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 #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 #306 – Little Things Make Big Things Happen: A lesson from John Wooden

This tip is for music stations.

If you don’t know who John Wooden is, you’re probably not a basketball fan. Wooden, called “The Wizard of Westwood,” won TEN NCAA national championships in a 12-year period as head coach at UCLA, including a record seven in a ROW. (No other team has won more than four in a row.) Many of his players became NBA stars, often Hall of Famers like Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Gail Goodrich, and Bill Walton.

Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success” has become the Bible to dozens of present-day coaches, and one of the things adjacent to it is his list of “12 Lessons in Leadership”, one of which is “Little things make big things happen”.

This directly applies to radio, with the current generation of radio talents who grew up with the computer running everything, voice-tracked shows taking away timing and “right here/right now” presence, and a total lack of understanding that sixty seconds is a LONG time.

So let’s concentrate on just one aspect of how your radio station can benefit from John Wooden’s lesson. Something simple, like whether or not the jock talking – or an imaging piece or a jingle – occurs TOO SOON on the end of a “cold ending” song.

Too soon = not a good thing. On a “cold” end, the listener wants to HEAR that last word or chord hit, not hear it stomped on. WAIT for it. You don’t want “dead air” (of course), but impatience is a drag, and a good reason for someone to go to a streaming service instead of you.
(This actually includes songs with fade-out endings, too. You want to end on a particular word or phrase, not in the middle of a sentence in the lyrics. And BEFORE it goes to virtually nothing that can be heard in the car.)

Too late = creates the immediate impression that you’re either not paying attention, or you just don’t have very good motor skills.

Just right = respecting the music in a way that leads to the next element hitting at the perfect time, so your voice or your Imaging piece or your jingle isn’t seen as an INTRUSION on my favorite song.

Do this all the time, every time, and I promise you’ll have a competitive advantage that other stations won’t even notice, and even if they did, they’re too lazy to raise their standard.

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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 #304 – How Stories Work

Telling a story is like being on a see-saw. On one end is that you want to share something. On the other end is not wasting the listener’s time.

Here are some rules to help you NOT be the person who takes a long time to tell a story that doesn’t matter:

The first line or two will be what “tethers” your subject matter to the listener – or not. Start abruptly into something that isn’t timely or relevant to the listener, and you’re dead in the water already. Spend too long getting into it, again…dead.

Add only the essential details, and let vocabulary and attitude, fueled by Emotions, fill it out. More facts than we need, names we don’t know, too much setting up who someone is, etc. will kill the story.

End with something we DIDN’T hear earlier in the story. The ending should surprise, delight, or inform. Try not to use cornball punch lines. The “that’s what SHE said” type of line is beaten to death.

Here’s an example, from a team show I worked with:

T: Oh, check your mail today. You may get the coupon that I got yesterday. It was for a new product, called “Spam lite.”

B: What do they leave out…to make Spam lite?

T: I don’t know…the snout?

That’s how easy it is, and how little time it takes, to serve up something that the listener will REMEMBER. (On the air, even with the station’s name, artist, song title, and the team’s name leading off the break, this took only about 20 seconds. But it’s never really about length. It’s about IMPACT.)

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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 #290 — The Twelve-Ounce Glass

The other day, I heard a guy who’s quite good RUSHING through every break. Talking to him later, I found that he’d gone through a series of really stressful things, leading to his getting back home at 4 AM, then having to go in and substitute for someone on the air just a very few hours later. In trying to overcome sleep deprivation, he went the “energy” route. But it didn’t really work, because the listener can almost always tell when we’re overcompensating, or just not quite “in the pocket”.

This is what I told him:

A 12-ounce glass won’t hold 14 ounces of Dr. Pepper. Pouring it faster won’t help.

Keep that in mind the next time you’re not physically at your best. Stay ear-friendly. Fit the glass.

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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 #288 – What a fan fight at a football game has to do with you

On Sunday, December 2nd, 2018, two fans got into a fight in the stands of a Pittsburgh Steelers game. One guy said something. The guy he said it to tellingly removed his cap, then head-butted the first guy. Guy #1’s girlfriend and several other fans got involved.

Not exactly untypical, but as I read about it (and watched the video), something the writer of the article, Jay Busbee said, really caught my attention:

“This is why nobody brings kids to football games anymore, and why nobody under the age of 40 spends any time on Facebook. They know enough not to get caught up in whatever messes the ‘olds’ are creating.”

The “olds”? Wow.

Now whether you agree with the Facebook statement or not, it’s still something to consider. I’ve been coaching people on how TO use – and now NOT to use – Facebook postings for years. The gist of it is that if a comment is relevant to something top of mind TODAY, you might want to use it, but random postings are virtually useless, because Relevance is King when it comes to Content.

I’m not saying your listeners don’t still use Facebook, but we should always be looking at the next big thing. Because habitually when radio does that, they find out that it’s already here.

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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 #287 — All the Great Quotes are Short

This is probably the shortest tip I’ve ever written…

I talk a lot about editing, and here’s why:

All the great quotes are short. No one quotes a paragraph.

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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 #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 #274 – Everybody Cares

Over decades of radio, including working with literally hundreds of stations in all different formats, I’ve found that there’s one thing every truly great station has, and the ones that aren’t great don’t have: Everybody cares.

In a station where everybody cares, no sloppy Production is done (or left for someone else to do), attention to detail is a “given”, and bad or uncooperative attitudes are simply not tolerated. You find high-profile, high-level talent, but no prima donnas. Everyone is clear on what the Strategy of the station is, and that strategy is carried out on every level, from the person answering the phones to the General Manager.

That may sound pretty obvious, but if it’s so “obvious”, why don’t more stations have it?

Here’s the deciding factor: if even ONE person DOESN’T care, that poison gas will eventually affect the whole staff.
Example: a person who voice tracks a show when he or she could have done it live leads to another jock, who puts in MORE effort, feeling unappreciated – especially if the one with a better work ethic is making less money. And then the dominoes start to fall. Resentment sets in, grudges are held, communication stops – and in the communication BUSINESS, that’s a killer.

I walk into stations sometimes where you can’t HEAR the station at all. No audio coming from speakers in the hallways, deathly quiet offices, no “buzz” about what’s happening on the air. This drives me crazy. If YOU don’t care enough to listen to your own station, why should anyone else?

Just this past week, a PD of a major market station told me that her afternoon jock had scheduled a doctor’s appointment for one of his kids DURING HIS AIR SHIFT – which is only THREE hours – and voice-tracked his show that day. This should not be tolerated. Those three hours should be blocked out as untouchable by anything else.
So that station is doomed. Dead Man Walking.
Disclaimer: Yes, I realize that there are exceptions, and I’m not urging you to violate HR concerns. Your kid woke up sick, and that was the only time you could get him in to see the doctor, or a single parent scenario not giving you any options. But this wasn’t one of those instances. This was just someone electing – with other options available – to knock out his show when there was alarming weather coming in and Traffic complications that it would cause, and he should have been on live.

So from a coaching standpoint, here’s the bottom line: simply CARE. Infuse the other air talents around you to care – about their performance on the air, their Production, their interest in comparing notes and listening to each other and always trying to get better. And make that your default setting, with NO exceptions.

Because in the end, winners and losers are often decided by who cares the most.

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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.