Almost two years ago, when it was announced that Bob Pittman would be the new head of Clear Channel, I was thrilled. My exuberance wasn't about Clear Channel getting Bob as its leader, it was about radio feeling the halo effect of Pittman's magic. And my belief in that magic was based on his past performance.
I believed that if Bob Pittman, known as a digital genius because of his tenure at AOL Time Warner, was seen to be embracing radio in the midst of a digital world, radio would garner great benefits from his enthusiasm and evangelism. I've known Bob since the 1970s and its clear that he never touches something unless he knows he can win big.
It's popular to criticize Clear Channel. You know the story: big business, impossible debt, deep cuts, and laid-off employees who are hurting. Just by joining the company, Bob Pittman became part of what some in our industry like to consider the "Evil Empire." Some say he can't win, working as he is with the company's debt burden and the directors at Bain Capital and T.H. Lee. Others say Pittman is basically the same type as his predecessors, Mark and Lowry Mays. Time will tell. But if I were a betting man, I'd bet on Pittman pulling Clear Channel out of its downward spiral and turning its negatives into positives.
A Whole-Industry Approach
I learned decades ago that Bob Pittman is unstoppable. I never truly understood his approach and why he almost always succeeds until I realized that, unlike most CEOs who take on the task of righting a company in trouble, Bob isn't only interested in fixing the company he works for. He is interested in fixing the industry – and, now, in fixing radio.
Others might keep their plans close to the vest while competitors flounder, but I honestly believe Pittman knows and understands that unless he can motivate change throughout the radio industry, he cannot accomplish his goals at Clear Channel. In other words: Clear Channel cannot succeed alone.
A lot of people in radio have said the industry must be united for change and improvement, but few seem to actually do anything to make it happen. Rather than simply pronouncing "We have to work together" as a PR ploy, Pittman is quietly orchestrating change throughout the industry.
Can We Trust Pittman's Leadership?
What if Bob Pittman sees a radio landscape you and I cannot yet see? Are we willing to trust his instincts and experience and follow the path he wants to develop for all of radio? Make no mistake: His goal is to build up Clear Channel. But without change throughout the industry, Clear Channel won't hit its goals. That's why Bob has to convince you to change your thinking. But can we trust his instincts?
Frankly, I don’t think we have a choice. Clear Channel is radio's biggest company, Pittman is the first Wall Street CEO to bring major clout as he joins radio, and the world is watching. He has managed to get the Wall Street Journal and others to track his plans. Who else in radio has been able to get people to pay attention and believe we can really change?
The Pittman Plan
Why is Bob Pittman the co-chairman of our Forecast conference, set for November 28 in New York? You guessed it: He needs you in order to change radio. I think you'll want to hear his updated vision for radio and find out what he believes are the strategic and tactical issues we all need to employ to bring radio to the next level. If Pittman can accomplish what he plans to accomplish, we as an industry will be transformed and taken to a new level of professionalism, excellence and competitiveness.
Is It All Hype?
Over the past 20-plus years, I've interviewed every major executive in the radio industry. I've heard every possible story, every bit of hype, all the lies, some of the truths, and an endless stream of platitudes. Though nearly everyone says "building a better industry together" or "our success is based on our employees," I can smell when they don't mean it.
Either Pittman has sandbagged me, or he truly does believe radio needs to change as an entire industry for us to have a solid and viable future – a future with more revenues than any time in our rich history.
One Of Our Strongest Agendas Yet
Knowing Bob's plans for significant change in radio, and the need to freshly address several issues, I asked him to chair this year's Forecast conference. And you'll find the entire Forecast agenda to be filled with some of the greatest minds in advertising and radio. This isn't the year to miss Forecast. Bob has tapped his Rolodex and opened new doors, and this year's agenda is particularly powerful.
Co-chairing Forecast with Pittman is Bill Koenigsberg, founder, President, and CEO of Horizon Media. Bill is highly respected for his insights on media and marketing trends, and he's made Horizon the largest and fastest-growing independent media agency in the world, with billing of $3.8 billion.
Our Big Concern
We have a limit of 200 attendees to the Forecast conference, and it sells out almost every year. This year, when word that Bob would be chair got out, we started seeing registrations from people who have never before attended. We suspect this year will be a sellout as well, and we cannot accept walk-up attendance once we've sold out. The Harvard club is strict about keeping our numbers to 200 people.
Also, this year our conference is early, on November 28, which we think will increase attendance. So our concern is going to be seating. Please reserve your place now by phoning 561-655-8778, or click here to register online.
PS: Critics will say this is just more Clear Channel posturing. Others will say radio cannot change and has a dim future. But I have always believed that with the right leadership, radio could far surpass the revenue crumbs it has always received. I think Pittman stands the best chance anyone could of leading our industry in the right direction, helping us clearly see where our focus should lie and how we can elevate all of our people to a higher level of competence and success.
you're running a radio station or radio company in any size market, if
you're an investor in radio, if you're a CFO or in the financial sector,
this may be the most significant one-day event you can attend to see
radio grow and have a strong 2013. I hope you'll consider attending.