Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #323 — Kick Out “Kicker” Stories

The main challenge in bringing great Content to the table each day is that it takes a little work – something that it seems like the vast majority of air talents now see as more of a nuisance than anything else.

So what we get a lot of the time is the “kicker” story – one of those supposedly “amusing” stories like the “stupid criminal of the day” tripe, or innocuous, space-filling items like one I saw the day of this writing, “What your crush on Keanu Reeves actually means, according to science.”

This is the lamest form of show prep. Here’s why:

1. No one really cares.

2. Anybody who DID care already saw it. (You’re not the only one with internet service, you know.)

3. There’s nothing personally revealing in it. You’re just reading something, then maybe throwing in a comment. Any idiot can do that.

If you really want to improve your show’s Content, start right now by refusing to do ANYTHING that doesn’t matter to – or isn’t relatable to – your listener. Those “kicker” stories are just things to take up space on the page between the ads anyway. You won’t miss them, and your listener CERTAINLY won’t miss them.

When what you talk about actually matters to the listener, you have a real chance to build a solid career. “Radio personality” is a different definition than just “disc jockey”.

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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 #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 #309 – Jump Into The Pool

The other day, during a session, we were talking about what to do for Mother’s Day. I mentioned having my mother do my show one Mother’s Day years ago, and the talent I was working with said, “I could bring my daughter on with me…which she would hate.”

I replied, “And that – her being resistant to it – would be something EVERY listener could identify with.”

Continuing, I suggested that she act out – complete with sound effects – her dragging her daughter into the room. Like…with a chain, scraping across the floor. Dripping with reluctance.

So here’s the lesson: Don’t be afraid to make things theatrical. The more you create that “theater of the mind” thing, where the listener can PICTURE it, the better.

Unlike real life, JUMP INTO THE POOL.
DON’T look to see if there’s any water in it first.
Because all people are going to remember is that you jumped.

Note: My friend Ron Chapman, legendary Dallas morning man, once jumped out of an airplane on the air. THAT was GREAT radio.

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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 #303 – Doing the Wrong Thing Well

Believe it or not, there are some instances when a really good talent will foul the ball off his own shin. It happens to baseball players, and it most assuredly happens to air talent.

Case in point, recently a wonderful talent spent time (a setup, followed by two phone calls) setting up a little factoid about how we really only use about 13% of the things we learned in school.

Right at the outset, there are several things wrong with this:

  1. It’s not particularly timely, which means it’s largely irrelevant, because it’s not top-of-mind TODAY. (Where does this rank on the list of the things that are most important to your listener today, 150th? 250th?)
  2. It relies on using a percentage, which automatically makes it sound “left-brain” driven, as opposed to something more “right-brain” and visual and creative, and…
  3. Trying to get phone call response will inevitably lead to one decent reaction or story. Any call that follows will basically be just the same story with a different example.

I call this “doing the wrong thing well.” It sounded “professional”, and it got some reaction from the listeners (although it was limited). But literally anyone on any station could have done it, so it doesn’t really give you any way to stand out, or to offer something unique. So while it “ticks all the boxes” for filling some time, it’s not really very compelling.

As I told this talent in a coaching session afterwards, instead of doing the wrong thing well, let’s do the RIGHT thing really well. By “right thing”, I mean something that the listener is already thinking about – something top of mind that you can share a perspective on. Only then can you pique interest and reveal something about yourself in a compelling and unique way.

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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 #300 – Two Segments, Max

Here’s a short, but really powerful tip.

Give a subject two segments (in Talk radio), MAX. If it doesn’t “catch fire” by then, give up and move along to something else.

The same principle is true in Music Radio – give a subject two tries, and if there’s no usable reaction, punt. If it hasn’t “happened” by then, you’re just firing bullets into a dead body. This is both boring and desperate-sounding.

This is why I always over-prepped each day. Just having “enough” to cover a show might not actually BE enough on a given day. And as you know, it’s impossible to predict when something might inexplicably fail to connect with the listener. (Although, now that I think about it, this could simply be because there’s not an Emotion at its core. Might want to think about that, too.)

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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 #294 – The Lone Ranger, the Silver Bullet, and You

Leading up to last Halloween, a show I work with did a wonderful break that leapt out of the radio about Trick-or-Treating in a Halloween mask. After talking about how restrictive one could be, one member of the team did a “trick or treat” delivery like his face was being smashed in by the mask. It was really funny and SO visual.

Then his partner followed up with how it could have been raining, and did a rain sound effect.

While well-intentioned, this violates my “fire one bullet” philosophy. Think of it like the Lone Ranger. Part of his “legend” was that he used silver bullets. As a kid, I thought “those must be really expensive, so that’s probably why he’s such a good shot.” After all, you wouldn’t want to waste those silver bullets.

Most air talents keep trying for one more laugh, like an amateur on an “Open Mic” night at a comedy club. But for 99% of jocks, you need to remember that you’re not Jim Gaffigan or Jerry Seinfeld. No one paid to see you. One bullet is probably all you’re going to get. So fire it, then move along. If you do have a second thought that you think is valid, do a second break later and fire THAT bullet.

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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 #293 – How to Use Texts or Emails on the Air

I hear so many people using a text or email as the ending of something. And a lot of stations have gone way overboard in soliciting them.

But this is one of those things that seems like a good idea, but it’s too broad a concept to play to radio’s strengths.

Here’s what I coach:

Texts (or emails) are only to be used as springboards for something YOU do that’s creative. They’re not a be-all or end-all in themselves. So rather than using a text or email as the “destination” for something, you should use those as the START of something. I didn’t tune in to hear what the faceless “Jennifer” from Highland Park has to say, I tuned in to hear YOU – the trained, articulate, entertaining Personality – have to say. Because, let’s face it, “real” people are usually not very witty or clever or funny at all. Sure, they can be once in a while, but even then, I don’t want to hear you just read a response. How lazy can you get? Why don’t you just read the newspaper on the air if that’s all the work ethic you have?

Plus, I believe it’s a mistake to encourage people to text or email INSTEAD of calling, because radio is about airing AUDIO. Do you want to hear me interview an artist, or would you rather hear me read an interview with the artist out of a magazine? Print is a poor substitute for Sound. Let’s keep our eye on the ball.

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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 #284 – The Barbecue Test

One of the biggest challenges these days (as always) is Content.

There are lots of questions that help you put it together – Is this top of mind? Does the listener actually care about it? Do you have anything to offer on this subject that’s unique, and not just what everyone else will do? Where are you going with it? Is there a chance that it could lead to listener feedback, or is just a one-off thing? …etc.

But these leave out what I consider to be the most logical question to ask yourself: Is this something you’d say at a barbecue, to a person you just met?

If not, why are you saying it?

This will not only quickly cut to the chase as to whether it’s valid Content or not, it will also (hopefully) shape the LANGUAGE that you use, how you get to it, how you edit it, and most importantly, keep you from sounding like a disc jockey and more like a real person.

No one is enjoying hearing people read crap off a computer screen or someone’s stupid Facebook post on the air. Dig deeper if you want to be great.

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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 #276 – The 2 Most Important Content Guidelines

In a coaching session this week, it occurred to me that most talents today might not have been as fortunate as I was in terms of who influenced them. The names might not mean much to you, but I started off working for a wonderful P. D. named Larry Ryan in Shreveport, my home town, whose mantra was “Do something! Any idiot can intro songs.” That gave me permission to try – and equally important – permission to fail.

Then I worked for radio pioneer Gordon McLendon (who, with Todd Storz, INVENTED Top 40). Gordon was all about Creativity too, and P. D. Michael Spears taught me tight, concise formatics to harness that creativity.

Others followed: the great Lee Abrams, who infused “Stationality” to a stunning degree, and made me realize that TRYING to be funny was the wrong path; being yourself (and therefore unique) was far more important. Bill Young in Houston, who rarely said anything, but when he did, it was like gold coins dropping into your hands. Jack McCoy, creator of the best contest ever, “The Last Contest” at KCBQ in San Diego.

But all that aside, people like those aren’t very prevalent anymore, so let me try to help you with what I believe are the two most important guidelines for Content:

1. Today’s show should be about TODAY as much as possible. Recycling old material usually sounds like just that, recycled, calculated. Some days are “drier” than others, but Wednesday’s show can’t just be a repeat of Tuesday’s show. In this era of voice-trackers reading crap off a computer screen, or taking “click bait” stories from the internet or social media, there’s a lot of nothing being said.

2. RELEVANCE is the key. If it doesn’t matter to the listener, you’re just “a voice saying words” – a dull, droning noise to be tolerated (maybe), but not really connecting with the listener in any meaningful way.

So, as I wrote in my session recap with a good talent who has it in him to become a great talent yesterday, “Today, if at all possible. Relevant, always.”

If you’ll sift everything through those two thoughts, I guarantee that you’ll get better, no matter what your level of experience is. We ALL had mentors. If you’re not still learning, you’re regressing.

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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.