Career Capsule: Allen has been with Salem 23 years having served in various roles including General Manager, Regional Vice President, Senior Vice President and beginning in January 2023 in his current role. He is also an NAB Radio Board Member representing District 1.
At age 14, Allen talked his way into a summer job at WESC AM/FM in Greenville, SC. His dream was to be a morning radio personality. As it turned out, he stayed there almost 24 years, eventually becoming the General Manager. He came to Salem in 2000 as the first General Manager of the Atlanta market and led the launch and creation of 104.7 The Fish, WFSH, AM 920 The Answer and the re-launch of AM 970 WNIV. Prior to joining Salem, Allen was a General Manager for Clear Channel Communications (now iHeartMedia) in Greenville, S.C.
Allen’s involvement in broadcast industry leadership has included serving as Chairman of the Georgia Association of Broadcasters (2010) and as a board member of the South Carolina Broadcasters Association in the 1990s. He has twice been the closing keynote presenter at the GAB Radio Institute at the Grady College of Journalism at the University of Georgia. In 2011 he was the recipient of the Salem Media Group Outstanding Leadership Award.
Allen and his wife, Susan, have two married children and two grandsons so far. They live in the northern suburbs of Atlanta.
Allen, tell us what’s new at Salem Media… any news, changes etc… and what’s new with YOU?
At Salem the mission never changes but the methods of delivery are our opportunity for innovation. We began as a radio company and are still excited about the unique relationship listeners have with their favorite radio stations. That said, our growth goal is to provide our content wherever our audience wants to receive it so we’ve become a true multimedia multiplatform organization with podcasting, robust internet destinations, over-the-top TV, publishing, the SalemNow video streaming platform, and more. Our Salem Surround team also deploys the best digital products for ministries and advertisers. Salem even has an Influencer Network with social influencers who have a unique appeal to our Christian audience. With all these growth initiatives we are always breaking new ground somewhere in Salem.
What’s new with me is my new role as President of Broadcast Media which officially began January 1 of this year. I’m excited by the opportunity to add value to all of our Salem markets, to be surrounded by a great team of senior leaders, and grateful to Ed Atsinger, Dave Santrella, and David Evans for their confidence and mentorship and to Ed and Stu Epperson for their remarkable example to all of us.
How do you balance work & family, how important is it for someone in Christian Radio to ‘have a life”?
For those of us who love what we do, getting out of balance can be a temptation. While it’s crucial to give priority to margin, recovery, and sustainability, in all candor, with new responsibilities I may not be the best example of that for the next few months. 😊 The great news is my wife Susan does a terrific job of helping me maintain that balance. Having great adult kids and two young grandsons (ages 4 and 1) helps as well. I also have the joy of teaching a Bible study group every Sunday and that helps me maintain the discipline of early morning study and preparation.
How has your role changed since your promotion to your role as President, Broadcast Media?
Though I’ve been with Salem for 23 years, every new role comes with a new perspective and new responsibilities. I’ve tried to be intentional about focusing on some key growth initiatives and consistent messaging that keeps our team rowing in the same direction. My word for this year is MAXIMIZE which I chose because no matter who you are or what you do you should attempt to maximize your gifts and resources for the good of the team and to the glory of God. The larger responsibilities have certainly sharpened my sense of responsibility and need for prayer.
What’s something you’ve learned due to the pandemic, about Christian Radio, that you didn’t know before?
For one thing, I knew our team members in Salem were dedicated and resourceful, but I was amazed at just HOW good they were under those conditions. The pandemic and unrest in our country reinforced the listeners’ need for the hope and encouragement our formats deliver daily. While church gatherings were disrupted, we were able to minister to those listeners when they couldn’t gather in person. That reminds us that Christian radio has been uniquely called to come alongside the local church to convey the love of Christ in between weekly in-person gatherings.
What experience in your career has been most rewarding personally?
Wow, what a tough question, because I’ve been so blessed. I’ve always found it rewarding to be able to lead talented professionals and see them grow and thrive. That is a special joy. Since joining Salem in 2000 I’ve been able to deploy my experience in media to help our team make an eternal difference in people’s lives beyond just entertainment and information. What a great opportunity!
Where will new up and coming Christian Radio air talent come from?
I believe there will always be passionate, talented individuals who feel called to communicate our message in this medium. As the quality and professionalism of Christian radio has grown in the past 25 years, more pros from the general market have been drawn to our formats as a safe haven in which to practice their craft. Christian radio has not reason to take a “back seat” to other formats as a home for great talent.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian?
Given our unique message, especially that of our teaching stations, we all need to be vigilant about any attempt to interfere with our first amendment rights to communicate the truth of the gospel.
As a member of the NAB Radio board I’m also very concerned by what’s happening with the AM radio band particularly in the dashboard. Car makers need to be reminded about the 47 million US listeners to AM radio and the important role the band still plays in emergencies. Many Christian radio stations live in the AM band so that’s a format threat as well as a threat to public information and safety.
Finally, my prayer is that Christian media will continue to innovate and grow to keep pace with the general media landscape. As I said in my previous answer, Christian media shouldn’t take a back seat to any other form of communication. That will require pushing the envelope in new methods and technology.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
On the air, Paul Harvey and Larry Lujack were two very different broadcasters that influenced me as a kid. No one could weave information into a concise, compelling story like Paul Harvey. Lujack made a generation of kids want to grow up to be disc jockeys. I also have great admiration for so many wonderful on-air talents I’ve worked with. In this forum I would single out Kevin Avery and Taylor Scott in Atlanta. I didn’t discover them but I sure am glad I hired them 23 years ago.
In terms of leaders, my first General Manager and Mentor the late John Davenport still casts a long shadow of influence on my leadership. In my Salem career I’ve had an amazing up close view of two of Christian radio’s great pioneers, Ed Atsinger and Stu Epperson. They’ve set high standards for what Salem should strive for and most importantly, they’ve emphasized our mission above all. Joe Davis, my first boss at Salem has been a special mentor. I also can’t say enough about Dave Santrella who I’ve worked with so closely for over twenty years and our amazing Salem management team.