We’re honored to be included in the 2015 PR Week Global Power book list, which represents a distinguished group of leaders in the digital marketing and communications industry.  The list made us take a step back to examine what we’re doing to stay ahead of the ever-changing digital landscape. The answer? Continuing to innovate and act as students of the industry, with a focus aimed a mile down the road. Here and below are some emerging trends that we think are reshaping the industry.

  1. We are unlocking the concept of Owned Media. If you create the content, you own it. Location is no longer a determining factor. This concept is practiced with our content capsules, which serve as “digital content libraries” and a content syndication tool. Our clients are able to deliver content in the form of videos, images and links in one package, and track the engagement rates. This “mini site” allows for them to own the content yet share it across social channels.
  2. What you “own” should align with what people “want” when they want it. This will only increase in importance, so our first impression matters more than ever. As a result, we are shifting from responsive design, which is old school, to responsive experience.  We need to provide the right content the first time to the customer visiting our client’s site, based on what we know about them pre-visit.
  3. Create and track your core audience to redefine how we listen, learn and act. Any discrete set of people can be identified and indexed which then informs us of their behavioral patterns. This parallels our analytics practice- we’re able to extract accurate, actionable insights from big data sets which is key to delivering the “right content” to our audience. Once we know patterns, we can figure out habits for a market.
  4. Decide “who” should tell your brand’s story. Influencer relationship management is more important than a traditional CRM to shape markets. You could have two million customers in a CRM database, but does this matter? What we are finding is that understanding who drives your audience (the 1% and the 9% of the 1,9,90 model) is the key to influencer relationship management.  Volume isn’t the answer to gain the right reach.  Precision of who you reach leads to the right volume/penetration of the market.  A very simple and profound change in how we market is happening.
  5. Small data (or “forensic analytics”) leads to smart filters. Smart filters leads to the right insights. If you’re able to apply the right filters onto digital conversations by brand or topic, you will uncover accurate, actionable insights for your brand.
  6. Your own earned media network will drive your market. Brands should think of themselves as media outlets with that level of power.
  7. Data-driven organizations will require a new insights operating system to be shared between analysts and client teams. The future is one of collaboration. More than ever, organizations that work in silos will no longer be able to deliver due to the nature of how data shapes decisions in real-time. Our data must be able to “talk” within data sets to tell us when we need to focus on certain influencers or topics or keywords.
  8. It’s time to become experts in “bad media”. More than ever, online security is an issue for brands and marketers. We spend all of our time on “good media” to promote our brand. However, at the same time, spam, malware, bots, fake reviews, and black hat search are also reaching the same customers.  When we think of improving the customer experience and protecting our brands, we have to become experts in bad media as well.
  9. We combine the best of research and social analytics to become more predictive. Who you follow to gain information matters. For example, if you are following the right influencers, you can see how their language changes 30-60 days before it changes in the mainstream.  That’s pretty valuable.
  10. Social Graphics will lead to new forms of media planning and research.  Social graphics is part of a larger concept we call “audience architecture”. This relates to how we identify and then listen to the right audience to understand what content we share, what keywords we use and what time of day we share content by channel.  If we are tracking the right audience online, they will teach us what to do. The clues to success are right in front of us.

Check out Bob’s previous blog post for additional global insights, specifically around the innovative Chinese market.

All the best,

Jim Weiss and Bob Pearson


Every time I land at Heathrow, I feel the energy of London-town envelope me – my trip this week was no different. Yes, the weather was gray and cold despite the season, (hello, it’s London!) but the vibe was crazy cool – especially when entering our offices at 16 High Holborn, our burgeoning global center of excellence.

I was lucky enough to be in the office yesterday when the UK PR Week Leagues Tables came out, to join the team in celebrating: we moved up 31 places, to number 56!

It’s no easy feat to be amongst the top 150 UK consultancies after a mere five years of existence and to continue on the growth trajectory we’ve set for ourselves. It is thanks to an incredible team that makes it happen every day by believing in the WCG vision, themselves, each other and our clients. The ranking is a celebratory milestone – one we’re quite humbled by – but it is the day-to-day courage, camaraderie and collaboration that continues to amaze me.

The PR Week announcement has allowed us to reminisce – we certainly had a stellar year growing with our long-term clients and adding 5 new clients to our roster, as well as a fantastic collection of new team members. Interestingly, though, I was in London this week to look ahead, or in WCG vernacular, to “Go Ahead.” We spent time talking about where we’re headed in 2013 and beyond, and it became overwhelmingly clear that in our quickly evolving industry, our team is making its own way and taking calculated risks to deliver “next practices.”

Our 12 new analytics colleagues are working with our strategists and marketing experts to develop new models to guide our clients. Our digital team is creating new ways to evolve relationships via apps, sites and two-way communications. Our communications team is implementing advocacy work that, in many respects, is re-writing the patient/consumer decision journey.

WCG London isn’t having a strong finish as rankings often suggest…it is merely getting started. We’ve found our calling!


It’s only April but W2O Group is off to a fast start in 2013. Last month, we proudly recapped our highlights from 2012 in our year end wrap up post. In March, we also enjoyed a successful SXSW where we collected tons of content from our clients, partners and friends of W2O, held two open houses and served up some top notch BBQ at Franklin’s. In addition, we were named the number two healthcare PR firm by O’Dwyers and made a decision to get “greener” by deciding to not print any more business cards. Last but not least, we proudly promoted over fifty of our employees — a sure sign of our overall corporate health!

Building on all this exciting news, today we learned that we were named the number one PR firm in Texas by O’Dwyers. Even more impressive is that we did it with just a presence in Austin — unlike some of the other agencies on the list, we have no official presence in Dallas or Houston.

As we concentrate on Austin as our digital hub, it’s important to remember that we continue to maintain focus on all aspects of our business including corporate communications, influencer engagement and training. Bringing the best of these “communications” offerings combined with our world class analytics, social engagement, agile content and strategy is where we know that we add the most value to our clients. It also helps us stay competitive when it comes to recruiting new talent (hint: we are hiring across all of our offices for multiple positions).

Of course being named number one in the second most populated state in the United States is quite the honor. But for those that know us, you know we are not ones to rest on our laurels. We have our sights set on being number one in the U.S. and once that’s under our belt, number one in the world. That may be a few years off yet but we are hungry, motivated and excited to build on our momentum. Building the agency of the future takes work but we are enjoying doing it, one success at a time.

With the 2013 version of SxSW Interactive in the books, it’s time for a look back on highlights, key trends (or lack of) and links to some of the awesome content we collected during the several events that we hosted during the event.

For starters, there really weren’t any big technologies that shined through at this SXSW like we’ve had at past events. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but likely more of an indication that it’s becoming harder and harder to break through all the noise at SXSW Interactive. There was a larger corporate presence than ever this year and that will likely be a continuing theme over the next few years as companies continue to embrace, grow and operationalize social, digital and mobile into their corporate DNA.

Social Commerce Summit

For W2O Group in particular, we had a very successful set of of events that kicked off with our Social Commerce Summit on Thursday, March 7. During this six hour event, we had 19 speakers each give 10 minute TED-like talks. The talks covered a range of topics including love, marriage and creating brand passion. We know it’s a lot of content but we hope you’ll take the time to watch the video (or at least read the highlights in the blog posts) from the speakers below.

We also had a few nice write ups from the event by former PR Week/current Holmes Report writer, Aarti Shah (here) and friend of W2O, Lisa Grimm (here).

In particular, we would like to thank our sponsors, Sysomos and BazaarVoice, for making all of our events during SXSW possible. They were (and are) great partners.


W2O Group Open House/Live from Stubbs Video Podcasts

While there weren’t any breakthrough companies this year at SXSW, we did have a number of themes crop up during our Social Commerce Summit and then again during our Live from Stubbs podcast tapings during our open house on Friday, March 8. In particular we heard a lot about big data, mobile, analytics and the operationalization of digital across the organization from many of our speakers/guests. There was also a significant amount of interest in our partner, SnapTrends, technology that provides for location-based analytics, a topic that W2O is quite bullish on.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be embedding the Live from Stubbs videos in blog posts on our Common Sense blog. In the meantime, you can check out all of the videos on our Youtube channel here. You can also read my Live from Stubbs co-host, Kyle Flaherty’s summary of our interview with Youtube’s Jeben Berg, here. When Kyle is not podcasting he is the VP of marketing at local analytics firm, 21CT who was kind enough to sponsor our Live from Stubbs videos. I would also like to thank local video production and strategy company, UPG for all of their brilliant work with both the Live from Stubbs videos as well as recording/editing all of our Social Commerce videos.


Of course SXSW wouldn’t be what it is without a party. And party we did at our 4th annual Geek-a-cue on Saturday night at Franklin BBQ (ranked best BBQ in the U.S. by Bon Appetit Magazine). Fortunately the rain held off this year allowing us to eat fantastic BBQ, enjoy the brilliant music of local favorite, Monte Montgomery, share a few beverages, take funny photos in our photo booth and play a little Corn Hole out behind the tent.

This short video shot and produced by UPG does a wonderful job of summing up this fabulous event.


We also need to thank Natalee Norwood and Spoiled Doves for producing our Geek-a-cue. Without all her creativity, foresight and elbow grease, this event wouldn’t be what it was. Thank you to Aaron and Stacy Franklin and the Franklin staff for use of their venue and all the mouth watering BBQ they served up with smiles on their faces.

Digital Brunch

Capping off the week, we hosted a digital brunch at our East Austin offices. In spite of threats of rain, the springing ahead of the clocks and a lot of hung over SXSW attendees, we still enjoyed over 125 visitors to our new offices. The petting zoo, chair massages, drinks (alcoholic and caffeinated) and gourmet brunch courtesy of local restaurant/catering company, Dai Due, probably didn’t hurt.

Biggest thanks of all go to the dream team at W2O Group of Erin Disney, Stephanie Layton, Blaire Borochoff and Katrina Hallowell for their months of hard work putting these events together. Huge props also go to our CEO, Jim Weiss and President, Bob Pearson for making these events possible. Last but not least, a shout out to all of our W2O Group employees who volunteered/attended as well as our clients for being an integral part of our SXSW experience. Thank you!

Last but not least, we also had a little fun with our #sxswpickuplines this year. Details are here. Video that put the cherry on the cake is below.


This is the first in a three part discussion previously featured in PRWeek’s Insider Blog Series which explores the idea that agencies must ‘adapt or die’ to stay on top of the game.

Early in the Brad Pitt movie Moneyball, his character Billy Beane says prophetically to one of his colleagues, “Adapt or die.” The Oakland A’s, the baseball team he runs, begins to work to leverage analytics, statistics, and technology to assemble a championship team with a small payroll and limited resources, compared to their larger, more well-funded competitors.

While pervasive instability is certainly uncomfortable to experience, in some ways it puts firms like WCG at an advantage. Public relations professionals have long understood the many parts of the marketing mix, working across multiple departments in client organizations. Likewise, PR firms have used their nimbleness to innovate and stay ahead, oftentimes producing results more efficiently than the competition.

PR firms in general are quite adept at leveraging change, especially those who have shifted their models and strategies in recognition of the importance of digital, online, social, and mobile communications. We are increasingly seeing the role of communications, and PR pros within companies and organizations, taking on a broader remit than ever before because communications are happening online in real-time where multiple stakeholders are seeing them all at once.

Organizations and companies can no longer communicate in silos and increasingly have to speak with one unified voice — something the PR profession is particularly well-trained and suited to help them do well.

Inherently, PR professionals have always had to be adaptable “jacks of all trades,” adept at multiple elements of the marketing mix and working across organizations on a variety of communications challenges. And they have had to do so under tight budgets producing ROI more cost effectively than other types of professionals and consultancies.

They also have spent a lot of time in the line of fire dealing with time-sensitive crises, having to respond in real time to stakeholders, media, and customers.  Responsiveness and transparency with relative speed and immediacy have always been qualities the best PR professionals possess. Never have those been more important than in the new social and digital media age.

Internal agency structure as a USP is just a canard

An article recently published in PR Week trotted out once again the old canard of the inherent benefits for clients associated with their agencies’ internal structure, specifically that those agencies who dispense with the ‘old’ hierarchies and embrace a ‘no titles’ structure will blaze a trail of enhanced client service.

It’s a nice idea, but unfortunately in most cases it is just a solution searching for a problem. I have worked in several agencies during my career to date, and have experienced both the ‘hierarchical’ and ‘no titles’ set-ups. Was there any difference between agencies in the quality of our client service that could be directly attributed to how we were structured internally? Not at all.

The stated aim of getting rid of titles is basically to ensure that only the most relevant agency personnel work on a particular piece of business, no matter which function they are part of, where they are physically located or their level of experience. Makes perfect sense, of course, but this is perfectly possible within a normal agency structure.

In most cases, failure to give a particular client the services of the best possible team is the fault of senior management, not the agency structure. An enlightened leadership team will always make sure that clients’ needs are met, not letting internal rivalries and fiefdoms or separate agency offices’ P&Ls get in the way.

The next time that you are selecting an agency (or interviewing to join one), ask yourself the following question: do you want to work with an agency that ranks its own internal structure (or lack of) of equal (or greater) importance than what it can do for you?

If the answer is no, then you know whom to call… 😉

When industry changes, so do its influencers, so I found it rather instructive to look at the new PRWeek Power List  that includes our CEO, Jim Weiss.

What’s changed is fairly significant.  The leaders include several independent agency heads who have always followed their own path.  Folks like Richard Edelman and Margery Kraus.  Kudos to them.

It also includes visionary leaders of Fortune 100 companies, like Sally Susman, whose team is innovating communications in ways large and small.  No surprise to see Google and Disney and Wal-Mart among others.  All great leaders within great companies.

The larger agencies presence is much smaller than I would expect.  And here is why I believe this to be the case.

The old model of big agencies is like a ball and chain.  It’s hard to figure out how to innovate beyond it.  The people running agencies are smart as ever, but their model is an impediment.

Leaders want big picture, marketing-oriented thinking from us….they want us thinking like CMO’s, not silos, whether it is social media or creative or PR or other.  Synergy needs to be real and lived every day.

PR firms are too often thinking like PR people…..this is frustrating clients who want bigger, more  integrated thinking. Most PR firms are in major danger of becoming less relevant at a time when more opportunity than ever is leaking out of  the big agency model into next gen firms.

Clients are looking for great  ideas…..well rounded, measurable, game changing ideas and models and metrics.  They want next practices, not best practices.

What it means is that integration within a firm has to happen yesterday.  It is partly “how we do it”.  It is about the talent mix.  It is about encouraging our team to learn about new areas of the marketing mix.

We need to keep  hiring people from different backgrounds in the marketing spectrum, who will challenge our thinking/add new ideas/new ways to  move.  We should be asking ourselves if we are  hiring too many people who think the same way.  We want great PR people right next to great digital leaders right next to creative geniuses.  No silos,  just great teams.  We all raise our game as a result.

The next gen agency is equally comfortable handling PR or social media or advertising or direct marketing or other opps as they arise and can do so in an efficient manner.  They won’t need to call on separate departments of separate people in separate P&Ls.  They will simply tap their team.  Agencies will either be ready when the market is ready or the opportunity will simply fly by.  Integration is happening today in ways never imagined 15 years ago when we started talking about it continually.

Jim is building this type of next gen firm every day at WCG .  We know it because we are living it.  It’s why I believe he made the power list.

Now back to work….

All the best, Bob Pearson

Very cool update on WCG entering the top 10 for independent PR agencies, according to PR Week.  As you’ll hear from Jim below, this is a combination of excellent work by our public relations team leaders over an eight year period and now combined with social media and creative to build new solutions and programs for our clients.  Not to mention new products.

I’m the new guy, so hats off to Jim and the WCG team who have built the firm from our first client to what we have today over the past eight years.  What I like most is that we are really in Chapter One….we’re just getting started.

Info from PR Week

May 01 2010
Principal: Jim Weiss, CEO
Ownership: Independent
Subsidiary agencies: Invigorate Communications
Offices: 6 wholly owned globally; 5 in the US
Revenue: $26,939,000; $25,811,000 in the US
Headcount: 165 globally; 134 in the US

In the eight years since its launch, WCG (WeissComm Group) has grown furiously, targeting both acquisitions and organic growth. This year, for the first time, it takes a spot among the top 10 independent PR agencies.

In 2009, the healthcare shop added creative and digital services as part of an overall strategy to diversify its offerings and address client demands.

Jim Weiss, CEO of WCG, says he realized the need to diversify after the firm suffered a rough fourth quarter in 2008 that resulted in layoffs.

“We wanted to have the diversity and ability to communicate programs through a number of different media,” he says.

Creative gamble pays off
In the first half of 2009, WCG acquired creative shop ODA and Bob Pearson’s social media firm Common Sense Media Group. The gamble paid off – WCG’s 2009 revenues in the US increased 36% over 2008.

CFO Tony Esposito attributes 16% of the firm’s total growth to those two key acquisitions. The firm is now aiming for revenue of around $35 million in 2010.

The agency doubled staff to nearly 170 people, bringing in key leaders such as Pearson as chief technology and media officer and Burson-Marsteller’s Gail Cohen as global MD. The firm brought in 20 employees from ODA and two from Common Sense through the acquisitions.

Long-term thinking
“We’re basically looking at, from here on out, pretty slow, steady growth,” says Weiss, who says he still works with clients. “My goal is to build something that’s sustained, and [to get] people to stay for a long time and really grow with the company.”

WCG picked up significant wins, such as Medtronic. It also experienced organic growth with companies including Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb. While Weiss says the firm is steadily invited to major pitches, he notes that it will still take small projects with potential clients to get its foot in the door.

“Unlike my old model, which was a lot of little accounts, we’re getting what I would say are somewhat fewer, [but] bigger assignments,” he says. “The healthcare world is changing so fast and we have to stay flexible and nimble.”

A big thanks to the folks at PRWeek and all the staff at WCG for a stellar year that led to the Editor’s Choice award for the top agencies to watch in 2010.  PR Week noted WCG’s growth in headcount and revenue, as well as rapid expansion of creative and social media capabilities, as indicators that WCG will indeed be one of the top agencies to watch in 2010.  Other agencies that were recognized include MS&L, Waggener Edstrom, Next Fifteen, and Ogilvy PR Worldwide.

From PR Week:

“WeissComm, once a traditional healthcare PR shop, used 2009 to expand its offerings further into social media and creative services through a number of acquisitions and hires. It says it expects revenues for 2009 to increase 40% year-over-year.

The acquisitions set a tone for the San Francisco-based agency, especially during a year where many firms were cutting budgets and staff. Going into 2010, it is well positioned for more growth.

With its integrated offerings, the firm is more than poised to take the lead as a counselor and strategist on issues relating to the FDA’s policy on online communications, healthcare reform, new technology, and the growing consumer health sector.

If the FDA develops guidance for social media and online communications, the firm, which has been a key partner in developing social media strategies for some of the largest pharma companies, can guide its clients through changes as a true adviser.

WeissComm’s acquisitions will also help it develop client relationships outside the traditional pharma and biotech sphere. Yet, many firms are remaining cautious about 2010. If budgets don’t increase and revenues stay flat, the agency could face challenges in maintaining its success.”