Collins | The Next Best Thing To Being There
Things are looking up. Last year at this time we were in something of a panic mode, putting the finishing touches on moving the MFM annual conference, Media Finance Focus, from its well-known, well-loved in-person conference format to an online version, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic that we were just beginning to navigate. Fast-forward 12 months, and we have so many reasons to be optimistic about eventually returning to our traditional in-person conference: people are receiving vaccines at an increasing rate, business is booming in many sectors, and life is beginning to feel as if it’s returning to normal. But since most of us still aren’t quite ready to be in large crowds, we’ve opted to keep the conference virtual for 2021.
Nonetheless, it is going to be an inspiring experience. Conference chair, Dave Bochenek, SVP, chief accounting officer, Sinclair Broadcast Group, and Mike Lavey, interim chief financial officer, chief accounting officer, and controller, Tribune Publishing Co., and our committees have worked tirelessly to develop an impressive, nearly three-month long event that covers the gamut of topics of interest to those on the financial side of the media industry. From the ongoing work from home issue to workplace culture to the very tactical and practical, the conference literally has something for each of our members. Sprinkle some engaging networking events throughout, and you have more than enough reasons to attend “Together Toward Tomorrow.”
I’ll start with the three keynote sessions, one each in May, June and July. The opening keynote, which launches the entire conference, takes place on May 11, and promises to shoot us out of the gate with a thought-provoking discussion. Titled “Playing it Forward: Adjusting the Sail,” it will be kicked off by Joe Batista, chief creatologist from Dell Computer, and targeted to all who are looking for a new playbook for business— and how to create a formula for change. Then, Dr. Tina M. Harris, endowed chair of race, media and cultural literacy at Louisiana State University, will present her research on critical communication pedagogy, race, and identity communication and diversity. We can expect some groundbreaking ideas, as well as some startling statistics.
I’m also thrilled to highlight that as part of the opening keynote, MFM will have the privilege of presenting the first Jeana Stanley Memorial Award to Hearst Corp./Heart Television. The association created this award to honor a person or company in the media industry that has made recognizable strides to promote diversity and inclusion. Jeana, who was VP of finance for Hearst and MFM’s treasurer, died unexpectedly a year ago. Hearst is endowing an intern fellowship in her name and MFM is recognizing the company for this and other work on diversity and inclusion. The award includes a full scholarship for the intern to attend the 2022 MFM conference.
The keynote address for June happens on the 15th. It will tackle the still relevant topic of the remote workforce, something many of us have been dealing with for well over a year. Michael Depp, editor of TVNewsCheck, will moderate panelists Don Thompson, EVP of HR at Sinclair Broadcast Group; James Jeffries, VP of IT operations for Gray Television; Joe Mechlinski, CEO of Shift; and Julie Anderson, editor-in-chief of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Each will offer their take on scenarios, best practices, and what WFH may look like in the future.
The final keynote session is scheduled for July 15. It promises to be an interesting two-parter. First up will be Gunnar Wiedenfels, CFO of Discovery Inc., speaking about maintaining corporate culture in a changing world. It’s an issue the company has addressed both with the relocation of its corporate headquarters from Silver Spring, Md., to Knoxville, Tenn., and again with the pandemic requiring most of its employees to work remotely. Part two of the keynote will be the sports outlook for 2021, with Pete Giorgio, sports practice leader at Deloitte, handling questions pitched to him around how live and televised sports will play out now and in the future (puns intended).
Our third keynote session is also when we will recognize our 2021 BCCA Contributor. In addition to taking on a new and expanded role as NBCUniversal’s vice president and global head of customer finance operations, Mary McKenna has made time to share her expertise and expert resources with our media credit members. Her contributions help members of MFM’s BCCA subsidiary fulfill its vision statement to be a media-specific leader that provides knowledge and strategic tools for order-to-cash optimization.
The conference will feature one supersession; it’s one you don’t want to miss. On June 22, Jack Myers, media ecologist and founder of MediaVillage+AdvancingDiversity.org will look at “Driving Revenue Growth Through Diversity, Education and More Efficient B2B Marketing.” Myers will explore trends in the advertising economy from 2010 to 2030, addressing why advertising/media is declining in time and attention from brand budget owners. He’ll also examine solutions, including why investment in diversity and education is a corporate growth imperative and how to increase investments in diversity and education without needing to increase budgets. On the topic of B2B marketing, he’ll explain why it’s the first to be disrupted and last to be reinvented for digital era growth.
Woven throughout the entire conference are scores of relevant, well-timed, notable sessions and roundtables, with a perfect smattering of networking events. Depending on your industry and interests, you can glean valuable and practicable information on advertising sales, data, political and legal hot topics, federal and state legislative efforts affecting media, music rights, sports content, and as always, myriad presentations on financial matters from accounting to taxes.
I personally can’t wait for the two social events: The first, on June 23, will be a happy hour with awards and music provided by a to-be-announced BMI singer/songwriter and a presentation of the 2021 Working Capital Awards, given to three association members who made significant contributions to help MFM achieve its goals: Lori Brock from Meredith; Take 2’s Jerry Calixto; and John Sanders of Bond & Pecaro.
Second, the closing brunch/lunch, with entertainment provided by another BMI singer/songwriter, will be capped with the MFM Rainmaker Awards being presented to three members whose efforts and contributions have helped the association grow: Neuhi Hubush from Gannett; Christine Pecher from Marketron; and Deloitte’s Darren Wilson. We’re proud to recognize these deserving winners.
This column is particularly timely, because today is the final day for early bird pricing for conference registration, a savings of up to $300. While you must be a member to attend the conference, not to fear: you can register as a non-member, and if you do, your registration fee includes a one-time-only one-year trial membership to MFM/BCCA. While most participants opt for full conference registration, we also offer an a la carte option so you can attend a few individual sessions or roundtables.
I’m willing to bet that 2021 is the final year for our conference to be held virtually. That signals the promise of returning to life similar to as we once knew it, and it’s a welcome signal. We will have a very successful conference, which will serve as a warm-up for years ahead, when we can hug colleagues we’ve known for decades, share a glass of wine and a laugh in person, and engage in enlightening hallway discussions. While we wait for that happy time to reappear, we can take advantage of what MFM’s team has meticulously planned for nearly three months this summer. I can’t wait to see you!
Mary M. Collins is president and CEO of the Media Financial Management Association and its BCCA subsidiary, the media industry’s credit association. She can be reached at [email protected] and via the association’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.