Tommy Kramer Tip #169 – Being yourself…unless…

We hear it all the time.  “Be yourself on the air.”

Being yourself IS what you want to be, UNLESS your natural “self” is too exuberant for the intimacy of radio.

Loud talkers, for instance.  Those jocks that seem to SHOUT everything.  Over the course of coaching somewhere around 1700 people, I’ve dealt with a lot of these foghorn types, usually old Top 40 jocks who make “announcements” or “present” things.  And they always say the same thing when I point this out:  “But that’s just the way I talk.”  (Actually, they say “BUT THAT’S JUST THE WAY I TALK.”)

Well if that’s true, you’ll need to change.

To become a great talent, you need to fully understand, master, and be able to control your “instrument” – your voice.

When you SHOUT at me on the air, you’re forgetting that I can hit a button and turn you OFF.  And believe me, I will.

If you need to get loud to express excitement or outrage, back off the mic a few inches, even turn your head away from it.  That way, I still get the Emotion, but I also still have functioning eardrums.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

The Future Comes To Those Who Make It

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
~Abraham Lincoln

When you’re walking along the beach, early in the morning, everything past the waves on the beach is invisible.  You know there’s an ocean out there, but due to the fog bank, you can’t see it.  Just like you know there’s a future out there, but you can’t see it.

This is where so many visions fail.  The people involved can’t see past the fog bank, so they avoid anything about the future, missing the people on the small fishing boat and the ocean liner carrying passengers to far away places.  There’s a critical shortage of the Christopher Columbuses, John Glenns and Elon Musks who saw a future and made it happen.

Some of this is a simple vision block, we tell ourselves we don’t have a vision and so concentrate on the tactics that wind up taking us nowhere.  But some of it is also because we’re so tactically oriented that we don’t take the time to dream.  We think we have to be in a state of constant busyness – and you know what they say about a body in motion staying in motion.

Finally, there are those who think that planning gets in the way of a grander scheme to which we’re only a part of.  There’s an almost Biblical ban on strategy because it could get in God’s way.  I could be wrong, but I subscribe to what a famous dreamer, Galileo once said, “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who endowed us with sense, intellect and reason intended for us to forgo their use.”

The perfect way to predict the future is to create it.  There’s a wonderfully simplistic, strategic sense to that, Abe.



Frost Advisory #323 – Where You’re From, and Why It Matters

Sometimes we treat it like it’s a nuance.  It’s not.

We don’t have a choice.  Not really.

If we want to be effective communicators we have to speak their language.  See it through their eyes.  Understand their perspective.

I’ll prove it.

This is a really cool map that shows the richest person in every state.


Now tell me, where did your eyes naturally go when you looked at this map?

Likely to where you’re from.

“To move and audience, especially a diverse audience, from where they are to where you want them to be requires common ground.  If you want me to follow you on a journey, you have to come get me.  The journey must begin where I am, not where you are or where you think I should be.

…If the journey begins with the assumption that everybody here know what we are doing, you will eventually have an audience of people who already know what you are doing.  If you journey begins with the assumption that everybody in the audience is a believer, then eventually your audience will be full of believers.  Who shows up for Third Day concerts?  Primarily people who know and are expecting Third Day music.  Where you consistently begin and what you consistently assume determine who consistently shows up.  Why?  Because your assumptions create the common ground for the journey.”
~Andy Stanley, “Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love To Attend

Tommy Kramer Tip #167 – What You SHOULD Want Out of Phone Calls

One of the things I get asked about a lot is phone calls.  Some PDs think that putting a lot of phone calls on the air is the whole point; that putting people who’ve never had any sort of training in mass communication, speech, acting, or writing will somehow be better than an air talent who’s had years of experience and doesn’t ramble on about insignificant details when he or she is telling a story.

It’s not that I don’t like callers being on the air; I’ve done shows that were extremely phone-intensive.  But you have to have a sense of what the real point is.  So think of it this way:

You don’t want to take phone calls.  You want to take verbal photographs from people.  If what’s being said doesn’t make you see something, or imagine in your mind what it would be like to be in that person’s shoes, it’s not worth airing.

And let me clarify that you want snapshots, not movies.  Every second that you let a caller continue to talk, you face being driven off a cliff.  If possible, record and EDIT every call.  In a Talk format, be prepared to simply cut off a caller, then go on to make your point, or hit the button to go to the next thing.

Whenever I tell a group of people this stuff, someone says “But won’t that sound rude?”

No. What’s rude is subjecting the Listener to a boring, information-driven call that seems ten times longer than it actually is.  Frankly, the listener deserves better than that.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.



Unsinkable Radio

“If you look in your dictionary you will find: Titans – A race of people vainly striving to overcome the forces of nature. Could anything be more unfortunate than such a name, anything more significant?”
~Arthur Rostron, Captain of the rescue ship Carpathia

This photograph is believed to be the last for the HMS Titanic, before it sank.

Everyone bragged on the Titanic in its time.  It was too large to fail, it was unsinkable, and it was unthinkable that disaster could strike them.  All those rich people would not have scrambled for tickets on the Titanic if they knew it was going to sink.

Sorry, but this still reminds me a little of radio as we vainly strive to overcome our own forces of nature.  I am told almost daily that radio is in great shape and always will be.  But actually, I can’t stop, because I remember history.

I am not anti-radio, and understand what it has done for me, but I can’t accept that everything will be as it was.

Change is inevitable, a part of life.  The radio industry is changing and won’t be the same tomorrow as it was yesterday.

The days of radio, television and print as the dominant media are ending, and the era of audio, video, digital and social have begun.

Toward the end of the Titanic’s cruise there were several things that were missed or neglected.  Had they acted on any of them the ship’s name “Titanic”  wouldn’t mean anything to us.  I’m wondering if we’re not seeing the signs and ignoring them, and are headed to a similar end?

Don’t fear change, embrace it!  Make change happen, don’t wait for it to happen.

Frost Advisory #322 – Par for the Course; a Programming Lesson (First in a Series)

It was easy for him to see.

“What do you shoot?”, he asked, as I stood in for my first golf lesson.

I hemmed and hawed and said, “Well, I use to break 90 all the time.  But now I have trouble breaking 100 because I don’t play that often.”

That’s all he needed to hear. “People that can’t break 100 don’t hit the ball solidly.  Their fundamentals, like grip and stance, are out of whack.”

His diagnosis: simple and accurate.


What if that simple discernment could be applied to programming your station?

Breaking 100 is about the basics.  The correlation to programming is understanding what songs to play and what to do between songs.

If your talent don’t know what to talk about (or how to talk about it), they don’t understand the purpose of the format.  They don’t understand “why people hire them”, as Mark Ramsey would say.

If we understand that people tune to your station to be encouraged and entertained, to have their values in faith, family and community affirmed, then we have a filter by which they can choose what they talk about;

…whether at five o’clock in the afternoon on the way home from work…

…on Sunday morning on the way to church or…

…waking up and starting my day,

…which is when I actually heard a reference to “partial human remains” while eating my breakfast (I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP, as Dave Barry would say), an obvious sign of not understanding the format.

If you can’t break 100, you don’t understand why people listen.

On the next Frost Advisory; what if you can’t break 90?

Tommy Kramer Tip #166 – Character vs. Caricature

“Look at how she treats me…” immediately followed by the guy who said it laughing at his own remark.

That’s what I heard an air talent do the other day on a team show that I was listening to.

Sometimes in coaching, I ask a talent “what were you trying to do there?”  What that question really means is something I really don’t want to print. : )

Besides the fact that this line was just a useless, extraneous remark, when you point something out like that guy did, it only gives off the vibe that you really didn’t like it – or even worse, that you’re just trying to draw attention back to yourself.

Don’t “explain” it or comment on how you’re “mock”-being-taken-advantage-of.  Just let it sit.  People will like you more.  When you over-act (or overreact), you become a caricature instead of a character.

If I’d been that guy’s partner, we would have had a serious talk after we got off the air about his killing the moment.

Sometimes it’s the little, tiny things that make or break that connection with the listener.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Frost Advisory #321 – Are You Taking Credit for What You Don’t Do?

We live in interesting times.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are among the worst-rated presidential candidates of the last seven decades according to Gallup.  Only the unfavorable rating of Barry Goldwater in 1964 was higher, and he lost in one of the biggest landslides in history to Lyndon Johnson.  I think it was Jimmy Fallon who said these candidates are lucky they are running against the only candidate in history they could beat.

The noise is everywhere.  One can hardly get away from it.

Outlandish statements.

E-mail scandals.



“To find a unique position, what you must do is look inside the prospect’s mind.  You won’t find an ‘uncola’ idea inside a 7-Up can.  You find it inside the cola drinker’s head.”
~Jack Trout and Al Reis.

Time magazine seized the moment of the 4th of July holiday and focused on 240 reasons to celebrate America!  The cover was branded 99.9% politics free!


The “Jack” format was based upon two preconceived perceptions.

1) That radio/music wasn’t as good as it used to be, and

2) that there are a whole bunch of good songs out there that we weren’t hearing on the radio.  The execution of the format was secondary (as was its specific design based upon the market).  Listeners bought into the premise without questioning whether KC and the Sunshine Band should be played next to Deep Purple, just like voters have bought into Trump or Clinton despite the outlandish statements or latest e-mail scandal.

When you tap into an existing idea or perception, you offer the listener a reference point for the value your station provides.  It’s kind of like the “You are here” sign at the mall.  Where Nordstrom is located in mall isn’t meaningful unless I know where I am in relation to it.

My guess is that your station is 99.9% politics free, as well.  And my guess is that you’re not taking credit for it.

Tommy Kramer Tip #165 – Becoming a Beginner Again

Beau Weaver is an excellent Voice Actor in Los Angeles.  I’ve worked with Beau on and off ever since we first met as radio babies decades ago, and his transition from being a great disc jockey to succeeding in the voiceover universe has been inspiring.

At a seminar we did together in L.A. a few years ago, one of the things that Beau said to a roomful of radio people who were looking to move into the voiceover arena was “Sometimes you have to be willing to become a beginner again.”

As this is being written, I’ve just finished listening to an aircheck from a jock who always answers comments from his Program Director with “I’ve been at this for 25 years,” a defensive mechanism that’s keeping him from learning.  To put it gently, I fear that his situation will not end well.

At key times in your career, you have to be willing to become a beginner again.  Unless they’re making another Jurassic Park movie, no one is looking to hire dinosaurs.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Now Turn Right

“True leadership lies in guiding others to success. In ensuring that everyone is performing at their best, doing the work they are pledged to do and doing it well.”
~Bill Owens

It’s hard to remember the days of paper maps, and going into a new town, driving while trying to figure out where you are.  Just one of the reasons I love the navigation system in my Z4 as it “guides” me to places I haven’t been before.

Being that it’s a German car, the Nav voice is very specific and precise.  “Turn right in one mile… now turn right.”  I’ve been given the instructions and you can hear a subtle edge in her voice that I’d better do it.

But it’s more than being ordered around by a disembodied female voice, if you look on the screen you can see a place for instructions, and a map to give me context.  What would it be like if the voice just ordered us around without the ability to glance at the map for that important context?  She doesn’t tell me after I turn right I’ll have to immediately turn left, but the map does provide that context.

Somehow, being me, this reminded me of my early days as a Program Director.  I was much more apt to tell people what to do without providing any kind of context… the why.

Naturally, without the context, I wound up getting precisely what I’d asked for from the other person’s perspective.  I’d often be frustrated that I didn’t get the result I wanted.  Now I realize that without the context, I was asking people to read my mind… and that wasn’t a part of their job description.

My problem was that I was still managing, not leading.

A leader knows his or her role is one of people, not activities, and can’t afford to ignore the context.  No one will automatically understand and you’ll be frustrated.  Plus, the individual will never understand how their role connects to the bigger picture and the “why” for what they’re supposed to do.  Instead of a team of motivated and challenged people, you’ll eventually earn a group of frustrated, unmotivated, unskilled robots who are waiting for you to do everything.

Believe me, one way is much more productive and fun than the other.