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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!

Jim

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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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The coronavirus has defined 2020. The pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives, from how we work to how we learn —the effects of COVID on our communities cannot be overstated. And while we all share setbacks, loss, and grief during this collective experience, it is clear that communities of color face additional obstacles because of systemic racism. We understand that words and thoughts will not dismantle this issue — it will take continued, sustained action to create equity.

We are committed to listening, learning, and, most importantly, taking action to create necessary change. One of these actions is partnering up with The Center for Excellence in Life (TCEL), founded by Mary Stutts, an accomplished corporate executive, author, and entrepreneur. TCEL’s mission is to break down roadblocks for underrepresented youth and young professionals. Through life skills development, mentoring, career counseling, and social and business etiquette training, TCEL is committed to making measurable changes.

This summer, many companies were forced to eliminate their in-person internship programs due to COVID-19, leaving students, specifically in underrepresented areas, without the tools needed to further their education and professional experience. TCEL did what they do best, saw a need, and created a solution — Mary and her daughter Loren designed an unprecedented program that allows students to connect with working professionals and gain real-world experience via video mentoring sessions.

So, when Mary and the TCEL team reached out to us to be a sponsor of this, we wanted to support and help provide resources, this is exactly the type of action required of us to help bring racial equity into education and the workplace. As W2O Founder & CEO, Jim Weiss said earlier this summer, “We will continue to work together to improve our profession across agencies and companies, with the broader goal of addressing systemic racism. That is one way we can change ourselves to change society.”

We’re proud to sponsor a program that addresses inequities to help dismantle racism in the workplace and that has helped over 80 students this summer gain the knowledge and resources they need to succeed in life.


If you’re interested in learning more about TCEL? Read their latest feature in Essence.

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Today is Women’s Equality Day, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. In guaranteeing women the right to vote, the Amendment engendered the single largest expansion of democracy since our nation’s founding, notwithstanding the enormous barriers that women of color have faced for decades. It’s particularly important to note its significance as we approach this very important election, the outcome of which will reverberate for generations. W2O is so committed to getting out the vote in November that we’ve made Election Day a company holiday.

Although the term probably didn’t exist 100 years ago, I like to think of the suffragettes who tenaciously fought for decades to win the vote as pioneering badasses. A badass, as once defined by famous and very likeable badass Katie Couric, is a woman who “stands up for herself, is confident and is not afraid to challenge the hierarchy, the patriarchy or conventional thinking…somebody who believes in something and sticks with it and who strives for excellence and demands the same level of excellence from others.”

I was raised to be highly independent and, through life’s ups and downs, have become incredibly resilient. This, combined with having great role models in my life, from a strong working mother to mentors and bosses who informed my career path, including, for the past 15 years, one very badass man, our CEO and founder, Jim Weiss, has made me who I am today.  Jim and I coach and help the men and women at W2O channel their own unique, hard-driving qualities every day, making W2O an organization that pushes the boundaries to what is possible for ourselves, our clients and the greater healthcare industry.

On top of the challenges we women face at work, we are often the CEO of our families – whether or not we have children. We (generally) spend more hours than our partner taking care of the house, children, pets, aging parents and other relatives, an imbalance that has only intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is even harder for single parents and parents with children with special needs. We must stay awake to this, have empathy and create support programs and systems that allow our women employees to thrive.

Making W2O a Healthier Workplace through Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

At W2O, we work hard to champion diversity, equity and inclusion because workplace inequality is still an obstacle for women, who on average earn 81.6% of what men are paid (and it’s worse for women of color). According to McKinsey, women – particularly women of color – are underrepresented at every level in corporate America, despite widespread corporate pronouncements about gender diversity. Men are more likely than women to be hired or promoted into manager-level jobs, a bias that causes an unabating shortage of women at senior-level positions.

Today, 70% of W2O’s workforce and 61% of our leadership is women – we are proud of our progress, yet we know there is more to be done especially for women of color, and we are committed to addressing that. Equality, as we well know, is not just a women’s issue; it’s a social and economic imperative for everyone. The McKinsey report found that, when employees believe they have an equal and fair opportunity for advancement, they are happier with their careers, plan to stay at their companies longer, and are more likely to recommend them as great places to work.

W2O has much more to do on DE&I, and we’re acting urgently to close the diversity gap and create a culture where all employees feel a sense of belonging and acceptance.

We recently committed to create an entire department dedicated to DE&I and have both hired leaders from the outside and promoted from within. We are also implementing new software to track data on hiring, compensation, promotion, pay equity and employee retention to ensure we are measuring our progress.

These actions build on our existing initiatives, including unconscious bias training and our employee resource groups – W2O Fusion, W2O Out and Women of W2O – that provide professional resources and support to help advance careers. We also support multiple initiatives and groups that are focused on issues of racial justice, including the Black Economic Alliance, The Center for Excellence in Life and The LAGRANT Foundation.

The Torch Has Passed to Us

So, as we honor Women’s Equality Day, we give thanks to those badass suffragettes who endured beatings, sexual harassment and even jail to win our right to vote, and the many women after them who fought for equality. We’re not done yet; there is more work to do!

Now the torch has passed to us to make women’s equality – indeed, equality for all underrepresented groups – happen. We have to relentlessly pursue our goals, be courageous and take chances, see obstacles as opportunities to learn, and rewrite the rules that no longer work. And of course get out and vote!

And for women who do make it to the top, to borrow a phrase from the chanteuse Edith Piaf (yet another badass), remember to send the elevator back down to bring others up.

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Over the last five months amid this pandemic we have all been afforded the chance to realign our thinking, our schedules, our priorities, and in a few instances, our purpose. For me, this time has resulted in a journey of personal and professional change.

My family celebrated our son’s high school graduation with pride and then just recently we saw him off to college and a whole new life of discovery, knowledge and friendships. We experienced how our daughter continues to grow into a confident and caring young woman with hopes and dreams for her future. It’s been a time for my wife Audra and me to enjoy the present while envisioning the future.

During this time, I also made a commitment to get healthy. Walking, exercising, eating better, and adopting a healthier lifestyle has resulted in losing over 40 pounds to date. Not easy I can assure you.

So why am I sharing such personal things?

What does it all really mean? The common thread is: Change, Growth, Development, Discipline, Purpose and Performance.

My personal journey in many ways mirrors my professional travels. I’ve had many experiences and emotions seeing my colleagues adapt and adopt behaviors to not only survive but prosper. Before COVID and the Black Lives Matter movement galvanized us further, W2O was already moving at light speed, growing the business, acquiring new capabilities, bringing people together and delivering results for our valued and trusted customer organizations and brands. As such, it was rather difficult to see past all of that and focus on other more human aspects of the business. Similarly, on a personal level missing the little things, ignoring tenets of health and happiness and taking note of life’s nuances, actually impedes growth and the ability to scale as healthfully as possible.

These last several months have unveiled a new and richer chapter in my personal and professional evolution challenging, energizing and pushing me and everyone in W2O to be there for loved ones, customers and each other. It had made us view our ourselves and our business through a real and sometimes raw lens making us uncomfortable, proud and agitated all at the same time.

2020 will be remembered as the year the world stopped, literally and figuratively, allowing people to:

  • Appreciate their health
  • Respect each other always
  • Listen and hear again
  • Maneuver around physical and virtual barriers to achievement and relationships
  • Reach out and empathize with another’s reality
  • Focus on what matters 
  • Make life meaningful

We’ve been given an advanced education on many levels from a business and personal perspective. To scale properly — that is, become stronger, more resilient, and confident — it’s important to set your foundation right. To assign your time and resources to the most high-valued, high-return aspects of your life and organization. To get your relationships right. To be clear and forthright about your purpose.

Personal health and organizational health means being focused on the most important factors.  What I’m learning every day is that change isn’t easy. Never has been. But perseverance, self-awareness and discipline are key. Having fun. Being attentive. Poking fun at yourself and others. Being curious. Shaking things up. Sweating. Respect. Listening. Being Accountable. Seeing ahead. Creativity. And of course, love.

As such, we will come out of this pandemic stronger, fitter, more confident and better suited to address controversy and unexpected events. My personal journey is a great metaphor for W2O to transform itself for what’s next. For the future.

Jim

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This week I chatted with my new colleague, Guy D’Andrea, Founder & Managing Partner of Discern Health (a W2O company). Guy outlines the fundamentals of value-based healthcare, he discusses Discern and W2O’s recent partnership and we bond over our mutual love of U2. Take a listen below.


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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Loneliness is more than dinners for one and evenings spent staring at the phone. It’s a powerful all-consuming emotion that has a direct and malignant effect on our health and has been compared to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.1 The loneliest among us are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease as those who experience only moderate loneliness.2

Loneliness is debilitating and depressing, removing individuals from real-life experience. In the UK among the elderly population, more than 1 million older people say they always or often feel lonely.3 And nearly half of all people aged 75 years or older live alone.4 That’s a lot of loneliness affecting the long-term health of a generation, our communities, and the NHS.

At W2O, our mission is to make the world a healthier place. Through data, creativity, and insight, we look to build lasting connections vital to our health. Although loneliness isn’t currently officially recognised as a “health condition” or “disease”, it is as much a threat to health and society as heart disease or cancer.

So, this year, our team has voted loneliness in the elderly as the cause to which we will dedicate our pro bono efforts.

Such a complex issue will never have a single, simple solution – which is why partnerships, affiliations, and collaboration are so important. As a first step, we began exploring the impact of loneliness by analysing UK trends on social media. We saw a striking peak in concern about the emotional welfare of the elderly at the end of March. Then, although lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic continued through April, the online conversation quickly tailed off and focus drifted elsewhere. Over that time, the feelings of loneliness in vulnerable elderly populations undoubtedly escalated, heightened by the anxiety of the pandemic.5

Figure 1 Conversation trend analysis in the UK on the topics of “loneliness”, “social isolation” and “elderly”5

As it was Loneliness Awareness Week recently, we again looked at conversation trends to see if the attention had returned to topic had returned. Sadly, we saw conversations continuing to dip even during this week of devoted focus.

Of course, loneliness isn’t an issue that can be addressed in a week or month or even years.  It can’t be addressed solely through a few tweets or a short-lived visual campaign. There have already been some amazing efforts have been put in place to bring awareness to the issue of loneliness in the elderly – many delivered by dedicated charities.

We believe an enduring solution to the challenge of loneliness will be grounded in healthcare and science, built on data and insights, brought to life with creative campaigns, and delivered through a multi-platform approach. This is our remit and one we take very seriously. Our team is looking forward to tackling this important topic with the goal of mitigating the spread of the epidemic of loneliness.

Loneliness is an epidemic suffered in silence and behind closed doors. We are looking to develop a solution with the emotional relevance and empathetic resonance to help people reach those in need and make a meaningful, lasting change.

The future of health and healthcare depend on it.

This is the first in a series of articles we will be sharing as part of a campaign to tackle loneliness. We will be sharing more in the future as we continue to delve into the data.

Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages.


  1. Holt-Lunstad J. The potential public health relevance of social isolation and loneliness: prevalence, epidemiology, and risk factors. Public Policy Aging Rep 2017: 27(4);127-130.
  2. Wilson RS, Krueger KR, Arnold SE, et al. Loneliness and risk of Alzheimer disease. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2007:64(2);234-240.
  3. One Voice: Shaping our ageing society. Age Concern and Help the Aged, 2009.
  4. A report on the 2010 General Lifestyle Survey. Office for National Statistics, 2012.
  5. Symplur Signals, a healthcare social media analytics platform. Accessed June 2020.
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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.


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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As we start to come out of lockdown with our own “4th July” in the UK, I’ve been reflecting on the last three months. Unless you had a critical job to perform, you were to stay at home and only leave to get necessary groceries or exercise. While W2O had a work from home policy in place before the COVID-19 pandemic began, which allowed staff to work one day at home each week, transitioning to working full time at home hasn’t been easy.

Despite some of the twists and turns we’ve had to overcome, I’m incredibly proud of the way W2O’s EMEA team has continued to perform in these challenging times. We’ve continued to deliver outstanding work for our clients, hired 20 new employees, won awards for our creativity, and helped our local community.

Here are a few highlights:

Giving Back

At the start of the lockdown period, we assessed a few non-client partnerships where we could offer our expertise in healthcare and communications pro bono to help make the world a healthier place. We chose the following groups and have been working with them as follows:

  • The World Health Organization Emergencies Programme, managing meetings with 200+ clinicians and researchers triweekly to support them in knowledge-sharing and prioritising research to combat the virus.
  • The AGILE research platform, supporting a clinical team based out of the University of Liverpool in their efforts to accelerate the search for novel effective COVID-19 treatments.
  • The Royal Free London Trust, supporting their communications team with social media strategy and creative during the COVID-19 crisis.

Keeping Our Culture

Going from two physical offices in EMEA to over 150 home offices has proved challenging in remaining together and aligned. It’s not just face time, it’s celebrating the small victories and personal achievements and battling the loneliness that can occur.

Before lockdown, we had a weekly office-wide meeting, which still continues today, just over Zoom. This meeting allows us to connect, share positive news and introduce our new hires. Each week, a guest host shares something interesting or personal. We book-end this meeting with a virtual happy hour on Friday where we give thanks to those who have delivered fantastic work or gone the extra mile or just simply share our gratitude for our colleagues.

To keep us closer together while working from home, we introduced a weekly Culture Club challenge, which involves a fun task, from participating in a TikTok video to coming up with something witty or sharing what we’ve been up to. The goal is to do something a little silly that everyone can participate in and have a laugh together, which is so vital to helping stay mentally well.

Finally, we’ve had to re-work how we do introductions to ensure our new hires get enough face time with their new colleagues as they’re not able to simply walk around the office and introduce themselves.

Supporting One Another

We talk a lot at W2O about our long hallway, which runs from Zurich to San Francisco, and how we’re able to connect along the way. I’ve always been impressed by how W2O is able to create connectivity among offices. But nothing has shown that more than now, when all of our colleagues have come together during the pandemic. I’ve heard so many great examples of colleagues reaching out to each other and making sure everyone is doing okay, especially those who live far away from their home or who live alone.

One of my favourite ways W2O has adapted is a global initiative created by staff members that provides parents in the firm with a selection of activities and experiences for their children. What started as a small idea has grown into an initiative that helps parents address the challenge of educating children from home while allowing them to volunteer and spend some time helping out their own community!

It’s very easy for people to use the word unprecedented. It’s become a cliché. However, there’s no better word to describe what a turbulent year 2020 has been so far. Despite the difficulties, W2O EMEA has come together and become stronger, unified in helping our clients, our communities and each other.

I’ve never been prouder.


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.


Learn more about W2O via our About or Healthcare pages

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The letter below was shared by our Founder & CEO to members of The LAGRANT Foundation, calling on ourselves and our industry to immediately take action and sustain a commitment to inclusion and diversity. In addition to the steps outlined in the letter, W2O has made a cash donation of $50,000 to NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, two nonprofits working to address racial inequity. W2O is also implementing a matching program for employee donations, has taken several other actions in response to recent events, and will continue to work toward change.


Recent events show us that racial divisions in this country are as deep and troubling as ever in history. Last week, I shared my solidarity with W2O employees, standing with all our staff to say that racism and violence cannot be tolerated in any form.

Over the past few days, I have reflected more deeply on what more we can do, as it is clear to me that our industry has not done enough. Our businesses rely on creative and innovative people. We need inclusion and diversity if we are to change, grow and transform. We are not yet inclusive enough to spur the kind of diversity needed to thrive like we could.

We cannot sit idly and complacently by in this situation. I call on all of us, my firm included, to immediately take action and sustain a commitment to:

  • Inspire the next generation of people of color to work in our business. Standard recruiting from communications and journalism schools is not enough. We will cast a wider net and build more bridges with historically black universities, among others. W2O has a unique partnership with Syracuse University, and we are committed to replicating this work with other universities. This includes creating and implementing the right curriculum that will prepare our future workforce to hit the ground running the day we hire them.
  • Retain and advance diverse talent for the long term. We will take concrete actions to set diversity targets and share diversity metrics. We will hold leaders accountable and reward them when they make progress. We will make sure all employees feel respected and valued, and that they have an equal opportunity to grow and advance. We will make our allyship real, immediately increasing our commitment to mentorship and sponsorship to ensure people of color have a sustainable career trajectory.
  • Listen to Employee Resource Groups and employees of color. ERGs are a powerful community for companies to drive collaboration and co-creation in critical areas of growth and accountability. At W2O, our Diversity and Inclusion ERG, W2O Fusion, has never been more important than right now. This group of committed, passionate professionals has done as much, or more, than I and other leaders to ensure we’re making a positive impact during these challenging times.

We will reinforce the importance of partnerships with groups such as The LAGRANT Foundation to champion these efforts. We will continue to work together to improve our profession across agencies and companies, with the broader goal of addressing systemic racism. That is one way we can change ourselves to change society.

Those in our profession know how to listen, learn and engage. We will rededicate ourselves to the important mission of this Foundation, which has done so much good for so many years.

In Solidarity and Action,

Jim Weiss
Founder & CEO, W2O
The LAGRANT Foundation Board Member

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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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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

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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

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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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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.

Jim


W2O’s additional COVID-19 coverage

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If there is ever a time for new thinking, new attitudes and new approaches, now would be it

 Dealing with a crisis of the magnitude and scope of COVID-19 forces a new set of behaviors and principles. Managing a multitude of organizational responses during this time, the one take-away that sticks out is that there is no “playbook” or guide from which to draw lessons or best practices.

Today is about New! And “New” directed at both mitigating the situational aspects of the crisis and getting back to basics or moving closer to the core of the business. It’s about rediscovering the value of the organization, eliminating bureaucracy, and encouraging dialogue, discussion and debate on the right topics that drive the business.

It’s about new ideas, new thinking, new focus and new pathways. It requires a fresh look at everything, zero-based assessment and planning. It means forcing ideation through circumstance and redirecting people’s attention to areas that accelerate progress and create impact. It takes creating a contemporary picture to prepare an organization to develop a new way to do things based on what’s happening now.

Here is what we are learning from this process in real time:

  1. Purpose is the Northstar–The path to achieving organizational success on a sustained basis goes in only one direction – purpose! Crisis tends to refocus a company’s purpose starting from the inside, reminding everyone what is important. It’s all about The Why.
  2. Ambiguity is the norm – As leaders and managersoperating in this environmentwhere there are no signs or guideposts to draw upon, tests our capabilities and perseverance to move forward. It’s about being adept at navigating in a cloud of uncertainty.
  3. Analytics displaces assumption– Incorporating data and insight into decision-making, from people’s behaviors, interests and concerns to patient or customer perspectives, greatly improves guidance and direction for communications and strategy.
  4. Empathy must accompany facts– In this time, traditional techniques no longer work. Dealing with emotion, fear, uncertainty, hope and promise is as or more important than operating in facts.
  5. Nurturing new networks and alliances– Engaging with new people, groups and different values during a major crisis expands one’s aperture if not one’s confidence and knowledge.
  6. Codifying actions embellishes decisions – This is the time for a new playbook, so consciously documenting, reiterating and sharing what is being done creates a new paradigm.
  7. Communications tone, cadence and channel is mission critical – Getting this formula right is never more essential than now. Stakeholders are seeking consistency, clarity, reliability, access and realistic results.
  8. Freedom to face fear and fail This is a time to explore new things. To investigate,  incubate,  inform and try again if it doesn’t work. Difficult times demand courageous thinking.

It’s easier to talk about changing your routine and purposefully reimagine work than it is to actually do it. COVID-19 has unveiled a world of unforeseen consequences regarding our personal and professional lives. As leaders, it’s about creating a new playbook amid an unprecedented reality with the focus on stabilizing people’s lives.

We are all in this together so let’s stay safe and healthy!

Jim


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Rethinking the new normal for individuals, teams, organizations and systems in the era of pandemics

With COVID-19 being designated a pandemic by the World Health Organization, we are reminded of how transitory our lives are both at home and at work. As such, we are seeing both the private and public sectors leaning into their unique strengths, working vigorously to address this unprecedented public health challenge.

For organizations, this is the beginning of a new normal. A time when agility, adaptability, flexibility and collaboration are critical to business continuity and human health. It is certainly a time to reflect on and adhere to our mission and purpose to guide decisions.

At W2O – “making the world a healthier place through marketing communications” – is at the heart of our purpose. Given the information we know right now, we’re erring on the side of caution and safety for our employees while maintaining expectations for what we deliver to our clients. We’re leveraging technology to make it easier to work virtually with our colleagues and our clients. And we’re making sure people are well informed and kept up to date on the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health authorities.

The goal right now is to flatten the curve, as stated by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.  By flattening the curve, fewer people will be infected.  All of us in positions of influence, specifically communications, can support the dissemination of data and information that would help achieve this goal, which aligns with our mission. It starts with us.

Our policy at W2O consists of:

  1. The closing of our U.S. offices effective end of day Friday, March 13, for one week, implementing a work from home model for all staff – operating based on a “long hallway” approach, meaning we work without boundaries or barriers. In a digital world, this is actually a given. Our intention is to reassess each week and determine the right next step. To facilitate all of this, we have rapidly established an internal digital emergency hub and specialized client counsel and solutions task force with tech-enabled tools to support ongoing and up-to-date communications and continued execution of business as this situation continues to evolve.
  2. All managers are requested to conduct regular communication with their teams including morning and evening check-ins to ensure clarity and information sharing.
  3. All teams will be engaged with clients as usual, respecting their protocols.
  4. Knowledge is power and erring on the side of caution is prudent, particularly while more testing and information is being conducted and gathered.
  5. Compassion and empathy will guide our decisions.

Having spent a good deal of time earlier in my career working in the HIV/AIDS space, I learned the importance of avoiding the temptation to jump to conclusions and taking a fact-based approach. We’re never 100% safe but we’re safer with information. As I often say, leadership is communications.

We will get through this just like with other crises we’ve dealt with, including hurricanes, fires, floods, terrorism and financial market instability. Let’s stay in touch, albeit at a distance, and be disciplined, smart, cautious and focused.

By staying connected, adhering to the guidelines provided, and becoming adept at adapting, we can do our part to flatten the curve.

Jim


W2O’s additional COVID-19 coverage

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With an even deeper focus on clients and solutions, operating seamlessly across functions and offices, sans ego, is well worth the growing pains.

 For decades, organizational structure dictated operating efficiencies and company culture directed behavior, attitude and activities. People worked in their respective areas or silos, connecting with colleagues only on an as-needed basis. Surprisingly, this system was the norm.

Fast forward to a digital age where connectivity is a given and real-time discussion dominates the workday, and organizational structure is no longer the architecture from which business operates. Rather, working across functions, offices, regions and departments has never been easier given technology and space layouts, not to mention attitudes and new behaviors. At W2O, we have been experimenting with various designs and formats as we’ve scaled to ensure that people can ideate, innovate and educate in a meaningful way for clients. The beginning of this journey is with a laser- like focus on our clients, specifically those with strong partnership ties. They are the ones that expect we provide a full array of talent, skills and capabilities to address their business situations.

As we elevate our business model and footprint, we continue to learn a number of lessons about ourselves and our ability to solve problems and optimize situations.

Don’t over fixate on technology focus on the people first. Organizations that operate seamlessly do so by designing around the Why. That said, people today can’t function without technology, so it’s time to embrace your inner tech-geek. We all spend ample time on our cell phones, apps and ordering on Amazon, so let’s not wait to transform digitally and technologically for our clients and ourselves.

Focus on clients or customers whether it’s the top 10, 15 or 30, operating confidently by providing counsel, advice and solutions to an ever-growing set of marketplace and competitive challenges is critical to growth as well as relevance. To do so, people must be able to work across the enterprise in a free-form manner.

It’s not the structure but the system – making it easier for people to find each other and work together transcends the artificial boundaries associated with structure.

Connection starts with awareness  a basic lesson for us as we grow is making everyone aware of the talent and skills in the firm. It seems simple but it’s actually challenging as you scale.

Silos or pillars are really invisible  regardless of the organizational design, people must view how they work as unencumbered. This begins with their managers and how they operate with colleagues and peers.

Scale actually enhances innovation  instinct would tell you otherwise but scale can result in higher levels of innovation as diverse thinking and inclusiveness rain down on the business.

Promoting results based on seamless actions triggers replication  letting people know how simple and powerful working across lines is creates the right feelings for such effort.

Growth is an incredibly powerful engine for any organization and its employees. The challenge is maintaining the quality and experience necessary to retain clients, customers and staff. With growth comes complexity. With complexity comes frustration and myopic thinking. On an organizational level, making it easy for people to span across the enterprise is essential to success. For individuals, making yourself smart about the people and the capabilities, taking new risks, pushing your way to different areas, and insinuating yourself in different discussions forces new outcomes.

For me, leading W2O remains much the same as when I started it. Involvement, engagement, curiosity, inquiry and recognition. And while I’ve had to modify my approach and perspective, my focus on client satisfaction and staff enhancement has never wavered.

It has been and will always be about #BecomingTheBest.

Jim


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

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Honoring the Legendary Harold Burson 

Harold Burson, the man who literally created the modern PR industry, passed away today, thus ending an era where communications came to be a critical element of organizational and societal thinking. Burson was the go-to person for presidents of corporations and presidents of the United States and maintained a low-key persona and behind the scenes approach.  His counsel and advice especially during crises always balanced legal with logic taking into consideration the human equation.

I had the pleasure of meeting him a number of times during my career. Always gracious and always attentive to my life and interests, he provided incredible perspective on priorities both personal and professional. The number one thing he shared with me was the importance of ‘Family.’  As you grow in your career or business, travel is inevitable. With that in mind, keeping your family at the center while respecting the larger community you influence such as being a mentor, leading your team, and growing your staff must not be ignored.

Another area we shared was healthcare. Burson respected healthcare, the core of W2O, having built a strong international practice and reinforced this with me every time we met. Further, the people and places he saw including the Nuremberg trials and the history of WWII were always topics of discussion during our intermittent meetings.

But more importantly, he did everything to ensure business operated with integrity seeing PR as a means to connect context, reflection, and decision-making that improved the greater good.

Harold Burson was a monumental figure not just in our profession but in the evolution of our society and our country. There will never be another Harold Burson. All of us who have benefited from his wisdom over his lifetime are better as people and practitioners.

May he RIP!

Jim

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