COVID-19 has consumed the world’s attention and raised the level of consciousness about how infectious diseases can affect us all. In the United States, we have also seen how this novel coronavirus can exacerbate existing disparities, exposing deep cracks in the healthcare system. But amid a pandemic caused by a completely new pathogen, there is an ever-present need to continue reminding the world that another pandemic – HIV/AIDS – is far from behind us.

To do our part in the fight against HIV, W2O has been incredibly fortunate to partner with the International AIDS Society (IAS) as the regional agency of record for AIDS 2020, the 23rd International AIDS Conference. Starting today and lasting throughout the week, the conference was initially planned to be held for the first time in two cities – San Francisco and Oakland – to shine a light on the disparities that expose how different health experiences can be in two cities only a few miles apart.

Our partnership with the IAS is based on a shared passion for improving global health. The conference theme, Resilience, was chosen by IAS as a nod to how far the community has come since 1990, the last time the AIDS Conference was held in the Bay Area. The history of the response to HIV/AIDS is replete with incredible models of resilience – from the first activists who took on the medical and political establishment to pave the way for astounding gains in prevention and treatment, to the newest generation of advocates fighting for equity in access to healthcare across the globe.

We are particularly proud of the award-winning Profiles in Resilience poster series, which was created by the IAS/W2O team in partnership with Bay Area artists. These works of art were inspired by, and in celebration of, the extraordinary work individuals are doing to advance the response to HIV/AIDS and are based on interviews conducted with people at the forefront of the movement. Each poster is a thoughtfully crafted visual interpretation of the complex factors that make up human resiliency. You can see some of this work featured in a recently-released video and view the full gallery here.

There is so much more to look forward to as AIDS 2020 begins. In addition to the virtual conference itself – which will feature over 600 sessions and events – a free and open to the public Global Village will demonstrate how science translates into community action and intervention.

Feeling inspired? Here’s how you can engage:

  • Listen to, and share, What2Know episodes featuring dynamic and accomplished conference co-chairs, Cynthia Carey-Grant and Monica Gandhi, M.D., who discuss health disparities within marginalized communities and highlight the parallels between HIV and COVID-19.
  • Watch virtual panels hosted by the Commonwealth Club of California (now accessible on YouTube) related to HIV/AIDS and the upcoming conference. The first reviewed the origins of the AIDS Memorial Quilt and the second explored resiliency as it applies to LGBTQ+ individuals in professional sports, resiliency in living through a pandemic, and resiliency in dismantling structural racism.
  • Follow and keep your eyes on the AIDS 2020 Twitter and Instagram handles for the final four installments of the Profiles in Resilience poster series and other conference content.
  • Access all the COVID-19 Conference content free on July 10 by signing up at Of note, Bill Gates will be the keynote speaker.
  • Register for full access to AIDS 2020, including the scientific sessions, at org, or peruse the Global Village for free by signing up at the same site.

Our mission at W2O is to make the world a healthier place, and nowhere is this more evident than in our work in partnership with the IAS and AIDS 2020. 

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Physicians treating patients from marginalized communities must practice cultural humility. Dr. Monica Gandhi, SF Co-Chair for the AIDS 2020 Conference, discusses this on our latest episode of What2Know. She also shares lessons from the HIV pandemic that apply to the COVID-19 pandemic, and she discusses this year’s AIDS 2020 Conference. Take a listen below.

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Health equity is at the forefront of the COVID-19 conversation. Cynthia Carey-Grant, Oakland Co-Chair for the AIDS 2020 Conference joins the show to discuss health disparities within marginalized communities. She also shares the parallels between HIV and the coronavirus and highlights what she’s looking forward to during this year’s virtual conference.

To be transparent, as we discussed health inequities in marginalized communities, I noticed my privilege as a straight, white man in some of my questions and responses. I appreciate Cynthia for being so direct and candid in her responses. Her willingness to engage and share the truth made me listen, reflect, and learn. I hope the same happens for you, and I’m grateful for her patience.

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Jennifer Gottlieb, W2O Global President, and newly-appointed Board Member of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) chats with Lynn O’Connor Vos, President & CEO of the MDA. The two discuss how the MDA has pivoted amid COVID-19 and how the MDA is transforming the lives of people with neuromuscular diseases. Take a listen below.

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Racism impacts every facet of our society, from education to job opportunities to housing and everything in between. The injustices experienced by people of color are undeniable and inexcusable, and we all know the healthcare industry is not immune.

Whether it’s withholding pain medication for those who need it because of racial bias, the lack of diversity among physicians, or how structural racism has created health inequity, which impacts current treatment amid a pandemic — we, as the healthcare community, must do better.

Below are past episodes of What2Know that feature guests who champion racial equity in healthcare, in workplaces, and in education. I encourage you to listen, learn, and act.

Championing Cultural Competency in Healthcare: Eloiza Domingo, Exec. Dir. & Global Head of Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion, Astellas Pharma US

Making Space for Diversity & Inclusion: Dr. Michael Lomax, President & CEO, United Negro College Fund

Advocating for Health Equity: Stephen Lockhart, M.D. PhD, Chief Medical Officer of Sutter Health

Elevating Diversity to Strengthen Business: Kim L. Hunter, Founder & CEO of The LAGRANT Foundation

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This year, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ASCO launched its first 100% virtual meeting platform. Given that ASCO is the largest annual oncology meeting in the world, the organization decided it was imperative to prioritize the dissemination of critical updates on scientific advances in cancer treatments, allowing its members online access to presentations they would normally travel to Chicago to see.

It was easy to anticipate how oral sessions and poster presentations would take place in a virtual format. However, it was difficult to know what sort of sponsorship platforms or collaborative environments would be made available in lieu of an exhibit hall, where one-on-one engagement has traditionally been a core part of an attendee’s experience.

ASCO ultimately rolled out the parameters for virtual exhibits: a landing page with a list of corporate logos, with each sponsor provided a preformatted page that included space for a hero image, descriptive text, embedded videos and externally driving links.

Virtual Exhibits and sample Platinum Exhibit Page provided by ASCO

ASCO’s approach to virtual exhibits gave companies only limited opportunities to build new relationships and networks. This meant companies would have to go well beyond the ASCO tool to create their own immersive online hubs.

Industry was up to the task, experimenting with a number of approaches. The web experiences developed by exhibitors fell into three main categories:

  • Congress portals
  • Interactive exhibit booth renderings
  • Links to existing sites or PDF resources

A few exhibitors, including Eisai Oncology and Pfizer Oncology, combined approaches.

So, what worked and what didn’t? Time (and analytics) will tell what kind of traction these promotional efforts garnered. In the meantime, it’s worth examining how well the exhibitors pivoted from a live experiential UX approach to a web UX approach.

Well-designed congress portals were among the best examples of successful adaptation.

Novartis ASCO congress portal, desktop and mobile

Novartis, BeiGene and Eisai, for example, drove visitors to an online environment that made clear statements about their commitments and key messages, while prioritizing user experience for both desktop and mobile.

As a large percentage of virtual congress material will be accessed by mobile devices,  responsiveness, legibility and mobile-user-friendliness are critical for a successful solution.  ­

BeiGene congress portal included links to abstracts and poster presentations

Several companies, including Advanced Accelerator Applications, opted to create a virtual booth – i.e., a rendering of an exhibit booth, either static or navigable, with hotspots around key content areas.

Advanced Accelerator Applications virtual booth, desktop and mobile

Most virtual booths had separate promotional and medical experiences, with hotspots driving to either videos, light-box pop-up info, or downloadable PDFs. In a few instances, exhibitors leveraged existing interactive experiences from their booth, such as quizzes.

While virtual booths initially sound like the most logical approach (after all, this is a virtual meeting with virtual exhibits), they pose difficult UX challenges (e.g., load time, message legibility and mobile adaptation).

The third approach taken by exhibitors was to simply use the page provided by ASCO to post links to existing websites and downloadable PDFs.

Merck and AstraZeneca opted to use the ASCO-provided page to drive traffic to existing sites or resources rather than develop bespoke corporate congress portals

This more conservative approach is understandable, given that we don’t yet know how effective ASCO’s platform is in driving visitors to company pages. Any user would require a minimum of three clicks to land on an exhibitor-developed online environment – not exactly the best scenario for minimizing bounce rate.

It is likely that virtual congresses are going to be around for a while, if not indefinitely. ASCO was a great opportunity to experiment and better understand what it really means to “go virtual.” Companies that invested resources upfront will likely need to do less scrambling later for the numerous future virtual congresses to come.

One of the main lessons learned from ASCO 2020 is that virtual exhibiting bears little resemblance to traditional physical exhibiting. The rules of engagement are different. What drives someone to enter a booth from the aisle is different than what motivates a user to click through and engage with a website. The core principles of web interaction are simply different than those of physical experiential design.

We expect that, moving forward, congress organizers will apply learnings from these early days to improve the engagement platforms for their exhibitors and sponsors, while exhibitors will be looking to push the envelope on new platforms of virtual engagement that fulfill their needs for customer engagement, awareness and education.

Read more of our ASCO 2020 content.

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

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

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

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

Planning for the Future Now

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

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

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

Virtual—What Does it Mean?

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

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

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

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

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

Read more of our ASCO 2020 content.

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This year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) Annual Meeting was already destined to be different because of COVID-19, but nationwide protests after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African American man, at the hands of police in Minneapolis added another dimension to the conversation.

Attendees at the ASCO virtual conference shared thoughts and personal stories about racial injustice. However, discussing cancer on social media at this moment in time was questioned by some.

Huge contrast in twitter feeds this morning. The oncology cheerleading doesn’t feel right,” Dr. Deanna Attai wrote on May 30. Dr. Cary Gross asked whether ASCO would be issuing a statement “calling out racism, committing to equity?

Conversations during the three-day meeting did indeed include health equity. Other major themes included the intersection between cancer and COVID-19; several promising therapies; and the need to work together to fight cancer – for all people.

Health Equity

Incoming ASCO President Lori J. Pierce, M.D., announced in a May 25 interview that her theme for the year would be “Equity. Every patient. Every day. Everywhere.” She said she chose to highlight the issue “because health care equity is at the forefront of everything we do at ASCO.”

More than 200 ASCO sessions or posters delved into the issues of racial inequity and access to care, according to analytics we gathered from a search on “disparities” and “diversity” in the meeting content. One such session pointed to significant disparities in the treatment of early-stage anal cancer, a highly treatable cancer; a large study showed African Americans did not get treated as soon and had worse overall survival rates than white people. Another session focused on the relative lack of palliative care provided to people of color.


The novel coronavirus pandemic spurred a flurry of new research and discussion. COVID-19 patients with cancer are at an increased risk of dying within a month, according to one study. HCPs were intrigued by the impact of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin on mortality among cancer patients with COVID-19. And because chemotherapy within three months prior to a COVID-19 diagnosis is associated with higher mortality among thoracic cancer patients, another study showed, HCPs noted they are going to be careful initiating chemotherapy treatments of COVID-19 in cancer patient during the pandemic.

Promising Therapies

Lung cancer research sparked the most conversation, driven by several clinical data virtual presentations focused on specific subpopulations, including patients with KRAS and HER2. A late-breaking abstract featuring AstraZeneca’s ADAURA trial evaluating Tagrisso in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) drew attention given the overwhelmingly positive results.

In other cancers, notable research included early data on a number of potentially promising therapies, including:

 Working Together

We were encouraged to see the oncology community come together for the greater good.

The most-shared link on social media throughout the meeting was for Conquer Cancer – the ASCO Foundation, which provides support for cancer care teams and patients during and after the pandemic.

As the conference concluded Sunday amid continued cries for racial justice, the oncology community was left with this challenge: To hold ourselves accountable to advance the ideal of health equality and participate in these vital discussions. We need greater diversity in the ranks of health care providers and researchers – both in oncology and other areas of medicine – and we need to work toward health care access for every American.

Read more of our ASCO 2020 content.

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With the impact of COVID-19, virtual congresses have exploded. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Although a virtual meeting has a more limited schedule over fewer days than an in-person meeting, it will still offer a wealth of important information and insights from speakers.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) announced in April that it would be holding its annual meeting virtually from May 29 to 31. For some of us, it will be the first time in many, many years that we skip the annual pilgrimage to Chicago. And while virtual congresses are an adjustment, we believe that a little planning and knowledge will help registered attendees obtain the most out of their experience.

What’s the plan, Stan?

Planning Ahead: Despite the more limited schedule, it is still important that attendees set aside time to thoroughly review the complete program ahead of the meeting.

To that end, you can search the ASCO online program by keyword (e.g., “lung oral”) or filter by “Track” or “Type” to narrow your results. Outside of the scientific program, you can set up networking events and attend Virtual Exhibits and Ancillary Educational Events.

Scientific Exchange: Content will be available online in two formats: on-demand and broadcast. On-demand sessions will be available starting Friday at 8:00 a.m. ET, including oral, poster and poster discussion sessions, as well as track-based Clinical Science Symposia.

Scheduled live broadcasts will be held on Saturday and Sunday, with a live chat feature that allows attendees to connect, pose questions and discuss the science. These sessions should be available in the ASCO Meeting Library two hours after the presentations.

As for abstracts, they are already available online and can be downloaded by specific cancer type (e.g., NSCLC, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, etc.). Late-breaking abstracts will be released in the ASCO Meeting Library on Thursday.

The ASCO Daily News will cover practice-changing abstracts and will be available through email alerts, on the ASCO daily news website, and available as a podcast through iTunes or Google Play.

Industry Showcase: Industry partners will be able to showcase their products in a number of ways. Virtual Exhibits will launch on Friday at the same time as the on-demand content goes live and will be available online through the end of August. There, attendees will be able to participate in virtual events presented by industry leaders at the Industry Expert Theater, as well as browse exhibits. Several CME-accredited, industry-sponsored Ancillary Educational Events that require advance registration will also be offered. 

What’s the challenge? 

Interactions and Distractions: As everything is virtual and available online after the meeting, there will be a temptation to schedule the experience around our lives. However, as with all virtual meetings, setting aside protected time to fully immerse in the virtual ASCO experience will help attendees engage deeply.

Networking in the Exhibition Space: While some of us are lamenting the loss of steps from hiking across the convention center, it is still possible to view the creativity of the Virtual Exhibits and set up virtual meetings through the ASCO online portal. Attendees can use the “Virtual Networking” or “Find a Colleague” platform to connect with other attendees, ASCO staff, and industry representatives. Once you have found someone to connect with, you can either chat one-on-one or set up a video meeting.

Scientific Exchange: Because so much of the program will be on-demand with no opportunities for interaction with the presenters, catching up with abstract authors will be challenging. Reaching out through Virtual Networking is one opportunity to chat. It is also possible to set up/join group chats during presentations through a third-party platform to create a “viewing party” and discuss perspectives. Finally, other meetings (e.g., advisory boards, steering committees, etc.) can be set up around the conference, but take note of the blackout times that coincide with the broadcast hours, as well as attendees’ time zones.

We know that oncologists and researchers are increasingly relying on social media, especially Twitter, to discuss science in the absence of live meetings, and we expect that to be the same at #ASCO20.

With attendees scattered around the globe, connections with others are going to look different and exist on different platforms. But we’re fortunate to have the tools to still generate these connections because they are certainly still worth having—especially in an unprecedented moment like this. We are looking forward to ASCO 2020 and everything it has to virtually offer!

Contributions to this article were made by Sarah Frazer, Brian Haas, and Jared Wels of W2O.  

Read more of our ASCO 2020 content.

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Creating cultural competency within healthcare organizations is key for patients, making cultural competency a priority can improve their outcomes.  Eloiza Domingo of Astellas Pharma US discusses the importance of cultural competency within the industry and unpacks how diversity and inclusion improves patient outcomes. Take a listen below.

W2O’s additional COVID-19 coverage

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s unpack each of those.

1. Being a first-mover matters.

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

2. Dormancy drives irrelevance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the meantime, stay safe and healthy.

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

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Recently, PRovoke announced W2O as one of their North American Agencies of the Decade. To be recognized as one of seven agencies is an honor that our leadership and W2O teams do not take for granted.

We’ve come a long way as a firm. Our Founder & CEO, Jim Weiss, started the company in his condo to fill the unmet communications needs of biotech and healthcare clients in the Bay Area. Fast forward to today, with over 1,300 employees across 30 countries, we work with 24 of the top 25 pharma companies around the world. Our growth and success would not be possible without the partnership of our world-class clients; they push us to innovate, create, and creatively problem-solve in immeasurable ways.

“Moving into this next decade, it’s more clear than ever the critical role that healthcare plays across the economy. And indeed, no other agency in this space rivals W2O as the analytics-driven, digital-first leader and pioneer.” – Aarti Shah, Chief Product Officer & Executive Editor of PRovoke

As the world is dealing with a global health crisis, we understand that the work we do within healthcare is as important as it’s ever been. We look forward to continuing to push the envelope, pioneer, and partner with the brightest minds in health to make the world a healthier place through marketing communications.

W2O’s additional COVID-19 coverage

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages

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This week’s guest, Dr. Sir Michael Jacobs, Infectious Diseases Physician & Clinical Director of Infection at the Royal Free Hospital joins the show. Dr. Jacobs was awarded a knighthood for his work on Ebola and continues to do incredible work around infectious diseases.

During our time together (virtually of course), he outlines what is being learned about COVID-19 and how these learnings impact treatment. Take a listen below.

W2O’s additional COVID-19 coverage

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

W2O’s additional COVID-19 coverage

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages

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Dr. Joseph Habboushe, Emergency Medicine Physician at NYU and CEO of MDCalc, shares his experience of combating COVID-19 from the ground in NYC. Take a listen below and thank you Dr. Habboushe for all the important work you’re doing to combat COVID-19.

W2O’s additional COVID-19 coverage

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages

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

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W2O’s newest team member, Bryan Specht is this week’s guest on What2Know! He chats about his new role at W2O, the consumerization, and digitization of healthcare, and shares key lessons learned amid COVID-19. Take a listen below.

W2O’s additional COVID-19 coverage

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages

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

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W2O recently acquired Symplur to strengthen and scale data for smarter healthcare decision making. Our own Adam Cossman, Audun Utengen, and Seth Duncan discuss what this looks like for our clients, how we’ve partnered to combat COVID-19 and the power of social data within the industry. Take a listen below.

W2O’s additional COVID-19 coverage

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Shifted? What’s Emerging?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the meantime, stay safe and healthy.

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

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

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Is the Way Out Around the Corner?

COVID-19 began as a global crisis with country leaders dictating the terms of engagement, but it is now becoming a local leadership priority. Putting all politics aside, here in the United States, governors and mayors have taken center stage establishing protocols and policies for their states, counties, and cities. Governor Cuomo in New York, Governor Newsom in California, Governor Whitmer in Michigan and Governor DeWine in Ohio have all become media staples via daily briefings where they are seen confidently orchestrating the operations of their respective states during this tumultuous time.

They are dictating the situation and gaining trust among their constituents in the process. This is a natural evolution for several reasons:

  1. Think Global: Act Local: This oft-used phrase (and a W2O value) has never been more meaningful than today. Local economies must survive for the global economy to return. Businesses and institutions – small, medium and large – are critical to the country’s macro-financial stability.
  2. Customized solutions must be based on facts and data in a particular area:  Decisions should be made by taking into account local variables, including density of population, medical capabilities and capacities, and physical environment. While COVID-19 is a global pandemic, local response needs to be calibrated based on conditions close to home. Interstate collaboration is already underway in the western and eastern parts of the country, where states with similar conditions are collaborating to ensure the greatest impact.
  3. In disaster scenarios like this, local leaders tend to be trusted more: COVID-19 has literally shut down the world amid fears of the spread of a virus we are still learning about. In such a case, once global leaders have issued specific edicts, local leaders take the reins and provide a beacon of hope and a way out based on their situation and what is right for their residents.

The Same “Why?”   

Federal, state and local governments all have the same rationale in leading the response during this crisis. There is nothing more important than your health: physical, mental and financial.

Ensuring the population is both healthy and prosperous is at the forefront of purposeful leadership at all levels of government. However, the ability to ignite the economic engine and healthcare systems in a prudent and efficient manner rests with state and local institutions. It is through this prism that local leadership is viewed as leading more than a process, but a crusade. Communications is neither scripted nor memorized. Messages have to be real, genuine and rooted in good data, while at the same time coming straight from the heart. Facts are mixed with emotion and vice versa. Policy and communications become intertwined. People are brought into the story. And while every decision is not always applauded, each one is respected.

As the search for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments continues with biopharmaceutical organizations working tirelessly along with the entire healthcare system and first responders on round-the-clock shifts, the megaphone has begun to shift in terms of who is quelling the fears and addressing the needs of an entire world, nation, country, region, states, and city. This is now firmly in the hands of local leaders.

While the corporate platitudes of “we are all in this together” often ring hollow, we are all responsible for inspiring hope, improving infrastructure, maintaining activity, and protecting health. We the people have answered this call and begun to flatten the curve, and now we have to apply that same fortitude to get us all back to a more normal life and productivity. This requires key safety precautions we have come to adopt – wearing a mask in public, washing our hands frequently and not touching our faces, along with regular diagnostic testing and contact surveillance.

As marketers and communicators, it is important to note the shifts and changes taking place around us almost daily. We have to continue to #StayFluid and #ThinkGlobally and #ActLocal on behalf of our clients and ourselves.

The key is to stay optimistic while remaining realistic and always following the facts and data as that is what will truly allow us to get our accustomed freedom of movement back.

Be safe. Stay healthy.


W2O’s additional COVID-19 coverage

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages.

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