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You’re an emerging biotech company, healthcare start-up or medical device business. You believe in your vision and you’ve been talking to venture capitalists. But what keeps venture capitalists interested in continuing the conversation?

Paulo Simas, our chief business designer, hosted a panel on that subject as part of W2O’s annual Pre-Commerce Summit during South by Southwest in Austin. A key take-away from the panel was that venture capitalists, like many of our clients, are focused on how to make patient outcomes better and easier to attain.

“There is no greater time in the history of health and medicine than right now.”

Josh Makower, general partner at New Enterprise Associates, one of the world’s largest healthcare venture capital firms, and a Pre-Commerce panelist thinks “there is no greater time in the history of health and medicine than right now” and that “health tech” is stealing the spotlight among venture capitalists.

Innovations in technology mean that healthcare companies must focus on creating a fuller experience and continued relationship with the consumer. The next frontier of healthcare may be a more integrative approach to patient care. For example, with regards to patient adherence: in addition to developing and manufacturing a drug, forward-thinking companies will make sure the drug is easy for patients to access and administer, and provide tools that make self-care easier. Apps that help patients manage their medications and methods for providers to seamlessly communicate with one another about a given treatment are getting venture capitalists’ attention.

Colin Foster, managing director of Twist Marketing and leader of W2O’s Austin office (a.k.a. Silicon Hills, home to the BrewLife Austin office and where more than 80 W2O employees are based), points out that healthcare companies need to show venture capitalists that they are able to drive down cost for all parties.

“The cost impact of staying on your medicine can be huge – the actual health outcomes improve drastically if you adhere to a drug correctly,” Colin says. The fact that 50 percent of prescriptions are not correctly adhered to underscores this need.

Let’s say this describes your company – you’re harnessing the power of technology to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients and you’re a shoe-in for a meeting with a great venture capital firm. What else do you need to know?

“Venture capitalists want to hear that you have a clear risk mitigation plan, because every opportunity has plenty of risk,” Colin advises. “Be blunt and clear about the risk involved and how you’re ready to tackle it.”

You can view a recording of the full SXSW Pre-Commerce Summit here (the venture capital panel begins at 05:01).

It’s SXSW Eve, so we thought we would feature one of Austin’s up and coming entrepreneurial couples this evening.  Bryan and Amelia Thomas decided to blend virtual world creativity and real world play to found a company called PopUp Play.  If you ever buy presents for kids, you’ll be interested in this company.

Here’s a brief Q&A between myself and Amelia and Bryan.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your company?

From Amelia: PopUp Play began with a conversation I had with some friends.  We were talking about our favorite toys as children, and I remembered the “Flying Phone Booth,” a shipping crate my sisters and I turned into a spaceship. Over the next year we refined the concept as we talked to people who had young children.  It was the enthusiastic response from these parents that pushed us to make PopUp Play a reality. So, we knew the business concept was really attractive to prospective customers.

What gets us excited is that kids can experience the joy and self-confidence of bringing their creations to life and playing with them. Taking a digital design and then interacting with your life-size creation is an experience previously reserved for adult engineers, architects and designers. We have brought that experience to kids.

Q: What are the most important learnings as an entrepreneur that could help others as they start their companies?

Building any kind of company will involve an entire community.  Friends, family, former co-workers, strangers, we could have not gotten this far without the help of countless people who have donated their time and money to make PopUp Play a reality.

Create a lean business canvas as soon as possible and review it regularly.  Early on, it will force you to ask all of the hard questions about your business.  As you build your business refer back to it regularly to see whether your assumptions have changed and to keep you on track.

Openly share the idea.  This is great advice from Guy Kawasaki, in his book “The Art of the Start.”  Sharing your idea with people you trust and respect will result in a huge amount of feedback that will make it better or change your direction entirely.  This value far outweighs any potential cost of someone “stealing” your idea.  After all, ideas are free, execution is where the value is.

Q: Tell us about your main product.  How do children interact with it?  What do they like?

PopUp Play enables kids to design and build their own toys.  Our first product is an experience where kids, ages 3-9, design a custom playhouse that we then manufacture exactly to their specifications and deliver a few days later.  Kids are able to easily set up their playhouse, decorate it and then play inside their creation.

The experience begins on an interactive design app called the PopUp Play Build Lab.  Kids select from options like a house or castle.  They place structural components like towers, windows, doors and roofs.  Then they decorate their creation with graphics torches, dragons or fairies.  At the press of a button they can order their creation.  We deliver their creation a few days later as a life-size playhouse.  Then the play experience continues when the kid creators decorate and color their playhouse and play massive games of make believe inside their creation.

Kids love that they can take what they are seeing on their tablet and play with it in their living room.  It’s a new way of thinking that kids otherwise don’t have access to.  When a kid sees this structure in real life that they created on their iPad, the sheer amount of joy on their face is remarkable.  The phrase “mind blown” might have been created for this moment.

Q:  When you were a kid, what were your favorite toys?

We already talked about Amelia’s favorite toy, the Flying Phone Booth.  Bryan’s favorite toy was a bicycle.  He loved the freedom it gave him to explore and go on adventures.

Thank you Amelia and Bryan, you’re building a very cool company and Austin is proud of you!  We wish you the best of luck.

 

As I mentioned in my kickoff post, we will host a series of blog interviews over the next two weeks with speakers from our upcoming PreCommerce Summit (March 10) and Movers & Shapers Summit (March 12). Today’s interview is with long time friend, founder of the Social Media Club and serial entrepreneur, Chris Heuer. Chris will be part of a panel called “Future of…” at our PreCommerce Summit on Thursday, March 10.a - ChrisHeuer

According to Chris’s LinkedIn profile, he has been “engaged in interactive communications since 1993, and launched his first agency, Guru Communications, out of South Beach, Florida in 1994. Over the years he has helped numerous startups with go-to market strategies, product design, web site development, online marketing campaigns, eCommerce and what is now widely referred to as Social Media.” Some of the skills he’s been endorsed for by his peers are entrepreneurship, start-ups and social media marketing.

  1. Aaron: How do you define innovation?
    Chris: Two words. Failure and iteration.
    This is why most corporations do it so poorly, they think innovation is some magical process where someone just hits upon a big idea that will change the organization. A product or process that will change their competitive position in the market. In the real world, just as in our history, it takes 9,999 tries to find the right filament that can light your way forward.
  2. Aaron: What are you or your organization doing to drive innovation?
    Chris: Rewarding courage and squeezing out fear. It’s the only way. On a personal level, it is a topic I speak on often, but I am also involved with the innovation community and have been studying what large organizations are doing now to get it right. While at Deloitte, I advised on the deployment of our innovation platform and often engaged with the different innovation exercises around the US and in Canada.
  3. Aaron: Who is someone in your industry (or outside) that you admire? Why?
    Chris: Curt Carlson, former CEO of SRI, has done a tremendous job advancing innovation. His book, Innovation is a must read.  I’m also a huge fan of what Tom Chi has been doing in the area of rapid prototyping with Factoryx.
  4. Aaron: Where do you see your industry being in 3 years? 5? 10?
    Chris: Somewhere completely different then we ever imagined. Being cross-industry, cross-discipline, it’s hard for me to pick one prediction, but I am very much interested in contextualized collaboration using augmented reality with cognitive assistance and a voice based UI.
  5. Aaron: What book are you reading right now? How did you choose it?
    Chris: Matterness: Fearless Leadership for a Social World. As for why choosing, see answers above. It’s essential to deepen our humanity and find better ways to create alignment so that we can all benefit. The only way to do this is to stand up for what is right and keep pushing on a vision of a #BetterWorld. This is why, even though I don’t have the time or resources, I have started working on a new non-profit, Rysing Tyde, to help lift all people to their greatest potential in the emerging economy that lies ahead.
  6. For fun: what three things would you make sure you brought with you in a zombie apocalypse?

A.
Can opener, so I can eat brains easily without chipping my teeth.
Salt. Brains without salt are just gross.
Fava beans. Obviously, a good side dish is important.

B.
Good running shoes, samurai sword and an iPhone packed with appropriate zombie killing music.

As I mentioned in my kickoff post, we will host a series of blog interviews over the next two weeks with speakers from our upcoming PreCommerce Summit (March 10) and Movers & Shapers Summit (March 12). Today’s interview is with long time friend, author and Principal Analyst at Altimeter, Brian Solis. Brian will be doing a featured fireside chat at our Movers & Shapers event on Saturday. His session is will be right after lunch at approximately 1:15 PM CT.
a - BrianSolis

According to Brian’s LinkedIn profile, he is “globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders, speakers, and published authors in new technology, digital marketing and culture shifts. His new book, X: The Experience When Business Meets Design, explores the importance of experiences and how to design them for customers, employees and human beings everywhere. Solis also designed the book to be an experience as a physical example of what’s possible when you take a step back to rethink products, services and models in a new economy (and world).” Some of the skills he’s been endorsed for by his peers are social media, digital strategy and marketing.

Without further ado, let’s jump right into our five questions:

    1. Aaron: How do you define innovation?
      Brian: I believe we live in a time where we need a balance of iteration and innovation to break free from “business as usual.”
      – Iteration is doing the same things better.
      – Innovation is doing new things that creates new value.
      – Disruption is doing new things that make the old things obsolete.
    2. Aaron: What are you or your organization doing to drive innovation?
      Brian: I start by observing technology’s impact on business and society. I then look at how behavior, expectations and values are evolving. I study problems and approaches to solving them. I also study how innovation plays out in terms of challenges, opportunities, successes, people, etc. I then share my perspective on everything in the form of research reports, books and speeches to inspire people to drive change.
    3. Aaron: Who is someone in your industry (or outside) that you admire? Why?
      Brian: I admire anyone in any organization stepping outside of their roles to take on the great task of change. It’s political. It can be demeaning. It’s frustrating. It makes you want to quit. But it is because of these people that any form of transformation can see the light of day.
    4. Aaron: Where do you see your industry being in 3 years? 5? 10?
      Brian: Change is now a constant. Disruption is now a choice. We either disrupt ourselves or the gift of disruption is given to us. Here are some of the things I’m thinking about over the next 10 years (also embedded below).
    5. Aaron: For fun: what three things would you make sure you brought with you in a zombie apocalypse?
    • Milla Jovovich aka Alice
    • Water
    • Perishables
    • Tools/supplies
    • Documentation
    • First aid supplies
    • Effective weapons
    • Delorean

Okay, that’s eight. But always a good choice to pick more rather than less. And smart vehicle choice with the Delorean. Assume that’s because it runs on nuclear power.

The fundamentals of communications are timeless. The art of telling a great story, the science of selecting the right channels to share our story in and the nuances of language always have been and will continue to be critical to success.

The environment in which we tell stories, however, is evolving faster than ever. In its wake, the role of the communications function is changing completely.

The reason is simple. Technology has empowered the entire audience to tell a brand’s story. This shift in capabilities is a game changer. As a result, it’s time for courageous leaders to change the communications function with more urgency than in past years. Our customers will benefit from the work of a next generation of audience architects.

Below are several market shifts that cry out for the communications function to change forever.

Audience Overtakes the Outlet: For media relations, our definition of “audience” is changing due to how technology is empowering the “9%” in the 1, 9, 90 model. For years, we have focused on the 1% of a marketplace who create content and act as influencers. The influencers are still important, but now the 9% or those who share content, also are driving the market. The 1 and the 9, together, reach the 90% of people who lurk and learn and benefit from what the 1 and the 9 do.

We used to be able to focus on five to 10 journalists, get them the news and they would share it and everyone else would follow. Now, we have customers joining in to share and interpret our story as they ensure their communities are informed.

Action: We need to know who matters in the 9%. And in many markets where 9% of the audience is in the hundreds of thousands or millions of people, we are realizing that finding the right audience to share content with is more important than getting coverage in an outlet. The former moves markets. The latter adds impressions. CEOs want to move markets.

Flipping PESOs: Since the 1% are important and the 9% now shape markets, this translates into “earned media” and “shared media” as being most important. In today’s world, when we get news coverage via members of the 1%, we want to have it shared via the 9%, either via shared media channels or paid media used strategically within shared to drive the content through a community.

Action: Since paid media will support and follow conversations and news, communicators must become fluent in how to effectively use paid media along with earned and shared. It’s no longer a bad word for communicators. Paid is in. It is becoming a core skill of communicators.

Markets Don’t Wait for Campaigns Anymore: The agility of our campaigns must match the agility of the markets. Communicators are experts at knowing when to pivot on a story. Now, we need to partner with our creative colleagues and embrace the concept of “agile creative,” so we can share content that matters with a market in real time, based on the needs of the market. The idea of taking weeks or months to develop a campaign has become old school.

Action: We need to develop a library of content and stories that are preapproved and ready to share based on real-time insights. This will lead to a new definition of media planning for earned and shared.

Micro-Segmentation Replaces Personas: We always knew top-down, persona-driven segments of “five audience types” were wrong. Now, we’re realizing that each person actually represents his/her own media ecosystem. For example, if I am a cardiologist, I may follow healthcare providers, other MDs, nurses, journalists, patients, insurance companies and other professionals on my social channels. If we are going to track what 1,000 cardiologists care about, we can look at the online media ecosystem of all 1,000 of them and determine which outlets they care about, which channels are important, what content is relevant to them, what time of day they go online and much more. The roll-up of these ecosystems defines the media network. We just flipped segmentation on its head. Now we look from the bottom up and must understand how content is shared and consumed within each person’s network.

Action: We need to become fluent in the use of data and excellent in developing insights from these data.

Fragmentation of Media Means Something New: We used to say fragmentation referred to the proliferation of media outlets. That was an old-school way to look at change. What we see now is that an audience decides where and when it participates, which leads to real fragmentation. Fragmentation of people’s attention is far more important.

No longer are many of us CNN or ESPN fans. We consume content and have conversations in multiple channels with multiple communities and consume content on multiple devices from multiple platforms. We are news or sports fans and decide where we participate and consume content. The result is our definition of audience is very different today.

Action: We are entering an era where we must become audience architects, able to identify, develop and track the right audiences, learn from them and then align with their needs. If we’re not aligned, we may just be talking to ourselves.

This article originally appeared in the September 21, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.

As the PreCommerce Summit in London concluded, the final panel discussed global trends for digital engagement.  Discussion opened around a question proposed by Gary Grates, Principal W2O Group, which summed up the key debate posed at the event: as an unintended effect of our adoption of digital, have we created a society in which it is more difficult to relate?  Are we losing our humanity?

  • IMG_8243Cynthia Storer, former CIA analyst, answered from a security standpoint that the trend she sees is laziness in interaction and interrogation of information.  We now oversimplify information and situations.  We eliminate nuance.  In our hurry to find answers and synthesize the dearth of information available to us from an ever growing number of channels, we use cognitive short cuts and tend to look for classifications that can be summed up in a short-hand, 140-character sentence of dichotomy: good or bad.  Humans have never been this simple and it is lazy for us to assume this would change based on digital tools we use to express our humanity.  Humans are humans.
  • Pradipta Bagchi, VP & Global Head of Corporate Communications at Tata Consultancy Services, built on Cynthia’s points to highlight the need for online and offline interactions to be integrated.  From his perspective,  we are having more interaction, but it is less meaningful.  For example, in India, a telecom giant had bots answering customer service calls.  Someone figured this out and called stating their issue was a desire to marry the CEO’s daughter.  The bot responded: thank you for your comments, we will get back to you shortly with a solution.  In the end, machine to human interactions fall flat.
  • Bob Pearson, President and Chief Innovation Officer at W2O Group, took an anthropologic view.  He discussed how humans are programmed to learn via play to enable survival.  For example children learn to walk so they can travel.  There is a purpose to why we have this innate sense of curiosity, desire to interact and drive to discover.  In the case of Millennials, they are comfortable with digital tools because they grew up playing with them and now they are part of their survival mechanism – how they communicate.  Older generations are uncomfortable with this because we didn’t have these digital tools, so the adaptation process is different – though usage patterns have shown that digital tools continue to be rapidly adopted across all age groups.  So digital isn’t really the culprit here, it is human nature to play with these tools and human nature to use them as a part of how we evolve our communications.
  • Gary closed this topic citing his approach to teaching at the university where he is a professor emeritus.  When he walks into a classroom, no one is talking to each other, they are all bent over their phones.  So the first thing he does is force them to introduce themselves.  And the students respond with surprise and wonder at how connected some of them are offline (ie, this guy is actually my neighbor!).  Digital should not supplant, but complement and facilitate face to face interaction.  On the other hand, our dedication to digital will likely result in a boom for another industry: interest in chiropractic services after so much time bent over our devices!

A question from the audience probed how we can factor multiple online personas into our understanding of people.

  • Pradipta responded first highlighting how platforms naturally push us to segment our personalities.  For example, Facebook is a visual and personal channel and Linked in is more professional.  The persona you have on each isn’t different so much as the weighting to your specific qualities related to your professional life or personal life shift.
  • Bob chimed in using issues management as an example.  If you are managing an issue, the first step is to separate out the noise from the reality.  We see this in particular with protests and the emergence of “slactivism”.  Initially, a digital platform will lead us to believe the magnitude of an issue is quite high based on a perception that 200,000 people are retweeting and liking things.  However, if you look at a different channel for cross over, or look at how many people are contributing to the conversation versus observing it, the numbers rapidly decrease.  The question for me is around how we get people to become more passionate about a topic so they are true activists versus just amplifiers.  Retweeting doesn’t fund a cause.
  • Gary added another anecdote about BP.  Several years ago, there was a group of angry environmental protestors outside the gas station in his town; however, the station lowered its gas prices, and the next day that group of protestors was replaced by lines of cars waiting to fill up.  The price change ferreted out the false positive of passion for the environmental cause, and leverage sensitivity to cost.
  • Cynthia mirrored this interest in human nature.  For the security industry, the spider web of personas is very important.  Cross-referencing those caricatures of a person exposes the base values that a person holds true.  Humans are humans and we rely on basic truths to define ourselves which means that across personas we can often find that thread and stitch together a valuable profile.

Another audience member took this question further to ask about how these personas help predict human behavior.

  • Cynthia elaborated that humans use routines to frame the way we make sense of and interact with the world.  These routines make us feel comfortable and safe.  You don’t have to think about how you are presenting yourself because it is true to your routine self-perception.  These routines make it easier for us to predict or forecast human behavior.  For example, we knew Bin Laden always lived with multiple wives and children so wherever he was hiding would need to be family appropriate.  We also knew he didn’t approve of blowing up school buses so we could discredit any claims to terror acts of that nature.  We do this all the time offline.  We say so-and-so is going to be late or so-and-so will take the public transport because we have learned how to predict their behavior on past actions and their values (lack of punctuality and cost-sensitivity).
  • Bob took this question in a different direction by talking about the recent election in Britain.  Polling didn’t predict the outcome of the election.  Bob believes this is because polling relies on short-term memory which means people can only recall 3 – 7 things and not even accurately, just their interpretation of those things.  So if you marry what people say in polls with their online behavior – which is subconscious or, at least, doesn’t require recall – you start to see more predictive patterns.  And this can get even more insightful using geolocation to look at specific voting districts.
  • Pradipta supported Bob’s points with an anecdote from his company’s app, Elect UK.  The app measured social sentiment, noise and activities of the parties and politicians.  In the end, the app was more accurate than polls as it showed the demise of the Lib Dems.
  • An audience member concluded the session by making a point around the value of the right question.  The audience member shared that there was a poll just before the voting booths opened that asked not who people would vote for, but who they thought would win.  The result favored Cameron.

The panel closed with a final audience member asking: what digital tool has had the greatest impact on their personal lives?

  • Cynthia – Smartphone, it is how she checked in for her flight.
  • Pradipta – Social platforms which have replaced traditional news sources.
  • Bob – It isn’t invented yet, but SnapChat for business.
  • Gary – FitBit as now his wife calls him at work to tell him to move as she can monitor his movement online.

With this quote by Jack Welch, Bob Pearson finished his talk at the W2O PreCommerce Summit in London today. The President and Chief Innovation Officer at W2O Group, encouraged the audience to remain nimble to be able to adapt to future trends and changes and shared some of his insights into tomorrow’s world of brands, customers and media.

As described in his book PreCommerce, Bob sees the biggest value for brands in decreasing the distance to their customers and focus on pre-commerce phase vs. the actual point of sale: Only those who are able to listen, will be able to respond and adapt to market needs – maybe even before those needs actually exist.

The digital age definitely enabled brands to be much closer to their target audiences than ever before; however, the structures, relationships and stakeholders, as we have known them for years, will no longer exist in the future. Bob Pearson summarizes this development in four key game changing trends:

  1. Our Definition of Audience Is Changing

If we look at the 1-9-90 model, we can clearly see the former content creators and outlets are no longer as relevant in the online conversation as the 9%, which we define as brand advocates, those who spend their time inside social media channels, who are part of strong peer groups and, who add their views to existing content, that will share the future of your brand’s or company’s story. With this development, the audience is now more important than the outlet.

  1. The PESO model is flipping

As the 9% grow in importance, so does earned and shared media. This requires us to integrate a new media planning model that defines an insight-driven social media channel and influencer strategy, which roles out into campaigns, content and experiences. As part of this model, paid media amplification remains an important part to break through the “noise”, but it will follow conversations and communities more than news.

  1. Markets Don’t Wait for Campaigns Anymore

Digital conversation is dynamic and to be able to participate, brands need to be agile. Providing customers with what they need, where they need it and when they need it, is a challenge that includes our creative approach. Those brands who are able to use data and respond to trends in real-time, with content dynamically changing based on interest, will make the 365 campaign become real.

  1. Micro Segmentation Replaces “Personas”

Or in Bob’s words “We always knew that top-down persona-driven segments of “five audience types” was wrong”. With each person and each audience having their own media ecosystem, the roll-up of these ecosystems defines the media network. In order to customize content to their target audiences, brands need to understand how the audience and their attention are fragmented. Therefore, the future media leaders will excel in audience architecture.

About Bob Pearson

Bob Pearson is President and Chief Innovation Officer at W2O Group. Bob has a unique combination of social media, marketing and communications skills acquired during nearly 25 years at three Fortune BobPearson500 companies and a major consultancy. In 2011, he published his book “Pre-Commerce: How Companies and Customers are Transforming Business Together”, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. He is currently working on his next book, which will be available in March 2016. “Storytizing” will focus on the importance of creating a compelling and at the same time relevant narrative for your brand.

Together with panelists Steven Overman, CMO at Eastman Kodak, Simon Shipley, Marketing and Innovation Manager at Intel, and Steve Milton, Consultant and Former Corporate Communications director at eBay, Bob Pearson investigates whether evolution is enough to stay relevant in the new digital economy.

There’s a clear need to embrace digital, but do we need to learn more about it before we start our digital agenda to ensure we do it right?

For Bob’s panelists digital is actually something that needs to be part of the mindset of an organization in order to be successful and impactful. Since the nature of the digital world is dynamic and not stable, we need to start acting, but also remain nimble to be able to respond to changes in the future.

Part of our digital transformation should also be a reevaluation of familiar questions: How do global brand behave in local markets? Do we position ourselves as the known and trusted international brand or do we adapt to local needs? Navigating between the waters of global and local has always been a challenge for companies, but when it comes to digital the core question actually diminishes – there is no local. However, we have to think through more tactical implications such as various languages, servers or how we handle e-commerce fulfillment. We are trying to behave in a unified way, but have to figure out how those things can actually be executed.

Another key question in digital is whether or not e-commerce is becoming channel and platform agnostic by integrating the ability to sell and buy into our social channels. It is actually not a question of if, but rather when we see this development, thinking about markets like China, where the integration of the marketplace into the social world is already reality.

So what can online marketing tech companies do to be more relevant and valuable? With a lot of change we need to have a scientist’s mindset, being curious, trying out new things and failing fast, which is not failure, but a way to gain new insights. Most importantly we need to listen of what people care about and can no longer assume we know.

Data, or more specifically Big Data, was the focus of Anna Gruebler’s talk at the #PreCommerce Summit in London today. While we may be aware of its omnipresence, it is its use that is of interest; most of us are not even aware of what is at our disposal, especially in the area of healthcare.

For example IBM’s Watson Health, one of the world’s biggest ‘super computers’, aims to give healthcare professionals better access to data to support the delivery of patient care. This computer strives to combine ‘Explory’s technology with IBM’s powerful Health Cloud and Watson’s cognitive capabilities, to expand the reach of health insights so that big data can finally be used more easily to transform healthcare.’

ANNA                                      ANNA2

However we must also remember the challenges that data in the healthcare sphere poses.

  • First and foremost, the sheer volume of data that is out there, it all needs storing.
  • Secondly, data’s velocity. We are taking, sharing and storing more and more.
  • Thirdly, data’s variety. Pictures, text, data mining, audio, the options are endless.
  • Fourth, and potentially most crucially, veracity. Is the data that we are collecting and storing actually accurate? Does the data that we have gathered reflect the actual user behavior that we’d like it to? How do we ensure that it is accurate?

This is especially crucial regarding the UK’s proposed Care.Data scheme. An opt-out scheme, this will save an individual’s personal health data in order to make it accessible to the likes of healthcare practitioners. While this may be useful if my pharmacist needs my doctor’s notes, it would also mean that my potential health insurer would know all about my medical history… And what if, when considering veracity, that data isn’t accurate?

We still have a long way to go…

We are living in a time where we are ‘always on’ with multiple devices providing us with information but also distracting us and exhausting our time. Technology has become a natural part of our daily life, where having different multiple online personas for work, life, and play is common. It has also become a source of angst.

With an influx of new information and online digital platforms almost daily, the digital landscape is evolving and consumers are now more empowered than ever. Brands can no longer fully control their narrative and need to find and understand the people who are most relevant to their future determining how they consume and share information as well as how they listen to each other as individuals.

This rapidly changing world can sometimes feel both like a massive headache and an incredible opportunity for marketers and communicators. C-suite leaders must be able to adapt to these changes if their organizations are to survive. Staying nimble and being able to predict how the industry will evolve before it happens is all part of the job. What we see from working with our clients and helping them stay one step ahead of competition is that regardless of which industry you are in or who your audience is, we are all facing similar challenges when it comes to digitalization. Being so imbedded in our client businesses is what allows us to build the community where innovators and leaders can come together and share their best practices and learnings.

Breaking away from your everyday routine and meeting those who are walking in the same shoes as you, is a proven method to generate new ideas or new solutions. Following on the success of last year’s Social Intelligence Summit we are excited to host our second annual thought leadership event – PreCommerce Summit London 2015.

The event, coinciding with London’s Social Media Week, will bring together experts from across industries to discuss how we work, live and create in the digital world. We will be considering the impact and opportunities of the mobile generation and will provide perspectives and host panel discussions with key leaders, such as:

I’m hopeful you are able to attend this important forum. Don’t miss the last chance to register to attend the summit on the 14th of September in London via livestream or in person!

More information on the event and the speakers can be found here www.w2oevents.com.

Navigating the future takes more than just educated guesswork. It combines knowledge, adaptability and a willingness to garner new inputs from new sources.

The W2O Group Pre-Commerce London Summit is your personal GPS to succeeding in the future!

As some of you who work with or follow W2O Group know, we as a company place a heavy emphasis on thought leadership. Not only do we create content regularly for this blog, speak at events and deliver client “trend” presentations, but we also host our own events throughout the year. To that end, our London PreCommerce Summit is happening next week on Monday, September 14th (this coincides with London’s Social Media Week). You must be on the registration list if  you are interested in attending so please reach out to me or RSVP online here ahead of time.

To give you a little sneak peek into some of the content at this year’s event, I interviewed client and PreCommerce speaker, Simon Shipley. Simon is also the Marketing and Innovation Manager at Intel. Now onto the questions!

simon_shipley
Simon Shipley, Intel

Aaron: Simon, how has your role evolved at Intel over the last 14 years?
Simon: I started off in a channel sales role where myself and 5 others defined and mapped out our indirect customers who bought from our authorised distributers. We met with over 2500 companies in the first year. After a few other sales roles I moved into a country marketing and then an EMEA marketing role. The role has changed from traditional marketing but has always had a strong digital focus; even back in 2008 we made the decision to spend 65% of global marketing budget spend to digital. Since then, things have just exploded – channels, capabilities, data, metrics, management, you name it. I’ve witnessed not just the arrival of social networks, but their evolution from novelty to curiosity (marketing-wise) to platforms with advanced monetisation models. It is often remarked upon, but with good reason – it’s been a huge shift. Closer to home, we (Intel) have recently been building out our platform for storytelling to have a more direct relationship with our audience. Overall I would say my role alongside those of my colleagues has required us to be more even responsive to change (forget trying to stay ahead of any curves!) and that there is an interesting dynamic with the speed of change that I have spent more time with fellow brands discussing common problems and opportunities

AS: I noticed the role “Innovation” in your title. I know that’s an important word to Intel. How do you “innovate” in your day-to-day job?
SS: Actually I am slightly ambivalent about the word ‘innovation’ in my title but it provides a useful focal point on how we look at change and our ability to do things differently over time. There is a perception that innovation is about big sweeping changes delivered at scale. Whilst these occasionally happen, innovation is more often about small continuous changes and improvement that added together over time amount to something significant. I am a big fan of Dave Brailsford, the Team Principal at Team Sky and the approach he continues to take in elite cycling with the “aggregation of marginal gains” that has led to extraordinary success. In my day-to-day job we continually look to drive improvements no matter how small by pulling out insight, being observant and unafraid to learn from those who I think are doing things better. It’s about staying curious, really, and also being prepared to fail occasionally. I am lucky to work in a company whose culture supports this.

AS: What are three changes you see happening in the consumer tech space over the next 3-5 years?SS: There will be so much change and three to five years is a very long time in technology space.

  1. Intelligence is coming to devices that will make them contextually aware of us and their surroundings. This has profound implications for what our tech will be able to for us, how we interact with it, and – importantly – how we feel about it and react to that.
  2. Wireless charging – unless there is a big breakthrough in battery life I see wireless charging of devices will become the norm. In fact, irrespective of this, I think it will become the norm. The impact of this could be massive as we have the potential to be even more mobile, both within the workplace as well as being out and about.
  3. The power of big data will have an impact on individuals in areas like personalised healthcare that could revolutionise treatments for conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Cancer based on genomic analysis by handling and ordering massive sets of data to develop treatment that can be matched to an individual need.
    There are also all the factors of data privacy whether government legislation or consumer expectations.

AS: You are speaking at our upcoming PreCommerce Summit – what topic do you plan on speaking about?
SS: I will be talking about the strategic imperative for companies (or brands) to own their own data: the sheer amount of options on the market with regard to data automation is staggering, and while each of them maybe a potential solution, there are arguably too many solutions to be able to know which ones best meet a marketer’s needs. This in turn creates process challenges, and it is our job as marketers to maintain a clarity of focus on what we are, in the end, trying to achieve. This will in some cases require changes to our skill set.

AS: What is the last book you read (business or pleasure). Describe it in 2-3 sentences. And most importantly, would you recommend it?
SS: That’s an easy one. I have just finished reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to my children. I think it is the moment in the series of the books where things get much more interesting, with the characters and plots both acquiring more depth. Would I recommend it? Absolutely!

And there you have it. Thank you Simon for taking the time out of your busy day to answer these questions. We’ll see you next Monday at the Summit!

As a marketing analyst, my day is governed by digital media. My nights are equally dictated, as I am guilty of sleeping next to my phone, just like 83% of other Millennials. Tech-dependant as we are, I’d expect this “generation of digital natives” to be very fond of online experiences. In fact, according to statista, 85% of UK 16 to 34-year-olds used Facebook in 2014. Can we infer from these numbers alone that digital experiences are always the preferred choice by us Millennials? As you might have guessed, I intend to make it a tad more difficult by contrasting some digital vs. offline experiences:

Education: While traditional education has undeniable benefits such as direct peer and teacher interaction, over 6.7 million students were taking a minimum of one online course in 2011 – an increase of more than half a million year-on-year. Online education will enable people from poorer families or rural areas receive valuable skills. Interestingly, print reading is highest among 18 to 29 year old US students, according to a Pew study, as the text book layout benefits comprehension and distractions and skimming are less likely.

Work: Similar to traditional education, being physically present at work has huge benefits, such as your boss knowing what you are up to. However, home offices will be an important factor in juggling work and family, as a survey in the Microsoft whitepaper points out. Further benefits of home office are a less stressful environment, a quieter atmosphere, commute elimination and increased environmental sustainability.

Dating & Friendships: Dating apps allow us to roam potential partners whenever and wherever we want. Some portals such as EHarmony and OkCupid ask personal questions that supposedly match you to people with similar opinions and interests. Therefore, online dating is a form of offline speed dating, as you don’t have to waste precious minutes getting to know someone to figure out later that their love for cats doesn’t match your allergies. Digital, in this case, gives you a wider range of opportunities, while you will most likely want to meet your online encounter in real life before getting married. Regarding friendship building, technology also works as a facilitator. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 57% of US teens have met a new friend online, with 30% having made more than five. Due to their love for video games, boys are more likely than girls to make online friends.

Family: Most of us can speak from experience that being around your family in person is superior to a Skype call, where the video quality is sub-par. Nonetheless, apps and platforms allow us to reach out more often and share little, yet important moments as well.

The endless list of things we do online includes mobile banking (enabling female farmers in Africa build their own businesses) or sharing hobbies, such as cooking, sports, art and photography. Due to Instagram filters, everyone can now be a “photographer” and we can share our successful or not-so-successful cooking experiences with the entire world. We can also share calories burnt after our first mile or half-marathon and make our Facebook friends envious. Most of all, we can find people who share rare hobbies such as a fondness for pigeons. It’s much easier to find like-minded people online or strangers to talk to confidentially. Privacy goes both ways online: you can be anonymous and share fears and thoughts, but at the same time, you can gossip and insult others without being identified. Negative factors seem to increase online where it is also much easier to voice your opinion to a greater audience. The latest incidence being the refugee crisis in Europe, where a lot of celebrities voice themselves supportively online, but allow fans with negative sentiments to comment and reach this wide audience as well.

As it turns out, the digital landscape is widely complex. Deciding on what experiences are more enjoyable online is further hindered by factors such as your audience’s background, preferences and motivations. As the recent Economist article “Myths about Millennials” points out, “individual differences are always bigger than generational differences.” One should not make assumptions about a group of people just because they were born in the same time period.

Generally speaking, however, digital is always better. Not because we replace real experiences with digital ones, but because digital adds options to our means of communication. Every communication tool in history has had its pros and cons, but the tools have been improving over time. Improvement meaning enhancing communication, bringing us closer together. We started with smoke clouds and can now communicate with people on several continents at once and in colour. We want to share information and experiences – sad moments, achievements and joy. Yes, there are still many improvements to be made, technically and personally (be it privacy issues or us constantly looking down on our phones while walking in the streets). Ultimately, communication is what we’re all about and digital communication is a further added benefit along the way – and not just for Millennials.

After this peek into the facets of digital, I want to invite you to join W2O Group’s PreCommerce Summit that is part of London’s Social Media Week, to further expand your knowledge. Hear industry experts talk about marketing’s future and share your opinion on whether digital is always better. You can RSVP here: http://w2oevents.com/

In the past six years, I can count on one hand — one finger, actually — the number of times I’ve attended a conference and not been an active participant in the Twitter conversation onsite. It was 2009, my laptop was at the office, and I did not yet have a smartphone. You can bet that was the last time I traveled without multiple devices, a smartphone being one of them.

As a millennial — yes, one of those — I began my career at a time when Twitter was only for the tech elite, Facebook was still “The Facebook,” and LinkedIn was a glorified resume. Now, similar to how no one can remember a time when anything got done without email, I can no longer fathom — nor want to — a world where social media wasn’t a driving force behind how business gets done, and done well.

In my past life as a healthcare conference producer, social media wasn’t yet the widely adopted medium for communication and collaboration that it is today. Speaking faculties and conference agendas were created from research and whatever publications and articles were available online, and events were publicized via mass email campaigns and cold calling. Just a few years later, the landscape had already changed drastically.

In my next role as an editorial content producer at a technology publisher, hashtags were the new sources for news stories, LinkedIn was the first point of contact, and QR codes were all the rage. To stay timely, topical and relevant was to keep up with the rate of change in social media adoption and use. Today, that thinking still holds true. Only now, the cost of not participating is something that individuals and brands alike can no longer afford.

We’ve all heard that “content is king,” and from a content generation perspective, Twitter is one of the most valuable — and all too often, underrated — sources. If someone had told me back when I was putting together conference agendas that there would soon be a channel that would provide, in real-time, insights on the topics and trends that your target audience cares most about, I might have traded an arm or leg for access. Now, that information is just a screen tap away.

But the wealth of benefits that Twitter provides goes well beyond social intelligence — topic and audience targeting, influencer analysis, idea generation and the like. While it’s true that the incredibly rich data that Twitter provides — when paired with the right analytics, active listening tools and analysis in place — creates an unmatched opportunity for social optimization and ROI-inducing initiatives, to me, the most valuable aspect of the channel has been the relationships that is has allowed me to cultivate. And for that, I could not be more appreciative.

While conferences and networking events might have previously been where industry colleagues would be introduced to one another for the first time, now, these onsite interactions are simply an extension of the relationships that began through a series of 140 character posts. The number of times I’ve approached — okay, ran toward — industry colleagues with whom I’ve connected on Twitter first, and recognized solely from their profile picture, is a bit embarrassing. But the amazing opportunities, incredible learning experiences, professional connections, and friends, that I have made, simply because we were engaged via the social medium first, makes it all worthwhile.

Case in point being earlier this year, at W2O’s #HITsmCIO event at HIMSS’15 in Chicago, where provider innovation, information and technology chiefs gathered together to discuss the proliferation of social media in healthcare. UPMC’s chief innovation officer, Rasu Shrestha, M.D., one of the Twittersphere’s most active — an quite frankly, awesome — digital health leaders, shared that when it comes to hospital and health system use of social media, “it’s less of a question about whether you should do it; it’s can you afford not to.” I would have never gotten the opportunity to meet, know, and most importantly, learn from, Dr. Shrestha in the same capacity if not for Twitter, where his perspective perfectly echoes what we advise our clients, friends, and ourselves, regarding social media engagement.

For House of Cards fans, during one of his infamous first-person narratives to the camera, Frank Underwood noted that “imagination is its own form of courage.” For anyone who has yet to take the leap or see the value in social media from a personal perspective, I’m here to tell you that it’s worth it. Imagine yourself interacting with and learning from individuals you had previously only read about, fostering relationships with an unmatched network of thought leaders, and carving out a voice for yourself in the space. It might take a bit of courage to put yourself out there, but just imagine the possibilities.

And for those brands who have yet to harness the power of social engagement and intelligence — from healthcare and digital health, to technology and pharma, through B2B startups to well-established B2C staples — the time to imagine how these social channels can drive opportunity and incredible value for your business is now. Remember, it takes imagination — and courage — to see innovation and opportunity where others cannot, and social media engagement is no exception.

For more information on how social commerce and SoMe intelligence is driving change, enabling opportunity and creating a competitive advantage across the marketing and communications landscape, be sure to follow #PreCommerce on Twitter for updates and notable information from W2O’s EMEA annual PreCommerce Summit, taking place in London on September 14, 2015.

Please see here for more information on the event. In the area? Come join us – registration is free!

Social media is my quickest way to discover my world daily. I use it as an aggregator for work-related knowledge, client monitoring, traditional news, my personal interests for everything from tech to fashion, my boys’ schools and sports teams, networking, my close friends and more. There is a reason behind each like or follow.

I always tell people to consider the websites they visit each morning. Maybe you go to the New York Times, Amazon to see the deals of the day, your kids’ school page and ESPN. If you have all of those in your Facebook feed and/or a Twitter list, you would have one source to see all the things that interest you. Build out your interests in one place. It’s a huge time saver – think your news in real time.

As social media became popular, billions of people shifted their habits. For example, as Facebook became a go-to, brands wanted to be there telling stories just like the Wall Street Journal is. And brands can have a two-way conversation with people versus marketing via TV, for example, which is one-way. This was all fascinating to me and quite relatable. I see social media for brands as the modern newsroom to create stories – perfect as content consumption is still on the rise. And for one’s personal brand, brands have a unique opportunity to give the nine-percent sharable content.

For context, I initially hated that my major at Xavier University would be in “Electronic Media.” What’s electronic media? I was focusing on television and radio, but “electronic” seemed so odd. In the years to come, I would simply tell people that I majored in communications with a focus on television to avoid the confused look on their faces. Now electronic media makes total sense. So ironic.

Television news was perfect for me right out of school. I can remember the high of constantly scouring the newspaper and feeds for a story – thinking it through to make the content relevant to our audience. The news feed was never-ending and in real time. There was always something to read and learn. Who knew how this would prepare me for a life in digital marketing of the future? And I’m especially grateful for the skills that I honed using video and pictures to help tell my stories.

Like news, social media happens in real time. Brands can’t wait until tomorrow to react, because the trend will probably be old news or in modern terms “not trending” anymore. I help brands to plan out their posts in an editorial calendar, but leave room for agile, responsive content. Think of it in terms of how CBS has “60 Minutes” for stories that they have more time to develop versus the evening news each night. Both are important. Both are agile though.

A newsroom approach is a shift for brands who are often still chained to traditional marketing mindsets full of TV commercials, banner ads, etc., or working in silos within the organization. Telling stories with a newsroom approach partially means not just telling stories about yourself. Nobody “likes” that guy, brands; he gets defriended. It’s more about working the conversation at a cocktail party, or with your boss, asking the right questions and adding to a great topic with your point of view or related experience. If your story is good enough, others will want to go research it more and share it. Think water cooler conversations. Influencers talking about a brand is always better than the brand saying it themselves.

For activation of the influencer, there is not a day at work that goes by that I don’t utilize my television newsroom skills, which led me into PR, marketing and technology. I need the story or point of view to be sharable to live on. When social media was born, I felt like somebody rolled together all the things that I loved into one. Brands are still evolving with the change in mindset. I feel lucky to coach them on thinking social and digital first as the social assets can’t just be chopped from that multi-million-dollar TV commercial. For influencers and targeting of content, social also now requires the funding that traditional marketing has paid for years for influence. Yes, that means paid social that’s smart thanks to analytics for a laser-focused ROI. And shifting marketing dollars for social because you get what you pay for even in social. And what about employees as brand advocates – have you tapped them?

It’s a very exciting time to work with brands. They are being reborn in a new space that changes quickly. Early adoption and being flexible to try new things has never been more prevalent and necessary.

The fruits of my efforts are literally at your fingertips for you to consume while second-screening during a movie on Netflix, while waiting to pick your child up from ball practice, picking a restaurant from a food blogger, while Googling brand info during that pre-commerce moment and so many other places. I love change. My job won’t be what it is today in five years, but it’s my duty to be ahead of wherever we go. Influencers will continue to influence more as people consume more content than ever. I’ll find new ways to serve creative whether that’s on SnapChat, Tinder, Vine, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or who knows what. It’s the first thing I do when I wake up each day and the last thing I do before I fall asleep. I’m watching and thinking about what we should do next.

On September 14th, during London’s Social Media Week, a global panel of social experts from across industries will converge in London for the #PreCommerce summit, hosted by W2O EMEA, with a special focus on how we work, live and create in the digital time. If you’re on that side of the pond, don’t miss it. Thanks for learning how social media has forever changed my world and your world through our clients. Keep evolving. You’ll always have a new story to tell.

headshotColleen Hartman, a 1993 “Electronic Media” graduate from Xavier University, can be found on Twitter at @Miss_Colleen and on various other social channels. Be sure to see her LinkedIn profile which documents her journey from newsroom to PR to marketing to sports to technology to the combination of all of those which she now calls social media. She is a director for W2O Group where she finds success helping brands use sharable, visual social media with a newsroom mindset.

Each summer, I love to catch up on reading.  Last week, while on vacation, I read The Innovators by Walter Isaacson, Spam Nation by Brian Krebs and Head of State by Andrew Marr.  All three are great reads.  Here is what I learned that applies to what we do every day.

The Innovators

Study Next Practices, not Best Practices – in every example of technology innovation, the new innovators, whether it was Gates or Jobs or Cerf or Berners-Lee, were improving on the latest invention.  No one studied how companies are using innovation and then decided how to innovate.  If they did, they would have never seen the future they helped create.  Lesson here is to always focus on what is new that will evolve an existing model.  Don’t wait for market-based applications of that same innovation or you’ll be perpetually behind.

Small Groups Innovate – small groups with very different mindsets do really well.  Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore and Andy Grove were a great team that helped to create and build Intel.  Very different people.  Ballmer and Gates.  Wozniak and Jobs.  Dorsey and Williams.  No innovations noted in the book were created by large groups or big committees.  In fact, those were the exact groups that couldn’t believe new ideas would work.  Small, diverse teams that could challenge each other to think differently won.  The best innovators realize they need people smart in areas they are not smart in to succeed.

Vision, Programming & Execution are Key Parts of Innovative Teams – each area is intense.  Someone pushes the boundaries on what is possible.  Someone else can create the impossible and yet another person can make it all real.  Each role is critical to success.  Lesson here is that execution and vision are equally important.  One does not succeed without the other.

Sometimes the Answer is Right in Front of Us – Richard Stallman was the forefather of open source software, yet he never finished the kernel, which Linus Torvald did with his creation of Linux, ushering in a new era for software.  The last mile is hard, yet worth it.  Said another way, it often takes multiple people/teams in different places and often at different time points to build the innovation that matters to the market.

Transformational Innovation Occurs Over Time – we could connect PCs back in 1969, but it took time to build microprocessor chips, create software to run our machines, organize files in new ways and then put it all together.  Lesson here is that this is always happening.  The question is what pieces are being put together right now that will eventually transform how we work today?

Overall, it is super clear that the best examples of innovation occur via small teams, over time, who can see around the corner a bit faster than the rest of the world.  It is never about an individual. It’s always a team effort.

Spam Nation

Spammers are professionals – this book centered on Russia, in particular.  Spammers run companies, pay competitive salaries for engineering talent, offer strong benefits and act as stand-alone companies, often with a mix of legitimate and illegitmate businesses.  Lesson here is that when there is money to be made, talent will flow towards it, whether it is legal or illegal.  It’s hard to believe, but true.  It’s important that we look at security issues as they really exist, not via the lens we have in the US.  Yes, people are going to work every day to try to take our money and sell us goods that could be dangerous to us.

Canadian Pharmacies Selling in the US are Rarely in Canada – spammers are expert at hijacking sites, driving traffic to those sites and creating the illusion that you are buying prescription drugs from Canada.  They are often coming from other countries around the world made by suspect manufacturers.  If it sounds too good to be true, it normally is. Those who want to deceive us create illusions we can believe in.

Cybersecurity Affects All of Us – today, spammers can make a lot of money selling us illicit or suspect goods.  If they are slowed down in the future, which is starting to happen, they will simply turn to the next way to make money.  Like innovation itself, it is important that we understand what is at risk for us, personally and professionally.  Security will be a growing issue for us in the years ahead.

Head of State

This is a page-turner.  Written by Andrew Marr of The Financial Times based on a plot created by Lord Peter Chadlington, it is centered on a future EU Referendum to stay or not stay in the EU.  From there, crazy things occur.

 

Enjoy, Bob

Something about changing one’s environment — whether it be in a different city, state or country — always has a way of impacting perspective. It could be the architecture, the food, the temperature, different dialects or foreign languages. Some of it is psychological as we are bombarded with new stimuli that our brain isn’t used to. Often it is a combination of things but at the end of the day, it can lead to new breakthroughs.

Photo Credit: Simon Ling, W2O Group
Photo Credit: Simon Ling of W2O Group

Recently, I had the luxury of spending the better part of two weeks in London. For several of those days, I worked out of our 45 person London office. While I had met most of the folks from the office at least virtually and another handful in person, I had never had the chance to hunker down and interact with them in their native environment. Nor had I had the chance to break bread with them, drink coffee with them, visit clients, grab a pint, sit through team meetings or listen in as they tried to explain to one another the exact meaning of American phrases like “navel gazing.”

While I knew that the team there was exceptionally smart and hard working, I didn’t realize to what degree this was true until I had the luxury of invading their space. Fortunately for me, they were kind hosts and went to great lengths to make sure I was able to get the most of my trip there. The good news is I did… and then some.

If you’ve been to London before, you know just what a global city it is. Our office is a true reflection of that. With members from Spain, Lithuania, Netherlands, France, Germany, Russia and a dozen other places I’m leaving out, there is a real international feeling to the office. Most of the conversation happens in English but occasionally you can hear French, German and Russian spoken — sometimes to colleagues, often to clients. I occasionally caught myself listening in… not that I could catch much of what was being said (my french is decent as is my Russian but I only know about 20 words in German so I was dead in the water there). It was fascinating.

During my London stay, there were numerous lessons learned. Some were inferred from my time in our London office, others were taken from interacting with clients, friends and colleagues while I was there. In no particular order, here we go:

  • If you work in London (or EMEA for that matter), you work a long day. While the mornings may start off a little more casually than in the States, people are generally in the office between 8:30 and 9:30 and then are often expected to be on calls until 8:00 or 9:00 PM at night to accommodate New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. It gets worse if one’s book of business includes clients in Asia.
  • To the last point, there ends up being a weird lull in the first third of the day in between the 30-45 minutes of email cleanup in the morning until about 2:00 PM when the east coast starts to come on line. It took a couple of days to get used to this lull but once you do, it is an incredibly productive time that can be used for local meetings, client work and thought leadership. The closest thing I’ve seen to it is on the west coast around 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM where ET and CT have wrapped up and the UK still sleeps.
  • I mentioned the international piece before when I was describing our office but I am truly amazed at how international London is. And it’s not just tourists. Business people on the Tube, street vendors, waiters. You hear a dozen different languages and can see from the clothing, hair styles and culture that you are living in a true melting pot. I know NYC is similar to this but to me at least, it feels like more of this is driven by the service industry and its natural employment of so many immigrants. If you want to be global, a London presence is a must have gateway into EMEA.
  • The Subway or “Tube” as it’s called is the lifeblood of the city. While NYC is similar in its dependence on public transportation, I was amazed at the profound impact the Tube strike had on my first couple of days in London. Part of the problem is that the roads in London are so narrow, traffic is bad even with most of the commuters using public transport. When one of the major people movers shuts down, traffic grinds to a halt. Worse yet, estimates show that the shutdown causes £50 million in lost business revenue. Ouch!
  • Due to the “global” first approach (particularly in our office), better thought through frameworks and processes seem to arise. This is a necessity as any work done needs to potentially scale into dozens of other markets and languages. If the process is flawed out of the gate, it only gets worse through iteration and repetition. A great example of this is an easy to understand statement of work (SOW) template that my colleague, Laura Mucha, put together that clients love AND it contains a staffing plan making it easier for teams to kick off new projects.

There are easily ten other things I picked up on my travels but these were a few of the more obvious ones. I should be back in the UK in September so keep your eyes open for more observations then.

PreCommerce Summit London

The W2O Group PreCommerce Summit London 2015 on Monday 14 September in London’s City Hall will focus on how we live, work and create in the digital world, and the challenges of the generational digital divide. With technology at our fingertips, we are living in a time where having multiple online personas is normal; work, life and play meaning that we have never been more empowered to control what information we want, when we want it and how we want it. But is being connected making us more disconnected?

Coinciding with London’s Social Media Week, our event convenes industry leaders, senior marketing and communications professionals, entrepreneurs, influential journalists and bloggers from across a broad range of industries and interests. Our distinguished panel includes:

·         Marvin Chow, Senior Director at Google

·         Jessica Federer, Chief Digital Officer at Bayer

·         Anna Gruebler, Artificial Intelligence specialist

·         Dina Rey, Head of Digital at Roche

·         Kriti Sharma, VP Data Strategy at Barclays

·         Simon Shipley, Marketing and Innovation Manager at Intel

·         Anita Yuen, Global Head of Digital Fundraising at UNICEF

We will be sharing more information about our panel, new members, as well as event highlights and topics in the coming weeks.

The event is by invitation only, so to reserve your seat, please do so early at W2O events.

See you on 14 September!

We were wondering what the entertainment habits are for millennials vs. boomers, so we did our latest survey on this topic.  Here is what we discovered:

 Millennials really do like to exercise – One might think Millennials only relax via texting, social media, or playing video games if we play to stereotype, but Brittany has always vouched that they are not as reclined as we think. More than half of the Millennials we surveyed said they would rather spend time outside or exercising in order to relax.  The rest of Millennials, of course, were split up between going on social media, watching a movie, playing video games or doing something else that didn’t involve breaking a sweat.

The new play station is the phone – millennials used to have to wait to get home to play a game via their play station or Xbox or computer.  What an enormous drag on their time.  Now, games can be played anytime, anywhere on your phone.  It’s clear that millennials, who have grown up with phones and know all of the tricks of how a phone can really work (unlike the boomers) prefer to play mobile games.  Brittany will often play 2048 on her iPhone when waiting in line at the Smoothie Bar, for example.  Bob just gets a smoothie and is thrilled he did this vs getting a milk shake, which is what he really wants.

“Game churning” is the new normal – It’s quite difficult to ask any millennial what their favorite game is, and that is because of the variety of games/apps available today. They tire of games quicker than in the past, since you can play more frequently.  There appears to be a fatigue factor with any game that is simply reached quicker when you play today due to this frequency.  Millennials don’t think twice about deleting the app or throwing out the game and picking up another one to play.  Game churn is real.  Popular games for Millennials, at least who we heard from, include Heads up, Candy Crush, FIFA, Madden, Call of Duty, 2048, Bubble Shooter, and Tinder (if you consider that a game).

Big screens still win – 63% of Millennials surveyed said that their favorite place to watch a movie is on their TV at home and 25% would rather visit a movie theatre. Back when the Boomers were growing up, that was the consensus as well…yet there wasn’t an option to show a movie on one’s iPhone, tablet, iPad, computer, etc. It is looking like big screens will continue to win when it comes to entertainment.  Gaming on a phone, sure.  Sitting down to watch a movie for 90 minutes?  The couch and a big screen will always be more fun.

Laughing is important…for every generation – When quickly asked, “What is your favorite genre of movies?” a typical reply is “Comedy, why?  Simple. No matter who you are, everyone always wants a good laugh! Millennials are all about the humor and positivity that comedic movies give off…and that’s no different than a Boomer’s opinion.

Four habits fill up our free time – If you give a Millennial 25 free minutes, they’re probably all going to be doing the same exact three or four things: sleeping, watching Netflix, checking up on social media, or working out. When we have an extra 25 minutes, we tend to either distract ourselves, do minor tasks, or sleep…which shows Boomer Bob what he has always been saying may be true. If you are distracted constantly via text, email, or other interruptions…we don’t bounce back well and we will do things of lesser importance.  He wonders if these 25 free minutes are really us dealing with the interferences of life or are we truly finding time to replenish our soul, so to speak.

Ubiquity of content leads to binge watching of TV Series – if you can watch your favorite content on any device anywhere you are, your habits change.  For Millennials, 85% prefer to watch episodes from a TV Show Series, rather than a single movie. The ability to watch anywhere, anytime plus Netflix and Amazon’s services leads to binge watching and binge watching favors television series.

Are you really paying attention? – It is becoming more prevalent for us to watch TV or a movie, while we are checking a second screen.  We asked Millennials what exactly they are doing on their second devices while simultaneously watching the TV. Most are on Instagram or Twitter, checking up on latest posts. The rest are split between Snapchat, texting, and even shopping online. Basically, no matter what is on the big screen, something is competing against it for our attention on the small screen.  Even Bob does it now and then.

Thanks for following our series.  Our next blog will be an interview with one of the world’s top experts in understanding children and entertainment, Ms. Nancy Zweirs.

 

Best, Brittany & Bob Pearson

 

Snapchat has increasingly become a topic of discussion among brands in terms of driving business value and ROI. It has evolved since our initial evaluation of it in 2014, citing it’s lack of data tracking and its ephemeral nature, but it still has some gaps to fill. Our team has some strategic ideas around optimizing the platform currently and some that could hopefully come to life in the near future. You can view the complete list of insights here and below:

 

#1 If Snapchat can provide full transparency on users of their service, advertising can be done in an appropriate and highly focused manner. The data can be anonymized to respect privacy, while still achieving targeting goals. This data must be accessible to the brands advertising. It cannot be held only by Snapchat, since it is critical for planning.

  • IDEA — Open up a limited API, ala Facebook’s 30 days of data – brands must be able to access anonymized data to plan. Facebook has shown the way on how to do this and still preserve the integrity of the data.

#2 – Work with brands to develop relationships with Snapchat Stars – we all know the power of influencers. The stories feature of Snapchat is where influencers are emerging that have major impact for a brand. These stars are similar to what is occurring on YouTube, Vine, Instagram and other channels. For example, if BRAND X focused on beauty brands and emerging influencers for make-up tips, how- to’s for skin care and other related topics, this increases authenticity, supports the drivers of Snapchat traffic and helps your brand understand who has influence in Snapchat vs. other channels.

  • IDEA– Enable a brand to work directly with influencers in a category – this leads to more targeted earned and paid media; it helps the influencers gain additional influence; and it adds much needed authenticity for any advertiser. It is widely believed that advertising alone will not be accepted by the Snapchat audience, so new models of partnership are key to success.

#3 – Create a “Snap to Buy” feature – we need ROI. If Snapchat creates a “snap to buy” feature where users can purchase products or download important buying information for later use, we can better track funnel activity. This can work for a brand by partnering with emerging stars, “map” them discussing a topic, provide the option to buy direct (within the chat), and deliver directly or to a local outlet. For consumables, this scenario could generate simple couponing or co-marking opportunities.

#4 – Develop new content partnerships between talent, media networks and brands – a traditional ad won’t work in Snapchat. However, new models can open up opportunities. In other words, brands will sponsor other brands. Snapchat’s new media service called Discover, which will host branded propertieis for Yahoo, People, Cosmopolitan, the Food Network, Daily Mail, Vice, CNN and others.

  • IDEA – an example can be given for a TV show and a BRAND X brand. BRAND X works with the talent on a TV show. The talent on this show then Snapchats on a key topic that also includes the BRAND X brand. This would be a powerful way to integrate great content, keep the topic aligned with Snapchat user’s interests and work in a brand appropriately.

#5 – Innovate in geo-location – Snapchat is already innovating with picture filters automatically uploaded from your location.  Since interaction with geo-location based content is already accepted by Snapchat users, we think of new ways to build value.

  • IDEA 1– this is purely a matter of creativity.  We could create a contest based on geo-location use of certain backgrounds.  Once a certain level of use is reached, prizes are made available.  New filters that are highly topical could be provided by BRAND X brands, e.g. Olympics and any sports-related shots for certain sports, however the backgrounds feature the local athletes for that user to make it more personal. Or BRAND X sponsors Movember with idea that men are all shaving in the near future.  And on and on.
  • IDEA 2 – align Snapchat content from brands down to the store level.  If the retail networks of a country are aligned to geo-location, BRAND X can offer unique content and coupons/offers at the zip code level and you can snap to buy and it goes right to your closest store.

#6—Improve how “Stories” is handled within Snapchat – the “Stories” experience does not appear integrated with how users typically use the app, which is to interact with friends.

    • Stories are essentially paid content from brands in the Snapchat app
    • Most of the time, people use Snapchat to interact with friends
    • Stories do not appear “inline” when you interact with friends, but rather only if you go to Explore —> Discover in the app, which is a couple clicks off the beaten path
    • This is like moving paid content on cnn.com off the front page and into a section called “Paid Content”
    • If brands are having success, that’s what matters — but it’s an odd way to integrate paid

#7 – Partner with users to create a “brand studio” – populate the studio within Snapchat with brand content (images, video, quotes and other content) that can be used by anyone.  And encourage users to add their own ideas, make requests and participate in making each brand studio as cool as it can be.

  • IDEA – co-create content with communities directly.

Innovative ways brands are using Snapchat:

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

All the best,

Bob Pearson

This column first appeared in the June 1st issue of PRNews

The new definition of owned media is simple: If we create and approve content, it’s owned. It wasn’t long ago when owned media simply was the content on our website. Today owned media has moved from being a site to becoming how a customer experiences the brand’s voice in any channel

The paradigm has changed so dramatically that we as PR pros are required to meet customers and prospects at their favorite online hangouts. We can and must share the same content that is housed on our website on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and with key bloggers. After all, we are in the business of storytelling and story distribution. Facebook, bloggers and other platforms consistently reach more potential customers than our website. The good news is that our voice has become portable. Good and bad news: we control the official, but often not the initial, experience with our brands.

On the positive side, our websites can do almost anything we want. They can serve as a company store or teach consumers about an issue, a technology or disease.

The goal itself hasn’t changed too much really. We still want to take the company’s story and share our version of the truth directly with customers in the locations they prefer to hear from us.  

Timing has become important. It’s critical to reach customers throughout their PreCommerce journey, while they are learning, sharing or just having fun. Waiting until they visit our website compromises our ability to influence the final outcome. It’s imperative that we touch the majority of conversations, buying decisions and search behavior occurring outside of our official company channel well before final decisions are made about a purchase or even our reputation.

Customers learn about a new product via search, explore what others believe about it in forums, ask friends on Facebook about it and visit a company website to confirm what’s already been learned. After all that, the customer who decides to buy the product will usually do so at a site offering the best terms.  

How effectively we use owned media defines its success and proves our value. Here are five key examples of how to optimize the new version of owned media. 

 

1. Supply chain of language. Normally there are 15 keywords or phrases that the majority of customers are searching for to find your story or a related topic. It’s more important than ever that you develop a supply chain of language, so that you use the same keywords on your website, in social channels, as tags for new content and in press releases and statements. If you coordinate across the owned media supply chain, you’ll greatly increase search engine optimization results.  

Communicators are becoming the new search experts by necessity. Telling a good story is only as helpful as a potential customer’s ability to find it.

 

2. Network coordination. Are you sharing the same messages and a similar story across your website, social channels and via spokespeople? How do you offer different content by channel to match the customer’s journey?

We must become experts in how customers choose to learn about our brands to develop the right network strategy. We need to work as one team. 

 

3. Understand the role of each media channel. Are we teaching customers and prospects via YouTube, answering questions on forums and posting interactive contest on Facebook? What is the role of each channel? Can we imagine the customer journey, document what really happens online and ensure that what we provide matches with the customer’s needs? 

 

4. Ensure visits are customized. When we shake hands, we are connecting with another person. Customers search for certain keywords that lead them to our site. It’s a digital handshake. This little bit of information enables us to provide the exact content they want when they visit our site. 

Are you doing this? Imagine having 10 experiences available to match up with different keywords, so if you are looking for a job, you get the job site right away because you were searching for “company x, engineer of abc.”

 

5. Focus on the customer experience. Are we consistently monitoring all media we own to ensure the consumer’s experience is consistent?  How do we know? When I think of doing this effectively I recall advice from Gayle Fuguitt, president-CEO of The Advertising Research Foundation, who said, “Brands are built in the brain.”

 

Customer’s brains involve ten channels of online media, plus mainstream media, ranging from audio to search to video (see PR News, May 26, 2014). Are we building brands in the brain or are we simply sharing content and hoping for the best?  

 

3 Ways Owned Media Saves Money

Here are three ways I’ve learned to save money via effective use of owned media:

1. Use ads strategically to drive earned and shared media. Facebook ad buys are a great example. Don’t saturate your audience. Use ads strategically to drive your owned media story to the right people. Remember what Daina Middleton, head of global business marketing at Twitter, says: “Marketing through persuasion is over. Marketing through participation is here to stay.” Make it easy to find content you want to participate in.

2. Responsive experience improves conversion. When you provide the right content the first time via a website, your conversion is far higher. Dramatically. Create libraries of content based on the type of person who will visit your site and use targeting expertise to match visitors with the right experience.

 3. Content ‘capsules’ can replace Websites. You can now embed the equivalent of a portable website in any social channel, for example, via Business Wire’s news capsule.  If you take your best content for a story and create this type of portable website, you avoid the costs of driving people to your website and it costs a fraction of what you normally pay.                                      

 

All the best, Bob