Forbes CMO Leadership Talk: CMO Suzi Watford, The Wall Street Journal

By Thomas Barta
Last updated: June 02, 2017

In this interview with Suzi Watford, EVP and Chief Marketing Officer of The Wall Street Journal, the discussion highlights key aspects of what makes a successful CMO:

  1. Passion for the Industry: Watford expresses her passion for working in the newspaper and media industry, particularly in the context of quality journalism. She sees marketing as a change-driven role that empowers individuals to drive positive transformations within the organization.
  2. Balancing Customer Experience and Business Performance: Watford views these two aspects as interconnected. Improving the customer experience, such as updating the WSJ paywall and introducing loyalty and event programs, contributes to business growth. Aligning customer-centric improvements with business goals is key to success.
  3. Defining Leadership Experience: Her most defining leadership experience involved moving from London to New York, building a new team, and developing a business strategy that has led to significant growth in digital subscriptions and event revenue. Collaborating with her team to drive these changes stands out as a defining moment.
  4. Getting Things Done: Watford emphasizes the importance of collaboration, asking the right questions, and providing the voice of the customer to drive change within the organization. She values shared plans and full team ownership and accountability as essential for delivering results.
  5. Future Leadership Challenge: Her primary future challenge is maintaining focus, especially in her expanded role, as she needs to avoid saying yes to everything and ensure efficient resource allocation.
  6. Breaking Internal Rules: Watford advocates challenging the status quo by asking the right questions, having a vision, testing it, and presenting data to support changes. She also suggests letting someone more senior think it was their idea to facilitate change.
  7. Leading People in the Digital Age: Leadership now requires recognizing the diversity of skills within a team and valuing contributions from individuals with specialized digital, analytical, and technical skills. Trust, listening, and giving team members the freedom to utilize their skills are essential.
  8. Inspiring Others: Watford inspires others through empathy, humor, storytelling, and open communication. Caring for her team and fostering a positive atmosphere are key to motivation.
  9. Confidence: Her confidence stems from the support and challenges provided by her boss and the ambitious, capable team she leads. Trusting that the team can ask the right questions and deliver results is a source of confidence.
  10. Personal Dream: Watford prefers to focus on the present but mentions a personal dream of owning a house in Mallorca, reflecting a balanced approach to work and life.
  11. Leadership Advice for Marketers: She advises marketers to identify their strengths and areas where they can make a difference, hire complementary talent, be present and visible, and, most importantly, take their roles personally.

Suzi Watford’s approach to leadership revolves around empowering her team, driving change, and maintaining a strong customer-centric focus to achieve business success in the dynamic field of media and journalism.