Just How Bad Was It When Berner Took Over?


Cumulus CEO Mary Berner has never shied away from criticizing the previous leadership at Cumulus. Tuesday was no different when she was interviewed by Emmis New York Market Manager Charlie Morgan at CRS. Berner says when she first took over, she asked a corporate assistant to help her get a company-wide survey out to employees and was met with dead silence. “We don’t have a way to communicate with employees,” Berner said she was told. Berner says when the survey finally went out, half the company (Cumulus has about 6,000 employees) responded within 24 hours.

Berner says the company still does two employee surveys every year. Employees grade the CEO on her performance, as well as the senior executives and market managers. “If we’re not doing something, we know right away.”

One of the themes from the first survey was toxic culture, which, Berner says, came up over and over again. She says her executive team met for three straight days to figure out a new culture. “What we needed to be was everything we weren’t.”

Berner also says a big part of the company turnaround was allowing the programmers to do their job. An office of programming was set up to provide resources, insight, data, tracking, and format expertise. She says when you let the content creators do their thing, good people will excel. “If you’re good at what you do you don’t want people telling you what to do every day.” That was another complaint about the previous leadership, that everything was managed from the top down, with very few decisions being made on the local level, and many times the local programmers never hearing back from corporate when they made requests. The company now has a rule to respond to every request within 48 hours.



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