Tommy Kramer Tip #243 – Make Sure it’s Fully Baked

Despite all the zillions of VERY specific tips that I coach, the people I’ve worked with the longest know that I’m all about developing Personality on the air. The most important mentors in my career stressed that – particularly as “cookie cutter” formats became dominant – Personality was the sweet brown liquid inside the Coca-Cola can.

Just the other day, a guy I’ve worked with for several years took a foray into the world of creating a character voice to do his weather forecasts, and ran it several times during his show. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t ‘ready for prime time’ yet, either. Here’s part of what I wrote in our session recap:

I don’t want to quash your aspirations, but we have to make sure that something is fully baked before we serve it. Characters or other contributors need some sort of backstory to legitimize their presence. And even if a character voice works, something this specific can’t work more than once in a show until it’s really fleshed out and defined. Repeating it later in the show, at this point, is overuse.

For the time being, let’s talk about these things before they hit the air, so you’re not bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Characters don’t have to be fictional, either. My first boss, Larry Ryan in Shreveport, Lousiana, made a seemingly nerdy ‘engineer’ type named Ralph Montgomery, who basically just ran the automation machines on our “Beautiful Music” sister station, into “Mr. Weather” after hearing Ralph do a forecast so deadpan that it was hilarious. Mr. Weather became a HUGE star as Larry helped him develop.

Growth happens a little at a time. It rarely just bursts out in full bloom. But you should always be on the lookout for something you can use to be relevantly different 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
© 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 #240 – The Last Episode Before the Last Episode

At the end of the Fall 2017 network television season, we saw something unprecedented. The reason you may not have noticed it is that it didn’t work – at all.

“The last episode before the gripping season finale…” was the “trailer” at the end of the NEXT TO LAST episode of at least two series that I regularly watch.

Think about this. “The last episode before the last episode.” Where does the madness end with these stupid network hype machines? “The last episode before the stirring final three episodes” is probably being written into promos right now…by idiots, who’ve bought into the notion that everything needs to be ‘bigger’ and more impressive before anyone will notice it.

But that’s fundamentally wrong, because when we feel overhyped, there’s an oily residue to it that actually makes us resent it. (Or we just ignore it as “white noise” and go on about our business.)

Look at the copy you’re reading today. If it’s full of over-modifiers like “fantastic”, “awesome”, “amazing”, etc. then you should ARBITRARILY take out all but ONE adjective, so it’ll sound more genuine. Otherwise, the things people hear in your promos, commercials, or Imaging are like Jiffy Pop – just full of hot air.

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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 #239 – Learn from The Andy Griffith Show

I keep hearing things being READ to me in EXAGGERATED tones: “THANK you for ALL you’ve DONE!”

Thinking about how to help people mature and get past this point, I happened to have an old Andy Griffith Show on while I worked the other day. It was an early episode, from the first season, and Andy himself was REALLY exaggerated, using a loud, cornpone delivery that made him sound like a cartoon character.

But Griffith himself said later in his life that he found it difficult to watch those episodes, when he was still basically just doing his country bumpkin character from “No Time For Sergeants”, his first Broadway play (and later, his first movie). That was kind of the style then; everything was overplayed. And Andy thought he needed to stay in ‘vocal overdrive’ to be the comedy center of the show. But soon after that first season, he realized that Don Knotts (as deputy Barney Fife) was going to be the funny one, and Andy should be the straight man.
From that point on, Andy settled down and got more conversational and realistic. And magic happened. Not only did the show zoom to the top of the ratings, but Andy had found the more plausible delivery that lasted through his “Matlock” days and several movies.

Listen to some audio from your show today. Ask yourself whether you sound like the listener’s friend, or like someone who’s way ‘over the top’ and trying too hard. If it’s the latter, just stop.

You’ll realize your greatest success when you stop trying to BE somebody, and just interact with the listener like you’re talking to a friend.

The days of the loud, high-energy disc jockey are gone.

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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 #238 – The Coaching Process: Step 3 of 3

In the previous two tips, we went over Step 1 – weeding the garden of bad or outdated habits, and really seeing into what an actual Strategy is, rather than just a bunch of Tactics thrown at the wall to see what sticks – and Step 2, which is a crucial building block of developing both Timing and Trust, in what you do on the air and in shaping the knack of pulling people closer to you.

Those are huge, and take some time to believe in, because there are plenty of people who THINK they’re coaches that actually know nothing about starting from scratch and creating an entity that has a real chance to get huge ratings.

Step 3 of my coaching process is the most fun, the longest lasting, and the most imaginative: It’s all about the Art – the “how high can you fly?” quest that all great talents have.

This is where coaching is most important. Michael Jordan had a coach. Phil Jackson took His Airness from just a great player to a Champion. Jack Nicholson has had the same dialogue coach for decades. Tom Brady without Bill Belichick would be Aaron Rogers – great stats, but only one championship, not five.

Here’s how Step 3 works: I strip every “crutch” away. Every little habit that doesn’t serve a purpose or wastes the listener’s time, every additional step that slows down a show’s momentum, every unnecessary word possible, every semi-lame bit you still cling to that’s just there because you haven’t come up with anything better. That leaves ONLY WHAT YOU DO BEST. And we work on making that sound so simple, so easy, that people just gravitate to it because it sounds like you’re having so much fun doing it.

After that “A” side, we work on a “B” side, just like an old vinyl record had, because one-trick ponies eventually lose their appeal.

There are people I’ve worked with for decades. Some have changed formats, some have gone into voice acting careers, some have become the big fish in a small pond, some have become a big fish in a huge pond, but they all have one thing in common: They’re still curious about getting better, seeing more, developing new techniques.

You CAN do it yourself, without a coach. But you can do it much faster WITH a coach. If you fear the coaching process, what you’re really doing is arbitrarily lowering your ceiling on how good you can get.

It’s easy to throw around big, well-known names that I’ve worked with, but there are literally hundreds of people I’ve coached that you’ve probably never heard of that are even more successful, but chose to remain in smaller markets and OWN them. Whichever path you choose, a coach’s job is to help you realize your dreams. If that’s not what’s happening, then you’ve got the wrong coach.

No coach is more talented than his players. But no great player got there by himself.

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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 #237 – The Coaching Process: Step 2 of 3

Last week, I let you in on the first step of my coaching process – which is primarily a “weeding the garden” period of stripping away outdated habits, and learning how Strategy is different from Tactics. (Tactics should grow out of the Strategy you’ve chosen for the station and for the show; not the other way around.)

The second step is where the real issues come to the surface: Developing Timing and Trust.

Both solo acts and team shows are all about timing. Stay with something too long, and you’re just another jock that can’t just shut up. Beating subjects into the ground, always searching for one more funny line, etc. just makes you the guest at the party who won’t leave. As Paul Simon wrote, “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor,” and I’m always amazed at how one or two phone calls will serve as the gauge by which a talent measures his image or performance.

But the vast majority of people never get a PPM device or fill out a diary. Just like going to a restaurant and getting poor service or subpar food, most people don’t take the time to comment to management or on Yelp; they just never go back to that restaurant. This is where Trust comes in. You have to choose what to stand for, what you will do and what you won’t do, and then develop the right timing in getting it on the air in a way that’s digestible.

This is where I work with people more as voice actors than disc jockeys or talk show hosts, because while “Content is King” is still quoted, the reality is that PERFORMANCE is King. Without performance ‘chops’, even the best and most relevant Content will fall flat. And while I do want you to stay top of mind, if you’re a great personality, people will listen, no matter what you do. There’s no one set mold for what makes a great air talent, but having a listenership that trusts you with their time every day is something the great ones have, and the ones that aren’t great yet don’t have.

While I help shape and coach the performance of “bits”, they’re not what you ARE, they’re just things you DO. The shows with my fingerprints on them are always “visit-driven”, not bit-driven. So the trust that we work on in the sessions with each other is very much the same as the level of trust you want from your listener.

A lot of air talents, especially in the Talk arena, think having great guests draws people to them, but that’s only a surface-level ingredient. Los Angeles great Phil Hendrie is proof: his “guests” are usually HIM (playing characters) and he’s absolutely riveting.

My buddy Mancow Muller in Chicago is another great example. He’s run the gamut from “shock jock” to Political commentary, radio to TV, author….and never missed a beat. Always interesting, always keeping things MOVING.

Wally, of The Wally Show on Contemporary Christian network WAY-FM out of Nashville, is a great example of both timing and trust – both in his on-air performance and in our coaching relationship. No one makes me laugh like Wally, and he’s an “idea fountain”.

Next week, Step 3.

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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 #236 – The Coaching Process: Step 1 of 3

Recently, a station manager brought me aboard to work with a new air talent that had just come to the station. Even though the new guy done a couple of sessions with me a year or two ago, he’s still afraid of being coached. The boss told me the guy’s exact words were that “He doesn’t want someone coming along trying to make him sound like everyone else.”

Well, first of all, that’s not what I do. Yes, I have some basic principles that have been proven to work over the course of coaching over 350 stations in all formats. But a lot of times, a talent will harbor this fear of making changes simply because (1) he didn’t work with a good coach, (2) he thinks he knows all he needs to know, and/or (3) he associates the “bits” he does with BEING his identity.

So in case you’re approached with working with a talent coach (and there are only about three that deserve to be called that), I’m going to lay out my 3 Steps of coaching over the course of the next few tips.

Step 1:
Correcting bad habits, and “weeding the garden”.

A lot of things that people are taught nowadays are wrong, because the person telling them they’re good heard the copy of the copy of the copy of the original, and have no idea what the Strategy behind certain techniques actually was at the point of origin. For example, I heard dozens of stations try to copy KVIL in Dallas when morning man Ron Chapman was King of the Hill, but what worked for KVIL wouldn’t work anywhere else, because they were aimed at a specific target audience unique to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.

So we start with what Strategy is, as opposed to just Tactics. And as a natural offshoot of that, I remove all the typical deejay “crutches” that most talents don’t even realize they have, like always saying “the basics” in the same order, doing the ridiculous double time checks, ending with your name or the station’s name into commercials, always starting Content breaks by talking about yourself first, etc. etc. etc.

This takes a while, just like an actor with a briefcase full of great reviews from when he played Hamlet at the “Grazing Trough Dinner Theater” needs a little time to put that stuff aside when he gets into the Actors Studio.

Step 2 next week.

– – – – – – –
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 #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 #234 – Reveal…not Reveal with an Agenda

In the last tip, I talked about learning something about you each day, and how essential that “reveal” is to becoming a three-dimensional personality to the listener. Here’s a deeper look at it:

You should reveal something about yourself EVERY day, but not with an agenda.

Last week, on an automotive Talk show I coach in Houston, the female cohost said, “Ask Mike your question, ‘cause if you ask me, I’ll just say ‘Pick the fast one, in black.’” That changed her from being just the “announcer” of the show to a Personality – in ONE LINE.

That’s the kind of reveal that works best, because it seemingly just slipped out as you were talking. And that’s the key: It has to sound accidental or incidental – NATURAL to share, not just you bringing up a subject so you can sound off on it.

When something revealing just plops out in the course of the conversation, that’s when people actually NOTICE what was just said.

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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.