Tommy Kramer Tip #208 – The Most Important Ingredient in Putting More Callers on the Air

Note: This tip is written specifically for music stations.  But the “quality control” goal should be in every Talk show, too.

It’s not a “bad” idea per se to supplement the Content that you create with a phone call or two from listeners.  But it’s not an automatic “must have” ingredient, either.  And it can become a “crutch” pretty easily.

Here’s the most important ingredient in putting them on the air:

NO “B” or “C”-level calls allowed.  None.  Only “A”-level callers with something that actually contributes a thought that moves the subject forward, gives it a different slant, or provides some sort of “resolution” should make it onto the air.  The minute you accept less, you dive head first into the generic “topics and phone calls” pool that already has too many people in it.

I’ve done and coached shows that hardly ever ran calls, and I’ve done and coached shows that were – at times – very phone call intensive.  But the “A”-level rule always applies.  Great radio is made up of COMPELLING moments.  If a call doesn’t provide that, it doesn’t deserve being aired.

This leads back to something I say a lot:  Do a SHOW.  It may seem counter-intuitive, but when you don’t NEED calls, that’s when you not only get more of them, but you get better ones, too.

Getting great phone callers isn’t an accident.  It’s a plan.  In a future tip, I’ll give you another peek into how that works.

Frost Advisory #363 – How Will Your Station Be Remembered?

Memorial Day is often considered the official kick off to summer.  But more importantly it is a time set aside to remember those who gave their lives for our country.

Perhaps this time of remembrance is a good time for us to reflect on how we’d like our stations remembered.

We get a glimpse of this each year as we compile the Station of the Year entry.  It forces us to stop our day-to-day busyness and ponder the most important things our station has accomplished in the preceding twelve months.

When people talk about your radio station do they speak of the 25 minute music sweeps with fewer commercials, or do they talk about how you help people help people?

Do they talk about how Jack and Jill tell the joke of the day every morning at 6:45, or that your station loves on moms and dads for the most important commitment they’ll ever make – raising good kids?

Now don’t take this the wrong way, there is nothing wrong with fun and games on the radio.  In fact, playtime is how many friendships are formed, and all great stations must be entertaining.

But the things you do today are the foundation of how your station will be remembered tomorrow.

“If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers… The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back.  Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.

But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to be meaningful.  The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either.”
~Donald Miller

Memorial Day flags

Tommy Kramer Tip #207 – The Difference Between an Aircheck Session and a Coaching Session

In the last tip, I spoke about a magic key to getting to the top level as a talent – the ability to edit yourself even as you’re speaking.

What I purposely didn’t say is that in over 20 years of coaching somewhere around 1700 air talents, I’ve never seen anyone who was just “born” with this.  It always requires coaching or mentoring in some form.

So let’s deal with the elephant in the room: most air talents detest going into an aircheck session with the PD. Period.
And that’s because there’s a big difference between “critique” and “coaching.”

There is no such thing as “constructive criticism.”  That’s just criticism.

Unlike an aircheck session, which seems to always be about finding something wrong, coaching is about three main things:

  1. Shoring up weaknesses and losing bad habits.  (The Fundamentals.)
  2. Finding what each talent’s biggest strengths are.  (They may not know.)
  3. Gradually stripping AWAY the things a talent doesn’t do well, so that eventually, ALL YOU DO IS WHAT YOU’RE REALLY GOOD AT.

You want to be Michael Jordan playing basketball, not Michael Jordan playing baseball.  A good coach would have told him to stick with what he did best and add a couple more years to his legacy, instead of becoming just a source of amusement playing a game he wasn’t good at.

The Other Side Of Leadership 

The bad leaders are the ones that push hard so they can gain, who brow beat us so that they can receive the benefit of our hard work, not so we can enjoy the success.
~Simon Sinek

I don’t usually express the negative, but one of the ways we learn how to be good leaders is knowing what not to do.  That’s why the following article from Fast Company got my attention.  I know I’m imperfect, so I’m always looking to improve.

Read & Enjoy:

The old adage is often true:  We don’t quit jobs, we quit bosses.  Besides hurting your mental well-being and productivity, working for a bad boss can severely impact your health.  Researchers from Harvard Business School and Stanford University found that the stress bad bosses cause can be as damaging as secondhand smoke.  And those bad bosses may also be making you sad, lazy, and fat.

Of course, many of us don’t have the financial or logistical freedom to just quit a job without a new one lined up if we get stuck with a bad boss.  So what is one to do?  You can, of course, learn to deal with the bad boss as best you can.  However, as with most maladies, the best medicine is prevention.  If you can learn to identify the warning signs of a bad boss during the interview stage, you can avoid that job and its potentially toxic work environment altogether.  Here are the biggest red flags to look out for, according to a recruiter and management professional we spoke to.


“Even with my experience of interviewing, I’ve sometimes slipped up on what looked like a well-planned schedule at the start of a day blocked out for interviews and ended up running over and being late for the next interviewee,” says Sarah Dowzell, the COO at Natural HR. “Unexpected events can happen to the most organized of people, but how they react will tell you a lot about the person.”

This is often the most easily discernible red flag, says Dowzell. “Acknowledging and apologizing for being late to the interviewee is basic manners, and if the hiring manager doesn’t do this, what does it tell you about how they treat people?”

That’s something with which Richard Hanwell, associate director at The Sterling Choice, a recruitment agency for global professionals, agrees:

Manners cost nothing.  If an interviewing manager is checking their phone for emails or is taking phone calls, then they are unlikely to give the appropriate time in your prospective role if they can’t even do it when they are meeting you for the first time and should be looking to make a good impression.  No matter how senior a manager is, they should respect the importance of recruitment and turn all technology off in order to make an engaging impression.


“These are the hiring managers who are more interested in talking about themselves than interviewing you,” says Dowzell.  She points out that it’s easy to spot a boss with an inflated ego:  If you ask them any questions about the team you’ll potentially be joining, their answers will often focus on them and their personal achievements rather than the wider team.

“The best example of the inflated ego I’ve come across was a candidate being told by the hiring manager that he’d looked at his LinkedIn profile, and then he asked why this wasn’t reciprocated,” says Dowzell.  “This person does not only have an inflated ego, but they’re also needy.  Who wants to work for a needy boss?”


The best bosses are team players who realize the contribution and value of every single person in the group.  But as many of us know, there are plenty of bad bosses who believe that successes are theirs alone, and failures are due to their subordinates.  But how can you tell which camp your prospective boss falls into when meeting them for the first time?  Hanwell says to pay attention to how they use pronouns in the context of the conversation.

“If your interviewer uses the term ‘you’ in communicating negative information – such as, ‘You will deal with a lot of ambiguity’ – don’t expect the boss to be a mentor,” he says.  “If the boss chooses the word ‘I’ to describe the department’s success, that’s a red flag.  If the interviewer says ‘we’ in regards to a particular challenge the team or company faced, it may indicate that he or she deflects responsibility and places blame.”


One of the worst red flags to keep an eye out for is whether the prospective boss asks you any questions that may potentially violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, or the Americans with Disabilities Act.  “All of the legislations listed are designed to prevent discrimination in the workplace and mean that hiring managers should not be asking questions such as ‘Do you have children, or plan to have children?'” says Dowzell.

She points out that despite legislation, 75% of senior women in tech have been asked about family life, marital status, and children during interviews.  “Arguably, a hiring manager asking such questions hasn’t been sufficiently trained, but if they’re displaying unethical behavior at this stage, what does it tell you about how this manager operates?” she says.


Dowzell says that there are still plenty of bosses and companies that see their employees as little more than servants.  To demonstrate this point, she tells me about the experience of one of the first people she hired for her company.  Before interviewing at Natural HR, James had interviewed at a nearby larger business that had bigger budgets.

“James told me that after a great interview with a nearby company, he was introduced to a director who just happened to be passing as he was leaving the building, and all he said to James was, ‘First thing you need to know about working here, James: milk and two sugars!'” says Dowzell.  “That was enough to tell James all he needed to know about what his life would be like working for this company.”


Hanwell says the final red flag to keep an eye out for is whether or not you sense enthusiasm and passion from the prospective boss while they are interviewing you.  “Measure this by paying attention to your feelings,” he says. “You should feel a sense of excitement when you consider working for them.  But if you feel like the boss hates his or her job and doesn’t care, leave immediately.  Chances are, the office is full of disengaged employees who are plagued by low morale.”


Michael Grothaus is a novelist, freelance journalist, and former screenwriter represented worldwide by The Hanbury Literary Agency.  His debut novel EPIPHANY JONES is out now from Orenda Books.

Frost Advisory #362 – The Power Of Simplicity

This may be the simplest Frost Advisory you’ve ever read.  But simplest doesn’t mean easiest.

I’ve learned that every bad radio station has three things in common:

  1. They take too long to do stuff
  2. The stuff they do isn’t very interesting or meaningful
  3. They take too long to do stuff

I reckon’ you see this played out in your radio station every day.

That meeting you just went to will inevitably result in doing more stuff.

That music meeting?  You’ll play more stuff.

That promotions meetings?  Well, you get the idea.

Our systems are set up to habitually add more stuff, but we seldom talk about taking stuff away. Like barnacles on a ship our radio station begins to slow to a one share. (That’s fewer people hearing our stuff that takes too long).

“Google, Amazon, and Apple are among the strongest brands of the last decade…  Their brand success can be directly tied to simplicity -to making life simpler for their users, that is.  They also adhere to simplicity rules to define their brand experiences.”
~Fast Company

Here’s a simple idea:

Make everything 10% shorter.

Make all talk breaks 10% shorter.  Make all promos, all liners, all promotions, all newscasts, all traffic reports 10% shorter.

Then mark on your calendar a date six months from now to do it again, because those dastardly barnacles will be back and everything will be 10% longer without anyone noticing.  Except your listeners.

Note: my last paragraph was deleted to make this Frost Advisory 10% shorter.

Tommy Kramer Tip #206 – A Sure Sign That You’re Doing It Right

There’s this dual process that goes on in every great talent’s head…

Part 1 is being right here, right in THIS MOMENT, as it pertains to Performing.

Part 2 is being right here, right in this moment, as it pertains to EDITING – “How would I edit this?  Is this the right place to get out?”

That part – the part of you that, even as you’re doing the break, is weighing and measuring “how much is too much?” – is the sense you want to develop.

You can always tell when something really worked on the air:  it doesn’t need any editing to make a promo out of it.

THAT’S when you know you’ve struck gold.

Frost Advisory #361 – All I Really Need To Know About Programming I Learned From Mom

This Mother’s Day, perhaps we can apply some lessons we’ve learned from Mom to how we program our radio stations.

Maybe Mom would have us…

Just play the music your listeners love.  Don’t play music they don’t love.

Talk to your listeners like a friend, not like a stranger.

Act like you enjoy being with your listeners.  Maybe then they’ll enjoy being with you.

Give your listeners presents and throw a party for them and have them invite all their friends.  They’ll feel special.

If you have to tell you listeners bad news, hold their hand, and tell them how sorry you are.

If you should take your listeners somewhere they’ve never been, surround them with familiar things to make them feel safe.  And don’t leave them alone.

Don’t waste your listeners’ time with things they don’t enjoy.  Get to the point, make the interruptions brief, and quickly return to the main reason they listen.

Flush.  Be vigilant about getting the bad stuff off your radio station and replacing it with good stuff.

I can’t think of anyone who loved my mother that I don’t also love.  Love what is important to your listeners.

(Inspired by the poem “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum)

Tommy Kramer Tip #205 – Make Your Other Audio Sources Worth My Time

We hear about them hundreds of times a month:

Online streaming.
Radio station smartphone apps.

Let’s take a look at these, one at a time…

Have you ever LISTENED to your online streaming?  Often, it’s just awful.  And often, it’s okay quality, but crashes and goes to dead air after a few minutes.  And you can’t expect one of the multi-station streaming sites to care about your audio like you do… or like you should.

Make sure your phone app works.  TEST it.  You’d be surprised at how many don’t work well at all.  An app that fails, then requires a reset, gets ONE more try – maybe.  Then I never try it again; you had your chance.

Podcasts:  Check your audio.  “It’s only a podcast” doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t deliver a truly quality product.  People EXPECT it.

Before you plug your online streaming, your phone app, or your podcast again on the air, make sure that it works effortlessly and consistently.  If I go to it and it’s subpar, your credibility in even PROMOTING it is gone.

Frost Advisory #360 – Focus On What You Love

It’s a curious thing.

We work in a format that is inherently significant.  And yet we seem to strive to make it superficial.

Instead of being about the most important things in one’s life, we make it about songs I don’t know by artists I’ve never heard of.  We seem to brush by what our listeners already care about to focus on something they don’t care about.

Perhaps we can learn something from the richest company in the world.

Apple’s brilliant new campaign “Focus on what you love” uses Beliefs and Values to communicate a simple feature of the iPhone 7.

Apple gets it.

Start here.  Focus on what your listeners love.

Tommy Kramer Tip #204 – It’s Still Only About 3 Things

These past few weeks, I’ve tried to do “reset” tips – things that will get you grounded in “the firmament” of what it’s going to take in terms of technique and overall Strategy in order to fight off the inevitable technology and lifestyle changes that will challenge radio in both the present and the near future.

AM radios are already disappearing from cars.  But in a couple of years, ALL radio may be gone, replace by apps on a screen where the radio used to be.

So remember this – it’s still only about three things:

  1. Weigh in on what’s already on the listener’s mind, or…
  2. Bring to the listener’s attention something that he/she needs to know about, but may not have heard yet.  And…
  3. Do it in STYLE.  YOUR style; not anyone else’s.

If you trim your focus down to these primary goals, you really can’t go wrong.  You’ll always be relevant, and you’ll be unique.