Learning how to be successful in a public relations agency is not something that happens overnight, and it is very much a sink-or-swim experience when starting in the industry. There are a lot of books available that focus on public relations theory, but when I started in public relations there wasn’t anything to guide early to mid-level public relations professionals through the day-to-day life of working in an agency…until now.

“How to Succeed in a PR Agency: Real Talk to Grow Your Career & Become Indispensable” is a newly published book aiming to simplify and clarify agency life. The book’s authors, Shalon Roth and Kristin Johnson, have collectively worked in agencies for 25+ years and share secrets that no one will teach in a classroom or seminar. Chapters focus on topics such as staffing, budget basics, building a team and managing your career, and each chapter is punctuated with stories from leaders in the industry.

When Shalon and Kristin asked me to contribute to this book with insights about how I managed my career and became the media strategist I am today, I spent a lot of time thinking about my first ever media placement and as the youngest contributor to this book, it was important to me to share real stories about what it is like coming up in PR.

Growing in my career and finding my niche in healthcare media took time. I spent my first two agency jobs paying my dues (developing call agendas, taking notes, logistical planning, etc.). However, I kept raising my hand to work on media activities across my accounts which helped me to develop relationships with top health reporters and carve out a media specialty.

Today, almost 15 years later, I look back on the time I spent coming up in my career and I’m glad I always pushed to focus on what I was truly interested in. It’s important to remember that your career is long, and there will always be ups and downs but finding something you like to do is key.

To purchase this book, it can be found on Amazon. In addition, W2O’s Gary Grates endorsed this book as a must-read for PR professionals to help map out their individual path to success.

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Powered by the W2O Corporate Relevance Index

How can healthcare companies move the needle to achieve gender parity and the enhanced corporate performance that comes with it? How do we create real actionable change?

Each year at W2O, we conduct a study that examines how companies are maintaining or falling in relevance. If your organization is not considered relevant, sales, profitability, recruitment, retention, innovation, leadership and valuation will be affected. Because of the gender parity movement, and our belief that parity ultimately impacts a company’s bottom line, we took our Relevance Index a step further in 2019 by adding gender and diversity as a key measure of corporate reputation. In this inaugural report we address a number of key questions including:

  • How relevant were Fortune 500 healthcare companies on the topic of diversity in 2018 vs. 2017?
  • Did the nature of the language being used by companies and stakeholders changing year-over-year?
  • Were stakeholders searching for information on Fortune 500 healthcare companies’ diversity policies and positions?
  • What were the most diversity-relevant companies doing and saying?
  • What are their employees saying in reviews and advice to management as relates to diversity and inclusion?

To learn more, download the whitepaper below.

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It’s apropos that the hashtag for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BalanceForBetter. As a working mom and Chief People Officer at W2O, I know just how tricky it can be finding the balance between being a parent and an employee. Supporting this balance is one of the main reasons our CEO, Jim Weiss, and President, Jennifer Gottlieb, partnered with long-time business executive and single mom, Barbara Palmer, to pioneer our groundbreaking Fourth Trimester Program. This innovative program celebrates and supports working mothers and fathers as they return to work following the birth or adoption of their child.

Today, this program was featured in a Forbes article by MeiMei Fox. Titled 8 Tips For Returning Smoothly To Work After Having A Child, the feature story discusses the importance of companies providing the proper coaching and support mechanisms for moms returning to the workplace after maternity leave. The article not only covers why this is critical for mothers, but also explains how differentiating programs like ours can help companies better retain working mothers.

W2O’s Fourth Trimester program provides a personal coach who engages with the parent and their manager for three months after their return to the office to ensure the smoothest possible transition back to the workplace. W2O also offers paid time off for new parents to an extent that’s rare in our industry – up to 16 weeks of paid leave depending on tenure. To date, dozens of mothers and fathers at W2O have gone through the Fourth Trimester program and a couple of employees have even completed the program a second time.

Next week, I will be sitting down with our CMO, Aaron Strout, along with Jennifer Gottlieb and Jim Weiss, to record a podcast discussing the Fourth Trimester Program and other ways W2O can better support working parents. I hope you’ll tune in.

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Gulp. Heart palpitations. On your mark. Sweat beads run down the forehead. Is it prepping for a race? Kind of. It’s the race for talent.

The headlines are screaming that it’s the toughest market to hire in in a generation. However, according to the LinkedIn’s February 2019 workforce report it’s not just that it’s hard, it’s that we have a true misalignment of what skills people have, what is actually needed, and in what markets. Take Boston, there are a surfeit of people with negotiation, educational administration and procurement skills in the market and a dearth of oral communications, business management and leadership skills according to the report. Plus, with the challenges of bringing talent in on visas, it’s added to the specter of talent scarcity. And that’s only Boston. Multiply that by one hundred.

At times like these you need to be more thoughtful than ever on how to attract the very best (let alone retain great employees but we’ll save that discussion for another blog post).

Our business has been growing at a rapid pace and therefore so have our talent acquisition efforts. With the most challenging labor market in years, we need to be extra creative in tapping into amazing candidates to hire. I wanted to share some thoughts on what can work when you’re having trouble finding the people you need.

Check the Sofa Cushions for “Shiny Pennies”

We so often interview tremendous people who we reject for reasons that have little or nothing to do with them and their ability to be an impactful, valuable hire. For example, they’re too senior for the role, too junior, don’t have enough specialized experience in one area for that exact role, or there is no open role at the moment. Go back to your notes, who did you pass over for superficial reasons that made sense at the time? Follow up with the candidate. These shiny pennies are worth digging for.

Look for the Big Fish in a Small Pond Who Wants to be a Big Fish in a Big Pond

We often look to fill roles in New York or San Francisco and we search for people who are already in those markets to avoid relocation costs or a resistance to a move. However, some people in secondary markets like Houston, Phoenix, Miami, Minneapolis etc… are looking for their next big thing. Don’t forget to tap secondary markets heavily.

And They Told Their Friends and So On and So On…

When we check references we see those references as “someday” potential candidates for our firm. Are they happy where they are? Would they be interested in having a discussion at some point about what we offer?  Great people know other great people. This is a whole group of potential hires with the added imprimatur of being somewhat of a known quantity because others at your firm can vouch for them.

Treat Your Candidates Like You Treat Your Clients

More times than not our star candidates have a few competing offers they are considering at the same time as ours. What can break the tie, all else being equal…?  The interview experience itself. For example, is the online application easy to fill out? Do you get back to candidates in a reasonable time with usable feedback and any next steps in their interview process? Set expectations about how many rounds of interviews and what to expect from each round and stick to it. Go fast. It’s harder than it sounds but it sets firms apart from the competition when we do it right.

Longer Term Plays—Bottoms Up and Teach a Man to Fish Strategies

Unfortunately, and realistically there are not enough senior people in diverse roles available in our healthcare marketing space, particularly when it comes to creatives, strategists and analysts. We are taking a bottoms-up approach by recruiting diverse junior talent aggressively. Over time this will help seed the market with a more robust group of diverse, experienced talent to grow and promote up the ranks.

Sometimes you simply can’t find enough of the people you need to hire, no matter what you do. What to do? If you can’t find them, make them.  You can create the skilled people you need by heavily investing time and energy into the employees you know are “A” level but are missing certain key skills that can be taught. Patience is needed in this scenario, as well as, determining what skills are teachable vs. how people are wired. We can teach for example, how the FDA approvals process works or negotiation tactics. We cannot teach someone to be extraordinarily creative.  This “teach a man to fish” strategy takes years to pay off.  However, it may make sense as we enter a job market that is increasingly more about subject matter expertise in hard to find categories.

No Magic Bullets

Clearly a multi-pronged approach is in order since there truly is no magic bullet to answer all  recruiting needs. However, I would much rather it be like it is now with a “Rock’em-Sock’em”competition of employer vs. employer over excellent candidates than a job market that is sluggish and lackluster any day of the week. It forces employers to be at the top of their recruiting game and to invest in what’s important. That motivates our team and me to get out there and be the employer that everyone wants to say yes to.

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About and Culture & Careers pages.

Want to chat? Drop us a line.

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W2O won one of my favorite awards in marketing and communications a couple of weeks ago: the Holmes In2 Sabre Award for Best Marketing Technology. What I love about this award is that it recognizes achievement in scaling great work, rather than recognizing a one-off campaign. It’s our second Best Marketing Technology win in as many years.

I’ve always suspected that campaign-based awards, which are so prominent in our industry, perpetuate the ubiquitous hero-culture at agencies. While this is a bit of an oversimplification, I’m sure all of you agency veterans know the story: A rock-star creative director, strategist, analytics pro, or similar, creates a one-of-a-kind project for a client, something so complicated, cool and amazing, it’s impossible to imagine anyone else doing it. The resulting campaign is unequaled. The individual(s) who created the campaign are indispensable.

I absolutely don’t mean to be a downer about rock-stars and amazing campaigns. But it is more important to recognize the creative individuals that go one step further and make their talents or ideas scalable, allowing far more people to execute like they do. Those are the people that make agencies great and, ultimately, allows us to deliver better services to our clients.

David Chang, the guy behind the Momofuku restaurant group and creator of, hands-down, the best business-related podcast in 2018, provides a good analogy in the restaurant industry:

“You want to make dishes that people can execute. My biggest pet peeve is when I see someone I’ve promoted to be a chef or sous chef and they put something on the menu and it’s delicious and it’s super [effing] cool, but only they can execute it. What’s the point? [The Chef’s] job is to make everyone as successful as possible. Why would you want to set up [your cooks] for failure by making a dish that they can’t do?”

It’s obviously a different business model. But the gist of what David’s saying is the foundation of our analytics practice at W2O: high quality and repeatable products that can be executed by as many people here as possible.

To that end, I’m very proud that we won the In2 Best Marketing Technology award again this year. We won for a product called Magic-8 Ball that uses organic search data to understand audience’s mental maps of various topics, the language they use to describe those topics, and how we can target them across a range of digital PESO activations.

The approach was conceived by W2O’s search lead, Alan Garcia several years ago. It was something, initially, he was doing manually. Then he wrote some Python code to capture the process and automate some of the more monotonous features of the analysis. With help from some of our software development team, it now has an appealing and easy-to-use UI and most (if not all) of our analysts use it regularly. It’s a great example of a creatively-minded analytics chef taking something that would otherwise be too complicated for anyone else to execute, and making it accessible to everyone. Alan’s also a big foodie, so I think he might have been inspired by David Chang’s podcast. Just a guess.

There’s obviously a place for recognizing amazing work and providing a platform for others to see these case studies and congratulate a job well done. But hero (or campaign) worship is a toxic recipe for growth, for both an agencies’ client base as well as the career development of its staff. I hope everyone joins me in pushing our industry to create awards that recognize agencies that deliver high quality work, time-and-time again, because they’ve developed the right methods, tech and processes to make everyone at the agency/company successful.

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About and Analytics pages.

Want to chat? Drop us a line.

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Last night, I addressed the San Francisco chapter of the Healthcare Business Women’s Association (HBA) on trends and insights related to diversity and inclusion coming out of the 37th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, which took place in the city earlier this month. This was especially meaningful to me as I recently was selected to sit on the HBA’s Global Board of Advisors. This is a huge honor as HBA is dedicated to improving gender parity to achieve meaningful progress for women in business and optimize the benefit to business.

As the founder and CEO of W2O, one of the things I’m most proud of is our dedication to gender parity at all levels of the firm. It is without a doubt the reason for our continued growth and success.

In sharing insights on JPM 2019 – the annual conference that brings more than 9,000 healthcare investors, media and business development teams together for five days – I based my observations on presentations made by more than 450 executives from the world’s leading drug and biotech companies, who set the tone and expectations for performance over the year to come.

I’ve been attending this conference for more than 20 years and have witnessed an incredible amount of change in the industry. This year, my three main takeaways were:

  • Companies are positive about business in 2019.
  • Pipelines are a priority.
  • Margin expansion and investment are strategic imperatives.

Having said that, I focused my remarks last night, not on financial forecasts and outcome predictions of failures and success, but on what makes a business successful from the inside out. Additionally, in partnership with my W2O colleague, Senior Director of Analytics, Meredith Owen, I talked about how to leverage W2O’s analytics capabilities to measure and model just how critical it is to have the right balanced workforce where everyone’s ideas are heard and people can reach their full potential regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

The W2O Healthcare Relevance Index is an annual report that looks at approximately 60 Fortune 500 companies in the healthcare industry and applies a proprietary analytics model to determine the relevance of organizations on the topic of diversity and inclusion. In this age of social and digital, Relevance is the new Reputation. If your organization is relevant, it’s engaging with key stakeholders on terms that are mutually beneficial. The outcome impacts sales, profitability, recruitment, retention, innovation, leadership and valuation.

The 2019 W2O Healthcare Relevance Index includes the following topline findings:

  • Healthcare organizations are not making the progress necessary in diversity and inclusion as demanded by key stakeholders.
  • Diversity and inclusion must be a CEO mandate. (My experience alone reinforces that notion.)
  • Employees are moving the dialogue to diversity and inclusion and signaling its importance to their productivity.
  • Innovation remains an elusive elixir as we heard at JPM 2019. Yet, a remedy is about adding new and different voices to ideation.
  • Diversity and inclusion is not a communications problem but an organizational issue that must be addressed at the C-Suite level. Commitment to change is key

As I shared with HBA, my mother shaped my thinking with regard to diversity and inclusion at a very young age. She was the CEO of a business and was very successful breaking all kinds of barriers at the time and instilling in me a belief in a better approach and system based on the human spirit and ideal. It’s how I ultimately built my firm and why dialogue, discussion and debate rule, and why multiple voices are respected and heard.

As we look at the healthcare industry in 2019, one could argue that things are moving in the right direction regarding diversity and inclusion. But, there needs to be a sense of urgency. A commitment that accelerates improvement.

To that end, all of us must voice our opinions and challenge the industry to do better. Our collective futures depend on it!


If you’re interested in learning about W2O, go to our About or healthcare page. 

Want to chat? Drop us a line.

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Large Agency 


Location: San Francisco

W2O received the highest marks in this category for general workplace and employment considerations. The firm provides weekly learning opportunities and invests in training and development for staffers. Leadership at the firm is transparent with communications, openly sharing information with employees.

For new staffers, the agency serves as a welcome and warm environment. Each person at the firm has a mentor and can meet with them each week to share their feelings and question. Team directors and managers also meet with their employees biweekly.

“Viewing their organization as collaborative, fast-paced, and fun, W2O employees are also pleased with the ability of women to advance,” noted one judge.

The agency boasts an impressive benefits package. A newer part of that is the Your Fourth Trimester program, implemented in 2017. The program provides employees with a career coach as they become working parents. Those who have participated in the program said it helped them smoothly and successfully transition into the working parent role.

“Having a coach when I returned from maternity leave was a game changer,” noted one employee. “It solidified how much my company supports working moms.”

Additionally, the agency supports outside-of-the-office team building events, including participation in a weekly kickball league, and regular team happy hours. “People love to hang out together and participate in team sports, volunteerism, company events, and more,” said one staffer.

This post was originally published via PRWeek.

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, go to our About.

We’re hiring! Check out open positions.

Want to chat? Drop us a line.

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2018 was an incredible year for our firm. The partnership between our amazing clients and W2O teams enabled us to build unfair advantage in ground-breaking and disruptive ways. However, it was not only our work that made this year so special, our thought leadership was the icing on the cake. Showcasing what our people value, how their passion impacts our work and moves the industry forward, not only made us proud of who we were as firm in 2018, but who we look forward to being in the year to come.

So, before the clock strikes midnight we wanted to take a look back at some of our favorite posts from the past year. From the DNA of W2O to women in healthcare to the marriage of marketing and data, our people discussed it all. Take a read below, reflect on the insights and milestones 2018 brought us, and be inspired about the amazing year to come!

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About page. Want to chat? Drop us a line

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Finding a job after college is stressful, especially when competition gets fiercer each year. Internships are the perfect way to build relationships before graduating, and turning your internship at W2O into a full-time job is an amazing way to ease the transition from life as a college student to a professional.

While I was an undergraduate student at Northeastern, I spent my six-month co-op working at W2O’s Boston office as a digital health intern. After finishing my co-op, I moved to an account associate position working with clients in the biotechnology industry. At this point, I had already spent six months immersed in the culture and the client work at W2O, which helped relieve the stress so many of us may feel when embarking on a new chapter after graduation. Keep reading for 10 tips on how to turn your W2O internship into a full-time job!

1. Be on Time

One of the easiest ways to make a good impression at your internship is to show up on time. It’s important to stick to the schedule you agreed upon with your supervisor. Arrive early and don’t rush out the door as soon as the clock hits 5:00 pm! Maintaining a consistent schedule lets your coworkers know that you’re reliable, and shows them the time management skills you established in college by juggling classes, extracurricular activities and socializing.

2. Stay Informed

Keeping our clients informed is what we do at W2O. This means we need to stay informed ourselves, so making sure to stay on top of industry news is key. Whether it’s reading newsletters every day on your morning commute or listening to a podcast while you work, be a voracious consumer of information and find the way that works best for you to stay up-to-date on the latest industry trends and developments.

3. Get Ready to Wear Many Hats

As an intern at W2O, you have the opportunity to work with dozens of different clients, from digital health to big pharma to startup biotechnology companies. This is a huge part of what makes W2O exciting! Every day brings something different, and as an intern, you can try out many projects working with various teams and clients. Take on different roles and figure out what you like best.

4. Don’t be Afraid to Make Mistakes

As we’ve all been told, “everyone makes mistakes.” Oversights and slip-ups happen, and all your coworkers have been there before! The most important thing is how you deal with your mistake. Admitting when you’re wrong or when you’ve made a mistake on a project is the first step to making it right. Acknowledge the mistake to your team, offer a recommendation on how to correct, and align on how to fix it. Which brings us to…

5. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Don’t let a minor error ruin your outlook on a team or a project. Try not to be so hard on yourself—just continue doing your best and show your willingness to improve, and your coworkers will forget all about it. Just be sure not to make the same mistakes repeatedly!

6. Get Involved in Company Culture

Every W2O office has a Culture Committee that plans fun team-building events for you and your coworkers. As a co-op in the Boston office, I joined the “Small Events Committee,” which includes shopping for and decorating our bi-weekly happy hour cart, and planning activities like our pumpkin-carving contest, Cinco de Mayo party and Thanksgiving potluck. Joining Culture Committee is a great way to get to know your coworkers’ interests outside of work and helps you feel like part of the company.

 7. Make Connections

The W2O Boston office is small enough that we all know each other’s names, but large enough that we have an impressive range of career paths and skill sets. Take advantage of the diverse backgrounds and experiences of your coworkers by setting up meetings to pick their brains. Developing personal relationships with them will help your network grow and will help you learn more about the clients and projects across the agency network. For me, this was how I was able to successfully transition from a digital health co-op to an account associate focused on biotechnology. When you figure out what area of healthcare you’re most interested in—for me, it was early-stage biotech companies—ask around to find out who you can talk to about getting involved.

8. Go Above and Beyond

Showing your willingness to go the extra mile will definitely impress your manager and coworkers. Whether it’s staying late to help a client through a major milestone or sharing relevant news stories with your team, going above and beyond is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the internship role and engage with coworkers and clients.

9. Make the Most of Company Resources

Working at W2O means you’re part of a global network of communications, marketing, digital and analytics experts. With 13 offices in three countries, the W2O team stretches beyond Boston across continents and time zones. We think of the W2O teams as working along a “long hallway,” which refers to the ease with which we can connect and collaborate with coworkers around the world, almost as if they’re just down the hall and not thousands of miles away. Get to know coworkers beyond the Boston office in order to expand your network and learn tips and tricks from colleagues around the globe.

10. Ask for (and Respond Appropriately to) Feedback

Fostering an open line of communication with your manager and coworkers is an important part of learning and growing as an intern. Be sure to ask for feedback on each of your projects, as it will help you learn what you did well and how to improve moving forward. Part of receiving feedback is responding appropriately, so remember that your W2O coworkers are sharing their thoughts because they want you to succeed. Try not to take the constructive feedback personally, and instead, use it to grow as an employee! 

Bonus: Get to Know Boston!

Our Boston office is right downtown, making your internship a great opportunity to learn your way around the many neighborhoods of the city. Take advantage of the “T” after work and on the weekends to explore all that Boston has to offer, from cannoli in the North End to the foliage in Arnold Arboretum to kayaking in the Charles! Getting to know the city is a great way to have some fun while you’re here and to ease the transition from college to your post-grad job.

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, go to our About.

We’re hiring! Check out open positions.

Want to chat? Drop us a line.

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