Omeda Asks: Kati Tucker – Vice President of Audience Development at Modern Distribution Management
About Kati Tucker:
Kati Tucker moved out to Colorado 36 years ago and fell in love with the state. She has a 12-year-old daughter that she has been able to spend a lot of time with during quarantine. They have been getting very creative creating different dishes to cook and bake together. She enjoys fitness and eating healthy. For fun, Kati loves to travel with her family, exploring new places and learning about different parts of the world. She has been in media for her entire career and has become an expert in audience development and marketing.
Can you tell us about your experience in the media industry and how you got started?
When I graduated college, I did not know that I wanted to go into media. With my degree in business, I had an idea that I wanted to work in marketing. My first job was at Reed Business in audience marketing. I was able to learn a lot about long-term marketing programs for B2B publications and how to find success and increase subscription numbers in the publishing world. While working there, Reed was bought by SANDOW. SANDOW was a lot of fun because I was able to work in subject areas that I related to more. They had a lot of interesting subscription services, from interior design and beauty magazines to the Test Tube, which was a beauty subscription service similar to Birchbox. From there, I joined the team at Bobit Business Media as the Director of Audience Development. Bobit was unique because it was such a large company, so I had a huge support team there. There were so many different departments that I was able to collaborate with such as email producers for all the email campaigns and designers who were able to create graphics in-house for me. Currently, I am the Vice President of Audience Development at Modern Distribution Management, which has been amazing. We are located here in Colorado and I was given the opportunity to be a part of the executive leadership team, which has always been a goal of mine.
What does your role as Vice President of Audience Development at MDM entail?
My role here has been fantastic. MDM is a small company, so there are a lot of areas that I oversee. I’ve always thought audience development has to wear a lot of different hats, but this job has been such a great opportunity to really expand my skills and learn new things. For example, I’ve learned Java Script and CSS code to create forms in Unbounce, I now create my own graphics for campaigns, I send all the email promotions for our brands, and I’m leading our current website redevelopment project. Every day of my job is different and taking on new tasks and responsibilities has been exciting and interesting. There are a lot of situations where I do not have prior experience with the project, but I take it on and can find a way to get the job done. I have a lot of autonomy and freedom to try the things I think will be successful.
How do you combat those moments when you are unsure how to complete a task on your own and you do not have a department or person to turn to for help?
I often start by trying to find online trainings and using Google to help me solve the problem. If there is something that requires deeper knowledge and expertise, I have used Upwork in the past and found someone to help me accomplish what I needed to get done. If I am able to, I like to learn how to complete the task so that in the future I can do it on my own. Throughout the process, I like to remain aware of where my gaps in skills are and to be realistic about what I can accomplish myself. When the situation is out of my range, I will try to hire a contractor or freelancer outside of MDM to help me accomplish the project.
Another strategy that I use is to reach out to people I’ve worked with in the past or that I have connected with over the years to see what their point of view on a situation is or if they have any insights on how to solve a problem I’m having. Utilizing your network can be very helpful.
Is there a current project you are working on that you are passionate about?
Since I started at MDM in January, I put a lot of energy into growing our newsletter because I saw a lot of potential. There was a large gap between the number of people in our database and the amount of people receiving our newsletter. I wanted to create new email promotions and gate more of our site to increase our overall audience and those subscribing to our newsletter.
Over the last few months, with COVID-19 and the pandemic happening, we have followed along with the strategy of some other large media publishers like the New York Times to gate all our COVID-19 related content. We created a hard gate where readers had to provide their email address. This has been great for getting more people into the top of the funnel. From there, we can push them through a marketing automation journey that encourages them to sign up for our newsletter. Through all of these efforts, we have been able to grow our newsletter audience by 8.6%.
Eventually, we would love to be able to convert these new audience members into premium content subscribers. That is a long-term goal of ours – especially with everything going on and people being hesitant to spend right now. I think that as long as we continue providing strong, beneficial content to our audience, in 3-6 months time we can focus on converting more of these audience members into premium subscribers.
Have you launched any other initiatives due-to the COVID-19 outbreak?
Yes, we launched a live, weekly virtual event series where we talk to top distributors in different industries to hear how they have been handling the entire COVID-19 situation. Every week, we have at least 2 distributors, our CEO and one moderator for the discussion. The series has been quite successful. We are averaging 400-500 people every week, and a lot of them are new audience members for MDM.
The success of this weekly virtual event has been helpful to offset our in-person event that we typically host in Chicago every May. (This year, we have tentatively rescheduled the event for August). In conjunction to the weekly discussion, we also started hosting a monthly, 2-hour roundtable conversation. Anyone who had registered for one of the virtual discussions is then invited to the roundtable. There has been a lot of interest in these as well, I think because a lot of people are searching for advice and expertise on how to move forward and set your business up for success in the future.
We are still thinking of holding a small version of our annual live event in August, but if attendees do not want to travel to Chicago or meet in-person, we will have a virtual option. We are also putting together a playbook of all the topics and content from the speakers for our event to be available for all who signed up for the event as well.
How has MDM been keeping a sense of normalcy for your company with everything going on?
Overall, I would say that in terms of working remotely our company has not been affected much because most of our team is remote anyway. Previously, once a week our executive team would go into the office to meet, so of course that is now virtually done online. We also added a second meeting later in the week to touch base, make sure everyone is doing okay and has what they need, and ensure nothing is slipping through the cracks.
You have a lot of experience taking on different roles in the media industry. What advice do you have for people who are trying to grow their career and progress their journey forward?
I would say one important element is always being aware of what you want out of your career. If you have goals and mile markers that you want to achieve, that will help you to continue progressing your career forward and identifying your path. When I was at Reed Business, I was constantly looking for what else I could get involved with. That was right around the time when digital magazines started being developed, so I was lucky to be on the forefront of moving our magazines over to digital.
Another important element is having a strong network of people that you are in touch with and learning from. They will help to provide insights into what is happening within media from their perspective and offer new information. I have friends and colleagues that I communicate with all the time to bounce ideas off of and hear their perspectives on topics. Some of them knew that I always wanted to be a part of the executive leadership team of a media company, so when the position opened up at MDM, they were there to point me to it. The position kind of fell in my lap and has been a perfect fit, especially being here in Colorado, 20 minutes from where I live.
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