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Celebrating 50 Years Of The World Trade Centers Association

A Q&A with WTCA CEO Scott Ferguson

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As part of the 50th Anniversary of the World Trade Centers Association (WTCA), the Headquarters office plans a number of exciting and engaging activations for Members, their communities, and the whole network alike. At the General Assembly in Querétaro, Mexico, attendees will learn about these activities first-hand, and following that event Members will be offered webinars and materials to help them participate in what should be a milestone moment for the WTCA. To kick off our coverage for this year-long campaign, we sat down with WTCA CEO Scott Ferguson to speak with him about some of the plans for the anniversary.

Hello Scott! As we go to publication for this issue Members will be gathering once again in Querétaro, Mexico for the 50th General Assembly. That’s 5-0! Before we begin with the anniversary, do you want to just touch on that event briefly for those Members who were unable to attend?

Of course! As everyone knows the General Assembly (GA) is our premiere annual event. It is held in a different global region each year, which not only showcases the city where it is being held, but also the cross-border reach of our association. Last year our hosts in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands did an exceptional job of pivoting the event, giving it a more external-facing element, and this year World Trade Center (WTC) Querétaro has certainly stepped up to the challenge! We expect to have a great turnout, a terrific program, and exceptional cultural events. So for everyone reading this on their way to Mexico—get ready for a great event.

Thanks for that. And speaking of the GA, there is a presentation on Monday to introduce how we are planning to commemorate the 50th anniversary over the next year. Can you tell us a bit about the thinking process that went into these plans?

For sure. Our intention is also to have a year-long campaign to accomplish a whole set of objectives. First and foremost, we want to celebrate this historic moment with our entire family, from new members who have just joined, to those who have been around for nearly all of that half of a century.

The second goal of our campaign is to give Members tools to use to engage their communities about the history of our association. We know that Members play an important role in their home cities, and we want to create ways in which they can reinforce that point with all of their key audiences. For that reason we have developed a number of member-driven activations that we will roll out over the next 12 months, which will include assets for members to use across multiple channels.

Finally, in late 2017 the Board of Directors approved a strategic plan with the vision to “become the world’s trusted global brand facilitating international business connections and trade,” and the tagline, “connecting the business world.” Taken together with our unique network makeup, and the history of the last 50 years, our theme for the Anniversary is “A Half Century of Global Trade Connectivity.”

Interesting! Can you give us a little sneak peek into some of those “activations?”

Absolutely. First of all, as with any milestone we want to capture this moment in time. It is really quite special to have made it to 50 years. For that reason we will be creating a commemorative video that will debut at the 2020 GA in Taipei. Member involvement is key here because the main pillar of the production is interviews with Members themselves. It will be a narrative piece that rests on real stories of being a part of our network. And moreover, once we have wrapped the main commemorative video, most if not all of these interviews will be edited into shorter clips that will be hosted on a microsite that will be very future-facing, providing a new tool for Members to use to promote their WTC and our network.

We will also be creating a new awards program for the association, using the anniversary as the occasion to launch the effort. We are calling it our “Champions Awards” and will launch in 2019, with the first awards being given at the GA in 2020. We have a number of categories, and the intent is to continue this at each successive GA. In addition to our new Accreditation Program—coming to full Membership in summer 2019—we felt we needed a way to recognize excellence around the network.

Finally, we are getting a bit “artsy,” as well. A bit later this year we will introduce a 50th Anniversary mural competition, and provide members with a creative brief to Members so they can solicit submissions from local artists. We will ask artists to create a piece that depicts the ways that trade fuels cultural exchange and understanding. These submissions will be on display in Taipei, and attendees will be asked to vote for their four favorite murals. The artists of the top four submissions—as selected by event participants—will be granted a small cash prize, and their creations will be used in WTCA marketing materials, and made available to Members for use thereafter. 

A mural competition? Some Members might be thinking, “what does art have to do with trade, or what we do on a daily basis?” Which is a good question! What was the thinking behind this? How would you answer that?

Sure—and I understand! Though I should add that many of our members are involved in artistic and cultural endeavors around the world, so it may not be so strange for some. One of our challenges is that trade and investment discussions are typically had by those whose professions require them to do so. Trade and investment are not, traditionally, a “kitchen table” topic. While recent global events have changed that a bit, they are complicated topics and do not always make their way into wider consciousness. However, as all of our members know, it absolutely should. Trade and investment are so vital to the health and opportunities of our communities. So, in an effort to help Members engage audiences they may not regularly have an opportunity to speak with, we wanted to give create a way of building a bridge to those wider communities.

Great. As you well know, many Members note that help building the brand locally to make the “WTC” or “World Trade Center” brand more universally understood, is a huge service they look for from headquarters. I wonder if you can touch a bit on how this will help accomplish that.

Sure. We want to use the occasion as reason to speak with press and other important external constituents so that we can leverage the anniversary to build our profile and brand. With the resources and staff we have at Headquarters, we cannot be everywhere around the globe at once. However, collectively with Members we can be! To accomplish this we will provide Members with a hefty toolkit to use in their own markets, and with their own local press. From media kits including pre-baked pitches and messaging, to pre-built social posts, hashtags, and video assets, and graphics that they can use across their own channels we hope that Members join us in this campaign. And of course, headquarters and our agency resources are always there to help with any questions or guidance—we want to make this as seamless and impactful as possible.

Great! So how do people find out more about all of this?

Like you mentioned before, we will have a presentation at the GA for those in attendance. Following the event we will schedule a number of webinars open to Members if they were unable to attend the GA, or if they want a refresher or a more intimate place to ask questions. And as always, we are available anytime. Just drop a note to support@wtca.org

Alright—well I know you are getting ready for the big event, so are there any last words you want to offer?

Just briefly that the success of these activities depends almost entirely on the active engagement of Members—WE NEED YOU! As with any program our Members' participation is critical if we are to succeed. They are the most important ingredient to any recipe for success at the WTCA.

Great, Scott—thanks for your time!

Thank you.