I am very proud to announce that the recipient of the 2010 Borrell Award of Merit for “Innovator of the Year” is Colleen Brown, CEO and President of Fisher Communications.
We had a range of remarkable people to pick from. As you can imagine, the Internet and all its apps afford a tremendous amount of creativity. But remember that we had a litmus test for all of our awards – results, and financial viability. We didn’t want to select someone who merely implemented a great idea or rose to their 15 minutes of fame on a groundswell of page views. We wanted to select someone who, through some unusual feat, created something that not only caused us to say, Wow!, but also delivered sustainable value to their company.
That person is Colleen Brown. During our opening session at our conference in New York Monday, we heard from Colleen’s vice president of interactive, Troy McGuire, that the company hit two milestones last month: it now has more than 100 hyperlocal sites, and more importantly, surpassed a whopping 1,000 advertisers. And they didn’t start launching those sites until August 2009.
We could have selected Troy or some of the other geniuses in the Fisher Interactive camp for this award, and they would certainly be deserving. But frankly, we believe that it’s the CEO who creates the environment that spawns innovation, holds the bean counters at bay, and demagnetizes the interactive operations enough to allow it to grow in ways that traditional brand managers might thwart.
When you privately ask an interactive manager at a local media company to talk about the support he’s getting from the CEO, you sometimes get more expletives than accolades. But I think this quote from Fisher’s senior vice president, Troy McGuire, says a lot. “She’s been unflagging in her support,” he said. “She has gone well beyond what a typical broadcast company CEO might do to ensure our success.”
What’s happening in Seattle and at other Fisher properties is counter-culture change. And counter-culture change doesn’t happen with just lip service, or with a CEO who offers moral support and then lets the Interactive manager duke out the details. Or when the new venture is starved of resources because the mothership is suffering a bad year. Change may happen in the ranks, but it has to come from the top.
And at the top of this remarkable story is one remarkable CEO. We’re very pleased to give this award to Colleen Brown.