Frost Advisory #370 – What Problem Are We Solving?

Problem… solution.

It’s the very first lesson in the very first class in very first college marketing course.  It should also be at the heart of every station’s design.

What problem are we solving?  

Oh, the irony!  In the one format that addresses life’s biggest questions the day-to-day programming decisions we make often result in our stations becoming less familiar and less intertwined in our listeners’ lives.   When we play that song they’ve never heard, when we talk about that thing that isn’t relevant, when we put our own agenda ahead of theirs…

“Behavior beats to the drum of habit.  And the ritual of habit orbits around the principles of familiarity and simplicity…

Familiarity doesn’t just breed preference, familiarity IS preference.
~Mark Ramsey

Everyone’s favorite radio station is the station that plays their favorite music.  In a format where the biggest barrier for growth is that most didn’t grow up listening to it,  I wonder how our stations could be transformed if, with every decision, we simply asked, “How will this make our station more familiar to the very people we’re trying to connect with?”

When we play an unfamiliar song, how can we put it in a context that relates to their lives?

When we talk about something they don’t know, how do we frame it from a “Me, too” perspective?

When we do ‘our agenda,’ how do we share in a way that connects to their hopes and dreams?

“If you define the problem correctly you almost have the solution.”
~Steve Jobs

Tommy Kramer Tip #214 – How birds see the world: a tip inspired by Gary Larson

Gary Larson, creator of “The Far Side” cartoon series, is someone I really admire.  Do your art, sell fifty million copies of the book “collections” of it, then abruptly retire at 45 years old to reap the benefits of your genius.  Well done, Mr. Larson.  We treasure you.

“How birds see the world is one of his most famous drawings.  I reprint it here with no permission granted to do so; I don’t own it (and would really rather not get sued over it, please):

Honestly, I think that’s the way a lot of stations – and certainly a lot of the people I hear on the air – see the listeners sometimes: a “receptacle” for what we drop on them.  (We even REFER to people as “the target listener.”)

But what you SHOULD do is value the listener’s time and attention span like a Scuba diver values the air in his tanks.

The Code:

  • Don’t just read something; put it in your own words.
  • Don’t refer to me in a “collective” way.  I’m not “all of you” or “the listeners.”
  • Don’t assume that just because you think something’s interesting or funny, the listener will automatically think that, too.
  • Do keep things brief.  Resist the temptation to tie everything up with a neat bow around it at the end.  Usually it’s unnecessary.
  • Do promote what needs promoting, but keep in mind that constant “teasing” feels manipulative and sounds cloying.
  • Do aim at the “target Listener,” but don’t rule ANYONE out.

Make great radio – every day, in every way you can think of.

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

Is This The End Of The World?

 “Think about it: send SLASH receive.  Email is the frenzied killer of proper communication.”
~Fennel Hudson, “A Writer’s Year: Fennel’s Journal No. 3″

Our email went down.  For a couple of days.  On and off.

I’d been thinking about a “no email Friday” or something like that, just to see what would happen.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such moaning, wailing and gnashing of teeth.  It’s as if all communication had stalled!

I was smiling.

Yes, I use email too, but I really enjoy getting out of the chair and walking around to talk to people.  And evidently, it’s more effective.  In an online article in Inc, Jessica Stillman noted that a discussion face-to-face is more likely to produce a result than email.  It’s easier to send an email, but less effective if you’re looking for a real solution for something.

We feel like we’re getting more done because we can dash off ten emails in a short period, and then think we’re effective.  Then comes the follow-up questions, the explanations of what you meant, etc.  What you could have done in one face-to-face turns into several emails.

Emails can be great to set an agenda or recap a discussion, but I’m not so sure the idea of managing your workday and trying to get solutions, from the inbox does what we think.  The human factor is more effective and means we spend less time with the “reply-all” demon.

Frost Advisory #369 – A Programming Lesson From Meadowlark Lemon

So, who’s your favorite player on the Washington Generals?

That, my friends, is a question that has never been asked.

The Washington Generals were created so that the Harlem Globetrotters would have someone to play.  And beat.  In fact, as of this morning’s sports page the Generals have lost more than 16,000 games to the Globetrotters.  So much for the half-time pep talk.

What does this have to do with your radio station?

The Generals were designed to lose.  To have no recognizable stars.  To be generic.  The Generals are known for nothing other than what is inherent in simply taking to the court; that they play basketball.  The Globetrotters, on the other hand, have performed with amazing tricks and antics from stars and zany personalities like Curly Neal and Meadowlark Lemon, “the clown prince of basketball.”  And they have even had their own Saturday morning cartoon show!

I’ve been inside a few radio stations recently that are known for nothing other than what is inherent in the format – that they play Christian music.  No distinctions.  No unique personalities.  No meaningful connection to their community.  No shared sense of ‘today.’

Things bounced along okay for a while.   And then a competitor came to town.

So, why would your listeners prefer to spend time with your station over another?

“The value of choice depends upon our ability to perceive differences in the options.”
~Mark Ramsey

I can promise you a couple of things.  If your station is known only for the music you play, you’ll soon have fewer listeners than your competition.  And you’ll never have your own Saturday morning cartoon show.

Tommy Kramer Tip #213 – Celebrate Your Quirkiness

Okay, today – after we celebrated our freedom with July 4th cookouts, ball games, fireworks, etc. – let’s add one more step: Celebrate Your Quirkiness.

I’m not talking about inventing some bit for on-air.  I’m talking about using the things that define you – the things that are sort of private.

In one of my earliest tips, “The 5 Subjects,” I outline…

  1. Jobs stuff/wallet/economy;
  2. the Entertainment world;
  3. Relationships,
  4. “The Buzz” – THE thing that everyone’s talking about today (which could come under one of the other categories); and
  5. Things that ‘grow out of the show.’

That 5th one is the one that’s the most difficult to define for people, because it’s completely organic.  THAT’S what this week’s tip is about.  Two examples:

  1. Brant Hanson is a brilliant mind, and is definitely different from anyone else I’ve ever coached in the Contemporary Christian format.  This format has been traditionally seen as lacking much genuine personality, but Brant and a few others have been pioneers in turning that around.  Once, when we were still getting to know each other, it came up that I play guitar.  Brant mentioned that he plays the accordion.  I then told him an ancient joke – “what’s the difference between a snake lying dead in the middle of the road and an accordion player lying dead in the middle of the road?  The snake was probably on his way to a gig.”It wasn’t long before Brant started playing his accordion on the air, as part of a contest.  Cute, odd, but HIS.
  2. Howard Clark was one of the greats, part of the original KFRC staff in San Francisco when consultant Bill Drake’s Top 40 stations ruled the earth.  Late in his career, Howard came back home to work in my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, and had a profound impact on me.  One day, I was listening to “Hired” (as he called himself on occasion) and a song ended, then a recorded announcement by the huge-voiced Charlie Van Dyke came on and said, “And now, Howard Clark looks at the weather…”Then you heard Howard’s chair squeak, a few steps taken across a floor, a door open, then Howard walking waaaaaaay down a lonnnnng hallway, the back door opening (a creaking screen door that hadn’t been oiled since 1957), then Howard’s voice muttering “Mmm hmm… yep…”…and then you heard the back door creak shut, Howard walking the 50 steps back down the hallway, the Control Room door closing, we heard a few more steps, then his chair squeaked, then Charlie Van Dyke’s voice said, “This has been ‘Howard Clark looks at the weather’…”  Then a station jingle played, and a song started.

    No forecast.  No temperatures “at the airport.”  Just that little moment.

I still think of these two things, years later.

What have you done that’s quirky – that’s really you, and ONLY you – for your listeners to remember?

DO SOMETHING.  Maybe someone will notice you.  You can’t get Arbitron diaries or PPM devices without people.

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

Volume 3 – The Great Nemesis

“Good is the enemy of great.  And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.”
~James C. Collins, “Good to Great:  Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t

You may be coming off a good fundraiser, a good monthly, or a good station event that makes you feel pretty good about your station.  Well, you now have the challenge of making those good things great.

While listening to the radio recently, I heard how an NHL coach doesn’t consider good to be… well… good enough.

The Columbus Blue Jackets skated their way into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for just the third time in their 17-year history.  They learned the hard way that getting there and going to the next round are two different things.

Their record-setting season had a brutal reward, drawing the defending (and eventual) champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the first-round.

Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella knows that if they want to continue improving, they can’t be happy with just making the playoffs.

After losing the series, I listened to his post game interview.  He quoted James C. Collins, “Good To Great:  Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t.

“Good is the enemy of great,” he said repeatedly.  “It is going to be more difficult because it takes more layers of skin.  It takes more layers of mental toughness.  Listen, I’m thrilled we had an opportunity to play in the playoffs… the toughest part is coming because we had some guys that had great regular season.  We better be really careful to say, ‘We had a really good year.  We made the playoffs.’  Yeah, we were out in five games.  It’s not good enough.”

Our format is still young in most markets and still unfamiliar to many folks.  Thankfully, many stations aren’t settling with where they are.  Many CCM stations are becoming good, and a few are becoming great.

What we notice with those great stations is that they aren’t happy just making the playoffs!

The good stations sound personable and execute the basics well.  The great stations emotionally connect with her consistently.

The good stations put in a hard days work.  The great ones know the workload can keep them late some nights, but they know that extra effort will payoff.

The good stations keep their talent “in the loop.”  The great ones invest in growing their talent.  They give their talent the coaching they need, because their development is critical.

The good stations’ audio… well… they sound “good.”  The great ones won’t accept that they can’t be the best sounding station in their market.  They become great by investing in engineering and technology that makes them a market leader.

The great operators know there are plenty of good stations, but not enough great ones!

Greatness will impact lives.

Greatness will change minds.

Greatness will change the world.

We need your greatness!

Please reach out to me if you have any questions or suggestions at

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But Other Than That You Were Great!

To excel at the highest level – or any level, really – you need to believe in yourself, and hands down, one of the biggest contributors to my self-confidence has been private coaching.
~Stephen Curry

Have you ever had one of those meetings with “the boss,” that when you walked away, all you remember is, “…but other than that, you were great?”

It’s how we feel like we have to balance our comments.  The fact is most of us feel awkward about just telling someone that they are either on the way and just need a little more effort, or maybe even that they suck.  So we wrap the comments in a “don’t worry about it” approach.  And we kill the self-confidence Stephen Curry is talking about.

I don’t know about you, but it’s never worked for me, whichever side of the comments I’ve been on.  Still having that on-air performer inside of me, I focus on what’s negative. You’d think I’ve learned by now.

When you have something good to say, just say it.  When you have coaching to do, just do it.  Equivocating might make you feel better, but not the person you’re coaching. It does nothing to help turn them into a 3 point MVP.

Frost Advisory #368 – A Programming Lesson From The Good Ole USA!

The celebration of our nation’s 241st birthday is a powerful lesson of focus, common ground, and emotion.

Over the last three decades in my other life, I’ve served as a semi-professional public address announcer for major league spring training and minor league baseball.  That’s lots and lots and lots of dizzy bat races, National Anthems, and seventh inning stretches.

Do you know what I enjoy most?  It’s when my voice is the cue for veterans to rise and be acknowledged for their service and sacrifice for our country.  And there is no applause that is louder.

What does that mean for your radio station?

My friend Bryan O’Neal discovered that on your birthday you can take the ferry for free from Long Beach to Catalina Island.  When you get there they give you a special birthday ribbon to wear.  The moment you put on the ribbon you become special.  Total strangers are immediately greet to you with a “Happy Birthday!” everywhere you turn.

But that’s not all.  You see, Bryan isn’t the only one who knows about Catalina Island’s birthday promotion.  So every day of the year dozens and dozens of birthday boys and girls share Catalina Island with total strangers that just so happen to share the very same birthday.  Of course they don’t come alone.  Each has brought along family and friends to celebrate their big day.  So, not only did Bryan become special, his family and friends became special, and the other people with the same birthday became special, along with all of their family and friends.  Instant community! … formed out of what could have been simply a bunch of strangers walking around an island.

My friend Pyromarketing friend Greg Stielstra puts it this way,

“If you help your customers feel special, they won’t be able to resist telling their friends.”

We have hundreds of thousands of people that listen to our stations that have important things in common.  Focus on those things.  Celebrate those things.  Invite them to stand and be applauded for those things.

It’s the reason that the cheer for the veterans is loudest.

Happy birthday, USA!

Tommy Kramer Tip #212 – How It Starts

Probably the most difficult thing for air talent to latch onto is how something starts. Many breaks are dead in the water before the second sentence is uttered.

I teach several core techniques to master really compelling beginnings. Here are 3 of them:

  1. Don’t talk about yourself the first thing out of your mouth.  Constantly leaning on “I – me – my” beginnings sounds self-absorbed, to say the least.
  2. Don’t ask a Question – especially a rhetorical question.  As George Carlin said, “Why do people ask rhetorical questions?  And do they expect an answer?”  The answer to any question, if you could hear it, is almost always “No.”  Questions sound weak and disingenuous.  Make Statements to make Impact.
  3. Don’t be too abrupt.  Way too often, I hear someone just launch into a subject for apparently no reason, just plopping it down like somebody walking up to your desk and dropping a squid on it.  While that first thing you say CAN be thought of as a “headline” (which is what a lot of people are taught), remember that it should be a “spoken word” headline, not a “print” headline.  We want it to be concise, but it also has to sound like something you’d actually say to a friend, not a quote from an article or book.

Like peeling away the layers of an onion, there are many more techniques to learn, but with just those 3 goals in mind, you can separate yourself from all the babbling across the rest of the media choices.

It’s always about ENGAGING the LISTENER.

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

When The Other Person Is Always Wrong

“Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation.”
~Michael Jordan

The official meaning of the term “wrongspotting” is zeroing in on the part of the feedback we get during performance conversations that we consider factually wrong, then fixating on it.  That happens a lot.   People aren’t prepared to hear something that doesn’t fit in their self-perception and using that something to negate all of the feedback.  It happens all the time.

There’s even a word for it:  Confirmation Bias – Tending to see your perspective, and defending your ideas, as a reason not to believe anything else.  Even though it’s apparent to others.