10 Questions with ... Vance Dillard
July 28, 2014
1. Brief History/Synopsis
I was born in Atlanta...my mom and dad met there when they both were going to pharmacy school. My dad went on to Auburn University and became a veterinarian. By the time I was ten we had lived in Alabama, California and then settled in Ohio (Ashland) I went on to The Ohio State University, but quickly found my way to full time radio back near my hometown and began my 40 plus year career in radio. I have four daughters from a previous marriage and my wife Mary has one son. Together we have a total of 17 grandchildren. The girls outnumber the boys. Two or our grandkids are adopted from Ethiopia. We also have a set of twins as grandkids. Mary also attended and is a graduate of the Ohio State University. We met here in Nashville about 6 years ago with the help of EHarmony and we've been married for 4 and a half years.
2. What was it that made you catch the bug for radio?
At one time I had a beautiful boy soprano singing voice. By high school I was receiving compliments on my speaking voice. I went off to college with the idea that I would get a journalism or communications degree. The money and the grades ran out and I decided to pursue a full time job in radio. The rest as they say is history. Beginning with my very first jobs in radio I was very fortunate to work with some people who taught and encouraged me on how to develop "the radio craft". I also recognize that in high school I had some extraordinary teachers who helped me build a very strong educational foundation. Learning how to type and write were two of those very valuable skills.
3. What was the most successful on-air bit you were a part of?
Very early in my career I was the evening DJ/personality at 610/WTVN Columbus Ohio. We went through a season or two of nightly tornadoes and warnings. Many nights it was me and my newsman buddy Tom Burris, tracking and warning that the storms that were rolling through.(and still getting all the commercials in) While it was not the most creative part of radio, it was something very serious that we were able to be very good at that helped our community. In the years to come on other stations in other cities I was part of snow storm coverage as well as hurricane warnings.
4. With the advent of "instant everything", how do you show-prep? How do you prepare?
I'm a strong advocate of show prep. In our business, our lives should be show prep. I don't do a daily on air show, but in my job as coach and PD, my continual suggestion for my staff is to always be looking for great content or contents ideas. Content is all around us, in the checkout line, in the waiting room, in the car line, in your small group, and of course in all of the media sites and devices we currently enjoy. The many strong talent I have worked with over the years are ones who always have more content than they can use, but are always ready with some great experiences and observations on life.
5. What would you categorize as your greatest personal challenge?
I have two challenges that I deal with on a daily basis. The first one is time....there is literally not enough time in a workday to accomplish everything I would like to, which results in what I think is a good thing. Whatever the task, good or bad, I always attempt to give it my best shot, and I realize that if I pursue it with an attitude of excellence, time will not necessarily limit the result. The other challenge is communication. I am as guilty as anyone in failing to communicate. Again as with time, I always try and encourage "over communication" with the hope that there is some degree of success. I'm still learning....and I think that is a good thing.
6. Who are three people that you look to as mentors/leaders?
In the mid 70's I was in Cincinnati at WKRC. Randy Michaels became my boss. Over the years as a result of Randy's leadership, I learned more about the relationship between building a brand and marketing than I think I could ever have learned at Ohio State.
Another career mentor for me was John Hogan. We worked together at Peach 94.9 and John taught me the value of thinking through and being able to express and effectively communicate what you wanted to accomplish to gain approval for the project and to improve your likelihood for success. Together we evolved Peach94.9 from an easy listening station to a very successful Adult Contemporary station, helping to build the profitability of our entire company, paving the way (and pay for) many other Jacor and Clear Channel initiatives.
Currently I have the honor of working with Chuck Finney coaching our morning show. With Chuck's assistance and guidance I have learned more about working with our talent to grow and solidify one of Christian radio's most unique morning shows (Doug and Jaci Velasquez) in a very competitive and crowded landscape. Chuck's wisdom and style and solid Christian ethics are helping to make me an even better manager and person.
7. What do you believe is the single greatest factor in building artist share / cume?
I extremely passionate about the music we play in building audience cume and share. The foundation of our radio station and network begins with very careful and consistent music decisions and rotations. Equally important is what we put between the songs. Having compelling unduplicateable talent like Doug and Jaci Velasquez, Karen Kingsbury and Night Light with Andrea are keys to our audience and brand success.
8. Most successful station promotion ever?
Best promotion I designed? Remember the Oklahoma City Bombing? I was PD of Peach 94.9 in Atlanta. The bombing occurred at the end of the week. Over the weekend I kept searching for an idea of how we could help our listeners relate and recover from this terrible event. Watching the news I remember hearing a child say that we should plant a tree for the children who died in the bombing. That's when I decided that we would plant 168 trees at schools in metro Atlanta in memory of those who died. I had no idea where the trees would come from or the best time to plant them. With the help of the local agriculture extension office and some other local folks, in the fall of that year we planted 168 trees at schools throughout the city and suburbs. Years later I had the opportunity to view the memorial site that now stands in place of the courthouse in Oklahoma City.
9. What's the last book you read?
Bob Buford's book "Halftime" is helping to shape this part of my life and has helped me realize that this part of my life can and should be the most purposeful in honoring God. I have had a long and rewarding career. As long as my company feels that I am giving them what they need, and I feel that I am fulfilling what He wants me to do, this is where you will find me.
10. Radio 101...How would you advise a programmer/air-talent who wants to get better at their craft?
I almost blew my career bigtime on my first job. It was a Sunday morning and I was playing the religion tapes and commercials and I had it all mixed up, so much that the station manager came in to find out what was going on. He told me I would never amount to anything if I didn't learn to ask questions. He was right. I was guilty of not asking the right questions and not asking for help. My advice for any programmer is just that. Ask a lot of questions and don't assume that you know all the answers. Surround yourself with good people and make sure you are giving credit to everyone you can.
1. One last break on the air....what do you say?
...when it is all said and done, what I would hope people would say about me is this. " He made a difference."