Managers: Be Innovative If You Want To Win


And that’s exactly what Jeff Wilson does. Jeff has been in radio for over 36 years, in many different capacities. He has worked on-air, as a controller, a sales manager, a GM, and now Senior RVP. He is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations for Radio One’s DC cluster, with additional oversight of Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, along with various corporate assignments, including serving on the Radio One Corporate Operating Committee.

Jeff Wilson’s peers describe him this way to Radio Ink: “Jeff is an amazing leader who has a passion for making a difference in the lives of the team he works with and the community he serves. He has an unwaivering ability to make everyone he meets feel just as important as the next. He not only talks about serving but actually lives and breathes it with compassion and integrity. He has a history of going into a market, helping his team focus on a vision and goal and reaching those goals. He is the true defniniton of a leader.”

Jeff Wilson has been voted one of Radio Ink’s Best Managers of 2016. Here is our extended interview with Jeff on his management style and what it takes to be a successful leader in the radio industry today.

Radio Ink: How important is a degree of local autonomy in making a station successful today, both in ratings and revenue?
Jeff Wilson: Do you remember what everybody did on September 12, 2001 (pause, ponder…)? Answer: They went to a house of worship. Many hadn’t been before, and many haven’t been since, but people went to church (or synagogue, etc.). The point is, while the digital economy evolves at light speed, we all still have the inescapable need for human community. The view is better on TV, but I will still freeze with strangers in the Cleveland Brown’s stadium because of our inescapable need for human community. And that’s what we do with our local brands — nurture the local need for human community. Therefore, some local autonomy in bringing these brands together with our local communities is critical. It’s our unique position moving forward. And while our brands may be extensions of major corporations, they can still connect at the most interpersonal of levels: locally!

Radio Ink: How are you attracting Millenials to radio?

Jeff Wilson with Donnie Simpson Afternoon show.
Jeff Wilson with Donnie Simpson Afternoon show.

Jeff Wilson: We don’t use the word “radio” very often, but rather see ourselves as pioneers and/or innovators, helping an industry reinvent itself and rediscover glory days on the horizon. While others see “challenges” and discuss “the good old days,” we see these as the most opportunistic times in the history of whatever this industry may become. We see ourselves as being in a place to accomplish nothing short of making history. With that, most of us don’t set alarm clocks anymore, and it doesn’t seem much like “work.” I’m proud that we have attracted what I would consider some of the best and brightest Millennials to our team. We learn and grow from each other while blazing new trails every day.

Radio Ink: What’s the best way to juggle work and family?
Jeff Wilson: I have a saying, “You’ll never ‘find time,’ you must ‘make time.’” Therefore, I absolutely encourage and nurture balance in our lives, while attempting to lead by example. Personally, I’ve completed 103 marathons, and my medals hang in my office to share our commitment to discipline and time away from the office. In addition, we take time at least once a month for a staff social (Halloween party, movie screening, staff barbeque, etc.) and we celebrate our families and/or significant others who remain our “Most Valuable Players” — those who keep us grounded.

Radio Ink: What is the number one challenge you face every day as a manager in 2016, and how are you overcoming it?
Jeff Wilson: I am challenged by people who think it’s okay to keep “playing radio,” versus embracing historic opportunities to reshape our industry to thrive and prosper in this new evolving economy. The way we are overcoming that challenge is by winning in new and innovative ways, beyond anything labeled “traditional radio.” Winning takes on a life of its own, and becomes contagious. If we do it right, and we are, it becomes a movement. And eventually it becomes historic.

Radio Ink: Tell us what your biggest/most proud moment at the station or cluster was over the past 12 months.
Jeff Wilson: Recently we asked our Washington D.C. integrated marketing team, “Who sold ‘ratings’ in the past two weeks?” To the person, everybody shook their head, “No, not me.” While we have ratings, our team offers ideas and marketing solutions to build business. They transact investments, while treating things they can’t control as nothing more than headwinds or tailwinds. I was, and am, profoundly proud.

Radio Ink: What is it going to take to get radio revenue growing at a decent pace every year moving forward?
Jeff Wilson:Tireless customer focus, versus product focus, that permeates the DNA of every cell of our organizations. We have a saying at Radio One D.C., “We orchestrate the appropriate vehicles to advance the goals of our partners.” That says nothing about “radio.” Companies and entire industries have failed by being too product focused, while failing to courageously and boldly retool, driven by customer needs (reference “The Marketing Myopia”, Theodore Levitt, Harvard Business Review). I believe that if our industry can carry itself with an exceptional level of integrity and customer focus while expanding our brands and offerings with investment quality, our evolution will be on point and revenue will follow. By the way, we still love “radio.”

Reach out to Jeff to congratulate him on being chosen as one of Radio’s Best Managers and on his extremely successful radio career at [email protected]


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