CEO Trustees met on January 18th at WHYY studios in Philadelphia for an engaging conversation with Bill Marrazzo, WHYYs CEO. Bill connected immediately with fellow CEOs and successfully tailored his discussion to the questions and interests of the Trustees. His open and candid responses revealed the everyday and long-term challenges WHYY faces in a media driven, rapidly changing and demanding world. Lively conversations and personal connections and interactions with each member ensured a successful and well received morning event.
CEO Trustees learned that during Bill's tenure, he has tripled the size of the newsroom, significantly grown its audience, and enabled WHYY to have the reputation as the "most trusted source of news and information".
Bill talked about the nature of the business and its challenges. This includes the changing demographics of its audience, funding sources, new avenues of reaching its audience, and disruptors (like satellite radio). Bill’s passion for his job and drive for excellence was evident. He feels that as a nonprofit, the bar should be even higher than a for-profit as they receive donations, do not pay taxes, and receive some government funding. He holds himself and his organization to an extremely high standard and clearly strives to provide exceptional service. Bill has brought the discipline of previously being a public company CEO and molded and shaped it to drive the success of WHYY. We also learned that PBS and NPR are network brands, individual stations are their own entities developing content, and thus WHYY is responsible for building its own brand.
Of particular interest is the innovation that is being pursued in reaching WHYY's audience and meeting their needs (current and future) through programming. Just one example is the use of billboards and alerting drivers of what is coming up on their radio station so they can tune in (if not already). And like many great organizations, WHYY is data driven – analyzing everything and making smart decisions. Bill deferred to Art Ellis his VP of Communications and Public Relations for facts and details around targeting, markets, and funding. Art’s knowledge and scope of the business was impressive and added to the depth of the discussions.
Across from our meeting room was the set of the new program, "You Oughta Know". Being in the studios was exhilarating. Rounding out the morning was a surprise drop in visit by radio personality Marty Moss-Coane, making it a truly unique experience.
Mark Spool, Ph.D., owner of Management Development Solutions, a leadership development consulting firm, arranged this meeting.