Professor for a Day – What I Learned at Social Commerce Days

Posted by: in Communication Strategy, Integrated Communications, Social Commerce, Social Media Insights & Trends, W2O Group on November 21, 2014

I had been out of college maybe a year or two when I called my mother after a particularly tough week at work and told her that for all of the great stuff I had learned in college, I was completely and utterly ill-prepared for the ‘real world’. I wished someone who practiced PR could have told us that PR plans are written in a week, not a semester and that there were very specific resources people use to research reporter information (back in the olden days those were Bacon’s books). Beyond some of the rudimentary aspects of the job, it would have been great to know what employers expected and how I could have been more day-1, job-1 ready once I left UW-Madison’s hallowed halls.

Instead…I learned on the job, made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of lessons. And in the back of my mind, I hoped the day would come that I could share the benefits of my experience, knowledge, and yes, mistakes, with the next generation of PR professionals.

Earlier this month, I was able to do just that. I, along with my W2O colleagues, attended Social Commerce Days at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. For two days, we attended classes to provide real world case studies, answer questions about the integration of theory into day-to-day practice and provide students with an honest and candid look into what life is like in this crazy world of integrated communications.

The students we met with absolutely blew me away. They were engaged and asked thoughtful questions about everything from how to apply analytics to a campaign, to managing a client when they say something to the media that they shouldn’t (because that never happens), to the characteristics I look for in an entry level individual. In one of the research classes I attended, the students showed us the initial research they had done for an anti-bullying campaign. One group in particular was really led by the research and created a strategy of leveraging teachers as an influential audience to stem bullying in schools. The application of their research showed me an advanced level of analytical thinking that to me represents the next generation communications professional – analytics prowess and media/influencer savvy.

My favorite part of the experience was the 1:1 networking with the students. I met some very talented individuals, many of whom I would not hesitate to hire. Contrary to some of the stories we hear about millennials, these students were humble, had realistic expectations of what their first job will be like and are ready to enter the workforce at the ground floor to make their mark. I’m energized about the promise of these up-and-comers and hope that they heard a few of my ‘tricks of the trade’ suggestions to help make them ideal candidates wherever they go.

I am grateful to the staff and students at Newhouse for putting Social Commerce Days together – it was a fantastic experience and I’m excited to welcome these newbies into the fold. I have no doubt that for whatever I might have taught them in my limited time, they’ll be able to teach me a thing or two back here in the ‘real world.’

-Molly Rabinovitz

Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

Is Innovation for the Young?

Posted by: in Culture, Entrepreneurship, Social Media Insights & Trends on November 21, 2014

There is a widespread trend in the digital and social media industries (yes there are now multiple industries spawned by these technologies) of increasing emphasis on youth. As the Zuckerberg’s of the world have risen to power, executives at venture capital firms have begun to believe that innovation belongs to the young. And as the investment goes, so does the industry.  Zuckerberg himself has been quoted as bluntly stating, “Young people are just smarter.”  Of course, that was before he turned 30 and was lambasted by Fast Company as being an “old loser“.

Now there is evidence from Harvard Business Review – one of the last bastions of the “old people rule” camp, that young people are indeed more innovative.  But this begs the question… Does everyone have to be an innovator?  HBR reports that inventive capacity peaks around age 30 while Nobel Prize winners cluster in their mid-40s and financial decision-making is optimized at age 53.  Do we actually need Chief Executives to be inventors?  Or is there value in the balancing effect of “wisdom” on the youthful optimism of “innovation”?

If you follow the logic of Silicon Valley, the answer is that CEOs must be innovative or the industry will pass them and their companies by.  However, the logic of Silicon Valley is built around a model in which 3 out of 4 companies fail.  Even when they succeed, the enormous bets are placed not to chase that 25% of companies that succeed, but the much smaller percentage of companies that really strike it big, where 20-something founders do seem to be overrepresented.  What other industry can we look to where enormous bets are placed in the hopes that a small number of them succeed?  Banking is one that certainly comes to mind.  However, MySpace, Friendster, Digg, and many other failed darlings of the social media industry have proven that while companies based in New York may be too big to fail, those in California are certainly not.

So why then is Silicon Valley one of the fastest growing Botox markets in the U.S.?  Much of it has to do with the economics and culture of entrepreneurial laziness that have been ushered in by Millennial founders.  At SXSW several years ago there was much discussion of how tech companies today would rather by bought by Google than become Google themselves.  This is good news for venture capitalists who want their big, early exits.  But what about the rest of us who are planning or working to build companies of value, that have a place in the world?

Thankfully, there are important parts of the brain and cognitive ability that actually increase with age.  Things like problem-solving, bilateral thinking (right and left sides of the brain), prioritization, seeing the bigger picture, and the wisdom associated with less dependency on dopamine and other “feel good” hormones all make executives in their 40s, 50s, and 60s valuable components of a successful leadership team.  Rather than expecting every executive to be an inventor or innovator, successful companies that are building for the long haul take advantage of everyone’s strengths.  The result is a healthy balance similar to how the American experiment was first designed – with checks and balances to prevent one leader from moving too fast, or another from moving to slowly.

So, while the recent flood of media attention on the power of young executives is certainly encouraging to us Millennials and Generation-Z types, let’s not go too far in proclaiming that anyone who actually remembers the Cold War be set to the task of mopping the floors.  It’s a healthy balance of leaders at every age which makes the most powerful combination.

Author’s note: I’m 31, dude.

By: Paul Dyer

Leader, Media + Engagement

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Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

The Next Generation Communications Professional

Posted by: in Communication, Culture, Inside WCG, Social Commerce, Social Media Insights & Trends, W2O Group on November 20, 2014

A word of caution to PR, marketing and communications professionals everywhere:

The next generation is coming and they are going to eat your lunch.  

syracuseRecently I was able to join a team of W2O executives at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University to spend several days teaching classes and meeting with students and professors as part of the Social Commerce Days. Through W2O’s partnership with the Center for Social Commerce, each semester a group gets to make the trip up north with a purpose of teaching, sharing, learning and networking. My first visit to campus, this trip came right during the time of year when many of us are heads down focused on the last big push of client initiatives for the year.

My first event was to sit during open office hours and review resumés.  I met three students and learned about their backgrounds, interest and course work.  I also was fortunate to teach a few classes about the application of analytics and influence, and got to meet several dozen motived students in the process. Here are some attributes of the typical junior year student:

  • A resumé that includes first hand account experience working on behalf of a local nonprofit
  • Research experience that includes social conversation analysis, influencer analysis and content strategy – in addition to the surveys, focus groups and interviews
  • Graphic design class experience, which helped their resumés look sharp
  • Experience in social media, not just from personal use but working on behalf of a brand or organization
  • I met several students who had launched their own startups in passion areas, such as sports marketing or fashion, and had hands on experience building communities and building influence
  • Solid profiles on LinkedIn with a clear understanding of personal brand and online social etiquette

I know many communications pros who themselves are getting to know the digital landscape in order to adapt. Understanding online conversations and digital influence models is core to what we do. Brands are publishing engines. Content is king, context is emperor.  You’ve heard the prognosticators. There is a clearly race to the middle where advertising, PR, marketing, market research, software vendors and even the big consulting firms are colliding and competing like never before.  Our industry has been changing for years. These students are not only ready; they are leading the charge.

I’d hire just about every student I met knowing they are going to excel in a changing digital landscape. These students are hungry, empowered, diligent, adaptable, eager and focused. Look out – these students may not have started the revolution but they are going to finish it, and maybe create one of their own.

A big thank you to the professors and administrative staff at Newhouse and the Center for Social Commerce for welcoming our W2O Group team in your classrooms, and thanks to the students who joined us for the inspiration.  Looking forward to a future visit.

image credit: Chris Becker via Flickr

By: Adam Cohen

Adam is a Managing Director at WCG, based in Boston, MA. Adam brings over 18 years of technology, emerging media, management consulting and integrated marketing experience to this role, working with a broad array of Fortune 1000 clients in the areas of B2B, consumer products, retail, financial services and healthcare.

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Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

The “Right” Data is the “New” Creative Brief

Posted by: in Analytics, Insights, Thought Leadership, W2O Group on November 20, 2014

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In case you missed the news, we opened a new office in Silicon Valley (Sunnyvale to be exact) back in October. We celebrated the office expansion this past week with a panel event co-hosted with our partner Datasift.

The panel was all about data, obviously. Our rockstar panelists consisted of friends and clients who shared their knowledge and expertise with a fairly large group of marketers and leaders from the valley – Becky Brown (Director of Media, Intel), LaSandra Brill (Sr. Director of Media, Symantec), Jason Rose (SVP, Marketing at Datasift), our very own technology practice lead, Aaron Strout and moderated by none other than Jeremiah Owyang (Founder of Crowd Companies.)

Below are a few highlights and wise words from each panelist.

Becky Brown kicked off the conversation by explaining to the audience that data is the “core transformation in marketing.” Later during the discussion she stressed the fact that while data and dashboards are important, she wants the insight that tells her what to do.

Becky brought up a very important topic. What’s the point in looking at data if you can’t extract an insight that allows you to make a very specific decision – reposition the brand, tell a story that your customers care about, who to target, etc.

That data is the recipe but the insight is the entrée.

LaSandra followed up saying that data allows her team to “reach the right customers, in the right channel, at the right time” and shared with the audience about the Listening Center that Symantec recently launched that tracks real-time conversations that their customers are having and also being able to track real data privacy/security breaches.

Aaron then likened marketing analytics to Money Ball – a movie about the Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Bean. I was the only one to clap my hands and say “yeah!” If you know me, you’ll know why – Go A’s! He also gave an example of how we build custom search engines that track very specific segments online (millennials, ITDMs, physicians) in order to create more relevant content based on what’s trending within that data set versus the entire internet population.

Jason then alluded to the fact that data is the new creative brief. I couldn’t agree more. What used to be the “galvanizing idea” that was the anchor in almost all creative marketing programs, pitches and campaigns has now been replaced with “what does the data say?”

This is a good thing. Analytics … well… rather, the right analytics must be the foundation on which you build all of your marketing, content and brand storytelling initiatives.



By: Michael Brito

Been making things happen online since the mid 90s. Connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.

The “Future of Communications” is Today, Tomorrow and 10 Years from Now

Posted by: in Insights, Social Media Insights & Trends, Thought Leadership, W2O Group on November 19, 2014

Just three short years ago, I was a sitting in my senior year Public Relations classes, writing press releases and preparing media kits, imagining what life would be like for a communications student when, as my professors’ would say, social media would not someday become the “future of communications”, but actually transform the communications industry as we know it.

Fast forward three years to the present day, when I’m walking into Public Relations classes at Syracuse University for The Social Commerce Days to talk about my social media background and sharing my expertise on digital marketing. The day has finally come (quite rapidly) when social media rules the world and everyone and anyone wants to know how to use it, analyze it and do it better in both business and for personal use.

While I was sitting on the other side of the table from these students, I realized that they are so aware of social media because of their exposure each day – they are growing up in the digital age. They use it in their personal lives, they use it to find out information about school and extracurricular activities, where they should be socializing and use it to help them market their own student-run companies via participation in PRSSA and The Center for Social Commerce. They were rapidly tweeting away as W2O Group’s Medtronic client, Rob Clark, gave his keynote speech and they reached out to me via LinkedIn immediately after we spoke. The amount of seniors who shared with me that they aspire a career in digital marketing was overwhelming. They understand the impact that social media has on the world today, and it is their knowledge that will keep this ever changing industry moving forward.

After three days of confidently answering student questions and career concerns, I was asked a question that really stumped me. In a discussion about the impact that digital marketing has on the communications industry today, a professor asked how educators are supposed to teach Public Relations, Advertising and Marketing, separately, in different colleges, when they’re all so similar now.

This question really got me thinking because when I was in school, we knew this was coming, but it was still very much different. Now, it is a challenge to understand the difference, because in three short years, the merge has hit heavy and the future of communications is this multi-industry existence, landing us right in the lap of digital marketing.

After thinking about why we should separate Public Relations, Advertising, and Marketing, I came to this conclusion:

We live in a digital age where integrated communication is necessary. Maybe in 10 years, there will be a new “future of communications” path that we are all supposed to learn and follow, but for now, why do we need to keep them separate? I am fortunate that while I studied Public Relations, I was also exposed to Advertising and Marketing because this was the direction the industry was going, allowing me to pursue my career in digital marketing. So to answer the question I say, don’t treat these industries differently because honestly, they are not so different anymore; but at the same time, don’t forget everything we’ve always been taught (I promise this isn’t an oxymoron). What we know now is because of what we once learned and what we will know in the future is because of what we are learning now…and isn’t this really how the “future of communications” becomes that idea that leads to the “future of communications”?

By: Samantha Hershman

Account Manager, Consumer, WCG World, a W2O Group Company New York, NY

Find me on: Twitter
Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on! Join the conversation #precommerce.