Joining Brewlife and Opening W2O Group Office in San Diego

Posted by: in Social Media Insights & Trends on September 17, 2014

SD Office View

(Official press release can be viewed here)

An early mentor told me that effective communication is mostly telling a good story. It was simple and excellent advice, and it’s been very helpful as a guiding principle when helping assemble and communicate corporate narratives.

That advice is as true today as the day it was given. However, in today’s environment it needs updating because the amount of information available has multiplied exponentially and the communication channels used to collect information have changed significantly. While telling a good story remains a necessity, there’s so much more “noise” in the system now you not only need a good story, you need a story that elevates the most relevant information and is communicated through an information maze to your audience.

So what’s the connection between the advice of a mentor, the challenges of communicating in the digital age, and this blog post about a new Brewlife hire in San Diego? It’s the W2O network of agencies. The W2O Group combines two critical elements to create a peerless platform that combines storytelling and the tools to get heard in the digital age.

The first element is people. W2O has the reputation of having some of the best, brightest and most creative people in our business. I know this not by reputation, but through my personal experience working with these people as a client and as a colleague. I retained the firm several years back when it was known as WeissComm, and the strength of my account team and the leadership were stellar.

The second element is the ability to fuse the strategic communication abilities of the firm’s people with industry-leading analytics. While the power of analytics may be apparent to us, many companies have been slow to adopt. Having worked for many years on the corporate side, I know it’s only a matter of time – and some education. As a client, I would have loved having the insights that are possible today through smart analytics: who are my most influential sell side analysts; what are the media focused on, what issues are trending; who are the key physicians I need to know. The power of such information is dream-like. But now, with Brewlife as a part of the W2O network, I actually can provide companies access to this information, and the possibilities seem endless. Whether it’s suggesting investment banks to include in an IPO based on an analysis of influential sell-siders, identifying a physician as a KOL or principal investigator, or even seeing a brewing media crisis before the first inflammatory article is published , analytics can truly supercharge communications today.

And doing this all from downtown La Jolla, the site of our new San Diego office, is a dream come true. Beyond the sun and surf is a diverse and innovative business hub that includes life sciences, technology, cleantech, sports and microbreweries. It provides us the opportunity to better serve our San Diego clients, expand the firm’s reach and also access top talent.

I feel very fortunate to lead our efforts in San Diego and drive change through “pragmatic disruption.” Hope to see you at AACR, Comic-con, Sea World or Lego Land.

By: David Walsey

I have 25 years of professional experience: 15 years leading healthcare communications initiatives for public companies, and 10 years as an attorney in private practice. I'm a Managing Director with Brewlife and lead the W2O Group's San Diego Office. When not at work, I keep busy with my family of five in San Diego.

Find me on: Twitter
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.

Going. Ahead. With Gage: An Interview with John Cunningham

Posted by: in Culture, Employee Interviews, executive insights, Insights, Software, Thought Leadership, W2O Group on September 15, 2014

Welcome to another Going. Ahead. With Gage interview! I had the privilege of interviewing our CTO, John Cunningham, who shared insight on being a leader and how his team operates. I hope you all gain some valuable insights and enjoy the read!

What are you doing to ensure that W2O Group is at the cutting edge?

I suppose that’s my purpose here, right? The funny thing is that the cutting edge is not always the right place to be.  It’s fun and exciting, but it can also be dangerous. What we really do is to experiment and learn from the cutting edge, then come back to the pragmatic side of what is the right thing for our clients.  If cutting edge is the right place to be, we back it up with tried and true tech; delivery is what’s most important.

In a few words, describe what your team does for the company.

At the highest level, we are building the tools that empower our people and our clients in every part of the PESO model.

There is a massive amount of clutter out there, especially within earned and shared media. It’s about getting through that clutter and understanding the parts of the conversation that really matter, which W2O is known for – our tools take it a step further. Now, it’s not just a matter of finding those people, it’s the matter of tracking everything they say, everything that they do, and knowing how you can utilize this information to get your message out and understand the conversation before it affects your company.  We build the tools to make that possible.

The other thing we do well is injecting great process into all things done at W2O. You cannot build software with an unorganized process. We’ve brought in agile methodologies in order to test ideas, validate assumptions, and build out what we are doing. I’m seeing it affecting the rest of the company and it’s awesome!John Cunningham

Thinking of your most successful current employees, what characteristics do they share?

It sounds cheesy, but teamwork. From the day I came in I’ve been working very hard to push transparency and openness throughout the group, which is not something that comes naturally for everyone. People are often surprised to see how transparent I can be and then when they get used to it there’s a natural tendency to adopt it. For me, that’s probably the most important thing you can do in building a business because when you’re not transparent, you’re always looking back on past problems instead of working as a team to build for the future.  Strong teams aren’t built with closed doors.

All the leaders in my group share this openness, transparency, and a drive to put the company first. I push Jim Collins’ idea of the level 5 leader: the company comes first and individual accomplishments comes last.

How do you empower your employees to do their best possible work?

I am the world’s worst micromanager and I tell my folks that from the get-go.  Therefore, empowerment is at the core of my management philosophy. One of the best compliments I’ve received was, “If I can’t find you I know exactly who to go to for any need that I have.”

I hand big parts of the business over to the leaders, and then I work with them.  I drive the overall strategy of what we are doing, I dive deep into projects to make sure that things are on track, and I spend time with clients to understand their needs and how we can solve their problems. When it comes to how we handle Client Services, Solutions Architecture, Devops, Product Management, and Engineering, I expect my team to function well.

How do you encourage creative/innovative thinking within your organization?

You always need to strive to do better at that. The challenge is to keep people on track while exercising creativity.  There is always a new technology that’s coming out and I encourage my team to experiment, which is one of the fun parts of this job, but to do so after they deliver.  We don’t have 20% time here; we’re still building the software business up.  No one on my team works 40 hour weeks; everybody works 50, 60, 70 hours because everyone on my team is passionate about what they do.  They put in the time needed to build new tools for our clients. Footprint is a great example of this – John Steinmetz saw a need and built out a proof of concept then we ran with it, and it’s become a leading product.

What is the most difficult leadership decision you’ve had to make in the recent past?

Firing people is always the toughest thing to do and I think that’s the case for every entrepreneur. It’s really tough to affect someone’s life in that way. I had to let a roommate go in the early days of my first company – that made for some awkward evenings.

In the recent past the most difficult thing for me has been deciding and designing the organizational structure. My preference is to first get the right people on the bus and then put them in the right place. There have been some challenges where I’ve brought some amazing people in, but I didn’t necessarily have them in the right seat when they first came in. Even now we’re close, but it’s still not perfect. Trying to find the exact right place where a great person fits is a lot more challenging than just looking at the structure and creating a role you think you need.  The recent challenge is more along the lines of getting the structure organized in exactly the right way. I strive to allow the structure to form naturally and then pave the talent path, but it’s not a perfect system.

What did you learn from that experience?

Organizational structures are tough; there is a lot of personal identity wrapped up in someone’s title and role in the company.  Great leadership is vital to manage great talent, and leaders must be capable of keeping their feet on the ground while watching the horizon.  This capability is so rare that it’s not possible to build the perfect structure without knowing everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, so you have to let it develop.  In contrast, however, it’s difficult for an organization to thrive when there are constant changes happening to the structure, so I’ve learned to “pave the cow paths”.  I build good people up and give them opportunities to shine. Once a leader has proven themselves, I will commit them to the position.  This takes longer, but it builds a great team with minimal course correction.

By: Gage Grammer

Learning and Development Specialist at W2O Group. Background in Strategic Communications (PR and Advertising) and Writing. I have a rockin' French Bulldog named Phantom!

Find me on: Twitter
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.

Is Your Corporate Narrative Alive or Dead?

Posted by: in Communication Strategy, Corporate and Strategy on September 15, 2014

Stop me if you’ve heard these before:

  • If your company’s not growing, it’s shrinking.
  • If you’re not going forward, you’re going backward.
  • Get busy living, or get busy dying. (Thanks Andy.)

We’ve all heard corporate platitudes like these, urging leaders and companies to grow, to continue their evolution, to search for new inspiration, and to resist – with every fiber – any kind of stagnation.

Don’t rest on your laurels. We haven’t “arrived” yet. It’s time to adapt or die.

In addition, we’ve seen that a critical area for organizational success is having a clear and persuasive story (a corporate narrative) about who and what you are. So why doesn’t this sense of urgency to innovate and reach the next level translate into a company’s core narrative? How can the company move forward, innovate and evolve without the story of that company doing the same?

In its purest form, the corporate narrative is an internal script describing the organization and serving as a touchstone for how the company wants to be communicated to its audiences. It also is a guide for all company communications, be it media relations, marketing, executive presentations, organizational announcements or social media. It is the story of the company – the facts of what it is, what makes it unique and why it’s vital, but told in human terms. It helps ensure alignment and make sense of multiple moving parts and competing interests within an organization.

Unlike white papers or books or articles, which can remain static for posterity and reflection, a corporate narrative must live and breathe with the company it seeks to define. The narrative provides a context for how people view your business, how its covered and the ways in which it’s characterized.

To ignore that narrative is to allow the story of your company to gather dust, ultimately devolving into a strong and lasting statement of what your company had been. Wouldn’t you rather be in the position of defining what is and what will be?

Company narratives should not change with every town hall meeting or CNN interview, but neither should the focus of your products or employees. Having studied and been a part of numerous corporate narrative development exercises, here are a few key events that can trigger the need for a narrative review:

  • Executive leadership changes: more often than not, new leaders have unique visions for their companies
  • Large-scale mergers or acquisitions: new employee- and customer-bases need the stability of a consistent company story
  • Rebranding: corporate narratives and rebranding go hand-in-hand
  • New product releases or market entries: it’s important to understand how these developments might alter your company’s story
  • Defining issues: part of a strong issues management strategy should be to look beyond the immediate issue, and examine how messaging will fit with or change the corporate narrative
  • Competitive moves: not every move, but those that shift the game for the segment or industry
  • New business models: contrary to popular belief, business models often change to highlight new and competitive competencies, and may affect the company’s core narrative

Beyond these specific items, it’s wise to listen and discern how your company or brand is being talked about (online and offline) for clues on whether your story or narrative needs to shift.

If it’s been a while since you’ve looked at your corporate narrative, then it may be time to take another look and help it get busy living … before it gets busy dying.

By: Adam Pedowitz

A New Jersey native, Adam is a Director in WCG's Corporate & Strategy team in Austin, Texas.

Find me on: Twitter
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.

The Austin City Limits “Movers and Shakers” via Jon Harris of The Meredith Vieira Show

Posted by: in Austin Social Media, Innovation, Social Media Insights & Trends on September 14, 2014

Jim Weiss, Michael Westgate, myself and several other members of our firm have known Jon Harris for 20+ years.  Jon has always been a great friend and also the one who would reflect on the lyrics of a song or take over the piano in a hotel lobby and lead an impromptu song session.

Jon and music have been synonymous for a long time.  Recently, when Michael Westgate, Kelsey Carroll and myself were at 30 Rock, Jon asked to take a break in our conversation to sing “Philadelphia Freedom” for a video for Al Roker’s birthday party.  With anyone else, we would say “huh?”.  With Jon, we say “sure, let me get the camera ready to record” and then we get back to business.

Jon has now joined as the Announcer for The Meredith Vieira Show, which just launched September 8th and is available in 99% of households around the country.  Even though Jon is busy, we know he can always find time for music, so we asked him to be the leader of our W2O ACL Index for 2014.

You’ll hear more from Jon soon on the bands that are building the most buzz for ACL.  Here is the current list.  And he’ll also provide perspective on the movers and shakers (the top 5-10 bands) leading up to the festival.  Here’s the latest list of movers and shakers. 

If you want to learn more about Jon and Meredith, here’s a great article

Jon Harris, thank you for sharing your knowledge with us for ACL.  I’m sure the 150,000 or so festival attendees will benefit.   

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.

Find me on: Twitter Facebook
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.

Translating Social Intelligence into Business Success: W2O Social Intelligence Summit, London

Posted by: in Insights, Thought Leadership, W2O Group on September 12, 2014


In today’s constantly evolving social landscape, many (even most) organizations are still searching for the secret sauce in translating insights from billions of online conversations into what it all comes down to: measurable business results.

‘Social intelligence’ is a topic that’s often not fully understood, but is becoming critical to business success. But what does it mean? And how are some of the world’s most innovative brands using it to stay ahead of the curve?

On October 8th, W2O Group and Moreover Technologies will be gathering our clients, friends and networks together at London’s impressive City Hall to answer these very questions. But don’t just take it from us; global thought leaders from sectors including technology, media social analytics and consumer will present ‘TED-talk style’ on how they’re using social intelligence in their market space to understand what drives conversation and:

  • Creates market opportunity
  • Engages customers to increase sales
  • Manages internal & external brand reputation
  • Improves customer service

Following the presentations, attendees from consumer, media, pharmaceutical, technology and financial sectors will have an opportunity to network with industry heavyweights and leaders within the social space, sharing ideas.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be providing you with pre-Summit updates, speaker profiles and exclusive insights from our panel, who so far include:

  • Philip Sheldrake, Managing Partner at Euler Partners
  • Will Hayward, Vice President, BuzzFeed Europe
  • Toby Potter, EMEA VP Sales at Datasift
  • Martin Bryant, Editor-in-Chief of The Next Web 
  • Jessica Federer, Global Head of Executive Communications and Public Relations, Bayer      
  • John Pang, World Economic Forum Global Advisory Council, South East Asia 

In the meantime, you can keep up to date with Summit happenings at, follow W2O Group on Twitter at @W2OGroup, and check out our Summit hashtag, #SocialIntel14.

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.