Surf’s Up, Dude

One of the things about coaching that I love the most is getting to work with young talents. Since there’s virtually no meaningful training anymore, it’s great to have a chance to head them off at the pass before they turn into faceless, shouting, liner-reading robots, and help them find ways to sound truly unique.

To a degree, it’s a “throwback” thing from radio’s past, but that’s like saying that a radio station’s iPhone app is a throwback to the transistor radios that people had 50 years ago. It’s the same, but totally different.

Recently, in a session recap, I wrote this to a promising young talent:

Real people just talk. They get excited, they get intimate, they get loud, they get quiet—but they don’t have that pukey “shouting-at-the-listener” delivery that everyone goes into when you ask them to do an impression of a deejay.

One thing that’ll really help you get your arms around this is to not try and cram too many words into a song intro. MATCH the tempo and the mood of the song. If it’s 100 beats a minute, you should start at that speed. If it’s faster, start faster. If it’s slower, start slower. But don’t go 300 miles an hour over a medium or slow song, because that makes you sound like you aren’t even listening to the song. In effect, it sends the message that the music we play is just a series of music beds for you to talk over—the opposite of seamlessly fitting into and being part OF the song as you talk.

You want to “ride” the song like a surfer riding a wave.

Surf’s up, Dudes. Let’s go have some fun!

Frost Advisory #228 – Data, Data, and More Data

Pastor Appreciation Month is almost over. Mercifully. Is this really how we describe a once in a lifetime opportunity to love on people who devote their lives to loving on people? Who named it? Ace Hardware?

No other format can touch such a deep place in the heart as ours, and yet we often sound like an IRS manual as we convey data, data, data, about this and that.

I recently heard two consecutive features on one station begin with the giving of the date, “Today is October 26, 2014.” Well, thank you very much. That will be very helpful to me if my desk calendar catches on fire.

There is no promotion so brilliant that it can’t be made utterly ineffective through the presentation of data.

This isn’t just about an esoteric interpretation of messaging. This is about what is effective.

Here’s the deal.

“Research shows when people think analytically they are less likely to think emotionally. The mere act of calculation reduces people’s charity. Once we put on our analytical hats, we react to emotional appeals differently. We hinder our ability to feel.”

In “Made to Stick” Chip and Dan Heath share that the goal of the message is to make people care.

“Feelings inspire people to act. For people to take action, they have to care. To make people care about ideas we get them to take off their Analytical Hats.”

That means we have to move beyond Pastor Appreciation Month and into something that stirs the heart.


Here’s an idea! Let’s turn our current analytical checklist of who, what, where, and why into the beginning of an emotional connection.

‘Who’ becomes “who would enjoy this, too?”

‘What’ becomes “what can I do to help?”

‘Where’ becomes “where else would I rather be?”

And ‘why’ becomes the all important “Why do I care?”

Don’t tell me today’s date and give me more data. Paint me a picture of why I should care.

Tommy Kramer Tip #73 – The Quest

This is the real quest, the Holy Grail of how to stand out in the sea of noise across the radio dial:

Find the simplest way to say something so it can’t be misunderstood.

I guarantee that if you do that the best, people will listen to you.

By and large, the person who really nails it – meaning that he or she says the one thought about something that other people pick up on – is the person who stands out.

The more wordy it gets, the less effective it is.

Some of this is about understanding the concept of using different “camera angles” from which to talk about things. Some of it is simply the art – and I do mean art – of being concise. And some of it is having a really rich vocabulary – finding the perfect words to hammer home a point.

After all, English is a strange language. We have so many words that mean roughly the same thing, that conversation is largely a matter of circling the subject with words until we all agree on what’s inside the circle.

Here’s the totally self-serving part: I can help you with this. Your PD may not know how, or may understand it, but can’t teach it. Your consultant may know how, but how often do you get to see him (or her)?

Regular coaching sessions with someone who isn’t your boss can steer you away from just doing what you think is expected of you, and turn you into someone whose thoughts are actually valued by the Listener.

As a matter of fact, your thought might be the one the Listener uses as his own opinion that day.

When you make someone else look good, magical things happen.

Frost Advisory #227 – What are you trying to accomplish?

My recent travels transported me into the middle of a meeting about how to stay competitive in a marketplace of Christian music formats beamed in from, say, Rocklin, California.

Inevitably the phrase “live and local” landed on the conference table like a rock through the window. After several minutes of “we’re better because we live here” navel-gazing, I broke up the ego-fest with questions like, “Does anyone care?” “How does this add value to the listener’s experience?”, and the notorious, “What are you trying to accomplish?”

I hate it when I do that.

The not-thought-out-too-much assumption is that a $7.93 an hour deejay sitting in a chair in zip code 32766 will add value beyond that of Jimmy Fallon. This kind of logic is epidemic in Christian radio and, frankly, gives me the heebeegeebees.

Live and local isn’t a real goal any more than having a red sports car is a goal. It’s merely a means to a goal. (A red sports car really means “I’m not old yet”).


Now don’t take this the wrong way. There’s nothing wrong with being live and local. Some of the snazziest stations I work with embrace this idea. But those stations understand that L&L is simply a means to a goal: to be RELEVANT in a way that is preferable and more meaningful to their listeners. Whether it’s traffic information to help me get my kids to school on time, severe weather coverage to help keep my family safe, or stories about neighbor helping neighbor that reinforces the values of your listeners, live and local is merely a means.

But there is a bigger idea. What we’re really talking about is whether L&L helps your station embrace a frame of reference that connects with your listeners.

For Christian music stations the frame of reference can be described as:

  1. We seek a relationship with our Creator, and desire to understand the purpose in our life
  2. We understand that our lives are connected to others, and that we will have an impact on our families and communities, and they on us (for better or worse)
  3. It is a precious thing to offer hope and inspiration

But that opens a can of worms called STRATEGY best saved for a future Frost Advisory.

So if your station is trying to compete with a format beamed in from, say, Rocklin, California, go ahead: be a good live and local neighbor. Just make sure the things you’re doing are things your listeners actually care about.



Tommy Kramer Tip #72 – How Do I Get There From Here?

Here’s a good technique that keeps you from sounding generic. If you want to talk about something that isn’t local, unless it’s a giant national headline, it’s likely that you’ll get a “who cares?” reaction in the mind of the Listener.

So whenever I hear a Talent struggle with this, I ask, “How do I get there from here?”

Usually, this happens because the Talent is staring through the wrong end of the binoculars and looking to find things that are “interesting” instead of things that are actually relevant.

But suppose you have chosen something relevant, but it’s just not local. Here’s how you get there from here: Compare whatever it is you’re talking about to something that is local. Now you’ve tethered it to my life by referencing something familiar – something that I know about – that’s right here, in this city today, instead of just abruptly bringing up a story from somewhere else.

Example (from a Dallas perspective):

“Imagine walking into that Comerica bank on Lemmon Avenue, and the first thing you hear is “Everybody on the floor! This is a robbery!” That’s what happened to this girl in St. Louis yesterday…” Now you tell me all about what that poor girl went through, and because I can visualize it better, I’ll be more apt to listen.

If you can’t get there from here, don’t go there.