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Event orchestration | 13 March 2020

12 Imaginative Events and Activations from The Wall Street Journal

Jacob Thomas

Looking to give your event management skills a boost? Learn how to host top-notch events just like storied American publisher The Wall Street Journal does.

The Wall Street Journal, an award-winning American newspaper, was first published in 1889 by Charles Dow, Edward Jones, and Charles Bergstresser. Today, the business-oriented news outlet is one of the largest in the United States with a circulation of nearly 3 million copies.

But the newspaper isn’t the only kind of content The Wall Street Journal puts out into the world. It also has a rather robust event strategy. Keep reading to learn how The Journal produces such highly anticipated conferences and other event types for its audience, as well as how it handles event branding and B2B event marketing.

1. WSJ Tech Live

WSJ Tech Live - The Wall Street Journal Event MarketingSource: The Wall Street Journal

WSJ Tech Live brings the greatest, most ambitious minds in tech together for three days of “candid interviews, lively off-stage discussions, and premiere networking opportunities.” Speakers in previous years have included Jack Ma, a Co-Founder of Alibaba Group; Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple; and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer.

Key Takeaway: WSJ Tech Live does a lot of things right. That’s why employees at major companies like Alphabet, Twitter, and Disney attend every year. But we’re really impressed with the conference’s ability to attract top speaking talent. Whatever you do, make sure your events have amazing speakers. If they don’t, you’ll have a hard time selling tickets. But don’t worry if you don’t have the budget for big names like the kind that WSJ Tech Live books. A “great speaker” is simply someone your attendees will recognize and be excited to learn from.

2. The Future Of:

The Future Of: - The Wall Street Journal Event MarketingSource: The Wall Street Journal

The Future Of: is an interview series that includes in-depth discussions with prominent business leaders and world-changers. For example, Future Of the Workforce was held in November 2019 and featured an interview with Jayne Parker, the Senior Executive Vice president and CHRO of the Walt Disney Company. In 2020, The Wall Street Journal will host the Future of Everything Festival and allow attendees to learn from popular business and entertainment personalities such as Rachael Ray, Questlove, and Miranda Kerr. 

Key Takeaway: Have you considered hosting an event series? Maybe you should! An event series is a great way to connect with a target audience, build up anticipation for future gatherings, and boost event ROI. After all, once you’ve landed on a specific event format that resonates with attendees, it becomes much easier to host successful future get-togethers!

3. CEO Council Annual Meeting

CEO Council Annual Marketing - The Wall Street Journal Event MarketingSource: The Wall Street Journal

The CEO Council Annual Meeting is a gathering of CEO Council members, industry experts, and policymakers who meet to discuss the biggest opportunities and challenges that business leaders will face in the future. For those with CEO job titles, this event is top-notch.

Key Takeaway: The CEO Council Annual Meeting is a great event. But here’s the thing: not everyone who’d like to attend it is able to. The conference is invite-only. While gatherings like this one naturally exclude certain people, the folks who do get to attend usually have a better event experience. Because of this, invite-only events have a higher perceived value than more inclusive conferences and expos, allowing event planners to charge more for tickets.

4. The WSJ Ice Cream Truck

The WSJ Ice Cream Truck - The Wall Street Journal Event MarketingSource: The MAG Experience

A few summers ago, The Wall Street Journal partnered with The MAG for this tasty experiential marketing campaign. Company ambassadors were dressed in branded gear, given a fully-loaded ice cream truck, and told to hand out free cones to locals in New York City. The cones were wrapped in real-time news headlines and folks could earn complimentary toppings by downloading the latest WSJ app to their phones. Marketing brilliance!

Key Takeaway: The power of experiential marketing can’t be understated. By treating your target audience to exciting experiences — such as free ice cream cones on a hot summer day — you’ll cement your brand in their memories for life.

5. The “Women In” Series

Source: The Wall Street Journal

“Women In” is another event series hosted by The Wall Street Journal. The events are for people who are female or female-identifying. Each one covers a specific topic such as finance, tech, or workplace issues. Those who attend get to learn from prominent executives and global leaders about how to overcome the unique challenges womxn face in the business world.

Key Takeaway: If you’re looking for new corporate event ideas, we recommend creating events for specific demographics. While it’s important to host conferences and seminars that cater to everyone in your target audience, it’s also necessary to create smaller gatherings that really speak to the situations of certain people. The “Women In” event series by The Wall Street Journal is a great example of this.

6. Artificial Intelligence Executive Forum

Source: Twitter

In the words of The Wall Street Journal, “Artificial intelligence has the potential to be transformative for businesses, but a recent study showed only 25% of companies have an AI strategy beyond the IT department.” The Artificial Intelligence Executive Forum aims to teach business leaders how to take their AI initiatives from “concept to cross-company adoption.”

Key Takeaway: People like to feel as if they’re ahead of the game — especially in business. That’s why it’s important to cover cutting-edge and emerging topics at your events whenever possible. By dedicating keynote speeches and breakout sessions to hot-button topics such as artificial intelligence, you’ll help persuade your target audience to purchase tickets.

7. Journal House

Journal House - The Wall Street Journal Event MarketingSource: The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal doesn’t sell quite as many print newspapers as it used to. So the company created the “Journal House”, which is a dynamic form of in-person journalism. Folks can “attend intimate events with senior Journal editors, connect with peers, host client meetings, and just enjoy some time to unwind.” It’s a great way for WSJ to connect with its target audience and make up some lost revenue due to declining print newspaper sales.

Key Takeaway: It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, it always pays to think outside the box. By creating unique events and experiences for your attendees, your company will become a leader in its field and folks will be clamoring to buy tickets to your conferences and seminars.

8. Rethinking Global Affairs

Rethinking Global Affairs - The Wall Street Journal Event MarketingSource: The Wall Street Journal

The tagline for Rethinking Global Affairs is: “Trade, Policy, and Global Business on a Collision Course.” As you’d expect, the event provides senior executives with critical insights into the latest developments in business and politics around the world. Attendees can use this information to make informed decisions and steer their companies towards success.

Key Takeaway: Rethinking Global Affairs is a partnership between The Wall Street Journal and Foreign Affairs. You should consider partnering with like-minded, non-competing brands as well! If you do, you’ll be able to share the event planning and hosting burden with another team of professionals. Your events will also have a greater reach since your partnering company will be able to promote it to their unique audience too.

9. “Read Yourself Better” Campaign

Source: YouTube

We live in a digital world where media messages are constantly fighting for our attention and attempting to distract us from whatever it is we’re currently doing. WSJ created a campaign called “Read Yourself Better” which encouraged viewers to look beyond the distractions and only read articles that they could trust (i.e. articles published in the Wall Street Journal). The commercial was aired on live TV, integrating itself into the everyday lives of countless Americans in the United States.

Key Takeaway: If you watch the video above, you’ll notice that the “Read Yourself Better” commercial is very inspiring. The voiceover, backing music, and eye-catching imagery all work together to motivate viewers. By the end, you can’t help but think, “Yeah, I should pay more attention to the things I read every day!” It’s important that you inspire your target audience as well. Whether you’re promoting an event or attempting to motivate your attendees to do something specific, you need to cut through the noise and inspire them to take action.

10. Global Food Forum

Global Food Forum - The Wall Street Journal Event MarketingSource: The Wall Street Journal

The Global Food Forum, now in its fifth year, is a collection of food industry leaders who gather to discuss “key risks and opportunities shaping the global food business.” Attendees get to learn from the brightest minds in the field and network with their peers.

Key Takeaway: The team behind the Global Food Forum in 2020 has negotiated an exclusive hotel rate for their attendees at the Ritz Carlton in Chicago, IL. This is a great idea! If you’re able, negotiate exclusive deals for your attendees too and make going to your conference even more enticing than it (hopefully!) already is.

11. Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity - The Wall Street Journal Event MarketingSource: The Wall Street Journal

Cannes Lions is a mega-conference that has happened every summer in Cannes, France for the last 60+ years. Its mission is to bring the top minds in creative communication together for five days of learning, networking, and celebrating. At the 2020 event, attendees will have the opportunity to learn from leaders at Amazon, Netflix, and Microsoft about topics such as creative disruption in commerce, brand accountability and activism, and storytelling at scale.

Key Takeaway: We should be clear, The Wall Street Journal does NOT own or host the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. But they do sponsor it. This is a great strategy that we believe more companies should take advantage of. By sponsoring events in your field, you’ll be able to reach more of your target audience without having to plan yet another gathering all by yourself. Just about every corporate event management plan should include event sponsorship.

12. The Experience Report

The Experience Report - The Wall Street Journal Event MarketingSource: The Wall Street Journal

Last but certainly not least, we have The Experience Report. It technically isn’t an event. Rather, it’s a corner of The Wall Street Journal website that’s dedicated to covering the business of events and the ways in which companies effectively interact with their unique customer bases. The Experience Report was just launched in 2020 and is an exciting new vertical for the 131-year-old newspaper publisher. If you work in events, we suggest checking it out.

Key Takeaway: If The Experience Report isn’t an event, why has it made our list of imaginative events and activations from The Wall Street Journal? Because it reminds us of the need to market the conferences and other gatherings we host with great content published on a regular basis. This is essential! If you’re not promoting your get-togethers with social media and blog posts, Facebook and Adwords campaigns, podcast episodes and YouTube videos, how will anyone hear about them? Create great content on a regular basis and it will be much easier to get butts in seats for every event your company hosts.

Main Takeaways

The Wall Street Journal is a recognized leader in the event space. The publisher’s combination of educational conferences and creative marketing activations has helped the legendary organization continue to thrive — even as the print publishing industry as a whole has struggled to adapt to our digital world.

While we covered a lot of important points in this post, here are the three main takeaways you can use to improve your own events:

  1. Build a Solid Foundation: If you don’t get the basics right for your next conference, training seminar, or trade expo, your event will be subpar. So make sure to get quality speakers, experiment with event sponsorships, and invest in event marketing.
  2. Get Creative: There’s no shortage of events happening in your industry. You need to get creative to stand out and convince people to attend your gathering. You can do this by covering emerging topics and negotiating exclusive deals for your attendees.
  3. Put Your Audience First: Lastly, your audience and their unique needs should always come first. If it’s what your target market wants, consider hosting an event series, some invite-only gatherings, or a conference targeted to specific demographics.

Bonus tip: don’t forget to use event software to help manage your next gathering. Once you commit to using this kind of tool, you won’t ever want to plan another event without it!

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