From Moneyball to Flash Boys to Lego Analytics

Posted by: in Analytics, Innovation, Pre-Commerce, Social Media Insights & Trends on August 19, 2014

Michael Lewis has done it again.  His book, Moneyball (2003), was an inspiration to many of us.  He and Billy Beane helped us to start thinking differently about how the right analytics model could lead to unique insights.  He taught us that we could identify new and often overlooked value if we looked at a wider range of variables.  It was a primer for us as we developed algorithms that led to our Meme, Muse, Blueprint and many other important products.

After Moneyball, Lewis taught us about the importance of the left defensive tackle (Blind Side), collateralized debt obligations (he made it sound simple) and several other interesting reads.  Now, he is once again changing how we think of the use of data via Flash Boys, which struck me as a sort of Moneyball, Part 2.  We just shifted from the baseball field to electronic trading.

Wall Street has a ton of data and they measure trading success in milliseconds.  It turns out that by understanding how data is shared, as it relates to trading, it can lead to major upside for those firms who harness technology correctly.   And that is what hit home for me.  The Street figured out that if they could understand how to create advantage via technology and access data difffently, they could make significantly more money than their peers.  The technology advantage was larger than the industry knowledge advantage.  

I always used to think that money was made if the stock simply went up or down, based on market information.  I never thought about the opportunities inside the tiny windows of trading time within each stock purchase or sale that are largely irrelevant to market information. 

And that is what made me think of what we’re now doing and what’s next in analytics. 

Our world is increasingly complex due to the crush of available data and the expanding use of technology.  We can access data, publicly or privately, from more sources than ever worldwide.  Advertising is shifting towards automated buying online.  Large social channels give their clients partial, but not full data.  Some new technologies, like SnapChat, have billions of interactions, yet don’t even share or accumulate data.

The world of data is and will continue to get larger and more foggy, not more clear, if you are using the basic tools of the past.

The result of this complexity is a new combination of science and art, which is resulting in the emergence of industry and brand specific filters.   We used to think of filters as being fairly basic.  It’s now time for filters to play a leading role in the world of big data.  They are the emerging heroes for brands or will be soon. 

Imagine micro-targeting and filters coming together.  In the future, a brand will have a suite of filters that we’ll use like the lens on a camera.  If we want to see what skateboarders in Chicago think about Nikes, we’ll put on that filter.   We may have 50 per brand. We will also improve how we look at causality across these filters.  For example, if we run paid media in twitter, where should we measure to see the total impact?  We might measure twitter for earned media, Instagram and YouTube, for example.  The key is that, based on patterns established over time, we’ll know the right causality metrics to review within the filter that shows the customers we care about.  After all, if we get 50,000 views of a video and it doesn’t lead to any meaningful  behavior and it is not hitting the majority of our target audience, do we care?  It is sort of the modern day equivalent of the tree falling in a forest.  In that analogy, we think of silence.  In today’s analogy, we often have a lot of noise, but if the noise is irrelevant and no one we care about is listening, does it matter?

Filters and the new metric bundles will become like Lego’s.  We’ll be able to add or subtract to them to create the vision required to understand what to do next.  Imagine going to a taxonomy for your brand or category, tapping on the items you want to analyze and the filter and metrics are created for you.  Over time, you keep refining your suite of filters and the metrics bundles, so that you can scale their use to your teams worldwide. You will have hundreds of analytics options ready to be finely tuned to the needs of your brand. 

Meanwhile, the world will continue to swim in too much data, too many APIs and too many technology solutions that we only partially understand. 

You will be looking at the market with 20/20 vision and deciding what move you will make next.   You’ll be playing chess in a world that often plays checkers. 

All the best, Bob 

By: Bob Pearson

Bob is the President of W2O Group, an independent network of digital communications and marketing companies. He is an author, frequent speaker and instructor for Rutgers center for management development. After the success of his book Pre-Commerce, Bob is currently working on a new book on the future of media titled Storytizing that will be available in 2014. Prior to W2O Group, Bob worked as VP of Communities and Conversations at Dell to develop the Fortune 500’s first global social media function -- an industry-leading approach to the use of social media, as highlighted in the best seller, GroundSwell. Before Dell, Bob was Head of Global Corporate Communications and Head of Global Pharma Communications at Novartis Pharmaceuticals in Basel, Switzerland, where he served on the Pharma Executive Committee. He also serves on a variety of Boards in health and technology. Highlights include serving as an original member of the P&G digital advisory board and being appointed by the Governor of Texas to serve as chair and vice chair of the emerging technology fund for the State of Texas.

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Pre-Commerce Check out Chief Technology and Media Officer 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.

What’s Your Why?

Posted by: in Corporate and Strategy, Culture, Inside WCG, Insights on August 19, 2014

This month marks my 10-year anniversary as a leader of WeissComm Partners – er – WCG – I mean the W2O Group. The name has changed, people have come and gone (and come back again in some cases) and I have transformed myself from a pure play “PR girl” into an integrated communications professional. Through it all, three simple things have kept me here: the people, the passion and the vision.

I’m often asked “what’s my why” when interviewing candidates because it’s pretty rare to stay at an agency for 2 years, much less 10, these days. I always start with the people, who are the absolute best, brightest and most fun in the business. I’ve built long-lasting friendships through the “Weiss Web” and love working with all my colleagues every day.

It’s incredibly motivating to work side-by-side with people who are smarter than you, can teach you something you don’t know and are truly interested in helping one another be successful. A word of caution to current and future candidates – as good as you may be at your craft – you will definitely raise your game here!

The passion is all about my love of health care communications. It was a key reason for joining the company 10 years ago – the chance to work at a firm that was exclusively focused in health care. Finally, we weren’t looked upon as the “weird science geeks” in a corner of an agency burning the midnight oil, doing things nobody else in the consumer or tech practices understood! And even now that our firm has expanded into technology, consumer and other industries, there is great respect for, appreciation for, and interest in all things health care here.

And finally, the vision thing. From my initial discussions with Jim Weiss when the agency was no more than 8 people with one small office in San Francisco and a few remote employees in Marin County and New York City, the vision was always clear, courageous and inspiring. We were going to build something special, something smart and something innovative – even when we weren’t entirely sure how we were going to get there.

Jim’s vision, focus and leadership has kept me here for an amazing decade of professional growth, personal evolution and endless laughs.

So that’s my why. What’s yours?

By: Diane Weiser

Practice Lead, Healthcare, WCG

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Pre-Commerce Check out Chief Technology and Media Officer 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.

What Phish Can Teach You About Change Management (Yes Phish!)

Posted by: in Communication, Communication Strategy, Corporate and Strategy, Organizational Communications, Thinking Creatively on August 18, 2014

FuegoTransformational change initiatives are widely known to be challenging, at best. But, they’re also a necessity amidst shifting industry and marketplace demands.

After over 30 years of making music, the jam band Phish recently released its twelfth official studio album, with a fresh sound. By constantly evolving, Phish has continued to secure its place as a top earner in an industry that is fraught with concern about monetizing the music, year after year. Here are 5 things Phish can teach your business about the components of successful change:

1.        Understand Your Organization’s Identity.

Phish has a dedicated and distinctive fan base that is comprised of passionate advocates. It’s a whimsical and talented band, focused on the live show experience. Over the years, Phish has simultaneously embraced comparisons to musical influences like the Grateful Dead and explored new genres and styles. How? By understanding its strengths and identifying its weaknesses.

Any successful organizational change initiative must first undergo a comprehensive analysis of the business to reach similar understanding across functions. The concrete analysis is the foundation for strategy and approach. Infrastructure hurdles, culture, business goals and benchmarks are just a few of the insights imperative for success.

2.        Have a unified message that is inclusive of leadership.

PhishFuego,” the band’s newest album, was a collaborative effort. The four band members worked together to select ideas and directions that worked the best. In short, they all got behind the new sound.

This unified front is absolutely essential. It boils down to trust. Just this year, a study showed that a quarter of Americans don’t trust top leaders of their companies. If your font-line managers to top executives are not aligned on messaging, goals and purpose across the board, that trust will be further eroded, compromising the change effort.

3.         Set the tone with employees.

Before Phish kicked off its 2014 summer tour, it toured major music media. Trey Anastasio, the lead guitarist, was quoted in several publications, like Rolling Stone, warning fans to expect less covers and more new material.

Employees won’t feel connected to organizational change that they aren’t even aware of. If a Phish fan showed up to a Summer 2014 show expecting the usual cover-centric experience, they would likely leave feeling a little cheated and disappointed. Without background information, change can lead to panic and widespread insecurity in a company. It’s paramount to regularly contextualize what’s going on inside and outside of the business. If it’s a part of ongoing, strategic communication, change is merely a part of the plan and the logical next step.

4.        Identify your stakeholders and the channels they prefer.

Phish understands and caters to its fan base incredibly well. The band knows where fans go for their music and how they digest it. The website is the central hub of information, but tracks from “Fuego” were also released on NPR and YouTube. From bios to tour announcements, the focus is on fun. In essence, Phish speaks the fans’ language.

For a business or a band, listening is key. Establish a framework of verbiage and channels that make the most sense across all levels of your organization. This often requires simplifying terms to humanize the initiative and broaden reach. Checking message cadence and delivery with a sample set of employees can also be helpful when trying to ensure clarity and understanding across the board.

5.        Allow your employees to be a part of the change.

Phish is Treyknown for its large festival-style concerts. Events usually feature life-size installations and interactive elements. They incorporate charities and causes that the band and its fans feel strongly about. These components are shaped largely by the culture of the live shows. Phish even lets fans determine set lists, at times playing songs based off posters in the audience.

Any organizational change initiative has many moving parts and pieces. Allowing employees to take ownership of some of the change and personalize it authenticates it. The reality of a company’s culture is too often different than how it’s spoken about. Your employees are the culture, so they need to be involved in the transition for it to translate into real, positive business outcomes.

Phish continues to navigate a tumultuous musical landscape and grow its dedicated following despite side projects, a hiatus and even a several year-long break. The band is agile in many ways, but maintains a focus on the people that love the music. Your business is comprised of employees who could and should be spokespeople, particularly throughout change. Are employees really fans? Well, why shouldn’t they be?

By: Meriel McCaffery

Meriel is a Corporate & Strategy associate at WCG and a recent Syracuse University alumna.

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Pre-Commerce Check out Chief Technology and Media Officer 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.

From Scientific Research To Healthcare PR – A Closer Look at 2 Ways To Communicate

Posted by: in Content, Healthcare Insights, Integrated Communications on August 15, 2014

Who doesn’t know the following scenario: A client shares recent news in the form of one or more scientific publications and wants to distill their essence into a few key messages, a short editorial or a press release. The challenge in most cases is to a) correctly understand and interpret the terminology and parameters used and b) decipher the key findings and establishing why these out of the flood of information are the most critical and impactful to communicate.

Five points you should know about scientific publishing

Let’s take a step back and take a closer look at why scientific publications seem to be overloaded with information and data, often not clearly highlighting the important findings. In order to understand this, it is helpful to know a few things about the publication process itself:

  1. In a way publications are the currency of the scientific community. Number, impact of the selected journal and position in the author list are what decides how well a scientist is regarded in the field and in essence will be the sole driver of his/her career. This is of course a bit exaggerated but captures the essence of how the system works and explains why publications are so important to this community.
  2. The information presented in a publication is the result of months, or years of work, so naturally there is a lot of data, often multiple aspects of a story are packaged in a single manuscript.
  3. The goal of every ambitious scientist is to publish in one of the few high impact journals, namely Nature, Science, Cell and NEJM. Some will go as far as deciding not to publish data that will not make it into these publications. The more well regarded a journal, the higher the requirements for acceptance. Scientists have to present enough conclusive data to first convince the editor of the newsworthiness, and relevance for the particular journal. Once this hurdle is overcome, the manuscript will be reviewed by several external experts, who in the course of this process will ask for additional data and experiments. During this review process the experts may still chose not to recommend the manuscript for publication. The entire review process may take weeks or even months, adding even more data to the final manuscript.
  4. The primary audiences of scientific publications are colleagues and scientists in the same discipline, with profound background knowledge and experience. As such, the presented data and interpretations may lack “obvious” explanations.
  5. Finally, each journal has strict word counts, which ultimately limits the ability of the authors to go into more detail and provide more context to the readership. Still, every scientific publication is built on a few standard sections, though not always clearly separated: abstract (equivalent to an elevator pitch), introduction, materials & methods (technical details), results, discussion and conclusion. Ultimately, in order to fully understand a published article one generally has to do a bit more reading to get the full picture.

So what does this mean for us?

If you understand how the original manuscript comes together it helps tailor your approach to developing the story flow for the news summary, distilled messaging, or press release. My three key take-a-ways are:

  1. Actually read the full manuscript – it’s only a few pages, identify the individual sections and get an idea of how the data has been packaged. Don’t be afraid to develop a strategy of several stories rather than just one. This should not take away any of the significance or impact of the results but allows you to tell the story to your target audience while keeping the momentum of information flow over a longer period.
  2. Consult the introduction and conclusion section carefully. Together they will help answer the question of why this study was conducted and put the presented data in context of existing literature.
  3. Look up unknown terminology  – in most cases a quick Google search will give you the answer. If not, look for the finer details such as whose work is being cited in the manuscript. This will provide you with further context and may help connect the dots.

Put it all together!

In many ways the structure of a scientific article and the story flow we are developing are very similar.

  1. Start with a punchy headline, to capture attention
  2. Give a brief introduction into the topic and what unmet need exists – focusing on the aspect of the story you want to tell.
  3. Highlight the key findings – scientific insights should be included if well explained.

Keeping all of this information in mind helps us advice clients more strategically when it comes to making the most out of their  recent data publications. This way we are being mindful of the Medical Affairs team and the hard work that has gone into developing a publication while making the most out of a publication for our Communications or Marketing teams.

Pre-Commerce Check out Chief Technology and Media Officer 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.

“What’s Your Why” Blog Series

Posted by: in Communication, Communication Strategy, Corporate and Strategy, Culture, gary grates, Human Resources, Inside WCG, Public Relations Practice, Social Commerce, Social Media Insights & Trends, Thought Leadership, w20 group on August 14, 2014

Last week, my colleague Aaron Strout posted a blog titled, “What’s Your Why,” in which he discussed his tenure here at W2O Group. His blog challenged others to think about, and write about, our “why” for joining this organization… well, challenge accepted!

Rewind to January 2013, I’m preparing to graduate from Syracuse University and frantically thinking about what my first move out of college will be. My friend asked me to take a class with her that spring, taught by an industry professional named Gary Grates. I agreed, and in a short five weeks, I knew W2O Group was where I wanted to be. More than a year later, I’m glad I was able to join this family, and here’s my “why”:

1.       You aren’t boxed in by a title

No one cares what the title below your email signature reads. If you’re smart, speak up, and execute, you’re valued. There is an endless runway here for people who want to use it. I’ll offer the December 2013 Go. Ahead in Health Summit that was held in Las Vegas as an example. I was fortunate enough to be one of six associates selected to attend to act as a “roving reporter.” The six of us were tasked with attending the event and producing content to educate those within the company who were unable to attend. From planning to execution, we were given free rein to do what was needed to accomplish our tasks. Find me another firm who will give an entry-level employee six months out of college that type of responsibility and access to senior leadership.

2.       An ever-growing culture

We work hard AND we play hard (see dodgeball picture below…). Every day, I come into work and am surrounded by people who like to be here; who like what they’re doing; who like what our company stands for. From talent shows to dodgeball leagues, ping pong tournaments to happy hours, W2O understands the importance of camaraderie between colleagues. Just as importantly, however, they foster a culture of continuous learning and professional development. Our recently implemented “Breaks to Educate” offer employees the opportunity to learn from one another, highlighting our success and our failures so we can grow as an agency.

Dodgeball picture

3.      Cutting edge partnerships

I’m lucky enough to work alongside my colleagues here and at the S.I Newhouse School of Public Communications to transform higher education. Formed in 2012, The W2O Group Center for Social Commerce is a partnership between W2O Group and Syracuse University. The Center is aimed at ensuring students are immersed and educated in social commerce, social media, technology, analytics and the influence they each play on our society and industry, giving them every opportunity to be prepared as they graduate. From influencing curriculum, to holding events on campus, I’ve been lucky enough to help prepare students prepare for our evolving industry landscape.

So, that’s my “why”. It’s been an exciting and fulfilling 15 months here at W2O Group. Kudos to Aaron for kicking this off. I’d encourage others to reflect on their time here, and put it on paper for us all to read!

By: Taylor Carr

Taylor Carr is an associate on the Corporate and Strategy team with WCG.

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Pre-Commerce Check out Chief Technology and Media Officer 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.