This week I had the opportunity to chat with Hemant Taneja, Founder of Commure, Managing Director of General Cataylst & Author. During our chat, we discussed Hemant’s role in launching Livongo (h/t to What2Know alum, Glen Tullman), he explained the importance of health assurance, shared why tech shouldn’t disrupt health, plus reminisced over Bob Marley.

Take a listen below.

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There is nothing more important in our profession than paving the way for the next generation of practitioners. Passing on the lessons, learnings, accomplishments, failures and perspectives so they can be translated to what’s next. Providing students with internships and graduates with entry-level positions maintains the circle of careers and ensures organizations of all sizes benefit from fresh thinking and attitudes.

Doing so becomes even more crucial in a virtual environment where campuses are attempting to navigate a different format. In this regard, W2O continues to persevere in its commitment to students and professors. Approximately 10 years ago, we established the W2O Center for Social Commerce at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School as a beacon for young people to immerse themselves in the digital world we live in to help them understand the tools, techniques, models, insights and behaviors influencing business and relationships.

Over the years, we have engaged over 1,500 students in numerous programs (speakers, workshops, panels, symposia, research, and conferences such as SXSW) to better improve their capabilities and confidence. It’s been quite a journey and this summer we celebrated an important milestone. Maria Russell, noted Newhouse communications academic and co-director of the Center since its inception, retired. Maria was an integral part of establishing the program with my team led by Gary Grates as the model of a premier industry-academic partnership. Moving forward Beth Egan, advertising professor in Newhouse, who has adopted analytics including a specific course in her curriculum, will co-direct the Center for Social Commerce with Gary and my team. Beth’s appointment expands the Center beyond Communications into other disciplines within Newhouse allowing us to expand education programming and recruitment efforts seamlessly.

W2O has also established the Emerging Insights Lab, with Regina Luttrell, Assistant Professor of Communications and Social Media at Newhouse, to experiment and explore the latest technology, approaches, and teaching in digital related to marketing and communications. This focus is aligned with the firm’s data, analytics, and insights strategic core and we are looking forward to this initiative adding to what should become a very enlightened and innovative experience for students and faculty across the whole university.

Our involvement and investment in Syracuse is matched with our growing partnerships with Wisconsin, Elon, USC Annenberg, Howard, and Alabama. Together, we are operating to leverage assets, ideas, and programming that influences and informs curricula to adapt to a new reality.  Here is a snapshot of the initiatives being conducted to immerse SU students and professors in a virtual environment:

  • Advanced analytics virtual workshop in October;
  • A seminal research initiative with the W2O Emerging Insights Labs called “Health Fluency”;
  • A new networking program called “Casual Convos”: virtual discussions with underclassmen about the business of communications;
  • A virtual session on Relevance for professors to understand the model and approach and to apply it in class;
  • W2O staff guest speaking virtually throughout the semester to supplement professor lesson planning across the entire spectrum of communications sharing case studies and anecdotes;
  • On October 14, we’re hosting Jon Iwata, former Senior Vice President, Global Communications and Chief Brand Officer at IBM, who will conduct a virtual keynote presentation and Q&A on the new realities and opportunities facing business, society, and communications;
  • The Center’s Ambassadors, who will be interning with us throughout the year, are involved in a research study on the impact of COVID on the SU Community.

Being there for the next generation allows for both outreach and impact to expand. Providing students the confidence and skills to succeed in their career endeavors and to provide a pipeline for talent entering the field remains our focus and mission!

Stay safe and healthy!


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It’s been a week of companies securing more ties with the world of Big Data – from Oracle and Walmart’s discussions with Quibi and TikTok, to Fortnite teaming up with the music industry with another video launch (this time with BTS ), to retail tech classic HotSchedules coming in the top ten downloaded apps, morphing into a social platform among a unique target audience swapping tips and news. These headlines continue to illustrate the need for ongoing discussions on regulating and monitoring data use to protect both consumers and advertisers – especially as we head into busy and uncharted months ahead. And if you haven’t registered to vote yet, you can do so here.

Exposed to COVID-19? Your iPhone Will Know

A new iPhone setting offers COVID-19 contact tracing via 14-day data collected through Bluetooth. The setting records when two or more phones are within a certain proximity of one another. If one of those individuals reports a positive COVID-19 test, all of those who came near that person will receive notifications. This feature can be turned on or off at any time by switching the toggle “on” under “Exposure Notifications” in settings, and it is completely anonymous. Apple and Google have stated that there has already been success in identifying positive cases. This simple setting may help boost contract tracing and stop the spread of the virus.



If Healthcare is Going Digital, Why Not Our Homes?

Architects are partnering with health tech companies, including Delos, SilverEco and CaseOS, to incorporate wellness technology into smart homes. Sensors and features are being incorporated into toilets, floorboards, mirrors, water filters and more, with the goal of collecting and monitoring data that is uploaded to cloud-based systems. From there, data is made available to doctors and other medical technicians if an issue is detected. For example, if a homeowner has epilepsy, floorboards could be embedded with sensors to detect a severe seizure. What will they think of next?!


Free-to-Play and Here to Stay

Gaming and streaming are on the rise and do not seem to be slowing down – they have already become a $150 billion industry and are arguably among the fastest growing components of digital. Juniper Research recently reported that the video gaming industry will exceed $200 billion in 2023, and major media outlets including the Washington Post, Bloomberg and Wired have even begun investing in gaming journalism. The popularity of gaming is largely driven by F2P (free-to-play) games, like Fortnite and Call of Duty Mobile. ScreenRant notes that Fortnite has now been played longer than human ancestry has been on Earth. According to TeleAnalysis, 99% of mobile game downloads in the next three years will be F2P. Recognizing this, HypeFactory and other companies are quickly jumping on the influence of popular streamers to help launch new games. HypeFactory’s recent campaign partnered with 40 influencers to amass 6.3 million impressions. With the pandemic accelerating the global video game market, it is vital that we keep our eye on the game and maybe even our hands on the controllers.


Messaging Platforms and Chatbots Unite

Messaging platforms, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, continue to advance in capabilities, further shaping how we communicate. eMarketer found that, in 2020, people are communicating more via messaging apps than traditional social media platforms, indicating a shift in consumer behavior. With most people still at home, it makes sense that messaging platform use is growing at a rapid rate, and as a result, healthcare-specific chatbots are emerging. Furthermore, the global healthcare chatbot market is expected to rise to $542.3 million by 2026. With its large reach of 2 billion and chatbot capabilities, WhatsApp poses an optimal opportunity for advertisers as the shift from social to messaging platforms continues. If we are already activating ads on Facebook, why not catch everyone’s attention 24/7 and activate them on Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp and other messaging platforms.


YouTube’s Leap Forward in Contextual Targeting

YouTube continues to make inroads into the TV advertising market by increasing the ways marketers can manage their CTV campaigns, offering increased access to additional inventory and introducing new advanced targeting capabilities. While contextual targeting has been around since the first wave of digital advertising, YouTube is taking it to another level with its new advanced contextual targeting (ACT) capabilities, which allow advertisers to dig deeper into the content that audiences are watching. Instead of broadly targeting topics like sports, travel or wellness, ACT understands sub-interests within a category (e.g., Super Bowl highlights or OTC treatments vs. Rx treatments). This targeting update comes amid growing concerns about audience targeting and data privacy but adds new opportunities to more effectively reach viewers along complex patient journeys as they seek related content.

Sources: Ad Exchanger, Marketing Dive, AdWeek

Making a Brief but Lasting Impact on Gen Z

Gen Z is no stranger to online advertising. As members of the first truly digital native age group, they have spent their lives engaging with brands online. And it shows. Snapchat, in partnership with Kantar, recently released a study demonstrating Gen Z’s ability to recall ads faster than their elders. 55% of Gen Z’ers who watched a skippable ad for less than 2 seconds remembered it correctly compared with only 46% of Millennials and 26% of Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers. This younger generation is quickly becoming an influential power in the spending space, presenting a great opportunity for brands to tap into online.


Facebook Returns to its Roots: Introducing Campus

Students around the country continue to settle into a socially-distant on-campus college experience, and social media platforms are stepping in to help form lasting connections. Though young adults have recently flocked to newer platforms – TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram – Facebook is now making a play to get back in favor with the demographic it originally intended to reach through its new offering, Facebook Campus. Campus will operate as a separate, enclosed network for users at an individual college or university, and require a .edu address to use, reminiscent of Facebook’s early days. While Facebook was a pioneering platform for college kids when it started, its popularity has waned with younger generations. This new offering could be a way to re-engage with this influential group. If it succeeds, Campus could help provide new insights into the behavior of this demographic during an unprecedented time, before these students go make their mark on the world.



Voting gone viral? How TikTok Creators Plan to Influence The 2020 Election.

The Italian Mafia is on TikTok. And it’s an insight into the changing world of organized crime.

General Mills taps into audio marketing toward children. Have kids, or just feel like a big kid yourself? Join Lucky’s Magical Mission on Your Smart Speaker.

The future of everything – health data after Covid-19: More Laws, Less Privacy.

W2O’s The Scoop is brought to you by an editorial collective, featuring industry updates and insights from subject matter experts across social media, digital and influencer activation teams.

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Today, W2O is launching Recommended Value, a hub for news and commentary about the way health care value, price, access and reimbursement is evolving. It extends the work we’ve been doing with our industry-leading newsletters for more than five years, allowing W2O to expand our analysis and curation and bring more visibility to these critical issues.

We’ll include W2O analytics, perspective from our Redeeming Value podcast, critical context on the topics of the day, as well as access to our curated roundups of breaking news.

There may be not topic more important than the question of how patients and society will pay for tomorrow’s medical breakthroughs, yet the conversation around this topic is often opaque, making it difficult for stakeholders to make the right decisions.

This was driven home two weeks ago, when two striking pieces of news broke on the same day.

First, research was published that showed that medicines were responsible for 35% of the increase in life expectancy in the quarter-century since 1990. That’s about three times more than all other medical interventions combined, despite the reality that medicines make up only about 16% of health care spending. (Listen to our podcast with one of the study’s authors.)

At the same time, Gallup published its annual survey on corporate reputation, finding that the reputation of the pharmaceutical industry remains underwater: only 34% of Americans think positively of pharma, and while that’s up from the lowest-ever figure of 27%, recorded a year ago, it’s still abysmal.

The two findings, juxtaposed, raise an existential question for the pharmaceutical industry: in the face of so much evidence that medicines are making a difference in the lives of Americans, why does the public think so little of the industry?

It’s not because of a lack of ingenuity. Not only can the impact of medicines be seen in life expectancy, the pace of new drug approvals has never been faster. The innovation brought to bear has never been more striking, and industry’s response to the pandemic has been extraordinary.

Instead, the reputational anchor is drug pricing. Railing against out-of-control drug prices may be the only bipartisan activity left in the country; both President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have suggested radical reforms to smash the existing pharma business model to create lower prices.

The irony, of course, is that the practical impact of drug prices should be waning. The nation’s largest purchaser of medicines, the pharmacy benefit managers that cut deals on behalf of insurance companies, say that drug prices are basically flat and certainly well below inflation. Four of the six companies that price data say that the price they receive for their medicines fell last year. All have seen list price increases drop steadily for five years.

But that’s not a story that’s often told. Indeed, these are not always easy stories to keep track of, let alone tell in a compelling, accurate way that can inform an educated discussion about the future of health policy. That’s the challenge we’ve set for ourselves with Recommended Value: illuminate this most important conversation in a way that drives to a better future, not a more confusing one. We’re up for that challenge.

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Daniella Koren, CEO and founder of Arches Technology, joins the show to share her experience as a past winner of the Astellas Oncology’s C3 Prize, her expertise as an entrepreneur and how others can apply for the C3 Prize before the application window closes on September 28, 2020.

Daniella also discusses how Arches Technology developed MyCareCompass, a digital patient education and engagement program, to help people impacted by cancer navigate everyday care by providing relevant information and evidence-based education in an easy-to-understand format, one step at a time. Take a listen below.

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Redesigning conventional drug development to function efficiently during COVID-19 and other pandemics is essential. This week I had the opportunity to chat with two gentlemen who are invested in doing this critically important work.  Professor Gareth Griffiths and Professor Saye Khoo explain how their platform, AGILE, is recreating conventional drug development. Take a listen below.

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The past several months have been some of the most trying we have ever experienced in our country. The convergence of a global pandemic, economic recession, and civil unrest spurred by racial injustice alongside a presidential election keeps the news cycle flooded with breaking events every hour (at least). Many of these events are difficult to reckon with, and I – like so many Americans – have worried about our future. But, more often than not, I find myself driven and encouraged. Seeing the global scientific community coming together to develop and commercialize vaccines and therapies for COVID-19. Seeing millions of Americans across the country peacefully protest to fight for racial justice. I am driven when I sit down with my teenage children and hear about the issues that are important to them and talk about what we as a family are doing to make a difference.

Having said that, the first Tuesday in November is one of the most important days we can all make a difference: Election Day. This year will be like no other Election Day in history. Election Day will be different for W2O’s U.S. employees because we are giving everyone the day off to ensure they can do their civic duty and cast their ballots. We’ve committed to this publicly by joining Time to Vote, a nonpartisan movement, led by the business community, to contribute to the culture shift needed to increase voter participation in U.S. elections.

I’m grateful that our business and our clients allow us this type of flexibility, and this is a decision we made with intention. Encouraging civic engagement among our employees and doing our part to drive voter turnout is a natural extension of our values and our work to make the world a healthier place – something we call Health Citizenship.

Here’s why:

  1. Health is directly connected to government and public policy – at all levels. What happens at the polls in the United States impacts the health of all U.S. residents – and in many ways, the health of people around the world. To advance health outcomes for everyone, we need an informed and engaged electorate who consider health policies when they cast their votes.
  1. The health of our employees is of utmost importance. W2O has offices across the United States and remote employees in many other U.S. locations. We employ the best and the brightest, and what happens in their communities plays a role in how they deliver for our clients every day.
  2. Voting is one of the most important rights you have to make your voice heard. As a company, to create solutions for our clients, we listen carefully to what audiences need and want. As a country, we see and hear what our citizens need and want through their actions and voices, and even more clearly when everyone votes.

We built our business at W2O on an entrepreneurial spirit. If you want to do something, then do it. I can think of no other place that philosophy is more applicable than at the ballot box.

Make sure you’re registered to vote. Make your plan today for how you’ll cast your ballot safely. And do whatever you can to ensure everyone around you does the same.

It’s about making your voice heard. Your passion known. And your future a reality!

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Last month, we spoke with Dr. Robert Fullilove, Associate Dean for Community and Minority Affairs, Professor of Clinical Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University and the co-director of the Cities Research Group, where he’s researched the health of people from ethnic minority backgrounds, with a focus on infectious diseases and HIV. An expert on racial inequity in health care, Dr. Fullilove comes from a family of physicians and was an integral part of the Civil Rights movement from 1964 to 1968 alongside Martin Luther King Jr., and his work has even earned him a place in the Smithsonian. 

Dr. Fullilove’s passion for art, science, and international affairs brought us a unique perspective on health inequalities in the time of COVID-19. Dr. Fullilove shared his thoughts on racial disparities in the United States and abroad, comparing COVID-19 with HIV and explaining how pharmaceutical companies have a role in bridging gaps in care.

Read below for some key insights, which have been edited for clarity.

On Access

“The biggest issue that I see is the fact that now, we are at the point where we can manage COVID-19 quite well once it’s diagnosed. However, there are significant delays in diagnoses and results in testing centers that minorities have access to, which is really the difference between life and death. Not to mention the lack of hospitals in minority communities in the first place creates even more issues.”

“What’s more, a lot of what is occurring in minority communities with COVID-19 is because of the fear of high costs deterring folks from seeking out the care that they need.”

“Most importantly though, is the fact that it also comes down to political will or lack thereof. We have all the data and know about all the problems affecting these communities and how to solve it and it’s still not working out so well for us. The impact of COVID-19 on minority communities in America is a functioning tragedy.”

On Potential Solutions

“There has been so much ongoing dialogue and literature that describe in incredible detail obvious, easy solutions that can be implemented in less than seven shakes. However, in health and the health sciences, we presume that everyone is rational and logical, meaning that if we provide enough information, most people will make rational health-based decisions.”

“But that’s not the case: we have the information, we’ve already explained time and time again on how to wear masks, where to get tested, etc., but the science has failed. And that’s not a new thing; in the U.S. 96% of adults understand what HIV is, how to contract it, and how to prevent it, however, we still face around 40,000 new cases every year. Why is that? Because it’s not about logic; it’s about emotion. There needs to be an effort to share a message, to sell an emotion or behavior. This is where science and communications comes together.”

On the Difference Between HIV and COVID-19

“When HIV first hit communities of color, it no longer became a pandemic of national urgency. With COVID-19, it’s everyone’s problem. The disease does not care about race or class; we’ve seen world leaders and local government organizers get sick, making it clear that this is something that can’t be ignored by certain groups.”

On How Pharma Can Make a Difference

“Speak to the gatekeepers of the communities you’re trying to reach. Find out what would be useful and ensure that the representation on your end matches with the community you are trying to help. Additionally, work with charity hospitals in the respective communities who have an obligation to provide community health needs assessments under the Affordable Care Act. Work closely with these hospitals and a board of community advisors to create and vet a plan of action because that will truly make a sustainable and significant impact.”

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It’s always a unique pleasure when I get to chat with one of my colleagues for What2Know. W2O’s Global Privacy Officer, Dan Linton, joins the show to discuss how our recent survey serves as a data privacy playbook for healthcare companies, how our findings were impacted by COVID-19, and what this research means for the healthcare industry as a whole. Take a listen below.

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As COVID-19 continues to expose inequalities in healthcare, the medical community is looking at all facets of research and clinical trials to address issues of diversity, understanding, and representation. W2O sponsored a panel with MM&M, “From Barriers and Bias to Better: What it Will Take to Create More Diverse and Inclusive Clinical Trials” to tackle these topics, with speakers Megan Claire Chase, Dr. John Stewart, and myself.

This conversation felt particularly timely and poignant, as our nation is in the midst of grappling with systemic racism and how it’s permeated every facet of our society. As many of us unfortunately know, healthcare is not immune to racism and bias.

During our panel, we discussed the “how” behind bridging the representation gap in clinical trials, from this, three key themes emerged:

1. Patients need to be seen, heard, and believed in order to build trust

In order to address issues of representation and inequality in clinical research, patients (particularly underrepresented patients) need to feel seen, heard, believed, and understood. According to Megan Claire, 5 things are needed to start the conversation and ignite action: (1) see us, (2) listen to us, (3) be present, (4) believe us, and (5) include us.

“If we don’t have those steps happening, it’s going to be really difficult to reach the Black community and POC to even consider clinical trials as an option,” Megan Claire said.

2. Doctors and the medical community need to meet patients where they are at

During our discussion, I pointed out, “We need to figure out where the individual patients sits and we need to meet them where they are.”

The medical community needs to have honest and digestible conversations with patients in order to meet them where they are at and build a trusting relationship. By using understandable terminology, taking the time to thoroughly explain conditions and information, and being present in conversations, medical professionals and clinical research teams can meet patients where they are at and build relationships from there.

3. Medical community and clinical research teams must understand the unique healthcare needs of different communities

Not only is it important for clinical research teams to understand the medical needs of a community, but they also must understand how those connect with other community healthcare needs (i.e. the social determinants of health).

“We need to have a clinical research workforce that is diverse [because] the data show that patients trust people who have similar experiences to them,” noted Dr. John Stewart.

Each community and each individual patient is unique, and in order to repair the disparities in clinical trials, the clinical research community must begin with transparent conversations to build trust with patients and meet their diverse needs.

We, as healthcare professionals, have a long way to go to achieve health equity, whether it is equal representation in clinical trials or access to care for all. As a community of dedicated problem-solvers, I challenge us all to leave the world a healthier place than we found it…for all.

Missed the presentation? Register to view the free recording.

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One of my favorite people is a guest on this week’s episode of What2Know, Mary Stutts, SVP of Corporate Relations, Sumitovant BioPharma & Founder of The Center for Excellence in Life.

Learn how we can achieve health equity, why Mary founded The Center for Excellence in Life, and understand the importance of using your voice. Take a listen below.

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This week’s What2Know interview was particularly enjoyable because I got to interview two colleagues, Frank Mazzola and Tom Richards, Co-Global Chief Creative Officers of 21GRAMS.

During our chat, we discuss Tom’s recent appointment to the 21GRAMS’ team, the importance of bringing thoughtful creativity into healthcare, and the people they admire most. Take a listen below.

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As Americans continue to confront the realities of racial injustice during an unprecedented global public health crisis, communicators are being called on to bring relevant information to the public. As part of this action, W2O participated in a panel at PRWeek’s Convene event, discussing lessons for the communications industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the confrontation of racial injustices in the United States, which undoubtedly go hand in hand.

“Successful crisis communications must take on a level of cultural competence unlike ever before,” said Parris Bowe, Managing Director at EGAMI Group.

During our discussion, we considered communications as the new health imperative. From this, three critical themes emerged:

1. Data can be our most powerful tool in our quest for equity

As health inequities across the world continue to be exposed amid the current pandemic, communicators must ask hard questions, challenge the ways we’ve always communicated, and engage with both purpose and empathy. We have never had access to more information, more sophisticated data, and more tools to help us understand where gaps persist and how we can bridge them. Our industry can use these insights – from social analytics to real-world evidence to public health data – as a force for a new level of visibility and change.

2. Collaboration is the new “innovation”

“One of the silver linings of what’s happening right now is that the lines between competitor and partner are being blurred. Individuals and companies are coming together to see how we can get solutions to people faster,” said Amy Atwood, Head of Communications at Takeda’s Vaccine Business Unit. During this unprecedented time, collaboration is essential for the common good. As communicators, we must look for ways to partner in both conventional and unconventional ways. When we do this and communicate effectively, real innovation is born, enabling us to be a catalyst for change and drive real impact.

3. Relevance (vs. reputation) powers change

I noted, “Our counsel needs to be as dynamic as the environment we are living in.” In today’s world, relevance – the intersection of what the outside world cares about and what companies want to put out into the world – is the price of entry. Relevance is not easy and doesn’t just happen organically. Being relevant starts inside companies and is reflected in their external communications and partnerships with other businesses, which now more than ever need to mix empathy with real action and accountability that is quantifiable. Organizations must work together to figure out how they can adapt, listen and be actively engaged stakeholders offering novel and measurable solutions.

The public is looking to organizations to show how they are striving to make a difference for those affected by both the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice in the United States. Communicators have a role to play, and organizations must step up because communications is a health imperative.

See the full take on the panel discussion here. Registration is free but required with a valid email address.

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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

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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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