Frost Advisory #372 – Fans For Life

So here we are.  Nine months after the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years, Chicagoland has a baby boom.

The Chicago Cubs did exactly what our stations should do… they descended on families of newborns to ensure Fans for Life.  The Cubs showed up in Chicagoland hospitals with the World Series trophy, the team mascot, and beloved players surprising unexpected new parents.

“The team honored this boon of championship babies… by awarding them special Fan Club memberships (containing a “Rookie of the Year” onesie, a beanie, a special birth certificate and a personalized Wrigley Field photo marquee)… the team’s mascot, Clark, was on hand as well for a great group photo.”

The result?  Cubs fans for life.

As we arm wrestle with PPM for one additional listening occasion per week perhaps our time would be better spent by creating a radio station worthy of having fans for life.

You know, it doesn’t matter what we do if what we do doesn’t matter.

Tommy Kramer Tip #216 – Jump-starting Getting To The Next Level

Okay, so you’ve got all the obvious skills as an air talent.  But the reason people hire me is that the obvious skills aren’t the ones that actually engage people emotionally.

People who’ve worked with me know that I teach a lot of radio techniques by NOT using radio as an example.  (And I’m also fortunate to work with several extremely successful voice actors that you hear every day on national commercials and movie trailers.)

So to be a better air talent, or to try and transition to the voice acting world, here’s a simple first step:

Watch great movies, and soak up WHY the great actors ARE the greats.  Here are several movies to watch that I recommend:

The Maltese Falcon.
Humphrey Bogart, Sidney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre – all three completely different from each other, all just great vocal studies.  Yes, it’s an old black-and-white movie, but it’s a dialogue and acting clinic.

Anything with Tom Hanks or Harrison Ford.
Hard to beat these two.  These guys just embody the “everyman” image, but can also play heroic parts.  I’d pay to watch Hanks read a parking ticket.

Lonesome Dove.
The best mini-series ever on TV, with the great Robert Duvall in one of his two favorite performances ever, and the wonderful Tommy Lee Jones.

Mama Mia.
Yes, the ABBA movie.  With Meryl Streep, an acting (and voice acting) class herself, and other standout performances from the entire cast, especially the three male stars.  If you sneer at it just because it’s ABBA stuff, well, get over it.

The Godfather.
If you don’t like the violence or subject matter, okay, but you should watch something with Marlon Brando.  He understood better than anybody the power of delivering a line softly, rather than being loud.

Anything written by Aaron Sorkin.
The West Wing, The Newsroom, The American President (if only we had one like Michael Douglas in this movie), Moneyball,  The Social Network, etc. Sorkin is, in my opinion, the best screenwriter on earth.  He really gets “emotional investment” (an acting term that I preach all the time).

Have fun watching, and LEARN.

Frost Advisory #371 – It’s Not Going To Get Better Later

We’ve all done it.

Waiting through the first part of a boring movie.   You hope it will get better.

Sitting down at a restaurant.   The waiter is slow to come over.  Minutes tick by without giving your drink order.  You hope it will get better.

In a world of instant gratification, a better choice is only a push of a button or a click of a mouse away

Don’t make your listeners wait for your station to be good.

Be good now.

It’s not just an idea.  It’s the way all great program directors think.

*After reading this Frost Advisory, tune to your station and evaluate the very next thing you hear.   Are your listeners having to wait for your station to be good?

Tommy Kramer Tip #215 – Why You Should Never Say “Maybe”

“Maybe” is a word I don’t like to hear, because by definition, it’s ‘conditional’ in nature.

“Maybe you’ve done this…” also carries the flip side (in the listener’s head) of “No, I haven’t.”  Click.  Disengage.

“IF” is the magic word.  It activates the imagination, and doesn’t leave room for the doubting side of the coin.

“Maybe you’re seven feet tall…” only talks to people who ARE that height.

But “If you were seven feet tall…” opens up the mental possibility – and the ‘buy-in’ factor, as a result.

There’s also the inclusive: “We’ve all done this…” or “We’ve all seen this…”  (But it has to be true.  It can’t be “We’ve all skinned a buffalo with a butter knife…”)

Anyway, now you’ve got a couple of new arrows in your quiver to help make you sound more CERTAIN – and dynamic – on the air in a very subtle way.

Frost Advisory #370 – What Problem Are We Solving?

Problem… solution.

It’s the very first lesson in the very first class in very first college marketing course.  It should also be at the heart of every station’s design.

What problem are we solving?  

Oh, the irony!  In the one format that addresses life’s biggest questions the day-to-day programming decisions we make often result in our stations becoming less familiar and less intertwined in our listeners’ lives.   When we play that song they’ve never heard, when we talk about that thing that isn’t relevant, when we put our own agenda ahead of theirs…

“Behavior beats to the drum of habit.  And the ritual of habit orbits around the principles of familiarity and simplicity…

Familiarity doesn’t just breed preference, familiarity IS preference.
~Mark Ramsey

Everyone’s favorite radio station is the station that plays their favorite music.  In a format where the biggest barrier for growth is that most didn’t grow up listening to it,  I wonder how our stations could be transformed if, with every decision, we simply asked, “How will this make our station more familiar to the very people we’re trying to connect with?”

When we play an unfamiliar song, how can we put it in a context that relates to their lives?

When we talk about something they don’t know, how do we frame it from a “Me, too” perspective?

When we do ‘our agenda,’ how do we share in a way that connects to their hopes and dreams?

“If you define the problem correctly you almost have the solution.”
~Steve Jobs

Tommy Kramer Tip #214 – How Birds See The World: A Tip Inspired By Gary Larson

Gary Larson, creator of “The Far Side” cartoon series, is someone I really admire.  Do your art, sell fifty million copies of the book “collections” of it, then abruptly retire at 45 years old to reap the benefits of your genius.  Well done, Mr. Larson.  We treasure you.

“How birds see the world is one of his most famous drawings.  I reprint it here with no permission granted to do so; I don’t own it (and would really rather not get sued over it, please):

Honestly, I think that’s the way a lot of stations – and certainly a lot of the people I hear on the air – see the listeners sometimes: a “receptacle” for what we drop on them.  (We even REFER to people as “the target listener.”)

But what you SHOULD do is value the listener’s time and attention span like a Scuba diver values the air in his tanks.

The Code:

  • Don’t just read something; put it in your own words.
  • Don’t refer to me in a “collective” way.  I’m not “all of you” or “the listeners.”
  • Don’t assume that just because you think something’s interesting or funny, the listener will automatically think that, too.
  • Do keep things brief.  Resist the temptation to tie everything up with a neat bow around it at the end.  Usually it’s unnecessary.
  • Do promote what needs promoting, but keep in mind that constant “teasing” feels manipulative and sounds cloying.
  • Do aim at the “target Listener,” but don’t rule ANYONE out.

Make great radio – every day, in every way you can think of.

Is This The End Of The World?

 “Think about it: send SLASH receive.  Email is the frenzied killer of proper communication.”
~Fennel Hudson, “A Writer’s Year: Fennel’s Journal No. 3″

Our email went down.  For a couple of days.  On and off.

I’d been thinking about a “no email Friday” or something like that, just to see what would happen.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such moaning, wailing and gnashing of teeth.  It’s as if all communication had stalled!

I was smiling.

Yes, I use email too, but I really enjoy getting out of the chair and walking around to talk to people.  And evidently, it’s more effective.  In an online article in Inc, Jessica Stillman noted that a discussion face-to-face is more likely to produce a result than email.  It’s easier to send an email, but less effective if you’re looking for a real solution for something.

We feel like we’re getting more done because we can dash off ten emails in a short period, and then think we’re effective.  Then comes the follow-up questions, the explanations of what you meant, etc.  What you could have done in one face-to-face turns into several emails.

Emails can be great to set an agenda or recap a discussion, but I’m not so sure the idea of managing your workday and trying to get solutions, from the inbox does what we think.  The human factor is more effective and means we spend less time with the “reply-all” demon.

Frost Advisory #369 – A Programming Lesson From Meadowlark Lemon

So, who’s your favorite player on the Washington Generals?

That, my friends, is a question that has never been asked.

The Washington Generals were created so that the Harlem Globetrotters would have someone to play.  And beat.  In fact, as of this morning’s sports page the Generals have lost more than 16,000 games to the Globetrotters.  So much for the half-time pep talk.

What does this have to do with your radio station?

The Generals were designed to lose.  To have no recognizable stars.  To be generic.  The Generals are known for nothing other than what is inherent in simply taking to the court; that they play basketball.  The Globetrotters, on the other hand, have performed with amazing tricks and antics from stars and zany personalities like Curly Neal and Meadowlark Lemon, “the clown prince of basketball.”  And they have even had their own Saturday morning cartoon show!

I’ve been inside a few radio stations recently that are known for nothing other than what is inherent in the format – that they play Christian music.  No distinctions.  No unique personalities.  No meaningful connection to their community.  No shared sense of ‘today.’

Things bounced along okay for a while.   And then a competitor came to town.

So, why would your listeners prefer to spend time with your station over another?

“The value of choice depends upon our ability to perceive differences in the options.”
~Mark Ramsey

I can promise you a couple of things.  If your station is known only for the music you play, you’ll soon have fewer listeners than your competition.  And you’ll never have your own Saturday morning cartoon show.

Tommy Kramer Tip #213 – Celebrate Your Quirkiness

Okay, today – after we celebrated our freedom with July 4th cookouts, ball games, fireworks, etc. – let’s add one more step: Celebrate Your Quirkiness.

I’m not talking about inventing some bit for on-air.  I’m talking about using the things that define you – the things that are sort of private.

In one of my earliest tips, “The 5 Subjects,” I outline…

  1. Jobs stuff/wallet/economy;
  2. the Entertainment world;
  3. Relationships,
  4. “The Buzz” – THE thing that everyone’s talking about today (which could come under one of the other categories); and
  5. Things that ‘grow out of the show.’

That 5th one is the one that’s the most difficult to define for people, because it’s completely organic.  THAT’S what this week’s tip is about.  Two examples:


Brant Hanson is a brilliant mind, and is definitely different from anyone else I’ve ever coached in the Contemporary Christian format.  This format has been traditionally seen as lacking much genuine personality, but Brant and a few others have been pioneers in turning that around.

Once, when we were still getting to know each other, it came up that I play guitar.  Brant mentioned that he plays the accordion.  I then told him an ancient joke – “what’s the difference between a snake lying dead in the middle of the road and an accordion player lying dead in the middle of the road?  The snake was probably on his way to a gig.”

It wasn’t long before Brant started playing his accordion on the air, as part of a contest.  Cute, odd, but HIS.


Howard Clark was one of the greats, part of the original KFRC staff in San Francisco when consultant Bill Drake’s Top 40 stations ruled the earth.

Late in his career, Howard came back home to work in my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, and had a profound impact on me.One day, I was listening to “Hired” (as he called himself on occasion) and a song ended, then a recorded announcement by the huge-voiced Charlie Van Dyke came on and said, “And now, Howard Clark looks at the weather…”

Then you heard Howard’s chair squeak, a few steps taken across a floor, a door open, then Howard walking waaaaaaay down a lonnnnng hallway, the back door opening (a creaking screen door that hadn’t been oiled since 1957), then Howard’s voice muttering “Mmm hmm… yep…”… and then you heard the back door creak shut, Howard walking the 50 steps back down the hallway, the Control Room door closing, we heard a few more steps, then his chair squeaked, then Charlie Van Dyke’s voice said, “This has been ‘Howard Clark looks at the weather’…”

Then a station jingle played, and a song started.  No forecast.  No temperatures “at the airport.”  Just that little moment.

I still think of these two things, years later.

What have you done that’s quirky – that’s really you, and ONLY you – for your listeners to remember?

DO SOMETHING.  Maybe someone will notice you.  You can’t get Arbitron diaries or PPM devices without people.

Take 3 – The Great Nemesis

“Good is the enemy of great.  And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.”
~James C. Collins, “Good to Great:  Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t

You may be coming off a good fundraiser, a good monthly, or a good station event that makes you feel pretty good about your station.  Well, you now have the challenge of making those good things great.

While listening to the radio recently, I heard how an NHL coach doesn’t consider good to be… well… good enough.

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