10 Questions with ... Ronni Hunter
June 28, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
- -WDJK/WBLY (AC/Country) Xenia, OH (Production/part-time on-air) 1988-1989
- -WAZU The Big Wazoo 102.9 (Active Rock) Dayton, OH (Nights 7p-12a) 1989-1991
- -WMGG Magic 99.7 (Classic Rock) Columbus, OH (Production/part-time on-air) 1991-1992
- -WBZX The Blitz 99.7 (Active Rock) Columbus, OH (APD/MD/middays/afternoons/mornings) 1992-2007
- -WRKZ The Rock 99.7 (Mainstream Rock) Columbus, OH (APD/MD/afternoons) 2007-2010
- -WRKZ Your Rock Station 99.7 The Blitz (Active Rock) Columbus, Ohio (APD/MD/afternoons) 2010-present
1) Your station was very visible during Rock on the Range. How do you prepare for something that big vs. your regular local events?
Preparation begins after the first of the year with Right Arm Entertainment and The Blitz with the announcement schedule. (Event date(s)/ TOS/ Pre-Sale). Once Gary Spivack calls in with the official Blitz Exclusive Announcement with the band list, it's on! We schedule band call-ins to pump up the excitement of the Ticket On-Sale date, Our website is covered and converted to everything and anything ROTR. We establish the ROTR Text Club where listeners can sign up and receive ROTR information as well as band performance times and which stage they'll play. We create on air ROTR Ticket Blitz' galore, ROTR Promotions for listeners etc., as well as our Day(s) of Broadcast Arrangements (IE: Blitz Stage, Blitz On-site presence, Blitz merchandise booth, On-site band interviews, jock/intern/staff schedules) Also, we have some kind of Blitz schwag we give to listeners from our Blitz Stage each year. Last year we threw out the very popular "The Blitz is Back" T-Shirts every hour both days. This year we gave away 4,000-plus Blitz Lanyards that we manually stuffed with the daily ROTR schedules and Client coupons. Listeners could put their tickets in them, too. They were a hot commodity, to say the least! The last two years of ROTR The Blitz has organized an industry party on that Friday, so we get busy throwing ideas around and putting that together too. This year it included not only our industry friends, but appearances from Staind, Avenged Sevenfold ... and even homegrown Downplay!
2) Who gave some of your favorite performances at ROTR?
That's a hard one to answer. I'm running so much of the time, and spending time meeting listeners and visitors to Columbus, which I believe is one of the most important parts of our job at ROTR. We're the hosts and our staff doesn't take that lightly. Our team does such a great job at it! Saying hello, shaking hands, welcoming concertgoers to ROTR and Columbus, directing people to the porta- johns, the ATM, First Aid and where to buy beer and Jager! I do try to sneak to as many of the three stages as humanly possible to catch at least a couple of songs from as many bands as I'm able.
With it being the 5th Anniversary of ROTR, the creators went balls-out so there were nothing but top-notch acts, which also makes it difficult to choose ... but I'll say KORN threw it DOWN ... HARD! And in no particular order, Egypt Central, Hinder, A Day To Remember, Black Label Society, Avenged Sevenfold, All That Remains, Disturbed, Bullet For My Valentine, Sick Puppies, Staind and Alter Bridge all BROUGHT IT HOME! Special thanks to Puddle of Mudd for stepping up and sitting in for Stone Sour on such short notice. We wish Roy Mayorga a speedy recovery! He's a bad-ass drummer!
3) Is it strange having stations from outside the market descend upon your town and the giant press tent?
Not at all. Everyone plays very well together and shares toys and batteries, or cables or whatever .... It makes it more exciting and fun for everybody. I love seeing radio friends from other markets every year. I especially get a kick out of the wide-eyed radio newcomers to the event. Rock On The Range is definitely an EXPERIENCE that everyone should have at least once in their lifetime! We are SOOO fortunate that Columbus is the host city every year! Greatest thing ever! Five years and counting, baby!
4) What is the aftermath like in Columbus? Is their a lot of recap on the air with listeners?
Most everyone is so exhausted when the dust settles that it's pretty quiet ... Nooooooo! Not really! There's always still a huge buzz about favorite band performances; stories are shared and pictures start to surface on Facebook! Everyone is a witness to something new that they've never seen before ... (and in some cases, may even require therapy later) Best part is when everyone's memory starts to come back about midweek. Seriously, there is just so much to do and see and hear. My best friend went to ROTR for the first time this year and she STILL hasn't stopped talking about it!
5) What was your first job in radio? Early influences?
102.9 The Big Wazoo Dayton Ohio! What a great group of characters. Kevin Cox, Kramer, Missy Kemper, Wild Wally, Joanna London, Sterling, Pat Rosiello, so many more ... and the leader of the pack (drum roll, please) ... Michael Luczak! That was when Active Rock had just started to piledrive over the radio! OH, MAN! The excitement was crazy amazing! Our group was so tight we showered together! Seriously, we ate, drank and dropped trou in downtown Dayton during 5 o'clock rush hour together! (I'm sure there are pictures still floating around out there in radioland somewhere) It was so big even our hot-ass receptionist came along and pulled her skirt up with us! I have to say I have been fortunate enough to be a part of 2 of what I consider THE BIG ONES! In 1992 when the Blitz hit the Air, for me it was like "WOW! ROCK LIGHTNING DOES STRIKE TWICE! Yessss!" Early influences ... easy ... Michael Luczak, Hal Fish, Kevin Cox, Missy Kemper, Suzy Waud, Joe Kelly and Jo Robinson hands down without a doubt! HUGE INFLUENCES! SO TALENTED AND TOTAL PRO'S! I have been so lucky to be surrounded by such amazing talents!
6) What led you to a career in radio? Was there a defining moment that made you realize "this is it"?
Growing up I listened to Suzy Waud, Joe Kelly and Jo Robinson on 92X, WNCI and QFM here in Columbus. Even though I'm a music junkie, I listened to their breaks as much if not more then the music. I just knew it's what I wanted to do and never even thought about doing anything else. It's so weird ... thinking back on it, I can't think of one single thing that I thought of going into except radio. I like to write but I even recall configuring that into doing radio somehow. Sitting on the floor of my bedroom, I knew I was just going to "do radio" ... I went into a four-year college for Communications and did a side of radio broadcast schooling at the same time ... next thing I knew I had my first radio gig. I worked my butt off, did all the crappy shifts, missed out on holidays and sleep and food, etc. and never looked back and have NEVER had any regrets!
7) If you could add any one full-time position to your budget with no questions asked, what would it be?
A staff massage therapist.
8) What is the one truth that has held constant throughout your career?
You're only as good as your last air shift/show! If I got hit by a bus tomorrow and I had a crappy show this afternoon ... that would suck! Give it all you got every time you crack that mic.
9) Please describe the best or worst promotion you've ever been part of?
Hummers on Ice. When the Blue Jackets Pro Hockey Team started in Columbus we had our brand-new Blitz Hummer and a second Hummer we were "Giving Away" for a year lease. We registered listeners on-air to win. During a break-in periods we drove them out on the ice ... (crickets ... crickets ... crickets) It was hysterical, but not something I'd suggest unless there's a "Happy Ending" for someone in the audience.
10) What led to your station's recent ratings increase?
We brought The Blitz back. I should say LISTENERS brought The Blitz back. After 15 years as The Blitz we took the station in a more Mainstream Rock direction and renamed it "The Rock" ... only thing was, it didn't work. The Blitz was a staple and it sent shock waves through Columbus. After giving "The Rock" all we had for just under two years, we made the decision to hold a "Town Hall Meeting" live on the air with Program Director Hal Fish and our entire full-time air staff. We let listeners call in and tell us their thoughts and boy, did they have plenty of them. It was awesome! We utilized our texting system, e-mail, Facebook, and every social media outlet we could to allow listeners to participate.
Afterwards we set up a voting system at theblitzorrock.com where listeners could vote "The Blitz" or "The Rock." We set up a "Reveal Party" during drivetime with a live broadcast that included our entire North American Broadcasting Family, our steadfast and sturdy listeners, and four area bands set to perform after the Big reveal. At 6p it was time find out what the future held for 99.7 based 100% on listeners votes! The Banner over the stage dropped down ... AND YOUR ROCK STATION 99.7 THE BLITZ was REBORN! It was the greatest moment EVER!
Since then we've made everything we do based on online forums solely by listener ratings - currently-played new music, new music we're considering playing and library music all gets rated regularly. We brought back a few daily features and added new ones all by listener online polls and comments/suggestions gathered from the Town Hall Meeting. (Local Stuff, Metal Shop, Metal Shop for the Masses, Mandatory Metallica, Choose it Or Lose it)
At the one-year marker we had another "Blitz Town Hall Meeting" at the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion to see how we were doing and get any new listener ideas and suggestions. It was attended by our entire staff and about 450 listeners. Hal prepared a slide presentation with some basic info about the Blitz' and the very online Feedback Forums that listeners participated in a few days prior. We encouraged everyone to bring their cell phones so they could take part in some live text polling where they could see the instant results on the big screen. We then opened up the floor for an open discussion for listeners. We have incorporated two more on-air features that were born from discussions and ideas at that Town Hall Meeting (The Local Stuff Spotlight and Deep Cuts) So to answer your question, listeners brought The Blitz back and we have been listening to them, which has led to our station's recent rating's increase.
Of all the skills you have gained through the years, is there an area you'd like to improve?
I'd like to stop feeling like throwing up every time I have a stage announcement or an appearance. After all these years I still feel like barfing starting about 24 hours beforehand. My palms are sweating and my heart is palpitating just typing this out right now. No joke!
What's the best concert you've been to so far this year and why?
OMG! Rock On The Range. Because it's a Live Rock Throw Down NOT to be missed!