Cumulus CMO: We Have Challenges…And Opportunities.


(by Radio Ink Publisher Deborah Parenti) Christina Albee, the newly minted CMO of Cumulus/Westwood One, greets visitors with a warm handshake and a bright smile. You can tell she’s already assessed her mission (her whiteboard alone proves that) and formulated a plan, and she’s excited about bringing it successfully to market.

What have you found to be your biggest challenges and opportunities here?
My biggest challenge is also my biggest opportunity: to smartly package and leverage our robust companywide assets. A company this size and with this many assets can be overwhelming. We have over 450 radio stations, a national network, 8,200 affiliates, 245 million unique monthly listeners, and award-winning talent across multiple formats. Every day, I uncover something new!

The company has both national scale and local reach. I’m looking for ways to connect to listeners everywhere they are, while scaling nationally when we need to, and to be effective going from national to local — the strategies are vastly different. I also want our company to be highly fluent when it comes to providing marketers solutions that we can solve with our assets, experience, and ideation. It’s also important to be able to measure our impact.

How has your experience, first in traditional and later, digital, impacted your branding approach?
Albee: My approach has dramatically changed from the way I viewed branding “then” to “now.” I have learned that it is not about the medium or delivery of the content or consumer experience, but the experience itself. It is exciting to experience how technology has changed the way that we consume content. Technology has provided value to our everyday lives. What that means to my approach is to simply be part of it.

We want to be everywhere our listeners are, over the air, online, mobile, socially, and at events. In my opinion, that’s basic table stakes. But it’s not about chasing the shiny new toy. Branding is about talking to the people you want to talk to in an organic way that is place- andtime-appropriate. We should use all of the tools available and constantly evaluate and try new ways, but stay true to the brand.

How have the needs of clients changed over the years?
Dramatically! For some, it’s finding the smartest way to reach their customer. For others, it’s help with media creative, research, concepts, and ideas. I’m happy that their change in needs has created more meaningful partnerships with our agencies and clients. I’d much rather build something meaningful than take an order. But one thing I hope never changes is helping brand marketers tap into and be part of our hard-earned relationship with our consumers — our listeners.

How have millennials influenced the approach advertisers need to take with these digitally savvy consumers?
In some cases, that’s been a forcing factor. Like previous generations, and those coming up, consumers will gravitate toward certain content outlets. Yes, millennials have created a lot of media, consumer, retail, technology, and product conversations, and even HR conversations in our industry. They are all good, as is anything that causes innovation.

Brands should stay true to who they are when, and if, they are talking to millennials. Content brands that reach millennials can help guide brand marketers on the best ways to connect. And for the record, AM/FM radio reaches more millennials weekly than any other media, according to Nielsen Comparable Metrics Report Q1 2016.

Does traditional media still work in influencing consumers?
Absolutely, but I would qualify that relevant content influences consumers. Great content transcends form and function.

How can radio use its digital platforms most effectively in branding?
Radio and radio advertisers can join together to learn about excellence in branding via digital and mobile. Advertising is not “one size fits all” for any medium; we learned that trying to translate television commercials into digital video. Radio can learn from digital companies that are working hard to figure out how to solve mediaindustry problems such as viewability and digital branding that drives engagement and interaction. We can elevate the creative standards, provide state-of-the-art production services, ask our on-air and streaming listeners what’s working and what’s not.

The audio universe has incredible brands that come to us from other platforms, along with their relationships with massive audiences to drive tune-in, in-car or on digital screens (mobile, iPad, laptop, or desktop). Great content + great branding = great listener experiences and advertising ROI, no matter the delivery system, as long as it’s done thoughtfully and strategically.


  1. I wonder, Deborah, particularly given how high their plates are already piled, if both Mary and/or Christina will ever get close to addressing the basic communicative aspects of the company. Another way of expressing this idea is to question whether Programming has been well, truly and forcefully challenged and held to account. I suspect – not.
    As anecdotal evidence, I accept the premise that: If we hear 10 radio stations – we’ve heard them all.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here