Newsmaker: D'Arcy Rudnay, Comcast

The Comcast CCO and SVP is spearheading the charge as her company enters a fascinating place at the forefront of new technology and communications.

The Comcast CCO and SVP is spearheading the charge as her company enters a fascinating place at the forefront of new technology and communications. 


Think about managing communications for a company in some of the fastest-moving sectors in business today, including high-speed Internet and wireless, and one that has exploded from 30,000 employees in 2002 to 125,000 today and you have an idea what a day in the life of D'Arcy Rudnay is like. Being the CCO and SVP of corporate communications at Comcast is complicated, to say the least.

"We are in this fascinating space, which is the intersection of communications and technology. There aren't many companies in the US that can say that," says Rudnay.

Comcast is the largest high-speed Internet provider and the third-largest phone company in the US. In addition to video distribution and advertising, it recently launched a home security product and is rapidly growing TV, Internet, and phone services for small- and medium-sized businesses.

Rudnay also had to finesse communications, through a rapid clip of acqusitions including trend website DailyCandy, and Fandango, as well as Comcast's purchase, in partnership with Time Warner, of Adelphia Communications.

In March she was promoted to chief communications officer in light of increased responsibilities for managing integrated initiatives involving NBCUniversal, which Comcast acquired a majority stake of in January 2011.

Rudnay points out that her oversight role with NBCUniversal pertains to integrated programs between the two companies. NBCUniversal manages its own communications on a day-to-day basis.

"From the beginning with NBCUniversal, we made it very clear to our employees, as well as to Wall Street, that we're going to integrate where it made sense, but they were going to manage themselves and operate in a very autonomous way.

"It was important to allow NBCUniversal to keep their creative culture and what is strong about that culture is very different from a cable company," says Rudnay.

2012-present
Chief communications officer and SVP, Comcast

2003-2012
Comcast
VP of corporate comms (2003-2007); and SVP of corporate comms, (2007-2012)

1999-2003
VP of corporate communications and media relations, Lincoln Financial Group

1996-1999
VP of communications and corporate Identity, Advanta

New synergies
The Olympics will be one of the highest-profile examples of the new synergies between Comcast and NBCUniversal. The companies are looking to change the digital experience around the Olympics by having the entire Games' content streamed online for customers for the first time.

"Consumers like to sit in front of their large-screen TVs, but they also like to see what is going on during the day," says Rudnay. An app was created to help consumers view the streamed content.

NBCUniversal and Comcast execs' joint pitch to the Olympic committee earlier this year helped NBC retain television rights to the Games until 2020.

"NBC has decades of telling phenomenal stories and we could lift that story with Comcast technology. That was a very important story to tell the Olympic committee," adds Rudnay.

The companies also leverage their joint expertise when marketing films and TV shows, such as NBC's The Voice.

When kids' movie Hop was released in spring 2011, viewers saw the Hop icon appearing at the bottom of their screen on Comcast cable networks, Internet platforms, and video on demand, as well as on NBC broadcast TV shows.

"Prior to the acquisition, there wasn't as much support for launches," says Rudnay. The number of promotions drove more viewership and more people going to see Hop within the Comcast footprint then outside the footprint.

Rudnay, who joined the company in 2003, reports to David Cohen, EVP, and works on special projects with chairman and CEO Brian Roberts.

"When I first came to Comcast in 2003, the company just finished acquiring AT&T Broadband. We literally bought a company that was twice our size. We had a four-person team managing communications from a product standpoint.

"It was very much a reactive function. I was hired to create a new function that would be able to react rapidly with the growing company," says Rudnay.

Expanding the structure and staffing was the top priority. She created a Washington function, bolstered consumer-facing, internal, and financial communications, and built teams that supported video products, high-speed Internet, and phone.

Rudnay has four direct reports and her office sits high atop the Comcast Center overlooking Philadelphia. At the center, 29 people work within the communications department, along with a network of field associates around the globe.

There are three major company divisions in the US - Northeast, West, and Central. Divisions could have anywhere from 25,000 to 35,000 employees.

Not surprisingly, video plays a big role in communicating to employees. Comcast has a studio where monthly leadership videos are created on diverse topics, including growth vehicles for the business, the customer experience, or a new product launch. CEO Roberts broadcasts to the entire company two or three times a year.

The communications function and investor relations team work closely together and support each other in terms of messages to Wall Street, investors, and the press.

The company posted solid increases in first quarter 2012. Revenue increased 22.7% to $14.9 billion.

"It takes a lot of focus and effort to explain what is driving those numbers. We work very hard on that and it is important to get right. We do the same whenever we have an acquisition, so it is clear what the company is trying to achieve," says Rudnay.

Women's Champion

Rudnay and the executive team at Comcast are bullish about ensuring that mentorship and a clear path of advancement is provided to associates at the company.

The Women's Network is an employee-run group that started in 2012 to aid career development for women at Comcast. Rudnay is one of three executive champions of the network. The group's first of many events took place on June 28 in Philadelphia and featured a half day of speakers and two panels of Comcast leaders discussing career management.

"I'm especially passionate about true career development for women. My sister and I were very lucky; our parents told us that if we studied and worked hard, we could do anything. It's very important to hear that from fathers, as well as mothers."

Communication skills
Rudnay's skills as a communicator and advisor have made her an indispensable part of the Comcast management team.

"D'Arcy is an exceptional leader who has been instrumental in helping Comcast successfully achieve its business goals as it has grown into a Fortune 50 company," says David Cohen, EVP, Comcast.

"She has never missed a beat in helping us address the opportunities and challenges of becoming an incredibly diverse company that operates in multiple industries."

Beyond the requirement to staff up in light of acquisitions, Rudnay's team needed to build its presence and manpower on the social media front.

Comcast started to build its social media function five years ago, in part to address customers having difficulties with products, and from the outset made the commitment to be very visible. An online customer-service department has grown from three to 13 and has helped to change the tone and tenor of the online conversation about Comcast.

Anyone who works in the communications team at Comcast must understand the breadth of the business, especially as divisions such as TV and online become more integrated and that itself is a tall order, but it's a challenge Rudnay relishes.

"When you're the size that we are, the challenge is keeping up with change and the speed of it because there are decisions that happen across the US all day and night.

"It's hard, but you wouldn't work in a communications function at a company like Comcast if you didn't like change," says Rudnay.

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