This week, my Legends & Leaders guest is Rahsan-Rahsan Lindsay, an influential ambassador for the media community and role model for all exploring careers in media and advertising. Rahsan has built an unlikely career from his start as a biology major at Brown University; to an acting career and lead acting role in Cold Feet, one of the highest grossing films of 1999; to his position today as CEO of Mediaco Holding, the NASDAQ-listed owner of HOT97, WBLS Radio and Fairway Outdoor. Rahsan was recruited at Brown by Chicago-based Leo Burnett Agency, where he was introduced to media as a career and where he may have remained if not for his passion for acting that led to a move to New York and his introduction to opportunities in the TV industry. Once he landed in New York, his Leo Burnett credentials led him initially to a sales role at the Heritage Network and then to MTV Entertainment Networks (through an introduction by Laura Molen, today a senior NBCU executives and then a sales exec at Viacom).
In our future-focused conversation, Rahsan reflects on the transformation of the media and advertising business and the influence of radio as an essential social and societal connector for Black audiences. While the murder of George Floyd has led to increased emphasis on marketers' support for Black media, Rahsan points to the continued "disadvantage and uneven playing field that results from using scale as a barometer of value." HOT97, as the first dedicated Hip Hop radio and digital brand, enables marketers to speak to audiences in a culturally appropriate environment. "Words might be the same," he points out, "but the impact of the same words is different to different audiences." As an example, he points to HOT97 vs. Joe Rogan. "It's important for brands to understand these nuances and to have the conversations about the value of the environment in which messages appear," he says.
"Lots of companies don't invest in a diverse spectrum of media," he adds. "It's not just about programming that reflects the community but being the voice of the community. Diverse audiences should have a platform where issues relevant to them are discussed. Radio is truly a two-way discussion tool where communities come together."
For Rahsan, leading HOT97, WBLS and a regional out-of-home company is about the opportunity. "I look at this as a company that has great bones but has not been expanded to its capabilities. HOT97 is the first all-Hip Hop station in the country. It's not as big as WBLS based on [the radio audience] but from a digital perspective it's much larger. We have significant audiences across the country and a huge opportunity to expand the HOT97 brand and our Summer Jam event (which is expanding to Paris in October 2022). We believe on a national and international level, with live streaming, there are arms and legs for expanding the franchise."
I was initially introduced to Rahsan as an emerging leader at TV One by then Urban One CRO Keith Bowen (now President of News and Advertising at Altice USA). When Keith departed Urban One, Rahsan took on the leadership role, expanding his responsibilities to operations, sales planning, cross platform, digital and the studio. Rahsan's recipe for success is an important guide for all young people thinking about their future in media and advertising, and I urge all those in leadership roles to share this Legends & Leaders video with all those in the early stages of their careers.