Tommy Kramer Tip #169 – Listen to Yourself

In this age of voice-tracking and syndication, I often come across people who never listen to themselves on the air.

In the old days, we had cassettes, usually one for each day of the week.  And I’d take the cassette, and play it in the car as I drove home or ran errands, just listening to the show.  Not to see how “wonderful” I was (I don’t think there was ever a show that seemed perfect to me), but to have an accurate feel for how I – or we, in my team show days – came across on the air, and to pick up on little “crutch” habits or words I used too much.  Maybe I laughed too often as a sort of reflex, for instance.  After HEARING it, I could start working immediately on CORRECTING it.

Okay, cassette days are gone.  But they’ve been replaced with truly incredible technology.  We have computer audio files that we can access remotely, we have devices for our phones or computers to record the show, and there’s simply no excuse anymore for not really knowing how you sound on the air.

If you want to get better, listen to yourself.  At least once a week. PDs often don’t have time to do aircheck sessions much anymore.  And if your station doesn’t use a Talent Coach, you can get into some nasty habits pretty easily.  (One woman I worked with laughed like a water buffalo being electrocuted.  But she was totally unaware of it.  Had she EVER bothered to listen to her OWN SHOW, she’d have realized it herself, instead of having to have me tell her about it.  Boy, was that session not fun.)

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

How They Listen

“In the end, I don’t care how customers listen SiriusXM. I only care if they listen. And so they want to listen on their phone, they want to listen through their Sonos device. They want to listen on their car radio through satellite delivered. They want to listen through their car radio through plug-in their phone and/or using Bluetooth with their phone, does not matter to me. What matters to me is that they listen and that they pay.”
~James E. Meyer, CEO, Sirius/XM


Why is it we confuse content creation with content distribution?  People not listening to the radio as much as they used to?  That’s a content creation challenge.  People using devices that can’t access your content, that’s a distribution issue.

Most of us in radio don’t differentiate between content creation and content distribution.  Here’s the sticky side of that issue: once you start creating content specifically for one kind of distribution channel, your creativity suffers, and there’s less interest in what you’re distributing.

Here’s a theory – always concentrate on content creation first.  Compelling content will always find its way to a distribution channel.  Even if you have a plethora of distribution channels, if what you have on them is “ok” you’re going to fail.  The MacBook Air I’m writing this on has more ability to generate content for different distribution channels than existed 50 years ago.  I can create all of the “new media” choices of digital, audio, video and social.

Still, it’s the dreamer sitting in front of the computer, not Steve Jobs’ invention, that creates the compelling content.  As I mentioned recently, we’re too busy tactically to take the time to dream, which is what creates the compelling content.  Without that dreamer, the distribution doesn’t matter.

Frost Advisory #324 – Never Point the Camera at Yourself

“We (heart) logistics”, sing the actors dressed in the brown of the parcel delivery company, assuming that the internal work flow is meaningful to the customer.

“Bad advertising is like home movies.  In your ads, please, never point the camera at yourself.”
~Roy Williams, “The Wizard of Ads”

“Try church again,” declares one billboard campaign in Orlando, apparently targeting those least interested.   Even worse perhaps is the billboard artwork for hernia surgery.   (I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP, as Dave Barry would say.)

When you communicate the benefits of listening to your station, are you doing it from the perspective of those inside the station or those outside?  Careful.   This is trickier than it seems, because you’re on the inside.

My favorite bad radio campaign is “Not what you think!”, based on the assumptions that you, 1) already think something about that station, and that 2) it’s wrong!

Taylor makes wonderful guitars.  I even have a couple of them.  But their social media campaign isn’t focused on design and distribution, the things meaningful to those inside the factory.  No, they share stories of people enjoying their Taylor guitars.

“Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself.  It is as if they are showing you the way.”
~Donald Miller, “Blue Like Jazz”


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.

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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.

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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.