Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #263 – Be A Good Disc Jockey, Too

A lot of air talents are not even aware of talent coaching. They have aircheck sessions with the PD – maybe – and that’s about it. I don’t know every talent coach working these days, but most of the ones I do know concentrate on Content – the search for it, the storytelling skill set, how to dig inside yourself and reveal things that (hopefully) the listener can identify with.
And that’s fine. That’s the “big picture stuff”, and it matters. If you’re fortunate enough to work with a Valerie Geller or Randy Lane, for instance, there’s no doubt that you will get better, and understand a lot of things you probably never “got” before.

But there’s something else that plays a huge factor in being the Full Package, and that’s simply being a good disc jockey. Sad to say, with the advent of voice tracking, the computer running everything, long stopsets that lull you into not staying as sharp as when we had to run everything manually, sloppy cue tones…well, let’s just say that compared to the heyday of the Top 40 Wars, things are sometimes just not very sharp right now.

It matters that your delivery matches the pace of the song you’re talking over or coming out of. Or the emotional vibe of the song. Or both.
It matters that you learn to trust saying things once, really well, then moving forward – without spelling everything out to the listener and repeating everything you say, treating the listener like a 3-year old.
It matters that you put things in real, conversational wording, rather than just reading “print language” off a computer screen. And there are literally dozens of other things that I coach – but the point is that it REALLY matters that you develop your voice acting skills to sound sincere and like you’re here in my car with me, right this second, listening to the song with me.

Of COURSE you want to come across as a good companion in the car; a good neighbor; hopefully a person the listener considers to be a good friend. But you have to START with being a good, skilled disc jockey.

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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 Coaching Tip #260 – Why Your So-Called Positioning Phrase Doesn’t Work

“The Best Variety at Work…”
“(City)’s Best Music…”
“We Play More Music…”
“The Home of the Fifty-Minute Music Hour…”

We’ve all heard these.

None of them – not one – is true.

So why are you using them?

In a world surrounded by B. S., why are you adding to the junk pile of words thrown together like they fell out of a bowl of Alpha Bits and made what sounds like a sentence?

What do any of these say about the Values of your radio station? Or your city? Or anything, really, that’s meaningful to your audience?

Let’s take a close look…

“Best variety at work” – do you play “I Am the Walrus” by the Beatles? Do you play the “Flying” theme from E. T. by John Williams? Do you play Keith Urban, Pit Bull, Mercy Me, the Grateful Dead, Rihanna, Frank Sinatra, Cream, Mark Knopfler, Phil Collins, and Vince Gill? My iPhone does. Looks like IT’S got a better variety.
Oh, and “best variety at work” doesn’t even register at 2am when I’M NOT AT WORK.

“Houston’s Best Music” – really, now, do we even need to discuss that? Re-read the last paragraph.

“More Music,” “Fewer Interruptions”, and “Fifty-Minute Music Hours” just tell me (1) that you play more music than some other station (but NOT more than Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music), (2) you’re actually INTERRUPTING the flow of music to tell me that you have fewer interruptions, and (3) I’m gonna have to pay through the nose with some ungodly long commercial cluster after you give me a 55-minute massage – and you only do that a few hours a day, anyway.

Oh, and I heard a younger-demo Christian station that plays hip-hop, aggressive music that mentions Jesus say “Hits, Hip-Hop, and Hope” the other day. Hits? Really? Hope? Well that part’s right. I was hoping that I didn’t have to hear anymore of its music.

Listen, please…
I would recommend that you use your energy to simply say the name of the station, so people can become familiar with it (in diary markets) and know what station to tune into (in PPM markets) so the device will register that.

Your NAME is your Brand. The things you do are your ingredients. Your AIR TALENT should be the main ingredient in connecting with the listener. I can get the music anywhere. This is why I’m a Talent Coach; so there will be people on the air that reflect the things your listener cares about, and seem like friends – that cool friend that you always like being around.

Stop wasting people’s time trying to tell them what you’d like them to think about you.

When radio gets more honest, doesn’t try to tell people what to think, and becomes a viable place to visit, get information, and be entertained by, it does well. All the slogans and Positioning statements in the world are just noise.

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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 Coaching Tip #257 – Avoid the Obvious

I’ve written about this before, but recent listening to stations in three different formats, it begs being revisited.

Here’s the magic key to becoming someone out of the ordinary on the air: Avoid the Obvious.

Example: Years ago, doing a morning team show in Dallas with my wonderful partner Rick “The Beamer” Robertson, there was a massive wreck on I-35, one of the city’s main arteries. It turned out that a huge truck full of books was involved, and we knew we needed to talk about it. Immediately upon seeing the story, Rick said “set it up, then throw it to me.”

I opened the break with a warning to anyone traveling in that direction, saying they should get off I-35 NOW and find an alternate route, or they’d surely be WAY late for work. I added the detail that a truck overturned that was full of books.

Because no one had been hurt, Rick then said that the books were a shipment of thesauruses, and “The wreck was awful…”
Me: “Really?”
Rick: “Terrible”
Me: “Really!?”
Rick: “Dismaying”
Me: “Wow”
Rick: “Tragic”
Me: “Uh-huh”
Rick: “Appalling”
Me: “…uh, yeah, got it.”

With just a little imagination, Rick saw a different way to handle it than anyone else. That’s what made him special.

And not doing the obvious will make YOU special, too.

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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 #253 – Your Show as a Demo Tape

Whatever you do well, congratulations on that. I mean that sincerely. The good things that you do each day make a great impression.

Similarly, when you say things more than once (as radio continues to do, trying to beat a thought into the listener’s head), or you do “the moral of the story” obligatory recap at the end of something, or say radio clichés (like “on your Monday morning,” “Hump day”), or do something silly and outdated (like “The Mindbender Question of the Day” or “This Day in History”), those make an impression, too. As my friend and partner Alan Mason says, “Everything counts.”

So, weed the garden regularly. Listen to your own show at least once a week. Add new ideas all the time. Consistency = Good. Predictability = Bad.

Think of your show as a demo tape. Because to the listener, it actually IS.

– – – – – – –
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 #252 – Hire STARS

Way too often, radio stations settle for hiring B or even C-level air talent, because they think they can’t afford better, or that an A-level talent will be “difficult” or just too expensive.

The reality, of course, is that when you hire a STAR, it changes the whole culture of a station.

Whenever you hire a racehorse, the other horses think “Why am I hitched to this plow?” Hiring a major league talent serves as a beacon for the other members of the staff, and makes them start trying things that lead to more and more “memorable moments” – and that’s what stations need to reach a new level of performance and establish a “learning and performance” vibe that runs through the hallways, spreads to every other department (particularly Imaging and Production), and infuses the Sales staff and management with a brighter outlook every single day.

Hire stars, or people who can BECOME stars with coaching and direction. When you settle for less, you’re putting a cap on what you can become. Plus, when you already have stars onboard, other stars want to come work for you.

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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 #244 – The Cure for “Puking”

Just last month, an associate sent me this email:

Do you have any suggestions for how to correct a “Ron Radio” delivery? A client of mine in a small market sent their night jock’s audio to me. He is kind of a puker. It’s been forever since I’ve dealt with someone who pukes on the air. I was going to have him put a picture of his wife (or similar) in front of him to maybe make him more conversational. I remember you having a better way of having someone visualize speaking to another person.

My reply:
The picture of your wife works for most people, but with pukers, they have to move in closer to the mic so when they get loud and exaggerated, it really stands out to them. What I do is play a break where the pukey thing happened, then ask the talent to “Say that again, right now, just to me” to create a sense of intimacy. Intimacy kills puking.

The worst disease in radio (or in life, really) is to try to be “bigger” and more expansive. It just makes someone sound like a blowhard. Drastic measures are sometimes necessary. I always remind those people that I’m only two feet away, not twenty. And if that doesn’t work, I let them in on how really great jocks always mock pukers. (No one likes to think of himself being mocked.)

The “Ron Radio” thing may have worked at one time, but not now. One of the best things you can do as a PD is help someone lose that sound.

– – – – – – –
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 #243 – Make Sure it’s Fully Baked

Despite all the zillions of VERY specific tips that I coach, the people I’ve worked with the longest know that I’m all about developing Personality on the air. The most important mentors in my career stressed that – particularly as “cookie cutter” formats became dominant – Personality was the sweet brown liquid inside the Coca-Cola can.

Just the other day, a guy I’ve worked with for several years took a foray into the world of creating a character voice to do his weather forecasts, and ran it several times during his show. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t ‘ready for prime time’ yet, either. Here’s part of what I wrote in our session recap:

I don’t want to quash your aspirations, but we have to make sure that something is fully baked before we serve it. Characters or other contributors need some sort of backstory to legitimize their presence. And even if a character voice works, something this specific can’t work more than once in a show until it’s really fleshed out and defined. Repeating it later in the show, at this point, is overuse.

For the time being, let’s talk about these things before they hit the air, so you’re not bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Characters don’t have to be fictional, either. My first boss, Larry Ryan in Shreveport, Lousiana, made a seemingly nerdy ‘engineer’ type named Ralph Montgomery, who basically just ran the automation machines on our “Beautiful Music” sister station, into “Mr. Weather” after hearing Ralph do a forecast so deadpan that it was hilarious. Mr. Weather became a HUGE star as Larry helped him develop.

Growth happens a little at a time. It rarely just bursts out in full bloom. But you should always be on the lookout for something you can use to be relevantly different on the air.

– – – – – – –
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 #240 – The Last Episode Before the Last Episode

At the end of the Fall 2017 network television season, we saw something unprecedented. The reason you may not have noticed it is that it didn’t work – at all.

“The last episode before the gripping season finale…” was the “trailer” at the end of the NEXT TO LAST episode of at least two series that I regularly watch.

Think about this. “The last episode before the last episode.” Where does the madness end with these stupid network hype machines? “The last episode before the stirring final three episodes” is probably being written into promos right now…by idiots, who’ve bought into the notion that everything needs to be ‘bigger’ and more impressive before anyone will notice it.

But that’s fundamentally wrong, because when we feel overhyped, there’s an oily residue to it that actually makes us resent it. (Or we just ignore it as “white noise” and go on about our business.)

Look at the copy you’re reading today. If it’s full of over-modifiers like “fantastic”, “awesome”, “amazing”, etc. then you should ARBITRARILY take out all but ONE adjective, so it’ll sound more genuine. Otherwise, the things people hear in your promos, commercials, or Imaging are like Jiffy Pop – just full of hot air.

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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 #239 – Learn from The Andy Griffith Show

I keep hearing things being READ to me in EXAGGERATED tones: “THANK you for ALL you’ve DONE!”

Thinking about how to help people mature and get past this point, I happened to have an old Andy Griffith Show on while I worked the other day. It was an early episode, from the first season, and Andy himself was REALLY exaggerated, using a loud, cornpone delivery that made him sound like a cartoon character.

But Griffith himself said later in his life that he found it difficult to watch those episodes, when he was still basically just doing his country bumpkin character from “No Time For Sergeants”, his first Broadway play (and later, his first movie). That was kind of the style then; everything was overplayed. And Andy thought he needed to stay in ‘vocal overdrive’ to be the comedy center of the show. But soon after that first season, he realized that Don Knotts (as deputy Barney Fife) was going to be the funny one, and Andy should be the straight man.
From that point on, Andy settled down and got more conversational and realistic. And magic happened. Not only did the show zoom to the top of the ratings, but Andy had found the more plausible delivery that lasted through his “Matlock” days and several movies.

Listen to some audio from your show today. Ask yourself whether you sound like the listener’s friend, or like someone who’s way ‘over the top’ and trying too hard. If it’s the latter, just stop.

You’ll realize your greatest success when you stop trying to BE somebody, and just interact with the listener like you’re talking to a friend.

The days of the loud, high-energy disc jockey are gone.

– – – – – – –
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 #238 – The Coaching Process: Step 3 of 3

In the previous two tips, we went over Step 1 – weeding the garden of bad or outdated habits, and really seeing into what an actual Strategy is, rather than just a bunch of Tactics thrown at the wall to see what sticks – and Step 2, which is a crucial building block of developing both Timing and Trust, in what you do on the air and in shaping the knack of pulling people closer to you.

Those are huge, and take some time to believe in, because there are plenty of people who THINK they’re coaches that actually know nothing about starting from scratch and creating an entity that has a real chance to get huge ratings.

Step 3 of my coaching process is the most fun, the longest lasting, and the most imaginative: It’s all about the Art – the “how high can you fly?” quest that all great talents have.

This is where coaching is most important. Michael Jordan had a coach. Phil Jackson took His Airness from just a great player to a Champion. Jack Nicholson has had the same dialogue coach for decades. Tom Brady without Bill Belichick would be Aaron Rogers – great stats, but only one championship, not five.

Here’s how Step 3 works: I strip every “crutch” away. Every little habit that doesn’t serve a purpose or wastes the listener’s time, every additional step that slows down a show’s momentum, every unnecessary word possible, every semi-lame bit you still cling to that’s just there because you haven’t come up with anything better. That leaves ONLY WHAT YOU DO BEST. And we work on making that sound so simple, so easy, that people just gravitate to it because it sounds like you’re having so much fun doing it.

After that “A” side, we work on a “B” side, just like an old vinyl record had, because one-trick ponies eventually lose their appeal.

There are people I’ve worked with for decades. Some have changed formats, some have gone into voice acting careers, some have become the big fish in a small pond, some have become a big fish in a huge pond, but they all have one thing in common: They’re still curious about getting better, seeing more, developing new techniques.

You CAN do it yourself, without a coach. But you can do it much faster WITH a coach. If you fear the coaching process, what you’re really doing is arbitrarily lowering your ceiling on how good you can get.

It’s easy to throw around big, well-known names that I’ve worked with, but there are literally hundreds of people I’ve coached that you’ve probably never heard of that are even more successful, but chose to remain in smaller markets and OWN them. Whichever path you choose, a coach’s job is to help you realize your dreams. If that’s not what’s happening, then you’ve got the wrong coach.

No coach is more talented than his players. But no great player got there by himself.

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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.