One of the keys to evolving the communications function at any company or agency is to step back and think through what we can and will do better or differently each year. For this look-ahead issue of PR News, I asked leaders in the communications and marketing world to share what is important to them as they look toward 2016.


The Influence of Speed

It is clear that several forces are influencing and shaping our world with speed. Those forces speak loudly. More than 50% of all content is consumed via mobile phone. The other force is the sheer volume and impact of video, whether it is Facebook’s 8 billion views per day or the compression technology improvements that make it easy to view video anywhere, anytime on any device.

Here is what Torod Neptune, vice president of corporate communications and public affairs at Verizon said about this.

“Digital video will play a much more significant role in overall brand content strategy. As mobile continues to expand even further, the convergence with more capable, ubiquitous and lower cost networks will make short-form video (e.g. Twitter, Vine and Periscope) one of the most effective and impactful tools for communicators. A big catalyst here will be the creative use of shareable video by presidential candidates in the 2016 elections.”

Measurement: Influencing Attitudes

A related trend to what Torod shared is how we measure all of this activity, so I asked Chuck Hemann, global digital analytics manager at Intel, what he sees as a key insight related to measurement. Here is what Chuck added to the conversation for 2016.

“There are attitudinal shifts during a campaign, so we need to optimize toward those shifts. It’s not purely a post-campaign perspective that we want to get. Probably one that is applicable to us, but likely applicable to all, is a shift in focus about how we measure…. We entered this year with a mandate to shift the way we measure from a purely behavioral perspective [think clicks, efficiencies, etc.] to how do our campaigns change the attitudes that we want to change. There’s a decreasing interest from senior executives to know how many clicks something received, though, in certain contexts it can be important, but rather how we influenced attitudes and ultimately drove conversion. It’s important to also note that this doesn’t necessarily apply only to digital media. It applies to digital, social, on-domain, native advertising, all of it.”

Mind The Planet: Avoid Content Pollution

Knowing that digital video, particularly short-form, is increasingly important and our measurement of behavior must evolve, we often can make the mistake of rushing to simply churn out more content. That rarely is the answer, however. Being smart about how we tell our story always matters, which is why I asked Andrew Bowins, vice president, corporate reputation at Samsung Electronics America, to share his views. Here are Andrew’s insights.

“In 2016 communicators need to look in the mirror and decide if they have become content polluters. In the frenzy to be brand publishers and leverage digital channels we may have forgotten the basic rules of PR: communicate with purpose; target your audiences and be relevant. Pull back the throttle a little, embrace data to understand your audience and shape content that actually stirs a desired reaction.”

This sounds like a great combination of what Torod and Chuck are teaching us. It’s also a reminder to avoid content pollution, one of my favorite phrases.

Building Your Team, Diversity, Innovation

I then asked Dorothy Jones, chief marketing officer at Interstate Batteries, to reflect on what we need to do to build great teams and the most innovative environment. Here is what Dorothy said:

“There are two important areas that affect our business today. We must embrace diversity in the workplace, which we view as gender, ethnicity and experience. When we do this, we have millennials and boomers learning from each other, we improve our cultural relevance, we have more depth of experience and we’re a truly authentic team. This benefits our customers directly and it is the best environment for all of us to grow professionally and personally.”

Dorothy went on to add that, “We must all be champions of change and reinvention. We need to stay ahead of the curve and build a culture of innovation, which strengthens our companies or agencies.”

I agree with Dorothy and will add what I say to those I mentor. Stay curious and keep learning every year. Learn a new language, read up on topics that are brand new, take on responsibilities that make you nervous at first and keep challenging yourself to grow intellectually and physically, reshape your habits to be the best communicator in the business that you are capable of becoming.

CONTACT: @bobpearson1845

This article originally appeared in the December 14, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.

SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–In a move to further strengthen its global position in the technology space, PROI Worldwide, ranked as the world’s largest partnership of independent communications agencies with fee income in excess of US$615 million, has further established ties with PROI Partner Agency W2O Group. The 4th largest independent, integrated communications firm in the United States, whose technology clients include HP, Verizon, Intel, NetScout and INRIX, will become PROI Worldwide’s technology partner based in San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

“W2O represents the entrepreneurship which enabled PROI Worldwide to be rated fifth among global communications companies”

Tweet this

“Technology is a key sector for our global agencies,” said Andreas Fischer Appelt, Global Chairman, PROI Worldwide and Managing Director of PROI’s German Agency fischerAppelt, one of Europe’s largest agencies. “W2O will assist us in further developing our global reach, positioning and strength.”

“Our partnership with PROI Worldwide will be invaluable as we continue to enhance our rapidly-growing technology practice and expand our footprint beyond the United States to other key markets in the rest of the world,” said Jim Weiss, Chairman and CEO of W2O Group. “Healthcare is our foundation and ignited our relationship with PROI, but technology is a key business pillar that will also drive future growth of W2O Group. We are delighted to join forces with such a distinguished, world-class network of agencies that share our passion for innovation and excellence.”

“W2O represents the entrepreneurship which enabled PROI Worldwide to be rated fifth among global communications companies,” said Allard W. van Veen, Founding Partner and Managing Director of PROI Worldwide which was established in 1970. “W2O provides added insight and leadership as the sector continues to expand.”

Technology is the second largest and fastest-growing practice within W2O Group. WCG President Aaron Strout and Twist PresidentAnnalise Coady lead a team of expert counselors who have a combined 200 years of experience working with the world’s leading technology brands and startups. Michael Brito, Adam Cohen, Rob Cronin, Michael Hall, Jen Long, Jon Maron, Kursten Mitchell, Madelyn Varella, James Morley and Diane Parrish are leveraging this expertise to drive rapid growth of the W2O tech portfolio across b2b, consumer and vertical markets. They exemplify W2O’s hands-on approach to working with clients on data-driven, integrated marketing and communications strategies.

“We’ve continued to expand our footprint in major technology business centers in the United States, including recent office openings in Boston and Minneapolis. Our focus now is on the West Coast — San Francisco, Silicon Valley, San Diego and Seattle — as it proves to be the greatest opportunity in the technology space,” said Bob Pearson, President of W2O.

About W2O Group

Founded and led by Chairman and CEO Jim Weiss, W2O Group is an independent network of complementary marketing, communications, research and development firms focused on integrated business solutions to drive change and growth through “pragmatic disruption” for the world’s leading brands and organizations. W2O Group’s networks includes WCG, Twist Mktg, Brewlife and W2O Ventures, with 11 offices in the United States and Europe. For more information, please visit

About PROI Worldwide

PROI Worldwide was founded in Europe in 1970 and is the world’s oldest and largest partnership of independently owned PR and marketing agencies and is ranked fifth largest among global holdings companies and third largest when compared to multi-national communications companies by leading industry analysts, PROI Worldwide has more than 4,850 clients, 4,400 staff and 100+ offices in 50 countries on six continents, PROI agencies are the leading independents in markets from London, Paris, New York, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Frankfurt and Tokyo to Beijing, Brussels, Mumbai, Los Angeles and Sao Paolo.


Contact Us

There is a saying… “if some is good, more is better.” Often, this saying is meant ironically because it is rarely true. But in the case of our 2015 events leading up to (and slightly overlapping) SXSW Interactive, we here at W2O Group were extremely pleased with the results. For the Readers Digest version of our events, you can check out the content capsule below (it includes a few select videos of our speakers, our PreCommerce Spotify playlist, speaker presentations and pictures from numerous events). We also led up to our events with some speaker interviews which I recommend checking out here.

We kicked things off this year with our second annual VIP Round Table — an event reserved for speakers and some of our more senior level clients. Held on the 55th floor of the prestigious Austonian building, the 40 person event was led by W2O Group President, Bob Pearson and tech mogul, David Kirkpatrick of Techonomy.

2015-03-11 14.56.00

The two and a half hour, facilitated discussion touched on topics such as innovation, the future of apps, security and mobile advertising. The day rounded out with an appearance by none other than one of the hardest working men online and on camera, Al Roker (Below is the episode of Live from Stubbs Jon Harris and I filmed with Al).

One of our two signature events this year was our fifth annual PreCommerce Summit. And while each of our past four summits have gotten better than the year before, this was the year where we really stepped up our game the most significantly. Not only was the venue a cut above (thank you Austin City Music Hall) but our event production team (huge props to Erin Disney and Team Clink) took our game to a new level. And then there were the speakers. I’ve pulled out some key quotes below but I would highly recommend spending some time reading the recaps/watching the videos for each.




Here are the speakers (note links to their blog recaps and a link to their presentations to the right of each name):

On Friday, we held our second annual digital brunch. This is technically our third or fourth but the second in our new office with food trucks and music. This is a great time for our clients, neighbors, partners and employees to mix and mingle, enjoy some breakfast tacos, Bloody Marys, take in a demo or two, all while basking in the warm Austin sun.

Here are a few pics of the festivities:

2015-03-13 10.41.59-2


2015-03-13 13.03.08-1

This year, in addition to our PreCommerce Summit, we decided to take a page out of our earlier SXSW days where we had a smaller, more intimate room. At our first ever Geekfest moderated by Bob Pearson and our CTO, John Cunningham, we featured 16 speakers covering topics that ranged from the Apache Project to resonant charging to the importance of diversity in tech. It was a lot of good food for thought in a power packed four hour span. We will have the videos for these talks up soon but in the meantime, you can thumb through the blog recaps below.

Last but not least in our string of events this year was the Geekacue. It’s hard to believe bu this was our sixth annual Geekacue and also the first year we didn’t host our event at an actual BBQ joint. For the last three years, we had the good fortune of taking over Franklin’s BBQ (owner and chef, Aaron Franklin, was recently named as a finalist for the prestigious James Beard Award). This year, we made the tough call due to space constraints and took our party over to the elegant confines of the Charles Johnson House. This of course meant that we needed to find some great BBQ and likely that we would need some entertainment as well. Mission accomplished on both fronts as we were fortunate enough to land new-but-not-so-new, Terry Blacks BBQ, as our bearers of brisket. The short version of the story is that twin brothers, Mike and Mark Black opened Terry Black’s in Austin in late 2014. However, the namesake of their new establishment is their father, Terry Black, whose father, Edgar, opened now legendary “Black’s” in the BBQ capitol of Texas (Lockhart) over 83 years ago.

In addition to some amazing BBQ, we also had the luxury of not one… not two… but three bands. Some of you may have only seen Monte Montgomery who opened or Black Joe Lewis who was the feature act. But for those lucky enough to stick around, we also had the red hot blue grass band, Whiskey Shivers, upstairs at the after party. All three were amazing and left us wanting more.




terry blacks

2015-03-14 20.02.22



During the Geekacue, we also kept our clients, partners and friends-of-W2O entertained with a dance party booth (video below).

We also brought back one of the staples of our Geekacue, the photo booth. We’ll have all the photos available soon on our Facebook page but in the meantime, here are some gems to give you a flavor.




Key stats across all our events:

  • We had over 5,200 tweets tagged with our hashtag #sxw2o (I encourage you to scroll through the content there — it will make you smarter… and hungrier, I promise).
  • W2O Group held eight different events this year — our most ever. Look for that number to be closer to ten next year.
  • There were over 3,300 registrations for our events. Somewhere between 40-50% of those folks showed up plus walk ups. Subtracting out overlap, we had roughly 1,000 unique folks not including our employees attending our events.
  • There were over 60 briskets consumed at our Geekacue. Okay, I’m making that number up but it was somewhere in that neighborhood.

Last but not least, none of this would be possible without our wonderful partners/sponsors. They not only help fund (or in the case of alcohol, provide in kind donations) but they are also integral parts of our events as speakers, attendees, photographers and avid Tweeters. We appreciate you all and thank you for your support Sysomos, Clarabridge, Bayer, Datasift, Sprinklr, Business Wire, Synthesio, Sullivan Wine, Deep Eddy Vodka and Thirsty Planet.

Sponsor Block_Updated


SXSW just ended in Austin, so we thought we would write this Millennials Unplugged post from the standpoint of “what matters to us”.  We’re not trying to create a better list of technology innovations.  We just talked this weekend about what we both care about. We also asked our W2O Millennial colleagues for their first-hand views, as well.   Here’s our SXSW summary. 

#1 – We are shifting from Call of Duty to Duty calls – Brittany grew up playing Call of Duty, often as well as the boys, who seemed to dedicate every waking hour to reaching the next level.  Well before women in tech was a theme, Brittany was waiting in line for the midnight launch of the newest Call of Duty game.  Just her and 100+ boys.  That was then.  Now, we see an explosion of wearables, 3D printing and, in particular, healthcare applications.  Bob always hoped that this generation who grew up on gaming would eventually apply their knowledge to the real world, although he was skeptical at times as he watched 5-6 kids shoot each other on screen, laugh and drink a diet pepsi. But it looks like it’s happening.  Kids used to spend time teaching others cheats and tricks of the trade for video games.  Now, we are realizing that as millennials get older, they will start applying tremendous technical knowledge to innovation that may not have been so obvious to us parents.  Yes, fellow parents, our kids did pick up new skills we didn’t fully appreciate.  And as their skills widen beyond Call of Duty to applications in life, it also opens up more opportunities for women in technology.  Duty calls and millennials are ready to surprise us with their innovative ideas.

#2 – Virtual Reality Drives Healthcare Reality – we are living in a time when we have tremendous technology advances and we have a health system in flux due to the Affordable Care Act.  Our colleague, Anke Knospe of Twist said “SXSW helped solidify that virtual reality is truly taking shape and offers potential far beyond video and gaming. Physicians have already been using aspects of virtual reality to conduct surgeries or help treat psychiatric/neurologic conditions, but video games and VR may even show promise as diagnostic tools and could potentially help improve the drug development process.”  Anke’s right, but what she said next is profound.  “While highly scientific, healthcare typically hasn’t been known to be the most innovative and, in the past, hasn’t attracted the (millennial) geek squad that has helped push social media/tech into a new era. The fact that we are now starting conversations around using video games and VR in healthcare and that companies like Akili are working on out of the box ideas like developing a video game to diagnose Alzheimer’s at an early stage are speaking to the fact disruptive thinkers are no longer steering clear of pharma and healthcare.”  Anke, we both believe you are right.  It is becoming cool to innovate in healthcare for millennials and beyond.  Let’s go!

#3 – Let’s break down the walls to connect and share – anyone who does this wins.  That’s why we like Meerkat, Periscope, Snapchat and iBeacons.  Help us connect faster?  Heck, even Bob likes that.  Help us live stream video to twitter?  No brainer.  Break down barriers.  Break down barriers.  Break down barriers.  The three things we both care about.  Meriel McCaffery of WCG added a very interesting observation. She said “Considering the (snails) pace with which some companies adapt basic social media (e.g. Twitter and Facebook), this for me underlines that we need to continue to push our clients and, as an industry, are obligated to make our clients uncomfortable.”  Meriel’s right in our book.  Technology makes innovation possible.  Consultants push the envelope related to what is possible.  It’s like Reese’s.  Have to have chocolate and peanut butter or it just doesn’t work the same.  At least that’s what Brittany says.  Bob’s on a diet.

#4 – Being a real person online matters…..a lot – it’s not all about technology.  We’re people and we care about making connections and doing the right thing.  Taylor Carr of WCG provided a great summary of what he believes matters about better understanding human behavior.

Unconscious Bias conversation – Sometimes, we don’t even understand our decisions, or why we’re making them.  We all loved Judith Williams of Google’s talk at PreCommerce who made us all think about what we do and why we do it.

Empathy at scale – Taylor really loved the Covey quote that was included in this presentation, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Business today is tasked with actually understanding and listening to its audience.

  • It’s All About Strength – Truly tapping into people’s strengths and passions to really unleash them within their organization. In order to do that, you really have to deeply understand them.  Great talk from Mason Nelder of Verizon

Taylor said why this matters.  “We wear a lot of hats. Communicators, marketers, consultants, etc. Today, it’s becoming more important we add some others to our portfolio. Those of sociologist, psychologist and more. Digital technologies like our analytics tools are starting to allow us to “listen” to audiences, but a crucial layer isn’t just listening, but understanding them. Their behavior, emotions, habits, tendencies and more.

#5 – How about just getting to the point? Samantha Hershman of WCG was inspired by Al Roker’s talk and his point to do just that…..get to the point.  She said “I find Al Roker to be an extremely interesting person and appreciated his whole take on digital communications today. What I found impactful was when he talked about what we’re learning about consumers this year, as opposed to last year, and he said that consumers really just want people to be honest with them. He continued to say that consumers are looking for more value in their daily tasks – pretty much they want people to get to the point.”

#6 — Societal benefits of technology are important – a great example is a company started in Austin by Stephen Garten and Scott Jacobs called Charity Charge.  This new company, which was one of 10 companies selected by IBM at SXSW as a key social business start-up is “a for profit benefit corporation focused on creating giving tools that allow people to make the world a better place through simple actions. You use a credit card to earn 1% cash back donations to help the charities of your choice charge forward.”  Perhaps the next Toms is starting right in our backyard?  Let’s hope.

#7 – Automate our lives, please – yes, automated cars are good.  Energy transfer by wifi (Witricity)to allow us to not carry cords in our backpacks or charge an electric car in the future is good.  We’re not scared of what’s next.  Yes, bring it on.  The no brainer of no-brainers for both millennials and boomers. Automation will soon not only assist, but replace the need for human intervention and operators.  That sounds more cool than scary to us.

That’s what we know.  Enjoy, Brittany and Bob Pearson

Our next column will be on Facebook.

We just completed an awesome series of events during SXSW in Austin.  We heard from leaders of key companies (Intel, Verizon), leading online companies (Twitter, Google),  leading thinkers (David Kirkpatrick/Techonomy, VJ Yoshi), leading innovators (Witricity) and leaders in media (Al Roker, Bloomberg).

We created this content capsule with our friends at NextWorks so that we could share the presentations, blog posts, videos and photos with you directly.  This is designed so that you can share it internally with your teams or simply share it with your network via social channels.

On behalf of our partners at Sysomos, DataSift, Clarabridge, Business Wire, SprinklrBayer and Synthesio, we hope you can join us next year at our PreCommerce Summit, GeekFest and Geek-a-Cue.  In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the summary of what we have learned from some of the smartest people in our business.

Enjoy, Bob

Like Aaron mentioned, was thrilled to see more amazing speakers at our inaugural Geekfest SXSW event. I think just about all who listened to the discussion about cybersecurity came away with the same takeaway: it’s a bigger problem than you think.

TK Keanini (CTO – Lancope)  kicked things off with Cybersecurity: a Game of Innovation. In his presentation, he made the case that cybersecurity is an ongoing game of innovation, where both sides work to out-innovate the other. He started with the evolution of Cyber Conflict from manual attacks/ defenses paved the way for mechanized attacks/ defenses to talented human/ mechanized attackers and the equivalvant on the defensive side. Finally, 2011 brings things to where we are now: do-it-yourself human threats/ mechanized attackers. By DIY, TK meant hackers these days don’t need to code. They can buy tools that automate much of the process. Citing stats from, the US was the #1 security target overall by a pretty wide margin, followed by the UK. Because it is lucrative, Cyber crime was the motivation behind almost 75 percent of the attacks in February this year.

TK also turned attention to the Internet of Things (IoT), providing a glimpse of the security problems it causes.  For example, SHODAN, an Internet-connected device search engine created and run by John Matherly (@achillean on Twitter), easily shows the vulnerabilities of internet devices many of us use every day. One example: a crematorium that was unsecured (as in anyone could control it from the Internet). Eye-opening and scary to say the least.

TK also referenced Verizon’s 2014 Data Breach Report as another example of how the good guys are being out-innovated in terms of cybersecurity. What can we do about it? Change how the game is played: instead of focusing on patching hundreds of security holes, focus efforts on detecting hackers in the midst of a series of operations we know they need to perform.

He reminded those in attendance that security is everyone’s problem, and offered the following recommendations: be social about security (look out for each other 0nline); operate online with a healthy degree of paranoia; use 2-factor authentication whenever possible (check for more); on the enterprise side, pay for security features and demand more from vendors); remember that only (mostly) secure data is encrypted data.

Here are TK Keanini’s slides and more background on him:

TK Keanini

Bio: TK Keanini brings nearly 25 years of network and security experience to the CTO role. He is responsible for leading Lancope’s evolution toward integrating security solutions with private and public cloud-based computing platforms. TK is also responsible for developing the blueprint and solution that will help Lancope’s customers securely benefit from the promise of software-defined networking (SDN). Prior to joining Lancope, Keanini served as CTO for nCircle, driving product innovation that defined the vulnerability management and configuration compliance market. Before joining nCircle, he served as Vice President of Network Services for Morgan Stanley Online, where he built and secured a highly available online trading system. Previously, Keanini was a systems engineer at Cisco, advising top financial institutions on the design and architecture of their data networking infrastructure. Keanini is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

Michael Crosno  (Executive – Click Security) continued the reasons to be concerned theme when he took the stage to discuss The Changing Landscape of Enterprise Security. Michael shared tons of scary stats and a couple anecdotes to illustrate just how difficult things have become. Michael painted the picture that hackers outgun the good guys in a number of different ways. How so? Globally, companies spend $70 billion per year on cybersecurity; hackers make over $300 billion over that same time frame. Regarding the cost: Drug-trafficking  costs us about $600 million a year; security breaches costs us over $1 trillion a year. Continuing down that path, Michael confirmed 400,000 registered hackers in China; they are unionized, can get health insurance; black market tools available everywhere. Hackers don’t need to code at all today.

Michael also discussed the Anthem hack, estimated to have affected tens of millions of customers, in a coordinated effort that happened over the course of an estimated 10 months. What are hackers doing with that information? Selling the entire details of a person’s health information from medical history to insurance ID. Say you have medical problems with your knees that will require surgery. Hackers will sell you insurance ID and appropriate details to someone overseas that will allow them to fly into the United States (in a different state than you reside) and to have those knee surgeries using your health insurance to pay the bill. Scary stuff.

So, what does all this mean to IT security? Michael sees a shift in focus from threat prevention  or detection (keeping hackers out) to threat investigation (finding hackers once they are in your network). He cited research from Microsoft that analyzed 20 years of security breaches that found nearly 500 actions were common requirements for large-scale security attacks. Research from Google and Symantec came up with slightly lower numbers, but all agree that there are a set of steps hackers have to go through. Per Michael, companies need to focus on recognizing hacker behaviors during these processes to build out predictive patterns so they can catch them in the act. That’s why he says the next big wave of security tools will focus on investigation rather than prevention.Ultimately, he sees security maturing in the same way Business Intelligence has. Years ago, companies had small teams of BI analysts. These days, lots of people in different BUs use BI software for insights. Regardless, companies will need a lot more people involved on the security front.

Michael Crosno

Bio: Michael Crosno is currently the President and CEO of Click Security. Prior to Click Security, he was the Founder and CEO of MyEdu Corporation in Austin, Texas, which he sold to Blackboard Corporation in 2014. Crosno joined MyEdu from Global 360, a leading BPM company, where he was President and CEO and sold it to private equity firms, TA Associates, Technology Crossover Ventures and JMI Equity. Before joining Global 360, Mr. Crosno served as CEO of the leading enterprise portal company, Epicentric, Inc. He sold the company to Vignette and served as EVP Worldwide Operations. Previously, he was EVP at Gemplus, SVP of Worldwide Operations at ViewStar and VP of Sales and Marketing at Computer Associates.

Michael Coté (Director, Technical Marketing – Pivotal)  closed things out on the cloud front discussing how companies can implement a fail fast model while still being focused on the right things in a presentation he called “Failing fast for the up-tight.”

In a talk that featured outfitting urinals with sensors to the Death Star, he made the point that failing fast worked for implementing cloud infrastructure tools and in other areas as well. Regarding failing fast, Coté acknowledged the tech concept of failing fast doesn’t seem to make sense for some companies at first blush, but it’s a positive thing because it gets at trying to solve specific problems. To him, failing fast means rapidly try out new things; getting new code in customers hands on a daily or weekly basis, Observing how customers use it, gathering feedback and iterating based on that feedback, In other words, failing fast really means learning fast.

So where do urnials come into the picture? Coté compared outfitting old urinals with sensors to how many companies have approached their private cloud implementations over the last several years. Modernizing old,  legacy urinals  with sensors that only work part of the time ends up frustrating the users. Not focusing on the bowl means not addressing the fundamental problem of using too much water; inefficiency. It’s a halfhearted attempt to implement technology. Similar to what Pivotal sees with many clients in regard to their private cloud implementations. In their reseacrhc, Pivot found that up to 95% weren’t happy with results of their private cloud efforts. I n many cases, they were doing half the work, or installing an infrastructure and expecting that to make a difference; 3 – 5  years later, many companies are  getting to what he called the “state of the blinking cursor.” Companies invested in changing infrastructure, rolled out new cloud technology, but nothing much is happening as a result. In Coté believes companies need to focus less on installing chunks of infrastructure and spend more time using the failing fast model to test what functionality needs to be rolled out to help end users.

Here’s Michael’s presentation and a bit more detail about him:

Michael Cote

Bio: Michael Coté works at Pivotal as part of the technical marketing group. He’s been an industry analyst at 451 Research and RedMonk, worked in corporate strategy and M&A at Dell in software and cloud, and was a programmer for a decade before all that. He blogs and podcasts at and is @cote in Twitter.




For more information on our SXW2O events, please visit our website:

Three of our speakers in the morning of the Precommerce Summit covered diverse topics, from the impact of visualization to understanding bias in the workplace.  In an era of “infobesity” how can brands stand out, and at the same time how can brand leaders build effective teams that can achieve high performance. Our three speakers shared perspective on how these can be relevant in today’s marketing world.

Jessica Gioglio (Head of Creative Lab – Sprinklr) – From Meh to Marvelous: Standing out in the Era of Infobesity

BIO: Jessica Gioglio is a Social Media Strategist and recognized thought leader who specialized in content and community engagement. Throughout her career, Gioglio has been a valuable contributor to the social media and communications teams at Dunkin’ Donuts, TripAdvisor, State Street and Comcast. In addition to be a featured speaker at numerous social media and technology conferences, Gioglio covers social media best practices for the Convince&Convert blog. She also founded and runs The SavvyBostonian, a Boston-based lifestyle blog. Finally, she published her first book (co-authored with Ekaterina Walter) in 2014, “The Power of Visual Storytelling”

Jessica Gioglio

Jessica opened talking about the genesis of the term “Infobesity,” using it to describe the current state of social media.  Today, more information is being shared across social channels than ever before.  Every 48 hours we are producing the same amount of content than has been created since the beginning of time to 2003.  To stand out, we need to take several steps:

1) Embrace Visuals to Tell Your Story 

Visuals are processed by the brain 60,000 times faster than text, and over 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual.  As an example, TSA uses Instagram to share extreme examples of what people try to get through the airport.  The images are true to the brand voice and objectives, educating the public about their mission.

2) Content Personalization – Personalize, Don’t Spray

Personalizing visual content is a key way to help content resonate with audiences.  L’Oreal partnered with LinkedIn to develop the “Are You In” program, creating custom shareable visuals.  This was very strategic in engaging women professionals who are also important consumers.

3) Be Timely and Relevant in a Way that Adds Value

In the era of social media, relevant content can take on a life of its own.  SmartCar leveraged this concept best when replying to  @adtothebone’s tweet mentioning a bird crapping on a Smart Car by creating a timely infographic about the weight of bird crap to damage a car.  The response was consistent with SmartCar’s smart, cheeky persona (and in my opinion, brilliant).

4) Create Content with Brand Advocates

Audience members who are advocates of a brand can enable and enhance content campaigns online, and employees (when guided properly) can jump start the effort.  Dunkin’ Brands did a content integration with Shark Week, creating the “Take a bite, take a pic” selfie contest.  Brand advocates made the campaign work because of their passion for the brand and the level of participation.

5) Surprise and Delight

Looking for ways to surprise audiences visually can also be very effective.  BenefitBeauty on Twitter will reply with custom “pick me up” phrases to inspire.

Jessica concluded succintly stating, “Cut through the clutter with remarkable experiences to achieve success.”  Well said.
Mason Nelder (Director of Social Media and Digital Strategy – Verizon) – Leveraging a Strengths Culture to Scale Insights

Bio: Mason Nelder currently serves as the Director of Social and Digital Strategy for Verizon Communications. He is a communications and social business strategist, primarily focusing on social media and digital strategy.  With over ten years of digital experience from startups to Fortune 20, he’s a collaborator, strategist and speaker who has sparked culture change, improved business communication and persuasively mandated business innovation. .

Mason Nelder

If statistics hold true, 65-70% of all of us are not working within our strengths. Mason shared the approach to designing, hiring and building the Verizon Central Insights team to ensure that the team was set up for success and leveraging team members’ strengths to achieve a high performing team.

When we work within our strengths, working is easy because that’s where the largest potential is.  Mason showed the formula:

TALENT  x  INVESTMENT = STRENGTH (consistent, near-perfect performance)

So how do you position this within a company to scale?  For Verizon Central Inisghts, Mason created the Insights Ecosystem, mapping four different personality types and skill sets that could be showcased as strengths in his team:

1) Research and Trends
2) Marketing Science
3) Analytics
4) Insights
5) Insights Enablement

Last group is key to ensuring all parts of the team is working together – creating a framework, linking technology and interacting with the business community and driving governance.  This is typically the weakest link in most organizations.

Most groups do not hire to their strengths and put people in roles that are a mismatch.  For example, taking project managers and having them in roles to focus on providing advanced analytics.  When people are in roles that leverage strangths, quality and output improves and happiness levels go up.


Judith Williams (Global Diversity & Inclusion Programs Manager – Google) – Unconscious Bias: Little Things Make a Big Difference

Bio: Judith Williams is the Global Diversity and Talent Programs Manager at Google where she supports engineering and the technical side of the company. Before joining Google, Judith was an entrepreneur, a human resources consultant and a college professor. She co-founded, Wallace Williams Global, LLC, a strategic diversity and inclusion consulting practice. Prior to creating WWG, she was a Research Director for the Corporate Leadership Council where she consulted with global human resources executive issues.

Judith Williams

“Unconscious bias” is errors or flaws that occur as we process information.  If you make a mistake in the context of identifying friends and foes, the cost is very high.  We receive 11 million bits of data in every moment.  We are 99.999996% unconscious because we can’t process that amount of data.

Several types of bias:

1) Social biases – Preferences to be with “someone like me”
2) Memory biases – The way we remember information based on patterns of prior behavior
3) Decision making biases or confirmation biases – Seeking out information that confirms our viewpoint
4) Probability and belief biases – Overvaluing information that is easily accessible to us, and assuming it has more value than it does without the right sample size

These biases are acting on us all the time and change the way we view the world.

Google is starting out with a large education campaign “Unconscious Bias @ Work” and “Bias-Busters,” role playing real scenarios.  One example is the learning that~10% of YouTube videos were uploading upside-down through iOS uploader. Turns out none of the engineers of the app were left handed, and videos are filmed horizontally in a different way.

To address biases, it’s important to commit to actions:

1) Structure for Success
2) Collect Data
3) Evaluate Subtle Messages
4) Hold Everyone Accountable

Think about the questions you might not be asking because of your blind spots.

For more information on our SXW2O events and our speakers, please visit our website:

chuckAs I mentioned in our set up post for our PreCommerce thought leader series, we will be interviewing several of our speakers in advance of our events the week of March 9. Third up is Chuck Hemann, head of analytics at tech giant, Intel. For more information about our events during SXSW, go here.

Over the last 10 years, Chuck has provided strategic counsel to clients on a variety of topics including digital analytics, measurement, online reputation, social media, investor relations and crisis communications. Prior to joining Intel, he was Executive Director, Analytics at Golin where I was responsible for leading digital analytics across the agency. Before Golin he was Group Director, Analytics for W2O Group where he was responsible for leading teams in New York and London, in addition to key client relationships with P&G and Verizon.

Now onto the interview:

[Aaron Strout] How did you end up in the field of analytics?
[Chuck Hemann] Probably like a lot of people in the field of analytics I ended up in it sort of by accident. My undergraduate and graduate work is all in political science, and during graduate school I did do some of that work both in DC and at home (Cleveland Rocks!). If you love the study of human behavior, you would love to witness the political environment every day. What I realized, though, is that profession had a limited shelf life for me. Twenty hours a day for weeks on end didn’t sound like much of an existence. When I moved back home I sent my resumes to a bunch of communications firms thinking there were some natural parallels between the political world and communications. During that process Dix & Eaton brought me in for an interview and said they were looking for a research assistant for their media research team and, because I needed a job, I took the opportunity. Two years later is when the social media listening boom hit and the rest as they say is history…

[AS] I’ve heard you’ve written a book. Tell us about that? Anything you would go back and change if you could?
[CH] It is true. I have written a book. Ken Burbary and I set out on the journey to give marketers an analytics book that they would feel comfortable reading. To that point most of the analytics books on the market were written for people like us and while they were valuable, they weren’t terribly useful for the marketer who wont be diving into Google Analytis and doing deep web analytics anytime soon. It’s a great question on whether or not there is anything we would go back and change. If I had to answer I would say there is probably two things in particular: 1. We had to talk about tools but discussing digital analytics tools in this sort of environment is a crapshoot. Most of the tools we talked about are still around but in varying degrees of stability; 2. I wish we would’ve talked more about digital media measurement. We do have a few chapters on it, but I think we could write a whole book on that subject – how to develop the framework, how often to measure, what should you measure, how should those insights be applied, etc… (No, before you ask, we’re not contemplating a book on this. My authoring days are over).

[AS] Your talk at PreCommerce is going to focus on going global and some of the challenges associated. Can you share some pre-session thoughts?
[CH] One of the big challenges that my boss gave to me was help drive the idea of being a data driven organization. Intel (like a lot of brands) has more data than we could ever reasonably use, but what we needed to start doing is figuring out how we got insights into the hands of people executing media programs on our behalf. And oh, by the way, do it across digital media, paid social, organic social, SEM, SEO and That’s not a small job in and of itself, but it was made even bigger when she said, “everything we do needs to scale to our geographies.” Crap. How do we go about tackling that problem? During the session I’m going to talk a little bit about that problem, a little about how we’re thinking about it, a little about what we’ve already done and a little about the challenges we still face. I wish I could talk more about these things, but I only have 10 minutes.

[AS] What are your thoughts on the rising importance of Storytizing (using the art of storytelling via paid, earned and shared channels)?
[CH] I’m not sure I would use the word “rising” because I think Storytizing is already here to stay. If you cannot tell your brand’s story across paid, earned and shared channels then your digital story falls flat. Integration in particular isn’t a “nice to have” anymore. It’s mandatory.

[AS] If you attended SXSW last year, what was your biggest takeaway?
[CH] I did attend SXSW last year and I think the biggest takeaway for me is similar to what many said following the event which was it feels like it’s getting more intimate. Events like PreCommerce are sprouting up all over the place, and I for one am not planning to spend much time at any big parties. I’d rather the networking be more focused.

[AS] What is a trend that you expect (or hope) to see talked about most at SXSW this year and why?
[CH] I would love to see the trend above continue as it makes for a much better event experience. To be honest, I’ve not been keeping up with the buzz around SXSW leading up to it (I’ve been busy scaling globally) so it’s a little difficult to answer… My guess though is we’ll see as much if not more chatter around the proliferation of mobile and the (seeming) retreat on the rapid expansion of catch all social platforms. There are new social platforms popping up all of the time, but the ones that are popping up are very niche to fit a very particular use case.

There are three certainties in life… death, taxes and the fact that our company, W2O Group, will once again be hosting some awesome events during SXSW Interactive. Unless you live under a rock, you know this is one of the largest interactive conferences on this planet. Over 100,000 of the top digital, social and mobile minds from around the world haling from companies large and small, agencies, startups, etc. come to Austin, TX to network, attend panels and catch up on the latest trends. Many of these attendees are influential bloggers, senior marketing and communications professionals and journalists who report back on who is doing what in the interactive space.

Because a significant number of our clients at W2O Group (WCG, Twist and BrewLife) are now involved with SXSW Interactive, over the last six years we have developed a series of events during SXSW that complement all of the activities that go on during that time. Our signature event, the PreCommerce Summit, takes place on March 12 (Thursday) from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM and is packed with speakers from well-known brands like H&R Block, Google, Twitter, Verizon, Intel and Bayer. We will also have thought leaders from companies like Techonomy, NBC and Bloomberg providing industry insights. Did we mention that we are honored to have none other than Al Roker, co-anchor of the Today Show, and a special fireside chat between Tech moguls, David Kirkpatrick (author of The Facebook Effect) and Vyomesh “VJ” Joshi (former EVP of printing at Hewlett Packard)?

We are interviewing a number of these speakers on our blog here.


Jon Harris (former head of comms at Hillshire Brands and media personality), will be interviewing Al at our event. You can hear more in our Live from Stubbs interview with Jon here on what he and Al will cover.

This event will be attended by about 400 plus customers and other industry thought leaders. A cocktail reception will follow. The event is complementary, but invite only. If you are interested in attending, please email us at In that email, be sure to provide name, title and company. We will also be live streaming the event via UStream if you can’t physically be there. Registration is open to the public (RSVP here).

We will also host a digital brunch at our (not so) new office located in East Austin. If you like food trucks (hint: Gordoughs will be one), music, cocktails and lost of interesting people, you will enjoy this.

Every SXSW, we do our best to cover “what’s next” in digital. This year, we’re planning to host our first GeekFest on Saturday at The Austonian between 10am – 2pm. We have 12 speakers including Becky Brown, VP of media at Intel and TK Keanini, CTO of Lancope to give 15 minute talks with some time for Q&A every 3-4 talks. We will have no more than 70 people in attendance. This event is being sponsored by Synthesio.

In addition to our PreCommerce Summit (selected talks from last year’s event), Digital Brunch and Geekfest, we will also host our sixth annual Geek-a-Cue Saturday night at the historic Charles Johnson House (on the Colorado River). This is the house MTV uses to host its SXSW Music parties so you know it’s good. We were sad to not host our Geek-a-cue for a fourth time at world famous Franklin’s BBQ, but with their new expansion we simply ran out of room. Not to worry, however, because we are pleased to bring you one of Austin’s newest gems, Terry Blacks. While we won’t pretend anyone can cook brisket like Aaron Franklin… the Black brothers (their grandfather is Terry Black who opened Blacks in Lockhart 83 years ago) come pretty damn close.

Oh, did we mention that we have two AMAZING bands this year as well? For openers, we’ll have Austin favorite, Monte Montgomery. And then for our main act, we are featuring Black Joe Lewis (yes, that Black Joe Lewis that has appeared on Letterman and countless music festivals).

Check out my 2014 wrap up post to get a better flavor of the awesomeness you will experience this year.

Here are eventbrite links/descriptions of the events:

  • Friday, March 13th: Digital Brunch (400+ director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)
    • RSVP Here (no password required)
    • 3000 East Cesar Chavez, Austin
    • 10:00 AM – 2 PM
    • Food trucks, music, innovative demos, coffee, brunch, and mimosa/Bloody Marys to fuel your first festival day
    • Shuttles available from the Stephen F. Austin Hotel starting at 9:45am
  • 6th Annual Geek-a-cue: Saturday, March 14th:  (800 director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)
    • RSVP Here (password required – email to request invite)
    • Charles Johnson House – 404 Atlanta Street, Austin, TX
    • 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM
    • Roundtrip shuttle available from the Stephan F. Austin Hotel starting at 4:45 PM
    • To RSVP contact (space is limited)

As you can imagine, space is limited at these events so please make sure to RSVP soon. And if you do RSVP and decide after that you can’t make it, please be courteous and let us/me know that your slot is available.

We are over-the-moon excited to have Sysomos, DataSift, ClarabridgeSprinklr, Businesswire and Bayer as our sponsors this year. We greatly appreciate their support.

October was a big month for social media, with updates and new features across all channels. Keep your clients up-to-date and socialize what’s new! If you would like to be featured in the November updates, please let us know!

What you need to know in October:

  • Users Can Now Edit Facebook Posts
    • Facebook users can now go back and edit posts (including status updates and images) after they have been posted. All engagement on a post will not be lost, as opposed to previously deleting a post/comment.
    • Why it matters: While this feature is only available to users and not brand pages, brands must be aware of what fans are posting to ensure they do not change the copy after the comment goes live,
    • What you have to say about it: “This new feature makes it easier to make changes on the go – which is entirely necessary in today’s world. I would imagine I am not alone in making most of my Facebook status updates from my mobile device and am looking forward to be able to edit those when needed, no matter where I am.” – Kendra Cassillo, Account Manager, Health, Los Angeles, CA
  • Facebook Graph Search – Updates
    • Facebook is making it easier for users to search for topics of interest. This update will make almost anything posted accessible to other users and keeps Facebook conducive to real-time conversation.
    • Why it matters: Facebook is becoming a one stop shop. Brands can easily follow conservation about their products/offerings via Facebook, as well as understanding what fans are saying about competitors. The more time users are spending on Facebook (to seek information), the greater the opportunity to reach fans.
    • What you have to say about it: “This is a much-appreciated update for marketers, providing an alternative to Twitter as the go-to source for trending news.  We’ll be able to conduct real-time searches for publicly shared content. This offers a wealth of new competitive insights and consumer research that can be quickly gleamed through keyword searches into everything from competitors to  product attributes and all things important your friends and followers. For local market perspective, you can search by location to garner conversation threads for a particular city, offering insights for market-specific campaigns. From an engagement perspective, the new content searching enhancements provide quick and painless ways for brands to tap into timely events and conversations with posts that are relevant in the moment.” – Peter Duckler, Director, Earned Media, Los Angeles, CA
  • Facebook Simplifies Ad Buying
    • Facebook is simplifying the ad buying process by asking advertisers to choose their objectives from a list of options and then selecting where the ad will appear on Facebook.
    • Why it matters: The easier it is for brands to advertise, the more inclined they will be to do so. Advertising leads to more social recognition, which boots levels of engagement. The advertising will do the talking, while brands watch to see which campaigns are most effective.
    • What you have to say about it: “Previously, a lot went into implementing the most effective Facebook ads. It looks like Facebook is now taking steps to demystify their ad buying process by walking users through some of the more confusing steps and decisions. This is going to make it easier for clients to get their ads in front of the audiences they want. It’s also going to be easier for users to find out which images and campaigns are most effective. So ads are demystified, and our jobs are made easier. This is win-win! – Todd Dwyer, Analytics Manager,  Austin, TX
  • Facebook Ads – Across Platforms
    • Facebook advertisers can now target users across multiple devices, from desktop to mobile, thanks to a new self-serve tool that brings retargeted ads to Facebook’s mobile app.
    • Why it matters: Companies can target consumers who visited their website or downloaded their app, but didn’t make a purchase.
    • What you have to say about it: “Companies are going to be able to reach consumers who may have visited their site, but didn’t necessarily make a purchase. I can see customers getting annoyed with this because they don’t want updates from a company that they are not purchasing from. Ads going on people’s mobile phone will be frustrating because with mobile, the ads are removed and scrolling through the feed is less distracting than on a desktop. I appreciate not seeing ads on my personal devices.” – Gage Grammer, Marketing Associate, Austin, TX
  • Twitter Allows DM from any Follower
    • Twitter users can now opt to receive direct messages from any of their followers.
    • Why it matters: This opens lines of communication between brands and their followers and influencers, making it much easier to connect with influencers, receive contact information, etc.
    • What you have to say about it: “This is key for brands who utilize social media for influencer outreach and real-time feedback. For clients like Verizon, who have spent a lot of time and effort establishing relationships and connections with influencers via Twitter, this new feature is a much needed update and opening for more meaningful conversations with both influencers, followers and potential customers in a social, yet a bit less public, forum. It’s amazing to me that this was not an update earlier since so many companies have a strong Twitter presence today.”- Lauren Barbiero, Associate, Media and Engagement, New York, NY
  • Twitter Suggests Followers Via Mobile
    • A Twitter update will now suggest which accounts a user should follow by sending push notifications via mobile.
    • Why it matters: Your brand wants to be a top player in the “suggested follower” game. The more real-time/relevant conversation produced by your brand, the more users will be able to relate and pick-up on what you’re saying, thus, gaining followers and becoming a suggested account to follow.
    • What you have to say about it: “What you have to say about it: “I think that this is a nice, straightforward way to potentially characterize ROI for clients. Since Twitter’s suggestions will be based on engagement, this will be a great opportunity for us to encourage our clients to produce more engaging content to improve their “suggestibility”, and subsequently, to reach their potential audience.” – Jane Hurh, Analytics Associate, New York, NY
  • Embedded Tweets Now Include Photos
    • In an attempt to maintain its real-time marketing appeal, Twitter announced that embedded Tweets will now feature photos.
    • Why it matters: Strong visuals are more important than ever. Fans can now scroll through their feed, without that extra click to view an image, and will stop to pay attention to the photos that strike their interest and are above average. Your brand wants to be that brand.
    • What you have to say about it: “I think this speaks to how interactive media has become and appealing to all audiences. When reading a news story I want more than just great writing; I want to see a side-bar with a photo slide show or maybe a 90-second video along with it. Twitter is reminding users that this is one-stop shopping and I love it.” – Christiana Pascale, Healthcare Associate, New York, NY
  • Should Your Company be on Google+
    • While only 35% of big companies are on Google+, they are benefiting via Google. These brands are gaining SEO, properly utilizing hashtags and ahead of the YouTube game.
    • Why it matters: Sooner or later Google+ is going to be a great platform for brands to have, especially if fans can’t comment on your valuable YouTube content without it. Your brand will also be more searchable, which will boost engagement amongst competitors. If your fans are on it, you might consider it as well.
    • What you have to say about it: “There’s more to engaging stakeholders than the tool you use to connect. It’s about understanding where your stakeholders are, how to meet them there and inspire them forward around what your brand or company offers. Learning about their current behaviors and interests will make the engagement more authentic and effective, helping them to make easier purchasing decisions. Google+ might just be the right platform through which your brand or company can engage, but it shouldn’t be just because it’s the second most-used social network worldwide.” – Abigail Rethore, Director, Corporate Strategy, New York, NY
  • YouTube Comments Ranked, Personalized
    • YouTube is rolling out a new commenting system powered by Google+ which aims to fix the issue of spamming in comments. Comments will be ranked based on several things, including if the commenter is in your Google+ circle.
    • Why it matters: Influencers can comment on your videos, ranking higher than spam comments, keeping relevant comments higher and conversation between brand and influencer easier to track/follow.
    • What you have to say about it: “I’m interested to see how Google+ based rankings will play out. I worry that Google+ relationships don’t have enough data to make an automated algorithm deliver relevant content and that Google is forcing the channel onto consumers. In addition, adding the ability for brand pages to blacklist certain words will likely make brands more willing to engage, but this could also be a detriment to organic conversation – brands could potentially blacklist competitors’ products, or negative comments about the brand. This provides them with some ease of mind, but could also strip away honest conversation (which is ostensibly the reason that people like to engage online in the first place). – Stephen Yoon,  Manager, Corporate Strategy/Analytics, New York, NY
  • Pinterest  Expands Pins
    • Pinterest announced that article pins will now include the headline, author, title, a brief description and link, right on the pin, making it easier for users to save, organize and share articles.
    • Why it matters: Users can pin now, read later. This means that instead of browsing over your content and forgetting about it, they can pin it and it will be saved for them, expanding the content users save/read about your brand.
    • What you have to say about it:  As an avid pinner, it is frustrating when I do not understand the story behind a great photo or where the content originates. Pinners can now access more information on topics they care about from sites – and sources – they trust, knowing that the click-through won’t take them to a dead link. The photos uploaded with these expanded pins are going to need to continue to compete with Pinterest eye-candy and not rely on the links and copy to get attention of readers, because let’s face it, it’s hard to focus on too many words when you staring at a gorgeous shot of homemade lasagna that is made with only three easy steps.” – Jessica Carlson, Account Director, Chicago, IL

For more detailed information, please view our deck

Samantha HershmanErin Weinert, Amanda Cillo, & Michel’le Roddy, Consumer Team




With the 2013 version of SxSW Interactive in the books, it’s time for a look back on highlights, key trends (or lack of) and links to some of the awesome content we collected during the several events that we hosted during the event.

For starters, there really weren’t any big technologies that shined through at this SXSW like we’ve had at past events. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but likely more of an indication that it’s becoming harder and harder to break through all the noise at SXSW Interactive. There was a larger corporate presence than ever this year and that will likely be a continuing theme over the next few years as companies continue to embrace, grow and operationalize social, digital and mobile into their corporate DNA.

Social Commerce Summit

For W2O Group in particular, we had a very successful set of of events that kicked off with our Social Commerce Summit on Thursday, March 7. During this six hour event, we had 19 speakers each give 10 minute TED-like talks. The talks covered a range of topics including love, marriage and creating brand passion. We know it’s a lot of content but we hope you’ll take the time to watch the video (or at least read the highlights in the blog posts) from the speakers below.

We also had a few nice write ups from the event by former PR Week/current Holmes Report writer, Aarti Shah (here) and friend of W2O, Lisa Grimm (here).

In particular, we would like to thank our sponsors, Sysomos and BazaarVoice, for making all of our events during SXSW possible. They were (and are) great partners.


W2O Group Open House/Live from Stubbs Video Podcasts

While there weren’t any breakthrough companies this year at SXSW, we did have a number of themes crop up during our Social Commerce Summit and then again during our Live from Stubbs podcast tapings during our open house on Friday, March 8. In particular we heard a lot about big data, mobile, analytics and the operationalization of digital across the organization from many of our speakers/guests. There was also a significant amount of interest in our partner, SnapTrends, technology that provides for location-based analytics, a topic that W2O is quite bullish on.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be embedding the Live from Stubbs videos in blog posts on our Common Sense blog. In the meantime, you can check out all of the videos on our Youtube channel here. You can also read my Live from Stubbs co-host, Kyle Flaherty’s summary of our interview with Youtube’s Jeben Berg, here. When Kyle is not podcasting he is the VP of marketing at local analytics firm, 21CT who was kind enough to sponsor our Live from Stubbs videos. I would also like to thank local video production and strategy company, UPG for all of their brilliant work with both the Live from Stubbs videos as well as recording/editing all of our Social Commerce videos.


Of course SXSW wouldn’t be what it is without a party. And party we did at our 4th annual Geek-a-cue on Saturday night at Franklin BBQ (ranked best BBQ in the U.S. by Bon Appetit Magazine). Fortunately the rain held off this year allowing us to eat fantastic BBQ, enjoy the brilliant music of local favorite, Monte Montgomery, share a few beverages, take funny photos in our photo booth and play a little Corn Hole out behind the tent.

This short video shot and produced by UPG does a wonderful job of summing up this fabulous event.


We also need to thank Natalee Norwood and Spoiled Doves for producing our Geek-a-cue. Without all her creativity, foresight and elbow grease, this event wouldn’t be what it was. Thank you to Aaron and Stacy Franklin and the Franklin staff for use of their venue and all the mouth watering BBQ they served up with smiles on their faces.

Digital Brunch

Capping off the week, we hosted a digital brunch at our East Austin offices. In spite of threats of rain, the springing ahead of the clocks and a lot of hung over SXSW attendees, we still enjoyed over 125 visitors to our new offices. The petting zoo, chair massages, drinks (alcoholic and caffeinated) and gourmet brunch courtesy of local restaurant/catering company, Dai Due, probably didn’t hurt.

Biggest thanks of all go to the dream team at W2O Group of Erin Disney, Stephanie Layton, Blaire Borochoff and Katrina Hallowell for their months of hard work putting these events together. Huge props also go to our CEO, Jim Weiss and President, Bob Pearson for making these events possible. Last but not least, a shout out to all of our W2O Group employees who volunteered/attended as well as our clients for being an integral part of our SXSW experience. Thank you!

Last but not least, we also had a little fun with our #sxswpickuplines this year. Details are here. Video that put the cherry on the cake is below.


It is hard to not love and respect the amount of energy Mason Nelder has for digital media. Over the course of the last few years Mason has laid the groundwork, and begun to develop a best-in-class social business capability at Verizon. Utilizing an approach based on an analytics infrastructure that is progressive for the Fortune 500, Mason is setting the stage for Verizon to be thought of as a leader in the area of social business.

Mason’s #socialcommerce talk was chalk full of takeaways, but here are the three biggest from my perspective:

  • Building a social business capability takes people and money – As an industry we are often quick to search for a tool that helps us scale faster, but the reality is that people are an equally important component of any social business capability. That people component could be in the form of people doing the work, but also in the form of internal buy-in. Without people, a social business capability will not get off the ground.
  • Failing fast – At WCG we are constantly trying to push the envelope and create new things. Sometimes ideas don’t materialize, and the idea needs to be scrapped. What’s important is learning from what didn’t work, and then applying it to another project. Mason espouses that same POV during his talk, and during his day-to-day activities at Verizon.
  • Innovation, Innovation, Innovation – Mason highlights Steve Jobs as an innovator in his field who helped create something (in the case of Mason’s presentation, the iPad), and then made it more mainstream. Mason suggests that the goal of any social business program should be to build the capability, and then make sure the rest of the organization adopts that philosophy.

We loved Mason’s witty, funny and informative presentation. The capability he is building at Verizon  is nothing short of spectacular. Make sure you watch Mason’s presentation and listen to the subtle social business tips that he highlights.

As many of you reading this blog know, SXSW Interactive has evolved into one of the largest interactive conferences/gatherings in the world. As such, over 100,000 digitally minded folks from Fortune 500 companies, agencies, startups, etc. come to Austin, TX from all over to network, attend panels and catch up on the latest trends. Many of these attendees are influential bloggers, heads of social media and journalists who report back on who is doing what in the interactive space.

Because a significant number of our clients at WCG are now involved with SXSW Interactive, over the last five years we have developed a series of events during SXSW that complement all of the activities that go on during that time. Our signature event, the Social Commerce Summit, takes place on March 7 (Thursday) from noon to 5 PM and is packed with speakers from well-known brands like Verizon, Intel, 3M, Susan G. Komen and Hersheys. We will also have thought leaders from companies like, Waze, BazaarVoice and ThomVest Ventures providing industry insights. This event will be attended by about 200 customers and other industry thought leaders. A cocktail reception will follow.

In addition to our Social Commerce Summit, we will have three other events including our Geek-a-Cue on Saturday night at Franklin BBQ (rated best BBQ in America last year by Bon Appetite Magazine). The attendees of this party will be similar to that of the Social Commerce Summit. The final two events are open houses at WCG’s downtown and digital offices.

Here are eventbrite links/descriptions of the events:

  • Thursday, March 7th: 12-6:30pm
    • Social Commerce Summit, Stephen F Austin Intercontinental Hotel (701 Congress Avenue); Summit from 12-5pm, Cocktail hour from 5-6:30pm
      • E-mail me at astrout @ wcgworld . com to request a pass (limited availability)
  • Friday, March 8th: 10am-12pm
    • Open House, downtown office (101 W. 6th Street, 3rd Floor) — The exciting draw here in addition to hanging out with some of your favorite WCG-ers will be ongoing Live from Stubbs podcasts with thought leaders in the space and a book signing with author (and client), Ekaterina Walter. We will be giving away 50 copies of Ekaterina’s New York Time’s Best Seller, Think Like Zuck to the first 50 attendees.
  • Saturday, March 9th: 5:30-8:30pm
    • 4th Annual Geek-A-Cue at Franklin’s Barbecue (900 E. 11th Street)
      • E-mail me at astrout @ wcgworld . com to request an invite (limited availability)
  • Sunday, March 10th: 10am-12pm
    • Digital Brunch, W2O Digital office (3000 E. Cesar Chavez) — We will have an espresso bar, adult beverages, massage chairs and most importantly, digital brunch being served by rising star, Chef Jesse Griffiths, owner of Dai Due. We will also be giving away chapters of Chuck Hemann and Ken Burbary’s new book, Digital Marketing Analytics.

As you can imagine, space is limited at these events so please make sure to RSVP soon. And if you do RSVP and decide after that you can’t make it, please be courteous and let us/me know that your slot is available.

p.s. We’ll ultimately have 3-4 sponsors but so far, we are excited to have Sysomos and BazaarVoice as our first two. We greatly appreciate their support.

One of the most enduring story lines in Technology has been the ongoing “conflict” between IT and end users.

On one side, the stereotype tells us that we have strict, security-minded IT people keeping tight reins on which technology can be used when and by whom, resulting in a lowest-common-denominator approach that restricts user freedom and creativity. The reverse stereotype shows users who can barely function without the IT help desk always by their side, calling every 24 hours with the same basic questions and issues (e.g. “my computer doesn’t work” or “the Internet is down” and the timeless classic “I can’t print.”)

Reality, as always, lies somewhere in between.  Most IT staff is focused on innovation and productivity, helping provide the latest tools and technologies to propel the business while also installing controls to protect users from undesirable people and behaviors.  Most end users who are reasonably savvy about their laptops, phones and tablets can solve routine issues on their own and only need guidance with new software or new processes. Yet the story line is so pervasive because it speaks to the very human battle between centralized control and individual freedom — a dynamic that drives many of our political, social and cultural tensions throughout history.

It’s this evolving dynamic that has us so excited to announce our newest client partnership with BMC Software, a well-established market leader providing software to manage technology systems and services for tens of thousands of businesses worldwide.  While not always visible to users, BMC’s software helps IT leaders manage generations of technology and tap into all the important trends shaping the future – mobile, social, cloud and big data.

The coolest thing is that success hasn’t dampened their drive to innovate. In fact, BMC, which already generates more than $2.2 billion in annual revenues, is poised to boldly re-invent their entire space with hot new products like the “MyIT” app – which instantly gives power back to users while ensuring appropriate controls for the organization. The new products will essentially re-balance the dynamic between IT and end users, helping us all find the middle ground that liberates user creativity and productivity while freeing IT from the shackles of non-stop reactive help-desk duty.

For people like me who have been marketing enterprise technology for 20+ years, that’s a pretty exciting mission.  The BMC partnership is exciting in other ways:

  1. BMC has savvy, experienced marketing and communications leaders committed to innovating and integrating across their functions. They’re not content with traditional, siloed approaches; are ready to push the envelope via digital and social channels; and yet keenly focused on what really works for a global B2B player.
  2. BMC ran an efficient and transparent RFP process complete with pop tests that simulate the client-agency working relationship. The resulting contract is value-based with budget tied to results — not hours. And in choosing WCG, they’re banking on a team of analytics, content, engagement and strategy experts — not the usual merry band of PR generalists. We believe this will become a dominant model for marketing services going forward.
  3. This is a significant win for WCG’s fast-growing technology practice, which is on track to surpass $10 million in 2013 revenues after only two or three years of focused investment. BMC complements an awesome client portfolio that includes HP, Intel, Qualcomm Life, Software AG, Surescripts and Verizon. In many ways, we believe we’re building out the next-generation agency — fully vested in multi-disciplinary and multi-channel integration, digitally and socially native with analytics at the core.

Bottom line: We’re thrilled that BMC has selected us as a “second sales force” and can’t wait to help advance their mission. We believe we’ll invent new models together that can re-define how technology clients and agencies manage global engagement efforts. We’ll learn a lot in the process, and plan to share our progress along the way.

Over the last two or three years, it has become crystal clear that South by Southwest Interactive is THE event to attend if you are interested learning more about the latest and greatest trends in digital, social and mobile. Equal parts innovative startups and smart corporations, the crowd of 25,000+ people that flood Austin, TX in mid-March each year understand that they are in for five action packed days of intense networking and education.

The double edged sword with SXSW is that there is SO much good content — many times too much — that it’s often hard to figure out which sessions to attend. One of our goals at WCG/W2O is to help curate this process for our employees, clients and partners. Because the decisions on the panels making the final cut is still a few months off, we thought it would be helpful to start this journey by teeing up some of the panels that our customers and employees (including myself) have submitted.

Below, you will find four panels that we have collectively submitted. By clicking on the title of the session you can get much greater detail about the session. If you think it’s interesting, we encourage you to vote for it on the panel picker page. If you really like it, feel free to share it with your network:

More Than Pills

Who says patients deserve a voice in healthcare? Well … actually Healthcare does. The trick is: how do you make this happen? Traditionally, the industry has been slow to adapt to the connected age, marginalizing patient input on life-changing solutions and treatments. But innovations from Sanofi, US Diabetes’ Patient Solutions are now realizing the future of healthcare: open, two-way conversations, and success determined well beyond sales. Know how they did it? You only think you know … but Michele Polz, Head of Sanofi Patient Solutions, lets you in on a secret that’s revolutionizing patient interaction.

Speaker: Michele Polz, Sanofi Patient Solutions


Social COE: Extending Social Across the Enterprise

The biggest problem that many large companies face is scaling and codifying social media across the organization. During this advanced panel, experts from Intel, Verizon and Fidelity will talk about their experiences, insights and best practices in creating social media centers of excellence within their organizations during this panel.



Paradise By The Dashboard Light: Success in B2B
Mitsubishi Electric is teaming up with WCG to for a talk discussing analytics and integrated marketing and how Mitsubishi is utilizing unexpected tactics like augmented reality and iOS apps to penetrate the HVAC market in the U.S. Mitsubishi is already a dominant force around the globe and the U.S. Mitsubishi team are proving that social and digital are viable marketing channels for even the most industrial of B2B markets. Even better – they’re measuring everything including revenue growth to their efforts.


The Power of Patient Perspectives
In this panel, ePatients who have started companies and charities will discuss how patients have grabbed the reins to begin changing the $2.3 trillion world of care. (Organizer: Brian Reid W2O Group)


Because we at WCG/W2O are all about making the conversation a two way street, we encourage you to not only vote on any/all of the panels above (you can do so by clicking on the title of each session) but go ahead and post your own session or others that you find interesting in the comments below. Note, we work with a lot of smart clients/people and one of our jobs during SXSW is to help curate the best of the best to our clients. Documenting them here makes that a much easier job.