Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #314 – How to Make Interviews and Phone Calls Not Suck

It’s not exactly a news flash that most recorded interviews and phone calls are pretty much a big yawn. Here’s why:

Pressed for time, it’s easy to let things slide. With an artist interview, a lot of people think they’re sacrosanct – you shouldn’t edit them too severely, because the artist is deigning to speak to you from the mountain top.

But of course, the truth is that most musical artists are mediocre to terrible interviews, going through the motions because the label told them they need to do them, and they don’t know anything about radio. So they speak to “the fans” or “the people out there” or “you guys” – plural terms that, by definition, can’t come across as one-on-one – or they treat the listeners like they’re just faceless members of a teeming throng that’s only there to fawn over them and buy tickets to the show. They don’t mean to come across like this; they just haven’t been taught anything. So we get the “Hello, Cleveland!” mentality. (I’m not Cleveland. I’m just me.)

Phone calls, for some reason, aren’t held to high standards by most jocks either. Most on-air people think that everything needs to be “self-contained” in the call, when in reality, you can say something LIVE, you know, then just use a short excerpt from the call that adds more. Rinse and repeat, using only the best sound bites from the call.

Artist interview clips, like phone calls, are just the raw materials. The finished product is only present after you’ve taken out redundancies, and made everything concise. And in my experience of working with hundreds of stations and somewhere around 1700 individual air talents, only about 3% of them take the time to do the editing required to make an interview or listener call MEMORABLE.

Edit. Then edit again. Rearrange portions of the audio if you need to, so it makes sense and flows forward. It only takes a couple of minutes to turn “average” into “excellent”. HONE YOUR CRAFT. It’ll make a huge difference.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #313 – Two Ways to be a Talent “Investigator”

In the last tip, I wrote about baseball pitcher David Cone, who said, “I always believed pitchers need to be searchers, mound ‘investigators’ who determine the best pitch to throw, and the best way to throw it. Then (be able to) do that again and again.”

The first way to become an “investigator” is to get coaching. But if your Program Director isn’t very good at coaching (and sadly, some aren’t), or the station can’t or won’t spend money to get a qualified Talent Coach, there are still two things you can do on your own:

1. Listen to other air talent. The Ticket in Dallas has the best morning show and the best afternoon show I’ve ever heard in Sports radio, for example. For an incredible openness and real savvy in how to use social media to make things from the show go viral, listen to my friend Johnjay Van Es on the Johnjay and Rich Show in Phoenix (and other markets). If you can get audio from the past, listen to the legends from the Drake format days (Dave Diamond on KFRC in San Francisco, Robert W. Morgan from KHJ in Los Angeles, Hudson & Harrigan from KILT in Houston, Jeff and Jer on B100 in San Diego, Dan Ingram on WCBS in New York, and the great Ron Chapman from his days on KVIL in Dallas.

See what they do, what strengths they have (or had), what you can take from them and use.

2. Listen regularly to YOUR show. Pretend it’s someone else, and think “Would I stay with this?” “Is there anything new here, or is it just the same basic show I heard yesterday or last week?”

At least once a week, you should listen to yourself. Try to pick up on repetitious phrases, lags in momentum, and most importantly, whether or not you would compel a new listener to come back for more.

In the old days, we used to use cassette tapes to record each day’s show, which I would always take to listen in the car on my way home. Now it’s even easier with a computer or mobile device to log into the system and hear what you did. But that’s only an advantage if you USE it.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #312 – A Lesson From David Cone

If you don’t know who David Cone is, listen to this…

In 1956, Don Larsen pitched the only perfect game in World Series history. That’s 27 batters up, 27 batters down. 9 innings of no hits, no walks, no one getting on by virtue of an error. In the 140 years of Major League Baseball, there have only been 23 perfect games. And only Larsen did it in the World Series.

On July 18th, 1999, it was “Yogi Berra Day” at Yankee Stadium in New York. Their legendary catcher, Berra, showed up for the game and caught the ceremonial first pitch before the game FROM Don Larsen. (Berra was his catcher in the World Series perfect game.) Then the game started, and David Cone, with Larsen and Berra watching, threw a perfect game!

In his new book, “Full Count”, Cone talks about what it takes to become a topnotch major league pitcher:

“I always believed pitchers need to be searchers, mound ‘investigators’ who determine the best pitch to throw, and the best way to throw it. Then (be able to) do that again and again.”

That pretty much describes every great air talent I’ve ever heard or coached, regardless of format. But the question is, “Does it describe you?”

If you’re not trying to get better, you’ll get worse. If you’re not trying to police, then change, bad habits, you’ll sound out of date in no time.

There are two sure-fire ways to go about being an “investigator” on your own, which I’ll outline in the next tip.

If you can’t do it on your own, you need coaching. But this “radio is so over” stuff is c**p. Radio is still vital, entertaining, compelling, and “can’t miss” listening every day, when it’s done right.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #311 – Why Your Imaging is Boring People to Death

Normally, these tips are just to help air talent get better. But it’s getting difficult for people to improve quickly when they only get to talk every third song or so. So if you’re a PD, maybe this is something to consider: Your Imaging is boring people to death.

“The Greatest Hits from the 19th, 20th, and 21st Centuries…on KBRP 99…”

1. No one cares.

2. You just missed an opportunity to have an actual human being who works on the air CONNECT with the listener. It’s amazing what just a simple song intro can do, if the jock is “in the pocket” matching the pace and/or emotional vibe of the song. Plus, maybe he or she could say something meaningful in that time, instead of hearing more carvings from the blarney stone every other song (or even more often, in some dayparts).

“But we want to get the brand out there…”

It is. To the point of exhaustion. Plus, unless your brand is tied to a Reality – a person who sounds like somebody I’d like to know, visiting with me in the car – it’s just another commercial for you. (This is one of the factors in why people say radio plays too many commercials.)

First, try to make your Imaging brief, and fresh-sounding. But then the next step is to let the talent talk more frequently, and push them to do something worth listening to when they do. That’s how great staffs are built.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #310 – Why You Want To Talk To ONE Person

Every time I hear an air talent talk to a “plurality” with words like “folks,” “ladies,” “all of you” (or “some of you”), etc. I want to call them up and do a coaching session right NOW on why this is ineffective.

Maybe you can best understand it through Bob Dylan’s acceptance speech when he received the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature. In part, he said “As a performer, I’ve played for 50,000 people and I’ve played for 50 people, and I can tell you that it is harder to play for 50 people. 50,000 people have a singular persona; not so with 50. (With fifty) they can perceive things more clearly. Your honesty and how it relates to the depth of your talent is tried.” He added, “The fact that the Nobel committee is so small is not lost on me.”

The smaller the target, the more clear the perception, the more you can reveal. “Hello, Cleveland” doesn’t address anyone in particular.

When I worked at a female-targeted station, I just talked to my wife. When I worked a male-targeted station, I talked to my cousin Ricky, who was like a brother to me.

Put a picture of someone who personifies your target listener in the Control Room where you can’t miss it – like taping it to a chair in front of you.

Now….reveal.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #309 – Jump Into The Pool

The other day, during a session, we were talking about what to do for Mother’s Day. I mentioned having my mother do my show one Mother’s Day years ago, and the talent I was working with said, “I could bring my daughter on with me…which she would hate.”

I replied, “And that – her being resistant to it – would be something EVERY listener could identify with.”

Continuing, I suggested that she act out – complete with sound effects – her dragging her daughter into the room. Like…with a chain, scraping across the floor. Dripping with reluctance.

So here’s the lesson: Don’t be afraid to make things theatrical. The more you create that “theater of the mind” thing, where the listener can PICTURE it, the better.

Unlike real life, JUMP INTO THE POOL.
DON’T look to see if there’s any water in it first.
Because all people are going to remember is that you jumped.

Note: My friend Ron Chapman, legendary Dallas morning man, once jumped out of an airplane on the air. THAT was GREAT radio.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #308 – I Want People to Know When They’re Good

Because of a recent conversation with my partner and friend John Frost, maybe it’s a good idea to talk about why coaching is so essential to an air talent’s growth.

When I first set out on this path more than 20 years ago, I had only heard of two people that specifically worked on coaching talent – Valerie Geller and Randy Lane. Each of them has credentials a mile long, and I’ve learned things from each of them. Valerie is the Great Guru of Talk radio, with clients all over the world, and – among others – Rush Limbaugh as one of her first projects. Randy is a master psychologist, with a gentle touch and a large dollop of personal magnetism.

We’re all a little different, though. I purposely chose to build an image of frankness (bordering on bluntness) because it’s intense, man. My process is very personal, and – despite what the reputation might lead you to believe – I mainly just want people to know when they’re good. Yes, I point out flaws in execution when needed, and definitely want to have a Strategic reason for everything that we do, but my own mentors always took time to make sure that I knew whatever my strengths were.

And if you’re not getting that kind of support, you should be. No one makes it alone, we all start off making every mistake in the book, and Strategy and Tactics are very different things. But we all share one thing: the ability to LEARN.

As you read these tips every week, I hope you glean something from each one that helps you get better.

Next week, we’ll put the hammer down on something – don’t know what yet, but remember where it’s coming from. And thanks to everyone that helped me get to where I can help you.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #307 – Team Spirit, as it applies to Your Station

In the last tip, I referred to basketball coaching legend John Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success” – something you should read, if you haven’t already done so.
Here’s another prime tenet of his teaching: Team Spirit. About that, he says “The star of the team is the team. ‘We’ supercedes ‘me.’”

So ask yourself this: When’s the last time you even MENTIONED someone else on your station? And even if you did, did you offer any real insight as to why I should listen? We’ve all heard those “Rocky Gomez plays more of your favorites this afternoon at 3” plugs, and these do NOT work. The fact that Ol’ Rock is gonna show up for work is NOT a reason for me to listen to him. I can “play more of my favorites” on my phone. I don’t need him.

Radio pioneer Gordon McLendon used to say “Make stars of the morning show. Then they should make stars of everybody else.” This seems to have been forgotten. And great staffs carried it much further; we ALL made stars of everyone else. And it wasn’t just perfunctory mentions of a name and when he or she would be on the air. We’d borrow quotes we heard them do, joke about quirks in their personalities, share little things about our relationships, eating out together, what they wore to work. Back during the final throes of the Viet Nam conflict, I even promoted Christopher Haze, our night guy on KNUS in Dallas, as being ABLE to show up for work because he had swallowed some aluminum foil coated in peanut butter to get out of the draft.

WE…are a radio station. YOU…are one person on it.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #306 – Little Things Make Big Things Happen: A lesson from John Wooden

This tip is for music stations.

If you don’t know who John Wooden is, you’re probably not a basketball fan. Wooden, called “The Wizard of Westwood,” won TEN NCAA national championships in a 12-year period as head coach at UCLA, including a record seven in a ROW. (No other team has won more than four in a row.) Many of his players became NBA stars, often Hall of Famers like Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Gail Goodrich, and Bill Walton.

Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success” has become the Bible to dozens of present-day coaches, and one of the things adjacent to it is his list of “12 Lessons in Leadership”, one of which is “Little things make big things happen”.

This directly applies to radio, with the current generation of radio talents who grew up with the computer running everything, voice-tracked shows taking away timing and “right here/right now” presence, and a total lack of understanding that sixty seconds is a LONG time.

So let’s concentrate on just one aspect of how your radio station can benefit from John Wooden’s lesson. Something simple, like whether or not the jock talking – or an imaging piece or a jingle – occurs TOO SOON on the end of a “cold ending” song.

Too soon = not a good thing. On a “cold” end, the listener wants to HEAR that last word or chord hit, not hear it stomped on. WAIT for it. You don’t want “dead air” (of course), but impatience is a drag, and a good reason for someone to go to a streaming service instead of you.
(This actually includes songs with fade-out endings, too. You want to end on a particular word or phrase, not in the middle of a sentence in the lyrics. And BEFORE it goes to virtually nothing that can be heard in the car.)

Too late = creates the immediate impression that you’re either not paying attention, or you just don’t have very good motor skills.

Just right = respecting the music in a way that leads to the next element hitting at the perfect time, so your voice or your Imaging piece or your jingle isn’t seen as an INTRUSION on my favorite song.

Do this all the time, every time, and I promise you’ll have a competitive advantage that other stations won’t even notice, and even if they did, they’re too lazy to raise their standard.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #305 – The Modified Q Format

This is what I hear a lot of the time nowadays: A jock stops down in the middle of two songs for no apparent reason. Then he or she reads some idiotic story from the internet that most people saw five days ago, adding a C-minus punch line. (Or the jock does some piece of trivia, or some “cheerful thought for the day”.) Then they lurch forward into another song.

But back in the day, when radio had tons of forward momentum and much bigger ratings, there was this thing called the “Q” format. It was somewhat the same as the Drake format, in that jocks talked over song intros (and at the end of a music sweep, the jock talked at the end of the last song, of course, and did some Content into a commercial break).
But the Q format was often thought of as screaming, hundred-mile-an-hour jocks cramming as much as they could into an intro before the vocal hit.

So over the next few years, it morphed into a modified Q format, where we were more conversational and real-sounding. A song ended, the next song started, and we did a thought over the intro. Easy-peasy.

And it MOVED. “The big wheel kept on turning” (the music didn’t stop until we were going to a commercial break), and “Imaging” was more sparse than it is now, better produced, and brief – so it stood out more.

Guess what. It still works. And if you’re the “stop down and kill the momentum” station, you’d better hope that the modified Q format isn’t your competitor.

This is what can save radio today. Podcasts aren’t the answer; they’re used in a different way. (And with hundreds of thousands of podcasts available, the podcast ADDICT still only downloads about seven.) Spotify can’t compete, because when you have Momentum plus Content, you have something they don’t. And streaming (iTunes, Amazon music, Pandora, etc.) doesn’t comment on anything local, or tell me it’s going to hail tonight at 2am.

I would say “Let’s Make Radio Great Again,” but I don’t have orange hair and don’t want to build a wall around Spotify. So let’s just try Momentum + Personality.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2019 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.