Caroline Beasley May 2021 375

Beasley Media Group on Monday became the latest radio operator to mandate that employees be fully-vaccinated against COVID-19. Shortly after announcing the policy, CEO Caroline Beasley spoke with Inside Radio about how the company is rolling the policy out, what exemptions will be permitted and early reactions from employees. The virus has impacted the Beasley family on a personal level, with Caroline revealing during the interview that it was COVID that caused the June 2 death of her father, and company founder, George Beasley.

Did you work with market managers to develop the vaccine policy?

We did. We have been working on this for a long time. We sent a draft email out to the market managers several weeks ago, just to give them a heads-up, although they knew we were going to be doing this [since] early summer. But I wanted them to have time to digest it, so that when we did announce it to the whole workforce, there would be no surprises and they would be completely prepared.

This is a pretty massive undertaking. How are you dispatching resources and helping people get the answers they need?

We knew that this was something that ultimately we wanted to do. Early summer is when we started working on it, and we wanted to be very thoughtful in how we rolled this out. Last week, we had our [virtual] market managers’ meeting. We had the CEO of Naples Community Hospital and one of their top physicians present, and it allowed us to ask questions so they could dispel any rumors or anything out there about the vaccine – giving our market managers more information. And we will continue to do that as we work through this process.

What reactions have you received from employees so far?

The reactions that I have received have all been “thank you.” I haven't received negative reactions. I'm not sure that I will, they may go toward the market managers.

Any idea what percentage of your workforce is already vaccinated?

Through the first rollout, and this wasn't a mandatory response, we have as of now 60% – I think it's actually higher than that.

Can you give us an update on your return-to-office plans?

We're back in the office. And depending on when their markets opened up, that's when the expectation was that our employees come back in the office. So for the most part we're fully back with feet on the ground.

What are the vaccination exemptions that some employees may qualify for?

It’s what we have seen from other companies and best practices, and the advice that we have been given. These have to be real exemptions and for real reasons. As we get further into this, and our employees come to us for these exemptions, they will have to be documented and proven. And you have to have a note from your doctor that outlines that.

Do you think that vaccine mandates should be adopted by all radio companies?

I think that’s a company-by-company decision. It was something for us that was very, very important. And rather than saying, mandate, we're saying a condition of employment.

It just makes sense. And it has impacted our family, our company, on a personal level with my dad [company founder George Beasley] passing away from COVID. And he had been vaccinated. So we see firsthand the pain and suffering that can be caused as a result of this God awful virus.

And in talking with many physicians, what we're told is the Delta variant and what we're going through today is an unvaccinated pandemic. Every doctor I have spoken with, they are just encouraging, ‘Get vaccinated, get vaccinated.’ And with the FDA coming out today fully approving the Pfizer vaccine… Unless there is a religious or medical reason you can't be vaccinated, you should be. And I will tell you, from a CEO level, having to call your employees who have lost a mom or a dad or a sibling, or grandparent, it's hard. It's emotionally hard on the employees as well, because there are not too many people that you meet that haven't been impacted by COVID. And with Beasley, we’re back to work, and if one of our employees comes down with COVID, you're concerned about the health and safety of your employees and everyone else who’s working with them. So it's just the right thing to do.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.