Tommy Kramer Tip #167 – What you SHOULD want out of phone calls

One of the things I get asked about a lot is phone calls. Some PD’s think that putting a lot of phone calls on the air is the whole point; that putting people who’ve never had any sort of training in mass communication, speech, acting, or writing will somehow be better than an air talent who’s had years of experience and doesn’t ramble on about insignificant details when he or she is telling a story.

It’s not that I don’t like callers being on the air; I’ve done shows that were extremely phone-intensive. But you have to have a sense of what the real point is. So think of it this way:

You don’t want to take phone calls. You want to take verbal photographs from people. If what’s being said doesn’t make you see something, or imagine in your mind what it would be like to be in that person’s shoes, it’s not worth airing.

And let me clarify that you want snapshots, not movies. Every second that you let a caller continue to talk, you face being driven off a cliff. If possible, record and EDIT every call. In a Talk format, be prepared to simply cut off a caller, then go on to make your point, or hit the button to go to the next thing.

Whenever I tell a group of people this stuff, someone says “But won’t that sound rude?”
No. What’s rude is subjecting the Listener to a boring, information-driven call that seems ten times longer than it actually is. Frankly, the listener deserves better than 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 #166 – Character vs. Caricature

“Look at how she treats me…” immediately followed by the guy who said it laughing at his own remark.

That’s what I heard an air talent do the other day on a team show that I was listening to.

Sometimes in coaching, I ask a talent “What were you trying to do there?”
What that question really means is something I really don’t want to print. : )

Besides the fact that this line was just a useless, extraneous remark, when you point something out like that guy did, it only gives off the vibe that you really didn’t like it – or even worse, that you’re just trying to draw attention back to yourself.
Don’t “explain” it or comment on how you’re “mock”-being-taken-advantage-of. Just let it sit. People will like you more. When you over-act (or overreact), you become a caricature instead of a character.

If I’d been that guy’s partner, we would have had a serious talk after we got off the air about his killing the moment.

Sometimes it’s the little, tiny things that make or break that connection with the listener.

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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 #165 – Becoming a Beginner Again

Beau Weaver is an excellent Voice Actor in Los Angeles. I’ve worked with Beau on and off ever since we first met as radio babies decades ago, and his transition from being a great disc jockey to succeeding in the voiceover universe has been inspiring.

At a seminar we did together in L. A. a few years ago, one of the things that Beau said to a roomful of radio people who were looking to move into the voiceover arena was “Sometimes you have to be willing to become a beginner again.”

As this is being written, I’ve just finished listening to an aircheck from a jock who always answers comments from his Program Director with “I’ve been at this for 25 years,” a defensive mechanism that’s keeping him from learning. To put it gently, I fear that his situation will not end well.

At key times in your career, you have to be willing to become a beginner again. Unless they’re making another Jurassic Park movie, no one is looking to hire dinosaurs.

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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 #164 – Information and Details = Ugh

The words “information” and “details” are poisonous words. You should try to avoid them.

If you’re a regular follower of my tips, you know that “left brain” thoughts or words don’t really click with the listener as much as “right brain” stuff.

For the uninitiated, the left brain is about order, reason, math, numbers, percentages. The right brain is where emotion, art, creativity and allegiance all live.

When you say something like “Find the details on our website” or “Go to my Facebook page for more information,” what people HEAR is “There’s a bunch of crap in a really tiny font that you can go read.”

What you SHOULD say is something like “Find out more on my Facebook page” or “Everything you need to know is at khip.com” instead.

You’re talking to a PERSON, not a robot getting information.

ALWAYS live in the right brain. “A juicy steak” is better than just “a 14-ounce rib-eye.” You want to paint PICTURES with words, not numbers or lists.

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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 #163 – Fun Grows out of Relevance

The future of radio – no matter how it’s delivered – is going to be about Personalities. Air Talent that seems like your best, most entertaining friend; that person that always finds just the right word to describe something that we’re both going through or thinking about.

But radio isn’t the Chuckle Shack. We’re not standup comedians, and shouldn’t really want to seem like that, anyway. You just want to be that one person that always gets invited to the party because you’ll be interesting and amusing, and make the person who’s hosting the party look good for inviting you.

Here’s the way it works:

Job One is to only talk about things that are relevant and top-of-mind to the listener. Once you’re zeroed in on “narrow focusing” your Content to that degree, Fun grows out of that.

But there’s a difference between being perceived as fun versus seeming like someone “trying to be funny”.
I think that the very core of “trying to be funny” is when you take something that ISN’T relevant and attempt to make it entertaining.

You have to CHOOSE. One way leads to tremendous, never-ending growth. The other leads to actually having to WORK for a living. Ewww.

Work joyfully on getting better. If you hit a wall, get a coach.

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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 #162 – The Two Rules about ONE

In the last tip, I talked about Repetition and Redundancy, two things that can wreck a show.
(It also hurts Imaging and commercials, by the way. Imaging doesn’t need to say “Magic 102.9/102.9” with that second time repeated or slightly overlapped. Ugh. And I’m sure we’ve all wanted to unload a double-barreled shotgun at the TV when we heard a phone number given for the thirteenth time in one of those “Call right now!” spots.)

Anyway, the last tip ended with this:

Repetition HURTS breaks. Redundancy KILLS them.
Radio — at least GREAT radio — is always about how concisely you can get things said. A good rule of thumb is “say things ONCE.” What you leave UNSAID is just as important as what you say.

Now let’s add two more rules to that:

1. Make ONE point.
2. Give ONE example.
When you do more, it’s tedious, and makes breaks SOUND longer than they actually are. And remember, trying to be thorough is the enemy of editing.

There’s a LOT more to this…but as John Lennon said when a reporter shouted out “Sing something for us!” during the Beatles’ first U. S. press conference, “We have to have money first.”

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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 #161 – The Difference between Repetition and Redundancy

Repetition is defined as “the act of doing or saying something again.” Flip on the radio and you’ll hear this constantly; this almost compulsive-sounding need to say something, then repeat it, like the listener is an idiot. (For a while, people were being COACHED to do this. Remember those double time checks? “Seven-fifteen, fifteen minutes after seven o’clock.” Ugh.)

Redundancy is defined, for our purposes, as “the inclusion of more information than is necessary for communication.”

An example of this is “82 degrees and raining outside.”
“Outside?” Well thank goodness. If it were raining INSIDE, that could lead to some pretty expensive roof work.

Recently, I heard a talent start a break with, “This is maybe the best example of ‘for better or worse’ that I’ve ever seen…” and then tell about a man who had been the President of a university in South Carolina, and how his wife of more than forty years, a woman named Muriel, had contracted Alzheimer’s.

Then, instead of going directly to the audio clip of the man making his announcement, he added, “This is his announcement to the university that he was resigning so that he could take care of Muriel…”

Then he played the audio clip of the announcement, which basically was just the man repeating everything the host had already said!

This break should have come with a “spoiler alert”. In the mind of the listener, it’s “been there; heard that.”

Here’s the lesson:
Repetition HURTS breaks. Redundancy KILLS them.

Radio — at least GREAT radio — is always about how concisely you can get things said. A good rule of thumb is “say things ONCE.” What you leave UNSAID is just as important as what you say.

– – – – – – –
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 #160 – Deliver INFORMATION, not Guesses

On a recent ‘listen’ to a guy in New York that I coach, he came out of a Peter Gabriel tune by saying “I still remember when that song was in ‘Say Anything’…back in the late 80’s or early 90’s…that John Cusack film…”

Oops. Incomplete prep. Not good. With all the resources we have today, there’s simply no reason to not have the information ready. He could have (1) looked it up on imdb.com, (2) Googled the movie, or (3) just asked Siri.

Here’s what I told him: People don’t tune in to hear you GUESS about things. You’re supposed to KNOW, whether it’s just when a movie came out, or what time an act will go onstage at a concert the station is hosting, or telling me about a contest or promotion. Deliver information, not just guesses. YOU’RE the authority. (Or at least you SHOULD be.)

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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 #159 — The Greats are the Greats for a Reason

The Beatles. John Grisham. Jack Nicholson. Meryl Streep. Jack Nicklaus. Vincent Van Gogh. Michael Jordan. Movie Director John Ford. Steve Jobs. All Greats in their chosen fields.

And believe me, the Greats are the Greats for a REASON. There’s something about each of them that’s not only special, but it would stand as great in any era. That’s why people will still be listening to Frank Sinatra when they can’t even remember Nancy Sinatra. People will still be watching “Casablanca” (even though it’s “only” in black and white) and understanding the nobility of the struggle against a regime that wants to limit freedom, and understand the sacrifices that have to be made to preserve that freedom, as long as that video exists.

Either the theme, or some individual skill set made a great thing (or person) great. And yes, this certainly applies to radio. Whether your “great” was Wolfman Jack, Robert W. Morgan in Los Angeles, Fred Winston in Chicago, Ron Chapman in Dallas, or your local morning guy that no one in a neighboring state knows – but you still love (in my case, Larry Ryan in my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana) – magnetic, truly entertaining air talents get put in the “Greats” folder and STAY there.

But here’s the hidden factor: the greats are great for MORE THAN ONE REASON. Think of it like an old 45rpm record – gotta have an “A” side, and a “B” side. Your “A” side gets you noticed, but it’s not enough to sustain you. You also have to find that other thing, like a pitcher coming up with an excellent slider to go WITH his hundred-mile-an-hour fastball, to get to the level of TRULY Great.

Because truly great equals MEMORABLE. The Beatles didn’t just do one great song. Jack Nicholson didn’t just do one great movie. And Michael Jordan wasn’t just a great shooter.

I hear a lot of jocks now, and a lot of STATIONS now, that have no “great” quality of any kind. So it’s impossible for them to come up with that “memorable” quality because they have no foundation of greatness to build upon. If that describes you, or where you work, get help NOW. Because the millennials EXPECT great, and have no patience at all with mediocrity. Get a great Consultant, and map out a great Strategy. Get great air talent, or at least people with a spark that makes them stand out at a party or a backyard barbecue or in a play, then hire a great Talent Coach to develop them.

If you don’t, you’ll just fall into the abyss of “okay, but not great.” Remember, all dinosaurs had to do to disappear from the Earth was stand still.

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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 #158 — Do things for the Right Reasons

The three reasons things are usually done:
(Air Talent) “It’ll be funny.”
(Program Director) “It’ll get ratings.”
(General Manager): “It’ll schmooze a client.”

These are not Strategies, they’re just aspirations. Let’s examine them…

Funny.
Something being “funny” is certainly not always a reality, and you can’t just use that crayon all the time anyway. I would just say, “Try to make the show fun,” and keep in mind who your listener is.

“It’ll get ratings.”
Even with all the latest tactics on affecting PPM (or now, Nielson), you really can’t predict what will “get ratings” except in terms of doing things every time you open the mic that are compelling to the LISTENER. And it goes deeper than that, because anything that seems calculated SOLELY to get ratings will ring HOLLOW with the Listener. You can use any tactic you want to, but unless what you’re doing is either Informative or Entertaining (or both), it won’t work.

“It’ll schmooze a client.”
This means nothing to the Listener, and maybe even works AGAINST the Talent if it’s perceived as “selling out”.

There are only two legitimate reasons to do anything on the air:
1. It’s Relevant to the listener.
2. It has a Benefit to the listener.

Those things will ALWAYS work. Tactics have their place, but believe me, if you do things for the right reasons—STRATEGIC reasons—winning becomes a byproduct.

Self-promotional afterthought: you can’t do it without great talent. If you’re a PD or GM, rather than getting caught up in a vicious circle of hiring, then firing, consider bringing in a coach to develop your talent.

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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.