We’ve recently had the pleasure of collaborating with on a segmentation project geared toward better understanding men. Joe launched in 2015 and already is one of the biggest premium male-focused publishers in the UK. With an array of mottos like “for men, not lads” and “the voice of British men,” the website focuses on giving men something ‘better than what they’ve been used to over the past few years of online publishing.’ We wanted to use research to demonstrate that men are more complex than we give them credit for, and that current advertising aimed at men is missing the point.

The project entailed two different parts: a deep qualitative survey and a detailed audience segmentation.

While the survey is not the focus of this blog post, its results were startling and confirmed our initial hypothesis:

  • Only 17% of men felt that UK media represented them
  • Over 73% of men did not identify with the word ‘lad’

Perhaps more interestingly, modern men revealed that they felt significant pressure in their everyday life:

  • 40% admitted to have suffered from depression
  • 71% felt too much was expected of them
  • 68% wished they had better ways to deal with stress

The survey results provided a lot of detail about how men felt, but what were they interested in? What is segmentation and how can it be leveraged to reach an unparalleled depth of audience understanding?


Click on the gif for a slower animation.

Segmentation is divided into three phases. First, an audience and a normative are selected. For this project the analysis was made up of approximately 38,000 Twitter accounts of followers, and a UK normative of 41,000 UK Twitter accounts selected at random.

The second step is to collect and categorize every handle the audience and normative follows. We then group these handles by “interest,” using a technique called clustering, which clusters handles that are commonly associated. An interest is typically comprised of 50-100 clustered handles, and—while this is fundamentally a mathematical process—results are later interpreted by human analysts who identify the underlying themes and patterns.

For example, we may see that “Interest 1” is comprised of a strong followership correlation amongst David Beckham, Gary Lineker and Rio Ferdinand. We may wish to call that interest “ex-England Footballers,” but if the next most active handle belongs to Cristiano Ronaldo, we have to revise our title to “famous football players.” This scenario is likely to occur more than once and is why analysts are brought in to avoid inaccurate categorization.

Finally, groups of handles are bundled into segments. This is done through a technique called agglomerative clustering that allows us to see the proximity between interests. Like clustering by interest, this process is a combination of technology and mathematics, layered with human insight. As interests are refined and renamed, segments begin to take shape.


Segmentation of the UK male audience, based on research by W2O Group and JOE Media
Segmentation of the UK male audience, based on research by W2O Group and JOE Media

We identified eight major segments within the Joe set, each with their own idiosyncrasies.

While we don’t surface the majority of the data on this blog post, there are three elements to think about when looking at the data below.

  1. The segments themselves, which represent a unique audience through a combination of interests
  2. The Interest Reach, which represents the percentage of people in the Joe audience who followed a particular interest
  3. The Interest Index, which conveys the rarity of an interest by showing (in the form of a multiplier) how many times more likely the Joe audience was to follow this interest than was the UK normative

Let’s look at a few of the segments from our case study in more depth:

Example of Starstuck segment from W2O Group & JOE Media analysis.
Example of Starstuck segment from W2O Group & JOE Media analysis. Click for a slower/larger animation.

Starstruck is one of our two most mainstream segments. The leading interest here is Hollywood Actors, which is comprised of predominantly male celebrities from Hollywood. Household names like Simon Pegg, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson and Tom Hanks are accompanied by more recent additions, like Aaron Paul and Seth MacFarlane. This audience is also very interested in UK Comedians and Shopping, both of which are also popular with the UK normative. An interesting aspect of the latter is the lack of differentiation between online brands (e.g. ASOS and Amazon) and traditional street brands (e.g. M&S and Ted Baker).

Londonites are all about metropolis lifestyle.

Londonites epitomize big metropolis living. They represent both young men living in London (and other large urban areas) and those striving to do so. Londonites are well versed in current affairs and follow a bipartisan list of news outlets and politicians. They have no discernible political stance at this level, with near-equal levels of followership for Jeremy Corbyn, Nigel Farage or even figures like Edward Snowden. They also enjoy the lighter side of current affairs, with Armando Iannucci and Charlie Brooker reoccurring in their News & Politics interest.

Londonites also follow interests related to both London venues and restaurants. Their interest include the Glastonbury music festival, Time-Out recommendations, restaurant reviews from Nigella Lawson, and weekend public transit updates. Londonites are all about making the most of what the city has to offer.

I Bet You is all about competition and gamification

I Bet You is a segment about competition in all its forms. While a large part of the Joe audience is focused on football, this segment is deeply interested a wide range of organized competition. They’re very interested in Rugby, Horse Racing, Darts, Snooker, Cycling and the Olympics. Beyond watching competition, I Bet You enjoys betting on sports outcomes; a rare interest when compared to the UK normative data.

Gamers have multiple interests outside gaming including UFC and television shows such as Walking Dead and Game of Thrones

The Gamers segment is primarily driven by Video Game Companies and unique UK Streamers and YouTube celebrities. While these interests are common across all gamers, the specific streamers found in the interest were unique, featuring the likes of the KSI and MrSyndicate. Additionally, this segment boasts the second rarest interest within the whole research, UFC fighting, which it is 5.4 times more likely to follow than the UK average. The whole segment is rounded off with an affinity for US scifi and fantasy shows, led by interests comprising the casts of The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones.

As you can see, each segment provides a unique glimpse into the mind of an audience. Some represent mainstream appetites, which often align with those in the UK normative data. Other segments embody niche interests, which diverge from the mainstream and represent unique behaviors. Together, the segments provide a more nuanced understanding of Joe’s diverse audience and an unique window into the various affinities vying for their attention.

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Register here to join W2O Group president and Storytizing author, Bob Pearson, as he shows you real world examples of “storytizing”.

Thursday, August 4th | 2pm-3pm CT


You will come away with:

  • How the marketing model (paid, earned, shared, owned) is pivoting due to the birth of audience architecture.
  • How to best target, identify, and architect specific audiences.
  • Trends in the ever-changing digital world and what you can do to stay ahead in marcoms.

There will be a live Q&A session. Can’t make it? We’ve got you covered. Sign up here and we’ll send you a recording of the webinar as well as the accompanying slides.

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I was recently interviewed by David Pembroke, leader of the contentgroup, based in Australia, about Storytizing and what it means for the public sector.  My thoughts, of course, apply to both public and private.  Here is the podcast.

David, by the way, runs a cool weekly podcast, called InTransition, which is dedicated to the practice of content marketing in the public sector. Every week David interviews leading experts in public sector communications from policy makers, to agencies with government clients, to journalists and technical specialists.  Worth a look at what topics he is exploring.


Interested in learning more about Storytizing? Check out my latest webinar!

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In early May, 2016, I was asked by Mi-hye Kang, a senior staff writer for The PR, a monthly on- and offline magazine for PR professionals in Korea, to participate in their six-year anniversary issue. In celebration of the 6th anniversary, The PR asked to interview myself and Paul Holmes, Publisher of The Holmes Report.  What readers in Korea may not have known until this interview is that PreCommerce has been printed and is available in Korean.  Thank you to Professor Joon Soo Lim, a professor at the Newhouse School, Syracuse University for helping to make this happen. This interview originally appeared in The PR.

1. Could you introduce the W2O Group and yourself to Korean PR practitioners?

W2O Group is a communications and marketing firm with a foundation in data science.  We decided to build our own algorithms, software and new models to understand influence, content, language and channel selection so that our campaigns for our clients can be more precise and aligned with what customer’s desire.  We work in 20 languages today, including Korean.

For myself, I have been a leader of communications at several Fortune 500 companies, including Novartis and Dell and, at Dell, I was asked to build the world’s first global social media function for a Fortune 500 company.  Now, I am president of W2O Group and spend all of my time with clients and in creating new models for our industry.

2. What are the most important needs among your company’s clients these days?

The greatest need is how to shift from a coverage model to an influencer model.  Essentially, it is no longer enough to just get coverage.  In fact, that is the starting line.  With algorithms, we can see exactly who drives share of conversation, exactly who shares your story and exactly who forms your search engine optimization position.  So when we get coverage, we have to syndicate our earned media into the shared media world.  This can occur simply by sharing in the right channels, but it increasingly requires the use of small amounts of paid media as well.

3. I heard that your new book “Storytizing” has just come out. (We are sorry that we have not read the book yet.) What do you want to the book to convey and how have your ideas evolved since your previous book Pre-Commerce?

The big change involves technology advance and our audience. We can now see exactly who our audience is online (all forms of media) and understand who they respect, what they read and all of their public habits.  This allows us to align what we share with them.  It enables us to empower the key people in the audience to co-share a brand’s story more effectively and it changes how we measure.  We want our stories to pull through and reach the entire audience we care about, which is how Storytizing works. Advertising can’t do this, it just catches our attention.  Communications can if we know who our audience really is.

4. What did you mean when you suggested that all public relations activities begin with creating the audience architecture? How do social media analytics help practitioners do so?

Social media listening is evolving from “listening” to “audience intelligence”.  If we just listen, we often don’t know what to do next.  That is not acceptable in the future.  Audience architecture means you define the audience you want to reach before you do a campaign, learn what they want, learn who has influence, and even learn what time of day to share content.   We build intelligence so we know how to reach a professional audience (e.g. physicians), a certain customer audience (e.g. company’s partners) or a new audience (e.g. future customers).  We can then keep learning and adjusting to our audience and get smarter with time.

5. What are the global conversation topics or trendy words in digital PR among practitioners these days?

It seems like everyone is talking about influencers.  This is great to hear.  However, what we often see are that agencies are just creating new media lists and calling it an influencer list. That does not work.  The real trend here is the rise of micro-influencers.  For example, if we are looking at who is influential for Samsung in mobile, there may be 20+ categories of importance from video to open source.  Each of these topics has its own influencers with less overlap than we think.  The ability to identify the right influencers by topic, sub-topic, issue, language and country is what really matters.

6. One of the challenges for PR practitioners regards how to plan and implement a marketing/PR plan that leads to sales increase. This is also directly related to the campaign budget. What’s your and W2O’s approach for this issue?

We live in a quantitative world so we can show how we are shaping behavior and, in some cases, how we drive sales via social media.  The big trend here is what we call “agile campaigns”.  This means that you are learning from your audience and figuring out what to share on a daily basis.  Said another way, if your client asks you to lock-in a campaign plan for the year and stick to it, you will be far less successful. Even with big campaigns, you need room to make agile decisions and adjust to your audience.  Then, ROI improves.

7. Like media planners in the multi-channel media environment, PR practitioners are also required to make a strategic and integrative use of diverse social media platforms. What are your suggestions for and effective social media mix?

PR practitioners will be doing media planning for earned and shared media.  It is important to identify the exact channels and outlets where our customers spend their time.  What we find worldwide is that customers tend to congregate in four channels or less (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) and this channel mix can change by brand, country or language.  It is important that we know why we use each channel as well, since each channel serves a different purpose in the customer journey.

8. When it comes to a social media mix for a campaign, PR and marketing in Korea trend to rely heavily on Facebook. It seems that this trend is based on the potential reach and continued growth of the platform. How do you foresee the potential and limitations on Facebook?

Yes, Facebook has become our new television due to its reach. Facebook can be an effective channel if you know exactly who you want to reach.  However, I always remind our clients that Facebook does not impact search, where 90% of our customers go to learn more on a daily basis.  Google+ is a minor channel, but Google favors it in its algorithms, which impacts search.  Twitter impacts search.  In this case, think of the 1,9,90 model (1% create content, 9% share content and 90% learn from the 1 and 9).

9. We are observing a trend in which diverse areas of strategic communication gradually converge on digital and social media. As a result, we see the business boundaries between advertising, PR, and marketing gradually becoming diluted. How can a PR firm (or a practitioner) raise its (or his/her) competitive edge in this ever changing environment?

You are exactly right.  The worlds of communications and marketing are converging rapidly. What this means is that communicators have to become more expert in search (the 90%), in use of strategic paid media (small amounts of paid media in social channels), agile campaigns and audience architecture.  The world is actually moving in the direction of the expertise of the communicator.  The ability to tell a story, build relationships and adjust to changing conditions are all skills communicators have.  The Storytizing era is really our era!

10. What is and how do you know about the Korean market of social commerce and public relations?

When I was at Dell, we would always stay up to date on how leaders in Korea were utilizing forums to hold conversations, how gaming was changing habits and how social media was used overall.  I’ve always viewed Korea as one of the countries in the world that innovates a bit faster than the rest of the globe.  In fact, I am thinking of writing my next book on how innovation is occurring in key countries, like Korea, and what it means for all of us worldwide.  A mega trends type approach.

11. Do you have any thoughts or comments that you would like to share with the readers who are Korean PR practitioners of the PR?

Yes, I know myself and my colleagues would like to hear more often about how Korean PR practitioners are seeing the media world evolve.  We would like to learn from each other.  This interview is a great example of the type of sharing that we should do, two-way, more often.  Maybe we think about how to do this together?

Also, my new book, Storytizing, is now available on Kindle on

Thank you for this opportunity.  I enjoyed our discussion and hope this furthers the conversation.

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At W2O Group, proprietary analytics power everything we do, so we decided, “Why not use our analytics to see who is dominating socially going into the Final Four of March Madness?” We live and breathe for the targeting our analytics can provide for our clients in order to set them up for success. Plus it is pretty interesting to see who is in the “double bonus” when it comes to share of conversation.

First, we wanted to pull analytics to highlight the social engagement of the teams that reached the Elite 8. Take a look at not only Syracuse University’s domination, but also a nice ongoing climb that the University of North Carolina has. (I have to wonder if W2O Group’s alignment with Syracuse’s Center for Social Commerce is helping the Orange’s efforts of practicing what we preach for social media while holding back my Tar Heels.)

W2O_FinalFourGraph_1024x512 (2)

Next we wanted to look at which team was producing the “loudest” fans in terms of social engagement. Louisville should be happy with the results from the Yum! Center.


Each year millions of fans tune in on their TV, laptops, tablets and smartphones to cheer on their alma mater, their hometown team or to watch a low-seeded Cinderella team defy the odds and beat a well-known number one seed. Whether it is at work, in a lecture hall or at home, Americans have an obsession with tuning in for every game – and now sharing their point of view, battle cries, chants, smack, photos, highs and lows. And the fact that the game will be live-streamed in virtual reality makes us geek out even more, salivating at all the data and social shares to come out of this tech milestone.

Last year, the tournament averaged 11.3 million viewers — the highest viewership in 22 years. Thanks to second-screen conversations adding to the story and increased social engagement, fans are helping tell the team’s story. They’re part of the team. The schools need to see the value in being storytized, because there are so many stories to tell.

Before the start of the tournament this year, CBS compiled a list of the odds of the top 25 teams winning the national championship. Out of the top five teams included on the list only one remains in the Final Four, the University of North Carolina.

Odds graphic

This year is far from an anomaly. Perhaps the reason March Madness is so popular is the tension of expectation versus reality. You expect a #4 seed to clobber a #13 seed, but suddenly the opposite happens. You are nearly 100% sure that #1 seed is destined to be the national champion, and suddenly they are out in the second round. Consistently during four weeks in early spring, the nation is stunned, and history has proven this:

There is no predicting March Madness. You can only sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. In many ways, March Madness goes hand in hand with our passion and fascination for the predictive nature of analytics. But sometimes, like our clients, we are amazed at what the data actually shows us – often throwing a wrench into our client’s perception of their Goliath.

The only predictive constant that March Madness possesses is that data, probability and statistical analysis mean nothing. Is it helpful to know a team’s ranking coming into the tournament? Sure. Is it wise to predict the outcome based off these rankings? Not necessarily. March Madness is the one time of year that analytics do not make sense to us fans and oddly enough we are ok with that. We know it will pass and after the tournament concludes, order will be restored. Part of the fun of March Madness is that anything can happen and that is what keeps us all watching.

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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.


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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 Lord Peter Chadlington, former CEO of Huntsworth and founder/former Chairman of Shandwick Int. Peter will sit down with our own, Bob Pearson, at the PreCommerce Summit on Thursday, March 10 for a fireside chat focused on global digital trends in EMEA.a - Peter Chadlington

According to Peter’s LinkedIn profile, he has spent his “entire working life in communications, as a journalist after graduating from Cambridge University and later in Public Relations both in-house and consultancy. [He] founded Shandwick in 1974, which [he] then developed into the largest PR consultancy in the UK, holding that position for 17 years. [He] built the firm overseas and sold it to The Interpublic Group of Companies in 1998, forming the group that became the largest PR consultancy in the world. ” Some of the skills he’s been endorsed for by his peers are public relations and business strategy.

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

  1. Aaron: How do you define innovation?
    Peter: An improved or new solution that adds value – it could be totally new idea, a marginal improvement, or something more radical that disrupts a market.
  2. Aaron: What are you or your organization doing to drive innovation?
    Peter: Leaders can influence by setting the tone for how risk taking will be tolerated …and as importantly, how failure will be managed.
  3. Aaron: Who is someone in your industry (or outside) that you admire? Why?
    Peter: Baroness Martha Lane Fox. She epitomizes my motto ‘never give up’! She is a successful entrepreneur, charity campaigner …and a wonderful person!
  4. Aaron: Where do you see your industry being in 3 years? 5? 10?
    Peter: The boundaries between the traditional marketing elements will continue to blur and at the same time there will be increasing specialization in specific areas, like analytics.
  5. Aaron: What book are you reading right now? How did you choose it?
    Peter: I’m re-reading The Spark by Kristine Barnett. It’s amazing what the human brain can do!
  6. For fun: what three things would you make sure you brought with you in a zombie apocalypse?
    My family! My Ferrari and an endless supply of crumpets with marmite.

We look forward to hearing more from you this week Peter. And in the meantime, marmite lovers UNITE!

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As some of you know, we host a series of events leading up to (and slightly overlapping) SXSW Interactive. Two of our most popular events are our PreCommerce Summit held on Thursday, March 10 and our new(ish) Movers & Shapers event on Saturday, March 12. Both feature a variety of brand leaders and thought partners — all focusing on how business is changing. Or put in simpler terms, innovation.

Over the next two weeks, I will feature a variety of those speakers here. First up is from Mark Young who is the CMO of Sysomos, one of this year’s premier sponsors and a close partner of W2O Group’s. I’ve asked each of our speakers the same five questions (plus a fun/bonus question). Of course some will adjust the questions to be more germane to their talks/business but ideally at least in the neighborhood of what I asked.

Here’s the list so far along with a few I know who will be contributing over the next couple of days:

  • Mark Young, CMO, Sysomos [interview here]
  • Javier Boix, Senior Director, StoryLab, AbbVie  [interview here]
  • Brian Solis, Author & Principal Analyst, Altimeter [interview here]
  • Lord Peter Chadlington, former CEO of Huntsworth PLC and founder/former Chairman of Shandwick Int, PLC [interview here]
  • Chris Heuer, CEO of Alynd and founder of Will Someone [interview here]
  • Patrick Moorhead, Founder of Moor Insights & Strategy [interview here]
  • Julie Borlaug, Associate Director, Borlaug Institute [interview here]
  • Kyle Flaherty, VP Solutions Marketing, Rapid7 [interview here]
  • Amy von Walter, VP, Best Buy
  • Alex Gruzen, CEO, WiTricity
  • Manny Kostas, SVP and Global Head of Platforms & Future Technology, HP
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There is a content and media surplus. Attention defecit. Consumers have tunnel vision. Their media consumption habits and behaviors are unpredictable.

This makes it extremely difficult to reach an audience.

Whether it’s an ITDM, a physician type, millennial, developers or an affluent consumer, you name it. You can’t just launch a campaign and expect to make a difference much less any business impact.

But imagine if you had the intelligence that define their behavior online? What type(s) of media they consume, their specific language and context when talking about key issues? Their platforms of choice or what time(s) they are online? Essentially, knowing what makes that specific audience unique from everyone else?

This intelligence is critical.  And, this is how you break through the clutter and reach your audience with content and ideas that matter – to them, not you.

Everything else is just a guess.

A lot of folks talk definitively about storytelling, being human and of course content marketing.  And many of the campaigns referenced are certainly creative with catchy tag lines, cool hashtags, interactive video, etc. They may even get a nice write up in Digiday or Adweek.

But I wonder how impactful these campaigns really are.

Below are some slides I put together an approach that leads with audience architecture which should be the backbone for all marketing campaigns.




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