WSJ’s virtual summit for global partners lays foundation for collaborative community

By Caroline Postel

Dow Jones

New York City

Five-and-a-half years ago, I was lucky to be part of the group tasked with exploring how to accelerate The Wall Street Journal’s membership growth outside of the United States.

There was a lot for us to consider in our global approach: How do we effectively have a presence in 190+ markets? How do we find and assign resources to approach each region with expertise and local market intelligence? How do we position the power of a global brand with award-winning content to a specific local audience?

The answer: Key strategic partnerships.

The Wall Street Journal’s events have moved online, but the virtual space has proven to be a fertile breeding ground for meaningful partner relationships.
The Wall Street Journal’s events have moved online, but the virtual space has proven to be a fertile breeding ground for meaningful partner relationships.

We quickly expanded strategies to include aligning our brands with core partners around the world. Our goal was clear, but execution was nuanced. We needed to work together to be present and locally relevant to each of our partners and their regions while simultaneously supporting growth within the global publishing and news media community.

Fast forward to today, and that community of partners consists of more than 45 organisations in more than 25 countries around the world. Of those partners, about 90% are publishers, but we’ve also worked with various other sectors also focused on membership including tele-communication companies, airlines, and even financial institutions.

It’s a diverse crew but we have common goals: to acquire, engage, and retain new customers while growing membership in a long-term, dynamic, and meaningful manner. We are also committed to producing high-quality content for our audiences and monetising that content in new and innovative ways.

With this strong network in place, we felt it was time to bring this group together for the opportunity to share best practices and showcase the successes of our partners in a collaborative way. Of course, a global pandemic made this slightly trickier than we originally expected. But, like everyone else this year, we adapted.

We polled our partners and asked what they wanted to hear about, what would be most relevant to their businesses right now, and how this event could best support their goals. What was intended to be a live and tactile experience became a virtual and interactive one.

Our Inaugural Partner Summit consisted of seven hours of tailored, informative discussions spanning across time zones and languages to meet the needs of our global participants. The entire experience took place in English, Spanish, Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese. This piece was far and away the most challenging and the most satisfying to pull off. Afterward, some partners told us “the translations were so excellent I couldn’t decide which language to listen to.”

Topics covered included:

  • Developing new audiences.
  • Innovating through platforms.
  • A deep dive into best practices across the customer lifecycle.
  • Insights on strategies for print.
  • Growing student membership.
  • Tactics for growth in an evolving advertising industry.

Nothing can replace a live, in-person conference, but we endeavoured to address every need and learned so much about our virtual capabilities in the process. Partners were able to ask questions of speakers which were answered live in the sessions. We even created a community section on the site where participants could speak to one another directly, share contact information, and continue the conversation once the event ended.

The feedback has been amazing and so gratifying to hear. Partners reported they were excited for a forum “to share ideas and experiences that will help us to keep moving our business forward.” “[We] found the sessions really informative — it was really well run and felt quite intimate.”

In the end, we had an 86% turnout rate from our partners with 100 participants from more then 20 countries around the world. It was incredible to see everyone in one (virtual) place, all engaging in a collective conversation around the themes that drive all of our businesses forward: membership strength, consumer behaviours, and finding new ways to innovate as we all continue along the journey to growth in a dynamic, ever-changing industry.

We consider the Summit to be an unequivocal success and are more committed than ever to expanding and developing each and every relationship in our invaluable global network of key partners.

About Caroline Postel

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