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Meet Risk-Taker and Storyteller Tina Young

It’s no longer enough to work on external marketing, says the Marketwave CEO. Companies need to focus on their internal branding, too.
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Tina Young, Marketwave founder & CEO

The breakfast crowd was buzzing as I joined Tina Young at a bright orange table at Snooze in Addison. During the heart of the pandemic, the Marketwave founder and CEO would often sit and work on the eatery’s patio, she tells me, just to get away. Along with its funky 1970s-era décor, the restaurant chain is known for its inventive breakfast sweets like Pineapple Upside Down Cake Pancakes and Funky Monkey French Toast. Young bypasses those options and instead orders a three-egg scramble with spinach, mushrooms, and avocado—throwing in some bacon at the last minute, too.

A native Texan who grew up in Plano, she studied journalism at the University of North Texas and minored in marketing. When an ad agency exec was a guest speaker in one of her classes, Young boldly walked to the front of the lecture hall and asked him for an internship. She ended up developing an internship program for the firm, making herself the first participant. That led to a copywriting job with the agency after she was finished with school.

Young’s real interest, though, was in long-form writing and brand development. So, two years later, she joined Edelman, where she worked on the Texas Instruments account. “Terri West, who recently retired from TI, is now the chair of the UNT Mayborn School of Journalism board of advisors, and I’m her chair-elect,” Young says. “It’s a full-circle moment. She literally was my first client.”

From Edelman, Young launched the Dallas office of GTT Communications, discovering a talent for business development due to the agency’s “eat what you kill” business model. In shorter order, she became a partner in the firm after hitting certain sales goals. A year later, Edelman bought GTT. She used her cut of the proceeds from the sale to launch Marketwave in 1998.

“I knew it was my shot, having the capital to go ahead and open the doors,” Young says. “There were things I had seen at other people’s agencies that I thought I could do differently—better—with the right team.” The firm’s services are built around brand strategy, public relations, and employee engagement. And today, 24 years later, what began as a one-woman shop now has 13 employees and a client roster that includes Oncor, Pacific Builders, Endeavor Energy Resources,  and Ulterra.

An early disciple of the conscious capitalism movement (Young helped found the Conscious Capitalism Dallas chapter), she leads her company by focusing on the philosophy’s four core tenets: purpose, stakeholder, culture, and leadership. It’s also the core of a relatively new service offering—helping companies look not only at their external branding but their internal branding, too.

“On the external side, I’ve always done something called customer journey mapping, where you look for communication points and opportunities to market,” Young says. “Well, there’s also employee mapping. It starts with recruiting, then hiring and onboarding—and a lot of companies stop there. But if you don’t have important touch points beyond that, your retention won’t be good.”

There’s a strong business case for paying close attention to internal communications, she says, especially given current labor market conditions. “There’s incredible data around the cost of losing a good employee,” Young says. “If you can prevent some of that, and if you can help someone see a path at your company long-term, you win.”    

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Christine Perez

Christine Perez

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Christine is the editor of D CEO magazine and its online platforms. She’s a national award-winning business journalist who has…

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