Women to Watch: Renee Cassis


(By Charese Fruge’) Renee Cassis is a busy woman! She’s the owner of RC Communications Marketing, whose current client roster includes Gen Media Partners, Red Apple Media and 77WABC, and NOW! Media, HRN Hispanic Radio Network, and the syndicated Bob & Sheri. She also volunteers her PR and marketing services to the Broadcasters Foundation of America.

“I think of myself as a corporate image architect,” says Cassis. “I combine strategy and creativity to develop marketing and PR strategies that build brand awareness and equity for businesses, executives, and talent.”

Cassis got into the business because of her passion for music. “I’m a rock fan – from the Stones to the Ramones – and I was trying to get into Columbia or Epic Records,” she explains. “Both were owned by CBS at the time. I got a temp gig at WCBS-FM and thus began my journey in radio. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with working in radio, especially at an oldies station, which was its format at the time. I learned a lot about the roots of rock, and I fell in love with the connection radio has with the audience. You do an event and fans of the station show up and, somehow, they know your name even though you’re not on the air!”

Cassis began her radio career in 1982 at WCBS-FM as a Programming and Promotions Assistant. She became Promotions Director a few years later. In 1992, she became VP of Creative Services at Unistar Radio Networks, which was then purchased by Westwood One and remained in the role for most of the ‘90s. From 1999 to 2009, she also did a stint as VP, Corporate Marketing at the Radio Advertising Bureau. She worked in sales at Radio Ink for a couple of years which she says was hugely beneficial to launching RC Communications Marketing in 2011. “Working there taught me to not be afraid of making that cold call or asking for the order,” says Cassis. “Everyone should work in sales for at least one year.”

“Most people would be surprised to learn that I also spent a couple of years learning to be a sound engineer. I apprenticed (i.e., no money) at a recording studio, hauling amps and laying cables, and I got to do a few live-to-two-track recordings (talk about old school!) of friends’ bands during studio off-hours. I got tired of wearing jeans and a T-shirt, so I decided it was time to get serious and pursue a real career. The result of my apprenticeship is that I can set up my friends’ home audio/video systems.”

Cassis is most proud of starting her own business, at a time when things looked pretty bleak for her. “I was out of work, couldn’t find a job, and was a single mom raising a teenager,” she says. “I started freelancing to bring in money. At some point, I realized that I was so busy I hadn’t looked for a full-time job in a while. So, I made a logo and launched RC Communications Marketing.”

Getting to the current state of her career was not always easy for Cassis. Especially when you’re trying to build your own business. “Oddly, I always say I’m the luckiest girl in radio. I was let go from WCBS-FM when it came under new management, and I landed in network radio,” she explains. “At Unistar/Westwood, I finally got laid off after several management changes, and I ended up at the Radio Advertising Bureau. Every hurdle has led me to something bigger.”

“There are day-to-day challenges also, ranging from sexism to ageism, plus my own mistakes. My best advice on that is to own your mistake, apologize, and work really hard at not making that mistake again. No matter how down you feel, keep doing the best you can. Some of the most famous public figures in our society have bungled one thing or another and come back to great success.”

“The good news is the industry is more open to change than at any time I can remember,” says Cassis. We are embracing digital platforms and social media and experimenting with how we can gain audience and revenue on these platforms. That’s a big shift from 20 years ago when many broadcasters were afraid that streaming their signal on the internet would cannibalize their audience. The future is bright for radio, as long as we continue to focus on delivering the content that listeners want, and we make it easily accessible on every platform.”

“And as far as attracting a younger audience, the answer to the question is always the same – CONTENT, EXPERIENCE, CONNECTION. We know how to do this. Be at every concert, every parade, every local high school football game. Just about any time a station does a remote, crowds of people show up, and that includes young people.”

“In fact, Gen Z actually impresses me,” says Cassis. “They are eager to learn from older colleagues, and they’re just as eager to teach and show an older colleague how to do something on a cellphone or social media. They have a strong work ethic. I enjoy collaborating with them. They inspire me.”

When it comes to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Cassis says we haven’t moved the needle enough as an industry. “It’s not just about hiring more women, blacks, Hispanics, etc.,” she says. “It’s about not perceiving them as different. In the workplace, none of that should matter. Sadly, it still does. Sure, it’s definitely better than when I started working in 1982 – a lot better – but it’s still there. Even people who think they’re not sexist can behave in a sexist manner. There’s a fine line between having my back as an equal and rushing in to save me like I’m a damsel in distress. Which, if you knew me, you’d know how laughable that is.”

“Ageism is pretty rampant and unchecked too. Partly because to speak out against ageism exposes you as an elder, and nobody wants to admit to that… because of ageism. You see the dilemma there?”

As if there weren’t enough challenges in our industry these days, the advent of the use of AI has become a rapidly rising concern for Integrated Media. We know the concerns on the programming side of the industry (loss of jobs and authenticity), but how does it apply to Marketing and PR? Cassis says like research in the industry, evaluate with your gut, but it’s not the bible. “Is it cheating if I ask AI to write a quote for a press release? There are a lot of errors in AI’s answers,” she says. “At this stage of its development, at best it can be a thought-starter. I trust myself and my clients more than I trust AI to know the nuanced differences between stations with the same format or companies that offer products and services to stations. Not only does every station have its own voice, but so does every company, executive, and air personality. I make sure I tap into that when writing a press release or marketing piece.”

What keeps Cassis up at night? “I worry that we’re not moving fast enough on finding ways to monetize platforms beyond radio. Some stations have nailed it, but many are still figuring it out. I have no doubt that radio will succeed, but we need to speed it up, which means taking chances.”

And the million-dollar question for single working moms: how does she find balance? “I’m not sure I have,” says Cassis. “I was lucky. I had the best babysitter on the planet, who was with me for 14 years. I look back and there were times I was in a meeting or on a business trip when I should have been with my daughter. But there are also times I was with my daughter when I should have been at a meeting. You do the best you can. What I have learned is to think about what you will regret when you’re on your deathbed. It won’t be a missed meeting!”

Follow Renee Cassis on Facebook and LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/reneecassis.

Charese Fruge’ is an award-winning Content, Broadcast, and Marketing executive with over 20 years of experience in markets like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, San Diego, and Las Vegas. As the owner of MC Media, she works with radio brands and individual talents, especially young women, helping them grow their brands and negotiate on their own behalf. Find her at @MCMediaOnline. See more Women to Watch here.


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