Tommy Kramer Tip #211 – Seinfeld’s Three Rules of Living

There’s an HBO Special called “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast”.
It’s about people 90 years of age or more that are still vibrant and productive, featuring Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, TV Producer Norman Lear, and many others – and, with occasional comments, Jerry Seinfeld.

At one point late in the special, Jerry lays out his “3 Rules of Living”. They are:

1. Bust your ass. Whatever you do, work as hard as you can. Give it everything you’ve got.

2. Pay attention. Notice the things around you all the time. Appreciate them all the time.

3. Fall in love. Not just romantic love. Love your parking space. Love your sandwich. Seinfeld tells about having breakfast with George Burns once, and Burns said “This may be the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had in my life.” In his mid-nineties, Burns still had the desire to see something worth relishing every day.

Now ask yourself these questions:
Do you work hard every day? In this era of the computer running everything (usually pretty sloppily), it’s easy to get lazy. Do you just pluck items off some prep sheet to quack about instead of getting out and discovering things that your listener is talking about? Do you rely on callers to “do the show for you?” (Someone said that to me at a convention one year. I wanted to scream.) The “topics and phone calls” thing can wear really thin really fast, and dominates way too much radio time that could be spent on something more immediate and impactful. You could….what do they call it?…oh yeah, you could DO a SHOW.

Do you pay attention to what’s around you? In my on-air days, I often drove into work using a different route, or just turning a block or two sooner or later than normal, so I could see stuff like which store was opening (or closing), what kind of roadwork was starting (and when), etc.

Are you in love with your job? Do you have a real appreciation for the listener’s time? I hear a lot of shows that virtually dismiss the precious ‘one on one’ connection all the time, by talking to “listeners” or “those of you” or even worse, “all the people listening out there.” Do you still, in 2017, not realize that people have LOTS of other options? If you don’t care about what you’re doing, why should they?

There’s a reason that Seinfeld is definitely on the Mount Rushmore of Comedians – and it’s not just that he can think up jokes. Adopt his “3 Rules” and you’ll have a better career and a better life.

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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 #208 — The Most Important Ingredient in Putting More Callers on the Air

Note: This tip is written specifically for music stations. But the “quality control” goal should be in every Talk show, too.

It’s not a “bad” idea per se to supplement the Content that you create with a phone call or two from listeners. But it’s not an automatic “must have” ingredient, either. And it can become a “crutch” pretty easily.

Here’s the most important ingredient in putting them on the air:

NO “B” or “C”-level calls allowed. None. Only “A”-level callers with something that actually contributes a thought that moves the subject forward, gives it a different slant, or provides some sort of “resolution” should make it onto the air. The minute you accept less, you dive head first into the generic “topics and phone calls” pool that already has too many people in it.

I’ve done and coached shows that hardly ever ran calls, and I’ve done and coached shows that were – at times – very phone call intensive. But the “A”-level rule always applies. Great radio is made up of COMPELLING moments. If a call doesn’t provide that, it doesn’t deserve being aired.

This leads back to something I say a lot: Do a SHOW. It may seem counterintuitive, but when you don’t NEED calls, that’s when you not only get more of them, but you get better ones, too.

Getting great phone callers isn’t an accident. It’s a plan. In a future tip, I’ll give you another peek into how that works.

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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 #207 – The Difference Between an Aircheck Session and a Coaching Session

In the last tip, I spoke about a magic key to getting to the top level as a talent – the ability to edit yourself even as you’re speaking.

What I purposely didn’t say is that in over 20 years of coaching somewhere around 1700 air talents, I’ve never seen anyone who was just “born” with this. It always requires coaching or mentoring in some form.

So let’s deal with the elephant in the room: most air talents detest going into an aircheck session with the PD. Period.
And that’s because there’s a big difference between “critique” and “coaching”.

There is no such thing as “constructive criticism”. That’s just criticism.
Unlike an aircheck session, which seems to always be about finding something wrong, coaching is about three main things:

1. Shoring up weaknesses and losing bad habits. (The Fundamentals.)

2. Finding what each talent’s biggest strengths are. (They may not know.)

3. Gradually stripping AWAY the things a talent doesn’t do well, so that eventually, ALL YOU DO IS WHAT YOU’RE REALLY GOOD AT.

You want to be Michael Jordan playing basketball, not Michael Jordan playing baseball. A good coach would have told him to stick with what he did best and add a couple more years to his legacy, instead of becoming just a source of amusement playing a game he wasn’t good at.

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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 #201 – What TV can learn from Radio, and vice-versa

You would think that TV and Radio are like brothers or cousins, each putting out their product with an all-encompassing view of what the experience is like from the viewer’s or listener’s perspective.

And you would be wrong.

In reality, TV doesn’t care enough (if at all) about SOUND. In my experience of coaching many television air talents, it’s pretty much all about what it LOOKS like. The end result is usually a bunch of talking heads reading words from teleprompters that real people would never say in an actual conversation. (“The alleged suspect was apprehended” instead of “they caught the guy.”) But the time they could use to rewrite it gets spent on their hair and makeup.

Radio, for the most part, doesn’t care enough about the PICTURES it’s creating. Sure, the best talents are all about “word pictures”, but way too often nowadays, in the era of voice-trackers that don’t even live in the market the station is in, they just put a “smile” in their delivery and read things. Ick.

If TV personalities thought more about the WORDS they’re saying, they’d be more three-dimensional. And if radio personalities thought more about creating a PICTURE in the listener’s mind instead of just giving information, they’d draw that listener closer every single day.

Just because you’re ON doesn’t mean that people are actually paying attention to you. You EARN that. Or not. Your choice.

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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 #194 – THE Role Model for Team Shows

Often in coaching, I find that the best examples may lie outside the radio arena. A lot of the techniques and strategies I teach come from movies, music, and Sports.

At one station I work with, finding the right partner in a team show has been an ongoing issue. Having worked with literally hundreds of team shows, I was brought into the discussion of “what to look for.”

My example had nothing to do with radio: John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Here’s why…

Lennon was primarily known for aggressive, edgy songs like “Revolution”, “Day Tripper”, “I Am the Walrus”, “Help!”, “A Hard Day’s Night”, etc.

McCartney was mostly known for pretty songs, like “Yesterday”, “And I Love Her”, “Let It Be”, “The Long and Winding Road”, “Hey Jude”, etc.

But Lennon also wrote beautiful songs: “In My Life”, “Girl”, “If I Fell”, and “All You Need is Love”. And McCartney wrote some really powerful, straightforward rockers, like “Can’t Buy Me Love”, “Helter Skelter”, “Back in the USSR”, and “Drive My Car”.

And THAT’S what you want in a team show: people who may be defined by ONE thing each of them does, but they CAN do other things. Picture the Olympic rings – slightly overlapping circles with a common area they share, and a larger area that’s unique to each.

Two people who are nothing alike can result in a tug-of-war on the air. Two people who at least have SOMETHING in common, but come to that only once in a while to join forces – well, there’s that “extra dimension” that 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
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #192 – The Relationship between Ego and Confidence

Over the last two decades of coaching hundreds of radio stations, I’ve rarely heard this dealt with, except behind closed doors. (Usually the GM or PD questioning me about a “difficult” talent.)

If you really want a better daypart, a raise, or even just genuine respect between yourself and your boss, it has to be earned. Many, many times, a jock has told me that he or she would like to be given a shot at a drive-time slot or maybe being an APD. My answer is always the same: Make yourself the best CANDIDATE for that position.

But if you drill a little deeper, you’ll see that the reason the “higher-ups” haven’t given you that opportunity is actually in the same ballpark that getting the listener to bond with you lives.

Here’s what it boils down to:
Ego without Confidence = no.
Confidence without Ego = yes.

A closer look at this:
We all have egos. A healthy ego is fine, but DISPLAYS of ego are off-putting.
Confidence is what you want to exude. Ego works against that. We all follow the most confident person, but we rarely ever just follow the person with the biggest ego.

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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 #191 – Ratings: Turn the Page

By now, you’ve probably seen the latest ratings. Often, if they’re not what we hope for, it’s easy to sink into “the sky is falling” mentality that tends to dominate the hallways when a station has a down “book”.

Yes, it does look like the political climate, the clownish debates, and the election process and aftermath hurt a lot of formats. While many Country, A/C, CHR, and Contemporary Christian stations got slapped around a bit, the clear beneficiary was the News/Talk arena.

So what do you do now? Here’s what I’m telling my non-News/Talk stations:

It doesn’t matter. Turn the page. Assume that TODAY is the day ratings start (or end). The point is, EVERY break we do has the potential to make a listener either [1] come back or stick around for a second helping, or [2] hit another button because we didn’t give them a reason to stay.

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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 #185 – Intimacy, and how to get it (a Team Show tip)

Intimacy is the most unique ingredient in a team show, because often what works against it is that a team’s individual roles get “assigned” – or at least defined – by the PD or Consultant. Sometimes, in trying to stick to those definitions, intimacy just drops off the radar screen.

In reality, the roles don’t matter when it comes to this particular quality.

Every great show has Intimacy – and the more THAT element stands out, the stronger the team will be as a whole.

Here’s the tricky part: The Strategy is to reveal. But the Tactic is to not compete with or impede that happening. If you don’t know how to prep, but still be largely spontaneous, you might want to get some help with that. As Pierce Brosnan said in ‘Mama Mia’, “It’s only the rest of your life.”

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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 #180 – Technique versus Style

In coaching, the typical fear is always that you, as a talent, might actually have to change some things in order to become more fully fleshed out. Technique is a part of it, and there are many Program Directors who are very good at teaching the various techniques that work best in any given format. I’ve got my own set (what a lot of people have called “The Kramer Rules”) that form that firmament, the solid rock foundation a talent builds on.

Caution: Techniques that don’t grow out of a specific Strategy are just flotsam floating by. Strategy dictates Techniques, not the other way around.

And then you have Style, which is what we work on the most. Many air talents think they already have a certain style, but it’s really just a mish-mash of techniques wrapped around an Attitude.

So I believe the way to look at it is yes, you want to learn the right techniques – and which ones are outdated, or just wrong from the word “go”. But how you DO those techniques are where your true Style comes from.

Example: The brilliant Mike Fisher, a truly great writer and fine air talent, was part of the staff at my last PD gig, a Talk station in Dallas. Early on, we went over certain techniques to handle callers – no “hi, how ya doin’ today?” stuff (no one cares), ONE point from each caller, no phony “and Jess has something to say…” antiquated “entry lines” into a call, etc.

And Mike did well, but he put his own twist on it with this phone call solicitation: “Get in, get on, and be good,” followed by giving the phone number.

That statement, that “set of rules” for his callers to follow, defined his Style. No b. s. was going to be tolerated, no filibusters, no boring analysis. Get in, get on, and be good. The pressure was on the CALLER, not Mike.

Brilliant.

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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 #179 – Lee Abrams, Being Positive, Board Work

On the day I’m writing this tip, I just heard from my buddy Mancow Muller in Chicago. He’s not just an outstanding talent, but he also lives a very interesting life, seemingly knows everyone, and always has great stories to tell.

Tonight he’s having dinner with The Moody Blues (I love them), and radio genius Lee Abrams.

Lee and I go back to 1973 in Chicago, later worked in Cleveland together, and have stayed friends all this time. If you’re not familiar with Lee, just Google him. His accomplishments are amazing, but the things I remember most about being around Lee are (1) he was encouraging, but still mindful of what a talent needed to do to get to a higher level, and (2) he always, always, always, worded everything in positive language.

“Don’t miss this one” became “Make sure to see this one,” for instance. Our weather forecasts didn’t say “partly cloudy.” We said “partly sunny” or (even better) “some sunshine,” etc.

This carried forward into the hallways, too. There were no negative thoughts in a coaching session with Lee – ever.
For example, once, in Chicago, Lee wrote a post-aircheck session recap to the wonderful Gary Gears. Lee assured him that he was going to be the most popular afternoon drive jock in the country, praised all the gifts that Gary brought to the table, etc. Then at the bottom, Lee added:
P. S. Of course, learning to run the board is a prerequisite.

Hilarious.

I miss that time with Lee, and wonder how many stations now even THINK about things like whether something is worded as a positive or a negative, and whether board work even MATTERS.

The radio is full of sloppy, uncaring, slamming-things-on-top-of-one-another board work everywhere now. It’s tempting to fall back on the easiest excuse: “It’s because the computer runs everything.” But remember, your listeners hear this, too.

So let me channel Lee Abrams now and put it this way: We can CHANGE 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.