Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #501: Givers and Takers

Recently, my brilliant friend and associate John Frost wrote a column that struck gold. While he was specifically addressing Contemporary Christian Music stations, I believe his points resonate with every format. Here’s part of what John said:

When you think about the people that have had the greatest influence on your life, I reckon you’d say they were GIVERS.

I wonder, then, why so many Christian radio stations are perceived to be TAKERS, always asking their listeners to give them something. In fact, there are some managers or staff whose voice is not heard on the air unless they have their hand out.

This is one example of why John is a great Consultant, particularly skilled in foundational “big picture” Strategy.
But I’m a talent coach, and I drill deeply into exactly how to express Strategy on the air.

Here’s what I sent to John after reading his tip:

My thought would be that the language of the station should be considered in everything we do. Is it an invitation or an order? Do you want my input (as a caller), or do you just want me to do your show for you? Is the Imaging just about the station, or is it about us (as listeners) too?

This is all part of getting to the complete thought, instead of settling for an incomplete one.

Sadly, the incomplete thought is where most stations reside. In my on-air and Programming career, whenever I worked against a station that didn’t really even consider a strategy like John wrote about, I just thought of them as ‘dead men walking’. EVERYTHING you do on the air should be born out of a solid Strategy. If it isn’t, why are you doing it?

And if you don’t know how to put your strategy on the air (hint: it’s not more liners saying “the best of the 80s, 90s, and today”), you need some help.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2023 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #495: The Value of Nonsense

Here’s a question for you: When’s the last time you did something nonsensical on the air?

I love radio, but most stations I hear nowadays are SO BORING. A bunch of people reading crap off a computer screen. Where’s the creativity in that?

Howard Clark, one of my first and greatest mentors, used to build in goofiness to his show. Howard would quote the lyrics of a song, for instance, like “I never felt more like singin’ the blues” – over a completely different song!

Howard once came out of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” with “…the amazing Funkel brothers, Simon and Gar…”

After starting a song on the wrong speed (back when we used turntables to play records), Howard would simply say, “Every move…carefully planned” as he slowly reset the speed.

Howard personified that ingredient of my never quite knowing what he would say when the mic opened. A reason to listen more closely. And people did.

SURPRISE someone today. Surprise yourself. Take a chance. Jump into the pool without checking to see if there’s any water. People will notice.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #494: Listening to Yourself

It’s absolutely stunning to see how few people listen to their own air work.

Back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, we had “skimmer” cassettes that started recording when the mic went on, and then stopped recording when the mic went off. It was a ‘given’ that I’d take the cassette of that day’s show and listen to it as I drove home from work.

It’s even easier now. You can do it on your phone by just logging into the system.
But very few people do. More than once, I’ve asked someone how often they listen to their show, and all I get at first is a blank stare. Some people NEVER listen to themselves! And as a result, ancient, boring habits remain on the air, the spirit of “How could I have done this better?” doesn’t even exist, and the talent stands still in terms of development.

It’s why I use audio in almost every session, because if you won’t listen to your show without being prompted to do so, I make sure that you hear what I believe you need to hear – both things that need work (or need to be jettisoned entirely) and things that are really good. (Pointing out what you do best is a huge part of my coaching process.)

So, after reading this, some questions:
Is this tip going to make anything different?
Or are you just going to keep on believing that everything’s okay? (Your PD may feel differently.)
And finally, if you don’t care enough to listen to yourself, why should anyone else?

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #488: The Biggest, but Simplest Content Thought

Let’s make this easy, and get to the real core of how to be a terrific air talent.

Your job is to share what you see about, and what you feel about the things you have in common with the listener.

Everything else is just nuts and bolts. If you don’t have the ability to zero in on what matters most to the listener, then you need to run, not walk, to your PD and find out who your target listener is.

When you can visualize what’s going on in the listener’s life, you can be relevant and worth listening to. If you can’t, and just talk about what interests you, then you’re a disposable commodity, not a “must listen” talent. Even worse is the real “show about nothing” (Seinfeld’s show wasn’t really that; it was a show about what that generation was like in the 1990s.) When you’re just talking about “click bait” stuff you see online or on social media, you’re just another drone.

If you settle for that, you’re turning your back on what will make you stand out. And you’re helping to make radio boring.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #486: The Phone Rings

To a degree, acting is part of what we do. I talk a lot about this in coaching sessions, and give an example of a bad actor versus a good actor:

The bad actor “shades” toward the desk as he talks, knowing that the phone is going to ring.
The good actor just says what he has to say, and the stupid phone interrupts him.

When you’re on the radio, the “visual” is created by the listener. But what you say and the way you sound paints the picture, too. Be more than just “a voice saying words” or reading something off a computer screen. Give me something genuine.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #485: The Phonies versus The Realies

There are things everywhere that apply to what we do. For me, one of those was a line from an old “Peanuts” comic strip when the cantankerous Lucy turned to Charlie Brown after something had happened and said, “It’s getting hard to tell the phonies from the realies.”

That’s a quirky line, but honestly, in radio, it’s not that hard. So, with apologies in advance for using the old-fashioned “he” pronoun, here’s a checklist:

The Phony tells you what to think. {“You’ll like this…”)
The Realie tells you what he thinks.

The Phony “pushes” a little too much.
The Realie has better technique and lets the mic do the heavy lifting.

The Phony does material that he thinks is funny or entertaining. The Realie does material that he believes the LISTENER will find funny or entertaining.

Start with the listener and work back to the Control room as the beginning of your process. Then just talk to that person.
Always give 100%, but don’t try too hard. Let me decide, one listen at a time, that you’re the best choice. If you need help, ask your PD, or work with a valid talent coach.

The goal is to be the best version of you.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #482: Don’t Hide

Here’s a little story for you…

When I was Corporate Talent Coach for Paxson Radio, part of my job was to listen to airchecks that were sent in. We had 47 stations, and wanted real Talent in every position.

One guy followed up his aircheck with a phone call, and asked my opinion. I told him that most of what I had heard had been stock ‘bits’ – Trivia contests, ‘News of the Weird’ type of stuff, some forced-sounding laughter. Sensing that he was a little shaken, I added, “Look, here’s the thing. After hearing this, I don’t know who you are. You’re hiding behind ‘bits’ so much that I don’t have a sense of what your outlook on life is, what your values are, what your opinions are – things that we might connect on if I did.”

So…ask yourself if you’re still trying to invent new things, or just settling for the same ol’ same ol’. Is your show consistent (which is fine), or has it crossed the line into being predictable (which is death)? Do you offer insights, give opinions? Did I learn anything about you today? Or did you just “perform” some more?

In the end, the ‘bits’ are rarely what’s remembered. It’s WHO YOU ARE that sinks in. As I’ve said a million times, at some point you’re going to have to crack your chest open and show us what’s in there.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #480: The Other End of the Couch

This is a voice tip for radio, and artistically, the way you’re going to perform the best.

We’ve all heard way too many “foghorn” deejays trying to “impress” us with their big, impressive delivery. And it’s not just in radio — the “HI THERE!” bad disc jockeys are doing Sports on TV now, shouting at us about everything.
But that’s just so 1975.

Try this instead: just imagine someone sitting with you, on the other end of the couch. You want to be loud enough for that person to hear you, but no louder than that. Obviously, you’ll get more excited if the subject matter requires that, but as a rule, just settle down and talk to me.

The absence of the “disc jockey” delivery allows you the space to just be yourself. And then you can be organized, but still open to something flying into your mind ‘in the moment’ because you’re not trying so hard to be noticed.

As my friend and outstanding voice actor Beau Weaver says, “It’s not about your voice.”
I would add, “It’s NEVER about your voice.” It’s about being believable.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #478: Part OF the Music, or Just Waiting for the Song to End?

Here’s a question for you: Do you come across as PART OF the music, or like you’re just waiting for the song to end, so you can talk? You’re either going to a part of it, or not.

I’ve talked about this before, but you should want to match the mood, the “vibe” of the song, or match the pace of the song – or both – so you’re a PART of the listening experience.

Too many stations are running Imaging way too much of the time, and the air talent doesn’t get to talk often enough. We need to hear these people so we can bond with them. Just your tone of voice, or a little remark over the song, can say a lot.

I’m not bonding with your Imaging guy.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #477: Does Your Positioning Phrase Matter?

It depends on what it is, but only rarely have I heard a Positioning phrase or slogan that actually matters, especially if it’s just touting things like “12 in a row” or “50-minute music hours,” or the nebulous “More music.” (More music than what? My refrigerator?)

Anybody who wants to do so can make those claims, and somebody will, I guess, but why settle for that?

Here’s what you really are: What the listeners think you are when they listen to you.

So consider taking off a lot (or all) of the “sloganeering” and SHOW me why I should listen. It starts with THIS time you open the mic.

Note: there are stations whose Imaging actually means something. But I wouldn’t say they’re in the majority.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2022 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.