Tommy Kramer Tip #161 – The Difference between Repetition and Redundancy

Repetition is defined as “the act of doing or saying something again.”  Flip on the radio and you’ll hear this constantly; this almost compulsive-sounding need to say something, then repeat it, like the listener is an idiot.  (For a while, people were being COACHED to do this.  Remember those double time checks?  “Seven-fifteen, fifteen minutes after seven o’clock.”  Ugh.)  Redundancy is defined, for our purposes, as “the inclusion of more information than is necessary for communication.”

An example of this is “82 degrees and raining outside.”

“Outside?”  Well, thank goodness.  If it were raining INSIDE, that could lead to some pretty expensive roof work.

Recently, I heard a talent start a break with, “This is maybe the best example of ‘for better or worse’ that I’ve ever seen…” and then tell about a man who had been the President of a university in South Carolina, and how his wife of more than forty years, a woman named Muriel, had contracted Alzheimer’s.

Then, instead of going directly to the audio clip of the man making his announcement, he added, “This is his announcement to the university that he was resigning so that he could take care of Muriel…”

Then he played the audio clip of the announcement, which basically was just the man repeating everything the host had already said!

This break should have come with a “spoiler alert”.  In the mind of the listener, it’s “been there; heard that.”

Here’s the lesson:

Repetition HURTS breaks.  Redundancy KILLS them.

Radio – at least GREAT radio – is always about how concisely you can get things said.  A good rule of thumb is “say things ONCE.”  What you leave UNSAID is just as important as what you say.

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

The White Noise Is Deafening

“We’ve reached peak social – a point at which the signal to noise ratio of social updates is unsustainable…”
~Larry Kim, Founder of WordStream


“We’ve got several thousand participants and  thousands of responses.”  So I thought, “Uh huh, and what does that mean?  Do we have more listeners, more donors, more people moving toward Christ?”

Are we drilling down to optimize our stations for PPM, but ignoring meaningful measurement of social media or community development?   We measure our social media efforts on a whole different level than we do other things.  Pushing  “like,” or reading a Bible verse seems like “engagement,” but I’m not sure it is.

Radio continues to churn out hundreds of thousands of posts, blogs, tweets or Instagrams a day, but I’m not sure many of us know what it means.  How does it affect us?  Is there any kind of measurable benefit buried in there?  Because I have 300,000 likes on Facebook does that mean I’ll rule the world?

It’s easy to confuse activity with accomplishment and reaction with meaning, but what Larry Kim says is true.  The insatiable desire for more compelling content is blurring the lines of what’s compelling and what’s not.  It’s not about “likes,” it’s about “loves,” and what is compelling to us is not necessarily compelling to the “audience.”  I always start with, “Are they saying you’re compelling because you’re you, or because you’re Christian.”  It’s a confusing measure that we all in the format have to understand.  Compelling has to do with something “I can be first to tell others”, and “something that moves me.”  I’m sure there’s a lot more, but it’s a beginning.

TJ Holland is one of the brightest programmers I’ve ever worked with, and he has some interesting observations about the use of Facebook.  Some radio stations keep reposting content that doesn’t provoke a response because it’s important to them.  Most don’t take down posts that aren’t getting responses.  There is a “me focus” in a lot of what we do, rather than a “we focus.”  And, of course, that doesn’t work on Facebook.

I’m plagued with the question of whether what we do makes a difference, or is it just something we do?  I know the effect the Warriors’ Seth Curry has had on his team.  Are we as good as Curry when it comes to impact, or are we assuming everything we do must be compelling just because we’re doing it?

There are no radio people on the list of the 100 most influential digital marketers.  Is it maybe because we’re great radio people and just ok social people?



Frost Advisory #315 – Relevant, Then Interesting

How you answer this question can determine the success of your station.  Relevant… or interesting?

Choosing only content that is relevant to your listener forces the talent to put the listener ahead of themselves.  This profound realignment of priorities is a paradigm shift from what is interesting to the talent to what is relevant to the listener.

In other words, does your station serve your listeners or just serve your own interests?


Hearing irrelevant content on the air is the result of air talent first looking for things that are “interesting” and then trying to make them relevant.  That is how one ends up hearing things like Shirley Temple’s birthday, National Pickle Week, and what I did on my summer vacation.

Without an objective filter of relevance to the listener, the talent resorts to becoming sort of a content assembly line, paying little attention to whether what they say enhances the listener’s experience or fulfills their expectations of the station.

Ego rears its ugly head when we assume that the listener will care about anything we decide to talk about.  It’s not true in life and it’s certainly not true in radio.

As a budding 23-year-old disc jockey I was hired at my first “big” station where everyone on the air was better than me.  Frankly, they were all so much better that my insecurities had me convinced that they had actually hired me by mistake.

After the ink on my deal was securely dried, I got up the courage to ask my new PD, “Why in the world did you hire me?”  He smiled and responded, “It was one break you did on your audition tape.”  He had heard me give a phone number on a throwaway PSA followed by, “you might want to write that down on the dust on your dashboard.”

That one unassuming break told my soon to be programming mentor all he needed to know about this young air talent; those who put the listener first are those who are willing to learn.

Chris Rice echoed that idea years later in his song “The Other Side of the Radio.”

“Cause it’s you and me singing the same song right now
And maybe this will bring us together somehow
And maybe there’s a million people all singing a long
Somebody started thinking about the third line
And maybe someone’s saying a prayer for the first time
And that’s enough reason to keep me singing my song,
Singing my songs, on the other side of the radio.”

Tommy Kramer Tip #160 – Deliver INFORMATION, not Guesses

On a recent ‘listen’ to a guy in New York that I coach, he came out of a Peter Gabriel tune by saying “I still remember when that song was in ‘Say Anything’… back in the late 80s or early 90s… that John Cusack film…”

Oops.  Incomplete prep.  Not good.  With all the resources we have today, there’s simply no reason to not have the information ready.  He could have (1) looked it up on, (2) Googled the movie, or (3) just asked Siri.

Here’s what I told him: People don’t tune in to hear you GUESS about things.  You’re supposed to KNOW, whether it’s just when a movie came out, or what time an act will go onstage at a concert the station is hosting, or telling me about a contest or promotion.  Deliver information, not just guesses.  YOU’RE the authority.  (Or at least you SHOULD be.)

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

What’s Your Story?

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.”
~Seth Godin


Apple has a story.  Budweiser has a story.  Nike has a story.  In-N-Out Burger has a story.  Most successful brands do.  They have a story beyond their “product” that has been burned into the minds of the consumer.

Microsoft doesn’t.  Microsoft is a utility program – a good one – but a utility program mostly purchased transactionally instead of emotionally. There aren’t a lot of positive Microsoft stories.  Stories are what people remember.

Take that all down to the level of say, your radio station, and how does it translate?  Is there a story you tell everyone about the station – one that is about the music, but beyond the music at the same time?    Something that taps into your listener’s passion?  Something that’s uniquely yours and not shared by other stations in the same format?

This post is a “how to” one.  Here are two people who can help:

The right story starts with the “why.”  Simon Sinek’s concept links well with media brands.  You just have to figure out why your station does what it does, and why people become fans.  Chances are you can weave those into a terrific story.

You can also find help from author Donald Miller’s Storybrand site.  You may recall Miller from his book, “Blue Like Jazz.”  Someday, when I have enough time, I’m going to attend his sessions on building your brand’s story.  But I’ve already learned from him the value and importance of the right kind of story.



Frost Advisory #314 – Programming Lessons from Father’s Day

“You can do anything… once”, boomed my dad’s voice to his mischievous adolescent son.

Those words served as a life lesson of accountability.  But, you know what?  Those words were also true.  I COULD do anything… once.

So can your station.

Always done it this way

Making programming decisions based strictly upon what you’ve already done is like driving while looking in the rear view mirror.  It won’t get you anywhere but where you’ve already been.

As I write this a popular Orlando barbecue restaurant is opening its usually closed doors on Sunday to raise money for the shooting victims.  Well, guess what?  They’ve never done that before.  It’s interesting how even opposite behaviors – being closed on Sundays and opening this particular Sunday – are ways to demonstrate a core value of their business – giving back to the community.

In other words, the more they innovate the more they are able to fulfill their mission.

Resisting a new idea because “it doesn’t sound like my station” is the cry of the rear view mirror driver.  I also know those that innovated once but that innovation became their own “we’ve always done it this way”, and refused to innovate beyond it.

The programming lesson learned this Father’s Day is that you can do anything… once!  It’s called innovation!

“If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post.  If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution.  Briefly, if you want the old white post you must have a new white post.”
~G. K. Chesterton


Tommy Kramer Tip #159 — The Greats are the Greats for a Reason

The Beatles.  John Grisham.  Jack Nicholson.  Meryl Streep.  Jack Nicklaus.  Vincent Van Gogh.  Michael Jordan.  Movie Director John Ford.  Steve Jobs.  All Greats in their chosen fields.

And believe me, the Greats are the Greats for a REASON.  There’s something about each of them that’s not only special, but it would stand as great in any era.  That’s why people will still be listening to Frank Sinatra when they can’t even remember Nancy Sinatra.  People will still be watching “Casablanca” (even though it’s “only” in black and white) and understanding the nobility of the struggle against a regime that wants to limit freedom, and understand the sacrifices that have to be made to preserve that freedom, as long as that video exists.

Either the theme, or some individual skill set made a great thing (or person) great.  And yes, this certainly applies to radio.  Whether your “great” was Wolfman Jack, Robert W. Morgan in Los Angeles, Fred Winston in Chicago, Ron Chapman in Dallas, or your local morning guy that no one in a neighboring state knows – but you still love (in my case, Larry Ryan in my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana) – magnetic, truly entertaining air talents get put in the “Greats” folder and STAY there.

But here’s the hidden factor: the greats are great for MORE THAN ONE REASON.  Think of it like an old 45rpm record – gotta have an “A” side, and a “B” side.  Your “A” side gets you noticed, but it’s not enough to sustain you.  You also have to find that other thing, like a pitcher coming up with an excellent slider to go WITH his hundred-mile-an-hour fastball, to get to the level of TRULY Great.

Because truly great equals MEMORABLE.  The Beatles didn’t just do one great song.  Jack Nicholson didn’t just do one great movie.  And Michael Jordan wasn’t just a great shooter.

I hear a lot of jocks now, and a lot of STATIONS now, that have no “great” quality of any kind.  So it’s impossible for them to come up with that “memorable” quality because they have no foundation of greatness to build upon.  If that describes you, or where you work, get help NOW.  Because the millennials EXPECT great, and have no patience at all with mediocrity.  Get a great Consultant, and map out a great Strategy.  Get great air talent, or at least people with a spark that makes them stand out at a party or a backyard barbecue or in a play, then hire a great Talent Coach to develop them.

If you don’t, you’ll just fall into the abyss of “okay, but not great.”  Remember, all dinosaurs had to do to disappear from the Earth was stand still.

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

When You Were A Kid, Did You Ever Ask Your Parents, “Please tell me a bedtime fact?”

“No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.”
~Lewis Carroll


Ken Blanchard tells the story of a time shortly after 9/11 when he forgot his identification when trying to board a plane.  Being what I’d call a pretty fast thinker, he ran to a nearby pre-TSA bookstore and bought a copy of his latest book.  When he got to the TSA agent, he said he didn’t have his passport or drivers license, but had this… and held up the copy of the book for the agent to see.  “Hey, this guy knows Don Shula,” the agent yelled to his compatriots.

Old guys rule!

I had the opportunity to talk to, and primarily listen to, Ken Blanchard recently,   I’ve read most of his books, from the first one, and was interested for the opportunity to find out why he was so successful.  I learned a couple of things I wouldn’t have imagined.

First, he’s a great storyteller.  Not about himself, but about the world around him and how he navigates it.  And if you read them, every book is told in story form.  Even today, years after its release, I still remember the concept of “leave alone-zap” from the One Minute Manager.  Stories are social, stories are viral.  Facts… not so much.  None of us ever asked for a bedtime fact.

Second, he’s a collaborator.  I always wondered why it was always, “Ken Blanchard with…”, and I learned it was fundamentally because he’s a collaborator.  He feels he’s better when there’s someone with him.  Sorta the way morning teams feel.  He believes other people make him better.  Yep, he’s even written a book about it.

With Blanchard, collaboration takes a form I hadn’t heard of before.  He has 6 or 7 drafts of each book before publication, and has it out for others to read, and then asks them a few simple questions, including, “What do you remember from the book?,” and “What could be better?”  He’s been doing this since the “One Minute Manager”, and with 60+ books to his name, that’s hard to argue with.  I want to be Ken Blanchard when I grow up!

How many of our stations are constructed around the principle of storytelling?  How many of us really emphasize collaboration across departments?

Tommy Kramer Tip #158 — Do things for the Right Reasons

The three reasons things are usually done:

  1. (Air Talent) “It’ll be funny.”
  2. (Program Director) “It’ll get ratings.”
  3. (General Manager): “It’ll schmooze a client.”

These are not Strategies, they’re just aspirations.  Let’s examine them…

Something being “funny” is certainly not always a reality, and you can’t just use that crayon all the time anyway.  I would just say, “Try to make the show fun,” and keep in mind who your listener is.

“It’ll get ratings.”
Even with all the latest tactics on affecting PPM (or now, Nielson), you really can’t predict what will “get ratings” except in terms of doing things every time you open the mic that are compelling to the LISTENER.   And it goes deeper than that, because anything that seems calculated SOLELY to get ratings will ring HOLLOW with the Listener.  You can use any tactic you want to, but unless what you’re doing is either Informative or Entertaining (or both), it won’t work.

“It’ll schmooze a client.”
This means nothing to the Listener, and maybe even works AGAINST the Talent if it’s perceived as “selling out”.

There are only two legitimate reasons to do anything on the air:

  1. It’s Relevant to the listener.
  2. It has a Benefit to the listener.

Those things will ALWAYS work.  Tactics have their place, but believe me, if you do things for the right reasons – STRATEGIC reasons – winning becomes a byproduct.

Self-promotional afterthought: you can’t do it without great talent.  If you’re a PD or GM, rather than getting caught up in a vicious circle of hiring, then firing, consider bringing in a coach to develop your talent.

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

A Footnote On “The Greatest”

“And I wouldn’t even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was.”
~Muhammad Ali

It was in the United Airlines Club in Seattle toward the start of my consulting career. It had been a long day of intense meetings, and here I was waiting for a red eye flight to the east coast, followed by no sleep and more intense meetings. I’m sure I showed the fatigue.

As I looked around the club I thought to myself, “Do you know who that looks like?”  At this point I should probably mention that flying around the country so much, the airlines will give you free upgrades, which meant you meet a lot of interesting people.

Back to our story: He sort of looked like him, but heavier and older, but there were bodyguards, so I became convinced it was him. Next my thought was whether I should bother him or not, but I finally walked across the club room and said, “Mister Ali, you don’t know me, but you’ve been an inspiration for me and millions of others with your ability to keep coming back to win.” He smiled and said, “thanks”, and I turned to walk away, but he reached out and touched my arm and in a soft voice said, “Never give up, you can always keep fighting.”

I’ll never know if I looked like I felt and needed a boost, or if it was something he said to people, but I’d been given advice from the greatest fighter alive!  Those words drift back to me from time to time. You always have to fight to stay in a positive frame of mind, to stay true to yourself and God, and yet, like Ali, with humor.

Muhammad Ali who was a winning boxer, a controversial figure, a great showman, someone with a great sense of humor, a man of history, a father, and true to the best of his faith, died last Friday.

When he had been asked a while ago how he wanted to be remembered he said:

“I would like to be remembered as a man who won the heavyweight title three times, who was humorous and who treated everyone right. As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him… who stood up for his beliefs…who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love.

And if all that’s too much, then I guess I’d settle for being remembered only as a great boxer who became a leader and a champion of his people. And I wouldn’t even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was.”

That’s true Ali, proud of his achievements, unwavering in beliefs, and always with humor. An American champion.