Tommy Kramer Tip #173 – Happy Generic Fluff

It’s so different on the other end of the radio.

Recently, a morning show I just starting working with did a break on “Words to not use with kids.” Obviously, it was some article they plucked off the internet, and it sounded like it. They thought it was “interesting”, but to me it was just the easiest road to take, pumping something into the show that was actually just “filler” stuff to take up space between the banner ads on some website.

What I told them:
This isn’t a break that we “make better”. It’s a break that we don’t do.

“Happy generic fluff” is NOT meaningful Content, especially when it just sounds like a self-help or “motivational” book. Be better than that. You’re here to share your thoughts and feelings on things that matter most to the listener TODAY. Not “The 16 Most Important Foods to Avoid” which is usually subtitled something like “Number 9 will amaze you!” (It never does. And I’m going to keep eating hot sauce until it flows out of my ears, no matter what it does to my stomach lining.)

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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 #163 – Fun Grows out of Relevance

The future of radio – no matter how it’s delivered – is going to be about Personalities. Air Talent that seems like your best, most entertaining friend; that person that always finds just the right word to describe something that we’re both going through or thinking about.

But radio isn’t the Chuckle Shack. We’re not standup comedians, and shouldn’t really want to seem like that, anyway. You just want to be that one person that always gets invited to the party because you’ll be interesting and amusing, and make the person who’s hosting the party look good for inviting you.

Here’s the way it works:

Job One is to only talk about things that are relevant and top-of-mind to the listener. Once you’re zeroed in on “narrow focusing” your Content to that degree, Fun grows out of that.

But there’s a difference between being perceived as fun versus seeming like someone “trying to be funny”.
I think that the very core of “trying to be funny” is when you take something that ISN’T relevant and attempt to make it entertaining.

You have to CHOOSE. One way leads to tremendous, never-ending growth. The other leads to actually having to WORK for a living. Ewww.

Work joyfully on getting better. If you hit a wall, get a coach.

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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 #137 – The Hammer and Chisel

To do great radio, you have to Entertain. In its simplest form, this just means that what you say has to stand out.

Here’s the “secret formula”—two ingredients: (1) camera angles, and (2) vocabulary.

Those two things are the hammer and the chisel. They carve out of life specific shapes and descriptions that weren’t there before.

It starts with a camera angle that isn’t obvious; something that’s slightly askew or unique to you. The vocabulary brings it to full bloom. Here are ten great examples from some of the greatest comic minds in history:

George Carlin: “One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.”

Jonathan Winters: “If God had really intended man to fly, He’d have made it easier to get to the airport.”

Rodney Dangerfield: “I told my dentist ‘My teeth are going yellow.’ He told me to wear a brown tie.”

Robin Williams: “If it’s the Psychic Network, why do they need a phone number?”

Woody Allen: “Some guy hit my fender. I told him to ‘Be fruitful, and multiply’…but not in those words.”

Steve Martin: “Don’t have sex, man. It leads to kissing, and pretty soon you have to start talking to them.”

Jerry Seinfeld: “That’s the true spirit of Christmas—people being helped by people other than me.”

Louis C. K.: “I don’t stop eating when I’m full. The meal isn’t over when I’m full. It’s over when I hate myself.”

Chris Rock: “Black people dominate sports in the United States. 20 percent of the population; 90 percent of the Final Four.”

Steven Wright: “I have a paper cut from writing my suicide note. It’s a start.”

Some people think these skills can’t be taught. That, of course, isn’t true. There IS a way to cultivate these skills. Call me, and we’ll start.

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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 #133 – The Obvious Place

Actor Bob Odenkirk was on Sundance Channel’s “Close Up with the Hollywood Reporter” not long ago, and talked about reading scripts that are submitted to him.

He said the thing that he doesn’t like is when he starts to think “well, this is gonna go…here.” Then he second-guesses himself, thinking “I’ve just read too many scripts. It won’t go there. Give it a chance.”

But then, all too often, it DOES go to the Most Obvious Place—which is disappointing to him as an actor. (And as he knows, it’s disappointing to the audience, too.)

That’s our challenge every day. Let’s not do the most obvious thing, ending up in the most obvious place, because it’s a letdown.

Push yourself to think of some destination that’s not where other people would go. Surprise me!

Only when radio stops being typical will it be great again.

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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 #120 – A Foolproof Method for Constructing a Break

Especially with young air talent, it’s important to go over the basics. But the basics that are being taught today sometimes ignore the nuts and bolts of how to go about constructing each break.

Here’s where I start in the very early stages of coaching someone…

There are three parts to any break on the air—Beginning, Middle, and End. That seems pretty obvious, but here’s the part that’s not obvious: Start with the Ending FIRST. Then work on the Beginning. The ends shape the means. When you’re clear on where you want to go, you’ll be able to make the “entry” more concise. (And we know that not wasting people’s time is the biggest lesson for anyone on the air, especially someone who doesn’t have much experience.) Plus, being sure of both the Beginning and the Ending helps the Middle go in more of a straight line. (No “chasing rabbits”.)

And here’s the secret sauce: The Ending should be (1) a “Reveal”, (2) a Conclusion, or (3) a Surprise.

Try this for a week, and you’ll see how simple everything gets.

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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 #115 – The Dangers of Repetition and Repetition

Repeating a bit or a game later in the show is something that some consultants and talent coaches believe in, but I don’t. Think about “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” as a good example of why.

After it was hatched in the United Kingdom, the U.S. version of the show was launched in “prime time” by ABC in August of 1999, and was originally hosted by Regis Philbin. The original network version was the highest-rated of all television shows in the 1999–2000 season, reaching an average audience of approximately 29 million viewers.
That’s pretty incredible, and it made a LOT of money. But then, of course, ABC overexposed it, running it multiple times a week, and sure enough, the audience got tired of the show. It was cancelled in June of 2002. Yes, it has limped along as a daytime game show with several different hosts—I think the most recent is Chris Harrison, but they could use George Harrison—who’s dead—and probably get the same results.

It’s very tempting to think “If it worked once, then do it again a couple of hours later.” But know that at some point that’s going to come back and bite you. I’ve heard a lot of “paint by numbers” morning shows, and so has your listener.
Burn material like jet fuel. Constantly be trying to come up with new stuff. Artistically, creativity is a muscle, and it has to be exercised or it atrophies.

But what about “benchmarks?” If you actually have one or more (and no, “Battle of the Sexes” isn’t one), run with it—but only ONCE a show. (Maybe just once a week.)

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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 #113 – Double Duty

Recently on a station I work with, a contest winner call led to a dramatic and touching story. My wife was listening to it with me, and tears came to her eyes as she heard the winner talk lovingly about his son, who has several serious medical issues.

As a coach, I saluted the morning host, Dave Arthur, because people don’t just open up to someone like this unless they TRUST you. However, from a time standpoint, the call could’ve used a couple of edits. There was a lot of medical talk—many ailments (with those Latin names), and we always have to guard against the mediocre audio quality and partial dropouts that are indigenous to cell phones and could force a listener away. I showed him where an edit or two could’ve cut some of that out, and allowed him to wrap it up with both congratulations on the win, and a hopeful and heartfelt thought Dave had offered to the dad.

Then we went on to how things can serve Double Duty. I would have run the edited call on the air, then put the entire call on the website (or link to his Facebook page). Now you’d have the opportunity to promote that different door to the station with something like “There was a lot more to that call that we didn’t have time to air, but you can hear the whole call at ktsy.org. It’s amazing.” Re-purposing it that way could have created two related but distinctly different “moments” for the listener, and spurred some traffic on the website.

Many stations don’t have the savvy (or sadly, the work ethic) to do this sort of thing, and it results in missed opportunities. I’ve worked with several syndicated shows where website visits are the currency for clients.

Two lessons from this:
1. Don’t EVER waste the listener’s time on the air. Hard decisions have to be made sometimes in order to accomplish this.
2. Your website has to offer something of VALUE besides just lists, promotional items, and “USA Today”-type lifestyle stuff. (We’ve seen enough recipes for your special combination Hungarian/Mexican goulash tacos.)

My friend and colleague Alan Mason says “Everything matters.” He’s right.

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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 #110 – Seinfeld on the use of Music

On June 9th, 2014 at the Paley Center in New York, Jerry Seinfeld talked to David Letterman about his “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” web series.

About 19:25 into the interview, Letterman comments on the incidental music that moves “CICGC” from one point to the next. That’s where you see coffee being poured, Jerry and the guest walking into the diner, etc.

Jerry then compares using music in this show to using it in the “Seinfeld” TV show, saying “If you put music under a scene that has actual written narrative, it ruins the scene. But since this has no drive, no point, the music doesn’t fight with it and it just seems to kind of carry…(it) fills in the little gaps.

Now I don’t think that’s 100% true for radio, because our medium is a little different; we don’t have video to engage the listener. But I do think there is something to be said for asking yourself “Do I have a narrative?” “Does it need music?” “Am I talking over music when I should be just talking?” On a lot of stations, it’s almost getting to where jocks CAN’T talk without a music bed under them. Some stations even require it. (Bless their pointed little heads.)

I recommend using music when it’s appropriate, like a John Williams movie soundtrack – to heighten the mood or the drama of a given ‘scene’. But if it’s just generic uptempo Production music, used as a crutch to create an artificial sense of momentum (which it doesn’t actually do), you’re just trying to cover up the fact that you don’t have a narrative; you’re not telling a story.

Now that I think of it, maybe that would be a good bit in itself, taking real life, semi-boring or technical conversations about brake shoes or roof repair, and putting ridiculous music underneath them.

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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 #94 — Local, Personal, or Both

This might seem obvious, but listen to stations around you and you’ll realize how few people have been coached to do it.
Sure, you’ve heard that we want to be local—if possible. Of course, syndicated shows can’t really connect that way.
And the really good Consultants and Talent Coaches are always trying to get jocks to be more personal. (Although teaching someone exactly how to do that is a different matter.)

But these shouldn’t be thought of as mere suggestions. I contend that every Content break you ever do should have a degree of Local and/or Personal in it. And when you think about it, Personal is the MOST local, because it doesn’t depend on street names or buildings. It lives in the heart.

There should always be some ingredient of what you think about the subject or what you feel about it. That’s what creates a definable human being—a neighbor, as opposed to just another voice giving out data on the air.

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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 #88 – Weeding out ‘left brain’ stuff

We all know it’s about sharing stories on the air, if you want your show (and your station) to be more than just information and ‘plain vanilla’ breaks.

One key is to watch getting too ‘left brain’ and filling a story with so many stats, numbers, percentages and facts that it bogs down the momentum.
I constantly hear air talents referring to studies, polls, and surveys, followed by a slew of statistics. Those things live in the left side of the brain—the analytical, organizational, “accountant” side. You know, the boring side.

We want to live in the right side of the brain, the home of passion, empathy, dreams, and art.
So purposely reduce the amount of numbers and percentages. You can also frame them a different way. Instead of “60 percent of people look at a person’s waistline first,” say “Look at five people around you. Three of them stared at your stomach when they first met you.”
Yes, those are still numbers, but they’re more visual that way, and you pull me INTO it, rather than just talking about it analytically, from a distance.

There are specific ways to handle Time Lines, Weather forecasts, and Contest verbiage, too. (Call me if you need help.) You’ll be amazed at how fast being more ‘right brain’ will build a bond with your listener. Even if you’re talking about the same thing everyone else is, you’ll sound different if it’s more about colors, shapes, and feelings than it is about measurements and numbers.

Think about this: Even the poem that starts with “How do I love thee; let me count the ways…” has no numbers in it.

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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.