CLOSE – UP: Bob Hunt Is Media Man for All Seasons

Casey, June

Bob Hunt sums up the trajectory of his professional life this way: 46 mailroom boy makes good.”

These days Hunt, a native Angeleno, is the account manager for a group of four Palm Springs’ stations that include KPSI, AM and FM, KDES FM, and KGPM. While the path he took to reach his current position has been long and varied, three elements have been constants in his busy career: media, marketing, and sales.

Hunt attended Cal State Long Beach during the “time of Proposition 13,” when the successful fight to cut homeowners’ property tax rates translated into declining state revenues and cuts in school art and music departments, along with other educational programs deemed “non-essential.” Hunt, who had graduated with a degree in music education ‘ abandoned his dream of teaching

It was his part-time college job that led him to his lifetime career path. Like many students, Hunt had worked his way through the university by flipping burgers. in a fastfood restaurant.

“I worked the graveyard shift at Jack-in-the-Box,” recalled Hunt.

Ten years later, he was still with Foodmaker, the hamburger chain’s corporate owner, having worked his way up the ladder to become regional marketing manager, responsible for 350 stores from Los Angeles to Bishop. His work entailed planning store openings and implementing market-wide promotions.

Many of those promotions were done in concert with radio stations. “That was my first taste of radio,” he said.

After a decade, Hunt moved to J. Walter Thompson, where he handled the advertising agency’s Burger King account for Los Angeles and San Diego for two years. He found agency work both challenging and frustrating.

“A friend at KABC told me I was a natural for the sales side of the business,” he said.

Taking the friend’s advice, Hunt went to work for the largest independent publisher of telephone directories in the Unites States, where he began as a “territory sales person.”

He was promoted to the position of art department manager, charged with the task of “stream] ining the department from a business standpoint.” He leap-frogged from that position into high-level sales administration, where he was responsible for hiring and training staff for the company’s 26 directories in three states.

“Once again – mailroom boy makes good,” Hunt said with a laugh.

He eventually quit to establish his own Yellow Pages company, but the siren call of media work proved too strong. Hunt closed his fledgling business and joined the sales department of KABC affiliate KESQ.

The local media markets were undergoing a period of tremendous change and growth at the time. Palm Springs was “very young in a media sense,” he said, and because of its sparse population, the region tended to “be swept under the rug, discounted.”

The population hovered around 120,000, “extremely small” In terms of television markets, according to Hunt. The region had a market ranking of 187 among 250.

“It was a market dominated by ma and pa-type ownerships,” he said.

The enormous changes that were about to engulf the industry brought further opportunities for Hunt.

Over his eight years at KESO, Hunt worked his way up from a sales position to a writer-producer of commercials. “It was an important growth period for me,” be said.

A relaxation of FCC rules opened the way to multiple ownership of stations, as long as one owner controlled no more than 35 percent of the market. That ruling change, combined with rapid population growth, propelled the region out of the “ma and pa” arena. It also meant a greater scope of responsibility for Hunt.

When he was recruited to be the general sales manager for KDFX, Hunt participated in the task of “literally building a TV station from scratch.” He even wielded the jackhammer preparatory to putting the poles in place for the new station’s satellite dishes.

“It was an exciting time,” said Hunt, who was also instrumental in building the sales staff and bringing in programming people.”

Eventually, he rose to become second in, command at the station, responsible for traffic (scheduling of commercials and promotions) and accounting, as well for local and national sales.

Following the consolidation of KESO with KDFX, Hunt pursued his long-time dream of opening his own agency. Among the clients of his new company, Marketing Exchange, were: the Palm Springs Desert Museum, five local franchises of NAPA auto parts, three Fantastic Sam’s hair salons, and IPSSA, the national Independent Pool and Spa Service Association.

He chose to keep his agency small, reveling in the freedom to “do it all” from writing and producing ads to billing clients, all while working with “my dog at my feet.”

But, as much as he loved the freedom of being his own boss, Hunt realized he loved mainstream media more. Three months ago, he closed his agency and joined KPSI. For Hunt “it was like coming home again.”

Media work allows him the time to indulge in his second passion, the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce. Hunt, who has served on the board for a decade, is currently the organization’s vice president for business affairs.

He is also handling the publicity for Leadership Coachella

Valley, a consortium of six valley chambers of commerce that

have united to create a training program for business owners

and entrepreneurs whose goal is to move into the public arena

to help guide the future direction of their local communities.

Organized into 10 monthly sessions, the course focuses on every aspect of the valley’s infrastructure, to give participants a comprehensive understanding of governmental interactions. According to Hunt, “they are getting first-hand knowledge from the people in the job (who are) doing it.”

The first full-day session in October focused on governmental affairs. Later sessions will look at the environment, housing and urban development and, naturally, Hunt’s particular area of passion and expertise-media communications.

“I’ve had a great journey,” says Hunt of his long and successful professional life. “I’ve enjoyed it immensely.”

Copyright Daily Planet Publishing Inc. Nov 01, 2000

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