A YEAR of a novel coronavirus that was unpredictable and, for many, unforgiving.
A YEAR where the world simply felt like it had stopped, frozen in time.
A YEAR where we saw the most significant and vocal movement for racial equity following some of the worst injustices we’ve seen in 50+ years and an election that divided a nation.
If you would have told me in March that we would be able to transition 1,600 people to work from home, create a digital infrastructure to connect all our staff and clients seamlessly, and keep moving ahead of the rapidly changing needs of the healthcare industry, I am not sure I would have believed it.
But we did. And we didn’t just survive. We thrived – by living our purpose every day, delivering vital information about COVID-19 and many other diseases to physician and patient communities that needed support more than ever before.
We were privileged to work with many clients and organizations tirelessly developing tests, devices, treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. All in the scope of just 9 months! We saw our clients at their very best, working 24/7 to tame a beast that has terrorized people all over the world. I’ve never been prouder to work in this industry!
We came together as a team like never before to support each other and innovate in record time to create digital solutions that will change the future of healthcare forever.
We responded in real-time to the needs of our people and their families with compassion and programs – from providing support to our staff members who experienced the devastating loss of loved ones, to addressing mental health needs, to offering tutoring for children navigating online learning, to providing technology now considered essential for work-from-home situations, to rapidly responding to the urgent need for all of us to join forces and champion diversity, equity and inclusion.
And while the lack of human interaction was a real loss, Zoom-culture allowed us to get to know people in surprisingly intimate ways, giving us a peek into their lives, homes, bookshelves, families and even their furry friends.
We learned to appreciate the simple life again, to rediscover nature, our family, friends, neighbors, strangers…and ourselves. Some of us even learned that at-home workouts are not that bad, that grandparents actually love TikTok, and that banana bread will likely be the #1 baked good of 2020.
I am humbled, grateful and thankful…most importantly to the frontline workers – from healthcare professionals, to delivery men and women, to those who masked up and went to work every single day at the height of the pandemic, risking their lives to ensure we could all function and in some cases survive!
As the year (finally!) draws to a close and I think about 2021, I am filled with so much hope for us all to come out of this pandemic better than we went into it. And for us all to continue to work together for a healthier, happier, more equitable and more inclusive future. Wishing everyone a safe, healthy and happy holiday season!
Welcome to our third episode of #MedicallySpeaking! A video series aimed at uncovering the what, why and how of marketing and communications in the healthcare industry.
Throughout the six episodes we’ll be speaking to a variety of people here in the W2O EMEA offices about their jobs, education and experience to find out how they got where they are.
In this video I speak to Dara Mohammadi, an associate creative director about what that job title actually means, how he started in his career as a journalist and some tips on how to become a Creative Director.
Welcome to our second episode of #MedicallySpeaking! A video series aimed at uncovering the what, why and how of marketing and communications in the healthcare industry.
In this episode I speak to Dafnie Prodromou, Senior Analyst for W2O Group to discuss how a career in pharmacy changed to a career in data and analytics for some of the biggest healthcare companies in the world.
Watch to find out more about what it’s like to work in data and analytics.
Recently, Sally Susman, Chief Communications Officer at Pfizer, addressed our firm, sharing her life story and the many hurdles she has overcome during her storied career in communications. The key take-away from Sally was when you hit a roadblock or find you are faced with adversity: “Do something.” Such advice is so timely and relevant amid a pandemic, a contentious election, and social unrest plaguing the country and the world. It was a strong message to our 1,500 people and one they can relate to in 2020.
When COVID-19 hit in March, we sprang into action. Instead of hunkering down or waiting to see what would happen next, we pushed forward based on four principles:
Focused on People – We mobilized our workforce in a virtual network and set up managers to transition to working with their teams in a seamless manner. At the same time, we initiated new programs to support parents schooling children at home, children attending to parents, and individuals needing additional services to get through the situation.
Focused on Clients – We acquired new and different skills and talent and developed approaches to help organizations and brands navigate this new dynamic, including custom programs fueled by data, analytics and insights. Further we’ve been involved in all aspects of vaccine development, Covid testing and treatment.
Focused on the Industry – As a healthcare innovation firm, we immersed ourselves in pursuing answers to the situation. From mobilizing our people to fund ventilators and PPE. To challenging the status quo on industry response, pushing for better communications and information. To serving on a number of boards and groups, including the Commons Project, to provide needed advice, resources and financial support. To producing six separate reports on COVID-19 and its impact on corporate relevance, employee perspectives on leadership behavior, and competitive analysis on corporate response.
Focused on the Future (Generation) – We kicked off our 10th year at Syracuse University conducting Social Commerce Days with students and professors through the W2O Newhouse Center for Social Commerce with former IBM CCO/CMO Jon Iwata as keynote speaker. We are continuing with similar efforts at USC, Wisconsin, Elon, Alabama and Howard, as we encourage and educate the next generation of professionals and leaders.
Focused on Doing What’s Right – During these tumultuous times, we doubled down on our purpose. We took new and urgent actions to address our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts broadly and measurably. And we’ve been educating and supporting our employees to get out the vote – as part of our efforts toward health citizenship – including giving Election Day as a paid day off to engage.
It’s human nature to not venture beyond the unknown, not peek into the dark, and not step outside your comfort zone. It can be scary, but you’re not alone. As Sally reminded us, pushing ahead opens our creative mind. It elevates our confidence. It secures our purpose. And it steels our resolve. As we’ve traversed this uncertain landscape over the last eight months, I’m proud to see how our people, clients, students and industry colleagues have persevered and excelled.
2020 will certainly go down as one of the more challenging times in our lives. Having said that, it’s also taught us much about our ability to change, shift, transition and be more humane and empathetic. But through it all passion, energy and action has shone through. To paraphrase the immortal Yogi Berra, if you’re thrown a curveball, hit it!
This is core to who we are and deeply woven into our DNA – we say #MakeItHappen. Or, in other words, “Do something!”
When Jim Weiss started what is now W2O, he had a vision to make the world a healthier place by creating the type of firm he was looking for when he was a client. Fast forward nearly 20 years, and W2O now employs more than 1,500 industry rock stars who are working from home and dealing with some pretty incredible challenges while they continue to deliver for clients day in and day out.
With women comprising nearly 70% of our workforce, and most employees age 27 to 50, it was clear that “family” would be a key driver of the support we would want to provide. To ensure that W2O families start out right and have the needed support throughout the parenting journey, we already provide extensive health benefits – from fertility support to parental leave (including additional time for preemie care) to our award-winningYour 4th Trimester™ program, which provides 90 days of concierge support for each new employee parent.
We also have an Employee Resource Group, W2O Families, whose mission is to “empower working parents of W2O to be successful in their roles at work and at home, nurturing a family-friendly culture at the firm while engaging employees’ children, too.”
During the past six months, W2O Families has been supporting families with extensive programming, engaging content and – importantly – reminders to prioritize self-care. From a pen pal program that connects children of W2O employees, to “Nana School” with a retired kindergarten teacher keeping little ones learning, moving and having fun, to story time led by various W2O employees, the focus of W2O Families has been on keeping W2O kids active and engaged during our “Safer @Home” period.
Recently, W2O Families hosted a panel of experts to discuss the topic of Navigating Parenting in a Pandemic. A best-selling author, licensed psychologist, licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), and curriculum specialist/teacher answered employees’ questions about distance learning, screen time, setting boundaries, and defining home and school spaces. They also offered advice on how W2O parents can continue to be successful during these trying times. I’ve never seen a more active chat, so it’s safe to say that our employees were excited to have a forum where they could find commonality with co-workers and benefit from expert advice.
For my husband and I, the panel underscored why W2O is such an exceptional company to work for: our culture is built to care about the individual first and foremost. When employees feel supported and invested in, it shows in their work and loyalty.
To that end, we recently rolled out some additional – and uniquely W2O – support programs:
W2O F.I.T. allows employees to find a FLEXIBLE schedule that helps them meet the current demands of caregiving, distance learning and self-care. This program is available to all employees, and HR Business Partners are working with each of their departments to reimagine what work schedules look like for each team. Keeping the 4Cs top of mind – Clients, Coverage, Communication and Collaboration – W2O believes that we can support our employees to create a work schedule that supports each team’s needs while still providing world-class customer support. The other components of the program include being INTENTIONAL about our priorities; working smarter, not harder; and being TECH-ENABLED, which means utilizing the best technology to support our work streams.
W2O Tutoring offers a substantial discount on tutoring and a company subsidy for tutoring hours for employees’ children. Our partners, Sylvan Learning and Cornerstone on Demand, allow each hour we purchase for our kids to be matched by a donation of hours toward educating children in underserved communities through the Boys & Girls Club. This partnership is focused squarely on the concern of learning loss and making the world a healthier place through education.
We are partnering with Modern Health to encourage W2Oers to take care of their mental health and well-being by making it easier to get access to the level of support they need, when they need it. In addition to such resources as guided meditations and health assessments via the mobile app, employees – and their dependents! – have access to individual telehealth counseling sessions to help them navigate these uncharted and highly stressful times. These counseling benefits are in addition to mental health benefits offered through our health insurance benefits, Employee Assistance Program, and “in house” LCSW.
We also offer wellness stipends, work from home expense reimbursements, and meditation services, which are designed to care for the whole individual.
W2O is truly living our mission of “Making the World a Healthier Place” – and we are starting with the total health of our employees. We will always have their backs, because it’s the right thing to do.
Earlier this week we announced starpower is a part of the W2O team! W2O Global President, Jennifer Gottlieb, sits in as guest host and chats with starpower Founders and Managing Partners, Matt Lalin and Jared Weiss. They discuss why we made our long-standing partnership official, the power of influencer marketing, and how we will continue to be first at what’s next in healthcare. Take a listen below.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 Weisssaid 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.