Little did John Mitton know that a stint as a golf caddy would pave the way to 35 years in radio and owning a one-of-a-kind advertising business in Sugar Land.
Everything has come full circle for the Quail Valley resident. Mitton is a new inductee into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame (TRHOF), one of 20 broadcasters who will be inducted Nov. 2 at the Texas Museum of Broadcasting and Communications in Kilgore. Also voted into the TRHOF is Fort Bend County resident and Houston broadcast legend Scott Sparks for his on-air work at KRBE, KHPT and KGLK.
The owner of Sugar Land-based Mitton Media, Mitton said his first radio boss, George Stokes of Houston’s classical music station KRTS, told the then-caddy he’d hire him to work at his radio station because of three things.
“He said, ‘I’ll hire you, because I know tour caddies pay attention to detail, they’re a people person and work great under pressure,’” Mitton said. “He was the best teacher ever, and KRTS is where I learned everything.”
While Mitton is a radio warrior who isn’t surprised by much, he said the news he received last week about his induction took him by surprise.
“I am honored and proud to be selected,” he said. “I am joining a wonderful group of broadcast professionals, many of whom are friends and former co-workers.”
Mitton started his nomadic radio career in 1973 – first as a student at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, then part-time as an announcer at Abilene’s contemporary Christian radio station, KCAD-FM. He then crossed over briefly to television, working in Corpus Christi as a director for “Action 10 News” at KZTV television.
When he arrived in Houston in 1987, he got his first taste of radio sales at classical music station KRTS-FM 92.1, convincing major clients like Fiesta grocery stores and Sound Warehouse to buy advertising on the 3,000-watt radio station.
Then it was onto powerhouse KRBE-FM, where he worked with fellow inductee Sparks.
As notoriously competitive as broadcasting is, Mitton needed to find a unique way to sell radio advertising. While working in sales at KRBE, he came up with the
idea for “recruitment advertising,” creating radio commercials about job listings.
“People use advertising to sell furniture, clothes, hamburgers, houses, whatever, but nobody puts a job ad on the radio,” Mitton said. “Why not? Because the same reasons that radio is so successful in retail would be the same reasons it would be so successful in recruitment.”
Mitton researched and found clients who needed to find employees. His first client for recruitment advertising came from Houston’s Westbury Hospital, which was looking to hire more nurses for its birthing center.
Mitton’s strategy of running job commercials allowed the hospital to fill all 15 job openings for experienced nurses – in less than one week. Not only did nurses
move to Westbury to start their new careers. Mitton said an attorney, who had recently discovered she was pregnant, had decided to have her baby at Westbury because the nurses they wanted to hire were described as caring and professional in Mitton’s radio commercials.
The campaign for the hospital was one of Mitton’s many success stories in advertising. And it was the start of Mitton’s mission to help companies while helping professionals find work.
In 1990, Mitton was hired by Houston’s top-rated country station, KIKK AM-FM, as a sales representative. He offered his “recruitment advertising” to major corporations looking to hire management executives and other professionals in Houston and southeast Texas.
When KIKK AM-FM was sold in 1993, Mitton was hired by KODA-FM 99.1, where he became the first local sales rep in Houston to sell 60-second radio commercials for a rate of $1,000 – which was more than twice the average of other Houston radio stations. By 2000, Mitton and his wife, Liz, started their own advertising agency, Mitton Media, working with clients nationwide. Mitton is the past president of the Houston Chapter of the Employment Management Association (EMA) and a winner of the Pinnacle Award from the Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM) in 2004.
Nominations for the Texas Radio Hall of Fame are made by lifetime voting members and then approved by its board.
“John Mitton was an absolute ace top biller and producer at KIKK radio when KIKK was the undisputed No. 1 country radio station in America,” said Josh Holstead, operations manager for the TRHOF. “He then went on to form Mitton Media, which now represents multiple advertisers.”
As for Sparks, Holstead said he delivered the honorary news in person. Sparks is assistant program director at 106.9 The Point and 107.5 The Eagle in Houston.