Engaging Conversations with… Jill Tracy

June 2, 2014

As we come up on one week of B’stro Engage going live, we’re excited to introduce the first in a series of leadership interviews we’re calling “Engaging Conversations with…” This will be an ongoing series where we sit down with client partners and thought leaders to share insights and opinion about the world of marketing, branding and business in the digital age. We wanted to start with our founder, president and chief creative officer, Jill Tracy. Enjoy!

Cheers,
RBH

JillB_HeadshotforEngage

Name: Jill Tracy
Employer: BSTRO
Location: Vancouver
Twitter: @jillbendz
LinkedIn: jillbtracy

Job Title: President and Chief Creative Officer

What do you really do?
I guess what I really do is a lot of listening, cheerleading, troubleshooting and agency planning. Because BSTRO is in two West Coast cities and many of our clients are back East, I do a lot of Google Hangouts. I try to keep my days open so that I can be available so that the team can come to me with what they’re working on and working through. On any given day I could be writing copy, reviewing a proposal, critiquing a design, interviewing job candidates, clarifying goals or meeting with potential clients. In 10 years no two days have been the same.

How do you overcome creative blocks?
It depends on how much time I have. If it’s a tight deadline and I’m coming up empty, I take a quick walk around the block without my phone or any technological temptations. If I have more time, I go for a run, and, on rare but glorious occasions, I swim. I find being away from my phone, email and Facebook, and allowing myself time to not think, often leads me to my best ideas. When I can go into my own head and let my mind really wander–without feeling like it’s going to be snapped back to reality with the ding of an incoming text—I can often find new angles from which to approach a problem. And if it doesn’t work, at least I feel a little more accomplished for having done some exercise rather than just staring at a blinking cursor or eating my way around the (creative) block.

What trends are you seeing in advertising and marketing right now?
I’m not sure if it’s a trend or just the new way of communicating, but it seems like all messages need to be packaged in “snackable” portions that are easy to digest and even easier to share. Small mobile screens, character count limitations and our decreasing attention span, are pushing us to be much more concise; how much can you communicate with fewer words, with a powerful Instagram, in a six second video or with a clever hashtag? #saymorequicker

In the next few years, what’s going to change the most in the industry?
The biggest change in marketing, and in the world, is going to come from accessing and harnessing Big Data. Having the ability to collect and crunch such massive amounts of information and then draw remarkably accurate predictions is going to bring a fundamental shift in how all decisions are made. As our digital interactions continue adding to the data that’s available to analyze—texts, videos, credit card purchases, entry and exits into buildings, financial transactions, internet searches—and we become more sophisticated in analyzing and applying insights from this massive collection of data, the more changes we are going to see.

On the most basic level, we’ll be able to accurately predict product success, sales volume, and consumer buying patterns, but I’m more excited to see how predictive forecasting is going to help social organizations accelerate change by knowing what messages or interventions will have the greatest impact; how healthcare providers will be able to anticipate crises and prevent the spread of disease; how educators will refine curriculums to overcome barriers to learning; how national security crisis’ and natural disasters might be averted. The applications and implications are unlimited. Big Data is going to change the world. There are definitely concerns – privacy, overreliance on data without understanding context and profiling, to name a few — but I look forward to many of the positive social gains that result from more informed decision making.

Where did you get your best business advice?
The best business advice I ever received came from my dad—but I had no idea it was business advice until recently. My father was a service man – a mechanic who repaired big industrial machines. He could build or fix anything and was often making repairs around the house. What he didn’t know how to do, he’d figure out as he went along. He enjoyed making things work, doing them his way, and not paying someone to do something he could do himself. But as strongly as he believed in doing things on his own, and as tight as money was, I often heard him say, “Never do your own electrical.”

Years later, long after he passed away and I started the agency, I realized why this was one of his mantras. If you mess up wiring, the mistakes aren’t always immediately apparent. It may take days, months, or even years for problems to arise. By the time there’s smoke it might already be too late to save the house and, more importantly, the people in it.

Jill and her Dad

That lesson, “Never do your own electrical,” has guided so many of my choices in business. It’s often hard to spend money that you don’t have on something you might be able to figure out how to do yourself. Within our core competency, we’ve never outsourced, opting to push ourselves to learn new programming languages, embrace changes in technology and pitch for larger accounts. But from the beginning, with operational issues, each time I’ve been faced with handling a new thing that requires expertise outside my depth—like preparing legal contracts, establishing server security protocols or filing international tax returns—my Dad’s words echo through my mind and I ask myself, “If I screw this up, could the entire place burn to the ground?” If so, I don’t hesitate to write a check to a specialist. My best business advice: Never do your own electrical. Thanks, Dad.

What business advice would you pass on?
In addition to my dad’s advice, my advice to anyone starting a company or leading a team would be: Delegate wisely and as often as possible. You can’t see where you’re going if your head is down and it’s hard to pick up anything new if your hands are full!

Who do you follow on Twitter?
I follow a lot of publications and journalists because I like getting my news updates via Twitter; The New York Times, Globe and Mail, Politico, The Advocate. I also follow comedians, friends and clients. My list is pretty diverse. You’re welcome to look. My handle is @JillBendz.

What’s on your daily must-read list?
My Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds (several times a day), and a handful of blogs and online publications like The New York Times, Business Insider, Fast Company, Re/Code and AdAge Digital.

If you had a Pinterest-style motivational quote on the wall, what would it say?
There are only so many tomorrows. Get it done today.

Fill in the blanks.
1) I should have bought groceries yesterday.

2) I wish that I could be as excited to finish a project as I am to start a new one.

3) The first thing I do when I get to work is make a cup of coffee and ask the team how they’re doing.