For Virta Health, National Diabetes Awareness Month Lasts All Year

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, an initiative led by the American Diabetes Association to educate people on the risks and treatment options for type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is now one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States, and the epidemic continues to grow.

More than 30 million people are living with type 2 diabetes in the U.S. alone (that’s 10% of the population!), and another 86 million adults are living with prediabetes. The disease contributes to more than 250,000 deaths per year, while costing the nation more than $300B annually.

The statistics are daunting, but there is good news! Highwire client Virta Health is on a mission to reverse type 2 diabetes in 100 million people by 2025, and they are succeeding! Virta Health has developed the first treatment to safely and sustainably reverse type 2 diabetes without medications or surgery.

Among enrolled patients in the company’s clinical trial at one year, 60% achieved diabetes reversal in as little as 10 weeks and 94% of patients on insulin either reduced their usage or eliminated it altogether.

See how it works

This month, Virta released exciting data from their pilot with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Diabetes prevalence is even higher among US veterans than the average adult population, affecting nearly 25% of VA patients. In the pilot program, 84% of veteran patients on the Virta Treatment for 90 days achieved glycemic outcomes below the diabetes threshold or at least a one-point drop in HbA1c (a measure of blood sugar).

Results of the Virta Treatment extend beyond diabetes reversal to other areas of metabolic and cardiovascular health, with sustained improvements in blood pressure, inflammation, liver function, and BMI. These outcomes are bringing life-changing freedom from the debilitating physical and emotional effects of diabetes to thousands of people. Virta’s patient stories are proof.

We’re proud to support and amplify Virta’s mission to reverse diabetes not just in November, but throughout the year. 

How Regulatory Fines Became the New Normal in 2019

2019 was a landmark year for regulation in technology. We celebrated the one year anniversary of EU-based GDPR in May, the approval of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in October (which will officially go into effect on Jan 1, 2020), and saw the emergence of several global regulatory watchdogs. All culminating in a record-breaking number of regulatory infringement fines for tech companies who failed to prioritize the rights and privacy of consumers in 2019. And the bad news is, if companies don’t begin to get serious about privacy and data security issues in 2020, that number is only going to go up. 

A Timeline of Unfortunate Events 

The regulatory year started off with a bang, when in January, the French data protection authority (CNIL) announced it was fining Google nearly $57 million, for failing to properly disclose to users how their data was being collected across Google’s services. At the time, the penalty marked the largest privacy violation to date under GDPR, appearing only seven months after the law had gone into effect.

In March, Google faced regulation violations yet again, this time a $1.7 billion fine on charges that Google’s advertising practices violated antitrust laws in Europe. European watchdogs noted that Google had violated antitrust rules by imposing unfair terms on companies that used its search bar on their websites in the region.

Then came July, a busy month for privacy regulators. Facebook faced a record-breaking $5 billion fine as part of a settlement with the FTC – the largest penalty ever imposed on a company for violating consumers’ privacy rights. As a part of its settlement with the FTC, Facebook also agreed to adopt new protections for the data users share on the network. Around the same time, Facebook separately agreed to pay $100 million to settle data misuse charges brought on by the SEC. Talk about a rough 30 days. 

Additionally, British Airways faced a $230 million GDPR fine for its 2018 data breach which affected 500,000 customers. And similarly, Marriott was slapped with a $123 million fine for its data breach in 2018 which saw 383 million guest records and 18.5 million encrypted passport numbers stolen. Later in July, Equifax agreed to pay $575 million as a part of a global settlement with the FTC, following the credit reporting company data breach in 2017. The breach affected approximately 147 million people due to Equifax’s failure to take necessary precautions to secure its network. 

Finally, in September, Google-owned YouTube was fined $170 million by the FTC to settle accusations that the platform had illegally collected personal information about children without their parents’ consent. The settlement required Google and YouTube to pay $136 million to the FTC and $34 million to New York for allegedly violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule.

Less Than Fine

As technology and tech giants have continued to advance and expand at an unprecedented scale, we witnessed a critical third party enter into the business/consumer interaction in 2019 – the regulators. Established not only to prioritize the rights of the consumers’ but also to manage the reach of tech giants, 2019 was the year that global regulators and watchdogs established themselves as protectors of the people, defenders of data democracy, and as forces to be reckoned with in the tech world. 

So what will 2020 hold for all three parties? No one can be quite certain yet. But what we can expect is that the watchdogs will continue to advocate for transparent data management practices, honest and timely breach disclosures, and increased data privacy regulation, whether tech companies decide to comply or not. We can expect that the CCPA will mark only the start of data privacy legislation in the US, and that the rest of the world will likely begin to follow along the path GDPR has set by adopting legislation of their own. Countries like Brazil, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Thailand are already doing so. 

Thinking of Using TikTok to Reach Gen Z? Read This First.

Whether you’re Gen Z, a Millennial or even Gen X, chances are you’ve heard of TikTok. It’s the latest social media app that’s taking over and everyone wants to be a part of it. 

TikTok offers users the ability to express themselves through quick clips set to popular music (available via the platform’s expansive library), the app has become a fashionable channel for lip-syncing, dance, comedy videos, and more.

Celebrities use the platform to promote their own brand and the platform has cultivated its own influencers through the TikTok community. So if influencers are using this to successfully promote their brand, should companies be doing the same?

Given TikTok’s popularity amongst Gen Z, we took it upon ourselves to do a deep dive into the platform and determine how companies can use this platform to elevate their brand awareness.

What is TikTok?

Let’s start off with the basics — what is TikTok? It’s a Chinese-based video app founded in 2016 that allows everyone to be a creator and encourages users to share their passion and personal creative expression through their videos. TikTok combines Vine and Music.ly, a famous lip-syncing app that was acquired, in 2017 by ByteDance. 

In the short amount of time since being founded, TikTok has skyrocketed as a social media app. The app has been downloaded more than a billion times, there are 30 million-plus monthly active users in the U.S. and 37 billion U.S. video views a month. It’s reported that Americans are opening the app eight times a day, spending around 46 minutes a day in the app. 

How do brands currently use TikTok?

Despite the growth of TikTok’s user base and usage, it hasn’t yet reached the advertising heights of its competitors such as Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. According to its second-quarter financial report, Snapchat has 83 million daily active users in North America and 10 billion video views a day or 300 billion a month, beating TikTok significantly.

To stay competitive, TikTok offers five ad products including the hashtag challenge, a brand takeover, in-feed video, branded lenses and a “top-view” video. These require significant investment – a hashtag challenge will run you a minimum of $150,000 a day.

Brands have been utilizing these ad products by partnering with influencers or celebrities within the TikTok community to promote their products and increase their awareness, engagement and reach. 

Looking ahead, TikTok plans to build out its ad tech with “internet-based” targeting, which serves ads to audiences based on their behavioral characteristics – e.g. identifying people based on preferences and personalities learned from collecting data on their activity use within the app.

Is TikTok measurable?

While TikTok does have ad products, it’s not a fully open ad platform just yet making measuring ROI difficult. As it stands, it measures metrics similar to other social channels — think views, likes, comments, engagements, etc. With their hashtag challenge feature, they’re also able to measure from those that viewed the video and how many of those people created their own video using the hashtag.

Currently, there are doubts about how accurately the platform can measure videos and ensuring all followers are humans versus bots, a challenge most social media apps face. Until there is a better system put in place, brands using TikTok for advertising purposes will struggle with defining success based on metrics.

Should your company be using TikTok?

With 69 percent of users between the ages of 16 and 24, brands that have cultural relevance to this demographic will benefit the most. It’s an ideal platform for brands and companies that are looking for a creative way to increase their awareness and reach a younger audience. That being said, as it stands, this platform isn’t the best fit for the Cisco’s and Oracle’s of the world.

Own It – Secure It – Protect It: How Highwire Puts Training into Practice

If you work in tech PR (or you’re a journalist) you’re all too familiar with National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM). Hopefully whoever you are or whatever you do for a living, you understand why this month of awareness is important and why we need to shed light on the proactive steps people can take to protect their information — whether that’s in the workplace or in their personal lives.

According to the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS), NCSAM is “a collaborative effort between government and industry to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity and to ensure that all Americans have the resources they need to be safer and more secure online.” It should come as no surprise then, that the theme this year was “Own it – Secure it – Protect it,” with a strong focus on data privacy, IoT devices, e-commerce security, and social media

After all, the internet touches every aspect of our everyday lives. From the time we wake up to the time we go to bed we’re connected, whether it’s en route to the office, or scrolling through Instagram as our heads hit the pillow. It’s paramount (read: it’s our obligation) to take the necessary steps needed to #BeCyberSmart.

Own it. 

So, as cyber intrusions and phishing attempts become more sophisticated, it’s absolutely critical that employers and employees take actionable steps to secure and protect themselves — and their data — online and when using their connected devices. To put it simply: as hackers and their attacks become more prevalent, why shouldn’t our own preventative measures? 

Security attacks against small, privately owned businesses have been steadily increasing over the past year,” said Caroline Garrett, our San Francisco office manager.  These attacks can have a devastating impact on businesses, in fact, one study found that globally the average cost of a data breach was $3.86 million, a 6.4% increase over 2017. The same study found that data breaches are even more detrimental to SMBs, citing damages from a breach can be equivalent to the total value of a small business.

At Highwire, we are humble enough to recognize that we can always do more to safeguard company data, protect our employees, and train our staff to become stewards of their personal data while practicing good cybersecurity hygiene. That’s why we recently rolled out a series of interactive training modules that were mandatory by all Highwire employees, covering a wide range of topics and teaching employees everything from how to spot phishing scams and stay safe on public Wi-Fi, to protecting company information while traveling and creating unique, strong passwords. 

“These trainings go out at random times throughout the year,” said Garrett. “I find this important as it’s a constant refresher, rather than a long, laborious training that occurs twice a year. I want people to walk away with the knowledge to take to their clients, ensuring that they too are secure in their practices.”

Protect it. 

So how well did we fare? Our strongest category overall was the module “Work Safely Outside the Office,” with a 98 percent pass rate. The overall industry benchmark standard for these trainings is 77.9 percent, and the overall benchmark for our agency is 77.4 percent. But, we’re not stopping there.

 

In addition to the ongoing training modules, Highwire’s operations team also sent out fake phishing emails to show employees that these attacks are now so sophisticated, that emails may appear to be coming from someone within your company — like your accounting director or your boss– when they’re actually just a cyber criminal in disguise. Even if you feel like you have a strong sense of what a phishing attempt looks like, everyone needs to scrutinize these messages in order to determine what’s legitimate.

“I fell for the first one even after going through our internal training about what to watch out for,” said Tori Sabourin, senior digital manager at Highwire. “Falling for the fake phishing email was a wake-up call, so now I’m extra cautious when opening emails that look to be a bit out of the ordinary.”

Secure it. 

To continue to spread awareness around NCSAM and our training initiatives, Highwire’s Society committee hosted a “Cybersecurity Jeopardy” night across some of the Highwire offices. We wanted to take all of the great content from our trainings and have some friendly competition (because, why not?). 

And while this was the perfect excuse to share some champagne and cheese in honor of World Champagne Day, this really was about taking what we learned from the trainings and putting our knowledge to the test. Shout out to Lizzie, Jill, Amruta, Talia, Mariah, and Jazmin in the San Francisco office for winning and Robby, Jordana, Ben, and Tricia from our New York office! (Boston and Chicago – it’s your turn to strut your cybersecurity stuff!) 

What’s next for Highwire? We’ll continue to roll out mandatory training modules and security protocols that empower our employees to make smart, safe decisions online. Our mission in taking a proactive approach to cybersecurity at Highwire isn’t intended to disrupt our daily routines. Instead, it’s about practicing some easy-to-follow habits, like always being mindful of suspicious emails, keeping your computer software up to date, and changing your passwords on a regular basis. 

Want to learn more about Highwire’s cybersecurity practice? Contact us at hi@highwirepr.com or careers@highwirepr.com if you’re interested in a career at Highwire.

What Happened at This Year’s Money 20/20

For fintech and payments companies of all sizes, Money 20/20 is a jackpot for networking and discussions on how technology will impact the future of money. Over the past year, we’ve observed new fintech companies break into the market, VCs flock to fund the next big idea and companies expanding to become a one-stop-shop for consumers and businesses. 

This year’s show trends were just as exciting. What happens in Las Vegas doesn’t necessarily stay in Las Vegas. Here’s what we saw and learned at this year’s show.

News that had a hot streak

Uber Money: Announced during a keynote, Uber is breaking into the financial industry offering drivers instant payments through a new no-fee checking account and debit card. Uber’s newest venture into finance is the latest venture of a startup venturing into territories previously held by traditional banks.

Amazon and Payments: No doubt with Amazon’s continued dominance in commerce that they’d make a splash by jumping into payments. At a keynote, Amazon announced a simple new Alexa tool, paying utility bills by voice.

BlueVine Business Banking: As startups continue to fill in the gaps where traditional banking falls short for consumers, BlueVine (a Highwire client) announced a monthly fee-free checking account service designed for small businesses – filling the gap left by traditional banks leaving most SMBs to use consumer accounts and pay $400+ in fees. 

What’s Trending

This year’s official #Money2020USA Twitter hashtag saw more than 24 million potential impressions from more than 1,200 contributors during the span of the show. During the span of the show, there was an average of 668 tweets per day with the hashtag. Looking at this year’s trends on Twitter, payments came away as the clear topic of interest. Just behind payments, AI was another buzzword top of mind during the show. Meanwhile, blockchain, cashless and cryptocurrency fell short on capturing Twitter’s attention.

20/20 Planning Tips

With the size and magnitude of Money 20/20, breaking through the noise to reach customers, reporters, potential partners and investors can prove to be challenging. As we enter planning for next year, consider standing out with digital activations. Having an always-on social strategy with video, polls and Q&As is a strong way to cut through the noise.

Using the right hashtags is key to reach a broader audience. For example, using #Money2020 saw nearly a third of the impressions as the official #Money2020USA tag saw, even with about half the number of tweets and contributors.

At this year’s show, Highwire PR had five clients in attendance. With our roots in journalism and deep experience in fintech, learn how we can elevate your story through traditional and digital communication campaigns. Reach out to our payments/fintech lead, Kim Paone, or shoot us a note at hi@highwirepr.com to learn more.

Rock Health Summit 2019: A Look Into the Future of Digital Health

Last month, Rock Health hosted their annual two-day summit in San Francisco which brought together more than 700 diverse people from technology, medicine, policy, and beyond to tackle healthcare’s most challenging problems. 

Industry leaders in the digital health space participated in panels and keynote speeches discussing how far the industry has come and where it’s headed. A few members of Highwire’s digital health practice were lucky enough to attend and compiled a short list of the most interesting trends heading into 2020.

The New Competitive Landscape in Healthcare

Executives from Healthineers, Salesforce and Sutter Health came together to talk about their digital strategies and where the competition within the digital health landscape are heating up. It’s no secret that most tech companies are trying to enter the health space, but why?

The panelists discussed that beyond heath being a gigantic business and accounting for 1/6 of the economy, some of the most important technologies come from the health space and tech companies know they can help contribute. Whether their contribution is providing an app to make things more accessible, providing AI tools to aggregate data or providing security for data, they know they can help.

In terms of competition, the biggest race the panelists are seeing is telemedicine versus traditional healthcare providers. Years ago you would go to your physician to get diagnosed or treated and now we’re seeing retail companies like Amazon entering the space who can contribute and offer services to people.

Key takeaway: Competition is evolving outside of traditional healthcare providers and it’s new players in the space like Amazon that will continue to shake up the healthcare landscape.

Healthcare Techlash is Here

Led by CNBC’s Chrissy Farr, this panel included executives from American Medical Association, Verily and Google discussing what the healthcare techlash is and how companies are dealing with it. Unanimously, it was agreed upon that it is affecting every aspect of our lives and it all comes down to one thing: data. 

There’s an ongoing debate between tech and healthcare companies as to who should own the data and what data should be shared. The panelists emphasized that we need to build that bridge tech companies and healthcare so that we’re benefiting the patient — data allows us to fully understand a patient.

Key takeaway: We need to create partnerships between physicians, healthcare and tech developers to better treat patients. Without these partnerships, crucial data will be kept from professionals who need it and patients will not be getting the care they need.

The Next Frontier of Digital Drug Discovery

Arguably the most heated panel of the event, executives from Insitro, the FDA and Ciitizen discussed pharma’s investment in digital tools, where impact is today, and what we can expect the R&D pipeline to look like in the not-too-distant future. At the focus of this conversation yet again, was data. However, this discussion focused on high-quality data and how this is the key to creating new drugs that will benefit patients. 

What made this discussion so lively was having the opinions from two executives at tech companies and the opinions from the FDA. Both tech executives discussed how there needs to be a shift in drug discovery, instead of mass-producing drugs, create drugs that appeal to a smaller population and treat more specific cases. To which the FDA said that in order to do this they need to build new technical infrastructure to scale for the future and prioritize individualized and tailored drugs.

Key Takeaway: Data is to creating and producing drugs for the future — without high-quality data the industry will struggle to keep up with the demand for new drugs that benefit patients.

Hearing from industry leaders with different backgrounds and their points of view on where the pain points are now and the endless possibilities of digital health companies in the future was extremely valuable. The biggest takeaways from this year’s summit and what we’ll be looking out for in the digital health space would be the need for partnerships between tech companies and healthcare, the need for high-quality data. 

Let us know if you’d like to connect with Highwire PR to talk through how communication will change the game for the digital health industry. Contact digitalhealth@highwirepr.com  for more details.