Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #276 – The 2 Most Important Content Guidelines

In a coaching session this week, it occurred to me that most talents today might not have been as fortunate as I was in terms of who influenced them. The names might not mean much to you, but I started off working for a wonderful P. D. named Larry Ryan in Shreveport, my home town, whose mantra was “Do something! Any idiot can intro songs.” That gave me permission to try – and equally important – permission to fail.

Then I worked for radio pioneer Gordon McLendon (who, with Todd Storz, INVENTED Top 40). Gordon was all about Creativity too, and P. D. Michael Spears taught me tight, concise formatics to harness that creativity.

Others followed: the great Lee Abrams, who infused “Stationality” to a stunning degree, and made me realize that TRYING to be funny was the wrong path; being yourself (and therefore unique) was far more important. Bill Young in Houston, who rarely said anything, but when he did, it was like gold coins dropping into your hands. Jack McCoy, creator of the best contest ever, “The Last Contest” at KCBQ in San Diego.

But all that aside, people like those aren’t very prevalent anymore, so let me try to help you with what I believe are the two most important guidelines for Content:

1. Today’s show should be about TODAY as much as possible. Recycling old material usually sounds like just that, recycled, calculated. Some days are “drier” than others, but Wednesday’s show can’t just be a repeat of Tuesday’s show. In this era of voice-trackers reading crap off a computer screen, or taking “click bait” stories from the internet or social media, there’s a lot of nothing being said.

2. RELEVANCE is the key. If it doesn’t matter to the listener, you’re just “a voice saying words” – a dull, droning noise to be tolerated (maybe), but not really connecting with the listener in any meaningful way.

So, as I wrote in my session recap with a good talent who has it in him to become a great talent yesterday, “Today, if at all possible. Relevant, always.”

If you’ll sift everything through those two thoughts, I guarantee that you’ll get better, no matter what your level of experience is. We ALL had mentors. If you’re not still learning, you’re regressing.

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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 #275 — You’ll Use Everything You’ve Ever Known – IF…

There’s a famous story that David Letterman tells about Johnny Carson. One night on The Tonight Show, fairly early in his career, the young Letterman was a guest. And he and Carson got on one of those rolls where everything each of them said was funnier than the last thing. The audience was in stitches laughing at each line, and finally Carson broke into the “patter” he had used as a magician when he was young – the absurdity of which resulted in uproarious laughter that led perfectly into a commercial break.

During the break, with the set darkened, Carson, who was a mentor to Dave, leaned over and said, “You’ll use everything you’ve ever known.”

Truly great air talents know this, and it’s a really interesting parameter to work on as a coach. But the key is IF you can figure out exactly what the “fuse” is to light that “nugget” up. Often, I see air talents with a good concept, but no idea of how it might work. Using something just because you have that bullet in the chamber doesn’t mean that you can just fire it indiscriminately.

Think “What would facilitate this?” Because it has to make sense in the flow of the conversation, or it’ll sound awkward.

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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 #273 – That’s How Dogs Live

If you have a dog, you know this to be true: most dogs lie around waiting for something to happen, then – and usually ONLY then – they get up off their duffs and JOIN you. Dogs are eager to participate, but they’re not usually self-starters. My best friend’s two dogs lie around on the bed until one of us goes into the kitchen, or outside, then they LEAP off the bed, ready to join in on the sandwich I’m making, or if I go outside, run out the door with me to do whatever they think I want to do (which apparently is bark at squirrels).

Waiting for something to happen, then joining in. That describes a lot of air talents today, content to just do the basics, promote something, say some nebulous “glad to be a part of your day” language, then go back to looking at their Facebook pages while the song plays. But that’s how dogs live.

Pick a subject, think up an angle on it that’s personally revealing and entertaining, then open the mic and DO SOMETHING.

A talent who’s just spewing out the artist’s name and the song title, or doing some generic liner, is pretty much just a waste of time. Honestly, I’d rather you just play the sound effect of a dog barking. That would be more entertaining.

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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 #271 – If You Can’t Do a Short Break, You Can’t Do a Long Break

As we continue to hear the buzz word “stories”, it seems to me that people are talking more, but not necessarily being all that interesting. Every movie is edited. Every book is edited (usually multiple times). Highlights are watched more than actual games. Top 10 lists are the vogue, not Top 100 lists. Stand-up comics start with a good 10 minutes, not a 90-minute HBO special.

The cardinal sin in radio is wasting people’s time. And from a coaching standpoint, believe this: if you can’t do a short break, you can’t do a long break. Most people tend to wander around, stagger into “related” thoughts that can easily take us off the main road into the forest somewhere, and instead of taking the First Exit – the first place where there’s a “reveal” of some sort or where the subject resolves – they keep trying to top themselves or fire more bullets into a dead body.

Try this for a month: not letting any “Content” break or story take longer than 40-60 seconds. Only after you MASTER that length should you do anything longer. And even then, my rule is “Take as long as you need, but be as brief as you can.”

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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 #270 – Something You Haven’t Done Before

Here’s how you jump start (or reignite) your creativity: Do something tomorrow that you haven’t done before.

I say this a lot to talents who are “pleasant” but not really creating anything memorable on their shows. And I don’t really care what that “something” is. The point is to go where you haven’t gone before; to add another arrow to your quiver.

The reply is usually “Like what?”
ANYTHING besides “same old – same old”. I don’t care if you whistle the song, or it can be just a remark or observation that stretches the boundaries of what you’ve been doing. Failure to grow creatively SHOULD result in diminished listenership. We OWE it to the listener to try and get better, expand the envelope of what he or she expects to hear, and continue to surprise. (OBSERVATION is the key. Look at the things around you, and comment on the ones that connect with your listener’s life. Simple.)

You’ll be amazed at the results. The feedback you get will be more active and connected. More synapses will start firing in your brain. Ideas beget MORE ideas.

So I say again: Do something tomorrow that you haven’t done before. It’s the only way to “stretch” and get to the next level.

Then the next day, AGAIN do something that you haven’t done before. Rinse and repeat, EVERY day until I say “Stop.” That’ll be about 30 years from now.

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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 #268 – We’re Creatures of Habit, and that’s not good

We all fall into habits, and one I’ve heard a LOT recently is an air talent rattling off the “basics” (name of the station, artist, maybe the song title, the time), then saying his or her name LAST as you “gird your loins” (or gather yourself) to do Content.

The problem with this (besides being lazy) is that the listener learns to recognize this on a subconscious level, so you’re – by definition – NOT doing the unexpected.

Look, we can have a conversation that flows naturally, or we can serve up an agenda of a habitual group of words. This choice is crucial.

And if it sounds in any way like you’re just in “autopilot” mode at the beginning of a break, that sameness from break to break does the opposite of piquing someone’s interest in what follows.

There’s a deeper view of this, too. Except for saying the name of the station the first thing out of your mouth (which I believe is essential – that “branding” thing), all the other elements should vary from break to break. Sameness breeds boredom. Mixing things up just a bit makes what you’re saying be more readily received by the listener (on an unconscious level) as NEW information. It’s science, and it’s the way God made us. So get off your duff and work at this; it will actually make a difference. Radio is doing a great job right now of holding a gun to its head and saying “Stand back or I’ll shoot.” We need every little advantage we can get.

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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 #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.