Tracy Call Gets You More Value for Your Media Money

by Jerome Knyszewski
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Tracy Call, founder and CEO of Media Bridge Advertising

Tracy Call founded Media Bridge Advertising in 2010 to enable businesses to cover more marketing ground by maximizing all possible media channels. From traditional media to social media, Media Bridge produces video and other content for businesses to capitalize on new technology for maximum audience reach.

Since 2010, Tracy Call has steered Media Bridge Advertising to become Minneapolis’ 10th-largest ad agency in terms of revenue. After building a successful media career, Tracy has built a new agency that aims to bring the customer service aspect to the advertising and media industry. Now, she has built one of Minnesota’s top-tier media and advertising agencies, earning over $100 in media ads, which is still growing every year.

Every year, since 2014, Tracy Call has guided Media Bridge Advertising to the top of the industry. The company has been named to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal’s Fast 50 and Inc. Magazine’s 5000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies lists. In 2018, the company received the honor of being one of the “Best Places to Work.”

Tracy Call also received the “Women in Business” award from Business Journal in 2016. Also, Tracy’s leadership and success has rubbed off on her employees, turning them into future leaders and pioneers in the industry. Several of them have also been named to the “32 Under 32” list from Ad Fed, and Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” list.

Check out more interviews with industry leaders here.

Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Tracy Call: Looking back to my childhood, I wasn’t destined to have a career in media. My adoptive parents were school teachers who discouraged watching TV, and I didn’t experience pop culture until high school. The big a-ha was when I met my biological mother at 16 and learned that I had relatives in entertainment, media, marketing and the arts — all things I was interested in. That’s when it all made sense!

I kept my interest in marketing, advertising and media even as I competed as a professional athlete in bobsledding and rugby. I didn’t think I would start my own agency, but after selling advertising for years and seeing how it worked, I knew it could be done better. I went from selling media, to having a business partner and moving to the buy side, to starting my own business in 2010.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Tracy Call: I’ve never considered giving up, but I often share what I call “The Mattress Story.” One day soon after starting Media Bridge, I bought my young son the cheapest mattress and box spring I could find (I had about a hundred bucks in the bank at the time). I couldn’t even get the mattress in the door because it was so hard and heavy. It was such a depressing moment, and I remember thinking, “I need to figure this whole business thing out in a hurry.” It was a tangible reminder of everything that was at stake. It was going to be a heavy lift. I knew there would be tons of challenges, including being taken seriously as a woman in media when so many deals happened in rooms filled with men. But I’ve always been a competitive athlete, so I have a deep well of drive and perseverance to draw from. When you’ve sat in a bobsled going 80 mph toward an icy bend, you feel like you can deal with pretty much anything. : )

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Tracy Call: I previously shared a story where I apparently thought I could do graphic design. I created a direct mail piece for an apple orchard client that looks like something a 5-year-old would draw. That taught me the importance of hiring people, even though entrepreneurs are often convinced that they can do everything themselves (more on that later). There’s also that night when a client wanted to meet me at a bar, and the venue turned out to have more than alcohol on display. The lesson there: Always know where you’re going before you open the door. That’s the naked truth. : )

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you please share your “Five Things You Need To Know To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results?” Please share a story or an example for each.

Tracy Call:

  1. You’re a great business person, but you’re not a superhero. I know tons of entrepreneurs who’ve had to put aside their egos and realize that the business they’ve built is bigger than they are. This is a good sign. It means you’re growing and adapting!

  2. Delegating is going to take more time in the short term, but it’ll save you tons of it in the long run. I got burned out on media buying, so I made myself delegate it. It took a long time to find the right person to lead it. For a short time, I had to make myself work even MORE on the thing that was burning me out. But in the long term, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

  3. Don’t just “delegate,” coach. Some people think delegating means saying, “I need you to do this” and then walking away. You’re not truly delegating until the person doing that task really knows how to do it. And that’s up to you.

  4. It’s not enough to get yourself and your team doing what they love and are good at. That’s just the first step. The next phase of burnout comes when people are doing too much of the thing they ARE good at. I mean, as much as you might love pizza, you don’t want to eat for every meal. Popcorn, on the other hand …

  5. The Delegate & Elevate tool in the Entrepreneurial Operating System is the single-best way to build delegation into your culture and operations. Seriously, it’s a life-saver. It’s a process specifically designed to make delegating work as effectively as possible in an organization.

Jerome Knyszewski: One of the obstacles to proper delegating is the oft-quoted cliche “If you want something done right do it yourself.” Is this saying true? Is it false? Is there a way to reconcile it with the importance of delegating?

Tracy Call: Entrepreneurs are the kings and queens of thinking, “It’ll be faster and easier if I just do it myself.” I was one of those queens until I realized that one of the biggest obstacles to my agency achieving more growth was me. Sometimes the saying is true, but only in the short run. If you think you’re the best person for every job, then you’d better be able to clone yourself as you grow. Truth be told, you’re probably not as great at some things as you think you are. If you’re not delegating, it might be because you prefer the pain of doing things yourself over the possible conflict of having someone else do it.

Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Tracy Call: I’ve previously talked about how I’d love each of Media Bridge’s core values to be its own movement: “No Excuses, Just Results,” “Lead with Heart,” “Raise the Bar” and “Do the Right Thing.” I’ve also talked about our “Do” movement in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, which is about DOING racial justice and equity work, not just talking about it. Today, I’d love to start the Care Movement. I didn’t come up with the phrase, “The best marketing strategy is to care,” but I’ve fully embraced it because it articulates something that has always been a part of Media Bridge’s culture.

The pandemic has been a good test of that. As soon as we entered that world, our first thought wasn’t, “How are we going to survive?” It was, “Let’s call our clients. Let’s see how they’re doing and how we can help. Let’s take the initiative to pivot their media plans so they’re meeting people’s changing media consumption habits … for free, because we’re their advisors and advocates.”

Whether it’s marketing or just being a good friend or neighbor, people don’t remember where you were in the good times; they remember if you were there for them in the hard times. We need a lot more caring in every facet of our lives right now.

Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?

Tracy Call: LinkedIn is best.

Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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