Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #380 – A Tip from Acting Teacher Roy London

If you’ve worked with me or read any significant amount of my stuff, you know that a lot of what I coach comes from the acting world. Although he only lived to be 50 years old, Roy London has been a heavy influence on me. A fine actor himself, over the last fifteen years of his life, Mr. London became one of the premier acting teachers in Hollywood, a profound influence on the likes of Sharon Stone, Jeff Goldblum, Hank Azaria, Geena Davis, and Garry Shandling, just to name a few.

One of London’s main tenets is “It’s all about Love. Every choice comes from trying to connect with Love.”

Man, that is spot-on. While some radio talents have had success being negative and snarky, the ones that most people hold dear are the ones who are consciously trying to connect on a human level. And Love is the highest of human values.

Carry this forward. Even if you joke about someone, make sure that it’s always coming from a loving place. Garry Shandling illustrated this perfectly, describing the relationships between his character on “The Larry Sanders Show” (which I think may have been the best show ever on American television) and his Ed McMahon-like sidekick “Hank Kingsley” (played by the wonderful Jeffrey Tambor). Shandling said a line such as “You’re an idiot” couldn’t be delivered like he hated Hank. Instead, it carried a “but I still love you” vibe – and if hadn’t, it wouldn’t have worked. It was important that we understood that the two characters had a mutual love and respect, even when one of them acted like a moron.

Listen to your show. Is this coming across? Or are you just another tiresome jock looking for someone or something to be the butt of a joke?

The answer will define your career.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2020 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #379 – Why Your Slogan Can Mess Up the Air Talent

My brilliant friend and associate John Frost recently heard a station that used the slogan “We Actually Care.”

These people are obviously…well, stupid. As a coach, this concerns me, because the air talent that has to live UP to what the station says about itself is virtually crippled by it.

First of all, the only possible inference of that phrase is that they’re better than the stations that DON’T “actually” care. (But I’m not familiar with any station that has “We Actually Don’t Care” as their slogan.)

Second, there’s a language lesson in this – let’s call it “the unnecessary adverb” rule. The word “actually” is superfluous, and doesn’t strengthen anything.

But third — and most important — how is the air talent supposed to back this up? The result, if they even try, will be sugary soap opera-ish B. S. that has little chance of any real success.

Be wary of what your “Positioning Statement” says. If it’s just “marketing your aspirations” or nebulous word salad, it’ll just lie there flat.

This is why I don’t believe in positioning statements at all. Let your ACTIONS define your station, and simply let your NAME be the Brand. Be clear that an IDENTIFIER, like “The Classic Rock Station…92.5 KZPS” is fine, but let’s get away from meaningless “sloganeering”.

Then the air talent can “Actually” just pour effort into being relevant and entertaining. What a concept.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2020 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #378 – The Boulder in the Lobby

If you listen to the air staff, way too many stations nowadays have what I call “a boulder in the lobby.”

“The PD has no power, so we can’t do things we want to do.”
“The wrong people DO have power, so the best ideas can’t even get heard.”
“The GM is just a Sales Guy, and doesn’t understand Programming.”
“The new owner is just a financial guy, and doesn’t know anything about radio.”

In one station I worked at, a person they hired to fill a key position lived on a houseboat, and bathed in a lake. He always smelled like catfish dung. It got so bad that several coworkers left various deodorants on his DESK, and many complained to the boss – who did nothing about it. Slowly but surely, people left the station. I know that sounds kind of gross, but it happened.

So here’s the deal: as a Talent, when you come into the station every day, you have a decision to make. You can walk around whatever the “boulder” is and give it your best effort to do radio that’s worth listening to. Or you can go work somewhere else.

What you should NOT do is stick around, but have a grousing or negative attitude.

New York Yankee great Joe DiMaggio, in his last season, once ran hard on painful bone spurs to make a difficult catch. Mickey Mantle (who was in right field as a rookie) told Joe that he needn’t have done it because Mickey had it in his sights. But DiMaggio answered, “There’s always some kid who may be seeing me for the first or last time; I owe him my best.”

So do you.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2020 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #377 – The Film Editor’s Eye

In the movie world, a lot rests on the Film Editor’s “eye”.

“Errors of continuity” – like a shirt tucked in one moment, then untucked in the next shot, then a moment later it’s tucked in again – can ruin the film. The Editor is always on the lookout for things that, somewhere in the brain, just don’t “add up”. Those little things destroy credibility.

I hear the same type of things all the time in radio, but of course, they’re spoken rather than pictured. For example:

An air talent refers to something that I wouldn’t have a clue about unless I was listening 15 minutes ago.

Or a jock goes to a contestant or a caller and says “Hi, Marsha…” How did you already know her name? Not logical.

The jock says “Jennifer tripped over it….” Who’s Jennifer? Your wife? Your daughter? Your dog?

Keep in mind that my timeline (as a listener) isn’t the same as yours. Don’t assume that I know what you’re referencing.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2020 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #376 – Be a Part OF the Music

What really works in any field isn’t much about finding something completely new as it is about finding a way to build on something old, but making it better. We’ve had phones forever, for instance. But the Blackberry, then the iPhone changed what we can do with them – and what we now EXPECT from them.

The point is, there’s a tendency to categorically reject “old” ideas, and that’s often the biggest mistake. Radio is making one now. With all the technology we have available, and all the “sabermetric” data we now use, we’ve largely lost one thing that used to be the core of every great station – the connection to the music we play. Simply put, I rarely hear a station anymore that respects the music at ALL.

Imaging pieces blare right over the last word of a “cold”-end song. Fades are either ignored, where the air talent jumps in too soon, or the other extreme, where the song dies out completely. Or a “cold” end song ends abruptly, and then there’s dead air. The computer’s running everything. The talent is asleep at the wheel.

It’s not cured by something as simple as putting the cue tones in the right place (although this is ESSENTIAL). It’s also about a sensibility that we want to be PART OF the music, not have the music just be noise that plays until we make our next ‘brilliant’ remark.

If you don’t show an awareness of the music you’re playing – not just the lyrical content or little trivia pieces about the artists, but the “vibe” that song creates – you’re only giving the listener a “playlist” with jibber-jabber thrown in.

Remember, the listener can go to iTunes or You Tube or Amazon Music, etc. and get the music WITHOUT YOU. Be part OF it, and it’s just a lot easier to connect.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2020 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #375 – The “Chopped” Criteria

“Chopped” – the TV show on The Food Network – wasn’t in my sphere of awareness until just a couple of years ago. My wife is addicted to watching people compete in this cooking competition where contestants are asked to take “basket ingredients” like yak thighs, pine cones, elderberry stems, and the bumper from a 1964 Buick, and make a meal out of them.

It’s fun, and the competition is serious, presented in a “steel cage gladiator death match” format. But since I’m always looking for ways to help people sound better, what resonates with me is the “Chopped” criteria: Presentation, Taste, and Creativity.

In radio terms, you can always work on Presentation – even when the goal is to avoid sounding “presentational”.

Taste is any easy one. It’s mirroring the taste of your listener. You’re “cooking” for her or him.

And Creativity is simply the biggest dividing line in radio. If you haven’t found your creative “muscle” yet, listen to great stations, read great books, watch great movies. Soak it up. Just like you would that redeye gravy that girl from Louisiana just made on Chopped. Yum.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2020 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #374 – Dog Chasing Its Tail

The other day, I heard a morning team launch into a subject that should have taken about ten seconds to set up, but they took 4 times that. The classic “dog chasing its own tail” scenario. Lots of activity; no real progress.

Without quoting them, let’s compare it to a movie. Where the scene description would be “Doorbell rings. Then cut to the door being opened,” we instead got the meaningless (and uninteresting) details. The wife heard the doorbell ring, then told her husband, who was chilling out on the couch, to answer it, and even though he didn’t want to, he made himself get up and do it anyway…blah, blah, blah.

Cut to the chase, for crying out loud. Remember this:

Too many words “getting started” always leads to a letdown at the end – if the listener even makes it TO the end. The impact will always be reduced, no matter what.

Doorbell rings. You answer it. WHAT HAPPENED? THAT’S the important part.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2020 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #373 – Funny Isn’t the Goal

We all want to be entertaining on the air. But “funny” isn’t the only thing that entertains. And for that matter, “punch line” humor is dead, anyway.
It’s the UNEXPECTED remark that cracks people up. But great vocabulary, the ability to paint a picture, and vulnerability are all ingredients of “entertaining”, too. Think “A Christmas Story” about the kid and the B. B. gun. (God bless you, Jean Shepherd, for writing that.)

In coaching hundreds of Personality morning shows, I think these may be two of the main things I’ve learned:

1. Step One is never just to try and be funny. Step One is to be Relevant. THAT’S ALWAYS THE GOAL. Then – and only then – should you turn your sense of humor and your personality traits into something to do on the air. But if the listener can’t see himself/herself in it, then it’s just another deejay telling a joke. Ho hum. (You know, I can just click Amazon Prime on my phone or iPad and see Jim Gaffigan. He’s funnier than you.)

2. You can’t MAKE someone funny. (Partner, caller, etc.) But that can actually work, and become humorous if you put it in the right context. Use your imagination. Instead of going for a joke, go for a funny REACTION.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2020 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #372 – How to Use Listener Feedback on the Air

Whenever you’ve got something working, and the phones are active, it’s important to not have responses just blend into only one ‘camera angle’. Varying emotions being expressed and BREVITY are mandatory.

Just like a great movie. Whenever the plot starts to get too familiar, or a scene lasts too long, it doesn’t work.

So…you want a different thought in each call, not just the same premise with different names or details. And all you want to use is a little one-thought “bullet” from the call. Remember that each call you air is a sound bite, and the SUM of the sound bites is the complete conversation.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2020 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #371 – There’s Always Another Level

If you’ve had success, it’s easy to think that the learning process is pretty much over. But there’s always another level.

Legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix thought Eric Clapton was stunning, but Clapton thought Hendrix was miles above him. Steven Spielberg thought John Ford was the world’s best movie Director, but Spielberg’s movies will be benchmarks for generations to come.

Great ideas and new approaches are everywhere. The late night talent on a tiny station you pick up driving somewhere may do something so original that it bowls you over.

No matter how good you are, you can get better. And more importantly, you should WANT to get to yet another level. Keep trying to learn more, or you risk becoming a dinosaur.

(From my perspective, this is the essence of coaching. Helping YOU get to the next level.)

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2020 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.