Tommy Kramer Tip #148 – The Basics: a Tutorial

Many air talents these days can be virtually crippled before they even get to the point of a break.  New theories of what works best for PPM are bandied about every month – many of them “incomplete thoughts” (like the “you have to do a tease at the end of each break” virus that’s going around now) – and many of them are based on faulty (or no) research, or are simply opinion without experience to back it up.

Let’s work on that a bit…

The SIMPLEST formatics are the BEST formatics.  All you really want is an efficient package of very basic things, but they should VARY from break to break.  Here, in order, are the techniques to work on.

Say the name of the station first, every time.  (There’s a reason the Jif label is on the OUTSIDE of the jar, not mixed in with the peanut butter somewhere.) The longer you take to identify who you are, the harder it is for the listener to remember you.  And no, you can’t just rely on PPM devices to reflect that, because first of all, not every market is a PPM market, and secondly, PPM is simply the report card on listening AFTER the listener has decided to tune you in, which he wouldn’t have done if he didn’t know who you are and where to FIND you – which is easiest when they hear the name first.

To PD’s who complain that this sounds the same every time or it’s boring, I remind them that this is not a reason to hide your name.  Every single time a network TV show comes out of commercials, they flash the logo on the screen, first thing.  We have to do it vocally.  So this means that you have to coach the jocks to say the calls like they MEAN something; like we take some PRIDE in working here.  (I coach many subtle techniques for this – matching the tempo of the song, matching the emotional vibe of the song, and for advanced students, even starting on the same NOTE that the song is playing.)  Burying something because you do it poorly is not the answer.  Get BETTER at it, instead.

Music stations’ basics should include the Artist and/or Song Title – but not always both, and certainly not always in that order.  (And sorry, but album titles don’t matter.  Who buys albums anymore?  We just download the 4 cuts we like from iTunes.  Stop thinking like an early 1970s audiophile.)

In “drive” times, time checks should be given at least every time you stop down.  DIGITAL time ONLY. “8:16,” not “16 minutes after eight o’clock.”  It’s a digital world.  Live in it.  (I had a talent once who said “it’s twelve minutes after the hour of ten o’clock.”  I told him “I don’t have TIME to listen to your time checks.”)  And no “double” time checks (“3:15, that’s 15 after 3.”)  The listener isn’t an idiot; stop treating him/her like one.

Your name, somewhere… not always in the same place.  And not every break.  Once in a while, in a song intro.  Always, when you stop down.

So the template is:  Name of the station first, everything else varies.
I used to write little symbols for each element (calls, artist, title, temp, time, my name), and just switch them around each break, so I didn’t repeat the same things in the same order over and over again.  It worked like a charm.  And of course, except for the name of the station, not every element was in every break.

Now comes the real art.  With the opening “basics” out of the way, get into your Content in ONE line, two at the most.  Any longer than that sounds needlessly wordy.  Think “newspaper headline” (assuming that anyone remembers what a newspaper looks like).

If you do this right, you’ll be consistent, but you’ll have slight variations every break, which makes the brain receive what you say as NEW information every time.  (Brainwave mapping has proven this.  It’s not just an opinion.  It’s called the Fourier Transform, and was developed at Cal Tech.)

It won’t take long to master this stuff – if you start NOW.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Frost Advisory #302 – Don’t Be One of Them

We didn’t sweat like the other kids, and that made everyone else really envious.  You see, we were the first classroom in the school to have air conditioning.  That’s about all I remember about being in the sixth grade.

What do people remember about your radio station?  What is memorable gives light to what is meaningful. What is meaningful (thinking) is what they care about (feeling).  What they care about determines how much they’ll care about your station.

Do you know what your listeners care about?  Or maybe a better question is… do you use those things to design your station?


“Trying to control what other people think is a trap.  At the same time that we can be thrilled by the possibility of flying without a net and of blazing a new trail, we have to avoid the temptation to become the audience, to will them into following us.  Not only is it exhausting, it’s counterproductive.  (Success) happens because you’ve made something worth buying, because you’ve outlined something worth believing in.”
~Seth Godin

Our format is, or can be, about things people already care about… and… this is really important, they would still care about those things even if your station wasn’t around.

“Lots of people are trying to sell what people don’t want.  Don’t be one of them.”
~Roy Williams

Looked In The Mirror Lately?

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”
~Pema Choldron, “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice For Difficult times.”


Most of us are familiar with the Hans Christian Anderson story of the emperor who has no clothes.  Many aren’t clear of the facts behind it, though.

In the actual fable, two weavers promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent.  When the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that he doesn’t see any suit of clothes until a child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

I’ve often told people that the first step between management and leadership is an understanding of self.   We’re all ready to tell others about our strengths, but not many want to acknowledge their weaknesses.  When they look in the mirror they see part of themselves, not all of themselves.  We tend to want to hide from our weaknesses and only see us as it is in our minds.

Unfortunately, that’s not leadership.  I’m not sure what it is, but it’s not leadership.  If I could only give one piece of advice to those seeing themselves in leadership it would be to be diligent about seeking out your weaknesses so the truth is revealed in the mirror.



Tommy Kramer Tip #147 — The Last Logical Place

One of the major themes in science fiction is that as the technology gets better, the skills atrophy.  That’s why you see those old monster movies where alien beings had giant brains, but machines and computers did all the work for them, since their arms and legs had gradually degenerated to being useless twigs.

On our own planet, in Music radio, we’re hearing more of this “the machines are taking over” factor all the time.  In a music sweep, for example, a song’s ending is a chord that hangs for 3 or 4 seconds, but one-tenth of a second into that hang time, the next song slams in (or the antsy jock starts talking), abruptly cutting off both the previous song and the mood.  Cue tones on music, Imaging, and commercials are often set to fire the next element too soon, so the last word obliterates the beginning of the next thing, or gets drowned out by it.  Or a song will end with a fade, but instead of hitting the next element at the end of a sentence, where it would seamlessly appear, we hear an extra couple of words (“And…if…”), then BLAM!… next song.  Woof.  Clumsy.

When it doesn’t even sound like you’re engaged with what you’re doing, why should I be, as a listener?  I constantly hear stations with live jocks that sound voice-tracked because of their lackluster board work.

As a Talent Coach, I want to help everything you do, not just what you say.  Try this exercise: run the board manually for a few days, only putting it in “auto” mode when you go into stopsets, and your board op skills will get razor sharp.  An element of FEEL will enter the picture, and then the cue tones can be changed to match it.  Slamming songs (or elements) together is careless and random sounding.  But waiting too long to hit the next thing makes the momentum stall out.  The right timing is somewhere in between.  The right place to hit the next element in a sweep isn’t “at the last place” in the song you’re playing.  It’s “at the last LOGICAL place.”  Let that little artistic touch into your brain, and you’ll sound alert and in control – and like you’re actually listening to the music with me.

Then, when you open the mike to say something, maybe I’ll pay more attention to it, because something as simple as your board work drew me in a little closer to you.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.


Coaching Talent When We Need It

“You do not lead by hitting people over the head-that’s assault, not leadership.”
~Dwight D. Eisenhower


“Pray for me, I’m having an aircheck tomorrow.”

That, I thought, was a strange prayer request.  But then again, maybe it’s not.  I thought about some of the aircheck sessions I’ve been subject to… and, I’m sorry to say, some of the ones I held when I first became a P.D.

I’ve never seen a talent managed, bullied, or threatened into becoming better.  In every one of these cases it’s more about control than development.  Unfortunately it’s more prevalent than people want to admit.  I’ve seen talent reduced to tears, made to feel like a failure, and even pushed into depression.  As “Ike” says, “that’s not leadership, it’s assault.”

Talent is coached, fostered and led.  If you want to help someone improve, be it talent or your direct reports, you have to be their coach.  Don’t think Bobby Jones, think John Wooden.  He was demanding and tough, but also loved and respected.  Every player knew where the boundaries were.  I’ve never heard of a Wooden-coached player who didn’t respect Wooden’s way of strengthening their lives while he made them better.

What’s the difference in mindset?  Those who try to manage talent are all about what they want.  Talent developers are all about helping the other person grow.

I have a simple solution, but no one has ever tried it.  If the “coach” was told that for everyone they couldn’t develop, and wound up firing, deduct 10% from their annual salary.  You might also try the “I suck” award.  If someone has not grown after 6 months the award goes up on the wall… and stays there.   You’d get 10 awards if you had to fire them or they quit.

If you were working with me, and you wind up having to fire someone for anything but moral failure or insubordination, you’ve failed, not the other person.  Blame everyone else for everything, denigrate the other person all you want, but you’re the one who loses.



Frost Advisory #301 – Will This Stuff Make A Difference?

The knee-jerk reaction is to come up with STUFF!  We pay far less attention to whether that STUFF makes a difference.

“In the share of every station there are two numbers, the number to the left of the decimal point and the number to the right (e.g. 6.0, 6.3, etc.).  The number to the left is affected by the big things that a station does, like what it is known for and the big benefits the listener gets from the station.  The number to the right is based on the tweaks and minor modifications that the station does to the music, the commercial sequencing, etc.  You can make a mediocre station only slightly better by working on the number to the right all the time.  You can make a mediocre station great by working on the number to the left of the decimal.”
~Michael O’Shea


I first stumbled over this thing called STRATEGY when programming a Smooth Jazz station in Dallas in the late 80s.  After twenty years in the business, well, I knew how to make the station sound slick and smooth and all that stuff, but until I met Alan Mason I didn’t know how to make a station matter.

I’ve come to learn that EVERYONE lives in the world of TACTICAL.  The tactical approach is “what things can we do?”  That’s the world of Jack in the Box, Radio Shack, and probably your station.

The world of STRATEGY is a different kind of thinking.  That’s the world of Apple, Starbucks, and Tom’s Shoes.  That’s the world that asks, “will this stuff make a difference?”

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #146 – Yet Another Lesson from John Wooden

Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden has influenced people in all walks of life.  On the surface, I guess it’s easy to think that this may not include Radio, but there are things he preached that we can adopt to our benefit – and the listeners’ benefit.

Re-examining his “Pyramid of Success” today, I saw two items of significance:

Industriousness:  “Success travels in the company of very hard work. There is no trick; no easy way.”

Above that, on the next level of the pyramid, is Alertness:  “Constantly be aware and observing.  Always seek to improve yourself and the team.”

What this means to those of us in radio is that talent is not enough. We’ve all known jocks (or Program Directors or General Managers) that had amazing skills, but didn’t keep working at getting better.

Back in the Dark Ages when I first worked in Dallas for radio pioneer Gordon McLendon, we had a guy who did weekends and occasional all-nights named Nick Alexander.  Nick was the low man on the KNUS totem pole.  (That staff had more people inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame than any other.)

We did group aircheck sessions regularly, where all the jocks listened to a tape, and gave their observations – some pointing out good things, and some pretty blunt assessments of what didn’t work.

Nick got beaten up pretty badly in a couple of those sessions, but he took the whippings like a man.  He worked hard to become a better air talent, and eventually became a fine jock, then went on to become an extremely successful Voice Actor, heard on hundreds and hundreds of commercials, and making about ten times more money than I will ever make.

…and it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.  He deserved every break he got, because he understood what Industriousness and Alertness were all about.

I’m sure Coach Wooden would have liked him.

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Leading Change


“The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”


Change is not easy.  It’s confusing, unclear and perplexing.  It’s hard to pursue something when it means what you know, and have become expert at, is becoming less and less relevant.  It’s natural to fight change, to deny it and ignore it.

However, every leader is a change agent, for better or worse.  They can move their organization forward, or keep it where it is.  Either one is change, because as the world morphs and grows, if you do nothing, you’re effecting change.  Just not in a positive way.

The most fundamental principle of change can be found in your mirror.  When we’re not looking into the mirror it’s easy to fool ourselves that we’re the same people we were 10 years ago.  But we’re not.  If change were’t a real factor, we’d still have 8 tracks and AM radio would be on top.  People wouldn’t be watching TV less to an alarming level (which they are), Netflix would have failed, and no one would “get” Pandora.

Real leadership is understanding change, and adapting to the opportunities it offers. Those who can do that will survive and thrive, those who can’t will be forever cemented to a past that doesn’t exist any more… and is being outdated everyday.



Frost Advisory #300 – If I’d Known Anyone Would Read This Stuff…

…I’d have paid more attention to what I wrote, to paraphrase the great philosopher Groucho Marx.

Malcolm Gladwell suggests that if you do something 10,000 times you’re an expert.  I’m not quite sure how 300 of something stacks up but I’m honored to know that I may have helped some folks along the way with my 5.769 years of insights, allegories, and umlauts into the fascinating world of strategy and programming and stuff like that.

Frost Advisories have been penned in the middle seat on Delta and the back seat of Uber; on mission trips to the Dominican, and poolside at the Motel 6 in Denver.

Since I can’t think of something worthy of this historic milestone I’ve tapped into the talent of my friend Nelson at The Fish in Portland.


Click here for the video edition of Frost Advisory #300!

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #145 – Einstein Lesson

Albert Einstein said, “You can’t solve a problem by the same thinking that produced it.”

I wish everyone in radio – particularly Program Directors and General Managers – had that written on his or her desk.

You have to think through things with a “What if…?” mentality.  What if a competing station changes to our format tomorrow?  What if my morning show takes a job somewhere else?   What if our Imaging that we think is so great isn’t of any real Benefit to the listener?  What if the only thing I can grab for lunch is the seven-year old Zagnut in the candy machine?

Thinking “what if?” is a good start toward warding off future problems, or coming up with a fresh idea.

Like “What if I ignored the PPM weeklies for just a moment, and tried something new just to see if it flies?” or “What if I brought someone aboard to help my air talent get better, instead of just assuming that we don’t need it?”

I have a feeling that if Einstein were still alive today and listening to radio, he might say “It’s not just ‘think outside the box,’ it’s ‘throw the stupid box away.'”

– – – – – – –
Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2016 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.