Tommy Kramer Tip #182 – When Repetition becomes Irritation

The whole concept of “reach and frequency” is one of the benchmarks of all advertising, not just radio. But since we don’t have artwork or a camera to tell part of the story, we have to be mindful of what our words are actually saying.

Yes, the listener needs to hear something a few times for it to penetrate the world he/she lives in, like a contest, a promotion, or a feature you run.

But when it comes to “regular” Content and your vocabulary, you really don’t want to sound repetitive at all. In real life conversations, using the same words, expressions, or “camera angles” over and over again is an indicator of laziness, lack of imagination, and lack of respect for the person you’re talking to.

Those things you “always say” are the ENEMY of communication.

I used to coach a morning show in Dallas with a host who made a little whistling noise every time he played “The Joker” by the Steve Miller Band. (You know, that place at the end where there’s a little “slide” guitar thing that sounds like a whistle.) Whenever that song came up, I really hoped that he WOULDN’T do the whistle – but he always did. Aaarrrggh.

So, if the question is “when does something become stale?” then the answer may as short as “the second time I hear it.” This is NOT something you should ever want the listener to think about.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #181 – Catch and Release

The whole concept of subtlety seems to have died out in the back yard, because no one heard it scratching against the door.

Go to “Catch and Release”, like in fishing. You catch a Moment, then you let it go. Trying to reach a second Moment is too far a “reach” for most air talents. We’re not standup comedians, who work tirelessly on “constructs” where each step leads to another one. Louis C. K. talks often about George Carlin’s process of writing for a special, then tossing that material out, which shocked Louis. He felt like “I’ve worked for 14 years to get this one hour of good stuff. How do you just throw that away?!”

Over time (and mustering up all his courage), he learned that you have to clear the slate to open up the mental space to create more.

Radio’s not really the medium for that “Construct” formula anyway. Quick hits, then movement, define great radio.

I hear so many shows that sound like the people in the studio are having a good time, but like kids at recess, they don’t want to come back into the classroom and settle down.

Catch, then Release. Stop hanging onto a falling satellite. Your listeners will really appreciate it.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #180 – Technique versus Style

In coaching, the typical fear is always that you, as a talent, might actually have to change some things in order to become more fully fleshed out. Technique is a part of it, and there are many Program Directors who are very good at teaching the various techniques that work best in any given format. I’ve got my own set (what a lot of people have called “The Kramer Rules”) that form that firmament, the solid rock foundation a talent builds on.

Caution: Techniques that don’t grow out of a specific Strategy are just flotsam floating by. Strategy dictates Techniques, not the other way around.

And then you have Style, which is what we work on the most. Many air talents think they already have a certain style, but it’s really just a mish-mash of techniques wrapped around an Attitude.

So I believe the way to look at it is yes, you want to learn the right techniques – and which ones are outdated, or just wrong from the word “go”. But how you DO those techniques are where your true Style comes from.

Example: The brilliant Mike Fisher, a truly great writer and fine air talent, was part of the staff at my last PD gig, a Talk station in Dallas. Early on, we went over certain techniques to handle callers – no “hi, how ya doin’ today?” stuff (no one cares), ONE point from each caller, no phony “and Jess has something to say…” antiquated “entry lines” into a call, etc.

And Mike did well, but he put his own twist on it with this phone call solicitation: “Get in, get on, and be good,” followed by giving the phone number.

That statement, that “set of rules” for his callers to follow, defined his Style. No b. s. was going to be tolerated, no filibusters, no boring analysis. Get in, get on, and be good. The pressure was on the CALLER, not Mike.

Brilliant.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #179 – Lee Abrams, Being Positive, Board Work

On the day I’m writing this tip, I just heard from my buddy Mancow Muller in Chicago. He’s not just an outstanding talent, but he also lives a very interesting life, seemingly knows everyone, and always has great stories to tell.

Tonight he’s having dinner with The Moody Blues (I love them), and radio genius Lee Abrams.

Lee and I go back to 1973 in Chicago, later worked in Cleveland together, and have stayed friends all this time. If you’re not familiar with Lee, just Google him. His accomplishments are amazing, but the things I remember most about being around Lee are (1) he was encouraging, but still mindful of what a talent needed to do to get to a higher level, and (2) he always, always, always, worded everything in positive language.

“Don’t miss this one” became “Make sure to see this one,” for instance. Our weather forecasts didn’t say “partly cloudy.” We said “partly sunny” or (even better) “some sunshine,” etc.

This carried forward into the hallways, too. There were no negative thoughts in a coaching session with Lee – ever.
For example, once, in Chicago, Lee wrote a post-aircheck session recap to the wonderful Gary Gears. Lee assured him that he was going to be the most popular afternoon drive jock in the country, praised all the gifts that Gary brought to the table, etc. Then at the bottom, Lee added:
P. S. Of course, learning to run the board is a prerequisite.

Hilarious.

I miss that time with Lee, and wonder how many stations now even THINK about things like whether something is worded as a positive or a negative, and whether board work even MATTERS.

The radio is full of sloppy, uncaring, slamming-things-on-top-of-one-another board work everywhere now. It’s tempting to fall back on the easiest excuse: “It’s because the computer runs everything.” But remember, your listeners hear this, too.

So let me channel Lee Abrams now and put it this way: We can CHANGE that.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #178 – The Different Meanings of “Experience”

Wish I could tell you how many times a PD has said he wanted to keep someone aboard, or hire someone, because he or she “has 20 years of experience.”

On the surface, that would seem like a real plus. But there are different types of experience. For example, I’ve had people name off the morning shows they were part of, only to find out (after some further fact-checking) that he or she was only a Producer that appeared on the air once in a while, not a full-fledged partner. That’s a completely different level of experience.

Look, some people have 20 years of continuous learning, while others THINK they have 20 years of “experience”, but it’s really only been 4 years of experience repeated five times. They didn’t LEARN anything after the first few years, either because no one at their past job(s) could really teach them, or because they got to a certain level, had some success, and came to believe that they knew all they needed to know. (Good luck with that. That’s the dinosaur that I call Jockosauras Rex.)

When you’re looking to hire someone, don’t go by “experience”. Go by what you hear, and what you feel in the interviewing process. Ask specific questions about what they’ve done. Call the people they used to work with, if you can. Listen to the station they last worked for (or are still at). Some people are true stars at a very young age. Others are just repeating what they’ve always done, and are stuck there.

The first thing I do with a talent is try to get a feel for whether or not that person is still willing to LEARN, regardless of how much so-called “experience” he or she might have.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #177 – Being Local Does NOT Always Win

There’s this myth going around these days when a station faces a syndicated show as a competitor. A lot of stations think, “Well, they’re not local, so they can’t beat us.”

WRONG.

Being Local does NOT always win. You have to be the best CHOICE. Just because you know street names and buildings doesn’t mean that you’re the most compelling, the most fun, or the most desirable companion in my car, or my office, or at home when I want the radio to keep me company.

I’ve coached many syndicated shows over the years in several different formats, and frankly, we’ve made a habit of blowing right past people who think that because they can “get out and shake hands” with listeners, they’re not in any trouble. But of course, the TINY percentage of your listeners that you’ll meet – or will EVER come to a station event – makes this idea totally outdated.

Whoever’s the most intriguing, the most entertaining, or just the most likable will win. Heritage, especially to Millennials, doesn’t mean much (if anything). It’s all about who’s the most relevant to THEIR lives.

And surprisingly, what we’ve seen for years now is that this is true for almost ALL age groups. In the internet/twitter/snapchat/instant information age, AUTHENTICITY is the only thing that plays well to everyone. The air talents who have that (regardless of their own age) always do well.

Drop “be local” as your focus and substitute “be GREAT AND local” and you’ll be on the right track.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #176 – Why You Shouldn’t Let Ratings Methodology Drive You Crazy

Ratings are important, obviously, but the “analytical” mindset can be crippling. Look at Sports, for instance. Baseball is talking about having computers “decide” whether a pitch is a ball or a strike, then relay the call through an ear bud to the home plate umpire, who will then repeat it.
The National Football League STILL can’t tell what a catch is – and pass interference is a complete mystery. NO ONE knows what it is. I’ve seen wide receivers practically clubbed to death, and nothing is called. But on other days, if you even tell a guy you don’t like his car, it’s a 15-yard penalty.

To me, obsessing over ratings, particularly weekly ratings, is rather insane.

By and large, you have to [1] play the right music, [2] have your service elements – News, Traffic, Weather – actually BE of service (not, say, a forecast recorded at 4am by a TV weather guy who cut it between teeth whitening treatments), and [3] have air talents who are the most engaging, the most relevant to my life, and/or the most entertaining. THEN I’ll listen. If you don’t, no weekly PPM measurement can help you, because you’ve substituted left-brain information for what is essentially a right-brain challenge.

Weekly ratings are a joke, like measuring your kid’s height every day. You need a little more time between measurements to get the full picture.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t care about ratings, but don’t let them take your eye off the ball.

Radio pioneer Gordon McClendon said, “Be Informative, Be Entertaining, or Be Quiet.” (But we all knew that “or be quiet” really meant “or you’ll be gone soon.”) Don’t WAIT for ratings methodology to tell you the obvious, or make you focus on things that won’t cure your problems. PROGRAM the station. Hire great people. Tell them the Strategy. And if they need it, get them some coaching help.

I can tell you if a station’s a Top 3 station in fifteen minutes of listening. Because something that happens on the air during that time will MATTER to me.

Work on that.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #175 – Is Your Show Actually FUN?

As more and more research flows in, one thing is clear: One of the main reasons people become fans of a show is “It’s fun!”

Now besides the fact that “fun” and “funny” are not the exact same thing, the takeaway should be making a really focused assessment of what you do each day, and holding your feet to the fire on whether or not it’s actually fun for the LISTENER, not just you.

An old friend contacted me last week to start working with his midday talent, but in the process of bringing each other up to speed on our lives, he mentioned that his morning show still does “The Impossible Question” trivia thing. He said, “It’s a lot of fun, and people really like it.”

Well…no, not really. Trivia – unless you really frame it in a way that’s fun – is not inherently fun or even interesting in itself. (Of all the contests you can do on the air, trivia tests the worst BY FAR. The reason is simple. It’s not 1972 anymore. With the 24/7 News cycle and the internet, trivia doesn’t pack much punch anymore. If I Google “trivia” – which I just did – 178 MILLION websites come up. So it’s certainly not unique or hard to find anymore. Plus, I can just ask Siri and have the answer in under 5 seconds.)

The Secret Sound? Well, okay, IF you do it right. A series of “No, that’s not right, but thanks for trying” breaks on the air burn a hole in the listener’s brain after a very short while.

That great thing you do where your little kid, who can barely talk, is on the air…is that fun? Are you sure?

So I guess what it boils down to is asking yourself, “Is this show actually fun?” Be honest. Tweak whatever needs it; throw away what can’t be improved.

The listener WILL find fun somewhere. You have to make yourself the best choice for that.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #174 – Establish the Touchstone EARLY

“I never knew that a lawn mower could make a guy so happy.” That was the opening line of a break I heard the other day.

My reaction was instantaneous – but not the one this talent would have wanted: So? Who cares?

Content has to be facilitated by establishing some sort of relevance to the listener EARLY – as early as possible.

This particular break was completely self-absorbed. A guy talking about how his riding lawn mower had broken, so he had to cut his huge lawn with the old-fashioned “push it to the end of the earth” mower. I suppose he considered it to be “sharing”, but it missed the mark on several levels:

1. It wasn’t top of mind.
2. It wasn’t particularly interesting.
3. It didn’t lead to any conclusion that informed or surprised me. It was just all about him.

Unless you can connect it to MY life (as a listener), I don’t care. And if I don’t care, I’m likely to just hit a button and go to a different station. Or, for that matter, I could just turn the radio off entirely.

It’s easy. “We’re all kind of like real estate agents. As we drive through the neighborhood we survey it – see which neighbor’s house needs some paint, or who hasn’t mowed his lawn in a month…”

Now you’ve gotten my attention, because I certainly CAN identify with that. (I had a neighbor whose stoned-out teenage son would leave their stinky trash cans out in the driveway for DAYS at a time, wafting their noxious fumes through the air. Not exactly the scent you want to inhale while you’re grilling some burgers. Unless you’re making them out of feet.)

Establish the “touchstone” EARLY. The quicker, the better. Really think about that first line out of your mouth that kicks off Content. You only have a few seconds to engage the listener…or not.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #173 – Happy Generic Fluff

It’s so different on the other end of the radio.

Recently, a morning show I just starting working with did a break on “Words to not use with kids.” Obviously, it was some article they plucked off the internet, and it sounded like it. They thought it was “interesting”, but to me it was just the easiest road to take, pumping something into the show that was actually just “filler” stuff to take up space between the banner ads on some website.

What I told them:
This isn’t a break that we “make better”. It’s a break that we don’t do.

“Happy generic fluff” is NOT meaningful Content, especially when it just sounds like a self-help or “motivational” book. Be better than that. You’re here to share your thoughts and feelings on things that matter most to the listener TODAY. Not “The 16 Most Important Foods to Avoid” which is usually subtitled something like “Number 9 will amaze you!” (It never does. And I’m going to keep eating hot sauce until it flows out of my ears, no matter what it does to my stomach lining.)

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.