Lisa Dollinger

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Lisa Dollinger is a public relations executive. In March 2005, she was named to the new position of Chief Communications Officer for the radio behemoth Clear Channel Worldwide. She had joined the company in January 2003, as Senior Vice-President of Marketing and Communications for Clear Channel's radio division. [1]

Prior to working for Clear Channel, Dollinger "was a marketing and public relations strategist based in Austin, Texas. As Vice President of Corporate Communications at Capstar Broadcasting Corporation, she was instrumental in building and promoting the company through its merger with Chancellor Media Corporation in 2000 (creating AMFM Inc.) and its subsequent acquisition by Clear Channel," reported the Houston Chronicle. [2]

Dollinger received a bachelor's degree in Organizational Communication from The University of Texas at Austin. [3]

Battling Negative Perceptions of Clear Channel

In 2003, as "the company's first, dedicated communications professional," Dollinger hired the public relations firm Brainerd Communications. Brainerd's specialties include crisis management. [4]

Several factors contributed to Clear Channel frequently receiving negative media and public attention. One was the company's rapid growth after the media deregulation allowed by the U.S. Telecommunications Act of 1996. [5] Another was the company's apparent political alignment with the Bush administration, evidenced by the company's program directors and some local stations pulling "potentially offensive songs" after the September 2001 terrorist attacks [6]; some stations banning songs by the Dixie Chicks after one band member criticized President Bush during a 2003 conference [7]; and affiliate stations organizing rallies, in an effort called Rally for America, to support the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 (reported in the New York Times, March 31, 2003). [8]

In response to the pro-war rally controversy, Dollinger said, "They're not intended to be pro-military. It's more of a thank you to the troops. They're just patriotic rallies. ... Any rallies that our stations have been a part of have been of their own initiative and in response to the expressed desires of their listeners and communities." [9]

Dollinger later recounted how she, as Clear Channel's first PR person and at a turbulent time, developed her "five-year plan": "I took inventory, I went on a listening tour, met with the media, conducted market research to find out what consumers thought about the company. I listened to employees, competitors, detractors and our fans on Wall Street." Her early focus was media meetings: "We had to clear the decks and let the media know they couldn't repeat inaccuracies about the company." [10]

Clear Channel president Mark Mays credited Dollinger's work with "a turnaround in public opinion of the company." The PR trade publication O'Dwyer's quoted Mays as saying that, previous to Dollinger's joining the company, Clear Channel was "largely misunderstood and fabrications were accepted as fact." He added, "Through Lisa's unfailing instincts and leadership, our company is known today as an innovative leader and positive change agent." [11]

Developing Clear Channel's "Brand"

As Clear Channel's first Chief Communications Officer, Dollinger set her focus on strengthening the company's brand. She said, "One thing the company came to realize was that Clear Channel is a business and financial brand. ... A large part of that is working to help the various local brands of the 1,200 radio stations strengthen their positions in their markets." [12]

Dollinger told PR Week that another focus would be internal communications among Clear Channel's 65,000 employees, 55,000 of whom are located in the United States. "Our employees need to be aware of the facts," she said, adding that "we're excited to take some of the lessons that we learned from external constituencies." Specifically, Dollinger planned to go on a "listening tour" to meet with employees across the U.S., similar to her damage control media tour in early 2003. "This is just [taking it] one step further," she said. [13]

The Houston Chronicle reported a more wide-ranging description of Dollinger's new role, including "corporate communications and branding, reputation and issues management, strategic positioning of the company's diverse global assets, media relations, consumer viral marketing, strategic sponsorships and employee communications," as well as working with executive management on "litigation, public policy and financial communications." [14]

Dollinger's promotion also came as Clear Channel "is preparing for a big push into Internet radio," according to O'Dwyer's. [15]

Clear Channel

Clear Channel Radio owns and operates over 1,200 radio stations in more than 250 markets across the U.S. Additionally, Clear Channel Radio holdings include Katz Radio Group, a national radio sales organization, and Premiere Radio Networks, syndicator of more than 100 radio programs including Rush Limbaugh, Coast to Coast AM (formerly hosted by Art Bell), Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Rick Dees, Casey Kasem, Jim Rome, and Carson Daly. Clear Channel Radio claims more than 110 million listeners weekly. More than 40,000 radio professionals in the United States take their work orders and paychecks from Clear Channel. (PDF file)

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