Andrew Soucy Classroom Photo

Established by W2O Group Founder and CEO, Jim Weiss and his wife Audra Weiss and spearheaded by W2O Group Principal, Gary Grates and Syracuse University’s Maria Russell, the Center for Social Commerce (CSC) has been incubating a collaborative partnership between W2O Group and Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications since 2012.  The CSC has continued to bring immersive events to campus to provide students with unprecedented opportunities to sharpen their skills across analytics and digital media and learn about emerging industry trends.

On March 1-3, visiting executives and W2O Group subject-matter experts traveled to Syracuse University for a particularly special 2016 Social Commerce Days. To kick things off, students and faculty packed into the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium for, “The Missing Ingredient(s) in Career Achievement: Corporate, Firm and Entrepreneurial Perspectives,” featuring Jim Weiss and Chevron’s General Manager of Public Affairs, Dave Samson. Samson and Weiss shared insight into their diverse career paths and straight-talk advice for future leaders on rising to the top in a rapidly evolving communications industry.

Spring 2016 Social Commerce Days didn’t stop there. Throughout the week, visiting executives and W2O Group experts spoke with students, visited individual classrooms and hosted a series of interactive sessions including:

  • A networking lunch with W2O Group, where experts provided perspective and insight into agency life.
  • An exclusive “Life After Newhouse” breakfast with Jim Weiss and student leaders.
  • A sold-out “Translating Analytics to Strategy” interactive workshop, hosted by W2O Group’s Colin Foster, during which students collaborated to develop strategies for applying analytic in developing business solutions across paid, earned, shared and owned media.
  • An “Agency Management Workshop” session with student-run public relation firm Hill Communications, where Scott Kramer, Meriel McCaffery and Gary Grates spoke with teams about account management and integrating multimedia, digital components into client campaigns.

Panel Photo

Jim Breakfast Photo

The CSC also formally introduced 2016 Student Ambassadors, Nicole Sherwood and John Thomey. Here are just a few reactions from the experts and executives visiting Syracuse this year:

Dave Samson, General Manager of Public Affairs, Chevron

“What I witnessed at Syracuse University is the redefinition of our profession. Together with W2O Group, the Newhouse School is actively preparing its students with the critical mix of communications, marketing and digital fluency skills.  Not only is their deliberate focus on social commerce smart, it places Newhouse at the forefront of education in the field of communications.”

Scott Kramer, Group Director, Content Engagement, W2O Group

 “I am not exaggerating when I say that Social Commerce Days was a true highlight of my career.  It allowed me to pay it forward by sharing advice, insights and knowledge with aspiring marketers the same way so many mentors and colleagues have done for me.  In addition, and just as important, it was an opportunity to be with fellow W2Oers that I normally don’t interact much with in a setting that allowed us to truly bond – the long hallway was in full effect and then some.  Last but not least, spending time with Jim and Gary was so beneficial.  So much of what they shared was helpful to me just as much as it was to the students themselves.

The Newhouse School was very impressive.  Through a tour of the school and speaking with students and faculties, I could easily see why it is the top communications school in the country.  The school was very appreciative of the Jim’s generosity and dedication to his alma mater.  Having been selected to represent Jim and W2O as part of this program was a true honor.

Being a part of Social Commerce days is now at the top of my list of #WhyW2O.”

Colin Foster, Managing Director, Healthcare, W2O Group

“As I sat at the front of the room I could only think of one thing: Why didn’t anyone do this for me when I was in university? Instead, I had to endure hours of lectures, of being talked at, of endless reading, of studying concepts, writing papers and tests and exams.

Now, flash forward to the classroom at Newhouse last week and I find myself fully engaged with students talking about the challenges of real world. The students got a taste of how to apply what they are learning; they got a front row seat to the passion of our team as we navigate our careers in real time. We got to share our diverse career paths, give practical counsel on their term projects, lead a 2-hour workshop, answer questions about what it’s like to live and work in different countries.

It was the great “meet-up” of knowledge acquired and experience gained. Back in school, I would have loved the opportunity for real life to be held right up in my face. I was a late bloomer, professionally-speaking, only hitting my stride into my 30s. An opportunity like this just might have inspired me to find my passion a little sooner.

And, to be completely honest, I loved being Dr. Foster – even if that title was my little self-bestowed secret.”

 Hollie Noble, Director, Healthcare, W2O Group

“Attending and participating in the Social Commerce program at Syracuse was exciting. Students were enthused and hungry for real world insights and the W2O Group team was able to provide perspective and important context. The three days were an information packed immersion into the communications industry.

The growth and expansion of digital and social means that we as communications professionals need to forever adapt and challenge ourselves in order to deliver for clients – through meeting with the bright minded students from Newhouse, it was fabulous to see how the next generation of colleagues are really taking this onboard and living it – creating their own brands via social, working with clients to find solutions and collaborating as partners and teams to succeed.”

 Andrew Soucy, Director, Technology, W2O Group

“Participating in Social Commerce Days was an amazing experience. I really enjoyed meeting and speaking with the students (man, are they sharp!) and professors, as well as get a better sense for the curriculum (perfectly configured to meet today’s marketing/comms challenges). It was great to feed off the students’ passion for the subject and help guide them on finding the next (or first) step in their careers. Something truly valuable for every W2O Group employee and I encourage all who get the opportunity to take advantage of it.”

 Christina Khoury-Folkens, Senior Manager, Media & Engagement, W2O Group

“The Center for Social Commerce provides incredibly valuable experiences for these students. In addition to learning their core curriculum, which is innovative and thought-provoking in its own right, these students are able to see how we are applying what they’re learning in real life situations.

Participating in Social Commerce Days was such a joy, and I believe we’ve inspired these students to persevere in their careers and follow through with what they aim to accomplish to ultimately #makeithappen. It was an inspiring experience for us as well to collaborate with colleagues and bring fresh ideas just by picking the minds of these students.”

To learn more about the Center for Social Commerce, visit and follow @SocCommSU. Check out additional Social Commerce Days conversation from students and staff at our hashtag, #SocCommDays.

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Each semester at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, thanks to the ongoing commitment and gift provided by Jim and Audra Weiss, a group of W2O Group industry professionals and invited executive guests travel to campus for a series of events to help bridge the gap between the classroom and the industry. Last week, I was fortunate enough to help produce a series of activities in collaboration with Lauryn Botterman, Maria Russell and the fall 2015 Social Commerce Days crew, including:

  • Jennifer GottliebGroup Panel Discussion Photo_Fall2015SCD SMALL
  • Gary Grates
  • Kieran Fagan
  • Ryan Flinn
  • Eileen O’Brien
  • Jennifer Kaplan (Jennifer Katz)
  • Blaire Clause
  • Alex Levine

A quick recap:

This semester we were invited to visit a record number of classrooms, spanning Research, Campaigns, Writing, Advertising, Ethics and more. Along with speaking to students and faculty in their classes, we hosted several networking events and continued our popular, immersive Analytics to Strategy Workshop, facilitated by Jennifer Kaplan and Blaire Clause and attended by over 50 students.

TheHergStudents_Fall2015SCD SMALLWe also expanded the usual keynote address into an executive panel featuring our own Jennifer Gottlieb, as well as Chris Preuss, SVP of marketing and communications at Delphi Automotive and Craig Rothenberg, former VP of corporate communications at Johnson & Johnson. Moderated by Gary Grates, the executives discussed the concept of gaining and sustaining relevance as the new reputation.

To cap things off, we honed in on crisis in today’s digital age, highlighting the work our ambassadors, Anna Hodge and Andrew Petro, executed over the summer in our New York office and showcasing our new digital tools and approaches in a professor session, led by Kieran Fagan.

We’ve been receiving overwhelming positive feedback from students and faculty alike. And digital conversation and engagement only increased from last semester’s events. Check out our Storify created by ambassador Anna Hodge, highlighting #SocCommDays interaction.

A few reflections from this semester’s team:

Eileen O’Brien: Why Writing Matters More Than Ever

“It may seem counter intuitive, but writing matters more than ever in our digital age,” according to my colleague, Ryan Flinn, director of earned media at W2O and former Bloomberg reporter. “It used to be a top down approach – journalists relied on access to CEOs, government officials and key opinion leaders in order to develop a story. A reporter made their name by breaking big news. In our new media environment, breaking news has become a commodity since everyone is a publisher.”

Ryan and I recently spoke before several classes at Syracuse University and the students were relieved to hear this as they worked their way through their writing classes. And the professors enjoyed this validation of their focus on writing skills. Ryan made the point that after news breaks (whether via Twitter or CNN) people are looking to learn what the news means and its potential impact. This is where smart writing comes in.

We also talked about the fact that reporters’ success is increasingly being tied to clicks and shares. The author (and their employer) are able to get feedback on whether the article was of interest. We debated with the students whether this resulted in “click bait” and whether it was good or bad for the industry. It’s interesting to note that with so many traditional newspapers laying off reporters, new media sites such as Vox and the Daily Beast are providing jobs for these journalists.

During class, we encouraged live tweeting and it was great to get real-time reaction from the students to see what was resonating with them.


Blaire Clause:

I already knew that the Center for Social Commerce was an exceptional program, but it was energizing to see first-hand the impact that it has on campus.  I thoroughly enjoyed presenting some of our analytics models, case studies and speaking candidly about the day-to-day life at W2O. My (high) expectations were surpassed by the genuine curiosity and enthusiasm expressed by the students, especially around our analytics approach and how they apply to different business challenges. Aside from the full classrooms, the executive panel and workshop were packed with bright minds who asked thoughtful questions. Some of my favorite parts included getting to know some of them 1:1 through the networking session, and working with them as they eagerly accepted the client example/challenge we presented in the workshop. Jim and W2O Group have truly created something special for the students— it allows for them to enhance their education through exposure to real client examples, W2O’s models, and industry leaders.

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Recently, 8 W2O Group employees descended onto Syracuse University’s campus to visit classes in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications for Social Commerce Days. Social Commerce Days, as part of the W2O Group Center for Social Commerce, offer the opportunity for employees to guest lecture in classes, hold workshops, review student’s resumes and more. It’s an opportunity for students to hear about the evolution of our industry and ask questions as they prepare for their future careers.

Below, some of our colleagues who participated in Social Commerce Days have reflected on their experience. Check out their thoughts!

Meredith Crowder

Social Commerce Days at Syracuse was a great experience and I was so happy to be a part of it. This is an exceptional program for W2O Group to put on for both the University and staff. As a recent college graduate myself, it was great to bring my knowledge from the working world back to students who are eager to get a job and get their career started. I was thrilled to see how enthusiastic the students were to learn and immerse themselves in the program, especially the keynote speaker and their thoughts during the workshop. I believe bringing tangible, real client examples and thought processes to students is extremely important to their learning – so glad W2O sees the value and brings that to such a well-respected communications program.

Michael Brito

I was inspired that the SU students were so passionate to learn about real life marketing programs and how open they were to applying analytics in the process.  Students were curious, assertive and asked really smart/strategic questions. Since the Social Commerce Days, I have talked on the phone with three students (one grad, two undergrads) about their vision for what they wanted to do after graduation. I am sure that I convinced all three to join W2O.

This is an amazing program for W2O. It allows leaders at the firm to influence university curriculum in a way that is so relevant to the market and the demand for analytics-drive marketing/communications pros.

Chris Nardone

As a recent graduate of Syracuse University and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, I was thrilled to connect with students on a personal level and prepare them for an entry-level position. We spoke candidly about day-to-day life as an associate and how they can attribute what they learn through schooling and internships and apply it to real-world agency life. I even had the opportunity to lead a writing course discussion on content creation. I presented a case study I worked on and gave real-world examples on how important it is to maintain your writing skills throughout your career. I was proud to guest lecture in a classroom I sat in as a student just three years prior.

Lauren Hougas provided her thoughts based on W2O Group’s company values.

#letshang:  We were able to spend hours networking and socializing with students

#whysuck:  we were able to showcase our case studies to demonstrate just how far we can push ourselves to ensure A+ work every time

#makeithappen:  This was my actual job seeking advice to students.  Don’t apply on a job board and hope your resume gets read… make it happen! We taught how to create their own jobs and stand out

#dealwithit:  We had examples of clients changing the direction of projects midway through, but they saw this best in how we flowed through our days there.  Schedules were changing, clients needed us, technology failed… and we continued without a hitch.

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All eyes are on Austin, Texas this week as SxSW events are officially underway. This marks the 5th year that educators, nonprofits, students, thought leaders and more have convened for SxSWedu – a series of events meant to help foster innovation in education. We, at the W2O Group Center for Social Commerce are proud to be a part of this conversation.

Founded in 2012, the Center is a novel academic/industry partnership between W2O Group and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University that aims to ensure students are exposed to the evolution of the communications industry and the role that social media, social commerce and analytics play within it. This model helps bridge gaps between what’s happening in the “real-world,” and what’s not always easily accessible from the classroom.

Today, as part of its mission to provide students and educators the opportunity to take part in meaningful research initiatives, the Center is proud to announce the release of its first report.

“Thriving and Coping in a Social and Digital Age” takes an in-depth look at the evolution of corporate communications functions. This report is the culmination of several months’ worth of original research and includes insights from interviews with top communications executives at five leading corporations. It reveals telling patterns about the challenges of managing communications functions in an evolving social and digital landscape.

Students, professionals and seasoned executives alike can all glean insight from this report, as it offers unique perspectives from leaders across a wide array of industries. Many spoke candidly, not only about their organizations’ success, but also their challenges, and provided considerations on what it takes for corporate communications to be successful in the future.

We hope you’ll give the full report a read. Below is a preview of three key themes that emerged:

Moving from a coverage to an influence model

Press releases aren’t what they used to be. The media environment is quickly shifting from “coverage” to “influence,” where a mommy blogger can have just as much influence as the New York Times on topics important to your brand.

Organizational charts replaced by a networked system

As one executive stated, “The org chart is no more. We have to integrate and collaborate cross-functionally to achieve success.”

Analytics and data fuel new insights

Digital and social analytics tools have enabled communicators to develop more impactful content and targeted messaging.

We know that the future of our industry is contingent on preparing the next generation of workers with the knowledge, tools and resources they’ll need to be successful in their chosen profession. The W2O Group Center for Social Commerce looks forward to continuing the conversation about how we can innovate in education and prepare current and future students.

We’d like to hear your feedback on the report. Don’t hesitate to leave your thoughts below!

If you’d like to learn more about the Center for Social Commerce, visit our website at and follow us @SocCommSU.

Thank you,

Gary Grates & Maria Russell

Co-Directors, W2O Group Center for Social Commerce

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The W2O Group Center for Social Commerce is proud to announce its 2015 student Ambassadors. The Ambassador Program, now in its second year, gives at least two Syracuse University students the opportunity to take on a full-year leadership position within the Center. These Ambassadors are tasked with being our “boots on the ground,” helping promote the Center, its initiatives and its value to students, faculty and the industry. Along with their daily responsibilities during the Spring and Fall semesters, these two students will join W2O Group’s New York City office this Summer as interns. Along with their internship, both Ambassadors will attend W2O Group events at SXSW, an opportunity to truly integrate themselves in W2O Group’s thinking, and get quickly onboarded for their future responsibilities.

Please join us in welcoming our newest Ambassadors! Below, they’ve shared a few thoughts on what this position means to them:

Anna HodgeAnna Hodge

I’m so excited to be joining a digitally advanced team like W2O Group this upcoming summer as a Corporate and Strategy intern. As a junior journalism major at Syracuse University I first came across W2O Group when I was searching the web for articles related to journalism in the digital age. I stumbled across a 2013 W2O Group blog about the evolving journalism industry and the rise in paid online content. As a freshman, I maintained interest in the company and was excited to gain the opportunity to apply to W2O Group Center for Social Commerce program within the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. With a previous summer internship in corporate communications and on-campus experience in writing and social media, I understand the importance of conveying brand messaging.

As a journalism major, I am excited to use my abilities as a writer and social media producer to tell the stories of corporate clients and engage audiences on new and innovative platforms. When asked why I made the switch from journalism to public relations, I always respond that my passion for storytelling has evolved in to one surrounding a brand’s narrative. I’m excited to work with W2O Group in moving brands forward with the combination of new practices such as social media and the traditional practices of effective writing. I view W2O Group as a pioneering brand, molding the future of a more digitally advanced public relations industry, and am excited to be a part of such a progressive and innovative team.

Andrew PetroAndrew Petro

I am extremely excited to be joining W2O Group through the Center for Social Commerce Ambassador Program. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to be a part of such an innovative and forward-thinking agency. After experiencing Social Commerce Days, I can’t wait to give back to the cause that has already impacted me in so many ways.

Last semester, I took advantage of the impressive speaker lineup and other events that comprised Social Commerce Days. It was during those days that I learned exactly what the Center for Social Commerce really does. I learned how big of a resource it is for the students and faculty of Newhouse. I can’t wait to help promote and develop the center so that more people will be able to take advantage of all that it has to offer.

As a public relations and marketing dual major, I have taken an interest in the field of research. This summer I will get to spend 10 weeks interning at W2O Group’s New York City office. I cannot wait to get hands-on experience with analytics and learn from the industry professionals working for this agency.

Overall, I feel overjoyed to be in this role. I am eager to take on the responsibilities of the Ambassador Program and will work hard to take the Center for Social Commerce to the next level.


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When reflecting on the past year, so many emotions come into play that it is impossible to adequately put them into words.  What I will say is that the words of the late Steve Jobs were incredible markers for me as we progressed during the year.

We started 2014 with an intense focus on strengthening the bottom-line – improving margins and profitability — and we ended the year exceeding both of those goals with strong momentum going into 2015.

Probably even more importantly, we got back to what made this firm so successful:  We put our clients first as well as the work we do and results we deliver for them.

We also refocused on a core set of priorities and investments — people and technologies that matter, and are truly aligned with our strategy to “disrupt the status quo” – clarifying our Software as a Service as a Service (SaaS Squared), positioning and introducing new offerings in Analytics, Corporate and Strategy (Crisis, Change, Reputation), CCX and Media and Engagement (PESO).

As Steve Jobs once said:  “I’m as proud of the many things we haven’t done as the things we have done.  Innovation is saying no to a thousand things.”

We made improvements in Infrastructure and expanded our footprint with new offices.  And of course we continued to do what we do best – partner with world-class organizations and brands – to transform the way they connect with customers, engage employees, beat the competition in the marketplace and forge new pathways to the future.


None of this could have been accomplished without YOU.  I’m most proud and humbled by all of you – the dedicated professionals comprising our firm.  There is not a challenge, a roadblock, a problem or an issue that you can’t overcome.  There’s not an opportunity or a change that isn’t embraced by you.

Once again, Steve Jobs’ words resonate:  “I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long.  Just figure out what’s next.”

An important symbol of that mentality was the formal restatement of the firm’s Values.  The very essence of what make us, well, us.  These Values were forged at the beginning – when I first embarked on what has become an incredible personal and professional journey — battle-tested and honed over the years.  And these Values truly reflect the set of principles and beliefs guiding our behavior.

When I talk about Values, I’m also speaking about career development and growth.  We will continue to support and expand W2O University and I’m asking all of our leaders to recommit to content and facilitation of specific programs and courses to build our individual and collective competency and confidence.  Our Center for Social Commerce at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University is a premier example of what a modern academic-business partnership is all about – we are training the next generation of marketing and communications professionals.

From a Thought Leadership standpoint, our efforts at JP Morgan, SXSW, Page, CES and IPR, to name just a few, are increasingly strategic and precise in terms of ROI and reach.  Adding to this was our first-ever European-focused Social Intelligence Summit hosted by our London office and attracting both a significant on-site and Webex presence extending our Brand throughout a region still less familiar with us and what we can do for them.

One of the more impactful aspects of 2014 was the realization to continue our growth and globalization aspirations, the opportunity to partner, acquire or join up with another organization must be considered.  To that end, we held numerous discussions with a variety of larger global players who could provide capital, footprint and resources if we were to choose such an option.  However, my priority in doing something like that rests with having the confidence that such a partner is compatible with our culture and respectful of our people.

At this point, my belief is that we can continue to do what is necessary ourselves – given our strong leadership, incredible staff, improving financial position and operational infrastructure, and, most importantly, our unique culture of entrepreneurialism, innovation and collaboration.  If, at some point, we identify the right partner or partners, and it feels right, we will explore the validity of such a move.

To quote Jobs again:  “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me . . . going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful . . . that’s what matters to me.”

From where I sit, I could not be more proud and excited about where we are.  And after 13 years, it’s safe to say our journey is just beginning.  There are three things that I ask you to think about often during the coming year:  1) Be interested, not interesting; 2) Think Big, but act in small, focused and effective ways; and 3) be creative by being curious.

Thank you all very much for all you do . . . from my family to yours, have a healthy, prosperous new year!

And to paraphrase Steve Jobs once more:  “In 2015, let’s put a ding in the universe.”



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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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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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This is truly a special day for my company, W2O Group, and my alma mater, Syracuse University. The reason why is because today I am proud to announce the creation of a new center for social commerce. The focus of this new center will be to impart industry-leading skills and acumen to the Newhouse School’s students, professors, staff, and clients in the emerging field of social commerce.

Over the last few years as the CEO of my company, I’ve watched the communications field undergo a sea change with the advent of social, online, digital and mobile media. This, combined with increasingly sophisticated and more precise big data, media analytics and technologies, such as those used successfully by the Obama campaign to microtarget voters in the 2012 presidential election, has led to an evolution and pragmatic disruption of how marketers and communicators are able to view, plan and execute upon traditional paid, owned, shared, and earned media models. The result of this new alchemy is the emergence of “social commerce,” which enables marketers and communicators to create demand and drive desired actions and/or revenues via online channels. Now more than ever, marketing and communications professionals (including our clients) are capable of building social commerce strategies that inform and evolve their overall sales and marketing strategies and more effectively position their brand, campaign or cause and tell their story online. In many respects, earned media is becoming the leading driver and will increasingly guide cost-effective and more precise and targeted use of paid media in the future.

As a Newhouse alumni (’87), my hope is that this partnership between the school and W2O Group will allow students and faculty to gain and share expertise in the area of social commerce. What excites me most is that this practice of using digital analytics to drive social commerce strategies and solutions is changing how companies, campaigners and causes reach customers, influencers, voters and partners. It also is changing how e-commerce is conducted online, which leads to new product lines and distribution channels. In addition to investing time and resources to this program, I am also helping to fund the partnership with an initial $100,000 gift to the school.

Newhouse faculty will collaborate with W2O staff to determine the full details of the new Center, which will include field placement at W2O Group offices for students and professors; interactions with experts in areas such as analytics and digital technology; guest lectures; and new course content in social commerce. While the Center will have its home in the Newhouse Public Relations Department, it will extend its teaching, research and applied practices within the entire School and throughout other schools at Syracuse.

This partnership will also provide opportunities for Newhouse students and professors to rotate through the various W2O Group offices in San Francisco, Austin, Los Angeles, New York and London, interact with the firm’s clients, and learn from experts in analytics, digital, social, corporate, technology and research areas. In return, senior W2O Group leaders will guest lecture at Newhouse and work with the University’s faculty to create new courses and update existing ones.

Before I forget, I would also like to mention that a number of the W2O staff also graduated from Newhouse including: Gail Cohen ’89; Jennifer Gottlieb ‘92; Gary Grates ’99; Joanna Cochran ’02; Kelli Raymor ’02; Scott Shadiow ‘03; David Fossas ’04; Mindy Huber ’04; Amy Pasqua ‘05; Joey Fleury ‘07; Allison Klein ‘08; Kendra Brogden ’10; Elise Trent ‘11; and Rachel Leslie ’11.

I’m at the Newhouse School today to officially announce this center. If you happen to be in the area, don’t hesitate to stop by!

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