Living In A Bubble

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
~Abraham Lincoln


I realized recently how success… or failure… can change your perspective.  But especially when you’re successful, you can begin living in a bubble.  Suddenly everything is seen through the lens of your success, which tends to lead you to see anything and everything in a way that reinforces that last success.  No need to examine alternatives or a wider perspective on the world, just where you are and where you’ve been.  It’s one of those “if I close my eyes no one can see me” strategies.

It’s calm inside the bubble because there’s never anything bigger to wrestle with. You’re the most successful person in the bubble, but it’s such a small part of the world around you.  The bubble keeps you from growing and expanding, and you don’t realize how small you seem to those outside of it.  Until one day the bubble bursts, and you feel the full force of reality.

How do you know if you’re in a bubble?  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I pretty much doing the same thing over and over, enjoying the celebration around me?
  • Are you doing those things with essentially the same people who, being inside the bubble with you, are the only ones who have your trust?
  • Do you fight new ideas that are nearby, but outside your sphere of influence?
  • Do you spend more time on managing to keep things outside the bubble from breaking in than you do scanning the horizon for new ideas?

Here’s a thought from the Crosby Retreat I attended in New York recently:  Somewhere someone’s planning something that will disrupt your success.  Or maybe burst your bubble.

Frost Advisory #346 – Make It Better

Recently I was with a well-known leadership guru who shared his organization’s mantra for creating a culture of excellence.  He distilled everything down to what he described as three basic ideas.

  1. Make it better
  2. Make it better
  3. Make it better

He stressed that it is more than just a pithy way of emphasizing his organization’s desire for improvement.  It was their way of empowering every person in the organization to look for tangible ways to make their part of the process, from idea to execution, better today than it was yesterday.

So, what would this look like in the key areas of programming?

Make it better by only playing songs listeners love.  Weed out the so-so and ones without broad consensus.  Unfamiliar new songs must be exposed carefully and enough that listeners can become familiar with them.

Make it better by delivering what Mark Ramsey describes as “what they hired you for.”  Meet expectations. Be relevant and interesting (in that order).  Program directors can help by assessing a talent’s “batting average,” and helping them increase it over time.

Make it better by focusing promotions on the needs and benefits of the listeners.   Ask ‘Why should they care?’  Make it better by designing in your station’s brand values.  (Of course, your station has to actually have brand values.  See Frost Advisory #238—Celebrate What You Value.)

Service Elements (such as news, weather, and traffic)
Make it better by remembering all non-music elements are an interruption and must add value to the listener’s experience.  Information is either relevant or it’s not.  As my friend Dean O’Neal says “there is nothing more irrelevant than a traffic report for traffic you’re not in.”

“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. Don’t look for the quick, big improvement.  Seek the small improvement one day at a time.  That’s the only way it happens – and when it happens, it lasts.”
~Legendary coach John Wooden

*Photo from a get-together of Chick-fil-A‘s best customers at The Hatch in Atlanta to talk about how to make it better.

Tommy Kramer Tip #190 – Tying a Neat Bow Around It

There’s this virus floating around – you get to the end of a break, and instead of just getting out, you try to “tie a neat bow around it” at the end.

Don’t, please.  These “summations” sort of treat the listener like he or she is an idiot.  Always assume that the Listener is AT LEAST as smart as we are.

We’re not doing Aesop’s Fables here.  When you resort to “The moral of the story is…” that just sounds preachy; even smug.  While “Preachy & Smug” might be a great name for a morning team on a Sports station, it’s certainly NOT how a station in any other format should want to be perceived.  : -)

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Beyond Just The Games

“Unless you are prepared to give up something valuable you will never be able to truly change at all, because you’ll be forever in the control of things you can’t give up.”
~Andy Law


Pandora now has an app for the Microsoft XBOX system.

Not really earth shaking… or is it?

Gaming is huge, which draws people to XBOX, and then XBOX provides them an entrée into movies, the web, and music.

Pandora uses Kinect to allow people to listen, vote, and change songs with just a gesture.  So Pandora has now integrated themselves into yet another popular distribution channel.  Have you heard the old story about finding a parade getting in front of it?

But both may soon be rendered obsolete as Virtual Reality achieves broad acceptance over the next five years.  Change is a fact of life.

My point here is to show how unimaginative and lame most of our radio apps are.  Radio will not continue to succeed by being “good enough,” at a time when the life cycle of an app becomes shorter and shorter.  Let’s do something different that really intrigues the listener/consumer, and be prepared to understand that change is faster and more constant than ever.

Frost Advisory #345 – Our Biggest Problem Is…

We don’t strive for exceptional.

Our nature is to be ordinary.

Exceptional is “forming an exception or rare instance; unusual; extraordinary”.

The problem with being exceptional is not that we don’t know what it is.  The problem with being exceptional is that it goes against our nature.

Our default is always playing those extra songs that our listeners don’t know and don’t love, not the discipline of just playing the ones they love and tune to us for.

Our default is always talking too much, not the precision of “just the right amount.”

Our default is always “any time, any city,” not “right here, right now.”

Our default is always fluff, not being meaningful.

Our default is always formal, not being natural and conversational.

Our default is always bland, not surprise and delight.

The trouble is…

…great radio is hard work.

The easiest thing is never the best thing.

“You get what you accept.

If we accept a high standard, we will be rewarded with results consistent with that standard.  If we accept that other people can talk over us, and detract from our message, then we will not be heard.  If we only accept a best effort, then we will receive exactly that – no less.”
~Chris Oliver

Tommy Kramer Tip #189 – Short, Longer, Longest

You should be able to do three versions of anything you need to promote:  Short, longer, and longest.


[5 seconds]
“KBUT 94.9 window stickers are free at any Tom Thumb grocery store…”

[10 seconds]
“KBUT 94.9 stickers on your window or bumper look great, tell people what kind of music you like, and can win you cash!  Pick yours up today FREE at any Tom Thumb store.”

[20 seconds]
“KBUT 94.9 bumper stickers look great and they’re free – and just like duct tape, if you put enough of them on your car, you can actually cover up a broken window or a big dent.  And the number on each one is what we use to give out cash and prizes – like maybe even a NEW car!  So get your sticker today at any Tom Thumb grocery store, then listen for your number to be called out on the air.”

Now you probably already know that the shortest version is the hardest one to do.  But at any length, CLARITY is the key.  You can always add more word pictures, if more length will work.  But if you can’t do the super-short versions, you’re not great yet.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

A Gift From Pearl Harbor

“The true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest.”
~Simon Sinek

Every year on December 7th we hear about the attack on Pearl Harbor, “A date that will live in infamy.”  Our lives changed in that day… yes, each and every one of us, irrespective of age.  For that is the moment that drove us to superpower status.

Before December 7, 1941, the United States had the 14th largest military in the world and was a country going through a time of isolationism.  The war produced “the greatest generation,” and they, in turn, produced the next generations.

But that’s not the end of the gifts.  On CBS Sunday Morning, in an interview with some of the remaining survivors of Pearl Harbor, one of them said something we’ve heard many times before, but rarely pay much attention to.

“I live every day as if it were my last.”

That concept doesn’t get much long term traction because the activities of life take over, and we think of it from our own perspective.  But what if, as leaders, we looked at today as our last day through the lens of how our leadership looks to the people around us?   Would others see us as the leader Sinek talked about?

How would you lead differently if tomorrow were your last day?  Would you be irritated as often?  Would you talk about the people around you any differently?  If you had only the one day, would you think about your legacy?

Conversely, would you be more honest with people if it were your last day?  Would you still kick the “I have to talk with them about that challenge someday” can down the road once again, or deal with difficult issues when they come up?  Would you be more grateful for the opportunity your team gives you?

We all have the gift of this kind of foresight available, and we all can sacrifice at least some self-interest if we choose to.


Frost Advisory #344 – Your Listeners Are More Important Than Your Features And Sweepers

“Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself.”
~Donald Miller, “Blue Like Jazz”

Think about the things you love.

I love the guitar because my high school buddies Kenny and Wally loved the guitar.

I love Mexican food because I’m a Texan.  It’s the law.

I first loved baseball because my dad loved baseball.  In fact, when you ask someone how they became a baseball fan they usually respond by talking about someone they love.  There is no better example than following last year’s World Series when Cubs’ fans wrote the names of loved ones on the brick wall at Wrigley Field.  Curious, isn’t it?

Everyone listens to your station because they love something else.  So every effort to make them love our features and sweepers misses the point.  It’s like trying to convince a baseball fan to love a team because the pitcher’s mound is 60 feet 6 inches away from home plate.

“Write because you love the reader.  Never write to prove your point.  Write to remind the reader they have infinite value.”
~Donald Miller

People love your radio station because they love something else.  When you figure that out, just stand back and watch people begin to love your station.

Tommy Kramer Tip #188 – No “Hallmark Card” Content, Please

Even very bright talents will slip up once in a while and do “pap for the masses,” thinking that it works.

This is what I heard one jock say recently:
“I love this… ‘good moms let their kids lick the beaters; great moms remember to turn off the mixer first.’  Yeah, I’ve been there”

Really?  This sounds like a Hallmark Card for Mother’s Day, or something Ann Landers or Erma Bombeck might have written – in 1981.  And no, you haven’t “been there,” or we’d have noticed the Child Protective Services van outside that house.  (Because, apparently at some point, that mixer was left ON.)

Let’s be clear: I’m certainly not against doing things that are heartwarming or encouraging.  That’s fine, but NOT if it sounds insipid or obsequious.

If you don’t know what those words mean, just ask Siri.  Because, contrary to what that air talent thought, it’s not 1981 anymore.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Frost Advisory #343 – Why Does Everyone Think Their Radio Station Is Interesting?

Go ahead.  Ask them.

Everyone, of course, will say that ‘yes’ their radio station is interesting.

“Where men are strong, women are good looking, and all children are above average.”
~Garrison Keiller

Then why is it that your own staff, the folks that are supposed to care the most, don’t listen at their desks.  Why is it that you don’t hear the station playing in the hallways?  Why are we “the team” not rooting for our own cause?

The program director of one of the best-known Christian radio stations in America looked out his office window at the parking lot and said to me, “I don’t see one bumper sticker for our station.”

(Go look out at yours. I’ll wait).

If your station is SO interesting why is it that your fanniest of fans listens fewer than 3 days per week?  That’s half as many times as you go to your mailbox.

Your station really isn’t all that interesting, you know.  But maybe it can be.


We have to bridge the gap.  We have to risk taking all that radio stuff we do and connecting it to the listener’s life in ways that are meaningful and relevant.

We have to do stuff and say stuff and be stuff that matters.

It’s really the only choice we have.  Our future success will not come from our mattering less.