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 #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 #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 #147 — The Last Logical Place

One of the major themes in science fiction is that as the technology gets better, the skills atrophy. That’s why you see those old monster movies where alien beings had giant brains, but machines and computers did all the work for them, since their arms and legs had gradually degenerated to being useless twigs.
On our own planet, in Music radio, we’re hearing more of this “the machines are taking over” factor all the time. In a music sweep, for example, a song’s ending is a chord that hangs for 3 or 4 seconds, but one-tenth of a second into that hang time, the next song slams in (or the antsy jock starts talking), abruptly cutting off both the previous song and the mood. Cue tones on music, Imaging, and commercials are often set to fire the next element too soon, so the last word obliterates the beginning of the next thing, or gets drowned out by it. Or a song will end with a fade, but instead of hitting the next element at the end of a sentence, where it would seamlessly appear, we hear an extra couple of words (“And…if…”), then BLAM!…next song. Woof. Clumsy.

When it doesn’t even sound like you’re engaged with what you’re doing, why should I be, as a listener? I constantly hear stations with live jocks that sound voice tracked because of their lackluster board work.

As a Talent Coach, I want to help everything you do, not just what you say. Try this exercise: run the board manually for a few days, only putting it in “auto” mode when you go into stopsets, and your board op skills will get razor sharp. An element of FEEL will enter the picture, and then the cue tones can be changed to match it. Slamming songs (or elements) together is careless and random sounding. But waiting too long to hit the next thing makes the momentum stall out. The right timing is somewhere in between. The right place to hit the next element in a sweep isn’t “at the last place” in the song you’re playing. It’s “at the last LOGICAL place.” Let that little artistic touch into your brain, and you’ll sound alert and in control—and like you’re actually listening to the music with me.

Then, when you open the mike to say something, maybe I’ll pay more attention to it, because something as simple as your board work drew me in a little closer to you.

– – – – – – –
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 #139 – Learn from Steven Wright

A couple of tips ago, I quoted several comedians to illustrate how ‘camera angles’ and vocabulary go hand-in-hand to shape memorable thoughts. One of them was Steven Wright. Here are just a few more examples of his brilliance:

• “I remember when the Candle Shop burned down. Everybody stood around singing ‘Happy Birthday.’”
• “If at first you don’t succeed…then skydiving definitely isn’t for you.”
• “Sponges grow in the ocean. This bothers me. How deep would it be if they didn’t?”
• “It doesn’t matter what temperature the room is. It’s always room temperature.”
• “My friend has a baby. I’m writing down all the noises the baby makes, so later I can ask him what he meant.”
• “I put instant coffee in a microwave oven and almost went back in time.”
• “What’s another word for thesaurus?

While it seems like funny thoughts just flow out of him like water, here’s what he says about his process: “For every four jokes I write, one is good enough to stay (in the act).”

So here are some questions for you:
Do you write four punch lines for every one you use?
If not, why not? Are you funnier than Steven Wright? (I know I’m not. Chances are you’re not, either.)
Is it because you’re lazy? Or is it because you think “That’s good enough”?
Because “good enough”…never is.

– – – – – – –
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 #135 – Chinese Handcuffs

No doubt you’ve seen “Chinese handcuffs”, that little woven tube that TRAPS your fingers inside it. And the more you struggle, the tighter it gets. You have to relax to get free.

The same thing goes for what you do on the air. Don’t overthink what you’re doing, and don’t try too hard. Make it simple, and easy to consume. If you try to do too much or it gets too complicated, that can be a lot to ask from someone who’s just on his way to get a burger.

Allways try to make each break the very best it can be, even if you’re just intro’ing a song. Simply let yourself get into the moment, and engage.

– – – – – – –
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 #132 – Table for Three

Besides working with young talents to help them accelerate to “warp speed” really quickly, there’s one other area of coaching that really lights me up – helping “seasoned pros” update their sound, so they come across as being in the 21st century. Losing old habits isn’t really that hard. LOTS of old dogs learn new tricks.

Recently, a veteran broadcaster on a Talk show that I coach needed to take a hard look at his vocal approach. His vision was that he was sitting at a table for eight or ten people, and needed to project loudly enough so that everyone at the table could hear him.

That probably was what most people thought when he first started, that a BIG voice that “PRESENTED” everything was the right sound.

But not now. Things are more intimate than ever. No one wants to feel shouted at. So to bring him up to speed, I told him to think of the show as a table for three – him, his partner, and me (the listener). Anything past that will be too loud, and not really sound like you’re actually talking to me, instead of at me.

Sounding animated, indignant, or excited about something is a different matter. My buddy Mancow has that down to a “T”. But shouting everything only worked well for one person: the great Foghorn Leghorn.

– – – – – – –
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 #129 – Emotion and Opinion

Mark Ramsey is one smart dude. See: http://www.markramseymedia.com/

If you’ve worked with him, or even just read or seen some of his stuff, you already know that Mark is always grinding away, looking to the present only as it applies to the future, and helping stations refine what really connects with listeners.

One of his most engaging thoughts is how essential “memorable moments” are to creating fans of your show (and the station). All the best Consultants’ minds have their own takes on this, but as you may have noticed, I focus on EXACTLY HOW things work.

So, if you want to get on the fast track to creating those Memorable Moments, here’s the foundation in coaching terms:

It’s all about Emotion and Opinion. You HAVE to give an opinion to be remembered. And ALL memorable radio comes from an Emotional place. (The same as great books, great plays, great movies, and great music.) People NOTICE it when something comes from the heart and reveals something about not just what you think, but also what you FEEL.

Here’s a great example, from my friend Norm Hitzges on The Ticket in Dallas:

– – – – – – –
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 #125 – Don’t lose your Punch

George Carlin used to do a routine about how we’ve “softened” our language. How “shell shocked” morphed into “battle fatigue”, and then, over time, into “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” – or the even more nondescript PTSD, which makes that terrible condition sounds like it can be cured by taking a Midol.

In many ways, radio’s guilty of this, too. A tragedy happens, and all we hear is “Our hearts and prayers go out to them” instead of showing real concern. In today’s PC News, “alleged perpetrators” doesn’t sound the same as “the guy they think robbed the store,” and you’re doing someone a favor when you say he’s been accused of “spousal abuse” instead of beating up his wife.

Let’s lighten this up a bit:
Personally, I saw this coming a long time ago, when the first hard drug I ever had—sugar—became unacceptable to cereal manufacturers, and Sugar Crisp became the soft, lovingly castrated “Golden Crisp.”
GOLDEN CRISP? What the heck is that? Sounds like how French fries should come out…golden crisp. And the Sugar Bear, that lovable dispenser of this children’s version of heroin, became the Honey Bear or Golden Bear or something. No, wait…Jack Nicklaus was the Golden Bear. Oh well, that’s not the point.

But this is: Don’t get so generic or politically correct in your language (or your format or your subject matter) that you lose your PUNCH. Smooth peanut butter may sell more, but it feels better to eat a glob of CHUNKY.

Have some GUTS. (Not “intestinal fortitude.”)
Show some SPUNK. (Not some “spirit.”)
And by the way, Mother Goose, Jack did NOT fall down and break his “crown.” He CLONKED his head on a big ROCK, and now he’s bleeding like a stuck pig.

Your language should convey EMOTION. Generic language makes you seem like you don’t have any.

– – – – – – –
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 #121 – The Beau Weaver Tips

Beau Weaver was simply the best radio jock I ever heard, period.

Now he’s now a very successful voice actor based out of Los Angeles, and still one of my closest friends. We first met and worked together as babies several hundred years ago, when Gordon McLendon hired us as part of the staff at KNUS 99, the station that put FM on the map in Dallas.

We were all very young, and constantly running thoughts and techniques by each other, trying to find ourselves as jocks and Production talents. The other day, Beau reminded me of how he’d often play me a spot or promo that he’d done, and I’d keep repeating two things to him: “Don’t use your voice, and don’t try.”

Those are still the two starting places, either for young talent, or for old pros trying to update their sound to still be valid in the 21st century. Let me explain why…

Don’t use your voice.
When you “use” your voice, it sounds phony. The broadcasting world is still far too stocked with people on the air who just LOVE their own voices, and “puke” too much or shout at the listener in an effort to sound “big” or to “impress” them. (Are you listening, Kenny Albert? I’m not 40 feet away. There’s no reason to scream at me.)
Just talk.

Don’t “try”.
It’s not that you don’t want to give it a professional effort. Of course you do, but when you try too hard, you sound strident. That doesn’t bring anyone closer to you; it pushes them away. You pull people toward you by really understanding your “instrument”. Study great actors, and you see the value of LESS volume, less projection. For instance, Tom Hanks doesn’t have what radio people would call a great voice, but he can make you cry. Here’s another great example: Matt Damon at the end of “Saving Private Ryan” at that graveside, turning to his wife and softly saying, “Tell me I’m a good man.” It gets me every time.

Until you fully realize all the techniques available to you that can sway people, you’re just going to be one more voice in a sea of voices, quacking away on the air every day. (And good luck trying to be a voice actor. I’ve been to auditions where they’ve asked “Anyone in radio?” and when some people raised their hands, they were told “Thank you; you can leave.” They never even got a CHANCE to read, because the last thing anyone wants for a national spot is the “deejay” delivery.)

If you’re not in touch with this yet, you need a coach.

Oh, and go to www.spokenword.com to hear Beau Weaver’s work. Whatever he doesn’t have, you don’t need.

– – – – – – –
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.