woman looking at images on wall

Fiercely Independent, But Not Alone

WE Communications Blog: CEO Melissa Waggener Zorkin

— Melissa Waggener Zorkin 

Since the day Pam and I founded WE, we’ve been a proudly independent company. That means we don’t make decisions about our business based on what Wall Street thinks is best, and we definitely don’t work as hard as we do just to fatten the wallets of shareholders we’ve never met. Instead, every day, our core passion is doing what’s right for our clients and our colleagues.

We’re an independent company, but that doesn’t mean we do everything on our own. On the contrary, it’s the partnerships we’ve made over the years that have helped us to thrive. Today, as you know, we’re on our way to serving more than 100 international markets from 18 offices around the world.   

From the beginning, we’ve relied on our partners to help us do our best work — and we’re pretty sure they’d say the same about us. For instance, though we had a health-care practice in the U.S., we got a jump start in Europe when we acquired Patzer PR in 2012; now health is the biggest part of our client base in Germany. We’d never done much work in the Asia-Pacific market until we teamed up with Shout Holdings in 2005, and now we have extraordinary clients from Beijing to Singapore. And though many of us would love to move to Australia, we entered that market through a partnership with Buchan, which has grown steadily over the past eight years.

That’s why I’m so pleased that the WE team has just gotten bigger and better with the acquisition of two amazing new partners in the Asia-Pacific region. One is Red Bridge Communications, an award-winning agency founded and run by women that specializes in branding and marketing to the booming Chinese middle class. The other is WATATAWA (short for “Walk the Talk, Talk the Walk”), a C-suite consulting firm that works on corporate communications, investor relations, financial communications and crisis management in key markets across Asia.

With these partnerships, we’re stronger than ever. Red Bridge — now WE Red Bridge — brings an enormous body of digital and consumer expertise, plus a client portfolio that includes Meliã Hotels International, Forever 21, Ted Baker London, Gieves & Hawkes, Nordic Cod and Value Retail Europe. WATATAWA, which will become a WE subsidiary but keep its name, expands our capacity with its focus on senior-level executive consulting and clients like Asia Pacific Resources International Limited and Bloomberg.

We chose Red Bridge and WATATAWA, and they chose us, because they’re a lot like we’ve always been: fiercely independent companies committed first and foremost to people and purpose. We’re much larger now than we were when we started — and we’re larger this week than we were last week — but we’ve kept that same commitment to our clients and our colleagues, year in and year out. And we couldn’t have done it if our team hadn’t grown stronger and stronger over the years.

fearless girlI’ve been thinking a lot this past week about the new “Fearless Girl” statue bravely standing up to the famous Wall Street bull in New York City. She makes a powerful statement on her own, of course: It is critically important for corporate boards to be more diverse and gender-balanced, both because it’s the right thing to do and because research shows that boards with women on them make better decisions.

But I’ve been thinking most of all about the hundreds of photos I’ve seen of women and young girls (and boys and men) standing proudly alongside that fearless girl, arm in arm with one another. To me, those snapshots are just as moving as the statue herself. And I think the artist, Kristen Visbal, agrees with me. “The whole project is about girl power,” she told a reporter last week. “I love that phrase, because it makes us a lot stronger if we are in unison.”

That’s the way I think about WE: We are a lot stronger when we are in unison. We cherish our independence and we’re so proud of it, but we’re even prouder of the great work we do when we work arm in arm with others. So, welcome Red Bridge and WATATAWA! Here’s to many more years of fantastic, like-minded partnerships.

Connect with Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn