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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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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For many of us, the relationships we have with our mentors have been invaluable. They helped us land our first job; a first promotion; they’re a sounding board for innovation and advice. But how many of us have reversed the role? How many of us have moved from mentee to mentor lately? I always assumed mentoring was something done by those veteran in the industry. That changed when I was asked to take on a couple tasks from my alma mater, Syracuse University. One of those tasks was to guest tweet from a university run Twitter handle, @workingorange. My job was simple: tweet about what I do, offer advice to current students and answer any questions that came my way. While I wasn’t expecting much, it turned out to be extremely rewarding. Here’s a sample of the day’s work:

While I expected the day to end and the dialogue to cease, I was surprised to find that each of those I conversed with had followed me on my personal handle to continue talking. It’s then that I started analyzing the importance of mentoring from a company’s perspective. I began to ask myself, what’s the ROI of mentoring?

Internal Mentoring Programs

Large corporations continue to invest money into mentoring programs matching young professionals with industry veterans in hopes of developing the next generation of talent. However, these programs often feel forced and fall flat of achieving the goals. Today, companies are trying a couple of different tactics to improve mentoring. A couple of examples are:

Reverse Mentoring: The idea of flipping mentoring on its head. Using this approach, it’s the young professionals offering the advice to senior professionals. Consider Citibank who’s recently partnered with University of Miami’s School of Business Administration to launch a reverse mentoring program. Citibank hopes this six month program will, “tap into the digital wisdom of the younger generation,” providing Citibank executives with a prospective they might not have thought of. These types of programs are becoming extremely popular as companies attempt to stay savvy to evolving trends. It’s also a growing method of recruitment for companies. As one executive put it, “If we understand the next generation better, we can motivate and cultivate talent better.”

Peer Mentoring: The idea of like-minded professionals meeting together to offer advice and share experiences about their given niche. This tactic mirrors that of “lean-in circles” made famous by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. These groups, ideally 8-12 people who are in comparable places in life, meet regularly to share experiences, ideas and solicit advice. Peer mentoring fosters long-term relationships with colleagues that are meant to develop over time to be mutually beneficial relationships.

With these two examples in mind, consider the following statistics published by the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association:

  • Lloyds TSB implemented a mentorship program that “increased the number of women in a management role from 15% in 1998 to 39% in 2007. Over the same period, women in senior management positions rose from 9% to 21%.”
  • “A case study by The Gartner Group showed that the benefits accrued to Sun Microsystems employees beyond mentees had a business impact on mentors in salary grade, retention and promotion rates. In fact, both mentors and mentees were at least five times more likely to be promoted than those not involved in the program.”

 External Mentoring Programs

Mentoring extends beyond the walls of the workplace with programs like Big Brother, Big Sister and other mentorship opportunities. These mentoring opportunities provide us with the chance to make a difference much bigger than job promotions, salary increases and talent acquisition. Consider the following from Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota:

  • Quality youth mentoring programs can expect a $2.72 return for every dollar spent on effective mentoring programs in the state.
  • Reduced truancy than those not in a mentorship program – resulting in reduced school costs and, ultimately, reduced high school dropouts.
  • Improved school attendance and performance than those not in a mentorship program – leading to increased graduation rates, increased post-secondary education, and higher lifetime earnings.

External mentoring programs provide us with the opportunity to realize an ROI greater than we can imagine. It’s certainly an ROI you won’t be able to place a dollar value on. And who knows, maybe that external mentee comes full circle and lands a job with W2O. Couldn’t get any better than that.

Whether it’s internal or external mentorship, it’s clear that the ROI is worth the time. It’s time for us to begin to give back and make a difference. So, where will you start?

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I had the opportunity to attend NJ MarCom’s Masterclass and Summer Networking Event recently at Fairleigh Dickinson University. W20’s Principal Gary Grates spoke to an audience of communications, marketing, public relations and advertising professionals on how social is changing the business model. Below are a few key points gleaned from Gary’s presentation.

We Must Fail Fast

We live in an era of 24/7 news coverage, content swarming us like crazed bees, and companies trying everything to break through the noise to get our attention. As Gary put it, “there’s a tsunami of information coming at us every day.”  Because of this, we must adjust our way of thiniking. We must innovate, experiment and reinvent ourselves and our offerings every day. We will fail. There’s no debating the fact that we will fail. The key is to fail fast. As an organization, it’s important that we don’t dwell on our failures.

More importantly, it’s important we don’t stick to our guns when we’ve failed. What’s that famous Einstein quote? “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” In order to remain innovative, client-centric and differentiated, we must pick ourselves up quickly and try again. If not, we risk getting lost in the noise.

Social without Authenticity is Useless

Social is infiltrating business after business. Every day, a new company attempts to jump on the social media bandwagon. For many, this means starting a Twitter, launching a Facebook page or starting a CEO blog. Companies are determined to increase followers and secure likes. What companies forget to think about is the authenticity of the platforms.

Take CEO’s blogs for example. Shockingly, companies still feel it’s appropriate to have executive communications write the blog, or have an agency of record produce the content. This tactic fools nobody. Employees laugh off the blog as phony, a tactic that isn’t fooling anyone to think it’s authentically from the CEO. It’s viewed as a waste of the employees’ time. After all, if the CEO can’t take the time to write it, why should the employee take the time to read it? PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi has this figured out well. Nooyi has a large following on her blog, primarily because of the authenticity that comes with it. Nooyi blogs about her travels across the world to PepsiCo locations, her experiences meeting employees and the ideas that come from them. This authenticity resulted in an organic following being built to the blog. With that example in mind, it’s crucial businesses not only create, but authenticate its social channels.

Analytics without insight is just data. Insights without action is just noise.

Too often, companies are communicating with an audience that just doesn’t exist. Companies are distributing content and shaping strategy around hunches and assumptions about its audiences. Well, the time of guessing and assuming is over. Today, your key audiences are telling you what your strategy should be. This is where the opportunity lies to invite analytics and data into the communications process. Before delving into analytics, however, Gary challenged the audience to first answer one question: “What are you chasing?” When they understand their goal, they can ask the right questions to guide the data gathering and analytics with a clear purpose. As Gary began sharing our models and tools, eyes began to widen. People were surprised that companies could not only understand who’s driving the conversation about them, but where, how often and in what capacity. Furthermore, there was disbelief in the room that companies could also understand the influence that is behind the conversation. This surprise and disbelief led to Gary driving home a key point to the audience — the idea of “managing the future with the mindset of the past.” Companies can’t solve today’s problems with yesterday’s beliefs and tools. It’s time for companies to acknowledge the existence of analytics and the role it can play in problem solving.

As questions popped up left and right, and Gary fielded each one of them, heads began to nod. People started to realize the power of analytics and the necessity it brings to a communications strategy.  The biggest push back was “isn’t data just data – it’s nothing by itself?” The person made a quality point, and it’s something we advocate every day to our clients. “Analytics without insight is just data. Insights without action is just noise.” While analytics is of the utmost importance, we must ensure it’s integrated into a larger picture.

It’s safe to say that Gary left the room buzzing after his presentation. Those who hadn’t been exposed to models like ours, thought leaders like Gary or the power of analytics, were wowed at what’s achievable in today’s world. As I looked around to eyes widening and heads nodding, it was once again reaffirmed that WCG is steps ahead of those around us.

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