Industry Insight: 'In Reality, There’s No Such Thing As Disruption'

We speak to Wendy Goldberg, Chief Communication Officer at iHeartMedia


Ahead of her presentation at the Women In Strategy Summit in New York on March 21 & 22, we spoke to Wendy Goldberg, Chief Communication Officer at iHeartMedia.

Wendy is Executive Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for iHeartMedia, Inc. She oversees and executes strategic communications for all of the company's brands, including iHeartMedia and Clear Channel Outdoor, and is also responsible for the company’s internal and external communications; marketing of brands and products; financial communications; business-to-business marketing support; crisis communications; and developing and coordinating strategy for local marketing efforts. Goldberg has more than 15 years’ experience in providing management and strategic counsel to companies and their senior leaders. She served as Vice President of Business Development and Strategy for Hearst Entertainment & Syndication; Senior Vice President of Communications for Six Flags; and Vice President of Communications at America Online and then at AOL Time Warner. She also served as Press Secretary to the Administrator at the U.S. Small Business Administration and was a Vice President at RLM Finsbury, a global strategic communications firm headquartered in London and New York.

How did you get started in your career?

My first job was as a temporary receptionist in the office of Senator Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH) in Washington, DC. After this experience in politics and governing, I went to Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and then worked as a political media consultant in New York City. I went on the road with the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1992 to do press advance, and after they won I worked as Press Secretary to the Administrator at the U.S. Small Business Administration. A random phone call led to my next job as Vice President of Communications at America Online at a time when the consumer Internet was still in its infancy and most Americans didn’t even own a computer. Eventually this somewhat roundabout path led me to where I am today at iHeartMedia.

What are the main challenges your industry faces in the age of disruption?

iHeartMedia is a media and entertainment leader across broadcast radio, digital, mobile, social and live events, but I would say that with any industry, you have to follow the consumer. Study what they want and how they want to get it; as long as you remain in sync with your audience, they’ll remain loyal. In fact, today over 90% of Americans listen to broadcast radio every week.

How can companies use innovation to excel their strategy and what you done so far?

In today’s constantly-evolving media world, you need to be where your consumers are with the products and services we expect. As Clear Channel Radio, we launched the iHeartRadio digital music service in 2011 – and it became so popular with our listeners that we became iHeartMedia in 2014 in part because iHeart was the brand that best describes the company we are now – based on the strength of broadcast and available on every platform and device our listeners and advertisers want to find us. Connection and live experiences are increasingly important to our audience, so our national live music events, including the iHeartRadio Music Festival, iHeartRadio Music Awards, iHeartCountry Festival and other events are really driven by understanding what both consumers and advertisers want today.

Another example of our innovation is the recent launch of our iHeartRadio Plus and iHeartRadio All Access on demand subscription services, which make radio truly interactive and allow users to do things like replay a song they just heard on the radio and save it to a playlist – combining music discovery through live radio with the music collection experience for the very first time. We’re always developing new ideas and ways to reach consumers – whatever they indicate they’re interested in hearing or seeing or experiencing, we’ll be there with them to give them what they want and expect from us.

What does Leading Through Disruption mean to you?

Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with many companies that are said to be experiencing or driving industry “disruption” – but in reality, there’s no such thing as disruption. What people call ‘disruption’ is only finding better ways to give consumers what they want. When I joined AOL, the Internet was just beginning to emerge, and we had the monumental task of introducing this completely new concept into the lives of millions of people – but when they discovered that they could use it to do everything they had always done – communicating, shopping, getting news, booking travel, investing – but now they could do it easier and faster – consumer adoption followed rapidly.

Later, at iHeartMedia, we transformed the company into the 21st century multiplatform media and entertainment company that it is today by focusing on our audiences and what they wanted, which was to have their radio everywhere they were regardless of what device. Through all these experiences, I’ve learned constant and clear communication is critical – what does your company stand for and what’s its mission? And, as a leader, you must also truly believe that you can drive significant change – and fight for and support ideas you believe in regardless of whether the conventional wisdom thinks they’re possible.

What can be done to improve female representation in the business world?

The business world needs more female senior leaders and role models who understand the challenges facing women in the workplace that extend beyond simply “work/life balance.” Young women want to know how other women have built careers, challenges they’ve faced and resolved, and mistakes they’ve made and learned from.Their concerns are deeper than simply “Can I be a good parent and have a successful career?” I hope for women today and in the future that there is more of an appreciation of the role that building a career plays in women’s lives, and that more women are willing and able to share their insights with others who may just be entering the workplace.

What would be your piece of advice for women who are at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey?

I always tell young women that you shouldn’t plan to have a plan – no matter how productive mapping out your career in advance might feel. There’s no formula for success, and if you’re not willing to take advantage of opportunities as they arise because they may not be part of your plan, you could miss out on the experiences that end up really defining your career.

You can catch Mary's presentation at the Women In Strategy Summit in New York on March 21 & 22.

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