For four women leading major media companies, disruption is something they are dealing with every day.

For Ginny Morris, chair and CEO of Hubbard Radio, podcasting, streaming music services and now smart speakers all have revolutionized the way radio operates. For Marian Pittman, executive vice president, digital strategy and research at Atlanta-based Cox Media Group, over-the-top video services are forcing her and her team to rethink how they do business. Meanwhile, Amy Emmerich, chief content officer for Refinery 29, spends her days figuring out how to disrupt the disruptors and stay ahead of the curve.

“The only constant is change,” said Emmerich, who’s also a member of the PromaxBDA board of directors. “The only advantage we have is that we are smaller so we can move and adapt faster.”

As a result of all of this, disruption has become less something to avoid and more something that forces companies to reinvent themselves, according to a panel moderated by Adweek and Politico’s Katy Bachman at NAB 2018 in Las Vegas late Monday.

Pittman, who says loving change is one of her talents, leans into disruption by working with a small group of employees each year on an initiative called the Cox Garage.

Over five intense days, the group brainstorms several initiatives that might either be a “challenge on the horizon or one that they are in the thick of,” said Pittman. Once the group settles on a concept, they come up with a presentation for Cox’s senior leadership team, with the intention of turning the idea into a business or an active strategy.

“It’s a diverse group of people, no more than 13, and we sort of hack ourselves,” she said.

“A lot of the newest ideas come from the content side, not from the business side,” said Emmerich. “I feel like I’m in the garage every day.”

One way many of these companies strive to keep their workforces connected, engaged and inspired is through reverse mentoring, by which younger employees who may have more of a handle on social media, for example, mentor older employees.

“We found it to be pretty exciting for my generation and exciting and enriching for the young people who love to be the experts and part of a company that has a foot in the past, present and future,” said Morris.

Managing a workforce in this constantly changing media environment “requires a lot of change management,” said Murial De Lathouwer, managing director and CEO, EVS Broadcast Equipment. “If you want to leverage what the new technology allows you to do, you have to explain what is the new potential and help [employees] to understand how you can adapt your processes. It’s looking at the goal you want to achieve, asking what is your potential and doing a much deeper rethinking of the way you work.”

Still, none of these women are shying way from disruption – in fact, they welcome it as a force that drives them to keep their businesses relevant and innovative.

“We’ve all had to come to terms with the fact that we have to meet the consumers where they are,” said Morris. “We used to be reluctant to send listeners to other platforms. Now we are available on them in a ubiquitous way so they can interact with our brand however they want.”

The business is so much more exciting than it was 20 years ago,” she continued. “Leading through disruption is trying to find the opportunity in the change rather than trying to avoid the change.”

Tags: nab 2018

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