KKDA’s PD George Cook Talks to Radio Facts

by Kevin Ross - Posted Sunday, June 24th, 2012. Category: URBAN

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RADIO FACTS: Can you give me a brief history of your career in the business?

GEORGE COOK: During the past few years, I have had the privilege to serve in the follow roles:

  • Brand Manager/Program Director ““ K104 (KKDA-FM), Service Broadcasting, Dallas, TX, 2010-Present
  • President/Chief Strategist — Geometric Media Consulting, Charleston, SC/Atlanta, GA, 2005-2010
  • Branding/Digital Media Strategist — The Hampton Agency, Atlanta, GA, 2008-2010 (now advisor)
  • Advisor/Facilitator — The Media Sales Institute, PSP/NAB/NABOB, Washington, DC, 2006-2010
  • Programming/Interactive Consultant — PSP Consulting, Washington, DC, 2006-2010 (now advisor)
  • Director of Programming/Operations — Sheridan Broadcasting Co., Pittsburgh, PA, 2003-2005

Prior to my time in Pittsburgh, I have also served as VP of Programming/Operations for Jabar Communications; Program Director for WKYS-FM, Washington, DC; and Operations Manager/Program Director for WWWZ-FM & WMGL-FM, Charleston, SC, among other media, management and marketing roles.

RF: You took, what is considered to a be, a huge risk by having a woman host your morning show. DeDe McGuire is certainly a pro who deserves the opportunity. How has that been working out for you?

GC: A huge risk? NO! A calculated risk? YES! DeDe is an incredibly funny, talented and creative communicator. Given her experience and background, I was confident that she could lead her own morning show. When the opportunity to place DeDe in the lead chair of the K104 Morning Show presented itself, my OM Michael Erickson was very supportive of the move. For me, it was an intuitive choice that represented a natural evolution of K104 mornings and another leap forward in DeDe’s brilliant broadcast career.

As you know, the competitive morning landscape in Dallas includes a number of syndicated and/or male led shows, so having a female host a morning show that’s all about Dallas-Ft. Worth – live, local and laugh-out-loud funny ““ truly provides K104 with differentiated competitive advantage and redefines the morning show experience in the Metroplex.

In just over a year, the K104 Morning Show is already a consistent Top 5 performer, 18-34, due to its elegant execution every day. More often than not, DeDe, her crew and producer Gary Saunders, beat syndicated personalities Steve Harvey, Tom Joyner, and Rickey Smiley (not to mention Cumulus local morning personality Atom Bomb), who are all established brands with multiple years on-air in the marketplace. Although the K104 Morning Show is just in its infancy, you can feel it already beginning to tap into its vast potential, especially with unique and compelling content like the “Mad Minute,” “DeDe’s Dirt,” “Baby Mama Drama” and “Lady Jade’s 20 Dates in 20 Days.” I can’t express how pleased I am with the initial success of the show and its current momentum.

RF: Service Broadcasting has an EXCELLENT, if not the BEST, reputation for urban radio announcers to work. Hyman Childs, the owner/partner is a radio vet who has worked in all areas of radio and who understands radio people. We get SO many complaints from the major corporationsradio people about being stifled and not being able to be themselves. What is it like to work for an owner who is such an incredible support system for the on-air team?

GC: Working for Mr. Childs is an amazing experience. His passion for our team and our brands is unparalleled. Although he is fun to work with every day, his intensity, focus, energy and competitive spirit are at high levels at all times. Mr. Childs is the REAL DEAL ““ one of the savviest operators in our industry”¦PERIOD. Personally and professionally, he’s thoughtful and supportive of everyone at the company. I love the fact that his door is always open. He enjoys every opportunity to share his unique insights on business and life with you in the hallways or anytime you step into his office.

When Mr. Childs engages you, he, first, seeks to compliment you and express his gratitude for the positive contributions that you are making to the organization. (He consistently does that without fail.) Then, he immediately challenges you to achieve more ““ and you feel compelled to make it happen.

Mr. Child’s big smile and warm laughter are simply infectious and inspiring. You can see his pure delight in his face whenever our team achieves a new ratings or revenue goal – or crafts a unique, new solution for clients.

Service Broadcasting does exactly what its name says. Everyday our team strives to create innovative and helpful ways to serve our community, our clients, our partners/vendors, our artists and each other. Mr. Childs is the catalyst for it all.

RF: Is urban radio (in general) TOO research intensive?

The problem is not being TOO research intensive. We are deluged in data (PPM, perceptual studies, focus groups, callout, surveys, etc.) The question is: Are we generating enough relevant insights from the research to fuel innovative and impactful ideas that will truly matter to the audience? Also, do we have the courage and discipline to invest in those ideas and implement them consistently and effectively to the benefit of the consumer?

RF: You came into the market after the previous PD had been there for many years. How did you get acclimated to the Dallas market so quickly and how have the listeners adapted to the changes?

GC: Dallas is a great radio market and I have always monitored the competitive landscape here, particularly since PPM became currency. Like many other successful Urban brands in diary, K104 performed at lower levels with the introduction of PPM. Prior to my arrival at Service Broadcasting, OM Michael Erickson ““ one of the greatest programming minds in media – did a lot of heavy lifting to make the station more PPM-friendly. So once I arrived at K104, I quickly built on Michael’s efforts by adding my unique skillset, expertise, energy and innovative ideas to begin crafting K104 into an even more authentic, relevant and “in-the-moment” hip hop brand, from there, I drew on past and present experiences and resources to get acclimated to the marketplace fast.

While consulting, I traveled to Dallas quite a few times for client meetings and conferences with Google, MusicMaster and other media companies in recent years. So I was already more intimately familiar with the competitive landscape and the impact of PPM here prior to my employment at Service Broadcasting.

Furthermore, during the PPM rollout, with the help of RCS/Media Monitors President/CEO Philippe Generali and former Arbitron VP Gary Marince (now SVP iHeartmedia (formerly Clear Channel) Research), I was allowed to study and beta-test Media Monitors data and software to share ideas on its relevant use (look, feel, reports, latency) and explore strategies for Urban and Rhythmic stations in PPM.

Finally, when I was on the ground in Dallas day-to-day, I spent a lot of time talking with my staff, friends, family and listeners about the station, music, lifestyle and Dallas communities. Whether in my office, at the club, at the mall or at my aunt’s house, very few people could escape my impromptu mini-focus groups. I was driven to learn everything I could about the Metroplex in the shortest time possible.   Consumer likes/dislikes, needs and opinions continue to evolve and there are still subtle nuances of the Metroplex that I have yet to absorb. But right now, K104 is experiencing its best ratings performance in three years. So, I’ll just keep adapting to the market.

RF: Congratulations…Do you believe in allowing jocks to market themselves and their shows via social networks? Many corporations don’t. Why do you feel this is important?

GC: If you want to build a sense of shared passion and shared experiences with listeners, stations and personalities have to have an active and relevant presence in social media on the networks that matter most to your audience. Note that each jock/show is a brand and must work cleverly to build their brand and engage its audience. The issue is created when a personality’s (sub) brand and content in social media is not in sync with the mother brand (radio station) and does not consistently reflect station and target audience values (or social media policies). In that case, the personality’s content must be filtered/curated or new personas/accounts created if the content is going to be linked to any the of station’s digital assets.

RF: As programmers and jocks age, we lose interest in a lot of the music that we play. I can tell that you still appreciate great music from the recent meeting with RCA in Vegas. Who are some of the up and coming acts that you see very bright futures for?

GC: I feel forever young and I am completely enamored or fascinated by anything new, especially new technology, new music and new artists. I may be a Brand Manager and Program Director now but I was a successful DJ and frustrated musician/producer first. So I understand the sacrifices many artists make to live their craft. Big Sean, Meek Mill, J. Cole and Elle Varner are among up and coming acts that I feel have immense talent and potential. And although he’s not new to the game, I love 2 Chainz and his campaign right now. Beyond that, I love hip hop and R&B product cycle that we’re in. There’s a lot great music out there. Usher’s back. Chris Brown and Trey Songz are bigger than ever. The YMCMB and Maybach Music Group movements are undeniable. I am a true fan of the music and the culture, and I am always excited to see/hear what’s next.
RF: Where do you see commercial urban radio in 5 years?

There are a lot of people willing to pontificate on where radio will be heading in the next few years. As for me, I can’t really say. You just never know what creative disruption in media will occur next ““ all you can do update your roadmap and adapt. You have work hard to stay in the flow of the culture and challenge your brands and yourself before competitors or market forces do. Creativity is a strategic multiplier. So I choose to remain creative, open and flexible so I have the ability to accurately sense and respond to what’s happening around me ““ in our industry or in other industries. By staying focused on the consumer and constantly seeking out innovative content and experiences that enhance the total consumer experience, I feel that no matter what happens in the near or distance future, I’ll be ready for the challenge and the opportunity. I encourage you to do the same