as part of your deal. Oh, and remember those shareworthy moments we discussed? Those are even more important when your guest list is comprised of high profile influencers who are building their own brand. If you’re goal is organic engagement, make sure to emphasize the details. Personalize, surprise and delight in a way that influencers can authentically share your brand’s message with their audiences. As with any successful influencer program, key word = AUTHENTIC. Check out some more insight on influencers from my W2O colleagues here and here.
  1. Want to reach millennials and Gen Z? Plan an event. It may sound counterintuitive when thinking about marketing to the most digital-savvy and tech-innate generations, but despite the ubiquitous nature of digital, these groups crave interaction with brands in real life. For millennials, the economy of chessexperience trumps material things, so brands that seek to create unforgettable, shareable, bespoke experiences first and foremost before selling a product will succeed among millennials. In its second year, Bud Light’s Whatever, USA takeover garnered 1.7 million entries (5 percent of the millennial population) for a chance to participate. The weekend-long festival offered hundreds of unique experiences that had nothing to do with America’s favorite lager, including #UpForWhatever events and classes like hula hoop workouts, life-size chess and an improv comedy performance based on attendees’ own social media accounts.
  1. Focus on health. From corporate meetings to branded activations, companies are finding ways to add health and fitness into live events. For the past few years, hotels and caterers have increasingly offered a wide array of healthy food and beverage options to keep conference attendees feeling energized and meet ever-evolving dietary requirements.  Brands are now getting fit too – in some cases, even building product launches and events entirely around wellness experiences. Take Reebok for example: the brand partners with wellness companies to bring fitness-based experiences to its target consumer is known as the “Fit Generation,” or Fitgen: stylish twentysomethings who view working out as a social activity.
  1. Event data at the forefront in 2016. You may know that everything we do at W2O Group is deeply rooted in analytics, so it’s not surprising that one of the event trends I’m most excited about uses biometrics to take the focus on health and data to a completely different level. In 2016, expect to see more companies using wearable and RFID technology to get feedback in real time to improve attendee experience. Take that a step further… and turn that data into event décor and content through imagery, reactive lighting, music and more. (Confession: I totally geeked out when Lightwave’s Rana June spoke about this topic at the BizBash Event Innovation Forum).biometrics

Tell us: what was your favorite brand event from 2015 and what 2016 event are you most looking forward to?

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~450 employees

11 offices & opening soon in Atlanta, Basel and China

3 agencies:  WCG, Twist Mktg & BrewLife

Started in PR, now have 21+ services (see some Case Studies)

Started in Healthcare, now we’re in 5 industries (see Practice Areas)

Analytics heavyweights – 60 analysts with the industry’s leading platforms and products: memes, influencer data, and reporting (MDigitalLife has changed the healthcare game)

We win so many awards, you’ll have to scroll to see just 2015‘s *

7 acquisitions helped us grow: Vintank, Fox Communications, ARC2 Communications & Media, VM Foundry, Partners in Medical Education, Common Sense Media Group, and Ravel

Our 2 hosted events bring together some of the best in the industry: #SXW2O events in Austin and London PreCommerce summit (we have a strong presence through forums at industry events at CES and JP Morgan. We also host several local events within our key markets and plan to continue to in 2016).

* Digital Agency of the Year by Holmes Report – 2012, 2013, 2014

Finalist for Digital Agency of the Year by Holmes Report – 2015

Finalist for Best Digital/Social Consultancy in the World by Holmes Report – 2014

2015 Agency Partner of the year by Komen (Twist Mktg and iMedia, Inc.)

2015 Silver MM&M award for “Best Use of Direct Marketing” for LAP-BAND “It Fits” campaign (see Case Study)

2015 Silver MM&M award for “Best TV Advertising Campaign” for LAP-BAND “It Fits” campaign (see Case Study)

2015 “Best Live Event” In2 SABRE award for our #SXW2O events. (includes 5 events during SXSW Interactive that foster thought leadership, networking and collaboration)

Jim Weiss Named Syracuse University’s 50 Top Newhouse Graduates

Jim Weiss and Bob Pearson named to PR Week’s “Global Power Book” – 2015

Bob Pearson honored in PR News “PR People Hall of Fame” – 2015

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W2O Group is kicking off our SXSW events this year with the 5th Annual PreCommerce Summit this Thursday, March 12th. It will be a series of 10-minute TED-style talks, panels, and fireside chats with thought leaders and amazing speakers such as Al Roker (co-anchor of the Todat Show), David Kirkpatrick (author of The Facebook Effect), Daina Middleton (Twitter). We’ll also be live streaming it for those not lucky enough to be in Austin.

PreCommerce_Summit_2015Thursday, March 12th: Fifth Annual PreCommerce Summit

Speakers include:

You can check out selected talk’s from last year’s event here.

See what other awesome events W2O Group will be hosting during SXSW Interactive at


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Las Vegas Sign: Go. Ahead in Health

Earlier this month, W2O Group invited 150 employees in our collective healthcare practice to the second annual “Go. Ahead In Health” summit in Las Vegas. Usually I stick to the idea of what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but in cases like these, it needs to be shared.

This two-day event is evidence that W2O Group is committed to continuing to build a best-in-class, analytics-driven, integrated global offering serving a diverse set of clients from start-ups to world-leading brands in health.

Individuals from our “Long Hallway” shared exciting case studies of integrated work we created for clients. Our very own thought leaders presented industry insights and led informative panel discussions on trends in healthcare. It would have been impossible to leave the summit without a refreshed and more knowledgeable outlook on our business — but that wasn’t the best part.

Featured guest speakers and experts were hands down the highlight of the summit. They left our team enlightened and pondering what was next. Below are quick synopses with links for more information about two panels and our key note speaker that I am sure will also leave you with a sense of ahhh.

ePatient Advocates

ePatient AdvocatesWe know that patient advocacy has evolved. During this panel, we heard from real life patients turned advocates who have brought their journey online and created followings in social media.

The panel gave real-world perspectives on creating change and activism through social channels and explained how social activation of patient advocacy is changing the game and affording our clients with more opportunities to partner and socialize their messages as well.

Check out these ePatient Advocates and the causes they lead:
Sara Nicastro (@saraknic): diabetes patient advocate and founder of
Wendy Campbell (@bandedwendy): LAP-BAND patient and founder of WLS Success Matters
Adam Pick (@heart_valve): health valve patient and founder of

The Activated Social MD:

Understanding, engaging and activating physicians online is the premise for W2O Group’s MDigitalLife. At the summit we heard straight from two MDigitalLife doctors. They shared their experiences and journey becoming media entities, not that they considered themselves as media before. But W2O’s Greg Matthews’ new eBook Missing the Forest for the Trees, now has us looking at them as Media Influencers.

Activated Social MDBoth doctors agreed that Twitter has become not only a tool for news, but a critical piece of the puzzle in treating patients. Dr. Attai said it best: “Patients often don’t tell the whole story at the doctor visit – social media allows us to hear the patient’s voice.” She has found, when talking to breast cancer patients in-office, for one reason or another, patients hold back. On the flip side, when patients go online they open up to the world. Using social media allows her to get the whole picture on how patients in general are dealing with their diseases and can use that information when talking with her patients.

Both doctors are leaders in women’s health and are great examples of thought leaders growing through social media:
Deanna Attai, M.D. (@DrAttai): Breast Surgeon affiliated with UCLA Health Burbank Breast CareLinda Pourmassina, M.D. (@LindaP_MD): Internal Medicine Physician, Women’s Health Columnist with the Seattle Times and Co-Chair ACP Washington Chapter Women in Medicine Committee.

Keynote Speaker:
Hiding in Plain Sight: The Future of Healthcare
Joon Yun, M.D. and President, Palo Alto Investors

Have you ever thought of aging as a disease? I never have. Dr. Joon Yun presented a very intriguing argument and is leading the effort to recognize the science to hack the aging process.

Dr Joon YunDr. Yun is a renowned investor and Managing Partner and President of Palo Alto Investors, LLC, a hedge fund founded in 1989 with over $1 billion in assets under management. He is also the Benefactor of the Palo Alto Longevity Prize, a $1M Life Science competition that challenges teams from all over the world to “hack the code” that regulates our health and life span. The idea behind adaptive homeostatic capacity will make you think.

If you are ready to have your mind blown, check out the video at Palo Alto Longevity Prize. It will have you thinking about what is next and jumping to invest more in your 401k.

Another topic he discussed that will get you thinking is the idea of Second-hand Stress. Read his blog post and tell your chronically stressed-out co-workers to take a chill pill.

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Tradeshow image

I’ve always hated tradeshows. They are incredibly resource-intensive as a percentage of the total marketing budget and, for me, consistently the worst performer in terms of actual lead conversion.

Tradeshows are much more expensive for companies than simply the hard dollar costs of travel, booth logistics and event registration. Particularly in a complex B2B selling environment, tradeshows force the most senior team members out of production for three or more days at a time. At my last firm, focused on engineering engagements in the tens of millions of dollars, our sales team was a small group at the Director and above level. Adding the soft dollar costs of having this team out of commission for a week, the price per actual lead skyrocketed.

Yet, year after year, sales teams trudge to these events, armed with collateral and knowledge of the companies’ latest and greatest accomplishments, hoping the tradeshows will deliver a host of lucrative new contacts. And year after year fewer actual opportunities and new contacts are gained through these events.


Why do we put ourselves through these rituals?

1. The educational component: I was a walking attendee at Dreamforce last year and left genuinely inspired, to the point of completely rewriting my 2014 objectives. From this perspective, the event was completely worthwhile, but then again, I wasn’t there to actually sell anything.

2. Part of the community: Perhaps most importantly, tradeshows provide some feeling of unity in the industry. We see partners and current and former customers.  We are introduced to potential suppliers, and we eye our competition. Being together, breathing the same recycled air, makes us feel a part of something. For a brief moment we are a community.

 3. The herd mentality: It’s hard to be bold enough NOT to show up when we know everyone else in our space will. If we skipped a tradeshow would people doubt our success and financials? As a result, we don our new logo wear, make the investment, and do our best to strike fear in the hearts of our competition.


5 ways to make the best of a bad situation

1. Be a speaker: It’s a well-known best practice that in a technical B2B company the best thing you can do for your brand is to be a thought-leader. This means developing technologies and processes, and publishing this content. Once you’ve developed the content, a tradeshow speaking engagement is a great way to promote this work. It also increases the odds of getting an actual lead from these events. After all, conference attendees self-select to attend your talk, based on their desire to learn more about the topic you are covering.

It’s also a great way to validate if the content is relevant and helpful to the industry at large. The questions at the end of the presentation are an immediate and free focus group on the interest level in and clarity of your presentation.

2. Schedule meetings at the show: For most this is a no-brainer. Don’t plan on booth traffic. Make sure you schedule meetings up front and keep yourself busy. Even meetings with existing clients can unearth new opportunities or lead to networking opportunities. Showing up to a show without a plan is the best way to ensure a loss on the event.

3. Don’t lose momentum: In the past I’ve had booth duty and business cards with garbled notes on the back were stuck in my pockets, conference swag bag and briefcase. I’d get back to the office with a stack of 50 cards and no memory of how I got most of them. I’d then do the obligatory follow-up emails and calls and have 10% returned, mostly from potential partners, not customers.

The lesson here is to use your devices on the spot to engage real time. A business card scanner and a smartphone with email and a calendar go a long way. For any interesting conversation, book a post-show meeting or call on the spot. People are much less inclined to cancel something once it has actually been scheduled.

4. Establish relevancy on the spot: Show me. Potential customers never say exactly this, but it really does help connect the dots and is why case studies are such a vital part of any selling process. Be ready for this ask and prove the relevancy of your solution immediately.

For us that meant first creating a grid with our case studies. We looked at the typical requests new contacts made in terms of several factors. We then sorted our projects in buckets that answered those questions; locations, outputs, fuel sources, etc.  Next, we made them all available in electronic formats. From here, we built a mobile app, which was able to sort and access these documents. Finally, we linked it to our CRM system, which could both distribute and track details on the content for follow-up.

5. Get creative: Tradeshows are most likely going to be an expensive and mandatory part of B2B marketing for some time in the future. Continue to brainstorm with your team to develop new means to improve the investment.

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Patients are the #1 reason I’m passionate about my job. Listening to and being given the honor to share their stories of perseverance, strength and courage provides me daily inspiration, and collaborating with my clients who are fiercely focused on improving lives is both intellectually stimulating and emotionally satisfying. That’s why I think today is such an important day.

Today, February 28, is Rare Disease Day! The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) and its supporters have again organized a Goliath-style day of awareness for the millions of patients and their families who alone are facing rare and often unknown diseases, but who together are strong. 

In support of NORD’s mission to help elevate rare diseases into the public spotlight as a global public health concern, I encourage you to share this blog and all of the great content NORD has created.


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Orexigen, ZS Pharma logos

BrewLife handles Corporate Communications for Orexigen Therapeutics and ZS Pharma, both of whom are attracting interest at this week’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.


As reported, Orexigen rallies after presentation at conference:

  • Shares of Orexigen (OREX +9%) are notably higher on the session.
  • Helping the cause may well be the company’s presentation at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference.
  • According to market chatter, the company says it is in “robust” discussions for partnering Contrave.
  • OREX also reportedly says cardiovascular outcomes data gives them a leg up when moving Contrave into diabetes patients.
  • PDUFA date for the drug is June 10.

 The full transcript of the presentation by Orexigen CEO, Michael Narachi is available here.


Meanwhile, ZS Pharma announced positive results from its Phase 3 Trial of ZS-9 in Patients With Hyperkalemia on Monday and many news outlets picked up the story.




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