Tommy Kramer Tip #212 – How It Starts

Probably the most difficult thing for air talent to latch onto is how something starts. Many breaks are dead in the water before the second sentence is uttered.

I teach several core techniques to master really compelling beginnings. Here are 3 of them:

  1. Don’t talk about yourself the first thing out of your mouth.  Constantly leaning on “I – me – my” beginnings sounds self-absorbed, to say the least.
  2. Don’t ask a Question – especially a rhetorical question.  As George Carlin said, “Why do people ask rhetorical questions?  And do they expect an answer?”  The answer to any question, if you could hear it, is almost always “No.”  Questions sound weak and disingenuous.  Make Statements to make Impact.
  3. Don’t be too abrupt.  Way too often, I hear someone just launch into a subject for apparently no reason, just plopping it down like somebody walking up to your desk and dropping a squid on it.  While that first thing you say CAN be thought of as a “headline” (which is what a lot of people are taught), remember that it should be a “spoken word” headline, not a “print” headline.  We want it to be concise, but it also has to sound like something you’d actually say to a friend, not a quote from an article or book.

Like peeling away the layers of an onion, there are many more techniques to learn, but with just those 3 goals in mind, you can separate yourself from all the babbling across the rest of the media choices.

It’s always about ENGAGING the LISTENER.

When The Other Person Is Always Wrong

“Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation.”
~Michael Jordan

The official meaning of the term “wrongspotting” is zeroing in on the part of the feedback we get during performance conversations that we consider factually wrong, then fixating on it.  That happens a lot.   People aren’t prepared to hear something that doesn’t fit in their self-perception and using that something to negate all of the feedback.  It happens all the time.

There’s even a word for it:  Confirmation Bias – Tending to see your perspective, and defending your ideas, as a reason not to believe anything else.  Even though it’s apparent to others.

Frost Advisory #367 – Your Listeners’ Unspoken Question

There is a neighborhood in my town where the billboard messages have a similar theme, seemingly choreographed as I drive past them on the six lane highway.

“Dan (the lawyer) got me $800,000!”

“My ticket clinic got my case dismissed”

“Divorce for Men”

“Pawn shop!  Get money instantly!”

“Car accident? You could be eligible to get $10,000!”

Each billboard seems to be tapping into the unspoken question, “How can I get what’s coming to me?”

“…anticipate and answer your customer’s unspoken questions.  Don’t blather on about the things you wish they cared about – even if those are the things the customer really ought to care about – until you’ve first answered the question that’s on their mind.”
~Roy Williams

Too many radio stations seem to be answering questions no one is asking.

Tommy Kramer Tip #211 – Seinfeld’s Three Rules of Living

There’s an HBO Special called “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast.”  It’s about people 90 years of age or more that are still vibrant and productive, featuring Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, TV Producer Norman Lear, and many others – and, with occasional comments, Jerry Seinfeld.

At one point late in the special, Jerry lays out his “3 Rules of Living.”  They are:

  1. Bust your ass.  Whatever you do, work as hard as you can.  Give it everything you’ve got.
  2. Pay attention.  Notice the things around you all the time.  Appreciate them all the time.
  3. Fall in love.  Not just romantic love.  Love your parking space.  Love your sandwich.  Seinfeld tells about having breakfast with George Burns once, and Burns said “This may be the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had in my life.”  In his mid-nineties, Burns still had the desire to see something worth relishing every day.

Now ask yourself these questions:

Do you work hard every day?  In this era of the computer running everything (usually pretty sloppily), it’s easy to get lazy.  Do you just pluck items off some prep sheet to quack about instead of getting out and discovering things that your listener is talking about?

Do you rely on callers to “do the show for you?”  (Someone said that to me at a convention one year. I wanted to scream.)  The “topics and phone calls” thing can wear really thin really fast, and dominates way too much radio time that could be spent on something more immediate and impactful.  You could… what do they call it?… oh yeah, you could DO a SHOW.

Do you pay attention to what’s around you?  In my on-air days, I often drove into work using a different route, or just turning a block or two sooner or later than normal, so I could see stuff like which store was opening (or closing), what kind of roadwork was starting (and when), etc.

Are you in love with your job?  Do you have a real appreciation for the listener’s time?  I hear a lot of shows that virtually dismiss the precious ‘one on one’ connection all the time, by talking to “listeners” or “those of you” or even worse, “all the people listening out there.”  Do you still, in 2017, not realize that people have LOTS of other options?  If you don’t care about what you’re doing, why should they?

There’s a reason that Seinfeld is definitely on the Mount Rushmore of Comedians – and it’s not just that he can think up jokes.  Adopt his “3 Rules” and you’ll have a better career and a better life.

Managing Like A Dog

“The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too.”
~Samuel Butler

Our 15-year-old Westie follows us around everywhere we go.  He seems to always be at our heels.  That’s why following someone around is called “dogging” them.

But our Westie has another interesting habit: he tries to anticipate where we’re heading.  He moves around us, and then, of course, is in the way and stops us.  Poor guy, it’s almost like he’s read some books about poor management and is trying to express it.

It comes up in management because micro-managing is a workplace version of dogging.  If you’re always on the heels of your people, watching everything they do, questioning everything that happens, and trying to tell them what to do, you’re dogging them.  Worse yet, if you try to play the leader using the “dogging” management technique, you’re bound to trip them up too.  It’s hardly leadership, let alone a good form of management.

Then there’s the second cousin of dogging, hounding.  That involves asking so many questions or “following up” so much it drives people crazy.  Of course, there are lots of other comparisons, like having to pee on the fire hydrant to mark it.

But then, people are smarter, right?

Frost Advisory #366 – With A Little Help From My Friends

If you saw last week’s show you know that I attempted to connect Frost Advisory #365 to the 365-days-in-the-year’s worth of nuggets to help your station be more successful.   #366, then, is sort of the equivalent of leap year day, that little extra to keep the earth from falling out of its proper orbit.

Last week I also shared that my friends David Sams and Joe Battaglia have convinced me that these musings are worthy of being compiled into a little book like the kind you see handed out at airports and flea markets.  “365 ways to make your station really swell” is one of the working titles.

So, with a New York Times best seller in my future I’ve asked several of my colleagues to share how the first 365 have been helpful to their stations.  Plus, I told them if they said something nifty they might be included in my book!

A president of a major Christian network and industry legend 

“What does it mean to be in leadership?  One idea is that our job is that of Architect, not construction… Architects envision, plan an design.  Construction people are more concerned how to make the Architect’s design happen.

Are you an architect, giving your idea of what needs to happen and leaving the execution to the construction crew, are are you concentrating on both?

If both, well, let’s go watch Peter Pan together, where we’ll always be children…

(Frost Advisories) can help us understand that by accepting a leadership position, you’ve chosen to leave the life of a construction crew, and embrace the role of being an architect.”
~Alan Mason

Where radio meets academics

“As a longtime radio guy, and now a professor teaching young people the ins and outs of the communication world, I understand the value of learning and hearing different point of view… (Frost Advisories) help me focus on the important, not just the urgent and frequently unimportant, to see things with new eyes.”
~Michael Agee

A major market programmer of one of the few CCM stations to ever reach #1 6+ with one million listeners

“The Frost advisories give me the 35,000 foot view of my radio station I can’t get on my own.  They constantly challenge me to look at my radio station with a fresh set of eyes to make it better every day!”
~Mike Blakemore, The Fish Atlanta

A radio exec with a church planting background

“As a guy who came into radio from another industry, plus working in a medium sized market, plus handling all the stuff that gets thrown your was as a GM, the Frost Advisory is a 30 second reset each week that pushes me to think big picture, what really matters, and to think about RADIO, not just the ‘business.'”
~Brian Yeager, KTSY Boise, Idaho

Architect of the largest Christian radio network and Christian radio icon

“Many people think it is all about music rotations, marketing and branding. (Frost Advisories) have been teaching us for years, it’s all about the tribe.”
~Dick Jenkins

A radio Hall of Fame member, talent coach, and really good golfer

(Frost Advisories) “see past the mundane and view the brilliance in the everyday and the power to pass that learning on to those who listen.  When you’re no longer learning, you’re dead.  So while you’re still alive, read John’s book.”
~Tommy Kramer

Next week we’ll return to our regular programming.  In the meantime I welcome your ideas!

Tommy Kramer Tip #210 – More On The Caller Culture: Asking For Help

As we continue to talk about establishing a stronger, “A-level only” caller culture, let’s dive deeper into what prompts that great caller to weigh in.

“Topics and Phone Calls” has become such a boring cliché because (1) you hear it everywhere, with the same people from yesterday calling again with the same type of predictable input today, and (2) because the “topics” are dull to begin with.

So, a couple of rules for you:

Avoid “yes or no” subjects.
The first call agrees; the second call disagrees.  There’s nowhere else to go now.  Nothing surprising is likely to happen in that scenario.  Since every call past the first one has to add something new, “yes or no” subjects inevitably limit, rather than expand, where calls can take you.

Asking for help.
Rather than some generic topic, try being more open, with something that doesn’t lend itself to predictable answers – indeed, something to which there IS NO right or wrong response.  “Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I have NO CLUE what to get my wife.  Help!” will get more response than any typical “topic” could ever get, because people LOVE to give advice.  In the process of recommending something to you, the caller’s own story will inevitably come out – without soliciting “stories” at all.  That’s what makes it sound more organic.

There are many other steps to opening the portal for more meaningful, quality calls to make it onto the air.  But like always, you have to avoid doing what everyone else will do.

I’m In Charge Here and You Aren’t

“Men who speak endlessly on authority only prove they have none.”
~Gene Edwards, A Tale Of Three Kings.

“I’m in charge so I can do anything I want.”  Or, “I’m the (insert title here), and you should do what I say.”

It’s a type of mantra from some managers – not leaders – who see their job as continually criticizing the person and not the performance.  There are a lot of reasons for this, trying to tear others down so they can build themselves up, finding criticism easier than being positive, and, of course, plain old narcissism.

They’re easy to spot when walking through an organization.  They’ll tell you of their latest success, which is usually a success of one of their people, and their office often screams, “I’m important!”

They’re also the single biggest reason for turnover.  And remember, the best people leave first.

I feel sorry for these people.  They’re often very unhappy people, and may never know the happiness that comes with being positive, encouraging and building people up instead of tearing them down.

Frost Advisory #365 – To Teach Is To Learn Twice

“Life has a peculiar feel when you look back on it that it doesn’t have when you’re actually living it.  It’s as though the whole thing were designed to be understood in hindsight, as though you’ll never know the meaning of your experiences until you’ve had enough of them to provide reference.”
~Donald Miller

365 weeks ago I penned Frost Advisory #1, a fairly presumptuous title considering I had no idea if I could come up with #2, much less 365 of them.

For years, my pal and mentor Alan Mason had insisted that I start writing.  I’m not sure whether he thought I had something worth saying or he figured that would keep me quiet for a few hours.  Frankly, after reading Alan’s stuff for years I was just flat out intimidated.   It felt like Robert Frost telling me, “You should write poetry!”, or Donald Trump saying, “You should Tweet!”  Then it got worse.

As the inevitable #365 loomed closer my friends Joe Battaglia and David Sams began urging me to compile them into a cute little book like the kind that people have next to their toilets – perfect product placement some may mutter.

The process of writing every week for over seven years has challenged me to think through strategic concepts, consider new ideas, and to look for real life applications.  It has forced me to challenge my own biases and experiences, and to attempt to communicate, whether to the novice or the expert, how these ideas can transform a radio station.   In other words, it has forced me to think about what I really think.

“I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it.”
~William Faulkner, winner of the Nobel Prize

Much to my surprise I have been the real learner through this process.  I’ve corresponded with people literally all over the world that I would have never known.  I’ve walked through radio stations and convention hallways where complete strangers have said, “Hey, you’re the guy that writes that stuff.”   Many have responded with their own ideas and experiences and helped me think through things from their perspective.

With that in mind I’ve asked some folks in a variety of roles to share their perspective on how the next 365 Frost Advisories might be helpful to you, whether you’re an executive, programmer, or air talent.

A new general manager

“As a new GM, learning to navigate the programming waters with my PD, these golden nuggets of information have been an invaluable tool.  They have been helpful on both the programming and sales side of the business.”
~Jeff Mitchell, KLTY, Dallas, Texas

A major market programmer

“So much of my performance as a leader seems to just come down to clearing away the distractions until I have a clearer perspective.  So many things pull at me, competing for a share of my mind and attention. Frost Advisories provide clarity.  I read them to remind me of what’s most important, what’s true (even though it may be counter-intuitive), what’s most beneficial, and to help me identify things that are just distractions or are less important.”
~Ty McFarland, KSBJ, Houston, Texas

A sales executive

“Frost’s advisories are like great recipes for an excellent meal.  John is an architect of infusing programming principles with real life stories.  It is motivating and inspiring to learn the technical side of programming and how it relates to daily life with a listening audience.”
~Segar Kannan, Salem Media, Portland, Oregon

A nationally syndicated air talent

“Everything John writes is genuinely – and literally – en-couraging.  It gives me courage.  Courage to keep going.  Courage to do better.  Courage to love my listener.  I’ve always needed that, and I will always need that.”
~Brant Hansen

President of a major media ministry

“I find the real value in John’s insights is not just in reading them, but in applying them to our station.   After I read the Frost Advisory, I say two things – ‘That is great perspective’ and then ‘Are we doing what he says?'”
~Tim McDermott, KSBJ Media, Houston, Texas

Next week I’ll share Frost Advisory #366, sort of a Leap Year-like version of how more really smart leaders use these ideas to benefit their organizations.  I welcome your perspective.   Who knows?  You might even make my book!

Tommy Kramer Tip #209 – More and Better Callers: The Starting Point

In the last tip, we took a look at setting a standard – a high one – for callers. It’s only fitting that a caller has to EARN his or her being on the air, and if you settle for average or typical calls, that’s just adding more water to the Kool-Aid. It won’t help the taste.

So okay, the goal is to create a stronger “caller culture”. The easiest starting place is the one people seem to just take for granted: Contest calls.

Here’s what needs to be addressed:

We don’t treat people like humans.
We turn people into numbers. “You’re caller number 12.” (I always hope someone will say “Oh, yeah? Well you’re idiot disc jockey number 2.”)

Groundhog Day in Loserville.
“Aww…well that’s not right, but thanks for trying.” Over and over again, until, like the Bataan Death March, we finally hear a winner. Honestly, about the third time I hear this, I just start to feel sorry for the hopeful people who called in, only to be disappointed. Why design a contest that airs tons of wrong guesses? The Secret Sound or the Scrambled Song contests were cute, once, but so was Brylcreem (a sludge-like goo used to slick back a guy’s hair in the 1950s).

The Rules…oh Lord, the rules.
“First, go to the southwest corner at the top of the twenty-story City Hall building, and jump. On the way down, wave at the clown in the 12th floor window, then flip your body around and upside down. If you’re the lucky person who lands with the most discernible body parts inside the chalk circle that we’ve drawn on the sidewalk, the surviving members of your family are automatically entered into a drawing to win 4 half-day passes to the Crazy Goat Park in Neptune, South Dakota!” (Bellybutton lint and ejected fluids do not count as official body parts. Go to our Facebook page for other restrictions.)

Start tomorrow with simpler contests, straightforwardly won by people with names, with genuine happiness in promoting it, doing it, and being honestly happy for the winner. That’ll guarantee you some really great phone callers.