Tommy Kramer Tip #213 – Celebrate Your Quirkiness

Okay, today – after we celebrated our freedom with July 4th cookouts, ball games, fireworks, etc. – let’s add one more step: Celebrate Your Quirkiness.

I’m not talking about inventing some bit for on-air. I’m talking about using the things that define you – the things that are sort of private.

In one of my earliest tips, “The 5 Subjects”, I outline [1] Jobs stuff/wallet/economy; [2] the Entertainment world; [3] Relationships, [4] “The Buzz” – THE thing that everyone’s talking about today (which could come under one of the other categories); and [5] Things that ‘grow out of the show’. That 5th one is the one that’s the most difficult to define for people, because it’s completely organic. THAT’S what this week’s tip is about. Two examples:

1. Brant Hansen is a brilliant mind, and is definitely different from anyone else I’ve ever coached in the Contemporary Christian format. This format has been traditionally seen as lacking much genuine personality, but Brant and a few others have been pioneers in turning that around. Once, when we were still getting to know each other, it came up that I play guitar. Brant mentioned that he plays the accordion. I then told him an ancient joke – “what’s the difference between a snake lying dead in the middle of the road and an accordion player lying dead in the middle of the road? The snake was probably on his way to a gig.”

It wasn’t long before Brant started playing his accordion on the air, as part of a contest. Cute, odd, but HIS.

2. Howard Clark was one of the greats, part of the original KFRC staff in San Francisco when consultant Bill Drake’s Top 40 stations ruled the earth. Late in his career, Howard came back home to work in my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, and had a profound impact on me. One day, I was listening to “Hired” (as he called himself on occasion) and a song ended, then a recorded announcement by the huge-voiced Charlie Van Dyke came on and said, “And now, Howard Clark looks at the weather…”

Then you heard Howard’s chair squeak, a few steps taken across a floor, a door open, then Howard walking waaaaaaay down a lonnnnng hallway, the back door opening (a creaking screen door that hadn’t been oiled since 1957), then Howard’s voice muttering “Mmm hmm……….yep……..”

….and then you heard the back door creak shut, Howard walking the 50 steps back down the hallway, the Control Room door closing, we heard a few more steps, then his chair squeaked, then Charlie Van Dyke’s voice said, “This has been ‘Howard Clark looks at the weather’…” Then a station jingle played, and a song started.

No forecast. No temperatures “at the airport.” Just that little moment.

I still think of these two things, years later.
What have you done that’s quirky – that’s really you, and ONLY you – for your listeners to remember?

DO SOMETHING. Maybe someone will notice you. You can’t get Arbitron diaries or PPM devices without people.

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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 #212 – How it Starts

Probably the most difficult thing for air talent to latch onto is how something starts. Many breaks are dead in the water before the second sentence is uttered.

I teach several core techniques to master really compelling beginnings. Here are 3 of them:

1. Don’t talk about yourself the first thing out of your mouth. Constantly leaning on “I – me – my” beginnings sounds self-absorbed, to say the least.

2. Don’t ask a Question – especially a rhetorical question. As George Carlin said, “Why do people ask rhetorical questions? And do they expect an answer?” The answer to any question, if you could hear it, is almost always “No.” Questions sound weak and disingenuous. Make Statements to make Impact.

3. Don’t be too abrupt. Way too often, I hear someone just launch into a subject for apparently no reason, just plopping it down like somebody walking up to your desk and dropping a squid on it. While that first thing you say CAN be thought of as a “headline” (which is what a lot of people are taught), remember that it should be a “spoken word” headline, not a “print” headline. We want it to be concise, but it also has to sound like something you’d actually say to a friend, not a quote from an article or book.

Like peeling away the layers of an onion, there are many more techniques to learn, but with just those 3 goals in mind, you can separate yourself from all the babbling across the rest of the media choices.

It’s always about ENGAGING the LISTENER.

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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 #211 – Seinfeld’s Three Rules of Living

There’s an HBO Special called “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast”.
It’s about people 90 years of age or more that are still vibrant and productive, featuring Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, TV Producer Norman Lear, and many others – and, with occasional comments, Jerry Seinfeld.

At one point late in the special, Jerry lays out his “3 Rules of Living”. They are:

1. Bust your ass. Whatever you do, work as hard as you can. Give it everything you’ve got.

2. Pay attention. Notice the things around you all the time. Appreciate them all the time.

3. Fall in love. Not just romantic love. Love your parking space. Love your sandwich. Seinfeld tells about having breakfast with George Burns once, and Burns said “This may be the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had in my life.” In his mid-nineties, Burns still had the desire to see something worth relishing every day.

Now ask yourself these questions:
Do you work hard every day? In this era of the computer running everything (usually pretty sloppily), it’s easy to get lazy. Do you just pluck items off some prep sheet to quack about instead of getting out and discovering things that your listener is talking about? Do you rely on callers to “do the show for you?” (Someone said that to me at a convention one year. I wanted to scream.) The “topics and phone calls” thing can wear really thin really fast, and dominates way too much radio time that could be spent on something more immediate and impactful. You could….what do they call it?…oh yeah, you could DO a SHOW.

Do you pay attention to what’s around you? In my on-air days, I often drove into work using a different route, or just turning a block or two sooner or later than normal, so I could see stuff like which store was opening (or closing), what kind of roadwork was starting (and when), etc.

Are you in love with your job? Do you have a real appreciation for the listener’s time? I hear a lot of shows that virtually dismiss the precious ‘one on one’ connection all the time, by talking to “listeners” or “those of you” or even worse, “all the people listening out there.” Do you still, in 2017, not realize that people have LOTS of other options? If you don’t care about what you’re doing, why should they?

There’s a reason that Seinfeld is definitely on the Mount Rushmore of Comedians – and it’s not just that he can think up jokes. Adopt his “3 Rules” and you’ll have a better career and a better life.

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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 #210 – More on the Caller Culture: Asking For Help

As we continue to talk about establishing a stronger, “A-level only” caller culture, let’s dive deeper into what prompts that great caller to weigh in.

“Topics and Phone Calls” has become such a boring cliché because (1) you hear it everywhere, with the same people from yesterday calling again with the same type of predictable input today, and (2) because the “topics” are dull to begin with.

So, a couple of rules for you:

Avoid “yes or no” subjects.
The first call agrees; the second call disagrees. There’s nowhere else to go now. Nothing surprising is likely to happen in that scenario. Since every call past the first one has to add something new, “yes or no” subjects inevitably limit, rather than expand, where calls can take you.

Asking for help.
Rather than some generic topic, try being more open, with something that doesn’t lend itself to predictable answers – indeed, something to which there IS NO right or wrong response.
“Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I have NO CLUE what to get my wife. Help!” will get more response than any typical “topic” could ever get, because people LOVE to give advice. In the process of recommending something to you, the caller’s own story will inevitably come out – without soliciting “stories” at all. That’s what makes it sound more organic.

There are many other steps to opening the portal for more meaningful, quality calls to make it onto the air. But like always, you have to avoid doing what everyone else will do.

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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 #209 — More and Better Callers: The Starting Point

In the last tip, we took a look at setting a standard – a high one – for callers. It’s only fitting that a caller has to EARN his or her being on the air, and if you settle for average or typical calls, that’s just adding more water to the Kool-Aid. It won’t help the taste.

So okay, the goal is to create a stronger “caller culture”. The easiest starting place is the one people seem to just take for granted: Contest calls.

Here’s what needs to be addressed:

We don’t treat people like humans.
We turn people into numbers. “You’re caller number 12.” (I always hope someone will say “Oh, yeah? Well you’re idiot disc jockey number 2.”)

Groundhog Day in Loserville.
“Aww…well that’s not right, but thanks for trying.” Over and over again, until, like the Bataan Death March, we finally hear a winner. Honestly, about the third time I hear this, I just start to feel sorry for the hopeful people who called in, only to be disappointed. Why design a contest that airs tons of wrong guesses? The Secret Sound or the Scrambled Song contests were cute, once, but so was Brylcreem (a sludge-like goo used to slick back a guy’s hair in the 1950s).

The Rules…oh Lord, the rules.
“First, go to the southwest corner at the top of the twenty-story City Hall building, and jump. On the way down, wave at the clown in the 12th floor window, then flip your body around and upside down. If you’re the lucky person who lands with the most discernible body parts inside the chalk circle that we’ve drawn on the sidewalk, the surviving members of your family are automatically entered into a drawing to win 4 half-day passes to the Crazy Goat Park in Neptune, South Dakota!” (Bellybutton lint and ejected fluids do not count as official body parts. Go to our Facebook page for other restrictions.)

Start tomorrow with simpler contests, straightforwardly won by people with names, with genuine happiness in promoting it, doing it, and being honestly happy for the winner. That’ll guarantee you some really great phone callers.

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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 #208 — The Most Important Ingredient in Putting More Callers on the Air

Note: This tip is written specifically for music stations. But the “quality control” goal should be in every Talk show, too.

It’s not a “bad” idea per se to supplement the Content that you create with a phone call or two from listeners. But it’s not an automatic “must have” ingredient, either. And it can become a “crutch” pretty easily.

Here’s the most important ingredient in putting them on the air:

NO “B” or “C”-level calls allowed. None. Only “A”-level callers with something that actually contributes a thought that moves the subject forward, gives it a different slant, or provides some sort of “resolution” should make it onto the air. The minute you accept less, you dive head first into the generic “topics and phone calls” pool that already has too many people in it.

I’ve done and coached shows that hardly ever ran calls, and I’ve done and coached shows that were – at times – very phone call intensive. But the “A”-level rule always applies. Great radio is made up of COMPELLING moments. If a call doesn’t provide that, it doesn’t deserve being aired.

This leads back to something I say a lot: Do a SHOW. It may seem counterintuitive, but when you don’t NEED calls, that’s when you not only get more of them, but you get better ones, too.

Getting great phone callers isn’t an accident. It’s a plan. In a future tip, I’ll give you another peek into how that works.

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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 #207 – The Difference Between an Aircheck Session and a Coaching Session

In the last tip, I spoke about a magic key to getting to the top level as a talent – the ability to edit yourself even as you’re speaking.

What I purposely didn’t say is that in over 20 years of coaching somewhere around 1700 air talents, I’ve never seen anyone who was just “born” with this. It always requires coaching or mentoring in some form.

So let’s deal with the elephant in the room: most air talents detest going into an aircheck session with the PD. Period.
And that’s because there’s a big difference between “critique” and “coaching”.

There is no such thing as “constructive criticism”. That’s just criticism.
Unlike an aircheck session, which seems to always be about finding something wrong, coaching is about three main things:

1. Shoring up weaknesses and losing bad habits. (The Fundamentals.)

2. Finding what each talent’s biggest strengths are. (They may not know.)

3. Gradually stripping AWAY the things a talent doesn’t do well, so that eventually, ALL YOU DO IS WHAT YOU’RE REALLY GOOD AT.

You want to be Michael Jordan playing basketball, not Michael Jordan playing baseball. A good coach would have told him to stick with what he did best and add a couple more years to his legacy, instead of becoming just a source of amusement playing a game he wasn’t good at.

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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 #206 – A Sure Sign That You’re Doing It Right

There’s this dual process that goes on in every great talent’s head…

Part 1 is being right here, right in THIS MOMENT, as it pertains to Performing.

Part 2 is being right here, right in this moment, as it pertains to EDITING – “How would I edit this? Is this the right place to get out?”

That part – the part of you that, even as you’re doing the break, is weighing and measuring “how much is too much?” – is the sense you want to develop.

You can always tell when something really worked on the air: it doesn’t need any editing to make a promo out of it.

THAT’S when you know you’ve struck gold.

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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 #205 – Make Your Other Audio Sources Worth My Time

We hear about them hundreds of times a month:
Online streaming.
Radio station smartphone apps.
Podcasts.

Let’s take a look at these, one at a time…

Have you ever LISTENED to your online streaming? Often, it’s just awful. And often, it’s okay quality, but crashes and goes to dead air after a few minutes. And you can’t expect one of the multi-station streaming sites to care about your audio like you do…or like you should.

Make sure your phone app works. TEST it. You’d be surprised at how many don’t work well at all. An app that fails, then requires a reset, gets ONE more try – maybe. Then I never try it again; you had your chance.

Podcasts: Check your audio. “It’s only a podcast” doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t deliver a truly quality product. People EXPECT it.

Before you plug your online streaming, your phone app, or your podcast again on the air, make sure that it works effortlessly and consistently. If I go to it and it’s subpar, your credibility in even PROMOTING it is gone.

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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 #204 — It’s Still Only About 3 Things

These past few weeks, I’ve tried to do “reset” tips – things that will get you grounded in “the firmament” of what it’s going to take in terms of technique and overall Strategy in order to fight off the inevitable technology and lifestyle changes that will challenge radio in both the present and the near future.
AM radios are already disappearing from cars. But in a couple of years, ALL radio may be gone, replace by apps on a screen where the radio used to be.

So remember this – it’s still only about three things:

(1) Weigh in on what’s already on the listener’s mind, or…

(2) Bring to the listener’s attention something that he/she needs to know about, but may not have heard yet. And…

(3) Do it in STYLE. YOUR style; not anyone else’s.

If you trim your focus down to these primary goals, you really can’t go wrong. You’ll always be relevant, and you’ll be unique.

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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.