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

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

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

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

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

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

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