Tommy Kramer Tip #113 – Double Duty

Recently on a station I work with, a contest winner call led to a dramatic and touching story. My wife was listening to it with me, and tears came to her eyes as she heard the winner talk lovingly about his son, who has several serious medical issues.

As a coach, I saluted the morning host, Dave Arthur, because people don’t just open up to someone like this unless they TRUST you. However, from a time standpoint, the call could’ve used a couple of edits. There was a lot of medical talk—many ailments (with those Latin names), and we always have to guard against the mediocre audio quality and partial dropouts that are indigenous to cell phones and could force a listener away. I showed him where an edit or two could’ve cut some of that out, and allowed him to wrap it up with both congratulations on the win, and a hopeful and heartfelt thought Dave had offered to the dad.

Then we went on to how things can serve Double Duty. I would have run the edited call on the air, then put the entire call on the website (or link to his Facebook page). Now you’d have the opportunity to promote that different door to the station with something like “There was a lot more to that call that we didn’t have time to air, but you can hear the whole call at ktsy.org. It’s amazing.” Re-purposing it that way could have created two related but distinctly different “moments” for the listener, and spurred some traffic on the website.

Many stations don’t have the savvy (or sadly, the work ethic) to do this sort of thing, and it results in missed opportunities. I’ve worked with several syndicated shows where website visits are the currency for clients.

Two lessons from this:
1. Don’t EVER waste the listener’s time on the air. Hard decisions have to be made sometimes in order to accomplish this.
2. Your website has to offer something of VALUE besides just lists, promotional items, and “USA Today”-type lifestyle stuff. (We’ve seen enough recipes for your special combination Hungarian/Mexican goulash tacos.)

My friend and colleague Alan Mason says “Everything matters.” He’s right.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #112 – Audacity: a lesson from Gordon McLendon

Research is finally showing what we always knew—that talent really does matter if you want people to listen to your station. So here’s a little history lesson. If you’re not familiar with Gordon McLendon, he was one of the true pioneers of radio. McLendon established the first mobile News units in American radio, the first Traffic reports, the first jingles, the first all-News radio station, and the first “easy-listening” programming. He also was among the first broadcasters in the United States to editorialize on the air, and he made headlines doing it…often. Nicknamed “the Maverick of Radio,” McLendon perfected and spread like wildfire the Top 40 radio format created by Todd Storz. (Storz and McLendon were kind of that era’s radio version of Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.)

Gordon had highly successful stations in many markets, including Dallas and Houston. And he was one of the first guys to bring FM radio into the spotlight by selling AM Top 40 giant KLIF in Dallas, then turning around and beating them with his FM station, KNUS. (I was part of that staff.)

One of McLendon’s mantras was “Be informative, be entertaining, or be quiet.”
However, those of us that worked for him and had heard stories of how volatile he could be knew that the “quiet” thing was not really an option. So we thought of it as “Be informative, be entertaining, or be fired.”
Because above all else, McLendon loved Audacity—always Audacity. He wanted PERSONALITIES who weren’t afraid to push the envelope.

Now I’m not saying you need to break the rules, and certainly you don’t want to do anything that would get the station in trouble with the FCC. But like Mr. McLendon, I am saying “Show some guts.” Never settle for just being another cookie-cutter, plain vanilla jock. (If you need some coaching on this, call me.)

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #111 – Analytics and You

Professional baseball is heavy into analytics, often referred to as ‘sabermetrics.’ They study every player’s performance in every possible situation, and make decisions accordingly.

As a PD or air talent today, PPM is our new sabermetrics drinking fountain. With all the new analytics—being able to see exactly where people lost interest during a break, the ratio of male artists to female artists, where spotsets should go, etc.—it can seem like data is making all the decisions. (And that’s not even counting the importance of an actual social media strategy.)

I like math. I was the little kid who could rattle off baseball players’ stats. Analytics are fun—and if you need an example of how they can be used, look at that dramatic “three players on the right side of the infield” shift in baseball today that drives most batters crazy. That’s a direct result of analytics making teams better by being smarter. (And “the shift” just looks so cool.)

So dive on in! Use every single tool that can tell us what the audience wants (and what’s ineffective, too). Personally, I’ve made an effort to absorb as much as I can about the workings of PPM from people who are much smarter than me, with the sole goal of keeping on learning, moving forward, all the time.

However, from a coaching perspective, let me add this:
All the analytics in the world won’t help you be different, be original, or make that person in the car or office think of you as a “must” listen. You still have to MATTER to the listener, or you’re just the voice interrupting the playlist. More on that in the next tip.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #110 – Seinfeld on the use of Music

On June 9th, 2014 at the Paley Center in New York, Jerry Seinfeld talked to David Letterman about his “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” web series.

About 19:25 into the interview, Letterman comments on the incidental music that moves “CICGC” from one point to the next. That’s where you see coffee being poured, Jerry and the guest walking into the diner, etc.

Jerry then compares using music in this show to using it in the “Seinfeld” TV show, saying “If you put music under a scene that has actual written narrative, it ruins the scene. But since this has no drive, no point, the music doesn’t fight with it and it just seems to kind of carry…(it) fills in the little gaps.

Now I don’t think that’s 100% true for radio, because our medium is a little different; we don’t have video to engage the listener. But I do think there is something to be said for asking yourself “Do I have a narrative?” “Does it need music?” “Am I talking over music when I should be just talking?” On a lot of stations, it’s almost getting to where jocks CAN’T talk without a music bed under them. Some stations even require it. (Bless their pointed little heads.)

I recommend using music when it’s appropriate, like a John Williams movie soundtrack – to heighten the mood or the drama of a given ‘scene’. But if it’s just generic uptempo Production music, used as a crutch to create an artificial sense of momentum (which it doesn’t actually do), you’re just trying to cover up the fact that you don’t have a narrative; you’re not telling a story.

Now that I think of it, maybe that would be a good bit in itself, taking real life, semi-boring or technical conversations about brake shoes or roof repair, and putting ridiculous music underneath them.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #109 – Everything’s the Opposite

This tip is sort of dual-purpose…a guideline for Management and Programming, and how it should affect you as an air talent.

The late, great singer Harry Nilsson used to say “Everything’s the Opposite,” meaning that everything turns out to be the opposite of whatever it claims to be. That’s an exaggeration, of course, but there’s a lot of truth in it. (“Military Intelligence” and “free” offers come to mind.) Radio’s full of examples.
Let’s take a look at a few typical claims, and then the other side of the coin—what the listener thinks:

Your claim: “50-minute music hours.”
Listener’s thought: We can all add and subtract. Eventually you’re going to spew out 10 minutes of commercials.

Your claim: “No-talk triple plays.”
Listener’s thought: So when you open the mike, that’s a bad thing? Surely you didn’t intend to say that. Oh, and those recorded identifiers or Imaging pieces you play between songs? They’re TALK.

Your claim: “No-repeat work days.”
Listener’s thought: Wait a minute. That means that I’ll only hear my favorite song once in eight hours. So if I tuned in and only heard the end of it, I’m pretty much S. O. L. for the rest of the day.

I’ve heard jocks unthinkingly say “Hope you’re having a great day!” when there are snowdrifts eight feet high, and the roads are impassable.

And we’ve all heard stations use some form of “We care about you and your family,” but every contest winner they have is identified first as a number. (“Hi, you’re number nine.”) I don’t know about you, but I don’t assign numbers to my family members. “Have you met my sister, Number 7?” seems rather impersonal.

Why not just give up those empty claims and failed gimmicks? Make your station (and your show, on the air) about Values, and about being of service. People will notice. The only Positioning Statement you really need is the name of the station. Then PROVE what you are.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #108 – Good phone calls don’t just “happen”

This tip is specifically for music radio.

Good phone calls don’t just happen; you have to create an atmosphere that fosters them. When someone opens up his/her heart or fragility to you, that’s not an accident. If they thought you’d be rude or dismissive or not really listen to them, they’d never call you. And it’s not 1995 anymore. Nowadays, the standard throwing out a topic, then saying “What do you think?” just sounds like you want the listener to do the show for you. (I call this “using the listeners as props.”) To get really good phone calls, give me something to REACT to, and you can’t keep me from telling you what I think. You don’t have to ask.

A remedial lesson: How to put a call on the air

When you run the call, just say your thing & then cut to the caller’s comment. You don’t need “Hi, how are you” stuff, and you don’t need to say something like “Darren’s on the line…” (Where else would he be, on the toaster?) or “Jennifer has an idea…” We don’t “narrate” like that in real life, and we don’t “introduce” another person’s comment at the dinner table. And by the way, no one cares about the caller’s name, unless it’s a prize winner. (In Talk Radio, however, the name does serve a couple of purposes—to distinguish one caller from another, and to mention the city or area the call is from.)

The main thing that will set you apart is if you establish a really high standard for phone calls. Just because someone calls doesn’t mean they should get on the air. Like a film editor making cuts in a movie, if it’s not great, leave it out.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #107 – The Adventures of…

John Lennon once described American deejays as “Hi, I’m from nowhere,” meaning that compared to jocks in England, we all sounded alike to him, speaking in our “radio voices”.

If you think of it like an actor (which you should), there has to be some arc to you. Things have to come from something. (Great actors say their characters have to overcome something, and you should be able to sense that.)

I’ve mentioned this before, but to me, especially in the five different morning team shows I was part of, it wasn’t just “Hudson & Harrigan” or “Tommy & the Beamer,” it was “The Adventures of Hudson & Harrigan” or “The Adventures of Tommy & the Beamer”…just like the old TV show wasn’t just “Superman,” it was “The Adventures of Superman.”

Your show should be thought of (but not named) “The Adventures of…you.” Life IS an adventure. Radio should reflect that. If you don’t, you’re just that voice from nowhere.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #106 – Answers = Power

In May of 2015, Google began running an ad that started with “a question is the most powerful force in the world.” But they couldn’t be more wrong. An ANSWER is the most powerful force in the world.

I’ve talked before about avoiding the Question form, and making Statements instead. Thinking that questions are “a powerful force” is fool’s gold. No one wants to ask a question, only to get another question in reply.
Example:
“How much are these beets?”
“How much do you think they should cost?” is not a helpful response. Great marketers know that asking the public what they want doesn’t really work, because people can only describe what they think they want in terms of what they’ve already seen. Apple didn’t ask people if they wanted an iPad. They just made them, and let the world come—rapidly—to the conclusion that this new product would make their lives easier. (And that’s why Google isn’t Apple. And by the way, what MADE Google was that you ask, and they provide the answer.)

In your Imaging, in your commercials and promos, and in your air work, give your listener an answer.

Warning: Everyone thinks he can do this, but then, at first, tends to fail miserably when he tries. Let me help you with the techniques, and we can weed this out in a hurry. I promise you that you’ll see the power of it in no time.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #105 – One Thing Per SHOW

In coaching Talent to become more than just deejays, I draw on why legendary personalities become legends. In the past, it was Robert W. Morgan in L. A. or Fred Winston in Chicago. In Dallas, where I lived most of my adult life, it was Ron Chapman, Terry Dorsey, Kidd Kraddick, and in the Contemporary Christian arena, Brother Jon Rivers. There are others, too, of course. (Fill in the name of your market’s Legend.) In my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, it’s a guy named Larry Ryan, who’s been in that market for over 40 years. And when I was just a duckling starting out in radio, Larry told me something that I still remember every day, and have developed specific techniques in how to coach.

He said, “If you do just ONE THING each day that people remember, you’ll be a star.”

ONE THING PER SHOW. That’s all you need. Do the math: Say you take two weeks of vacation per year. So if you work five days a week, fifty weeks a year, and do one thing each day that your Listener really connects with, that’s 250 things at the end of a year that your Listener remembers about you that he or she doesn’t remember about your competitor! 250 concrete reasons to keep listening to you, instead of to the other options across the radio landscape or satellite and digital formats.

Now this is not about only doing one thing during your entire show. It’s about doing one thing that’s memorable, one thing that no one else will do, every show. It’s also about never going through a show without that one thing. This is one of the prime areas where “critique” serves no real purpose. It’s all about coaching—brainstorming ideas to cultivate a sense of what will set you apart.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #104 – Hearing/Listening

I‘ve heard jocks complain that they didn’t get any calls or emails or Facebook posts when it was expected. This seems odd to me, like a playwright complaining that the audience in the theater didn’t get a joke.

It’s easy to just say “they heard, but they didn’t listen,” but that’s
the wrong end of the binoculars, because it’s about your agenda. We should be considering the possibility that “they were listening, but they didn’t hear,” because that puts the responsibility where it really belongs—on us. If the message isn’t getting across, then we need to do a better job of getting it across.

Besides the fact that people are busy and have lives, I think there’s always a reason why someone doesn’t really hear something. Assuming out front that what you’re talking about is on target, then you have to consider that (1) maybe it’s just not clear, or (2) that the way you did it just wasn’t as compelling as it could have been.

When you put maximum effort into the precise wording and emotional investment you’ll need to make someone actually pay attention, you’ll be far more likely to get the results you want. (Vocabulary is crucial.)
If you don’t really want to dive into it that deeply, you can still be pretty good—but you can’t be great.

Treat every time you open the mike like your career depends on it, because it actually kinda does.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.