Tommy Kramer Tip #199 – Too “Up” Isn’t Real

I’ve been working with a morning show recently that only has one “gear.”  The male partner is “Ron Radio,” talking to the listener like she’s 20 feet away (when, in reality, the listener is just a couple of feet away, in the car).  The female partner, who’s new to radio, has what I guess a lot of people would call a “bubbly” personality.  And, of course, she’s unnaturally loud, too – following his lead.

The problem here is that their too loud, “way too up” approach doesn’t quite sound real.  And if you’re ALWAYS “up,” then when something really bad happens that you need to comment on – another school or mall shooting, or God forbid, another plane flies into a building – chances are good that it’s going to sound either sort of bi-polar, or insincere.

I cringe when I hear a PD tell a talent to “have more energy” or to “smile” when they talk.  This inevitably results in an almost “terminally giddy” sound, and you’ve got nowhere to GO from there.

You need lots of vocal and emotional “gears” so you can make smooth, believable transitions between different types of subject matter.  The minute I hear someone who’s too loud or too “up,” we start working IMMEDIATELY on fleshing out vocal approaches that convey all sorts of different emotions.  We already have too many “announcers,” and at least one too many Kathy Lee Giffords.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Frost Advisory #354 – A Programming Lesson From Turner Classic Movies

Robert Osborne passed away last month.  One could say he was just a senior citizen who did nothing more than fill the time between old black and white movies.  They would be wrong.

“It’s always the personality between the content that makes the experience of the brand larger than its parts.  True in radio.  True on Turner Classic Movies: TCM”
~Mark Ramsey

The upcoming annual TCM Classic Film Festival in Los Angeles is dedicated to him.  Proof of the power of personality.  Proof of the power of an experience.

“I get stopped on the street all the time,” he said in an interview with The New York Times in 2014.  “People say: ‘You got me through cancer last year.  You got me past unemployment.  You take me away from my troubles.’  Exactly what movies did in the ’30s and ’40s.”

“Mr. Osborne appealed as much to moviemakers as he did to moviegoers… He got us excited and reawakened to the greatest stories ever told with the most charismatic stars in the world.”
~Stephen Spielberg

You have a choice.  Your radio station can be nothing more than generic liners and promos delivered by passionless deejays, or it could be what Mr. Spielberg infers, a compelling design of interesting people sharing a passion for the things your listeners love.

“A concert isn’t merely about the music, is it?  And a restaurant isn’t about the food.  It’s about joy and connection and excitement.”
~Seth Godin

At TCM Bob Osborne was about what their fans were passionate about.  The personalities on your radio station should be, too.

Tommy Kramer Tip #198 – What Team Shows Can Learn from “Curb Your Enthusiasm”

This tip is team show-centric, but it actually applies to everyone on the air.

What Team Shows can Learn from “Curb Your Enthusiasm”:

In every great show, there’s a thin wire to walk between being spontaneous, but still being aware of how it “plays” to the ear.  Larry David’s HBO comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm” is a great example of how ensemble shows should work.

Everyone in that cast knows what the circumstance (the scene) is, but it’s not scripted.  They may not even have a concrete idea of exactly how the scene will end, but what made that show so successful, to me, is that they’re sensitive to those “don’t try to do more” moments.  That’s how you get that perfect form of being Consistent, but NOT being Predictable.

“Curb” is something every team show could study, learn from, and get better as a result.  You might want to re-watch a few episodes.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Frost Advisory #353 – A Programming Lesson Learned From… “This Is Us”

“Why can’t there be a TV show that the whole family can sit down and enjoy together?”

Melissa Gilbert, who you know as Half-pint on “Little House on the Prairie,” responds to that question on NBC’s 90th anniversary special by saying, “Have you watched ‘This Is Us’?”

“I didn’t watch the show when it first came on air… but I kept hearing about it,” said the note from my talented friend Sara Carnes of The Fish in Cleveland.

“I heard ladies at work talking in the bathroom about what happened the night before, I saw screen shots on Snapchat from my friends talking it, Facebook posts, etc… people (mostly women) just raving about how incredible this show was they were watching.  Finally, after a few months I told me husband…  Ok, everyone is talking about how awesome this show is we gotta watch it.  Well… we sat down and watched one episode and couldn’t stop.”

Methinks there is a programming lesson for us here.

About Us

“Recognizable and relatable characters.”  [Your listeners should be able to relate to your on-air talent.  Not just passively consume, but relate.  What if “Me, too!,” was the listener’s reaction to every break?]

“Hope is a good thing… No matter how often these characters get rocked or how dark some of the story turns are, there’s still that strong element of hope that’s an essential part of this show’s DNA – a reassuring sense of inextinguishable optimism during difficult times.”

“United we watch: …At a time when the country feels divided, this feels like the type of network show of yore that we watched together.
~”10 Reasons Why ‘This Is Us’ Has Emerged as a Hit for NBC,” by Mark Dawidziak, The Plain Dealer

“Wow, every single one of these reasons relates to us in what we do at the station too.  This is how we win,” Sara says.

“This is us!” could be what your listeners say about your station!

Tommy Kramer Tip #197 – Quips, Comments, and Stories

The primary ingredients of any really good talent in a music format are Quips, Comments, and Stories.  A little more about each…

A quip:  My morning show partner years ago in Dallas, Rick “the Beamer” Robertson once came out of “Billie Jean” with “Well, what can you say about Michael Jackson… that hasn’t been operated on.”  (I don’t even know that this made sense, but it was just plain funny.)

A comment: a remark about something that may or may not be funny, but it is YOURS.  Comments can’t be in every single thing that you do, but there should be a healthy dose of them in each show.  Friendships are formed through the exchange of opinions.  If you don’t HAVE any, we can’t be friends.

A story:  I think of stories as “little plays” about “adventures” we have.  Note:  Please avoid the “Christmas newsletter” mentality.  Make sure that the listener CARES about the subject, or you’re just a car going as fast as it can toward an oak tree.

These three things, along with the more “plain vanilla” Content – promoting things, sponsor liners, whatever – are pretty much all you’re going to do, and they should be balanced.  And remember, there’s an art to making “plain vanilla” stuff stand out and be different from the last time you talked about it.

If you know what arrows you have in your quiver, you won’t waste your time trying to use something else.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

Want To Be An Ace?

“Explicit disagreement is better than implicit understanding.”
~Douglas Stone, “Thanks  For The Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well

I have so many books on my reading list that it’s almost overwhelming.  So I love it when we can bring someone into EMF to talk to us.  A recent person was Elaine Lin, an amazingly brilliant woman to talk about the book, “Thanks  For The Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well.”  Too long to encapsulate here, it’s a book about giving, and as important, receiving feedback.

A part of the presentation was about being an ACE.  Which means three kinds of the feedback you can give: appreciation, coaching, and evaluating.

Appreciation is showing that your teammate knows you notice them and that they matter.  Coaching is helping them improve, and Evaluation lets them know where they stand.

Two things struck me about this idea.

First, that we’re not exactly rock stars when it comes to appreciation.  Letting people know you notice and value them on an ongoing basis.  Mostly we’re so busy we forget, but also because we’re not intentional about giving appreciation.

Second is that the authors separate coaching and evaluation.  Typically I’ve seen them as linked.  “Here’s how you’re doing and here’s how to fix it.”  But it makes more sense to unlink them so they’re two different parts of the employee discussion.  I think it’s better to help them get better at one point, and then evaluate them at another.  Focus is always a good thing.  I know that I’d be more open if they were separated for me in my performance conversations.

Elaine’s presentation moved the book up my priority list, and I expect it to help me both give and receive performance feedback.

Frost Advisory #352 – There’s No Time Like The Present

It’s the simplest idea.  But it is an idea missing from every bad radio station.


No one reads yesterday’s news.  No one watches yesterday’s game.  No one talks about yesterday’s plans.  (Even when we talk about what happened yesterday we talk about it from the 24 hours later perspective of today).

New President today

But here’s the catch;  TODAY has to be designed in.  TODAY doesn’t happen by accident.  In fact, the generic – any time, any place – is precisely what happens by accident.

My talented friend Keith Stevens of KTIS recently said to me, “I can’t track today.  The sun is out!”  That perspective comes from Keith’s understanding of TODAY… that when the sun comes out during a frigid Minnesota winter it changes how people feel, and he wants his station to reflect that.

Today creates common ground.  It is the neighborhood that allows us to be neighbors.

Tommy Kramer Tip #196 – A Deeper Dive into Camera Angles

One of the two of three most game-changing tips I’ve coached over the years is “camera angles.”  It grew out of film classes in college, and a lifelong love of great movies, directors, and actors.  In short, it’s about the perspectives you gain – like the Director of a movie decides – from a different point of view.

But, as with everything that’s artistic at its core, there are layers and colors inside that technique.

So here’s another way to look at it that may help you:  It’s not just where you put the camera.  It’s about what you SEE when you put yourself in someone else’s shoes.  It’s Emotional, rather than just technical.

It’s not a fact-finding mission.  It’s a way to see inside something from a perspective that can tell a different story.

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Tommy Kramer
Talent Coach
214-632-3090 (iPhone)
Member, Texas Radio Hall of Fame
© 2017 by Tommy Kramer. All rights reserved.

It’s All About The Story

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

On the CBS TV show, “Sunday Morning,” recently there was a “short,” on one of those films shown before a movie, usually a kids movie.  This one is called Piper, and you may have seen it just before the movie, “Finding Dory.”

So what’s the big deal?  Besides the Academy award it won?

First, this short, entertaining movie from Pixar, is a great example of the paramount value of a story.  The technology was great, but without the story, the technology would be useless.  Sometimes we’re so excited about the technology we use in radio that we put the story second.  The fact we can use or create the technology takes over our imagination.  Not the story.

The second thing that got my attention was the credits.  I couldn’t believe the team, and I suspect teamwork, that went into those 6.5 minutes.

Technology is a sexy distribution, but only a distribution channel.  Don’t be seduced by the “cool” that you forget the story.

See Piper yourself.

Frost Advisory #351 – A Programming Lesson From Donald Trump (A Never-ending Series)

So, there he was on national TV.  A man who has been described by some as impulsive, combative, and egocentric.

But there he was.  And Tuesday night he had millions of us in tears.

“Trump became president of the United States in that moment.  Period.”
~CNN contributor Van Jones

“The most stirring moment of Trump’s speech – and his presidency – came when he spoke directly to Carryn Owens, the widow of Navy Chief William ‘Ryan’ Owens, who was killed in the military raid in Yemen that Trump ordered shortly after taking office.

“Trump led a 2-minute, 11-second standing ovation as Carryn Owens stood, crying and clasping her hands.”

So… what can we radio folks learn from this?

In your news they are not “consumers,” “taxpayers,” or “citizens,” they are real people who spend real money on real stuff.  And sometimes they are just scraping by.

In your traffic reports they are not “motorists,” they are real people who have real jobs and have to get to work and school on time.  And sometimes they are late.

In your promos they are not “contestants,” they are real people whose lives might be made just be a little bit better because they relate to your station.  But sometimes the line is busy.

Here’s the big idea:

Beginning tomorrow exorcise all generic references to real people.

Instead, go tell the important story…

Focus on the one, not the many.”
~Mother Theresa