Tommy Kramer Tip #182 – When Repetition Becomes Irritation

The whole concept of “reach and frequency” is one of the benchmarks of all advertising, not just radio.  But since we don’t have artwork or a camera to tell part of the story, we have to be mindful of what our words are actually saying.

Yes, the listener needs to hear something a few times for it to penetrate the world he/she lives in, like a contest, a promotion, or a feature you run.

But when it comes to “regular” Content and your vocabulary, you really don’t want to sound repetitive at all.  In real life conversations, using the same words, expressions, or “camera angles” over and over again is an indicator of laziness, lack of imagination, and lack of respect for the person you’re talking to.

Those things you “always say” are the ENEMY of communication.

I used to coach a morning show in Dallas with a host who made a little whistling noise every time he played “The Joker” by the Steve Miller Band.  (You know, that place at the end where there’s a little “slide” guitar thing that sounds like a whistle.)  Whenever that song came up, I really hoped that he WOULDN’T do the whistle – but he always did.  Aaarrrggh.

So, if the question is “when does something become stale?” then the answer may as short as “the second time I hear it.”  This is NOT something you should ever want the listener to think about.

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

Frost Advisory #337 – Givers and Takers, a Thanksgiving Message

As we turn the page on another Thanksgiving holiday in America, the front page tells us that Fidel Castro has died.  That’s reason for partying in the streets in the Cuban-American communities.  One news account referred to it as “Christmas coming early.”

I wonder if Fidel Castro was a grateful man.  Curious idea, don’tcha think?


We don’t usually associate dictators with gratitude.  No, they are the quintessential takers.  The news stories used words like oppression, control, and force.  And yet we associate being grateful with giving.

The same is true for our radio stations.

Is your station a giver or a taker?

I know radio stations where the only time one hears certain voices is when they are asking for money.  Their airwaves are filled with commands “do this” and “do that”, treating listeners like the proverbial dog on a leash.

But I know stations that are “givers”.  I know of a station that has a strategic initiative to connect listeners to local charities.  I know of a station that was on the ground offering bottled water and other help during a local disaster.  I know of a station that gives the opportunity to pray with listeners in need at each station event.

“The human spirit senses and feeds on a giving spirit… Think about what Jesus taught – half the time people didn’t know what he was talking about, but they listened attentively.  Jesus was giving – feeding them.  Not taking.  It is at a spirit (heart) level – he wasn’t just giving information.”
~John Maxwell

One of my heroes is a fellow by the name of Billy Howell, who runs an automobile dealership in the Atlanta area.  Although we’ve never met Billy is one of my heroes because he is a giver.  He partners each year with my friends at The Fish Atlanta to bless those who are struggling.  Just last week Billy and his company granted a Christmas Wish to fly a soldier and his family home to Atlanta prior to his deployment to Afghanistan.

“The best ministry we can offer on God’s behalf isn’t to explain our theology.  It’s to extend our generosity.  Because that’s what our heavenly Father did for us.  And that’s what he’s asked us to do as well.”
~Andy Stanley

Oh, and by the way, the stories of giving you share make wonderful gifts for your listeners

The Start of the Christmas Season

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
~Albert Einstein

We celebrated the start of the Christmas season in my house by watching Miracle on 34th Sreet.  Well, also because we were recently in New York and visited Macy’s.  Still, how can you not love a movie that ends up with Santa being set free?  At a pivotal point in the movie the post office drops off bags and bags of letters to Santa.  Most remember all those letters dropped on the judge’s bench, but just before that there’s a scene at the post office with people sorting the mail by hand.  I love the way they’d flip the letters up to be whisked away by the technology of the day.

Of course, the mail isn’t sorted by hand now, as the post office heads toward something called “Network Rationalization.”  The job shown in the movie doesn’t exist anymore.  Technology changed the way the mail was handled.  That happens, even to the point, we don’t even think about the “old jobs” that were eliminated.

Typically we look at, and complain about, change that happens to us, in our generation, but if we did look at the past we’d see all these instances where change happened, and life moved forward.  The world didn’t explode or freeze in time.  It marched on, continually changing, being embraced by some, and tolerated by most.

Tommy Kramer Tip #181 – Catch and Release

The whole concept of subtlety seems to have died out in the back yard, because no one heard it scratching against the door.

Go to “Catch and Release”, like in fishing.  You catch a Moment, then you let it go.  Trying to reach a second Moment is too far a “reach” for most air talents.  We’re not stand-up comedians, who work tirelessly on “constructs” where each step leads to another one.

Louis C. K. talks often about George Carlin’s process of writing for a special, then tossing that material out, which shocked Louis.  He felt like “I’ve worked for 14 years to get this one hour of good stuff.  How do you just throw that away?!”

Over time (and mustering up all his courage), he learned that you have to clear the slate to open up the mental space to create more.

Radio’s not really the medium for that “Construct” formula anyway.  Quick hits, then movement, define great radio.

I hear so many shows that sound like the people in the studio are having a good time, but like kids at recess, they don’t want to come back into the classroom and settle down.

Catch, then Release.  Stop hanging onto a falling satellite.  Your listeners will really appreciate it.

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

Frost Advisory #336 – Atlanta Is In the Eastern Time Zone

That’s the announcement that came over the airport PA.  But the announcement seems self-evident, doesn’t it?

Atlanta is in the eastern time zone.


…you’re not from Atlanta.

And most of the 250,000 travelers per day through the world’s busiest airport are NOT from Atlanta.

Almost everyone has to catch another flight.  So time matters.

The seemingly self-evident becomes vital with a simple change of perspective.

Your listener has a perspective. Great stations learn it.


Tommy Kramer Tip #180 – Technique versus Style

In coaching, the typical fear is always that you, as a talent, might actually have to change some things in order to become more fully fleshed out.  Technique is a part of it, and there are many Program Directors who are very good at teaching the various techniques that work best in any given format.  I’ve got my own set (what a lot of people have called “The Kramer Rules”) that form that firmament, the solid rock foundation a talent builds on.

Caution:  Techniques that don’t grow out of a specific Strategy are just flotsam floating by.  Strategy dictates Techniques, not the other way around.

And then you have Style, which is what we work on the most.  Many air talents think they already have a certain style, but it’s really just a mish-mash of techniques wrapped around an Attitude.

So I believe the way to look at it is yes, you want to learn the right techniques – and which ones are outdated, or just wrong from the word “go”.  But how you DO those techniques are where your true Style comes from.

Example: The brilliant Mike Fisher, a truly great writer and fine air talent, was part of the staff at my last PD gig, a Talk station in Dallas.  Early on, we went over certain techniques to handle callers – no “hi, how ya doin’ today?” stuff (no one cares), ONE point from each caller, no phony “and Jess has something to say…” antiquated “entry lines” into a call, etc.

And Mike did well, but he put his own twist on it with this phone call solicitation: “Get in, get on, and be good,” followed by giving the phone number.

That statement, that “set of rules” for his callers to follow, defined his Style.  No b. s. was going to be tolerated, no filibusters, no boring analysis.  Get in, get on, and be good.  The pressure was on the CALLER, not Mike.


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

Frost Advisory #335 – Donald, Hillary, and the Power of a Name

“Did you call out my daughter’s name?  A friend told me to call.  I’ve never listened to your station before.”

I’m told there is a newspaper with a remarkable circulation rate – 100%.  Yep!  Everyone in town reads it.  The country wisdom of the publisher describes it in three words:

Names, Names, Names

He says that every Tom, Dick, and Harry, and every Donald and Hillary read his newspaper because they want to see if their name was in it. (“Made to Stick”, by Chip and Dean Heath)

What if your station was littered with the names and voices of your listeners?  A community of sounds, maybe introducing traffic, weather, birthdays, anniversaries, or lost dogs, and ultimately creating word-of-mouth.

What if the very design of your station revealed your listeners?

The power of a name was evident in social media when Starbucks recently offered a $5 eGift card to those who would “@tweetacoffee to” the Twitter handle of a friend.  “This can be between the closest of friends, the most distant of colleagues, or even between people who have not even had the chance to meet yet in person, but have connected in some way on Twitter.  We love the possibilities that the Twitter community can unlock to share acts of kindness with one another.”


What if…

…in a world of cookie cutter formats programmed remotely by people who couldn’t even locate your city on a map, the most effective viral marketing tool was simply the power of a name.

Tommy Kramer Tip #179 – Lee Abrams, Being Positive, Board Work

On the day I’m writing this tip, I just heard from my buddy Mancow Muller in Chicago.  He’s not just an outstanding talent, but he also lives a very interesting life, seemingly knows everyone, and always has great stories to tell.

Tonight he’s having dinner with The Moody Blues (I love them), and radio genius Lee Abrams.

Lee and I go back to 1973 in Chicago, later worked in Cleveland together, and have stayed friends all this time.  If you’re not familiar with Lee, just Google him.  His accomplishments are amazing, but the things I remember most about being around Lee are (1) he was encouraging, but still mindful of what a talent needed to do to get to a higher level, and (2) he always, always, always, worded everything in positive language.

“Don’t miss this one” became “Make sure to see this one,” for instance.  Our weather forecasts didn’t say “partly cloudy.”  We said “partly sunny” or (even better) “some sunshine,” etc.

This carried forward into the hallways, too.  There were no negative thoughts in a coaching session with Lee – ever.

For example, once, in Chicago, Lee wrote a post-aircheck session recap to the wonderful Gary Gears.  Lee assured him that he was going to be the most popular afternoon drive jock in the country, praised all the gifts that Gary brought to the table, etc.  Then at the bottom, Lee added:

P. S. Of course, learning to run the board is a prerequisite.


I miss that time with Lee, and wonder how many stations now even THINK about things like whether something is worded as a positive or a negative, and whether board work even MATTERS.

The radio is full of sloppy, uncaring, slamming-things-on-top-of-one-another board work everywhere now.  It’s tempting to fall back on the easiest excuse: “It’s because the computer runs everything.” But remember, your listeners hear this, too.

So let me channel Lee Abrams now and put it this way:  We can CHANGE that.

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

Frost Advisory #334 – Lessons Learned from the Chicago Cubs

Interesting, isn’t it?

Five million fans lined the streets of Chicago to celebrate the Cubs’ World Series championship!  That’s almost double the number that actually attended a Cubs’ game at Wrigley Field this season.  What’s that about?

It seems that the idea of being a Cubs’ fan actually transcends being a Cubs’ fan.

“When you have a story that’s larger and more interesting than your product or service – or you – other people and companies will want to incorporate your story into theirs to share the halo effect.  Supporters beat customers every time.  But gaining supporters starts with having a story worth supporting.”
~Blake Mycoskie, “Start Something that Matters”

Too often, however, our radio stations are more like versions of the game day accounts that dissect OPS (on base plus slugging percentage), WAR (wins above replacement), and BAFM (batting average during a full moon).

But that is not what motivated 5 million to line the streets of Chicago to honor their Cubbies!


On the brick wall at Wrigley Field fans wrote tributes to family members that didn’t live to see the Cubs win the World Series.

“My grandpa was a Cubs’ fan, my dad was too, and me and my brother…”

Last I checked no one wrote anything on that wall about Dexter Fowler’s stolen base percentage, Jon Lester’s strikeout to walk ratio, or Aroldis Chapman’s velocity.

Why then do we insist on diminishing our stations to nothing more than a Christian music version of Spotify, stripping our stations of the very values worthy of creating five millions fans willing to line the streets of Chicago?  My friend Mike looks out his office window to bemoan a parking lot void of any car with a station bumper sticker.  I regularly walk through stations where I hear no employee, supposedly the most passionate of fans, actually listening to the station.

Here’s my challenge to you…

Listen to your station for the next thirty minutes.

What do you hear that transcends batting average and on base percentage?

What do you hear that is a mirror reflecting back the very identity of your listener?

What do you hear that could motivate millions to line the streets and write tributes in chalk to the ones they love?

Tommy Kramer Tip #178 – The Different Meanings of “Experience”

Wish I could tell you how many times a PD has said he wanted to keep someone aboard, or hire someone, because he or she “has 20 years of experience.”

On the surface, that would seem like a real plus.  But there are different types of experience.  For example, I’ve had people name off the morning shows they were part of, only to find out (after some further fact-checking) that he or she was only a Producer that appeared on the air once in a while, not a full-fledged partner.  That’s a completely different level of experience.

Look, some people have 20 years of continuous learning, while others THINK they have 20 years of “experience”, but it’s really only been 4 years of experience repeated five times.  They didn’t LEARN anything after the first few years, either because no one at their past job(s) could really teach them, or because they got to a certain level, had some success, and came to believe that they knew all they needed to know.  (Good luck with that.  That’s the dinosaur that I call Jockosauras Rex.)

When you’re looking to hire someone, don’t go by “experience”.  Go by what you hear, and what you feel in the interviewing process.  Ask specific questions about what they’ve done.  Call the people they used to work with, if you can.  Listen to the station they last worked for (or are still at).  Some people are true stars at a very young age.  Others are just repeating what they’ve always done, and are stuck there.

The first thing I do with a talent is try to get a feel for whether or not that person is still willing to LEARN, regardless of how much so-called “experience” he or she might have.

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