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Social Influencer Series | SVP Local Media, Rob Williams

Social Influencer Series | SVP Local Media, Rob Williams

This morning, I find myself in a reflective mood - deep in thought about my life now in martech. A journey that has been in many positive ways, digitally transformed. I am grinding coffee beans from Seattle, that were delivered "fresh roasted" from Amazon - to be brewed in an amazing new coffee pot (also delivered from Amazon). I am sitting in my home office where I work now, remotely - connecting with an old friend and former boss. A mentor really from my past life in media, Rob Williams.

Our paths crossed ten years ago at Greater Media. So much has changed over the past decade - a beautifully disruptive time. Netflix. AirBNB. Uber. Spotify. Google. The rise of social media and our reliance on our smartphones. Our former company is no longer.

No other industry has been more dramatically disrupted than the media industry. but one company - Townsquare Media has adapted and changed to not only survive, but thrive with smart leadership and people like Rob Williams. Rob is the Senior Vice President of Local Media at Townsquare and a visionary leader who knew that diversification into digital and events were the keys to keeping local radio relevant.

Townsquare Media is doing just that and winning. They come into this year as the top performing radio company in digital advertising according to Gordon Borrell, CEO of Borrell Associates. He says that, "Companies like Townsquare should no longer be thought of as radio companies" - as they are redefining what the future of media companies should look like.

I had the pleasure of being inspired by Rob for the past ten years of my life. On his team or just applying his tutelage to my current adventures in martech. I caught up with him recently and here is a snapshot of what he had to say:

Townsquare has taken a diversified approach to generating revenue and dominating the local digital advertising game. What has been the key to your success? 

Step one is that we decided to do it. Seriously. From its founding, Townsquare Media understood itself to be a diversified local media company. Radio is the core, our foundation. And, on that foundation we made a real commitment and investment to create a best in class local digital strategy. Those investments and our total commitment to diversification has set us apart from our peer group and made a real difference in our local markets.

Can you talk about the concept of “Local First” and how the Townsquare brand fits into that?

Everything begins with Local First. The image of a Town Square captures that ethos. The town square is where communities gather, the heart of the community. Our name reminds us of that fact and that by serving our local markets, we win. Whether listening to our radio stations, visiting our websites, attending our events, we look to connect with as many people in our markets as possible.

How are you incorporating events into your solutions portfolio AND how does digital tie in? 

Local events have always been part of the local radio experience. Again, we start with the local market need first. What might we do to connect with our listeners? For example, we will celebrate 20 years of WYRK Buffalo’s Taste of Country Concert this year. It’s a wonderful celebration of country music, WYRK, and the city of Buffalo. And digital is part of everything we do. Every Townsquare radio station has its own app, for example. Our apps create myriad ways for our listeners to connect with our radio stations and DJ’s.

How has social media and more broadly - your websites and digital app strategy changed the way you communicate with local audiences and leverage your reach?

We have many markets where we reach more people each month on our websites than we do over the air. And, keep in mind, we hold the #1 or #2 ratings position in almost all of our markets. Our goal is to have all our Radio P1’s (our most passionate fans) engage our brands through the app (and through social and digital).

Radio as an industry has stagnated, yet Townsquare continues to thrive. What are some of the missteps that you’ve seen the big players in the industry make?

I’d rather answer that by emphasizing what we have done. We have made smart investments to build our digital platform. We have hired talented people at the local level on both the content and sales sides to execute our digital strategy. And, we hold ourselves accountable to perform.

Gordon Borrell, CEO of Borrell Associates, said it well (Inside Radio, 8/8/18): 

Across its 67 markets, the Greenwich, CT-based company “holds a phenomenal share of addressable digital advertising,” Borrell says in his speech, “Who’s Really Winning The Local Digital Game: Pulling Back the Veil on the Top Performers.” Two of Townsquare’s market clusters control half of the addressable digital advertising in their markets, Borrell says. And Townsquare’s overall share of addressable digital ad dollars in its markets is 2.6 times the average for radio stations. What’s more, in seven markets, Borrell says Townsquare bills more digital revenue than any of its in-market competitors, including newspapers, TV and radio stations and yellow pages companies. Companies like Townsquare should no longer be thought of as radio companies, he says, a belief shared by numerous broadcasters that have replaced the word “radio” in their company names with “media.”

Townsquare Media is truly defining what being a media company looks like in the future and that future is now.

Speed Round:

Celebratory Cocktail: Cold beer after a round of golf or a long run!

Proudest Accomplishment: 30 years of marriage and 4 wonderful kids

Favorite Radio Station All Time: There are many. I love NJ 101.5, our true live and local talk station. I’ve also had the honor to manage iconic stations like Z100, New York; WMJX, Boston; WDAS, Philadelphia… All are favorites. To choose one, it would be WBLM, Portland, Maine. Great memories from my youth, and the “Blimp” still rocks today and captures what Townsquare Media is all about.

Go To Social Channel: LinkedIn and, increasingly, Twitter. I love the immediacy of it.

Inspirational #Hashtag: #discomfortzone

About the Interviewer:

Mark Keaney is a Husband, Dad, Coach, Mentor and Leader. With over 20 years of experience in the media industry and a wild ride in the world of tech start-up & social - Mark is helping brands deliver world class CX at Lithium Technologies and Spredfast, where he is the Regional Vice President of Sales for the East and Canada. His mantra is - Brand Globally. Market Locally. 

e: markkeaney8@gmail.com or t: @markkeaney2pt0

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