Suzi Watford has been with The Wall Street Journal for seven years, serving as its CMO before taking the newly created position of executive vice president/consumer earlier this year.
In her new role, Watford is working to create a stronger ecosystem within the existing Dow Jones portfolio, as well as helping build a platform of new products and services.
In a year of tremendous change and challenge, Watford said there were critical lessons to be learned in 2020: “2020 reinforced how important it is to have a clear mission, to tell the story of what is happening inside and outside the company,” she said. The other critical lesson she learned was that “team and alignment is everything.”
INMA recently caught up with her to learn more.
INMA: If you had your career to do over again, what would you want to know in the beginning?
Watford: There is nothing I would like to have known, take it day by day. [But] maybe to understand churn. We were so obsessed back in the day with getting people to pay, we didn’t think about why they stay.
INMA: What makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning?
Watford: Working with fun and smart people, solving problems, building new models.
INMA: What is your best piece of advice on work/life balance?
Watford: If you work with the right people and love what you do, the two blend.
INMA: What is the craziest job or project you’ve ever done in media — and what did you learn from it?
Watford: Maybe the most memorable was the promotion to give away hairdryers with a tabloid newspaper once. It was very successful but [hairdryers] exploded. It taught me to own up fast, work closely with corporate communications, and if you buy cheap, you buy twice.
INMA: What success within your company are you most proud of right now?
Watford: Supporting a team of leaders who are really the very very best through a lot of change and delivering such great results for our titles, despite how tough the last year or so has been. Oh and the amazing journalism of WSJ’s recent Facebook Files.
INMA: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career?
Watford: Always assume noble intent. And it’s usually not about you.
INMA: What do you do to relax?
Watford: I find it quite easy to relax by just going home and being with people I love, but ideally with them in sunshine and on a beach.
INMA: If you hadn’t gone into the news media, what was your back-up plan?
Watford: I would have liked to be an architect, but someone said you had to be good at math and it turned me off. Now it turns out I spend much of day looking at numbers.
INMA: Have you read any books you’d recommend lately?
Watford: The Authority Gap by Mary Ann Sieghart.