by Fred Deane
For Caroline Beasley choosing a career path was very clear from her formative years on. She literally grew up in the family business and had an instant and very natural attraction to radio. The organic experience would wind up serving her well as she began to assume more and more responsibilities in the family biz and her intuitive readiness and skills would begin to take over.
After serving as a Director of the Beasley Broadcast Group since she joined the company in 1983, Caroline was appointed Chief Executive Officer on January 1, 2017, previously serving as interim CEO from March of 2016 to December of that year, and as EVP, CFO, Treasurer and Secretary beginning in 1994.
Throughout her distinguished career, Caroline has received numerous accolades including Radio Executive of the Year, recognition as one of the Most Influential Women in Radio, and being named among the 40 Most Powerful People in Radio for five years in this decade alone.
Just about two years ago Beasley Media Group acquired the well-respected Greater Media Radio Group, increasing the company’s scale and repurposing BMG on multiple levels going forward.
You’ve held a variety of positions with the Beasley Media Group since 1994. How has your background in finance informed these positions along the way?
Having a business finance background has helped me manage the capital structure of Beasley, from strategically focusing on shareholder value to making sure that investments that we make through acquisitions are either accretive going in or will be accretive within a short period of time.
During your tenure at Beasley, what are the most significant changes you’ve seen in radio?
The most significant changes I’ve seen are in the areas of digital and mobile. For decades, radio experienced little change (AM to FM to Satellite to HD). However, over the past 10-15 years, there’s been much more disruption via distribution platforms with music channels, social channels, mobile and more.
Given these challenges, how has Beasley re-shaped itself regarding growing the vitality of the medium while also growing its audience?
You can’t live in the past and continue to do the same old thing. We recognize that to be successful, you have to look forward, embrace change and grow. When AM was still the primary medium, my father (George Beasley) was investing in FM and then HD. The company continues to pursue new innovation that complements our core business. We are not in it for the near or short-term, we are in it for the long-term.
At the end of the day, we need to be true to our core values and mission statement which is to provide great local content to our local audience and deliver results to our advertisers through multiple platforms.
What parallels in philosophy and structure attracted Beasley to Greater Media when the company decided to acquire GM nearly two years ago?
Similar to Beasley Media Group, Greater Media was a successful, family-owned company, was in business for a similar amount of time (60 years) and had great people. We saw that there would be synergies available to combine the two companies because both were similar in size and the brands were unparalleled.
It’s about acquiring great brands. That is, ultimately at the end of the day, what attracted us to the deal and enabled us to leverage our content across many different platforms.
As the industry experienced an assault on its core products via outside digital disruptors, what have been your solutions to retaining and growing your competitive edge?
Our solutions to retaining and growing our competitive edge are centered on creating and investing in compelling content because that is what our audience wants. We need to make sure it is available wherever and whenever our listeners want it on multiple platforms, not just on AM/FM.
Is it sometimes more important for disruption to come from inside the industry as the medium attempts to successfully reinvent and re-market itself?
As a company, we can innovate, change and transition from within as we look to the future, but in my opinion, disruption is external. The key is being ready for it. It is up to us, both as a company and as an industry, to be prepared and focus forward. I strongly believe disruption can be a good thing. It makes us better at what do and provides us with new opportunities.
How have you innovated your approach and philosophy to radio marketing and branding beyond traditional medium precepts?
We’ve gotten our personalities involved much more so than in the past via their social activities. They are our mega-influencers. We’ve rolled out new positions at our Country stations that are laser-focused on ensuring our digital content is getting the same attention as our over-the-air and have even deployed geo-fencing to ensure that all are aware of our on-air offerings, contesting, etc.
Our teams are constantly challenging themselves to think out-of-the-box to keep up with our listeners who are a constantly moving target. In addition, our new mobile app, while not marketing in the traditional sense, is “branding” due to its unique content and layout.
In what areas have you addressed innovation with the advertising/client community, and have you found much success in this area regarding their receptiveness to fresh ideas?
We have been aggressively positioning and engaging with clients regarding our analytic capabilities as a result of Beasley Analytics. Most advertisers have welcomed these discussions with open arms. It has enabled us to provide proof-of-performance documentation confirming that listeners do indeed hear the commercials and do indeed act upon what they hear. Digital no longer has a monopoly on performance data. Last year we integrated a major national advertiser into our Alexa skills.
We’ve also utilized video more creatively for our clients as well. We’ve haven’t run into a single client who’s not been receptive to doing something fresh and innovative. Sometimes to be fresh it doesn’t have to be new. It could be adding a different twist to the execution.
What digital and technology trends do you foresee in the near future potentially impacting the radio industry, and how do these changes translate into the milieu of the strategic thinking process of executives in our industry today?
It is an exciting time to be in the radio industry. Digital and technology trends are changing the way we do business. We recently announced a hackathon initiative that our company is doing in conjunction with the University of Las Vegas involving radio’s future role in autonomous vehicles and smart cities. The results will be unveiled at The Consumer Electronics Show in January of 2019.
When you are looking at next year to the next five years, you are not just focused on your content over the air, you’re talking about how you can engage better with your listeners and how you can provide results for advertisers on whatever multi-media platform they prefer.
How do you rate the industry in general regarding the hiring and promoting of women to key positions?
At Beasley Media Group, we hire the best people for the job. Our company is 40% diverse. More than half of our senior management team at corporate is made up of women. The industry has come a long way in hiring females in top positions. Look across the radio companies today…Beasley, Cumulus, Entercom, Cox, and Hubbard, to name a few. While, like anything, there is always room for improvement. I am very encouraged that the industry is moving forward.
What advice could you impart to women in radio that could inspire them to seek opportunities and advancement in our industry?
The advice that I would share with anyone (female or male) would be to stay focused, work hard and go for it. Have a true sense of ethics, establish credibility and stand for what you believe in because you will be challenged every day.