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Feature Interview

Vance Dillard

PD

WFFH/Salem Music Network

Nashville

To contact Vance click here


 


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Vance's Career Capsule

Started in 1967 with my first official part time job at WNCO in Ashland Ohio
Attended The Ohio State University from 1968-1970
First full time radio job at WMAN Mansfield, Ohio 1970-72
First Program Director job at WGLX Galion, Ohio 1972

Other career stations  WTVN Columbus, Ohio,  WKRC Cincinnati , Ohio, WDAE Tampa, WWBA St. Petersburg, Fl, WIP Philadelphia, WPCH Atlanta, WLW Cincinnati, WJXB Knoxville and now WFFH Nashville since 2003   Adult Contemporary Brand Manager for Jacor and Clear Channel

      



1. Tell us any recent changes (news) at WFFH...

We are still very excited about having Karen Kingsbury and her co-host Sarah Cruise afternoons on the Fish and our network.  Her stories and life experiences are real and we are able to touch our audience in so many ways. 

 

2. What is the best programming advice you've been given? The worst?

The best advice I have ever received is to “ask the audience”.  Being able to know with some certainty the music our audience wants to hear and the content they expect between the songs is critical for success.  We are now in a season where great content trumps everything from localism to creativity.  Not that those other things can’t be important, but being able to connect with your audience with great stories, conversation and encouragement is an important key to station success.

The worst advice I ever got was during the 9/11 crisis and aftermath.  An executive with the company I worked with at that time was opposed to any patriotic music for fear that it might drive away some advertising clients as they were assessing how much to advertise at that time.

 

3. Regarding your career, what are you most proud of?

Introduced the concept of All Christmas All Season long on WPCH Atlanta resulting in several number one rating books in Atlanta and a concept for many formats at Christmas for years to come.

First FM station to originate Major League Baseball broadcasts with the Atlanta Braves on WPCH in 1992

Hired the first active CCM artist as a morning show co host with Jaci Velasquez on 94 FM the Fish and Today’s Christian Music Network

Syndicated NightLight with KLTY personality Andrea on 94 FM the Fish and Today’s Christian Music

Syndicated New York Times best-selling author Karen Kingsbury on 94 FM the Fish and Today’s Christian Music

 

4. What is the ONE thing you must have to do your job every day?

The One thing I must have to do my job every day is “a sense of purpose.”  Christian radio really provides that opportunity and satisfaction.  I am just as competitive or maybe a little more competitive that the next guy or gal, but it is more than being the biggest, the largest or the most popular station.  Over the last few years for me it has become even more about “being better” and really striving to do the best with the resources we have.  Our team here understands that mission and as a result, our product is better than ever.  We get to hear first-hand from our listeners about how what we present is changing lives.  On the monetary side, because this is a business, as a commercial radio station, we are charged with getting results for our clients.  The success stories are many, and there are new successes all the time. 

 

5. Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?

The question about where talent will come from is a good one and has been asked over and over again for a number of years.  The talent pool is still out there, from high school, homeschool, college age and graduates to those who are seasoned with life’s experiences from both the secular and Christian world. We will continue to find and groom qualified candidates.  Compensation has and will continue to be an issue, but the cream of the crop will rise and there will be emerging talent.  CMB (Christian Music Broadcasters) as well as a number of radio operators are investing time and dollars into finding and developing the talent of the future.  Those of us who are now in the position of hiring need to be looking for and a nurturing those who will follow us in our calling.

 

6  Do you feel syndication is good or bad for Christian radio?

Syndication serves an important purpose, but it is not necessarily ideal for everyone.  Stations who have the budget to have live talent 24/7 can make a case for operating independently.  The case for syndication is getting stronger.  The role of any radio station is to provide strong content that is hard to duplicate by your competitor. (even if another Christian station does not exist)  At the Salem Music Network we believe we have talent content offerings that can flourish in most market situations.  These include Night Light with Andrea (originating from the very successful KLTY-Dallas) and New York Times best-selling author Karen Kingsbury.  And for over a decade we have been offering satellite delivery of Today’s Christian Music, The Word in Praise and the Solid Gospel networks.  Each of these networks has nationwide market success.  Localism in the 21st century is highly over rated.  Taking a look at many stations that claim to be originating their own local talent, we often find that the only thing local is the weather and the station liners.  Without content from unique, seasoned  talent, these stations are often missing the opportunity to build a stronger brand identify in their market.

 

7. Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?

I’m in my 40 something year of radio programing and in my 12th year of Christian radio.  I could not be prouder of our format.  Most of our obstacles are similar to those in the secular market place.  It is important to continue to provide compelling, unduplicatable content to compete in the radio marketplace.  We need to pay attention to the digital and social media opportunities to grow our audiences.  Music playlists continue to be critical to our success.  A combination of research and gut instinct and a strict discipline aimed at being in tune with our audience tastes as well as familiarity are key elements for every station in every market. The right combination of music, content (personality) and community involvement are the three major legs in the foundation of our radio stations and our format.

 

8. Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?

Even though I have been at this for a while, I continue to learn from a number of radio pros, the mentors of our time.  Chuck Finney and John Frost are two consultants who come to mind who are leading  and influencing the industry with their strong focus on content and talent.  From the music part of our business, I am impressed with the Passion ministry.  They are definitely tuned into the younger generation that will likely be the P1’s of most of our stations in the near future.  Watching how they interact with this audience from the music to the live event to the digital connections has numerous applications for our stations.  Overall,  I have been very fortunate throughout my career in many station and format situations to be influenced by a number of managers and talent.   Continued interaction with the media influencers and community stimulates me and often reminds me of things I have forgotten to do.  It is indeed an honor to serve in the Christian radio community.


 

 

 

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