Tommy Kramer Tip #103 – Deepak Chopra on Surprises

If you get the Sundance channel, you probably know about the series “Iconoclasts”. I just saw an episode the other day featuring actor/comedian Mike Myers and the controversial Indian-born author and speaker Deepak Chopra. Myers was insightful and funny, but Chopra said something that really rang the bell of what makes great radio:
“If a life can be a series of perpetual surprises, that’s the most joyful experience you can have.”

That’s it. That’s the ‘secret’, if there is one. Most radio today is full of information, gossip, promotional messages, etc.—but lacks surprises. Being surprised by something is like seeing a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis when you’re a kid. Or an ending to a movie that you didn’t see coming. Or unexpectedly being moved by an act of kindness.

Shock is not the same thing as Surprise; it’s just one crayon. There are others. If you’re having trouble seeing them, well, that’s what I’m here for. Coaching isn’t about a set of “do this, don’t do that” rules. It’s about helping you access the things in your noggin that can surprise 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
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #102 – The Apple Philosophy and how it applies to Radio

If you’re an Apple hater—you don’t like Mac computers, don’t like the iPhone, and would never buy an iPad—try to put that aside for a second. Of course, if you’re using a PC, you’re probably not reading this anyway, because you’re sitting through a Norton Security scan, Windows Updates that’ll take 40 minutes, or the dreaded blue screen of death. Anyway…

Apple has a simple philosophy. Three thoughts:
What would be cool?
What would be fun?
And what would benefit the customer’s life?

If your radio station thinks the same way—what would be cool, what would be fun, and what would benefit the listener’s life—you’ll be successful. But many stations seem to only think “What would be cool—to us? What would be fun—for us? And what would benefit us?”

As an air talent, even if your station doesn’t get it, YOU CAN. Start by being really, really user-friendly, like an iPad. (If I need some sort of prior knowledge to listen to your show, I’m out of here.) And like the guys in the Apple Stores, never talk down to your listener, or make him or her feel dumb for not knowing what you know. Make it FUN to listen. If you’re in a Talk or News format, make it always interesting and unique to hear your Content.

Now take these concepts and DO run with scissors!

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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 #101 – Articulate the Popular Rage

There’s a great line from the movie “Network” where old-line newsman Howard Beale (Academy Award winner Peter Finch) is told by his new show developer (Faye Dunnaway) to “articulate the popular rage.”

Now this movie, written by Pulitzer-prize winner Paddy Cheyevski—was made in 1977, so “rage” was at its core. You may remember Beale’s famous scene where he urged people to shout out their windows “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!”

The thought of ‘articulating the popular rage’ is still valid—although I would modify it to be “Articulate the Popular Emotion.” Rage is only one emotion, and you don’t want to be a one-trick pony. But the idea is to be the voice of what your listener is thinking. Joy, sadness, grief, silliness, disbelief, patriotism, skepticism, being thankful—all these (and more) make up the palate from which you can verbally “paint” the Content of the show.

Never settle for something that’s not based on an Emotion.

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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 #100 – Perishable food

This tip may seem pretty obvious, and I wish it were. But apparently it’s not, from what I hear flipping around the dial and working with Talents who tell me, “Yeah, I meant to do something on that, but I forgot to.”

Some Content is like perishable food. If you don’t use it quickly, it’ll go bad. If you have something that is time sensitive, find a place for it on the air NOW. Otherwise, it’s like you bought food, put it in the refrigerator, and then just let it sit there and spoil.

Yes, some other stuff is like a can of beans up in the pantry. It can be used anytime.
Here’s what I’d recommend:

1. Use the “perishable food” first.

2. Then throw the other stuff away. We’re not survivalists stocking up for the end of the world.

Seriously, if it’s the day after Memorial Day, for instance, and special ceremonies were held all over your city yesterday, you’d better talk about it today. By tomorrow it’s old news.

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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 #99 – What to look for in a Coach

It’s easy for air talents or Program Directors to shy away from coaching. I get that. For one thing, most people think “critique” when they hear the word “coaching”. They assume that the process will be a negative one, like being called into the principal’s office for throwing spitballs.

(I would actually just work with you on making the spitball nice and tight so it flies well, and then making sure you’re aiming at the right person.)

Here’s the process—or at least, my process: I’m not looking for what you do wrong so there’s always something to pick on and correct. A coaching experience based on that negative foundation isn’t going to do you (or me) any good. Yes, we’ll address whatever holes there might be in your education or techniques, and correct them, but that’s not the real purpose. The real idea is first, to find out what you do best. And second, gradually get to where that’s all you do.

There are several other fine coaches—Valerie Geller, Randy Lane, Tracy Johnson—that work the same way. But not all of them. When you get ready for a coach—or as a PD, come to the realization that, just like a baseball manager, you need a pitching or hitting coach—choose wisely.

There’s not ONE pro golfer, baseball player, or football player who doesn’t have a swing coach, batting coach, or position coach. You hear actors all the time talking about who taught them. Tom Brady has a coach. (A head coach, an offensive coordinator, and a quarterbacks coach, as a matter of fact.) Butch Harmon, Hank Haney and others have worked with dozens of the best golfers in the world. I don’t know Butch, but Haney is a friend, and Hank’s methods and mine are amazingly similar. Yes, he’ll point out what you do wrong, but he’ll help you build your game around your STRENGTHS.

And that’s what you should be looking for.

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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 #98 – Friendships are formed by the exchange of Opinions

The whole point of being on the air is to get people to actually come to know you, instead of your just being a voice giving information, or a promotional machine. Content that connects with the listener each day is obviously important, but there’s a ‘secret ingredient’ in every truly great air talent I’ve ever heard: being perceived as a friend.
And friendships are formed by the exchange of opinions.

In real life, if I don’t know how you feel about something or how you’d react to a certain situation, I may like you, but we’re not close.
Friendships grow as you learn more about someone, what that person thinks and feels.

…and friends may not always agree with each other. Honestly, that doesn’t matter, as long as you’re not just slapping the listener’s values in the face. I have a couple of dear friends—guys I’d give a kidney to—that I’ve argued with for years. We each have our opinions, and express them. Sometimes they’re the same, sometimes not, but we’re just trying to get to the complete thought. “Winning” the argument isn’t something we even think about.
(Note: For on-air purposes, we’re not trying to start arguments; we’re just trying to not be invisible audio wallpaper.)

The listener needs to know what you think. Your opinion, to compare to his/hers…maybe even adopt your thought as their own.

Hmmm…reading this over again, I hope my two best friends don’t both need a kidney at the same 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 #97 – Trying too hard

There’s a fine line between giving your best effort and trying too hard.

Oddly enough, I find that many Talents have a lot of trouble talking about things on the air that they feel strongly about. Often it seems like the more they care about something, the longer it takes to say. Now I’m certainly not against putting your heart on the air; we want that. But Emotion has to be channeled, or it just becomes “blah, blah, blah” to the Listener. Think of how many Pledge Drives you’ve watched on PBS or heard on Listener-supported radio where it sounds like they just CAN’T shut up.

So here are three guidelines to get you into the groove:
(1) Start with a “headline,” a ONE-line setup to get into the subject.
(2) Make ONE point.
(3) Wrap it up and move on.

Brevity is the most welcome thing about greatness. Look at the TV shows “Modern Family” or “The Big Bang Theory” as great examples of how humorous or even heartfelt perspectives are delivered in short, tightly-worded dialogue. Every line, right to the heart of the bulls-eye. That’s how you have a long run in prime time.

When you try too hard, the results are worse.

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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 #96 – Teasing vs. Promoting ahead

“Tease it, then do it.” We’ve all heard this for far too long.

First of all, there’s a big difference between Teasing and Promoting. The fact is, most teases are meaningless. The next time you ponder whether or not to tease something, think about this: what if I don’t like what you’re teasing? Then, Elvis has left the building.
Plus, we don’t tease things in real life, so why do it on the air? If we were having dinner together, you’d think it was nuts if I said “my wife Kathy will say something, right after she finishes buttering that roll.”

And here’s a huge factor—you never want to tease Content, just something that you’re going to talk about. “I’ll tell you about the cancerous tumor my aunt has, comin’ up” is just not going to make anyone listen. If you want your show to sound real and conversational, you should just bring something up, so it doesn’t sound calculated. (Although you can keep the tumor thing to yourself, please.)

Add in the fact that if you oversell something, it’s likely to fail to live up to expectations, and it’s easy to see why you should put less pressure on yourself and just let things flow. Look, I don’t want to know everything you’re going to do in advance. Surprise me once in a while.

Promoting is different. However, there’s a very short list of what I believe is worth promoting: [1] Contests, [2] when I can find out more about a station promotion that I might like to be part of, or [3] when a special guest will be on. Very little else, if anything, matters to the listener. We all know that most plugs for stuff on the website don’t really make many people go to it. At most stations I work with, You Tube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all way more important than the station’s website.

Radio stations keep trying to manipulate or monopolize the listener’s time against his/her will. But the listener is in charge, and growing more used to the “on demand” part of life every day. When you only promote things that actually matter to the listener, believe me, you’ll stand out in the crowd.

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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 #95 — A tip from Kareem

A lot of the stuff I coach comes from other sources—great actors, great musicians, great athletes.

One of the people I’ve looked up to (no pun intended) for a long time has been basketball’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In his college career at UCLA, his coach was the legendary John Wooden, and later with the “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers, Kareem played for the ultra-intense Pat Riley. Their imprints on Abdul-Jabbar are obvious, and here’s something that “the Big Fella” said recently that you might want to take to heart:

“Complacency sits right in there with Confidence, so you’ve got to get rid of the complacency and work on being confident because you’re prepared, and not just because you think you’re good.”

Good ratings, a nice salary, growing accustomed to being recognized—all of these things can create complacency. So NEVER open the mic without being prepared. As Kareem said, Confidence comes from knowing you’re ready. If you’re not, someone who is prepared every break may be working against you. The easiest way to beat the competition is to just outwork 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 #94 — Local, Personal, or Both

This might seem obvious, but listen to stations around you and you’ll realize how few people have been coached to do it.
Sure, you’ve heard that we want to be local—if possible. Of course, syndicated shows can’t really connect that way.
And the really good Consultants and Talent Coaches are always trying to get jocks to be more personal. (Although teaching someone exactly how to do that is a different matter.)

But these shouldn’t be thought of as mere suggestions. I contend that every Content break you ever do should have a degree of Local and/or Personal in it. And when you think about it, Personal is the MOST local, because it doesn’t depend on street names or buildings. It lives in the heart.

There should always be some ingredient of what you think about the subject or what you feel about it. That’s what creates a definable human being—a neighbor, as opposed to just another voice giving out data on the air.

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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.