Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #409: A Lesson in Greatness – Robert W. Walker

Radio used to be populated by “big” voices, guys with a cannonlike delivery who ANNOUNCED or PRESENTED things.

But then it changed, and one of the best examples of how is my friend Robert W. Walker. Rob didn’t have a huge voice, but it was an ultra-easy-to-listen-to voice. He wasn’t “jokey” funny, but his insights (especially when he made himself the butt of the joke) were often hilarious. He pulled you in toward him. It seemed intimate, one-on-one.

He also was a brilliant writer and Production talent. Some of his station promos raised chill bumps when you heard them.

But I would classify his main talent as something that sounds very simple: People just LIKED him. He was what everyone in radio thinks they could sound like, but not that many actually can.

I think there are two main things to learn from Rob:
1. Never underestimate being likable.
2. Never think about your voice. Just be you.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #408: The Opposite

Sometimes, something 180 degrees away is what works best. You can’t do it all the time, but it’s one of the first things that I consider. Here are three examples.

1. The opposite of what anyone would think: Homer Simpson, “If Jesus had a gun, he’d be alive today.” (I thought I’d fall off the couch when I heard that.)

2. Wally, on Contemporary Christian Music network WAY-FM: instead of automatically playing an artist’s songs when he’d have that artist on as a guest, he’d do “Win it to Spin it,” meaning that the artist had to do some challenge in less time than Wally did it in order to get his/her song played. One I remember was when he had a singer form a pyramid of Spam “cakes” – without using his HANDS! (The guy had to stack them up into a pyramid with his MOUTH. Ewww! Hilarious on the air, and as a You Tube video.)

3. Once when I was on the air, my boss wanted me to do an all-request hour every Friday night. After doing it the “plain vanilla” way a couple of times, I went in exactly the opposite direction, saying “This is an all-request hour, but I’M doing all the requesting.” Totally unexpected, I had more people call in when they COULDN’T make a request than when they could. (A couple of weeks later, when I got a novelty album with 20 different versions of the song “Louie Louie”, I started the hour with “You can request any song you want…as long as it’s ‘Louie Louie’.” Believe me, there’s nothing funnier than hearing an “anthem” song done in Mariachi band style, or as a waltz…or hearing the same song requested for an entire hour.)

Try the Opposite once in a while. It opens up brand new roads.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #407: The Rule of Three is now the Rule of Two

The old comedy axiom is that the 3rd time gets the biggest laugh: watch any old sitcom or comedy movie and you see it over and over. Something gets a laugh. A few minutes later, it gets repeated, and gets another laugh. Finally, much later, there’s a “call-back” and it gets said again, and that’s the “big” laugh. That’s the Rule of Three.

But now, that’s outdated. Everyone’s attention span is shorter now. The Rule of Three doesn’t apply anymore. Now it’s just 1, 2 instead of 1, 2, 3. To sound like TODAY, you need to shorten that rhythm of yesterday. If you do it a third time now, it usually just sounds like you’re trying too hard. (Or maybe it doesn’t even make sense, because Time Spent Listening is so much shorter now.)

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #406: A Lesson from Alex Trebek

Watching ‘Jeopardy’ these days is strange for the millions of people of all ages who grew up watching Alex Trebek emcee the show. First, Ken Jennings, the greatest contestant of all time, hosted. Then the Producer of the show, Mike Richards, came in with his “Don Draper” looks and professionalism. Then Katie Couric, enthusiastic, but…

While we know a little about Jennings and a lot about Couric (but in another setting), we knew a lot more about Alex. He loved travel, his pride in Canada was cute, and just the WAY he conducted the show spoke volumes about his respect for what could have been just another Game Show.

Think about that. Why was it different with Alex? Why didn’t the guest hosts capture us like Trebek did?

Because, over time, we learned about Alex, from his appearance to his demeanor, and through the pancreatic cancer diagnosis and treatment that told us all about his dedication to his job. The way he kept the show moving, but knew when to slow it down and elicit stories from the contestants, tease them, applaud them.

Now think about your audience, and their relationship with you. IS there one? Are you doing anything worth their time? Do you know when to keep it moving? Is there anything happening that shares a little about you and your attitude toward doing your job, and how does that compare to an Alex Trebek?

He’ll be remembered by many as the guy who was so universal that he was parodied for YEARS on Saturday Night Live – a show that prides itself on being about THIS week. Would your listenership even notice it if you left?

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #405: Meet the Listener Where He/She Lives

The whole key to Content is one simple thought – “tethering” the Subject to the Listener. You have to meet her or him where they live.

Just recently, I watched an old “Andy Griffith Show” rerun about a Mayberry High School reunion. It touched everything I felt about my own reunion, how it reawakens old feelings, puts things in perspective, etc. (Andy saw his High School girlfriend, wondered why they drifted apart, then realized why when they got into an argument over staying in Mayberry as a “big fish is a small pond” instead of her moving to Chicago to compete in a larger arena.)

Over the years of watching what are now classic sitcoms, two names keep coming up: Everett Greenbaum and Jim Fritzell. Name any big show in that era – Andy Griffith, M*A*S*H, Mary Tyler Moore show, etc. – and they wrote episodes for it.
They had the knack of writing something very particular to each character, but framed by what the viewer had in common with them.

That’s your challenge, too. If you need help, get some coaching. This is an Art, not just a technique.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #404: More Music Shouldn’t Mean Less Personality

It’s a big challenge for a Programmer. You want people to listen, so you play their favorite songs. But if all you are is a playlist, you’re not even competing in the radio world. You’re competing with entities like Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Music, iTunes music, etc. (Even my cable TV network has dozens of music channels.)

What every station should want is effortless flow and momentum, but still having (or taking) time to DO something. “More music” can often mean “less Personality”. That’s a death trap.

But on the other hand, “No restrictions”, the opposite side of the coin, is a trap of a different kind. Great personalities have to be as good as the best song you play, too.

Music. Personality. You don’t want one without the other – in ANY daypart.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #403: The Big Goal, and How to Get It

It’s easy to wonder why radio stations sometimes decay, or never really become top stations. This needn’t happen. Bill Young, PD of KILT in Houston for many years, was a major influence on me and countless others who worked for him. Before it became okay to own a zillion stations, Bill had an AM and an FM that were both hugely successful for one reason: he filled the hallways with the most talented people he could find. Then he let them do what they do: create great radio, great Production, great Promotions, and come up with great ideas that challenged the “We’ve always done it this way” prison.

My friend “Brother Jon” Rivers, a great Top 40 jock who then became probably the best-known personality and Programmer in Contemporary Christian radio at KLTY in Dallas, put it this way: “If you hire enough really talented people, you eventually reach ‘critical mass’, where the station EXPLODES – in a good way. It gets so good in every area that success is just a byproduct.” That’s the Big Goal.

If your station isn’t this way, I would recommend doing everything you can to change it. Hire the brightest minds. If budget is a challenge, hire young, less experienced people and let them grow under this umbrella.

I’m not one of those “everything was better in the old days” people, but in radio, that certainly can sometimes be true. ALWAYS look for the creative “spark” when you make a hire.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #402: Team Shows are like a Marriage

Anyone who’s done a team show knows that it’s very similar to a marriage. As a matter of fact, I know many air talents who refer to their partner as “my work wife” (or husband).

You spend a lot of time together. (If you don’t, you won’t be very good.)
You’re working toward shared goals.
You want it to last. (Especially now, “movement” isn’t nearly the same as it was 20 years ago. A new job is pretty hard to find when one company owns multiple stations. If you divorce one station, you probably divorce all the stations in that cluster, or maybe even all the stations in that company.)

So, remember this: If you “cheat” on a team show, it may bring on a divorce. Here’s how I define “cheating” in the radio context:
Hold your ego in check. If you don’t, resentment sets in.
If you habitually talk over a partner, resentment sets in.
If you don’t share the credit, resentment sets in.

And remember that nobody goes to a party to hear someone fight with his wife.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #401: TEAM Ego, not Individual Ego

One of the main things I watch out for as a coach is when someone’s ego gets overblown. Here’s why…

The Beatles squabbled often, and George Harrison and Ringo Starr grew to resent how John Lennon and Paul McCartney were making a LOT more money than they were – when often, George, in particular, contributed lyrics or musical ideas that played a big part in fleshing out a song that John or Paul “wrote”.

Many groups, like U2 for example, learned from this, and simply listed “U2” as the writers of their songs. Problem solved.

As a team show, or as a radio station. a COLLECTIVE ego, where you have pride as a whole, as a TEAM – but not one person’s ego dominating everything – always works best.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #400: One Story at a Time

You hear a great story. Then you hear another one. But the odds are overwhelming that you’ll only remember one of them.

A story can’t set up a story. That should be TWO breaks.

In Music Radio, the reason for this is usually just a lack of discipline. Or ego.

The cure: ONE story per break.

In Talk Radio, we often hear the host tell a story, then bring on a guest, who then tells another story. Or even worse, we often hear the host tell most of the story while introducing the guest, then that person comes on and tells the longer, more detailed, and often more boring version.

The cure: Make it simpler; more compact. Do a SHORT intro, then just let the guest tell his (or her) story. Then, INSTEAD of launching into a story of your own (which can come across like you’re trying to “top” the other person), simply REACT to the other person’s story.

This discipline is what I often refer to as “The Barney Fife Method” – meaning, like the deputy on the old Andy Griffith Show, Barney only HAD one bullet. I constantly tell people “Fire your one bullet. Then you have to ‘go back to the courthouse’ to get another one.”

– – – – – – –

Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
e-mail: coachtommykramer@gmail.com
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2021 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.