Frost Advisory #320 – There’s Something Wrong!

“There’s something wrong!”,  declared the analysis.   Well, it must be true!  They had a nifty graph and everything!


It’s tempting to assume that something is meaningful just because it can be graphed, or just because it made the headlines, (never more obvious to me than after two weeks of staring at political conventions).  Those assumptions are often the result of what Dan and Chip Heath refer to as “The Spotlight Effect”.

“We are quick to jump to conclusions because we give too much weight to the information that is right in front of us, while failing to consider the information that’s just offstage…

…The spotlight only lights one spot.  Everything outside it is obscured.  When we begin to shift the spotlight from side to side the situation starts to look very different.  And that, in essence, is the core difficulty in decision making.

What’s in the spotlight will rarely be everything we need to make a good decision, but we won’t always remember to shift the light.   Sometimes, in fact, we’ll forget there’s a spotlight at all, dwelling so long in the tiny circle of light that we forget there’s a broader landscape beyond it.”

If we look outside the spotlight of this analysis of song themes we discover something else just offstage.  Maybe these songs were written, sung, and produced for something other than filling a theological quota.  Maybe they were written to inspire, touch the heart, and to be loved.

There is a natural and indisputable friction between art and science.  Great stations understand that art and science need to be applied distinctly.

I know of a radio station that had this so confused that they actually had created a place in the hourly clock for what they called, “The God break”.  (I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP, as Dave Barry would say.)  Yep, at 20 past the hour you could tune in every hour and hear some deejay obligated to say something religious.  Got to fill that quota, don’tchaknow!
This misuse of analytics is a reminder that a great radio station, like a magnificent piece of art or a much loved song, is never the result of paint by the numbers.

“The left hemispheres of our brains are wired for empirical, scientific, objective reality: absolute truth.The right hemispheres of our brains are sponges thirsty for impressions, symbols, metaphors, connections and patterns. These patterns can be auditory, visual or behavioral.

Auditory patterns are called music.   Visual patterns are called art.

Behavioral patterns are called personality.   The more complex the pattern, the deeper the beauty.”
~Roy Williams

The deeper the beauty.   Hmm.  Let’s see a graph of that!

I’m not suggesting that the lyrics to Christian music shouldn’t be meaningful and theologically sound, but to conclude there is “something wrong” because there are ten times more songs about love than fear infers that there is “something right” about some other possible ratio.   Maybe we could do 50/50 in morning drive, and adjust to 70/30 when the kiddos get out of school!

The best radio stations are those that apply the left-brained science (music research, clock structure, format execution) to create compelling right-brained art; art that inspires, offers hope, and helps connects us to God and our values.

As long as we’re creating some charts,  what’s the deal with all these songs about Christmas and none about The Feast of Unleavened Bread?

Tommy Kramer Tip #164 – Information and Details = Ugh

The words “information” and “details” are poisonous words.  You should try to avoid them.

If you’re a regular follower of my tips, you know that “left brain” thoughts or words don’t really click with the listener as much as “right brain” stuff.

For the uninitiated, the left brain is about order, reason, math, numbers, percentages.  The right brain is where emotion, art, creativity and allegiance all live.

When you say something like “Find the details on our website” or “Go to my Facebook page for more information,” what people HEAR is “There’s a bunch of crap in a really tiny font that you can go read.”

What you SHOULD say is something like “Find out more on my Facebook page” or “Everything you need to know is at” instead.

You’re talking to a PERSON, not a robot getting information.

ALWAYS live in the right brain.  “A juicy steak” is better than just “a 14-ounce rib-eye.”  You want to paint PICTURES with words, not numbers or lists.

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

You See What You Want To see

“There are no facts, only interpretations.”
~Friedrich Nietzsche

I’ve been deeply involved with exploration into the Millennial generation for the past 18 months, and it’s an interesting venture.

No matter what we find in the research, there are people that are going to see the group as slackers, entitled, living with mom and dad, and even the generation that will destroy America.

The truth is that Millennials are an exciting generation that will bring huge, important changes to society that are good, as well as their own “lens” on life.  I was at a meeting with some interns last week, and I left the meeting feeling very optimistic and excited to see what the future holds with these talented people.

But, no matter what research we present, or how many Millennials they talk to, some people will only see them through the lens of their own interpretation or perspective.  They aren’t able to see the potential good, only the negative image portrayed by the media.  Some of those who are unable to change their interpretations will miss an opportunity to build a sustainable media palate that appeals to Millennials, and will wind up fading away with the boomer generation.

Whether you are a small, single station in the Midwest, or a larger broadcast organization on the West Coast, or yes… a Network, you’re going to be impacted by the Millennials, a generation significantly larger than the boomers.  Simple facts of life – like nobody gets out alive – means that things are going to change.  Every day, 10,000 baby boomers file for Social Security.  It’s inevitable.

But it’s not “bad.”  Do your own investigation of the generation, talk with them and really listen, understand how they’re different, and how they’re not.  Embrace the change, and ask for their help in navigating through the changes.  Don’t just sit there complaining while the juggernaut gets closer and closer, and finally runs right over you.



Frost Advisory #319 – Ice Cream, Sunburns, and Your Radio Station

Our minds crave simplicity.

The doctor says to take a pill.  We eagerly agree because its simple.  Until he tells us that the pill will cause us to lose our hair.  Ouch!  Now it becomes more complicated and not such a great idea.

Just look at the presidential election campaigns.  Political viewpoints are compressed into 140 character Twitter feeds and 20 second soundbites.  Ask ten people why they are supporting Donald or Hillary and nine will respond with one sentence.

“People are drawn to black and white opinions because they are simple, not because they are true.  Truth demands serious effort and thought.”
~Donald Miller

Correlation v. causation

“Every time we see a link between an event or action with another, what comes to mind is that the event or action has caused the other.”*

That’s causation.

On the other hand “correlation is an action or occurrence that can be linked to another”, but “linking one thing with another does not always prove that the result has been caused by the other.”*


Our desire for simplicity drives us to conclude that one thing causes another simply because they occurred at the same time.


The ratings went up because we added new jingles!

The ratings went down because we had fewer traffic reports!

Our biases cause us to value things we know, mostly things inside the radio station, and to undervalue what we don’t know, mostly things outside the station.  That’s why it is so easy to imagine how tweaking the Farm Report increased the ratings than consider how the meter/diary holder’s two-week vacation impacted our numbers.

Successful radio stations strive not for answers than are simple, but answers that are true.  But, darn it, that demands effort and thought.

Tommy Kramer Tip #163 – Fun Grows out of Relevance

The future of radio – no matter how it’s delivered – is going to be about Personalities.  Air Talent that seems like your best, most entertaining friend; that person that always finds just the right word to describe something that we’re both going through or thinking about.

But radio isn’t the Chuckle Shack.  We’re not standup comedians, and shouldn’t really want to seem like that, anyway.  You just want to be that one person that always gets invited to the party because you’ll be interesting and amusing, and make the person who’s hosting the party look good for inviting you.

Here’s the way it works:

Job One is to only talk about things that are relevant and top-of-mind to the listener.  Once you’re zeroed in on “narrow focusing” your Content to that degree, Fun grows out of that.

But there’s a difference between being perceived as fun versus seeming like someone “trying to be funny”.  I think that the very core of “trying to be funny” is when you take something that ISN’T relevant and attempt to make it entertaining.

You have to CHOOSE.  One way leads to tremendous, never-ending growth.  The other leads to actually having to WORK for a living.  Ewww.

Work joyfully on getting better.  If you hit a wall, get a coach.

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

Are You Here To Serve or To Be Served?

“Too many leaders act as if the sheep… their people… are there for the benefit of the shepherd, not that the shepherd has responsibility for the sheep.”
~Ken Blanchard

I talked with Ken Blanchard recently, and I felt bad.  I’m not sure I’ll ever be able read all of Ken Blanchard’s books.  Yes, they’re usually short, and told in story form, but there are so many of them!  But we were talking about leadership when he mentioned, “Are you here to serve, or be served?”

Ahhh… ok, that’s a really good question, rooted in one of his books I hadn’t read, “The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do.”  He teamed up with Mark Miller of Chick-fil-A on this one.  This co-author thing he does is one of the things he was asked about, and his response itself was a good lesson in leadership.  “I like to collaborate.  I’m better when I collaborate.”  I thought a lot about that, and then realized that I am too!  Is it possible that we all are?

But wait, that’s what I’d mention to talent as a rabbit trail.  We’re talking about service.

My answer was that I’m here to serve… except when I’m not.  Like a lot of people I focus on serving, but get caught up in being served – the struggle for recognition and the perks that come with the cool title.

Even the term “servant leadership” is irritating sometimes.  Serving means the perks and bennies aren’t as important as the tangible legacy you leave.  It means we all have to win, not just one of us win.

It’s entirely possible I’m preaching to the choir at this point, because those who want to be served will have stopped reading after the last paragraph.

If you’re still here, Blanchard and Miller indicate great leaders serve in at least five ways:

  • See and shape the future:  The leader is responsible for vision.
  • Engage and develop others:  The leader is responsible to develop those around him or her.
  • Reinvent continuously:  Life doesn’t idle, a true leader understands the need for change
  • Value results and relationships:  You need to be able to exercise both in order to lead
  • Embody the values:  If you say one thing and do another, you’re not leading.*

Just think about those qualities.  They’re all higher focused and bigger picture than most alleged leaders concentrate on.  I’d go as far as to say these five actions are the difference between leadership and management.

*This is the leadership principle that causes the most “leadership” failures.  Or, you can think of it as the number one thing that holds people back from growing from managing to leading.  There seems to be an inverse principle where the higher you get on the organizational food chain, the more you think you can fool people.  But people are never as unaware or stupid as we may think.  They hear you, but they also see you and your actions.

Frost Advisory #318 – We Made Each Other Better

I was recently reunited with some guys that I worked with more than 30 years ago at a very special station in each of our careers.  One of the reasons it was special was that we set a record for highest ratings for an FM station in that market up to that time.  Double digit stuff, don’tchaknow!

As I try to gain perspective on that time in my on-air career I realize that a very simple but illusive idea contributed to our success.

We made each other better.

The GM had a close relationship with the staff, the PD poured himself into developing the talent and executing fundamentals, and the talent held each other accountable.  None of us wanted to be considered to be the weakest link, but each was suspicious he might be.  This was particularly true for me, the youngest and newest member of the team.

“The people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards.  They either help us to become the best version of ourselves or encourage us to become lesser versions of ourselves.  We become like our friends…  The people around help to make us great.

We all need people in our lives who raise our standards, remind us of our essential purpose, and challenge us to become the best version of ourselves.”
~Seth Godin

So, how does this play out at your station?

  • Do you hear the station playing in the hallways, or does it feel more like a lawyer’s office?  (This is a more significant indicator than you might think, because it is a direct reflection of passion for the product!)
  • Do your people go about their work in silos, where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing; or do they interact openly as teammates?
  • Is your team willing to speak truth to leadership, or do they have to hold their tongue for fear of repercussion or ridicule?

I hope that someday, maybe even 30 years from now, you’ll look back on the those you’re working with now and be able to say they were people who made you better.


This Frost Advisory is dedicated to Tim, Ed, Bob, Kevin, and Casey: teammates that made me better.

Tommy Kramer Tip #162 – The Two Rules about ONE

In the last tip, I talked about Repetition and Redundancy, two things that can wreck a show.

(It also hurts Imaging and commercials, by the way. Imaging doesn’t need to say “Magic 102.9/102.9” with that second time repeated or slightly overlapped.  Ugh.  And I’m sure we’ve all wanted to unload a double-barreled shotgun at the TV when we heard a phone number given for the thirteenth time in one of those “Call right now!” spots.)

Anyway, the last tip ended with this:

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.

Now let’s add two more rules to that:

  1. Make ONE point.
  2. Give ONE example.

When you do more, it’s tedious, and makes breaks SOUND longer than they actually are.  And remember, trying to be thorough is the enemy of editing.

There’s a LOT more to this… but as John Lennon said when a reporter shouted out “Sing something for us!” during the Beatles’ first U. S. press conference, “We have to have money first.”

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

Living In The Bubble

“I prefer to live in my own little bubble of my own reality.”
~Lauren Lee Smith

Grand Ole Opry Resort

I’m sitting on the balcony of my room at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, catching up on some work. The weather is beautiful, but then again it’s always beautiful because of the glass dome covering the entire hotel.  It’s sunny outside now, but it could become cloudy or even rain and I wouldn’t know it.  While I’m here I’m living in a bubble where everything is always perfect.

It’s the same way we want to think about radio. We’re living in a bubble where radio will always be as strong as it is, disruption will hit everything else but leave radio alone, and Millennials will soon grow up and become responsible…and then start listening more to radio.  The primary purpose of social media is to support radio, and streaming is only meant for the station signal.

Baby boomers will never grow old and retire or die, and will have more than enough money to donate, even when they are on social security. Millennials will suddenly be inspired to write a monthly check to support nonprofit radio stations.

Well, the problem with being in a bubble is that you wind up leaving it sooner or later.  I’ll get on an airplane, fly back to California, and be deposited in another world without the bubble.  There will be sunshine, but there will also be storms and rain.  There will be fires in the surrounding counties and the same people will be waiting for San Francisco to slide into the bay so they’ll have beachfront property.

Radio will continue with an extraordinarily strong reach, but clear trending down in time spent listening. Millennials will continue to contribute up to 18 hours a day to media, but the majority to Social Media that isn’t in support of radio.  Cars will continue to have dashboards that evolve in such a way to cause it harder to find the radio.  Radio IS being disrupted and will continue to be.

This isn’t a downer, unless you want to continue to convince yourself you live in a bubble that doesn’t exist. This is a call to a new reality that we need to address and strategize about.  Our efforts have to cover a spectrum of media, and be based in engagement, community and relationship.

Frost Advisory #317 – The Only Place People Talk About Their Seat Assignment is at the Airport

The thing that radio has the potential to do so well is the very thing we do so poorly.  Right here.  Right now.


In the aftermath of the Dallas tragedy I heard several radio stations in Texas capture that immediate intimacy.

Jeff and Rebecca at KCBI in Dallas shared their grief about the events that happened literally four blocks from their studios.  I have stood in their studio and looked west out the very window that was their vantage point to a stunned city.

The remarkable Frank Reed at KLTY shared song lyrics that gave fresh context to the hope in the music we play.

The talented duos of Steve and Amy at Spirit 105.9 in Austin, and Carder and Rachelle at KSBJ in Houston opened their hearts and gave their listeners a way to be a good neighbor, the audio equivalent of carrying down a casserole and flowers across the street for a someone in need.

My talented friend Sterling Tarrant created a mosaic in sound of listeners and leaders, pastors and police with the lyrical epiphany, “When I look into the face of my enemy I see my brother.”

Immediate intimacy.

So, what’s my point?


It is admirable for our format to step to the plate in times of need.  Often remarkable, as cited above.  But we have the opportunity to have this kind of immediate intimacy every day, not just in reaction to a horrific event.

Too often we default to the routine ‘partly cloudy and 75’ stuff I saw on Facebook or something that sounds like a boring homework assignment with instructions to go to the station’s website.

The more immediate, the more intimate.

Your listener cares about…

…that ten mile back up on I-4 when she’s five miles into it and late for a big meeting…

…that hail storm coming in from the west when he’s trying to get home to put the cars in the garage…

…the rainout of the baseball game when the son has his hopes up and it’s his last season to play…

…their seat assignment, but only when boarding the plane.

The more immediate it is, the more intimate it becomes, because the more it matters.  Right here.  Right now.

If what you’re talking about is relevant, then it is just four blocks away… to somebody.

Maybe we should always sound like it.