Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #318 – Where You NEVER Want to Go

In essence, the air talent’s job is to take us somewhere…a journey, from beginning to end. One break at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time.

As you do, either you leave a mental “imprint” on the listener, or you just go by unnoticed, a mosquito making a noise in the background.

While there have been tons of books written about this, one thought, originally from the great acting coach Stella Adler, and used to perfection by my friend Valerie Geller in the Talk radio world, sums it all up: Never be boring.

Stella Adler put it this way:
“You can’t be boring. Life is boring. The weather is boring. Actors must not be boring.”

There’s an easy way to avoid being boring. Simply ask yourself this: “What do I have to offer that won’t be ‘typical’?” Because THAT is what will set you apart from almost everyone else across the dial.

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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 #316 – The Difference Between You and Us

An extremely well-known morning show host once said about his team show, “We just have a conversation. The listeners just eavesdrop.”

I know that’s what he honestly believed, but it’s an incomplete thought. However, since they were quite successful, a lot of people thought that was right. Here’s why it’s not:

There’s a huge difference between a “You”-centered show and an “Us-centered” show. If it’s ONLY about you, it’s just not as strong as it could be. A show about you AND me (the listener) is a much more powerful goal.

What happened was his show actually was about the listener, too, but since the members of the team were entertaining (and having a good time), they got very “in the room” and talked about themselves both first and most. The result is that the fans they already have love it, but non-fans have no “port of entry” to BECOME fans. To a new listener, it can easily seem too “inside”. So as successful as they are, they’re not as successful as they could be.

Think about this: one day, there’s going to be another school shooting. Or (God forbid), there might be another plane flying into a building. Or wildfires are going to break out all over the state. Or a flood, or a tornado…

Then you’d BETTER be about Us, because none of your “in the control room” stuff is going to mean anything.

However, if you’re in the HABIT of thinking “us” all the time, those drastic or terrible events aren’t going to be a big shift in your show’s paradigm. You will have already developed the skills to know how to easily deal with something that affects ALL of us.

Great shows make everything sound easy. They don’t just talk about themselves. And they always picture the listener right next to them, and include her (or him) in the conversation, even though the listener isn’t saying anything at the moment.

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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 #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 #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.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #302 – Looking in the Window

Here’s a little something that happened in a recent session with a great morning team in Austin. I always try to do video sessions, and during this one, they were on location somewhere.

As we talked, I could see people behind them looking in the window. The people were just curious, wonder what they were doing, and what the two of them were like.

And that’s what happens every time someone tunes in, too.

It’s kind of like a remark that Garry Shandling made to Jerry Seinfeld in a “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” episode, when they talked about seeing Robin Williams for the first time: “You don’t remember what he SAID so much as you remember what he WAS.”

So think about who YOU are, to the listener. Are you just another person “broad stroke” over-performing, larger than life – but not in a good way? Or are you someone I can identify with, who’s entertaining, but also surprisingly down to earth and someone I’d like to hang out with? What you project is a choice. Choose wisely, because Shandling was 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 #301 – Stop TRYING to be Noticed

One of the prime ingredients in all truly great talents is that they connect with the listener on a daily basis.

And one of the keys in getting to that place is:

Stop TRYING to be noticed.

Instead of constantly trying for punch lines, or “talking points” that just get the same five people to call in with the same types of reactions we always hear, the ‘Real Deal’ is to just be part of the listener’s life each day. Talk about things that we all have in common, then put your individual spin on it.

Think about this…the more you try to be noticed, the more it’s just about YOU. But the more you just try to be part of something that we share together, the more it’s about US.

And that’s what gets ratings. If you build your show around having something going on that I can relate to each day, I’ll come back – over and over again.

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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 #299 – Discovery

To the listener, it’s all about Discovery.

As long as I’m discovering something (if it’s relevant to my life and interests), we’re good. When that stops, it’s “See ya.”

So you have to avoid repetition, and you have to always be moving forward.

This is why, as a coach, I can zero in on what a show needs quickly, because I’m always looking for the answers to two questions:

“What did we learn?”

And “What did we learn about you?”

Both of those things are essential.

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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 #297 – Producer, or just a Board Op?

The description “Producer” seems to be thrown around pretty loosely these days. So let me try to help you with what a Producer really should be:

A true show producer is a right-hand man (or woman), an extra set of hands and feet, and a resource in finding material, in addition to the right “framing” for something (music, sound bites, etc.).

A great Producer should have superior Production skills, too.

And you want a Producer to be a source of feedback, so a Talent has someone he or she can count on to weigh in on whether something is a good “fit” for the show, or in some instances, will even work at all.

Most producers I see work with morning shows, although there are some exceptions. But a lot of these so-called “Producers” are pretty much nothing more than board ops.

When one of the shows I coach is looking for a Producer, we start there: we want a Producer. If we needed another air talent, that’s what we’d be looking for. (Frustrated air talents usually don’t make great Producers.)

Editorial comment:

I really don’t like – and have never liked – the idea of a Producer being a board op. I don’t like the idea of ANYONE running the board instead of one of the air talents. If for no other reason, it’s really hard to get the split-second timing it takes to master the “First Exit” if you have to point to somebody else to hit the button for you.

A great Producer can be a valuable asset. But be sure that your description of Producer is an accurate one.

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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.