About tommykramer

Tommy Kramer has spent over 35 years in radio as an on-air talent, Programmer, and Talent Coach, and has worked with over 300 stations in all formats, specializing in coaching morning team shows, but also working with entire staffs. In addition, he works with many premium voice actors that you hear every day on Imaging, Radio and TV commercials, and Hollywood Movie Trailers. Tommy was elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2003. Call Tommy @ 214-632-3090 (iPhone), or email coachtommykramer@gmail.com

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #284 – The Barbecue Test

One of the biggest challenges these days (as always) is Content.

There are lots of questions that help you put it together – Is this top of mind? Does the listener actually care about it? Do you have anything to offer on this subject that’s unique, and not just what everyone else will do? Where are you going with it? Is there a chance that it could lead to listener feedback, or is just a one-off thing? …etc.

But these leave out what I consider to be the most logical question to ask yourself: Is this something you’d say at a barbecue, to a person you just met?

If not, why are you saying it?

This will not only quickly cut to the chase as to whether it’s valid Content or not, it will also (hopefully) shape the LANGUAGE that you use, how you get to it, how you edit it, and most importantly, keep you from sounding like a disc jockey and more like a real person.

No one is enjoying hearing people read crap off a computer screen or someone’s stupid Facebook post on the air. Dig deeper if you want to be great.

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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 Coaching Tip #283 – EARNING More than Thirty Seconds

This is a follow-up to the “Less is More, and More is Too Much” tip from a couple of weeks ago…

Thirty seconds is a significant amount of time. Companies literally pay millions of dollars for ONE 30-second ad in the Super Bowl.

The latest research is showing that millions of Gen X-ers and Millennials go to You Tube to see a video, and if doesn’t have a “Skip this ad” thing after just a few seconds, they won’t stick around to watch it at all. That’s the mentality we’re dealing with.

You owe it to the listener not to waste his or her time. You owe it yourself as a performer to develop the skill set of refining and editing what you do so you don’t waste words, repeat things, or take unnecessary “side roads”. Sixty seconds is a LONG time, and two minutes is an eternity.

Yes, of course, an occasional longer break is fine, but automatically thinking “you have two minutes” (or more) is wrong. You don’t…unless you EARN it. You want more TSL? Try not being tedious to listen to.

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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 Coaching Tip #282 – Your Show’s Dual Purpose

Your show, no matter what format you’re in, has a dual purpose:

First, to talk to the person who just tuned in; and second, to talk to the person who’s been listening to you for a few minutes. Their needs are different.

If I hear two breaks in a row on the same subject (like a reset to get into a phone call), I don’t want to hear redundancy or repetitive wording, because that’s boring.

And if I only hear ONE break, you can’t just abruptly continue something you did in the previous break, because I DIDN’T hear that one.

So it’s all about the reset – specifically about the language you use. You can’t just use the same “intro” you used the first time, or the listener who heard the previous break will just think you’re on autopilot. And you should word it so NO prior knowledge is required for someone who just joined your show to understand what you’re talking about.

It’s an art, and one of the main things I work on with people I coach. You’d be surprised how many people don’t even hear themselves blathering out the exact same setup in a follow-up break – or even worse, they DO hear it, but just take the easiest, most mindless road possible. That’s a good way to lose listeners.

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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 Coaching Tip #281 – Less is More, and More is Too Much

Note: This is a music radio tip, primarily. However, there is an application to Talk radio that I’ll do in another tip someday.

It’s a terrible thing to say, but honestly, I’ll bet 90% of the breaks I hear are too long. Sometimes just a word or two too long. Sometimes an entire paragraph too long. In severe cases, an entire additional Subject too long.

Who has time?
Brief history lesson: Radio sold its soul several decades ago when it devalued its own product – TIME. When you could buy a :60 second spot for the same (or about the same) as a :30-second spot, people started buying :60’s. Stopsets got longer. Music sweeps got shorter. And the thought in a lot of air talent’s minds was “So when I stop down, I want to do a big long break, because I’m not gonna get another chance very soon.”

But that was wrong. Adding more verbiage to the already increased verbiage of longer and/or more commercials just turned everything into a Talk Wall (in music formats). The main complaints became “they play too many commercials” and/or “they talk too much.”

There are very successful morning shows that would be twice as good (and have twice the success) if they talked half as much. Talking more often, spreading out short bursts over the course of the hour, used to be how music radio was done in the Drake and “Q” formats – and it worked; BOY, did it work. We made the old-time Top 40 jocks sound like they COULDN’T SHUT UP, and we still got our “shots” in, but we fit them into song intros or short, one-thought breaks when we stopped down to go into commercials.

“Well, that would never work today.” Want to bet?
Yes, it does. Dramatically so. But it takes a buy-in level that’s hard to get because jocks seem to think they’re paid by the word. But you’re not. You’re paid by the CONNECTION.

Tighten things up. It’s 2018. Everyone has a three-second attention span. And be clear, it’s not that I just don’t want you to talk. Quite the opposite; my whole thing is developing true Personalities. But this is the formula: One thought, developed properly, then get OUT. No “the moral of the story is…” ending. In a team show, be willing to let the other person have the last word. Or let a caller, or a contest winner have the last word. Assume that the listener is at least as smart as you, but has less time to spend. You’ll be amazed at the results. Less is more – and more is too much.

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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 Coaching Tip #280 – What You’d Say to Your Best Friend

The old saying is “Content is King.” And there’s no doubt that Content HAS to be relevant and memorable to make people want to listen to you more today, or again tomorrow.

But Content isn’t “King”, PERFORMANCE is. If you sound like a game show host, or have that “disc jockey delivery”, you’re becoming a Deejaysaurus Rex, an extinct species.

So a lot of the work I do, after simplifying the search for Content down to reflecting on what the listener actually CARES about each day, is just about Performance (read that as “Delivery”).

Here’s an easy guideline to follow: Is what you just said on the air something you’d say to your best friend? Because if you talked to your best buddy like an “announcer”, he’d probably just look at you like “What is the matter with you?”

You want to project just enough so you “penetrate the mix”, meaning that someone can hear you in the car, with traffic around them. But any more than that, you’re a cartoon. I call this “Real plus ten percent.” But an overwhelming majority of air talents are “Real plus fifty percent.” I can spot those people in ONE break on an aircheck or a live “listen”. And so can 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
© 2018 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #279 – The Social/Digital Agenda, and What Really Works

The Social Media/Digital Content tidal wave. It seems like the entire radio world seems to be dwelling on this now, but frankly, without a lot of progress. There’s a lot of activity, but not much in the way of results. Here’s why: Facebook (and all social media) is what people do to kill time; but radio is what people use as a companion while they’re actually DOING something.
(And for purposes of this discussion, let’s not even talk about podcasts. Their rate of success is minimal, and they’re not even going to begin being monetized to any successful degree for another decade.)

But here’s what DOES work, in my opinion: SHOW ME MORE THAN WHAT I HEARD (on the air).
The “peek behind the curtain” factor is what really pulls people in. Wally of “The Wally Show” on WAY-FM is a great example. He’s posted scores of videos on You Tube and ‘social’ with a lot of success, because even though someone might have heard, for example, singer Jimmy Needham stack cakes of Spam into the shape of a pyramid with his MOUTH in order to get Wally to play his song, SEEING it is a whole other experience – an additional experience.

Video of you running back into the room, hopping past a chair to put your headphones on, or dropping something you’re reading, etc. — “outtakes” — are, to use Paul Harvey’s term, “the REST of the story” for our medium, and about the only thing I’ve seen so far that actually enhances the listening experience, and might possibly drive people to the show through the additional avenue of social/digital.

Another terrific example is Johnjay Van Es, of the Johnjay & Rich Show. Johnjay is constantly posting on Instagram and Facebook, and his “Love Pup” campaign is the stuff of radio legend. Not only does it dig deeper into some of what you hear on the show, but it also reveals his heart in a truly dramatic way.

You can waste a lot of time creating what you think people will click on and then immediately come to your show as a result. And if you’re using social primarily just to promote, you’re setting yourself up to fail. (A lot of eople are sick of every single thing you ever talk about being followed by their being told to go to your website or Facebook page for more.) Keep in mind that most people don’t go to Facebook, Instagram, etc. searching for Content. They go to see pictures of their kids/nieces/nephews/grandkids, or “Minions” memes. That’s the real world. Like all winning Strategy (and what I coach people to do every day), you have to start with what people are actually thinking about – what actually MATTERS to them — then reflect it back to them, filtered through your observations, experiences, and opinions.

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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 Coaching Tip #278 – What you can learn about Radio from the NFL

The National Football League may not be what you’d think of in designing a great radio station – but it’s an excellent example of what CAN happen.

The “old” NFL was grind-it-out, three yards and a cloud of dust, run the ball most of the time, pass when you had to, cautious. In a word, BORING.
The new NFL is “let it fly” quarterbacks who’ll throw in ANY down-and-distance situation, “go for the ball” defensive backs, “sack the quarterback” pass rushing linemen, trick plays. Pinball-fast pace.

So which description fits your station? Do you grind out “blah” Imaging, play the same 280 songs until people are completely sick of them, clot the hour up with huge commercial blocks, have jocks reading promotional stuff (or spouting out your so-called “Positioning phrase”) all the time? Does it seem to the listener that practically every break end with your website address? (A pet peeve of mine.)

Or do you have TRUE momentum (not just a fast pace), where every song has the cue tone in EXACTLY the right place, breaks are short and purposeful, Personality is encouraged, and it just flat MOVES, so you never waste the listener’s time?

You can create a station where the #1 thing is Momentum, and #1A is Relevance. And yes, my area, talent coaching, is a key. But your commitment to moving forward to a NEW “golden era of radio” is THE decision.

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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 Coaching Tip #277 – Dick Clark and the “Room Temperature” Voice

Man, there’s a lot of “Foghorn Leghorn” loudmouths on the radio these days – especially in Sports and Talk formats, but they’re honking away at full blast in other formats, too.

You do know you have a microphone, right? And the mic is the Listener’s EAR, so there’s really no need to shout into it.

Turn on the Game Show Network sometime and watch “The $25,000 Pyramid” and you’ll see the great Dick Clark.
Dick was really the first “veejay” doing American Bandstand, became known as “America’s oldest teenager”, did countless other things (his New Year’s Rockin’ Eve broadcasts were legendary), and was a terrific guest, if you ever had the chance to get him on your show. I did, with my first team show partner, doing “Hudson & Harrigan” on KILT in Houston. Dick prepped with asking our names, how we said the station’s name, and a quick summary of what he wanted to promote. Then, when we got him on the air, he treated us like he’d known us for 20 years and we’d just met for a backyard barbecue the day before.

On “Pyramid”, Dick was the consummate pro, handling the rules of the game effortlessly, showing contestants where they might improve, joking with the guest celebrities, etc. – all the while keeping the momentum crisp and the excitement up, with a “room temperature” delivery that never shouted at you. He didn’t need to be loud. He knew that by being a little quieter, it would sound more real, and that this delivery would draw you closer to him. You wanted to hear what he had to say, rather than wanting to find the volume control or the “mute” button.

Settle down. Talk to the listener. Be a human being. As Dick Clark proved, it works – for a long, long 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 Coaching Tip #276 – The 2 Most Important Content Guidelines

In a coaching session this week, it occurred to me that most talents today might not have been as fortunate as I was in terms of who influenced them. The names might not mean much to you, but I started off working for a wonderful P. D. named Larry Ryan in Shreveport, my home town, whose mantra was “Do something! Any idiot can intro songs.” That gave me permission to try – and equally important – permission to fail.

Then I worked for radio pioneer Gordon McLendon (who, with Todd Storz, INVENTED Top 40). Gordon was all about Creativity too, and P. D. Michael Spears taught me tight, concise formatics to harness that creativity.

Others followed: the great Lee Abrams, who infused “Stationality” to a stunning degree, and made me realize that TRYING to be funny was the wrong path; being yourself (and therefore unique) was far more important. Bill Young in Houston, who rarely said anything, but when he did, it was like gold coins dropping into your hands. Jack McCoy, creator of the best contest ever, “The Last Contest” at KCBQ in San Diego.

But all that aside, people like those aren’t very prevalent anymore, so let me try to help you with what I believe are the two most important guidelines for Content:

1. Today’s show should be about TODAY as much as possible. Recycling old material usually sounds like just that, recycled, calculated. Some days are “drier” than others, but Wednesday’s show can’t just be a repeat of Tuesday’s show. In this era of voice-trackers reading crap off a computer screen, or taking “click bait” stories from the internet or social media, there’s a lot of nothing being said.

2. RELEVANCE is the key. If it doesn’t matter to the listener, you’re just “a voice saying words” – a dull, droning noise to be tolerated (maybe), but not really connecting with the listener in any meaningful way.

So, as I wrote in my session recap with a good talent who has it in him to become a great talent yesterday, “Today, if at all possible. Relevant, always.”

If you’ll sift everything through those two thoughts, I guarantee that you’ll get better, no matter what your level of experience is. We ALL had mentors. If you’re not still learning, you’re regressing.

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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 Coaching Tip #275 — You’ll Use Everything You’ve Ever Known – IF…

There’s a famous story that David Letterman tells about Johnny Carson. One night on The Tonight Show, fairly early in his career, the young Letterman was a guest. And he and Carson got on one of those rolls where everything each of them said was funnier than the last thing. The audience was in stitches laughing at each line, and finally Carson broke into the “patter” he had used as a magician when he was young – the absurdity of which resulted in uproarious laughter that led perfectly into a commercial break.

During the break, with the set darkened, Carson, who was a mentor to Dave, leaned over and said, “You’ll use everything you’ve ever known.”

Truly great air talents know this, and it’s a really interesting parameter to work on as a coach. But the key is IF you can figure out exactly what the “fuse” is to light that “nugget” up. Often, I see air talents with a good concept, but no idea of how it might work. Using something just because you have that bullet in the chamber doesn’t mean that you can just fire it indiscriminately.

Think “What would facilitate this?” Because it has to make sense in the flow of the conversation, or it’ll sound awkward.

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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.