Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #575: How the Jack Benny Format Applies to Radio Today

If you’ve never heard it (or seen his TV show on some classic channel), the Jack Benny Show was groundbreaking in its day. And it still has a basic formula that I assure you WILL work today: he made everyone else the star.

Whether it was his announcer, his wife, a singer, a guest, or any other cast member, Benny was quite willing to take a back seat. He never minded being the butt of a joke, overshadowed by another comedian, or made to look like a fool.

The result? People LOVED HIM. Yes, him. They liked the other cast members, too, but people felt sympathy for – or empathy with – him.

I can’t stress how important this was in my own career, and how many people I’ve coached to use this technique. It always works.

Put your ego aside.

The more you willingly give the spotlight to someone else, the more people will like you.

One caution: In a team show environment, remember that the “side people” can’t completely take over the show. The headliner still has to shine, too.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2024 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #573: The Road to Brevity

Brevity is the most useful skill you can develop.

Sadly, instead of brevity, we often get bloviating. So let me help you with what I recently wrote in a coaching session recap…

Thinking “How few words can I use to say this?” is the road to brevity. As you police yourself to get rid of repetition and edit yourself better, your longer breaks will actually stand out more, as a result. (Funny how that works.)

Making a point – ONE point – succinctly is hard for some air talents, but one salient point is all the listener is going to remember, so why not make it the only point?
Your show will then unfold in segments, “episodes” that you’re sharing with the Listener today. Each “scene” a part of the whole. A new movie each day, made up of what you, in your life, share with the listener’s life.

All the other Content is comprised of what you have to do – promoting things the station is doing, contests, etc.

If you want to make it easy for yourself, this is how. And it’s easy!

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2024 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #567: A Lesson from Bobby Flay

“Beat Bobby Flay” is one of my wife’s favorite TV shows, and watching it the other night, a thought struck me.

The format is that two chefs compete with each other to see who then goes up against Bobby Flay. Then Flay has to make that chef’s standout dish, and it’s amazing how many times Bobby wins. (Then again, he is an Iron Chef. He was the first American chef to compete in the original Iron Chef competition in Japan, and he defeated the great Masaharu Morimoto – not an easy thing to do.)

Anyway, the interesting part came in the first round, when it was a hard decision to pick which chef would go forward to face Bobby. The person who lost, as he was exiting, said that he didn’t look at like he failed. He said, “It’s not failure; it’s learning.”

This is a thing I constantly use in coaching when I have to correct something, or point out a fundamental error. WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES. But what you LEARN from a mistake determines how well your career will go.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2024 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #566: Speaking Well = Success and Respect

Okay, this tip is for radio and TV talent, but it’s also kind of for life in general.

I wholly believe that if you want to be successful – and be respected – the key is speaking well. This will get you ahead in almost any profession, but I believe it especially applies to radio and TV.

In my work with hundreds of on-air talents, and particularly with the TV personalities I’ve coached, we stress two essential ingredients:

1. You should have a wide and expansive vocabulary. Falling back on stock phrases over and over again just makes you sound like you can’t think of another way to say something. And clichés are called clichés for a reason. Today’s cool new phrase is tomorrow’s “Okay, boomer” dismissal.

2. You should also have (or develop) the ability to choose just the right words ‘in the moment’ as you’re talking. Prep is one thing, but being live under fire is another.

No matter what profession you work in, but especially in any media format, there’s no advantage to sounding undereducated. Like NFL Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson said, “The next time I draft a dumb player, hit me over the head with a hammer.”

That’s not what you want them to feel about you.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2024 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #565: A Tip from Robert Redford

While flipping around You Tube the other night, I rewatched the “Inside the Actors Studio” episode with the great Robert Redford. I hadn’t seen it in a long time.

At one point, host James Lipton asked Redford what he looked for in a movie that he might want to act in or direct. Redford noted three things, to which I’ve added my thoughts as it applies to Content on the radio:

1. Story. If it’s not intriguing, no one will want to watch it. (Or listen to it.)

2. Character. Is the main character – in this case, you – a recognizable, three-dimensional human being? (To become this on the air, you have to crack your chest open and show us what’s in there. Share your thoughts on stuff that your listener cares about.)

3. Conflict. In Redford’s description, he said, “…the character changes because of the conflict.” (This is something I don’t always hear on the radio. How did what you’re talking about affect or change what you felt?)

If all he ever did as an actor was “The Natural” or “The Sting”, I’d still love Redford. And his beautiful “A River Runs Through It” is my favorite film that he’s directed. Robert Redford takes his art seriously, and refused, as he put it, to just “stand there and be handsome.”

And in that last paragraph, you saw the Story (his becoming not just a fine actor, but an excellent director), the Character (Redford), and the Conflict (not being labeled as just another pretty face).

You also learned a little about me.

See how easy it is?

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2024 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #559: Two Thoughts About Imaging

Your station’s Imaging is on 24/7/365. More, by FAR, than any individual air talent is on.

It sends out your message to the listener; how you want to be thought of. Or as everyone says today, “Your Brand.” (Ick. What a stupid label.)

So, let me help you with two related thoughts:

1. Tell the truth.
Enough with the empty bragging. “The best of today and yesterday” sounds like a butcher shop trying to get rid of some hamburger that looks kind of gray.

2. Tell me what makes you different.
We’ve heard all the “blah blah” about “your favorites” or “50-minute music hours” or “12 in a row”. What separates you from every other station? What’s the Benefit for my spending time with you? (“Traffic on the 8s” worked for KRLD in Dallas, and became a mainstay for many other stations after they saw how this worked.)

If I consider every time your Imaging plays to be an unnecessary commercial for you, that’s not going to form the basis of a long-term relationship. Why you, instead of someone else? THAT should be your message.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2024 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #557: What’s Better on the Other Side of the Radio?

Radio personalities tend to think only of what works in the Control Room, not necessarily what works better on the OTHER side of the radio – you know, the Listener’s side.

My brilliant friend John Frost and I had a challenge once in Orlando. Together, we ran five stations, one of which was a rather dormant AM station that we wanted to resurrect as a Sports Talk station.

But we didn’t have a budget to make a splash, and get people to sample this new baby that was one of the very first Sports Talk stations in that day to really open up the so-called rules. We wanted big personalities, parody commercials, a station Imaging voice (Jeff Lawrence) who was crazy inventive. But that was all just on the air. How to get noticed was the challenge.

So…

Gary “Zippy” Wallace was a budding talent, but we didn’t know where to put him, so he landed on the Sports station’s morning show as a “stunt” guy.
We worked with Krispy Kreme to give us a mountain of donuts to give away, and placed Gary at the busiest intersection in the city, by the arena where the Orlando Magic basketball team played. (They were a BIG deal then, with Shaquille O’Neal at center.) Gary had a small basketball and rim that he could hang on his chest, and when people stopped at the longest-duration stoplight I’ve ever sen, he offered them the chance to sink a basket with a nerf basketball – and if they did, they got a free donut!

Several hundred donuts later, people had something to REMEMBER about our new Sports station – and Gary Wallace.

Sometimes, the best way to connect with people is on the street, where they live and work.

What have you done OUTSIDE the studio to attract people to the station?

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2024 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #554: The First Class Curtain

If you fly a lot, you get perks, upgrades, free beverages, hot towels, and great seats. If you don’t (like me), you’re crammed into the “cattle car” seats with Jabba the Hut sitting next to you with his elbow in your ribs the entire flight. There’s that curtain between coach and First Class that says, “You’re not welcome here.”

The point being that often, a business concentrates so hard on pleasing the core customer that it treats the others like they’re not particularly wanted, except to buy a ticket.

Radio stations went through a phase of trying to attract everybody, then realized that concentrating on the core listener was better.

But many of them, especially in formats like Smooth Jazz, NewsTalk, and Contemporary Christian, largely ONLY appealed to the target listener. This is why Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC’s audiences are smaller than the audience for “Two and a Half Men” or “Everybody Loves Raymond” reruns.

Look, I totally believe in aiming for the middle of the bulls-eye when it comes to the target listener. But I also believe that you don’t want to give the impression that that’s the only person you want.

I’ve heard Smooth Jazz air talents dive so deep into the music – “so and so played saxophone on this song”-type stuff that they RULE OUT anyone else listening. And definitely many Contemporary Christian Music stations can fall into this trap. Sometimes the Imaging alone is what can chase people away.

So here’s the lesson: yes, aim at the target listener, but make it easy for someone just tuning in for the first time to feel just as welcome. This doesn’t mean widening the playlist or opening up Content to try and speak to everyone. It simply means that you want to be accessible. No curtain.

You’re welcome. No charge.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (mobile)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2024 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #548: Why “More Music” Doesn’t Really Work Anymore

“More Music” used to be a big thing. Talk – of any kind – was pretty much the enemy. (One station in Dallas promoted “No Disc Jockeys”.) And a lot of stations had the goal of playing as many songs as possible in every single hour.

That approach just won’t work very well anymore. Here’s why:
I can get the music you play on any number of platforms – SiriusXM, Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, iTunes, You Tube, etc. etc. etc. And I can hear all those songs WITHOUT YOU.

People hunger to be entertained. They hunger to connect with air talents who talk about our lives, what we each go through every day, what amuses us, what makes us sad, even.

Music can’t win by itself. CONTENT wins. Make me laugh, make me cry, make me feel like we have something in common.
And on top of that, play songs that I like a lot. Simple.

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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 #547: The Attention Span of a Hummingbird

Radio isn’t the same as 20 years ago – or even 10 years ago. It can’t be. There are so many other entertainment options, from wasting hours reading nameless, faceless people’s comments on social media to a gazillion channels on TV, You Tube, etc.

Radio listeners today have the attention span of a hummingbird. A couple of minutes (or less) and “click” – off they go.

This is why, as an air talent, you need to do something compelling or entertaining NOW. If there’s nothing going on for a few minutes, the listener is gone. The average “listen” is now less than 20 minutes, and people want to be engaged – or you’re dead in the water.

If you’re a PD, you’d better be encouraging everyone to be a full-blown Personality. This doesn’t necessarily mean trying to be funny. CONNECTING with the listener is what works. What do you and I have in common? Talk about that.

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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.