Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #256 – Content is CONTACT

Talking to a PD the other day about “the clock” on his station, I heard this vague explanation of how he didn’t want his jocks to talk over song intros because that’s not Content. Instead, he wanted Imaging pieces – some of them “dry” voice – to always play between songs because “you can’t do Content over these short intros today” and he wanted his air talent to stop down for Content.

But here’s the problem with that: to a large degree, Content is CONTACT.
In the heyday of Top 40 and Hot A/C, we knew that most of the time we could do SOMETHING besides just intro a song (like promote a contest opportunity coming up, or a station feature, promote another person on the air, give some sort of information, or do a quick quip), or that even if we WERE “just” introing a song, we could at least give the listener some sort of vibe about being engaged with the music.

A human being, right here in this moment, actually making contact with the listener, even if was just to comment on the weather or what kind of day it was. As opposed to a nameless, faceless voice quacking about how wonderful the station is, or “marketing your aspirations” (a Ries and Trout term), ala “The perfect mix of songs for your workday” or some other tired, beaten to death claim that NO ONE BELIEVES.

Shortly after deregulation, when it was decided that companies could own a gazillion stations, Personality began to die, except for someone – often stopping in the middle of songs in what should have been a music sweep – deciding to talk for a while about something. Used to be, you only stopped the music to do “Content breaks” going into stopsets.

And it worked. Boy, did it work. And it still does, on stations that actually want to have Momentum. I could write a million words on this, but it’s often like describing a rainbow to a blind person.

Look, you can’t win the “x songs in a row” or “x minutes of music” battle. Spotify and Apple Music OWN that. (Unless you can play 48 million songs in a row like Apple music. I’m betting you can’t.) People WANT personality. People want Contact and Companionship. If all you are is a juke box/hype machine, well, good luck with that. Maybe the next owners will decide to do something different. Something “retro” but ultra-modern 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
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Tip #248 – More Crayons

I talk a lot about “crayons” – meaning, that just like in elementary school, learning how to use each crayon results in a different picture. In radio, “more crayons” is about finding more variations on a theme.

The two most typical endings are to say something funny, or to weigh in with a somber “summary” or “conclusion” to something. These are fine — essential, actually — but if they’re the only two crayons you color with, they’ll get pretty predictable.

My process is to strip everything away, until a talent begins again with the little “eight crayon” box that we got in first grade, then learns how each can be used.
Eventually, you move to the 16-crayon box, then the 32, then the beautiful 64-crayon box with the sharpener in the side.

The purpose of this analogy is to remember the essential storytelling ingredients, then add other things to avoid being predictable.

You want to be consistent, but sameness is a different thing – and one to be avoided. It’s a fine line, but this is why every talent needs coaching. No one is just born with the innate ability to craft information and stories into something cohesive that doesn’t waste the listener’s time. We have to work at it. There are far too many shows that are basically just the same things every day, always using the same crayons. Don’t let your show be one of them.

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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 #246 – Content: The 2 Lanes to Travel

Of all the things I get asked about, the search for Content comes up far more often than anything else. First of all, you have to look for it, but it’s really all around you. Prep sheets are great for lining bird cages, but real Content can easily be distilled into two lanes:

1. What’s already on the listener’s mind – TOP of mind, not just something he/she “has a passing interest in” – filtered THROUGH your observations, experiences, and opinions.

2. Things the listener may NEED to know, but might not have heard about yet.

Anything that you have to “reach” for, you should automatically reject. Let everyone ELSE do trivial, typical, or obscure stuff, while you make great contact every at-bat. (Obligatory baseball reference is for my partner John Frost. Go Yankees.)

With the natural flow of stuff that you have to promote (station stuff, events, web features, etc.) and Contests, that’s really all you need. The creative “difference” factors don’t lie in finding “off the beaten path” things to talk about; they’re in HOW you weigh in on and share the things the listener cares most about.

This makes your prep process SO easy.

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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 #242 – Values: The Center of the Bulls-Eye

In talking to Program Directors and GMs over the years, I’ve heard a lot of discussion about why a show does or doesn’t really get the audience the people in charge think it should. For example, they’ll go down their bullet-point lists of all the ingredients that a morning show should have – the capsule descriptions of what words describe each Talent, which one is the “starter” and which is the “reactor”, and (hopefully) the reason people will listen to them.

But if you stop there, you’re missing the center of the bulls-eye: Values.

What are the talent’s values? What are the station’s values? What do you STAND for?

Sooner or later, all stations – and all shows – come down to values. Without some core ingredient that the listener can FEEL, you’re just someone spraying out words; hit and miss.

My friend Johnjay Van Es of The Johnjay & Rich Show” is a great example. He’s got every tool that you’d look for – an interesting voice, great chemistry with the other members of the show, a remarkable awareness of how to use social media to create more avenues for the listener to connect with the show, great sense of humor, etc.

But he also has very value-driven, openly heart-driven things like his “Love Up” campaign, and its offshoot, the “Love Pup” campaign that has found homes for countless dogs all across the country in the dozens of markets where the show airs.

Without those, they’d be a much shallower entity, doing bits and talking about what famous people they hung out with – like a lot of other shows that may be entertaining in the short run, but in the words of Gertrude Stein describing Oakland, “There’s no ‘there’ there.”

If I listen to you for an hour, I’d better come away with something that shows me what your values are. Otherwise, “click”…the death sentence.

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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 #235 – Never End with the Left Brain

A very good talent I work with did a contest the other day, and had a great winner, who was really surprised and happy about winning lunch for her office from a local deli. He did a good job with her in the winner call he played on the air, but at the end, he added a whole bunch of “blah blah blah” about the specific hoops the winner had to jump through to get her prize, and along the way, he mentioned the name of a person in the office that no listener would know or care about.

This is what I sent him in his coaching session recap:

Here’s how it should have unfolded: Right after you told her she had won lunch, compliments of Jackson Street Deli and she said, “I can do that,” you said “Sweet.”
GO!! Right there! No person listening needs to hear the inner mechanics of how you get the prize.

Anytime you end with a “left brain” thought, you suck the wind out of that moment of winning. You can do the other stuff off the air.

By the way, I’d also wait to do the “next time we’ll play” plug until the NEXT break, not glomp it onto the end of the winner call. CELEBRATE THE WIN, then GO.

This “never end with the ‘left brain’” thing applies to everything you do. When you revert to data, numbers, times, etc. at the end, you’re just a buzz kill.

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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 #221 – Another Seinfeld Content Tip

Cruising around You Tube yesterday, I saw an interview with Jerry Seinfeld by Norm MacDonald.

Norm brought up a hypothetical scene: Two people go to a bowling alley and….what happens next?

If you’ve seen Seinfeld much at all, you know about his ‘internal radar’ as to what makes something funny – or not. So he interrupted MacDonald at that point and said “Why are they in the bowling alley?”
He went on to dismiss the “future plot development” idea that (and I’m paraphrasing here) “if you’re doing the scene because that’s where he meets this person who becomes a significant figure in his life, that’s not gonna work.” The answer to ‘why are they there?’ has to be funny IN ITSELF, not just as a tool for some future plot development.

This is a really important thing that goes directly to Purpose, and not just leading the listener down some garden path.

Coincidentally, I had a session yesterday with a female talent who brought up the factoid that “we all spend ten minutes a day looking for stuff that we’ve misplaced,” and then went on to tell a story about her husband being so used to her losing her phone that he instantly replied “Babe, it’s right here” when she mentioned that she didn’t know where she had left it.

But see, that doesn’t answer the fundamental question that Seinfeld alludes to – why are we there, in that scenario? WHY are you talking about it?
For radio purposes, something has to be entertaining in itself, right off the bat, in order to further the show in a non-random way and to make your Content relevant.

This is why just launching into a story about yourself isn’t necessarily a slam-dunk when it comes to scoring score points with the listener. If you’re working hard at trying to be “transparent” and to “tell stories” (things we hear all the time, but usually get no instructions as to exactly HOW to do that), remember that if the only reason you bring something up is to “fill the page” with something, or to talk about yourself, that’s not enough. Dig deeper. There’s another FOUNDATIONAL level – the one that guided Seinfeld’s career – that needs to be considered.

If this seems too nebulous, too obvious, or too introspective…well, sorry. But radio is in a dangerous place right now where “items” and “stories” that don’t resonate with the listener have replaced actual sharing and bonding. You can’t just do “bits”. I can get those off You Tube.

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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 #217 — More Words, Less Impact

We all now that one windbag who’s always at the party, telling stories that never seem to end.

And we all avoid getting sucked into a conversation with that person.

The reason is simple, but more important today than ever in the Twitter, L8R for “later”, emoji world.

Time is a person’s most precious commodity. We’re all too busy; we have things to do, and anything that impedes that is resented. The more words you use, the less effective the message is.

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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 #197 – Quips, Comments, and Stories

The primary ingredients of any really good talent in a music format are Quips, Comments, and Stories. A little more about each…

A quip: My morning show partner years ago in Dallas, Rick “the Beamer” Robertson once came out of “Billie Jean” with “Well, what can you say about Michael Jackson…that hasn’t been operated on.” (I don’t even know that this made sense, but it was just plain funny.)

A comment: a remark about something that may or may not be funny, but it is YOURS. Comments can’t be in every single thing that you do, but there should be a healthy dose of them in each show. Friendships are formed through the exchange of opinions. If you don’t HAVE any, we can’t be friends.

A story: I think of stories as “little plays” about “adventures” we have. Note: Please avoid the “Christmas newsletter” mentality. Make sure that the listener CARES about the subject, or you’re just a car going as fast as it can toward an oak tree.

These three things, along with the more “plain vanilla” Content – promoting things, sponsor liners, whatever – are pretty much all you’re going to do, and they should be balanced. And remember, there’s an art to making “plain vanilla” stuff stand out and be different from the last time you talked about it.

If you know what arrows you have in your quiver, you won’t waste your time trying to use something else.

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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 #196 – A Deeper Dive into Camera Angles

One of the two of three most game-changing tips I’ve coached over the years is “camera angles”. It grew out of film classes in college, and a lifelong love of great movies, directors, and actors. In short, it’s about the perspectives you gain – like the Director of a movie decides – from a different point of view.

But, as with everything that’s artistic at its core, there are layers and colors inside that technique.

So here’s another way to look at it that may help you: It’s not just where you put the camera. It’s about what you SEE when you put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s Emotional, rather than just technical.

It’s not a fact-finding mission. It’s a way to see inside something from a perspective that can tell a different story.

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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.