Frost Advisory #250 – What’s Most Important?

It seemed an innocent enough question. My friend Kevin (not his real name) had just become the program director of an already successful Christian music station. One day over fajitas and guacamole he turns to me and asks, “What is most important for me to know about success in this format?”

Two days and numerous servings of chips and salsa later we were still quacking.

His question was a good one. It made me think. It made me want to write some stuff down.

I told him that the most successful stations are designed to appeal beyond just the existing small group of Christian music fans. You may have noticed that people who aren’t necessarily football fans watch the Super Bowl.

It’s that kind of thing. I’m sure that Matthew West is a fine fellow but giving away tickets to his concert doesn’t matter if people don’t know who he is. And no one tuning in for the first time knows who he is.


Most stations don’t understand this. Most stations have less than a three share.

Our conversation continued.

Tommy Kramer Tip #95 – A Tip from Kareem

A lot of the stuff I coach comes from other sources – great actors, great musicians, great athletes.

One of the people I’ve looked up to (no pun intended) for a long time has been basketball’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In his college career at UCLA, his coach was the legendary John Wooden, and later with the “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers, Kareem played for the ultra-intense Pat Riley. Their imprints on Abdul-Jabbar are obvious, and here’s something that “the Big Fella” said recently that you might want to take to heart:

“Complacency sits right in there with Confidence, so you’ve got to get rid of the complacency and work on being confident because you’re prepared, and not just because you think you’re good.”

Good ratings, a nice salary, growing accustomed to being recognized—all of these things can create complacency. So NEVER open the mic without being prepared. As Kareem said, Confidence comes from knowing you’re ready. If you’re not, someone who is prepared every break may be working against you. The easiest way to beat the competition is to just outwork them.

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

Frost Advisory #249 – Every Life Has a Story

Your station is hosting a Third Day concert. Mac Powell has just uttered his last, “Yeah”, and your station’s best air talent takes center stage as the applause is subsiding.

Her first words reveal how in tune she is to the moment.

She may exclaim approval for the band, inviting the crowd to join in. Or she may insensitively launch into, “A priest, a rabbi, and a nun walk into a bar….”, making others wonder if they have just shared the same experience.

In its most basic form a music radio station has just two components – 1) the music, and 2) everything else. Music is designed to do one thing. Everything else is designed for something else.

Some of that something else is to connect to what’s happening NOW in the listener’s life.

Will I be late for work?

What will the medical tests show?

Why doesn’t she love me?

I don’t feel like a good parent right now.

Chick-fil-A‘s “Every Life Has a Story” communicates the impact of envisioning your customer (listener) as a complete person, with a life and a story, not just someone who represents money to you.

We’ve all heard the stories. “And then a song came on the radio…” connects to the deepest place in a life journey and the comfort from listening that song at that time on your station.

When THAT connection is made (and it is made far more than we know), think of the impact if it didn’t STOP when the talent began talking. What if there wasn’t a purposely emotional-less song tag separating the music and talent? What if the talent wasn’t trying to get past all the station business they have to do to get to the stuff they want to do?

Maybe someday we’ll sound like we were having the very same experience as the listener.

When that day comes it will transform the format.

Tommy Kramer Tip #94 – Local, Personal, or Both

This might seem obvious, but listen to stations around you and you’ll realize how few people have been coached to do it.
Sure, you’ve heard that we want to be local—if possible. Of course, syndicated shows can’t really connect that way.
And the really good Consultants and Talent Coaches are always trying to get jocks to be more personal. (Although teaching someone exactly how to do that is a different matter.)

But these shouldn’t be thought of as mere suggestions. I contend that every Content break you ever do should have a degree of Local and/or Personal in it. And when you think about it, Personal is the MOST local, because it doesn’t depend on street names or buildings. It lives in the heart.

There should always be some ingredient of what you think about the subject or what you feel about it. That’s what creates a definable human being—a neighbor, as opposed to just another voice giving out data on the air.

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

Frost Advisory #248 – It’s All About Adding Value

It’s the essence of programming. Each element needs to add value.

For a music station it begins with the music. That means that every song you play has to ADD value. The songs that add the greatest value are the songs that have the most value; the ones that are most loved.

For everything else it is about the value of that which interrupts the music. On one hand we can argue that if people come to us for music we should never interrupt it. On the other hand if we don’t add value beyond the music there is no reason to choose our station above Pandora, Spotify, or Slacker.

Add Value

Successful radio is, and always has been, about a meaningful shared listening experience.

“Success is a by-product of creating value. Happiness is a by-product of creating value. Significance is a by-product of creating value. Fulfillment is a by-product of creating value.”

Tommy Kramer Tip #93 — The 3-second Rule

You might need some help with this one from your PD, if you work at a station that thinks it’s good radio to backsell more than one song, or to talk about a song that played before the one you’re talking out of.

I’m sure you’ve heard of “the 3-second rule” that a lot of people use when they drop food on the floor—that if you pick it up within 3 seconds, it’s still okay to eat it. (I call this the “how to get ptomaine poisoning” rule.)

Let’s borrow that and make our own version of the 3-second rule. My buddy Randy Brown, when he was a great PD in Dallas, says that often back then, he’d have a friend or date in the car with the radio on, and when a jock’s break finished and they went into a stopset, Randy would ask his passenger “What was the last song that played?” NO ONE ever remembered. And that was the song that had JUST FINISHED PLAYING, not one from two or three songs ago.

“But I’ve got a ‘bit’ I want to do about the song before last.”
Tough. Either just let it go, or save it for another time, when it makes sense to do it.

“But that song three songs ago ties into my promoting a station event with that artist.” Then your PD should allow you to move it, so you’re not, in effect, saying “the group that did the song you didn’t hear eight minutes ago is coming to town soon.”

I’ve said this before: Time moves in only one direction, from now…this moment…forward. This is the definition of True Momentum, and a huge key to sounding logical and organic.

Live by the 3-second rule, or die by it. Your choice.

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

Frost Advisory #247 – The Spirit of the Volunteer

My friend Carol couldn’t stay away any longer. Her retirement lasted only a season before she was back among her friends and the shared experience of a place she loves – the ballpark. Although she gets paid a little something my guess is that she would do it for free.

“To spend so much time in a space that fills night after night with tens of thousands of fans who love a team deeply, and to grow up surrounded by people who, at every pay level, love where they work, was beautiful.” – Emilie Miller

Value isn’t determined by the amount of money you’re paid, it is created by how much you give, according to Chick-fil-A marketing guru David Salyers in his book “Remarkable”. No one knows that better than those who give of their time without getting paid.

My wife volunteers at the hospital where she used to get paid. Although a licensed medical professional, she now spends her time helping patients and their families, and assisting the nurses when needed. She feels like she’s using her gifts to really make a difference. So does everyone else she works with.

“Volunteers are not paid – not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.”

While certainly no one gets into Christian radio for the money the spirit of a volunteer sets people apart from those who view it as “just a job”.

Twenty years ago my friend Randy began as a volunteer because they couldn’t afford to pay him. The morning they signed on the air he had been up all night dealing with last minute technical problem. All that before going to work at his real job. Just yesterday Randy had emergency quintuple bypass surgery. Randy’s passion is undeniable, and his hospital room will soon be filled with his co-workers that share that passion.

How many people at your station have that kind of passion?

Too many hallways and cubicles are quiet, not one radio on. Talent go on the air unprepared and untrained, wasting precious opportunities to touch people’s lives. Stations remain essentially invisible in their communities because investing to reach people is not a priority. My friend Jim Hoge​ is intolerant of that attitude, investing well into six figures every year through marketing and major events at two of the world’s most public places – Walt Disney World and Sea World.

How many people are so devoted to your station’s mission that they would still want to be involved if the paycheck went away?

Love your work

If the spirit of a volunteer can be found at a ballpark and a hospital, perhaps it could be just as evident at a Christian radio station.

“A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under which they will never sit.” Greek Proverb

Tommy Kramer Tip #92 – Demo “Do and Don’t” list

You can’t be your best if you aren’t on the air. Let me tell you a story.

I got an aircheck some months ago from a female talent who had recently been let go from a rock station in a major market, and she wanted me to give it a listen and see if it gave her a good chance to be hired as she searched for the next job.

It didn’t. It started with a “here is my aircheck” narration, which just meant that it took even more time to get to her work. And as for the work itself, even though there were a couple of good things on it, the demo seemed like she went out of her way to be “attitudinal” and included a couple of pretty coarse bits. Not exactly the way to make the best impression.

Also, her resume was “padded” with things like a paragraph with the heading “fulfillment of work week.” (Whatever that means. My eyes were glazing over as I read it.) Now I know this young woman, and she really is a good talent, but what was on her demo was unlikely to get her the results she wanted.

So here’s a short “do and don’t” list for your demo:

(1) Start with your best stuff. Don’t make me wait for it. I’ve seen way too many PD’s listen to a demo for about 40 seconds, and if something doesn’t grab them, they just toss it (or delete it).

(2) List your last three jobs on your resume, no more. I don’t care where you interned, when your duties included “scheduling of guests for Public Affairs interview show.” If I want more info, I’ll ask for it when I call you.

(3) Don’t try to shock me, impress me with some celebrity interview, or do some generic “topic and phone call” bit that everyone has heard before. What any really good PD is looking for is what you do that nobody else does. And remember that attitude is not a substitute for Content.

(4) This is really important. The PD has to get someone else to sign off on hiring you. Make it easy. No PD is going to tell his GM or National PD “Yes, she only wears beekeepers’ outfits and army boots, and she has Tourette’s Syndrome, so we’ll need a seven-second delay, but I think she’d be terrific on middays.”

Seriously, all you want to do is show your talent, your heart, and your work ethic.

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

Frost Advisory #246 – Why People Listen

It’s a fundamental question that we seldom ask – what are the main reasons people tune to our station?

If you don’t know, ask them. If you think it’s not important enough to ask them (see: research) at least put your ear to the ground and hear the rumblings. It’s likely that you’ll hear some reoccurring themes.

If trivia, celebrity birthdays, obituaries, children’s radio theatre, and the Southern Gospel hour aren’t why people tune to your station, you may have a problem.

The more you do the main things for which your listeners come to you the more successful you’ll be.

Or you could just do like Arby’s and think that people come to you for fish.