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.

– – – – – – –
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.”

– – – – – – –
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.)

– – – – – – –
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.

– – – – – – –
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.

– – – – – – –
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 #157 — An Additional Liability of Constantly Teasing

In the last tip, I dealt with the latest radio “incomplete thought” – constantly teasing something at the end of each break.

If you go back and read my tip on “The First Exit” (it’s #3 on my website), you’ll see that the most effective momentum device EVER is to get out at the first place a break “resolves”. You always leave ‘em wanting more, and you have great – and unpredictable – forward momentum.

Over the years (and I first wrote about this over 20 years ago), I’ve heard this misinterpreted in a lot of different ways, like…

“Get out at the first punch line.” (Not everything is funny. Sometimes there ISN”T a punch line.)

“Get out at the First Exit—but then say our names, or the name of the station, into the break.” (Really? You WANT your name or the station’s name right next to commercials? What do you think the listener associates you with then? The “First In, Last Out’ thing never worked, and it doesn’t work now, either.)

And then there’s our newest incarnation: “Take the First ‘out’, but then do a tease of what’s coming up.”
NO! This completely DESTROYS the First Exit. Taylor Swift doesn’t end a song by playing a few notes of the next song she’s going to do.

A show without SURPRISES is a show that’s not worth listening to. I don’t WANT to know everything you’re going to do ahead of time. In the last tip, I listed the four or five categories of things that are worth “promoting ahead” (not “teasing”—I can’t stand that word. When someone calls you a “tease”, that’s NOT a compliment).

I have to go away now. The large vein in my neck is really starting to throb.

– – – – – – –
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 #156 — The Tease Madness

Okay, it’s time to deal with the current thinking on teases, versus what actually works. Here are some excerpts from a couple of memos that real living, breathing Program Directors have given to their air talent recently…

“Eliminate as much as possible ‘I’ and ‘We’ and instead use ‘You’.”
Nothing wrong with that, until this PD illustrates just how to do it:

“You’ll be talking about our next story at work today.”
There’s no way you could possibly know what I’ll be talking about at work today (it could be, astonishingly, WORK related), and you need to STOP trying to tell the Listener what to think.

“You’re gonna love our new game, ‘Scratch and Sniff Audio’ in the next ten minutes.”
Again, you don’t know that I’m going to “love” it. My reaction (at least the one I can print) is “Meh…”…followed by a loud “click” as I punch another button on my radio.

“The thing most women do in the car that might be WORSE than texting and driving. You might be guilty of it, ladies, and we’ll find out in ten minutes.”
No, YOU may find out, but I don’t really give a crap. And I’m not “ladies.” Talk to ONE person. Don’t throw me into a “collective” that I didn’t ask to be part of. This destroys radio’s most unique strength – the one-on-one connection with the listener.

“Feeling smart today? The list of the Top 10 Smartest Cities is out.”
The answer to every question you ever ask on the air is either “NO” or “I don’t CARE.” And I already saw the list. EVERYBODY who cared already saw the list. It came up on the home page of every website, or on my iPhone – and it was ONLY THERE TO TAKE UP SPACE BETWEEN THE ADS.

“Would you like to take a break from parenting?”

(NO, I’d like to take a break from being asked rhetorical questions by an idiot who’s “pretending” to talk to me.)
“What the majority of parents are doing to get that break, in 7 minutes.”
This is too exact a time line. “In the next ten minutes” is what you want to say. ESPN tried this “Joe Namath interview in 13 minutes” type of thing – and it BOMBED. The whole PURPOSE of giving a Time Line in the first place is to tell me how long I have to listen to make SURE that I hear it. If I tune in (or stick around until) 7 minutes from now, you’d better by God be doing it. The minute you don’t, and I hear something ELSE when that’s supposed to be on, you’ve LIED to me – and I’ll never believe anything you say again.

Here’s what you can and should promote. (Notice that I don’t even USE the word “tease” in coaching.)
1 A contest. When I can win some money or concert tickets might actually matter to me.
2. A feature of the show. “The Hollywood Dish is next.”
3. When a guest will be on.
4. How I can find out more about a station event, or see video of something, or participate in something, on the station’s website or your Facebook page.
5. MAYBE…promote a new song by a core artist coming up. But even then, only do it when you’ve stopped down, NOT over another song, because then, the implied message is “since we know this song isn’t really very good, we’re going to try to get you to hang around by promoting a different one.”

That’s it. Nothing else is worth promoting.

Stop The Tease Madness.
If it matters to me (as a listener), it works. If it doesn’t (and just teasing some nebulous thing you’re going to talk about, like “What happened to Corkhead at the mall yesterday…in ten minutes” DOESN’T), then it doesn’t—and no amount of teasing will MAKE it matter. Other things should just come up naturally in the conversation – you know, like in real life.

Yes, I realize there’s a whole school of Programmers and Consultants that think otherwise, because of some sideways, momentary, imagined indicator in PPM. But don’t even get me started on how many holes there are in THAT methodology. Voltaire, the giant band-aid, anyone?

The biggest problem with the “always do a tease” mentality is that you remove any element of Surprise from the show. I seriously doubt if anyone would have gone to see “The Force Awakens” if a crawl came across the bottom of the screen, or one of the characters teased “Han Solo dies…in the next ten minutes.”

Here’s what actually works better than any attempt to manipulate the listener: say something really interesting or entertaining every single time you open the mic. And only promote things that he or she really cares about.

– – – – – – –
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 $155 — Don’t Try

Here’s something your boss will probably never tell you: Don’t try.

How this translates to what we do is that sounding like you’re “trying” can be felt on the other end of the radio, and it pushes people away.

It’s got to seem easy, spontaneous, like you just thought of it. When you attempt to “sell” something, you’re missing the whole point. We want to SWAY the listener, draw her or him a step closer, convince that person break-by-break, day-by-day, that listening to you is the most valid choice.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t give it your best effort. You should be conscious of making even the simplest, most mundane break you do be bright, tight, pro, and polished. But “trying” comes across as “trying too hard” – maybe even begging for attention or validation. That never works.

So have fun today…but don’t “try”.

– – – – – – –
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 #154 — A Coaching Tip About Coaching

Okay, so you’d like your air staff to get better, but you don’t think you can afford someone like me or Randy Lane or Valerie Geller.

Let me help you with this thought: “It’s not ever about how good we are today. It’s about what we can do tomorrow to get even better.”

True coaching isn’t scolding or critiquing. It’s helping a talent always be refining things to get to another level. Strategy – the station’s strategy, the sound you want your jocks to have, the momentum you want to build into your formatics – dictates Tactics, NOT the other way around.

A CHR station, for instance, probably won’t do well with the typical “Rock Dog” approach we still hear on way too many Rock or Classic Rock stations. So you have to shape the on-air approach accordingly.

I would add two more guidelines: [1] One “big” thing, one “little thing” per session. For most air talents, this is all they can handle. Some advanced talents can handle more points, but I’d still shy away from a “laundry list” of things in any one session. [2] Be patient, but direct and specific in letting a talent know what you’re after. “I’ll know it when I hear it” only means that you’ll never hear it. Call a PLAY.

That’ll hold you until you can find the budget to hire a truly great talent coach. (The two people I mentioned are excellent. No doubt there are a few others.)

– – – – – – –
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.