Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #381 – What you CAN do that TV CAN’T do

One of the main arguments against radio today is that “people would rather watch TV.” Or stare at a computer, tablet, or cell phone screen. For our purposes, let’s just use TV as an example.

I watch an NBA game, and BETWEEN TWO FREE THROWS (!) they run a commercial. (The game itself, of course, is shrunk down so that my 70-inch screen might just as well be the 24-inch screen I had in 1988.) This is SO invasive. Announcers in every sport talk right up to the moment a pass or pitch is thrown. And baseball has been so ruined by TV directors that you see a pitcher, then – in the middle of his windup – they change cameras to show the batter, then another switch is flipped and you see a player field the ball. They could all be from separate games, and you wouldn’t even know it. And NFL games? Don’t even start. TV directors are so intent on “filling the screen” that you can see the pores of a quarterback’s face. I want to see more of the field (or court) so I can see where each player IS, and what they’re doing.

Here’s where radio is still magic: we’re not bound by what the Director decides to show. We can create “word pictures” that those screaming, big-voiced announcers don’t seem able to do, and we don’t have to listen to some broken-down ex-player describe things in such minute detail and in terminology that we don’t understand. We can do whatever we want to make something visceral and emotional.

But only IF:

*You’re not just some idiot reading crap off a computer screen with no emotional investment in what you’re saying.
*Or you’re not just endlessly intro’ing artists and song titles. (BORING.)
*Or what you’re talking about is timely, and connects with the listener’s life.

You have everything you need to succeed and be a true Personality, someone who seems like a good friend…someone I (as a listener) want to hear give your “take” on a subject.

I get asked a lot about what one thing I’d say to someone who hasn’t “gotten it” yet, and the answer is always the same: WAKE UP and say something worth hearing. Don’t let TV and Facebook be more valuable than radio, because there’s no way they can be as entertaining and as personal as 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 #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 #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 #370 – It’s Not Really a Conversation

There’s what you want it to sound like; then there’s what it actually is.

“We just have a conversation with the listener.” Well…not exactly.

It’s NOT really a Conversation. Music radio is at its best is when it’s concise and at least momentarily memorable – or at the VERY least, when it doesn’t waste our time.

This thought helps; it’s NOT a conversation. It’s just an Observation with an Emotion tucked in.
Thinking this way won’t leave you frustrated if you don’t get phone or social media response. Your job is to offer things up that are incisive or entertaining. Getting a reply isn’t the real goal.

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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 #367 – Promos: Stop Telling Me what to Think or Feel

Not long ago, I saw a TV ad for a European car, and the voiceover began with “The thrill you’ll feel when you sit down behind the wheel…”
No. I’ve driven one of those cars, and because it sits about 4 inches off the ground, I didn’t feel the “thrill,” I felt like I was getting a colorectal exam at sixty miles an hour.

This ‘telling people what they think or feel’ (or what their reaction should be) is really annoying. Al Ries and Jack Trout call it “Marketing your aspirations.”

It’s rampant in radio, too. Just this week, I heard a morning show promo that said “Great stories, and lots of laughs” (or some other bragging drivel). Not true. I heard them, and their stories were “pat” and predictable, and the farthest thing from “laughs” I could imagine. They just recycled stories from the internet, and plugged their Facebook page.

Instead of constantly telling your listeners what you WANT them to think or feel about your show or your station, just promote the Benefits of listening to you. The best show promo just plays me a clip of the show, then tags it with who you are and when you’re on.

Let the listeners decide for themselves. Let go of the hype. No one believes it.

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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 #363 – How You Start

In well over 20 years of coaching so far, I’ve worked with a lot of incredibly good air talents, some to refresh and regroup so they can STAY great; others to simply help them grow even more.
The flip side of that is working with people in the earliest stages of their careers. And it seems like the “newbies” all start with the same question, “What’s the secret?”

Here it is: be WORTH listening to. Whatever your subject matter is, whatever you say has to make some sort of impact. Not necessarily big, huge, dramatic impact. Simply being perceived as someone who’s actually talking to me, rather than just “a voice saying words”. That sounds easy, but it’s a daunting task for a young talent. It’s not about your voice. It’s not about being “funny”, per se. It’s just about being PRESENT, in THIS moment, every time the mic opens. Every…single…time. The minute you turn in a half-hearted effort, you deserve 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
© 2020 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #360 – The Better Idea

The Better Idea. That’s what always wins. Apple. Streaming. Social media.

As an air talent, limiting yourself to just trying to match the other guy, or just trying to do a decent job…well, that’s setting the bar too low.

What you should want to do is get better, get clearer on what you want to do, and get more proficient at doing it. Here are three easy steps toward getting better in just one month:

Step 1 – be able to tell someone, in detail, what your listener’s life is today. The more you know about the listener, the more relevant you can be. Relevance is ALWAYS the better idea.

Step 2 – do what the format allows, but make sure that you come across as a person, not just a voice. This is multi-layered, because we’re also voice actors, to a degree. Start with trying to sound ON the air just like you sound OFF the air.

Step 3 – Reject the typical or the easiest thing to do. Keep adding stuff all the time. Burn material like jet fuel. Try something this week that you’ve never done before.

That should jump start things. ⏱

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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.