Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #258 – The Power of ONE Word

One word can change everything. If you’re going to be a truly good Talent, you have to actually think about the words that are coming out of your mouth. I work with people all the time on this.

For example, I heard this the other day:
“I want to hear from you RIGHT NOW. Can you think of a song that’s got something about automobiles in it?”

No. And even if I could, why should I call you? What’s in it for me?

You can’t treat listeners like employees. They’re not here to do your bidding. You’re here to do theirs, actually.

There’s a palpable difference between “Stop by Safeway and get your coupon” (which sounds like an order) and “Stop by Safeway to get your coupon” (which is you explaining an opportunity).

I can hear the feedback now – “boy, that’s really nitpicking.” Yep. You’re right. And that “nit” is the PPM device, showing that I just got tired of being ordered around, and switched to another station with a more inviting tone.

Here’s another, easier to understand example, from my former morning show partner in Dallas, Rick “The Beamer” Robertson, a true wordsmith. Recently, I moved back from Hawaii to my hometown, Shreveport, Louisiana. Rick didn’t know we had moved back, and sent me this text, after hearing about the volcanic activity close to where I used to live:

“I saw there was an erection in your neighborhood. Are you safe?”

Then he sent, “…an eruption.”

No, it wasn’t a typo. He just understands the power of ONE WORD, and made me and my wife laugh out loud.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #255 – There’s No Such Thing as a Break thats Too Short

Maybe you haven’t thought about this in a while, but in moving back from five and a half years in Hawaii to my home town of Shreveport, Louisiana, I’m resetting the stations on my car radio. As a result, I’ve been listening to a lot of different stations recently. And I’m hearing a lot of things on music stations that I thought had been killed off a long time ago…

The “first in, last out” (FILO) thing where every break mandatorily starts with the name of the station, then also ends with the name of the station. (This was always ridiculous. Why do you want to sound like you somehow forgot that you said your name a few seconds ago? And why would you EVER put the name of your station right next to a commercial break? Think about it: You = commercials is not a good impression to lock into the listener’s brain.)

Jocks mindlessly repeating the stupid “positioning statement” (or slogan), as in “96.7 KKIV, your best variety at work.” Geez, this just sounds awful. Every single time they open the mic, robots repeating a phrase that even THEY don’t believe – and that’s what it sounds like.

Jingles singing a bunch of words that are just “print copy” set to music. “The best variety and the home of the Kidd Kracken Morning Show…96.7 KKIV” Why not just sing the phone book?

So-called “interesting” items plucked from a website, someone’s Facebook page, or a “prep sheet” that no one could possibly care about. “Brainbuster” questions that Siri can answer in two seconds. The definition of non-Content.

But the main thing that’s hit me is that most jocks can’t shut the heck up. They just prattle on, spelling out the not-very-entertaining ending to the prattle they’re talking about like they’re explaining it to a four-year old.

I’ve said this before as part of a couple of other tips, but let’s give it a special, stand-alone status: There’s No Such Thing as a Break that’s Too Short.
This is an all-out assault on reading crap off a computer screen. It’s Brevity vs. Rattling-on-for-no-apparent-reason-other-than-you-CAN’T-be-concise.

Here’s what really works: Try to say things one time – no repetition – then hit the next element and turn the mic off. You’ll be amazed at how this simple thought de-clutters your station. And please stop trying to tell the listener what to think about who you are or what you do. Believe it or not, people actually make up their own minds. Instead, be a good neighbor; a friend who doesn’t waste their time. Trust that it WILL work. And you’ll stand alone like the only oasis in the desert.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #241 – The Secret of Survivor’s Success: Stories + Editing

The buzz word today is “stories”. That’s a simplistic way of saying that personal experiences are more powerful and memorable than just “bits” or “items”.

And the best example I’ve ever seen of how stories should take shape is the TV show “Survivor”. As I write this tip just before Christmas of 2017, “Survivor” just ended the 35th “season” (over a span of 18 years), with Ben Driebergen, a 34-year old Marine from Boise who openly admitted as the show unfolded that he’s struggled with PTSD after serving in Iraq, winning the million-dollar prize. The impact of this “reveal” on other veterans, and the awareness of how hard it is to deal with, no doubt made an impression on millions of people – and every season of that show has had dramatic, amazingly compelling stories like Ben’s emerge.

But there’s something here for you to learn: the primary reason why those stories have made that impact is that “Survivor” is, by far, the best-edited show in television history.

They film literally THOUSANDS of hours, then have to edit them down to the 13 to 16 episodes that make up a season. (Each episode runs 43 minutes. They edit, then edit some more, then edit some more.)

And that’s how you should approach your show. I told a morning team the other day that to reach the next level, the goal is to do breaks that would need little to no editing to make a promo for the show.

Art combined with work ethic. Stories + Editing. If you’re not doing that, hope that I don’t coach your competition. Because you’ll be the one that sounds like you can’t shut up, and are wasting the listener’s time.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #229 — Read a Little, Say a Lot

A morning show host I work with recently found cause to read a poem on the air. While he meant well, it really stalled out the momentum of the show, and basically just sounded less personal. Here’s the right technique to use:

Paraphrase it, using your own words to frame the subject, then only directly quote a very SHORT quote or passage from whatever it is you’re bringing to the table – whether it’s a poem, like in this case, or an article about something.

My longstanding rule is “Only people with cataracts want to be read to,” but it’s more than just that. Anybody can read something; it’s the easiest and safest thing to do from a talent standpoint, because you can hide behind someone else’s words, not have to work very hard to fill the time, and dodge accountability for whatever the Content is.

But that’s not what we’re here for.

When you just read something verbatim in its entirety, the listener doesn’t learn anything about you, except for what your inflection might reveal. However, even that is limited, because if you do take a different tone from how it’s written, you can seem at cross purposes with the subject matter – in effect, impeaching your own source of information.

You’re FORCED to humanize it more when you read less of it. And that helps the listener bond with you. I often tell talent to “crack your chest open and show us what’s in there,” because in the long run, that’s what becoming a star is all about.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #225 – How to Zoom in on the Difference between Openness and Transparency

We hear a lot these days about being “transparent” on the air, and I get what the spirit of that is. But being totally transparent can be too close to the bone.

I always use the term “being open.”

Being open is different, and better. If you’re unsure where the line is between openness and transparency, just remember this: Nobody goes to a party to watch a guy fight with his wife. You’re in the Entertainment business. Some things SHOULDN’T be revealed.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #206 – A Sure Sign That You’re Doing It Right

There’s this dual process that goes on in every great talent’s head…

Part 1 is being right here, right in THIS MOMENT, as it pertains to Performing.

Part 2 is being right here, right in this moment, as it pertains to EDITING – “How would I edit this? Is this the right place to get out?”

That part – the part of you that, even as you’re doing the break, is weighing and measuring “how much is too much?” – is the sense you want to develop.

You can always tell when something really worked on the air: it doesn’t need any editing to make a promo out of it.

THAT’S when you know you’ve struck gold.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #198 – What Team Shows can Learn from Curb Your Enthusiasm

This tip is team show-centric, but it actually applies to everyone on the air.

What Team Shows can Learn from Curb Your Enthusiasm:

In every great show, there’s a thin wire to walk between being spontaneous, but still being aware of how it “plays” to the ear. Larry David’s HBO comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is a great example of how ensemble shows should work.

Everyone in that cast knows what the circumstance (the scene) is, but it’s not scripted. They may not even have a concrete idea of exactly how the scene will end, but what made that show so successful, to me, is that they’re sensitive to those “don’t try to do more” moments. That’s how you get that perfect form of being Consistent, but NOT being Predictable.

“Curb” is something every team show could study, learn from, and get better as a result. You might want to re-watch a few episodes.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #190 – Tying a Neat Bow around it

There’s this virus floating around – you get to the end of a break, and instead of just getting out, you try to “tie a neat bow around it” at the end.

Don’t, please. These “summations” sort of treat the listener like he or she is an idiot. Always assume that the Listener is AT LEAST as smart as we are.

We’re not doing Aesop’s Fables here. When you resort to “The moral of the story is…” that just sounds preachy; even smug. While “Preachy & Smug” might be a great name for a morning team on a Sports station, it’s certainly NOT how a station in any other format should want to be perceived. : -)

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

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.