Jan 16, 2024 - Business

Nielsen hires BuzzFeed, Viacom vet to lead comms

Photo: Carole Robinson. Photo credit: Scott Gries

Nielsen on Tuesday named Carole Robinson, a veteran media industry leader, as its next chief communications officer, reporting to its newly appointed CEO Karthik Rao.

Why it matters: Robinson's hiring comes amid a persistent narrative from TV network executives and ad buyers that Nielsen hasn't done enough to modernize.

Yes, but: Media firms still rely heavily on Nielsen for its ratings.

Details: Robinson will be "critically important" to have the company's messaging "accurately reflect our narrative as a company, and as a vital component of the media ecosystem," Rao said in a note to staff.

  • "Not only do we need to tell that story to our considerable constituents outside of Nielsen, but, quite frankly even more importantly, we need to assure that you all know and understand it too," he added.
  • Robinson will sit on Nielsen's executive management team and will be responsible for all of the company's external media relations, internal communications and corporate philanthropy. She'll also be responsible for executive communications for Rao and the management team.

Between the lines: Robinson has ample experience managing crisis communications internally and externally, as well as experience working with companies trying to modernize.

  • Robinson oversaw the communication around BuzzFeed's chaotic IPO in 2021 and its subsequent bumpy ride on the public markets as chief communications officer for the past seven years.
  • Prior to BuzzFeed, she was executive vice president of communications at ViacomCBS, where she oversaw everything from Kanye West crashing Taylor Swift's Video Music Awards acceptance speech to Paramount Studios' breakup with Tom Cruise.
  • In a statement, Robinson said she looks forward to bringing her experience from previous companies "where change was the norm" to her new role.

The big picture: Nielsen's $16 billion private equity takeover in 2022 marked a huge milestone in its transition from linear to digital media measurement.

  • The firm has managed to retain its position as the dominant TV measurement firm, but it's facing a new swath of competition from well-funded upstarts.
  • It's experienced a number of setbacks internally and externally, including losing — and then regaining — its measurement accreditation, and undergoing two rounds of layoffs last year.
  • TV networks cried foul when Nielsen announced changes to its livestreaming methodology that incorporated Amazon's proprietary first-party data, but not theirs yet. Nielsen reversed its decision and then subsequently tried to revisit the effort in the fall of 2023.

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