Frost Advisory #272 – Hurricanes, Lightning, Uber, and Your Radio Station

California is in a record breaking four year drought, don’tcha know.

Folks say that lightning storms in Orlando cause an average of 6 deaths and 39 injuries a year.  (Anyone for golf during Momentum at Disney?)  As I write this there is a potential hurricane heading toward my back yard petunias.

This cheery attention-getting open is designed to tap into your brain’s cortex (I looked it up!), where long term memory is located. The frequency of emotional events, common life experiences, and the smell of your grandmother’s oatmeal cookies all camp out there.

Things you experience over and over again are stored in your cortex and pop out when activated. (That’s why you can instantly sing along with a song you haven’t heard in twenty years).

Connecting your radio station to what’s rattling around in your listeners’ cortex enhances your ability to communicate to them. That’s a fancy way of saying RELEVANCE MATTERS. (Conversely, irrelevance makes you irrelevant).

A few days ago I received this e-mail:

“As the first storm of the season approaches South Florida, we want to make sure our riders are ready. We’re teaming up with our friends at Capital One to provide a free Storm Readiness Pack on-demand…”

Each pack includes:

2 Gallons of Water
First Aid Kit
Flash Light
Glow Sticks
Duct tape
Moist Towelettes
Trash Bags
Deck of Cards

Oh, did I mention I received this e-mail from (drum roll, please)….


Yes, Uber. The company that helps me get around is helping me even when I can’t.

Hopefully there are values in your station brand that are more important than the fact that you play Hercules and the Chicken Fat People’s latest song.

Good stuff happens when you seize the moment and connect the dots from your station’s brand values to your listeners’ needs. Why? Because it’s already on their minds.

ZLand back to school

Tommy Kramer Tip #117 – It’s a SHOW, not a Shift

Radio guru Lee Abrams used to tell us, “It’s a SHOW, not a ‘shift’.”

This was a foundational thought, a reminder to make sure that we didn’t ever think of our air work as being like an assembly line shift worker in a factory, putting in rivets, over and over, to the point of boredom.

But there’s more to it than that, from a creative standpoint.
Since radio is an audio medium (no camera), that means we can’t divert the eye, like on TV. Everything shows on the air anyway, so the goal every day is to make sure and SHOW SOMETHING.

Show your creativity. Show your sense of humor. Show your concern. Show your empathy. Show your skepticism. Show your intelligence. Show your goofiness. Show your skill set (editing yourself well, for instance, or finding just the right music for something instead of using a generic Production music bed). Show that you’re a citizen of your neighborhood, your city, your state. Show what kind of neighbor you are.

Often, in coaching sessions, I start with “What did I learn about you today on the air?” Originality isn’t just some nebulous goal; it’s the process of revealing.

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

Tommy Kramer Tip #116 – What To Do in Washington, DC

A friend of mine is travelling from here in Hawaii to Washington, D. C. next month.  Great city, Washington.  Many things to see and do.

One thing he’s doing is taking his girlfriend to the JFK Center for the Performing Arts to see an a cappella group sing Beatles songs.

Why the Beatles?  Why not some other group or artist?  You could do folk songs, or show tunes, or the obvious for a group without musical instruments, barbershop quartet.

Well, probably because Washington D.C. is a tourist town, not just our nation’s capitol.  And more people on Planet Earth know songs by the Beatles than anyone else.

But I think it’s also because the Beatles have the most varied library of songs. Rock, ballad, baroque, kids’ sing-along, anthem, Country – you name it, the Beatles did it.  (And of course, in those songs are some of the greatest lyrics ever written.)

That’s the way your show should be – consistent in terms of people being able to tell that it’s you, but incredibly varied in its Content from hour to hour, day to day, week to week.

I KNOW that you can do it. But you may need help.  We all “get by with a little help from our friends.”

Frost Advisory #271 – Yankee Stadium, Change, and Your Radio Station (Part Dos)

On last week’s show I shared that there are two kinds of people in radio stations; those that fear change, and those that thrive on it.

But change is happening all the time whether we notice or not.   10,000,001 chromosomes fall off an average 49 year old man’s head every time he brushes his teeth.*

The old Yankee Stadium was opened in 1923 and was immediately nicknamed “The House That Ruth Built” because of the Babe’s popularity.  Yankee Stadium hosted 33 World Series and became an icon of sports arenas all over the world.

In 2009, the wrecking ball destroyed this beloved ballpark.  But a funny thing.   There were no protests, petitions or picket signs.  Few rants on social media about the passing of a legacy.

How could this be?

“The most ineffective way to begin a conversation about change is to talk about what needs to change.”

Few were upset because the Yankees immediately directed everyone’s attention to what was to be via a high tech 3-D website where fans could actually experience the beautiful new ballpark before it was even built.


Fans could go online and see the upper deck frieze replicated from the old stadium, the monuments in center field, and the view of the subway trains beyond the right field bleachers.

In other words, fans could experience the good things from the old ballparks, but with comfier seats, roomier concourses, concession stands with more (and more expensive) goodies, and, eeh gad!, toilets that actually flushed!   They could also rent one of 33 new luxury suites at more than $100,000 per season, thank you mighty much!

“You should never begin a conversation about change by addressing where you are now.  You should ways begin with where you want to be.  When you begin a conversation about change by discussing what needs to change you generally begin with something that someone is emotionally invest in.  That’s a recipe for failure.” Andy Stanley

“There is an inexorable link between an organization’s vision and it’s appetite for improvement.” Andy Stanley

What vision of the future are you casting to your team?

* Darn spell checker.  Please substitute ‘follicles’ and ‘hair’.

The Secret To Bigger Is Better

“Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning.”  Rick Cook, The Wizardry Compiled

Yes, it’s a different “programming,” but the message is the same.

Everyone wants bigger.  It’s part of radio and part of our culture.  We seem obsessed with having the biggest city, the tallest building, the busiest airport or the largest house.  Of course that’s why the universe is winning.

But the term “bigger is better” isn’t true very often.  First we have to look at the words themselves. “Bigger” is a quantitative word, while “better” is an ambiguous qualitative word.  But most of the time people don’t realize they’re playing that bigger vs. better game.

So what do you want, quantitative or qualitative?

P.S.  You CAN have both, but you need to start with the qualitative.

Frost Advisory #270 – Yankee Stadium, Change, and Your Radio Station (Part One)

This Frost Advisory is the first of two parts. Just trying to change things up.

There are two kinds of people in radio stations. Those that fear change, and those that thrive on it.

In my 40+ years in radio, no one has ever invited me in and said, “…but don’t change anything.” No air talent has ever been hired and told, “but don’t change anything the previous jock did.” Not changing is never the goal. But it’s often the outcome.

Those that fear change don’t realize a truth – that things are changing all the time, regardless of our efforts to not change.

My cousin Dan once told me, “If you want a white post to remain white, you have to paint it white again and again.” My cousin Dan says nifty stuff like that all the time, don’tcha know.

To keep your hair the same length you have to cut it.

To keep your kitchen the same, you have to wash the dishes and put them away.

To keep a calendar current, you have to tear off pages.


Every day the sun rises. Every evening the sun sets. And where I live on the globe that’s about four minutes different from the day before.

Lack of change is an illusion. Once you understand that even to stay the same you have to change, change changes from a threat to an opportunity.

On next week’s show I’ll delve into why change can seem so daunting and what we can do about it. And if you’ve already guessed that it has something to do with “National Cat Hair Day”, you may be right.

Tommy Kramer Tip #115 – The Dangers of Repetition and Repetition

Repeating a bit or a game later in the show is something that some consultants and talent coaches believe in, but I don’t. Think about “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” as a good example of why.

After it was hatched in the United Kingdom, the U.S. version of the show was launched in “prime time” by ABC in August of 1999, and was originally hosted by Regis Philbin. The original network version was the highest-rated of all television shows in the 1999–2000 season, reaching an average audience of approximately 29 million viewers.

That’s pretty incredible, and it made a LOT of money. But then, of course, ABC overexposed it, running it multiple times a week, and sure enough, the audience got tired of the show. It was cancelled in June of 2002. Yes, it has limped along as a daytime game show with several different hosts – I think the most recent is Chris Harrison, but they could use George Harrison – who’s dead – and probably get the same results.

It’s very tempting to think “If it worked once, then do it again a couple of hours later.” But know that at some point that’s going to come back and bite you. I’ve heard a lot of “paint by numbers” morning shows, and so has your listener.

Burn material like jet fuel. Constantly be trying to come up with new stuff. Artistically, creativity is a muscle, and it has to be exercised or it atrophies.

But what about “benchmarks?” If you actually have one or more (and no, “Battle of the Sexes” isn’t one), run with it – but only ONCE a show. (Maybe just once a week.)

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

Creativity vs. Innovation

“Where do you put the fear when you choose to innovate? The fear is there, but you have to find a place to put it.” –  Seth Godin


I remember sitting on the floor in the house in Portland with a bunch of friends watching TV, absolutely mesmerized. Disney’s Fantasia was playing, and no one was talking. Usually we were talking with each other, making fun of what was in, or telling dumb grade school kid jokes. You didn’t have money for a lot of movies in a military family, so TV, even a black and white one, was where you went.

Fantasia made a huge impact on me, and later I realized why. It was beyond the usual creativity you’d find in Cinderella, it was innovative!

People tend to put innovation and creativity in the same box, but they shouldn’t. Innovation is when you come up with something new – like Fantasia. Creativity is when you put a new spin on something existing. So, while all true innovations are creative, all creativity isn’t innovative.

I hear a lot of radio people talking about how innovative their station is when it’s either creative, or in that third, unmentionable category, unremarkable.

We’re afraid to take a chance any more. Radio doesn’t seem to be looking for the crazy people, those outliers who are different from everyone else. In fact those people frighten some of the “modern” breed of broadcasters looking for the normal people who are compliant and submissive… in other words, unremarkable.

Content will win in the end, but only if it’s innovative, creative, or at least remarkable.

Frost Advisory #269 – You Saved My Life!

“You saved my life,” she said. I moved a little closer to hear.

I was eavesdropping on a conversation between my friend Tyler and a listener (hereafter referred to as a P1) who had heard Tyler share on the air about getting a mammogram. The listener, er-P1, was prompted to do likewise and discovered the early stage of breast cancer. Tyler had, in fact, played a role in saving her life.


That listener, er- P1, could have told Tyler that she really loved “This Day in History” at 7:35 every morning (“National Belly Button Lent Day”, dontcha know), or that she enjoyed the no-repeat workday marathon with no talk, or that she really enjoyed the talk over bed on the new weather jingle. But what this listener, er-P1, was reacting to was not some programming tactic (although there is nothing wrong with that to quote the great philosopher Seinfeld), but rather to Tyler sharing something meaningful and relevant to that listener’s life.

In our PPM navel-gazing we allow ourselves to be lured into assuming our listeners’ life choices are driven almost exclusively by what we do in our tiny 12 x 12 studio. We lose our perspective of listeners as real people, their humanness diminished to nothing more than a statistic. They become a P1; nothing more. Which reminds me of a recent grocery store run where I saw the stock boy so focused on loading shelves that he didn’t notice he was blocking people’s way. In other words, he was so busy with the task at hand that he lost perspective of why the customers were there in the first place.

How’s this for a humbling statistic?

Nielsen data indicates heavy radio listeners, er-P1s, only spend 6% of their waking time with their favorite station. Six percent, gulp. And those are the heavy listeners.

It is impossible to finagle your way into that 6% of waking hours by becoming less meaningful. The hand-wringing effort we make to strip down our radio stations in an effort to imprint one additional data point can only result in becoming what my friend Mark Ramsey refers to as “no one’s favorite I-Pod”.

Play lots of music? Of course! Be efficient with talk? Certainly! Discipline is imperative.

But consider this:

The impact of our format could be transformed if we paid more attention to being a part of saving lives than saving quarter hours.

I’ve met people who know how to do both!

Tommy Kramer Tip #114 – Time versus Timing

It’s not the time it takes to do a break, it’s the TIMING.

Many times in a coaching session, I’ve criticized a break, and the talent has said something like “but it was only a minute and ten seconds long.” But as we all know, the actual “stopwatch” time of a break means very little.

I get the feeling that if most jocks were doing Hamlet, they’d say “To be or not to be that is the question” instead of “To be, or not to be. That is the question.”

When you rush, or run sentences together, it makes the listener feel antsy.

Often, the way to get on course in your air work is to simply think of how real life conversation unfolds. If someone is just a little hurried when he talks to you, it smacks of an agenda. Or even worse, like he’s just trying to get the conversation over with. Discomfort is the emotional takeaway.

Real people breathe, and pause between thoughts. I’m willing to bet that in real life, you breathe, too.

So beginning today, try to slow down just a little bit. Pause when there would be a comma or a period if what you’re saying were written out. It’ll only cost you a second or two of total time to sound much more real and engaged in what you’re saying. It’s a conversation with the listener, not a speed-reading course.

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