Richard Brown doesn’t see success as having your name on a bridge. Instead, he believes it’s helping people get across the bridge. He’s been labeled as a fixer. He likes systems, breaking them down and rebuilding them.
The 28-year-old is one of the Rising Stars honored by the News Media Alliance. He was Director of Digital Operations & Sales at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a Gannett property, when nominated, but more recently he has stepped into the position of Digital Optimization Manager.
He’s usually shy about telling people his age. He says it goes one of two ways. “I feel like there’s a ‘Wow! I didn’t do enough when I was young,’” he says. “Or two, there is the perception that if I’m only 28, anyone can do this job.”
He tries to use his age as a selling point, since he can’t make himself age any faster. He’s healthy, ready to travel and very much a workhorse.
For businesses trying to attract millennials, Richard recommends being authentic and giving younger employees a purpose. “You can’t just put on a backwards hat and put pool tables in the offices,” he says. “It’s almost condescending. They want to be a part of something bigger, a purpose.”
He sees himself as a civil servant.
His day to day sees everything from sales to overseeing campaigns. “It’s not just providing a report. It’s about telling a story,” he says.
He started in media when he was 17, making his own online greeting card company. He built a platform for annual cards from businesses (i.e. happy thanksgiving from your dentist). The local paper did a story on the company and Richard ended up at the paper.
Before his current role with Gannett, he spent a few years at Omaha World-Herald with Berkshire Hathaway Media. He credits BH Media for teaching him business strategy. He laughs, saying he’s very big on expenses because of working at BH. He learned not just management, but leadership. “As a leader, you have to have poise; you are the entity for that company,” he says.
He believes in top-down leadership. “You’ve got to have some heart, some empathy and understanding,” Richard says.
Growing up playing sports, he equates it to being a coach. “You can recruit players, you can teach them the plays, but if they don’t want to play for you, you won’t have a great season,” he explains.
He has set his eyes on eventually becoming a general manager. He is ready to be the team captain. He believes he can sew together the disconnect between millennials and companies.
Richard predicts the future of news media will be very fast. “We have to be a lot more aggressively proactive in telling our story and controlling our story,” he says.
And he’s the man for the job.