Donna Hall’s 29-year career with Cox began as an AE for the Dayton Daily News. Today, she’s the VP/Market Manager for Cox Media Group’s Atlanta cluster, which includes the award-winning radio powerhouse WSB as well as four other stations. And she’s also responsible for managing six stations in Athens for CMG.
After two years with the newspaper, Hall transferred to radio, also as an AE. She then advanced to Local Sales Manager, General Sales Manager, and National Sales Manager before being promoted to the VP/GM job at the Dayton radio cluster in 1997 where she stayed for 13 years.
As Cox brought the radio, TV, and newspaper operations together in Dayton in 2010, she became the SVP of Marketing and Audience, overseeing newspaper circulation, TV programming and promotions, radio promotions, and research and marketing for all platforms. She then moved on to Cox Media, the media sales division for Cox Communications, where she was the Group VP, overseeing half of Cox Media’s media sales markets. And, in October of 2014, she returned to radio to take over the five-station cluster in Atlanta.
Donna Hall has been selected as one of Radio Ink’s Best Managers of 2016. She’ll appear in the October 24 issue of Radio Ink magazine along with other managers from across the country, in every market size, who are managing many brands and employees for their companies, charged with keeping the radio industry relevant, and responsible for huge amounts of revenue the industry depends on to remain vibrant. Here’s our extended interview with one of radio’s best…
Radio Ink: How important is a degree of local autonomy in making a station successful today, both in ratings and revenue?
Donna Hall: I think it’s very important for the local manager to be empowered to make decisions for their operation based on individual market demands. The differences in markets can be found in what listeners want, what advertisers need, and what employees desire in their workplace. Having a local manager that is dialed into and responding to those needs and wants is a critical difference in a
Radio Ink: In an increasingly competitive media environment, how do you attract “the brightest and best” to what many millennials may see as a stodgy, traditional medium, even with its shiny new digital platform offerings?
Donna Hall: I think a basic need for people – whether they’re a millennial or a boomer – is to know that they matter and that they are valued. They want to know quite specifically how they matter and how they impact an organization. To attract the brightest and best, we establish early in the interviewing process the value of the position they’re interviewing for, how they will impact the organization and contribute to our success, how we will pour ourselves into them as individuals and how we will invest in their growth as employees and people. There’s nothing stodgy about investing in people. We ensure that those interviewing and those that have had their jobs for years understand and feel that they are our most important resource.
Radio Ink: How do you balance work and personal life with all the responsibilities you have?
Donna Hall: It’s one of life’s biggest challenges these days. I’m working on “presence.” While I may work many hours, when I’m with my family, I work to truly be present with them. We have special routines that they can count on – whether it’s baking a different kind of cookie together every weekend or having a dependable outing each month – these are times they know that I am not just there but I’m dialed into them creating memories that will hopefully last a lifetime. For employees, I encourage them to use their vacation time, to have manageable hours and to be present with their families. I ask
in their one-on-one meetings how they’re doing that and how they’re connecting with their families or simply themselves.
Radio Ink: What is the number one challenge you face every day as a manager in 2016, and how are you overcoming it?
Donna Hall: We certainly need to be running the day-to-day business effectively and efficiently. At the same time, we need to be anticipating what the operation needs will be next year – and three years from now – so that we have great strategic plans from which to work. And in the midst of the strategic and tactical needs, we must also know and respond to the needs of our people. And then there are fires to put out. There are a lot of spinning plates. There seem to be more than ever before given that most of us are doing more with fewer resources. I work in a priority system that really helps me understand urgent, important, and both urgent and important. Having a stellar staff helps also. Delegating appropriately and understanding what I should take on versus what I should let them run with is a big need. And in delegating, you have to coach your folks on how they should delegate and hold them to it. I use a balance of systems and great leaders in the organization to help spin all those plates.
Radio Ink: Tell us what your biggest/most proud moment at the station or cluster was over the past 12 months.
Donna Hall: It makes me very happy and proud to see people in our stations recognized by our industry or by getting a promotion. We’ve had a few of those in the past year. Clark Howard being inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame, Condace Pressley, English Nick, and Matt Caesar being nominated for the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame, Monica Pearson being inducted into the NABJ Hall of Fame, Chris Eagan being promoted. These are all great affirmations. I’m terribly proud of them and all of our stellar performers.
Radio Ink: What is it going to take to get radio revenue growing at a decent pace every year moving forward?
Donna Hall: First, we need to deliver an outstanding product that listeners want. Then, we need to understand the business challenges of individual clients and work with them to solve those business challenges. We need to be less dependent on CPP business and get serious about solving the needs of local businesses. It’s not an overnight solution. It takes focus, determination and perseverance but it is critical to our long-term revenue health.
Reach out to Donna Hall to congratulate her on a fabulously successful career at Donna.Hall@coxinc.com