Tommy Kramer Tip #83 – Your Internal Clock

Every day, I hear air talent trying to do Content that’s good, but the delivery is too hurried. Or jocks will try to cram too much into a song intro, and while it does fit the time frame, it doesn’t sound real or engaging because the inflection is lost. It’s not just in music radio, though. It happens in all formats, including Talk and Sports.

Obviously, bad training (or lack of training) can cause this, but there’s more to it than that.

Here’s one of the most overlooked factors:

Everyone has an internal clock. And often, your internal clock lies to you.

You can see this outside the radio world with a simple experiment: walk up to someone, put a microphone in front of him, and tell him that he has 30 seconds to speak. Some people will take their time, sounding very real and relaxed – but talk for 50 or 60 seconds; nowhere close to 30. Other people will rush as fast as they can, and even though they have 30 seconds, they’ll race to match their internal clock, then stop after 15 or 20, gasping for air.

Great voice actors learn what real time is, rather than perceived time. Tell my friend Beau Weaver, for instance, that you need a piece of copy to be read in 26 seconds, and he’ll nail it almost every time in the first take. But unless you’ve developed that uncanny timing that a great voice actor has, you’re going to have to work on it.

The cure is a simple one: rehearse. And rehearse OUT LOUD, because it always takes longer when you enunciate clearly and inflect words audibly instead of silently.

Start with real-life Content first (books, articles, etc.) and try to stop after 10 seconds, then 30, then 60. Then take that to what you do on the air. In a short time, the difference will be dramatic, and you’ll have more “command presence” as a result.

Plus, as with many things I coach, it’s like life after sex. Once you’ve done it, you can never go back to the perspective you had before it.


Frost Advisory #237 – What Is Your Station Becoming?


The urgency of the day makes it difficult to think about tomorrow. And yet, the end of another year can be that time when we ponder our lives, our own mortality, and thanks to George Bailey, whether our lives are making a difference!

“What you are going to be tomorrow you are becoming today.” John Maxwell

I’m told that the most common New Year’s resolutions are about quitting smoking, losing weight, and starting a regular exercise routine. Maybe these concepts that can be applied to help make your radio station healthier.

Stop smoking!

We know it is an unhealthy habit but clogging up your radio station’s arteries with bad programming can be addictive, as well. We justify by saying we’ve always done it that way, or that a donor would complain if we stopped, or we can’t get the air talent to do their show prep, but we know deep down our station would be healthier if only good stuff was flowing through our programming veins.

Lose weight!

Most stations have weight they can shed as well; weight made up of programming that doesn’t meet the primary needs of why people listen. The discipline of losing weight isn’t much fun, but the benefits are tremendous!


Flabby areas of your programming can be avoided with regular exercise. When you add a promotion, take away a promotion. When you add a programming feature, take another away. When you add a song, you can stay slim and trim by taking away another song.

But beware! Just like your chain-smoking friend who knows better but still doesn’t quit, change can be difficult even if that change is for good.

“Change brings new choices that create uncertainty. Think of how in an unfamiliar place you gravitate toward a familiar face… the most familiar place is always the status quo.” ~”Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard”, Chip and Dan Heath

Tommy Kramer Tip #82 – Intensely Personal, but Still Universal

On the surface, it may seem that Howard Stern on satellite, great books, popular TV shows, and your favorite local radio personality may have little or nothing in common. But they all share one thing that I believe is the key to great radio: They all are INTENSELY personal, but still universal.

Both of these factors are important.

Many Air Talents are very personal, talking about their lives, experiences, and challenges. But if the subject only means something to them – if it’s not universal enough for Listeners to feel a common bond with, a “Boy, I know what you’re talking about” emotional connection – it doesn’t work.

The flip side of the coin is the Talent who talks about ‘top of mind’ universal subjects, things that everyone goes through, but doesn’t bring a personal element – a story that leads to an opinion – to the table. So there’s no emotional bonding.

I’ve often described great radio as open-heart surgery that you perform on yourself.

Choose the right subject matter, then POUR yourself into it.

Note: I have very specific tips for how to get into sharing things about yourself. Without learning them, it’s easy to just come across as self-absorbed.

Frost Advisory #236 – Steel Magnolias and Your Radio Station


I was channel surfing the other day and I stopped on the movie “Steel Magnolias”.

There’s the river!

“Steel Magnolias” is the story of a close-knit circle of friends who lives come together at Truvy’s Beauty Parlor in a small town in Louisiana.

I used to ride my bicycle down that street!

The movie stars Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah and Olympia Dukakis.

That’s the old McLung’s Drugstore!

It’s a clever movie and won some awards, but that’s not why it caught my eye.

You see, Steel Magnolias was actually filmed in the town where I lived during six of my Wonder Years. The man who wrote the original play went to high school with my brothers and lived one street over.

Advertising guru Roy Williams says, “People will be more interested in your home movies if they are in them.”

You watch a movie differently when it is based in a place you’ve lived a part of your life.

You listen to a radio station differently when its based on the things your life is about.

Being Blind To The Future

“Technology is certainly an issue for my company, but it won’t be me that ‘sees where the puck is going.’ Instead, I’m concerned with giving an impactful voice to those in my company who do see where it is going and can propose fast solutions to “get there first.” In our case, this includes some of our youngest and newest employees.” – Nancy Dearman, CEO, Kotter International


I’ve quoted hockey player Wayne Gretsky plenty over the years, as it’s great advice in looking at trends, and planning the future. If you can see where trends are headed you’ll be able to better adapt to change. But as Ms. Dearman notes, top leadership, who make decisions for the future, may not see the same things as a younger person. It’s not a matter of future “blindness” as much as it is a differing perspective.

But, and it’s a big but, I don’t see much of the radio industry investing in younger people who have a different perspective. Upper management is so focused on where the radio “puck” is going that they miss the bigger picture of where trends are leading. One day, as radio is paced by growing technological choices, those top management people will be stymied about the bigger picture of the future.

Here are a couple of simple thoughts about how you can help stay in touch with the bigger picture:

1. Talk to the Millennials you work with. Yes, just talk. Don’t ask them about radio, ask them about what they see in their future. What does the future look like to them?

2. Listen. You have to listen, and really hear what they’re saying. Avoid the “Yeah, but…” approach to conversation, and just listen to their picture of the future. Ask questions and understand what they’re saying. Later you can think about this picture and try to understand how your organization fits in it, but start by intently listening to them.

Isn’t it great? You have people in your life you can talk to and learn from. You’ll have a clearer picture of the future. And, it’s virtually free to pursue their perspective.

Tommy Kramer Tip #81 – The Only Two Elements

Normally, these coaching tips are for air talents, and this one does apply to your air work. But it’s primarily for MusicRadio Program Directors, simply because I don’t want Air Talents to get in trouble with their bosses over something that I said. The old “it’s easier to get forgiveness than it is permission” thing isn’t really true in this day of Corporate Programming templates and marching orders from above. Now, all too often, “This is the way we do it,” good or bad, is the way of the world. So if you’re a PD, please just take a few minutes and read this through, then take a day and let it wash over you.

No matter what you think, to the listener there are only two elements:

  1. Music.
  2. Things that aren’t music.

“What about our Imaging?”

Well, it’s not music, is it? Your “Imaging,” to the listener, is just a commercial for you. So when you play a song, then a recorded Imaging piece, then another song, you do not necessarily have the image of playing more music, even though the deejay didn’t say anything. In the mind of the listener, it was song, commercial for you, song.

Go retro. Before this modern template of Imaging playing every other song, the jock usually talked over the song intro, or sometimes a jingle played between songs. (People will sometimes sing your jingle. They’ll never sing your voiceover guy’s Imaging liner.) At the end of a music sweep, we stopped down, did some Content – briefly – then went into a stopset. It was perfect, IF the jocks were concise, and had something to say that informed or entertained.

“But we have things we want to promote.”

When you allow the jocks to talk more often, things can be talked about. There are more opportunities for meaningful teases to be given, for the personality of each jock to emerge, and for true forward momentum to be the first impression a person gets of your station.

“We have limited resources. Some of our jocks aren’t all that great.”

Add the word “yet.” With budget restraints, or a young or inexperienced staff, it’s tempting to not let them talk much. But that’s counterproductive, because no one can learn to ride a horse if they never get in the saddle.

There are only two elements. Play great music. And when you talk -which should be fairly often, but not lengthy – say something worth hearing.

Frost Advisory #235 – What You See Depends Upon Where You Stand

Last week we chatted about the power of Christmas programming. This week I’m going to dig a little deeper.

One air talent responded, “Thank you… this helps me as Christmas music is driving me crazy.”

Another said, “I’m scared we’re going to lose more fans than we attract new listeners.”

Still another said, “I know we’re known for Christmas music but let’s just try something new.”


“Each person has a different set of biases and values and assumptions, and those world views are influenced by their parents, their schools, the places they live and the experiences they’ve had to date.

Their worldview is the lens they use to determine whether or not they’re going to believe a story. The lens your consumers use shows them a different version of reality than it shows you or your colleagues or your others customers.” Seth Godin

Back in my deejay days I worked for a station that played the #1 song every hour. Every hour, I said. No one inside the radio station would have suggested it, and those of us on the air were ready to pull our hair out. But the listeners loved it. I mean, LOVED IT. The radio station was a huge success and became the prototype for dozens of successful stations across the country.

What you see depends upon where you stand.

If one is standing still, one sees AHEAD STOP.

If one is speeding down a bicycle path one sees STOP AHEAD.

Are these spray painted letters intended for someone standing still or someone speeding down a bicycle path? It makes all the difference.

If you want to do the right thing for your listeners do your best to understand their perspective.

Hint: I guarantee it is NOT the same as yours.

Tommy Kramer Tip #80 – Nobody Falls UP

One thing radio people are really good at is kidding themselves. I hear these faulty perceptions a lot:

  1. The competitor beating you in the ratings isn’t really that good, but just got lucky and was in the right place at the right time. PPM/Arbitron diaries/Nielson placement or selection just fell their way.


  1. They’re living off their reputation, and don’t deserve the ratings they have anymore.


  1. The only reason the competition is rated higher than you was because they did a lot of marketing and you didn’t. If you had their marketing budget or promotional budget, you’d be beating them.

These excuses are convenient, but the truth is nobody falls UP.

It’s easy to fall down in the ratings. Just stop working hard, take your Listenership for granted, get away from what was working for you, or become a caricature of yourself.

But you have to earn up. Going up takes work. And focus. And being willing to change what doesn’t work anymore.

Hint: Sometimes, that means getting help.

Frost Advisory #234 – The Power Of Christmas (programming)

Christmas music programming. Is it good or bad? Right or wrong? Hip or stale?

Viewed simply as a programming tactic, programming all Christmas music is about as crazy as it gets. Let’s see, your listeners come to you because you play the music they love – Chris Tomlin, Big Daddy Weave, Hercules and the Chicken Fat People.

Now you’ve decided to stop playing all the music that they love. That’s like ESPN deciding to stop carrying sports. How in the name of Bill Gaither is THAT supposed to be a good idea?

However, viewed as a programming strategy it’s a different thing altogether.


In our format the biggest barrier for growth is that new listeners don’t know the music. Since everyone’s favorite station is the station that plays their favorite music, it’s virtually impossible for someone to become a fan of your station if they don’t know the music. RISK impedes adoption.

RISK is something every business, every product, and every radio station must overcome in the Adoption process.

No one you’ve ever met has said that their favorite hamburger is from McDonalds. And yet McDonalds is the 6th most valuable brand in the world according to Forbes.

How’d that happen? It’s not because they have the best burger, but because they flawlessly deliver a consistent experience whether in Dallas, Dublin, or Dubai. (And their bathrooms are clean, thankyouverymuch!)

In other words, McDonalds has virtually eliminated RISK.

When done well Christmas music programming totally eliminates RISK for a new listener.

I’ll never forget the story told to me by my talented friend Tom Fridley. He spent a season working in the post office, where the dozens of employees went about their business of sorting the mail isolated in their cubicles listening on the headphones to their individual pop, country, rock, or AC station.

But something interesting happened when the Christmas music started. The headphones came off, and everyone in the office listened to one station – the station that played Christmas music.

“There was a time when our community was defined by our neighbors in a geographic sense. Today, our communities are based on shared interests, not shared sidewalks.” Mark Ramsey

Christmas is the largest possible “shared interest” for our format, allowing our stations to become instantly familiar as we connect to Christmas memories, shopping, decorating the tree, the local parade, the neighborhoods with the best Christmas lights, the dynamics of family get togethers, and the church Christmas pageant.

Tactically, programming all Christmas music makes no sense at all.

Strategically, it may the be the most important decision for growth that you’ll ever make.

Tommy Kramer Tip #79 – Making Contact

Think about how often you’ve heard someone say that a performer, during a concert, looked RIGHT AT him (or her). This is not an accident. One of the biggest singers of the seventies told me once that he purposely, at some point in his performance, looked at all 9 “zones” of the venue: Left, Center, Right. Upper, middle, and lower seats in each direction.


He didn’t do them in that order; it was random, but this enabled every single person in the audience to think that they made eye contact at some point.

The truth was, because of the lighting, he couldn’t really see anybody very well. But the illusion was powerful.


It’s the same way in radio, except we have to make contact verbally. To accomplish this, you have to say something that is shared – something that your listener can totally identify with.


This means you can’t simply grab something from a prep sheet or Facebook or a website and basically just read it to me. You have to make it personal.

In every city, there’s a small number of jocks – maybe only 2 or 3 – that really make contact on a daily basis. You can always find them at the very top of the ratings.


The benefit of coaching is that there are very specific techniques that can help you get the hang of this in a pretty short amount of time. If you’re not getting that in-house, reach out.