It’s no secret that Syracuse University emphasizes a strong communications alumni network. Whether you call it the “Newhouse Mafia,” or not, there’s no questioning that orange is everywhere.

OSyracuseur partnership with Newhouse doesn’t stop at the Center for Social Commerce. It’s a fundamental mindset for those of us who hail from Syracuse. Many of us remember when we were students and the generosity of those who shaped our perception and understanding of the industry. Some of us just bleed orange. Regardless of motive, we are a proud bunch dedicated to sharing our knowledge and experience with new generations of professionals.

Shortly after the holidays, we were thrilled to host two Syracuse sophomores as a part of the Newhouse Alumni Partnership Program. Thanks to the willingness and hard work of Elliot Fox, Lauren Barbiero, Sarah Masel, Richard Wong, Sarah Colgrove, Abigail Rethore, Brianna Quaglia and more, we were able to ensure that Milati Das and Saquandra Heath could experience the breadth of W2O Group’s functions and practices.

It was a fulfilling day for us and we were excited to convey what makes W2O Group so special with two very driven and bright students. Here are their reactions and thoughts.

Hope you enjoy!

Meriel McCaffery & Taylor Carr

Mitali Das’ Reflection

Over my winter break frMitaliDasom Syracuse University I had the opportunity to shadow Meriel McCaffery at WCG (W2O Group), an extremely positive and eye-opening experience. Immersed in the comings and goings of a prominent digital marketing agency, I was able to bridge the gap between my communications education and the realities of the industry. I learned a great deal about the emerging field of analytics, the central role of media engagement, and the integration of practices and functions within the company. While shadowing Meriel, a Corporate Communications Strategist at WCG and fellow Newhouse alumna, I learned firsthand about the inner workings of an agency. I caught a glimpse into the typical workday of a strategist such as Meriel. In between numerous meetings, she was able to balance her individual client-based tasks and communicate with her colleagues.

As a student, I was intrigued by the wealth of knowledge to be gained in an agency setting. I observed as Meriel worked within a variety of disciplines, ranging from technology to healthcare. Though strategy and analytics were at the core of the work, her team seamlessly integrated their research and knowledge to better serve their client. As my day of meetings, tours, and conference calls came to a close, I was left with the impression that WCG, and agencies that perform in methods similar to theirs, are truly the future of public relations and marketing. My experience at this dynamic and progressive company, though titled as a “shadow,” was ultimately a unique opportunity to engage in what will be the future of my chosen field of study. I am grateful to my school, to Meriel, and to W2O Group for this unforgettable experience.

Saquandra Heath’s Reflection: A Glimpse of the Future

SaquandraHealth9:07: I arrived at a beautiful building submerged between peaceful waters of which the sun gracefully shone on, and bustling city goers strutting the busy streets of NYC. I had no idea what my day at W2O would entail, but I was ready for it all. “Ding!” and there I was, instantly on the fourteenth floor. The secretary greeted me with a welcoming smile and escorted me like a special guest to my job shadow host. Not long after greeting and exchanging names with the signature handshake, was I immersed in the daily life of a public relations practitioner, or consultant rather. However, this daily life is unlike any other that one could ever imagine.

When I thought about public relations, the first task that came to mind was writing a press release. Yet, at W2O, press releases are not the trend. W2O tackles a whole new and non-traditional approach to PR. They combine raw data, better known as analytics, mixed with the experience and expertise of renowned public relations practitioners, to create an agency that is operated with a futuristic approach. This non-traditional form of public relations is truly something that excites me—it is energetic, it is innovative, it is new, it is the future—but W2O has mastered it in the present.  My host Taylor Carr was phenomenal and explained this remarkable approach of public relations in great detail. Taylor’s eyes lit up with excitement, his tone screamed enthusiasm, and his knowledge was greatly exhibited, but his passion above all, left a lasting impression. Taylor possesses a work ethic that many strive for, and his passion about his career is so undeniable that it excited me for the workforce.

If one were to ask how my job shadow experience at W2O was, my response would begin with a smile, followed by “have a seat.”

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this column first appeared in the January 5th issue of PRNews

The Chinese market is innovating in ways different than what we are used to in the west. Where we see boundaries, entrepreneurs in China envision new ways to combine social media and ecommerce. What I’ve discovered is that “geographic learning” is part of how we build an edge in our home market. Often, the best ideas for what’s next are happening thousands of miles away. This article will describe key lessons learned from China that can be applied to how we communicate in western markets in the years ahead.

1. Focus on one consistent customer experience. In China, ecommerce companies like Alibaba integrate social media fully into their sales experience. They don’t divide social media and sales and they don’t place as high a premium on advertising. Where we see a divide in how things should work (social media and ecommerce), the Chinese find an opportunity to create one continual customer experience.

2. ROI is easier to answer. When you tie social media and ecommerce, it’s the same customer, so we know his/her purchasing power. Chinese companies don’t have to waste time asking ‘How do you know social media will lead to ROI?’ The more directly we work with our customers, the more we know about them. The more we advertise to them from afar, the less we know. The latter way being much more expensive and less productive.

3. An involved customer is a productive customer. When you interact with customers in a repeatable and trustworthy manner, a breakthrough occurs in the relationship between company and customer. In China, because social media and ecommerce are one in the same, consumers will ask their peers for advice more frequently and provide advice to companies more often.

4. Customer experience refers to positive outcomes. Normally we think of customer experience as how to deal with negative situations.

In China, it’s the opposite. Improving customer experience means more integration of reviews into sites, more forum conversations, more content created on new products, more advice amongst peers on what to buy.

5. Education trumps advertising. New customers don’t know much, if anything, about a brand they discover online. In China, a premium is placed on educating the consumer by directly involving the customer in the purchase.

The company and the community are there to share advice, discuss new options and teach each other. With a rising middle class, this was imperative, but it reinforces the most simple brand-building lessons.

6. Social platform features will match customer need. We think of social platforms doing one thing well, whether it is photos ( Instagram) or Twitter (140 characters) or Foursquare (location).

Does this make sense? In China, firms combine whatever they believe the customer will want into one platform. For example, WeChat has features similar to Instagram (post photos), Foursquare (find people near you) and instant messaging.

Youku has shades of Netflix and YouTubeSina Weibo allows you to act like we do on Twitter and post as we do on Facebook. This makes sense.

7. Instant messaging will lead to new platforms. IM is one of the fastest-growing aspects of social media in China. WeChat and QQ, both owned by Tencent, are two of the largest instant messaging companies. WeChat enables the user to talk live, share images, use geo-location apps and more.

Could the next platform emerge from IM? What does that mean for how we share content in the U.S.? It’s an obvious trend in a mobile-first world. Overall, the lessons from China are those we talk about a lot in the western world, but often we are held back by our habits. There is no magic bullet.

Rather, there is an opportunity for brands to become more involved in the full customer experience, so that we break down our artificial walls of “sales” versus “marketing” versus “communications.”

Our customers don’t think like this and perhaps, based on what we see in China, we are getting an early glimpse into how our online world will evolve in the years ahead.

The Sidebar

Being Conversant in China

As I study how China is evolving, I’m continually thinking of what we, as communicators, can do differently. Here are the ten most important items on my mind for 2015.

1. Identify your communities for your brand. How many communities do you have where they talk about your brand? What do you do to interact with them? What content do you provide to them? If you don’t have any, how will you get them started?

2. Know your customers…really. We should know exactly who has influence online for our brand, exactly who is providing reviews, exactly who is creating great educational content and more. You should have a list of more than 1,000 people where you know their name, what they do for your brand and what you will do for them.

3. Take instant messaging more seriously. How will you provide content that can be easily shared via IM? What will you do with services like Snap Chat that are redefining what an IM means for entertainment purposes?

4. Work closely with Marketing & Sales. It’s time we have one set of metrics to measure how social media and sales work together. China is teaching us the importance of this every day.

5. Measure how often your team interacts with customers. Develop metrics to understand how often you and your team actually interact with customers online and how often the rest of your company does this on a daily basis. Do you do it? If so, how do you know what is working? If not, what is holding you back?

6. Build your second sales force. Obsess over providing your most important online customers whatever they need to be successful in educating their community, which is really your shared community. What is your content plan to provide a regular flow of information to your customers? Is any of this based on their direct feedback?

7. Remember what all customers want to do online. Anywhere in the world, we have three primal desires online—to share ideas, knowledge or solutions to educate our peers. How are you doing this? Are you enabling your customers or are you talking at them?

8. Think of the entire customer experience, not just a single channel experience. Customers travel from channel to channel to learn. We may go from Facebook to Twitter to Search in minutes to learn on the same topic. Take the time to understand what the journey is for your key customers. Don’t focus on one channel at the expense of learning about the path they take.

9. Remember that education trumps advertising. We are all customers and we all want to learn about the brands that we care most about. Remember to teach. Earned media is the perfect way to do this well. Paid media is really meant to accelerate the work of earned in the new world.

10. Keep an eye on what doesn’t work as well. Not everything in China turns to gold. Look at what fails as well. Why did it? Equally instructive for all of us.

And it probably wouldn’t hurt to learn a few words of Chinese. Zài jiàn. —B.P.

This article originally appeared in the January 5, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.

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Just about three years ago, I sat down with my good friend and fellow location-based services nut, Mike Schneider, to write a book titled, Location-Based Marketing for Dummies. The book was decidedly before its time and was hard to write because the space was still evolving rapidly (in fact, it’s still evolving rapidly). But for that very reason, it was a fun, rewarding and challenging exercise — not necessarily in that order.

Fast forward three years and Mike and I are both still passionate about mobile and location-based marketing. I work for an agency and mainly focus on digital and social strategy but stay current by writing a monthly mobile column on MarketingLand. Mike took a different path and ultimately became the head of marketing for a company called Skyhook Wireless that focuses solely on mobile and location-based solutions. To that end, I thought it was about time the two of us sat down and compared notes (with me as writer and Mike as marketer).

Aaron: You recently took over marketing at Skyhook Wireless. What does your company do and how long has it been around?

Mike: Skyhook is location. We have been around since 2003. We are constantly reinventing how location is obtained in apps, devices and online and then we go to great lengths to add context to make it useful. We care about providing the means to capture and then use massive amounts of location data to give developers, devices, advertisers and more the ability to create and optimize awesome user experiences.

Aaron: A lot of marketers are trying to figure out what the future of ad-tech looks like. Obviously your view will have something to do with mobile/location. Can you give us some of your thinking on how those two connected forces will change marketing?

Mobile is advertising’s best friend because nobody knows a consumer better than their phone. The future of advertising delivered by ad-tech is “relevant content delivered everywhere”. When consumers makes their location known, publishers, brands and ad networks need to be ready to provide them with the best possible experience. The difference between now and then is scale. Getting precise location and tying behavior context to venues is easier than it was when we thought it all up because of the amount and quality of data we have. Concepts that everyone loves to talk about, but have been traditionally more challenging to implement, like geofencing and geo-conquesting can now be done through mouse clicks instead of lines and lines of code.

Aaron: It’s been said that the future of computing is wearables/the Internet of things. Can you tell us more about what this means and why they are so important?

Mike: Let me address them as two separate entities.

  • Wearables
    The wearable market is the collision of technology and fashion. Consumers are going beyond our phones to make “the quantified self” easier by wearing things that capture information about us that we can analyze. You’re a runner, Aaron, and you and I both use MapMyRun and RunKeeper and Nike+ to track our progress and tell our friends how amazing we (or you, I don’t do much more than 3 miles to your 10-15!) are. We then use this to analyze our progress, set goals and push ourselves to be who we want to be. A person’s activity level is a really interesting piece of context. Add this to moods, interests, foods and location and we have some really rich context around a person at a given time. The promise of wearables is that we get all of this information from a low powered, good looking, less noticeable device that means we can leave our phones at home and still capture and use the data we care about. Right now we track steps and calories in most devices, but the future is the addition of exertion and location.
  • Internet of Things
    Human behavior plus connected devices means a greener planet, better customer service and more reliable products. Warehouses are using indoor location to track human behavior and optimize lighting and heating. Thanks to location tech, products that could communicate with beacons and sensors so we know when they are entering a cart and leaving the aisle or the store. They also could know what’s in the cart with them. The communication with other things that are nearby allows us to build profiles of product behavior, attach that to venues for content creation purposes, optimization of energy consumption, finding lost items, inventory optimization and a lot more.

Aaron: Will marketers ever be able to detect users location when they are offline? If so, how do they use it?

Mike: We can do this today. A phone doesn’t need to be online (all of the time) to capture location. We can capture location and then based on where the device moves, capture further data points and trigger geofences or decode them and use them later. Devices like the Eye-Fi card can capture access points when a photo is taken and then attach location to photos in cameras that are not connected. Add this ability to armbands or clothing and we can capture your running route when the device doesn’t have GPS and isn’t connected to a wireless or cell network.

Aaron: Robert Scoble and Shel Israel just wrote a book called The Age of Context. Tell us more about the importance of “context.”

Mike: It’s all about context and context comes from people, places and things that share their data. The collision of people and things data makes place data incredibly rich which allows us to create better experiences for people without knowing exactly who they are. Time makes things extremely interesting. Who we are and what we need on a weekday morning where we might be a “coffee drinking, business traveler obsessed with Spotify” is different than a weekend afternoon where we’re a “coffee drinking, dad of three coaching soccer and looking for baked goods”. Aaron, we are always drinking coffee.

There you have it. Some wise words from a wise man. It’s been a while since Mike and I caught up but it looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. By the way, you can see what Mike and some of my other mobile/location-based savvy industry friends predicted for 2014 here.

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Over the weekend, I saw a good New York Times article about the state of music streaming services. The premise is that a growing list of companies like Spotify, Rdio, Pandora and others are attracting lots of users, but are having a tough time convincing that customer base to pay for their services.

Spotify logoIt’s a tough problem to solve, but what I do know is that offering streaming service access for free (with ads and lower sound quality) is not going to get it done. Even as Apple is reportedly drumming up a real-time bidding service with a focus on iTunes Radio. I thought the music industry would have figured this out back when Napster influenced a whole generation of young folks that music should be free. And earlier today, Billboard Magazine confirmed that digital downloads of music are starting to decline, and that’s partly because more customers are flocking to these streaming services. Guess what? That doesn’t help anyone if most of those customers aren’t paying. I thought the music industry would have figured this out back when Napster influenced a whole generation of folks that music is free. Maybe ads will eventually generate more revenue… but they sure aren’t making up the gap up to this point.

I’m old school when it comes to music.  Over the last decades I’ve bought reams of albums (starting with the Flash Gordon soundtrack), cassettes (starting with Kiss’ Dynasty), CDs, digital downloads from iTunes (when it was the only game in town) and Amazon MP3, and I’ve been a paying subscriber on Pandora and now on Rdio for over a year. I’m the son of a musician, so I’ve always believed in the concept of supporting bands I like by buying their music and seeing their concerts when I can.

But I know I’m the minority. There’s a heck of a lot of folks who subscribe to the post-Napster view of the world that music is free. The fact that most streaming services lead with free is not a good long-term strategy.

Pandora logoI originally paid for the Pandora One premium service for two main reasons: 1) I liked the music recommendation service powered by the Music Genome Project. I find it’s a great way to discover new music. 2) I like the improved sound quality. I’m also old school when it comes to how good music sounds. I haven’t renewed my Pandora One subscription, primarily because my Lumia 928 Windows Phone came with a free year of Pandora One service. But, I’ve used it a lot less than I would normally because of ongoing problems with Bluetooth connectivity and the fact that my 2012 Camry doesn’t support the Lumia 928 via the USB port. That’s one of the downsides of being loyal to the Windows Phone platform.

Rdio logoThe other service I pay for is Rdio. I found Rdio when I looked for an alternative to managing my digital music library of hundreds of CDs. I spent way too much time ripping CDs, adding album art manually, and re-ripping CDs at a higher bit rate for better sound quality years later. And I hate how easily iTunes duplicates music in my collection. I loved that Rdio made it easy for me to assemble a large part of my digital music catalog with little effort. And that the service was designed from the ground up to be mobile. It was the first digital music subscription service that covered (most of) the bases with iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Plus it’s also on other devices in the home like Roku and Sonos.

However, because of my Windows Phone Bluetooth issues and the fact that my car doesn’t recognize my phone means that I almost never use it on the go. The other problem is no one in my family is interested in using it. And I’ve tried. I’ve pitched my wife and my two kids (ages 9 and 10). My wife usually opts for the radio due to simplicity and my kids seem content with listening to a handful of digital albums on their devices. I would gladly pay more if anyone else in the family showed stronger interest.

So, I’ll probably reluctantly cancel my Rdio subscription and just buy a handful of digital downloads through Amazon in those times when I do purchase music. All this makes me wish more bands would go the direct route like Radiohead did with In Rainbows. I’d gladly give money directly to for new albums from bands like Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Trent Reznor/ NIN, Foo Fighters and Stone Temple Pilots (if the latter two can ever patch things up). At least established bands would probably earn more royalties that way.

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Hello W2O,

Following up from our first update last week, please see below for a recap of presentations from our colleagues and special guests on Day 1 of the W2O Go.Ahead in Health Summit!

The Patient Perspective (Dorothy Jones, Vice President of Marketing at Susan G. Komen)

Dorothy spoke about the best practices in reaching patients and how digital channels are amplifying the patient voice and advocacy. In the changing digital landscape, we need to focus on the way we approach access, advocacy and digital channels. The digital space has helped us become more informed, however, people aren’t utilizing the information. Dorothy said it is important to empower people to act on this information by keeping your messaging simple, illustrating the benefits clearly and providing actionable next steps. Patients want information. Find out where they are, what they are looking for and in what stage of their journey they need this information. After the presentation, W2O employees were able to witness something truly amazing. Following a heartfelt story from a cancer survivor, W2O offered a generous donation to the Susan G. Komen foundation. The round-of-applause felt in the room solidified the importance of the work we do each day.

Panel: Future of Integrated Healthcare Delivery
Moderators: Jennifer Davis and Marisa Carullo
Panelists: Kathleen Hertzog, Vice President, Marketing & Communications at Availity, Elizabeth Gerstung, Managing Director at Evolent Health, and Betsy Kline, Vice President Global Marketing, Proteus Digital Health

The panelists spoke about how integrated health systems, companies and products are changing the way health is delivered today and in the future. Current trends are showing reduced hospitalizations and reduced costs associated with integrated health care delivery. We need to develop the market by educating people on these important shifts in health care along with what tools are available. We are going to have a broader audience, so it’s important to think about unique ways to engage them and take learnings from other industries on how to educate and drive action.

Involved physicians will create and empower informed patients and informed patients will take greater ownership of their health and their relationships with their physicians. With the evolution of the informed patient, patient engagement will rely on delivering integrated, personalized care tailored to the patient’s history, finances, demographics, etc. It’s about delivering the right information at the right place and at the right time.

Panel: Genomics Revolution
Moderator: Kelly France
Panelists: Tracy Garcia, Account Director, W2O, Raluca Kurz, MS, LCGC, Invitae, and Katherine Sutherland, MD, Women Physicians OB/GYN Medical Group, El Camino Hospital

The panelists discussed how genomics and personalized medicine are changing research, treatment and patient communication. Technology advances have brought sequencing prices down and has helped drive more interpretation of the genome, and the market for genetic testing is expected to increase with this trend. Genetics will likely ultimately create a revolution in diagnostics and personalized treatment. However, physicians are hesitant to use genetic tests due to the technology and uncertainty and insurers are worried about the expense. We need to demonstrate that the future of this technology will drive great medical advances and that reimbursement will work. Once this is achieved, genetics will ultimately be taken out of the clinic and brought directly to the consumer which will enable us to take action from a public health standpoint.

Panel: Putting it Together: Integrated Communications
Moderator: Audrey Gross
Panelists: David Witt, Christina Devi, Eric Hawkinson, and Carl Engelmarc

The W2O panel members came together to talk about overcoming the challenges of engagement, new opportunities, and lessons learned. When working with our clients, we need to be persistent on the value added in our propositions. Be aware of the current state of the industry and where the client sits, and use this knowledge to model how you can partner with them to be successful in the current climate.

These models should understand what the benefits are, measure those benefits and provide a summary of what the value is.
If our company is offering integrated communications, then our people should be familiar with all components of what we are offering – KNOW THE DATA. Clients want to know what the insights mean for them and how they will help their business. Have a clear process in place and look at the insights with a plan in mind. Work with your team to build integrated plans around these insights and client needs and bring options for solutions to a problem.

Stay tuned tomorrow for more updates!

-Roving Reporters

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The W2O Health Summit convened talent across our organization to reflect and strategize on how our integrated assets can drive leadership and growth in our health care business. It was packed with insights and thought leadership from our colleagues and special guests, who discussed the current and future state of the industry, the changing digital landscape, best practices, and what’s to come. These past two days gave us a great look at what we have to offer and more importantly, it reminded us of the caliber of people we have at our company.

It’s clear that we are optimistic about the future of our health care business and are looking forward to continuing to integrate our offerings and develop broader internal partnerships to benefit our culture and the work we do for our clients. This is an exciting time for the company, so we are looking forward to giving you recaps of the sessions held over the past couple of days.

 Objectives & Vision (Diane Weiser and Jim Weiss)

Diane and Jim kicked-off the meeting highlighting the key points that allow us to do the best work for our clients, and how we can help them transform in the digital age. It was emphasized that we provide two things for our clients, insights and execution. If we continue to focus on these cornerstones of our business and establish and connect our sub-practices, we can rule-out speculation and help our clients see, think, do and change in real time. This is more important than ever in the evolving digital age, as we have power to educate people trying to access health care through these channels.

 Keynote (Jeff Arnold, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Sharecare)

Jeff Arnold joined us to speak about welcoming change and thinking differently in a changing digital health world. Jeff was previously CEO of WebMD. He stressed that our success will rely on coming to market with thought leadership to get people to think in a different way. If we take risks, maintain discipline in the perspectives we choose and believe in our partners and clients we will unlock opportunity. When approaching these opportunities we have to ask how DATA + KNOWLEDGE = ENGAGEMENT based on the needs of our clients.

We are amidst a change in the way consumers interact with their health. With so many trends pushing for consumer interest in personal health, we will be seeing more physician engagement due to increasing consumer demand. We will have to watch this evolution closely and make sure that we approach our work accordingly.

Global Industry Trends (Colin Foster and Danielle Whitney)

Colin and Danielle spoke about global trends that are shaping pricing, access, and communication and how health is evolving on a global scale. They noted as technology advances and digital platforms become more utilized in emerging markets, the opportunity for information exchange will grow exponentially. Digital social platforms will be key areas for health communications. Mobile strategy should also aim to determine how to leverage technology within divergent markets to ensure point of care engagement

Pharma companies are making massive investments in these markets to address the challenges they are facing. Our clients need our integrated expertise to break into these markets and partner with them in developing conventional and unconventional relationships. Through this partnership we will establish resonance and loyalty.

Stay tuned on Monday for insights on the patient perspective from a special guest from Susan G. Komen and the future of integrated health care delivery from panel members from Proteus, Availity and Evolent Health.

— Your Roving Reporters

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Social Commerce Days, held over a two day period, brings a core group of W2O employees to Syracuse University to take part in various events. Last week, I was fortunate to be joined by the following eight W2O employees for social commerce days:

  • Gary Grates
  • Jim Larkin
  • Shai Reichert
  • Stephen Yoon
  • Abigail Rethore
  • Angie Gette
  • Kursten Mitchell
  • Jaclyn Stahl

Throughout Social Commerce Days, W2O employees were invited into classrooms to offer guest lectures to students in both Public Relations and Advertising. Classes we spoke to included:

  1. Public Relations Research
  2. Public Relations Campaign Planning and Execution
  3. Advanced Writing for the Digital Age
  4. Creative and Conceptual Media Planning
  5. Public Relations Ethics

Along with guest lecturing, W2O employees attended an exclusive event with Hill Communications, the student-run PR firm. The first 30 minutes consisted of Q&A between W2O and Hill Communications. Topics covered include client relations, social media engagement, content creation and analytics. For the last 30 minutes, W2O employees broke off to offer more detailed advice pertaining to individual client teams. This event was a huge success. As one student put it, “Being able to explain our current efforts and problems to your team and hearing their input really sparked some great ideas.”

The marquee event of Social Commerce days was an interactive workshop held with around 30 students. The event, promoted as an ACES workshop, would expose students to case studies of W2O Group work. To start, students were presented with a 40 minute case study that showed students a soup to nuts look at how we pull through ACES for clients. Next, students were presented with actual data from a potential client and briefed on the current situational analysis of the client. Then, students were presented with 5 questions and given 40 minutes to build out a campaign pulling through ACES using our data. We finished with a discussion around what students came up with and offered feedback based on our experiences.

After the workshop, Gary delivered the Social Commerce Days keynote address to students, faculty and community members. His keynote, titled, “An Unconventional Career… Preparing for a Life of Discovery and Connection,” focused on the evolution of the industry, employer expectations and the need for students to never box themselves in as a practitioner. As one student captured:

Gary’s keynote truly resonated with students, and a sample of the online conversation around it can be found here.

Overall, Social Commerce Days was a huge success at Syracuse. Students were excited to engage and interact with W2O employees. To keep an eye on our partnership with Syracuse University and to continue to stay updated on Social Commerce Days content, check back to the center’s website.


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I am thrilled to welcome Michael Brito, former Senior Vice President of Edelman Digital to WCG as one of the senior leads on our Media and Engagement team. Michael brings a wealth of knowledge to the team that will strengthen our technology practice, social commerce and digital strategy offerings. Not only is Michael a friend but he is one of the most respected guys in the business. Oh, did I mention that he wrote two books (details in the image capsule below).

To help you get to know Michael better, we decided to revisit our interview series from this summer (during the series, we interviewed new employees Mike Hartman, Lionel Menchaca, Dean McBeth, Annalise Coady and others). We hope this will give you, the reader, a better sense of who we are and the type team players that make up the W2O Group family.

Click here to listen to my full interview with Michael

Thank you, Michael. For more information, join his 100,000 followers on Twitter.


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It’s no secret that our parent company, W2O Group, has deep ties to Syracuse University and their Newhouse School of Public Communications. It all started with our CEO, Jim Weiss, who is not only an alumni but who was also inducted into the Newhouse Hall of Fame last fall along with notables such as foursquare co-founder, Dennis Crowley and Sports Illustrated writer, Pete Thamel.

Given the synergies between our two organizations, Newhouse and W2O Group went ahead and launched a Social Commerce Center last fall and celebrated the creation of the new center with a Social Commerce Day” on campus earlier this spring. The purpose of the Center is for W2O and to Newhouse to train and cross-pollinate learning among professors, students and W2O employees and to ultimately impact the curriculum for future members of the school and to teach one another about the future of social.

In light of our relationship with the bright minds at the Newhouse School, we are excited about their recent announcement that they were now offering social media training via 15 self-paced lessons in partnership with social media engagement tool provider, Hootsuite. This is in response to the fact that so many companies — large and small — are in need of better skill sets for applying social media to their marketing and communication efforts.

The course is taught by Newhouse Social Media Professor, Dr. William J. Ward, and participants will have the valuable opportunity to engage directly with Dr. Ward through personalized feedback and assessments. Upon successfully completing the course, participants will earn a Advanced Social Media Strategy Certificate.

Course topics will include:

  • Situation and Environment Analysis
  • Strategic Planning Process
  • Content Strategy
  • Information Management and Threats
We here at W2O Group would like to congratulate Dr. Ward, Dean Lorraine Branham, Professor Maria Russell and Adjunct Professor, Kate Brodock and the folks at Hootsuite on this endeavor and look forward to growing our partnership over time.
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