Cumulus Media will rely less on top-down management and more on letting managers do the jobs they were hired for. That was a central message from Mary Berner addressing employees in a companywide webcast from Atlanta on her first day as CEO.
Like many execs beginning a speech in a stressful situation, Berner started her webcast, delivered from the Grand Hyatt in Buckhead, GA, by keeping things light. Contrary to rumor, Cumulus wasn’t planning to blow up the Nash country brand or file for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection—and no, she said with a smile, the company’s new CEO wasn’t, in fact, a man. Berner was, however, ready and eager to share results of an employee survey conducted last week that identified two top priorities—changing the Cumulus corporate culture and improving how it operates.
Berner said the company’s top-down management style has slowed it down and hurt its performance. She emphasized instilling pride in the company. “Programming is the oxygen of Cumulus,” the former magazine publishing exec said during the 20-minute talk, a phrase that Cumulus later tweeted. Berner added that Cumulus had too much employee turnover and she candidly shared such verbatim employee survey comments as, “I love my job, not my company.”
Without mentioning them by name, Berner was complimentary about the platform amassed by her predecessors, former CEO Lew Dickey and ex-executive VP of content and programming John Dickey. The company’s rapid evolution into the second-largest owner of radio stations brought growing pains which got in the way of its success, she said. Berner’s closing message: “The turnaround at Cumulus starts today. Do your job and do it well.”