10 Questions with Jeff Hill, WGN Radio and Chamber Board Director

1. WGN Radio has been rolling out new products. What are they?

There are two key areas where we continue to evolve. One is digital assets. Podcasting is an important part of the radio world. We are building a platform for Chicago-based podcasts that can be advertiser-based or listener/consumer-based. It’s an exciting area of growth from a product standpoint, and we are making it efficient and effective for everyone involved. The other area is content generation for clients. We’ve figured out how to do this in a way that works both for listeners and advertisers, and stays on the proper side of the credibility line. We work with clients from Wintrust to Associated Bank to Allstate to Northwestern Medicine, and many others, to help them curate content that’s relevant to WGN Radio listeners, and effective for their own marketing and positioning needs.

2. What’s something you want more people to know about WGN Radio?

Radio itself is still a very effective part of the marketing mix. Everyone has rushed into the digital space from an advertising and marketing standpoint. And of course we’re a part of that too. But there’s still uncertainty about the most effective, efficient ways to be able to do that, especially for those who lack an audience base like the one we have.

Meanwhile, radio remains a relevant and effective place to get measurable ROI for advertisers. We have dozens of radio advertisers with us for 10 to 15 years who see constant ROI.

One thing, also, that’s unique about WGN Radio as compared to most stations is that our in-house team works directly with marketers – each company’s Director of Marketing and the staff who live in the sales cycles of their businesses. We’re constantly having conversations with them about the effectiveness of the different parts of their efforts.

3. What do you look for when hiring?

We look to hire people who are aggressive and creative. It’s also important to have a customer-first mentality and a collaborative mindset. The industry has a history of hiring people with media backgrounds. More and more now, we’re seeing that’s not critical to success in today’s broadcasting-plus-digital environment.

4. Same question, but with strategic partnerships.

They have to bring relevance to our audience and effectiveness to our advertisers.

5. Who influenced you throughout your career?

Many people have influenced me, from sales people I work with today to managers that I worked with over the years. I’m not sure one had a larger impact than the others, but all of them helped me, and often still do every day. Creating a culture that’s encouraging and positive is one of the important lessons I’ve learned. Sharing success and recognition is important. People have taught me to let your team have the success – it’s not all about you.

6. What’s your favorite work setup – your desk, someplace more informal?

I feel most comfortable out with the sales staff. Sitting down with them at their desks or in a huddle room, talking about clients and what we’re trying to accomplish. I’m at my best when I’m engaging with my sales team.

7. Outside of work, what does your perfect day look like?

Something with my family. Being outside. Playing catch with my boys (16 and 13 years old). Watching my daughter (18) play soccer. Out with my wife and kids, doing just about anything.

8. What books, movies, music or other art/entertainment/media are you into?

Music-wise, my kids keep me fairly current but I’m a child of the 70’s, so my taste tends to be classic rock: Beatles, Stones, Tom Petty. I like some classic Country: Johnny Cash, Hank Williams. It’s a similar theme with movies. I just watched The Godfather for the 50th time. I always enjoy the comedies I grew up with: Caddyshack and The Blues Brothers. I like Stand By Me. It’s fun introducing some of my favorites to my kids, but the big struggle in my house is trying to determine which show on Netflix we all want to watch. The kids’ tastes are constantly changing.

9. Everyone in business has setbacks. What’s one of yours?

There are hiring decisions I wish I had made differently. Some product decisions too. In retrospect, I might have stood my ground harder than I did at times. A lesson I learned is to be more forward thinking, to make decisions not just for something we’ve identified as a short-term issue or opportunity, but to also look at the impact further down the road.

10. Separate from your own, what industry are you watching?

We’re constantly looking at the digital industry and leaders within it beyond the obvious ones. We watch digital distribution companies. We’re tuned into emerging businesses and categories. Always looking for the next new opportunity in marketing and content.

+1: To what one trait would you attribute your career success?

Creativity. Internally and externally. I make sure we bring it to every aspect of my team’s work, from creative prospecting to cold-calling to solutions for clients.