Q&A: Trusted Media Brands CEO Bonnie Kintzer On Leadership In Media Business

kintzerBonnie Kintzer, is president and CEO of multi-platform media company Trusted Media Brands, publisher of familiar titles such as Reader’s Digest, Taste of Home, and The Family Handyman. Since a company-wide rebrand and reinvention two years ago, TMB has been on an upward trajectory in gaining readers across its digital properties.

Kintzer was named CEO in 2014, coming to TMB from Women’s Marketing Inc., but she’s no stranger to the company, having held a number of senior executive positions at The Reader’s Digest Association in the past.

TMB is a media company that is doing things right in the digital age. Last year, the TMB Digital Network was among the top 25 digital lifestyle networks with an added 10 million unique views, reflecting a 20 percent increase in audience growth from the previous year. In 2017, the company reported increasing its digital advertising growth by 13 percent from the previous year.

Chief Executive caught up with Kintzer and talked about how her previous experience informs her job as CEO, leading a company in such a rapidly-evolving field and how her leadership style has changed over the years. Here’s what she had to say:

Q: Can you highlight a few of your biggest accomplishments in the past three years in leading Trusted Media Brands?

A:  I came back here four years ago, obviously to bring the company back to growth. That was a very important piece. Last June, we paid off all of our debts. So, we are one of the few lucky media companies to be debt-free, which has allowed us to invest a lot more into the company.

For us, it’s very much about innovation. We’ve launched a number of new products over these last few years that we’re really proud of. We launched Taste of Home Special Delivery, which is a subscription box where we have an incredibly high renewal rate of over 80 percent. People really love getting these mystery boxes filled with recipes, and a kitchen gadget, and other fun things for your kitchen.

We also launched, The Family Handyman, launched by DIY University, an online school for you to become more handy or handier. And so, that’s been going really well. And we’ve been very excited this year. We’ve launched some very high-priced classes, in fact. We’ve been doing a $400 dollar class for contractors to learn how to do accounting and to learn how to do marketing or a $200 class on how to build your own tiny house. Reader’s Digest just launched a mystery book series that’s going really well. So, I think a lot of it for us is to be back to growth and launching new products and services.

“ I think that getting people to understand our mission and what we’re working towards is a very important part of my style.”

Q: What are some of the areas you’re focusing on in terms of digital expansion?

A: Our digital traffic growth has been exceptional. We keep breaking our records, so that makes us really excited. At the core of our digital growth is our content. What we’ve learned was the more content we put up, the more people were coming to it. And I think that that has been just a great realization. When I first got here, we were doing about 100 pieces of content a month and now we do over 2,000, whether it’s written, or video, or slideshows. And so that’s been an exceptional increase in volume. And we, of course, always measure everything, and every dollar we invest in content creation is definitely profitable for us. And that’s been great for all of our brands, to see how much people love our content digitally.

Q: Are there any key traits or attributes you look for when you’re adding people to the organization?

A: I’m always looking for people that want to win and have a spirit of growth. We look for people that are accomplished in their area, so we want to have the best search people or the best video production. We look for people that are really strong collaborators. We’re a small company, so every human being that walks through the door can have a very big impact here. So, we want people that can come in and work with others and move the needle. It is very much about moving forward with speed and accountability.

Q: How has your style of leadership has evolved over the years and how has it been informed by your past experience?

A: I’m a much better listener than I used to be. When I first got here, I went on a listening tour. I met with about 100 of our 400 employees, went to every single office and listened to what they loved doing and what they thought was keeping them from being more successful. And I think that really formed the foundation of my understanding of the business and what we needed to accomplish. I am, I think, a very strong communicator, and I try to communicate frequently and directly. I think that people want to know what’s happening and what part they play in that. I think that getting people to understand our mission and what we’re working towards is a very important part of my style and I think is an important part of why we’ve been successful. I do believe in transparency. I think people understanding about the status of things and what needs to get done, it really empowers people, so that they can know how they can contribute to moving the business forward.

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