Tommy Kramer Tip #87 – Be Great by being Good

Sports great Dan Patrick told a story on the Golf Channel’s wonderful “Feherty” show about doing the Olympics a few years ago. Patrick had a wealth of experience, but it was his first shot at the Olympics, and to his surprise, he was very nervous about it. Much to his delight, he found that he’d be paired in the nightly updates with Al Michaels, the consummate pro who had effortlessly switched from play-by-play man to Newsman during the 1989 World Series when an earthquake hit San Francisco. Patrick shared his nervousness with Michaels, and Al told him, “Look, I know you want to be great at this. But just be good, and you’ll be great by being good.”

I hear jocks every week that sound like they’re trying so hard to be great that the pressure of it just melts them down. Just recently, I told someone struggling with this “Simply pull it back a little, and stop caring so much about how you’re being perceived. If it doesn’t sound like something you’d say to me over lunch together, it’s not going to connect anyway, so let go of trying to hit a home run every time the mike opens, and just hit a single.”

This is what’s wrong with baseball now, by the way. There are so many batters trying to hit a home run every time up, and while it might result in a few more homers and runs batted in, it also usually translates to a mediocre batting average and WAY too many strikeouts. If I could coach them, I’d say “Just hit 3,000 singles and you’ll make the Hall of Fame.”

The truth is that if you’re just trying to be really good every time the mike opens, ‘great’ will happen once in a while.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Saying Farewell To Bud Paxson

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward


When a leader passes, the entire industry feels the loss. Lowell “Bud” Paxson, passed recently and I joined many of his old radio team last week to remember and honor him.

Let’s set the stage first.  Bud Paxson is a radio guy.  He told me stories about when he was on WOLF in Syracuse, where everyone was named “wolfman.”  He was Wolfman Bud, and he was followed by Wolfman Jack.  Yes, that Wolfman Jack.  He was talent, a manager, and an owner, all before he used some radio experience to create a TV network you may have heard of, the Home Shopping Network.

One of the important principles I learned from my time with Bud was leading by vision.  He would give us his vision – the big picture – but not tell us how to do it.  I remember once talking with him and he said he wanted all his stations number one.  Since consolidation had just started then, I reminded him that we had two or three stations in a market.  He just smiled and said, “Well then, I guess you’ll just have to tie.”

For Bud, vision always came with passion and enthusiasm.  There were a lot of stories going around the industry in the day, about how Bud would yell at people.  It frightened some of them, but I realized it was just his passion going out of control.  It was never personal and usually followed with an apology.

When Bud sold the radio division to Clear Channel it was to pursue another vision – a TV network that was “family friendly” and Christian inspired.  Unfortunately network TV is a very different beast, and I know he didn’t have nearly as much fun doing TV as he did radio.

Our radio “Band Of Brothers” will always be joined by the experiences of Paxson Communications.   I have dozens of Bud Paxson stories showing both his strengths and weaknesses, but they are “you had to be there” stories, that you had to know Bud to understand.

Thank you Bud, for always keeping me in learning mode.  I’ve adopted the “vision thing” and understand why you were so passionate about it.  You pushed me to be better than even I thought I could be, and that taking a risk was an important part of true leadership.

As Bud would say, “Friend, you’ve made your point, and you’ve made it well, now move on.”

He’s moved on to the angels now.

Frost Advisory #241 – And Then I Found Five Dollars

riddlesYour radio station is comprised of only two things, in its most basic structure. The music, and everything-else.

Strategically, the music serves one purpose and the everything-else serves another. Successful radio stations understand this (and program for it). The others have no idea what I’m talking about.

This Frost Advisory is about the everything-else, which I’ll define as a continuum that stretches from the purpose of the radio station to what is relevant to the listener’s life. The everything-else has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Guess which is most important. Guess which we pay the least attention.

When our girls were little we loved to tell each other riddles and jokes. If fact, one of their favorite books at bedtime was one that carried over from my childhood, “1001 Riddles for Children.”

My younger daughter Carly declared one day that she had discovered six little words that could make any joke funny. No matter how the joke started, no matter if anyone laughed, no matter how badly the joke bombed all you had to do, she said, was to end with these SIX LITTLE WORDS and everyone would howl.

The end of the joke, the end of the movie, the end of the book, and yes, the end of a content break on your radio station determines whether listeners are delighted, dismayed, or disappointed.

Donald Miller puts it this way,

“So soon you will be in that part of the book where you are holding the bulk of the pages in your left hand, and only a thin wisp of the story in your right. You will know by the page count, not by the narrative, that the Author is wrapping things up. You begin to mourn its ending, and want to pace yourself slowly toward its closure, knowing the last lines will speak of something beautiful, of the end of something long and earned, and you hope the thing closes out like last breaths, like whispers about how much and who the characters have come to love, and how authentic the sentiments feel when they have earned a hundred pages of qualification.”

I was planning to dig a little deeper this week at the CMB regional summit in Houston….

….and then I found five dollars!

Tommy Kramer Tip #86 – Learn To Breathe

One of the main differences between disc jockeys and voice actors is that a lot of disc jockeys don’t know how to breathe.

Every day, you hear jocks rushingthroughlinesasfastastheycanwithoutevertakingabreathatall…then HAVING to take a big, gasping breath because they didn’t pause where they should have paused.

A lot of this comes from Program Directors not making it a priority to sound conversational. Or it can be that what you’re supposed to read is just too much to say over a song intro or when you stop down. And as I dealt with in an earlier tip, it can be that your “internal clock” is lying to you, saying that you’re taking too long, so you start talking at ‘warp speed’ when you don’t really need to.

If you think about it, radio lends itself to being stationary, but talking fast. And radio Production tends to be cut sitting down at a console, often doing one line at a time.

But in the voice-acting world, many (if not most) talents stand up, and don’t wear headphones unless they have to sync up with something.

So take the first step. Beginning today, resolve to LET yourself pause (just slightly) between thoughts, so you recapture the natural rhythm of someone in real conversation, instead of the breathless, machine gun delivery of a disc jockey speaking with his “radio voice”.

The more real you sound, the better you’re going to be on the air, and the more opportunities you’ll have to do other things as your career moves forward.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Frost Advisory #240 – Bring Me The Bad News!

A couple of weeks ago I shared observations on leadership from the book, “Breakfast with Fred”, the conversations and ideas of Fred Smith, Sr, a mentor for many leaders such as Zig Ziglar, Philip Yancey, John Maxwell and my friend Steve Brown.

Little did I realize that within a couple of weeks I would be attending the funeral of the greatest leader I have ever personally known, Bud Paxson.

My friend Eric Rhoads of Radio Ink describes Bud as “the smartest man he ever met.” Bud has been described as visionary, trendsetter, renegade, and innovator. He cared not about his critics nor about obstacles. After going on a buying spree of thirteen stations in the Florida panhandle I asked him, “Bud, do you ever think about what you’re going to do with these stations when you get them?” He looked at me with that all-to-familiar sly grin and said, “That’s your problem.” ‘Nuff said!

Bud’s innovations are legendary. He created a billion dollar TV shopping industry from what he learned selling green can openers on an AM radio station. He redefined radio consolidation by challenging the one AM/one FM per market status quo, and built a television network by building distribution first – dozens of UHF television stations that few wanted – then developed the programming; the opposite of what everyone else was doing.

Bud was a complex man with an unpredictable short fuse we referred to as “Bud quakes”. He was demanding and often difficult to work for, but those who endured knew they were on the ride of their careers.

One of Bud’s greatest leadership traits was summed up in the words “Bring me the bad news!” He believed in dealing with problems head on. He said that if he didn’t know about a problem he couldn’t do anything about the problem. His attitude set the tone for a culture of candor among his closest advisors, so much so that Alan Mason and I would murmer, “I can’t believe he’s saying THAT to Bud Paxson!”

Since my days of working for Bud I’ve seen numerous instances where people were hesitant to speak truth to leadership for fear of repercussion. Yes, even in Christian organizations. I’ve seen managers visit candidly with each other about their challenges but then remain muted in front of the big guy, the very person who could do something about it. Trust is lacking, and the organization suffers.

Fred Smith said, “A leader will take counsel from his people before he takes action but will act on what he sees as right. He has trained himself out of the fear of making mistakes.”

Everything about Bud Paxson was big. His 6’ 6″ frame, his booming radio voice, his philanthropy, and his public demonstrations of his Christian faith through the founding of The Worship Network and frequent keynote speaking opportunities.

Notorious to some, a champion to others. Bud Paxson was never too big to lose sight that any organization is only as good as its ability to speak truth to leadership.

Bud Paxon with friends

*Pictured are my close friends and business partners Alan Mason and David Sams during our pilgrimage last summer to let Bud know how much he impacted our careers and lives.

Tommy Kramer Tip #85 – Nobody wants to watch your home movies unless they’re IN them

My friend, mentor, partner, and harmony singer John Frost reminded me and a lot of other people the other day about a guideline from “The Wizard of Ads” – the brilliant Roy Williams: “People will be more interested in your home movies if they are in them.”

John illustrated this is in a very personal way, talking about the movie “Steel Magnolias” and how he always looked at with affection since it had been filmed in his hometown.

I had a similar experience, and still feel a tie to the old John Wayne movie “The Horse Soldiers.” It was shot near Natchitoches, Louisiana where my dad was working on the set. One day, he let me go out and watch, and I actually got to meet the great John Wayne, who shook my hand with his giant paw and said “Well, how ya doin’ there, little fella?” Honest to goodness, he sounded exactly like……John Wayne!

When you plug into people’s emotions and memories, the buy-in is immediate and strong.

So with apologies to Roy Williams, I’ve slightly changed his words to be: “Nobody wants to watch your home movies unless they’re in them.”

I don’t think this is just something to shoot for. I think it’s mandatory if you want anyone to listen to you.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2015 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Frost Advisory #239 – The Curse of the Radio Selfie

“Daddy, watch this!”

“Momma, watch this!”

Our desire to be known has reached new dimensions via social media. People who study such things say that Selfies make up almost one-third of all photos taken by people aged 18-24.

I heard a comedian recently ask, “When was the last time you were in a picture that someone else actually took?”

A recent Fancy Gizmo trade show featured the latest contribution to our self-absorption – a pole that extends to allow Selfies from several feet away! I reckon’ that we’ll soon be yelling at our kids, “Don’t run in the house with your Selfie stick!”


It’s one thing to be self-absorbed as a pimply-faced adolescent, it’s quite another to be self absorbed as a radio station…

News bulletin! It’s not about us.

My talented friend Brant Hansen recently posted some news about the latest stations to carry his syndicated radio show. You’d think his fans would be celebrating! After all, they are the ones fanatical enough to have signed up on his fan page, and instead their reactions are…

Mikayla: “Too bad it’s not in Central Texas.”

Lisa: “I just know y’all are gonna come to Mississippi… Right?”

Diane: “But still no Ohio…”

Rachel: “No Texas yet?”

No responses like “way to go, Brant”. No “you’re doing a great job!” No “we’re out here rootin’ for ya!”

They don’t care about Brant’s syndication, charming guy that he is, except for how his show connects to their lives! And none of that matters if they can’t even hear his show. In other words to the listener IT’S ALL ABOUT THEM! And they’re right!

That’s the problem with the Radio Selfie. It’s all about us. It’s all about the station. And it’s epidemic in our little radio world.

Deejays that talk incessantly about things that happened in their lives that listeners can’t relate to. Newscasts with stories that sound newsy but aren’t relevant. Stations that position themselves with mindless slogans that are all about the station, not about what is meaningful to the listener.*

Radio Selfies are really about ego, and John Maxwell addresses that with…

“Dear Speaker:

Your ego has become a wall between yourself and me. You’re not really concerned about me, are you? You’re mostly concerned about whether or not this speech is really working … about whether or not you’re doing a good job. You’re really afraid that I will not applaud, aren’t you? You’re afraid that I won’t laugh at your jokes or cry over your emotional anecdotes. You are so caught up in the issue of how I am going to receive your speech, you haven’t thought much about me at all. I might have loved you, but you are so caught up in self-love that mine is really unnecessary.

“If I don’t give you my attention it’s because I feel so unnecessary here. When I see you at the microphone, I see Narcissus at his mirror … Is your tie straight? Is your hair straight? Is your deportment impeccable? Is your phraseology perfect? You seem in control of everything but your audience. You see everything so well [except] us. This blindness to us, I’m afraid, has made us deaf to you.

“We must go now. Sorry. Call us sometime later. We’ll come back to you … when you’re real enough to see us … after your dreams have been shattered … after your heart has been broken … after your arrogance has reckoned with despair. Then there will be room for all of us in your world. Then you won’t care if we applaud your brilliance. You’ll be one of us. Then you will tear down the ego wall and use those very stones to build a bridge of warm relationship. We’ll meet you on that bridge. We’ll hear you then. All speakers are joyously understood when they reach with understanding.”

– Your Audience

*(My all-time favorite bad radio slogan is “Not What You Think!” This positioning line assumes two things of the listener: 1) That they think anything at all about the station, and 2) that it’s WRONG!)

Tommy Kramer Tip #84 – What you KNOW you have is NOW

Seems like everyone is hell-bent on recycling listeners right now -getting them to “make an appointment” for something later in the hour, later in the show, later in the day, or later in the week.

I’ve been in radio for decades, and worked intensely not just with air talents, but also with great consultants, Arbitron and PPM savants, and marketing experts, so of course I agree that repeated listening should be something to strive for.

But the flat tire on that recycling car is that you can’t make the listener do anything. If he or she is busy, distracted, unavailable, or just not interested, that listener isn’t going to come back when you want just because you want him to. I would estimate that probably 75% of the promos and live mentions I hear seem to be about what the radio station wants the listener to do, not about the listener’s life. You might as well just say “and at 7:50, we’d like you to come cook us breakfast and shine our shoes.”

The backbone of my coaching is that we always start with the listener, THEN work back to the Control Room. It’s not what we want to talk about; it’s focusing on what the listener wants to hear about.

So while having a good strategy for increased time spent listening – or more times spent listening – is certainly important, don’t forget to keep your eye on the ball.

Here’s what you know: What you have is NOW. This break. The old saying is that “you only get one chance to make a first impression.” For our purposes, I would rephrase that thought to “you might only get this break to make any impression at all.” For the listener, it’s like going to a restaurant for the first time. If you get bad service or the food isn’t good, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll come back and eat there again.

So make this break good – really good. No coasting – EVER. No “autopilot” breaks – ever. No breaks where you know how you’re going to start, but you have no clue how you’re going to end. (Note: I have techniques I can show you that make this easy.) Do a good job of informing or entertaining this break, and chances are the listener will give you another shot. Be boring or uninspired, and you don’t deserve another shot. And all the recycling attempts in the world won’t get the listener to come back.

Frost Advisory #238 – Celebrate What You Value

The beginning of a new year seems to me to be a good time to consider how we internalize the values in our organizations.

Andy Stanley suggests, “Just start celebrating what you value. People will value what you celebrate, and they will celebrate what you value.”

I’ve recently been reading, “Breakfast with Fred“, the conversations and ideas of Fred Smith, Sr, a mentor for many leaders such as Zig Ziglar, Philip Yancey, John Maxwell and my friend Steve Brown.

“When Fred was in his early twenties, he visited a cemetery and asked himself what he would want the epitaph on his tombstone to read. It was at that moment he chose the phrase that would set his life direction: ‘He stretched others.'”

That stretching led Fred to value conversations and the sharing of insights and wisdom. So much so that the “Breakfast with Fred” concept evolved as his health deteriorated as his breakfast meetings with a few moved online for many to read.

What does your organization value?


My friend Ken Blanchard, author of more than 30 best sellers including “One Minute Manager“, begins every workday with a personal message to go into the voice mail of hundreds of his staff and associates. I’ve actually been with him as he shared his morning message.

Why does he go to such trouble? Because he values encouragement and teamwork.

The hallways at most Christian radio stations are full of pictures of musicians, nicely framed gold records, and maybe a glossy photo of a deejay or two.

The walls at KSBJ in Houston are covered with statements of vision, purpose, and what they believe.

It’s a new year! Maybe it is time to celebrate what you value!