Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #295 – Seeing Through the Listener’s Eyes

This past weekend, the fine actor Alan Alda accepted the Screen Actors Guild’s Life Achievement Award, saying:

“When we get a chance to act, it’s our job, at least in part, to get inside a character’s head, and to search for a way to see life from that person’s point of view.  It may never be more urgent to see the world through another person’s eyes.  And when the culture is divided so sharply, actors can help, at least a little, by doing what we do.”

I agree.  So did C. S. Lewis, who wrote: “My own eyes are not enough for me.  I will see through the eyes of others.”

Part of our job should be to see through the listener’s eyes – and not just the P-1 devoted listener, but also the person who just hit the “scan” button and it landed on you.

Great radio is performance art.  And anyone who’s worked with me knows that’s the way I approach it.

As Alan Alda said at the end of his acceptance speech:

“The nice part is it’s fun to do it.  So my wish for all of us is: Let’s stay playful, let’s have fun, and let’s keep searching.  You can’t solve everything, but it wouldn’t hurt.”

Frost Advisory #442 – It’s About The Heroes

We forget, don’t we?

We forget what real people go through every day.

We forget the messages they are bombarded with, the struggles they face, the negative influences on their kids.

Real people perceive your radio station within the context of their own lives.

Often they tune in to get away from the negativity, to be affirmed for the good in people, and to be reminded of the hope we can have through our faith.

The recent government shutdown reminds us with every event heroes emerge. Yes, the front page and social media are filled with politicians playing the blame game, but our stations have other stories to tell.

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Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #294 – The Lone Ranger, the Silver Bullet, and You

Leading up to last Halloween, a show I work with did a wonderful break that leapt out of the radio about Trick-or-Treating in a Halloween mask.  After talking about how restrictive one could be, one member of the team did a “trick or treat” delivery like his face was being smashed in by the mask.  It was really funny and SO visual.

Then his partner followed up with how it could have been raining, and did a rain sound effect.

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Frost Advisory #441 – Make The Big Little And The Little Big

It’s a simple but profound idea…

Programming is about design, and design is about change.

In a format where the most popular songs tends to sound alike, it is critical that we design change in, because it doesn’t happen naturally. I first realized this when I was programming Smooth Jazz, a mostly instrumental format with a musical spectrum of almost nothing but saxophone and guitar. I learned pretty quickly that sameness inhibits interesting.

You can design change from fast to slow, laughter to tears, serious to funny. The more change you design in the more interesting the experience, like the last great concert you went to.

“An epic key change can make a pretty good song instantly legendary.”

It’s easy to see how change applies to your station’s music design, but what about to the content from your wacky deejays?

“Make the big little and the little big.”

Chris Evans, Virgin Radio in England
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Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #293 – How to Use Texts or Emails on the Air

I hear so many people using a text or email as the ending of something.  And a lot of stations have gone way overboard in soliciting them.

But this is one of those things that seems like a good idea, but it’s too broad a concept to play to radio’s strengths.

Here’s what I coach:

Texts (or emails) are only to be used as springboards for something YOU do that’s creative.  They’re not a be-all or end-all in themselves.  So rather than using a text or email as the “destination” for something, you should use those as the START of something.

I didn’t tune in to hear what the faceless “Jennifer” from Highland Park has to say, I tuned in to hear YOU – the trained, articulate, entertaining Personality – have to say.  Because, let’s face it, “real” people are usually not very witty or clever or funny at all.  Sure, they can be once in a while, but even then, I don’t want to hear you just read a response.  How lazy can you get?  Why don’t you just read the newspaper on the air if that’s all the work ethic you have?

Plus, I believe it’s a mistake to encourage people to text or email INSTEAD of calling, because radio is about airing AUDIO.  Do you want to hear me interview an artist, or would you rather hear me read an interview with the artist out of a magazine?  Print is a poor substitute for Sound.  Let’s keep our eye on the ball.

Frost Advisory #440 – People Like Me And The Standing Ovation

The concert ends and the applause begins. The applause gets louder and louder, and then it happens. One person stands.

I’ve never started a standing ovation in my life but I’ve been a part of dozens.

“People like me do things like this… Normalization creates culture, and culture drives our choices, which leads to more normalization.”

Seth Godin

If you want your listeners to engage in something, create a tangible way for them to see how people like them do things like this.

Whether with online music research (Google shows how many have seen your review), a station promotion (the Ice Bucket challenge became a social media phenomenon) or a fundraiser (Facebook helps you to share your cause with others), success involves normalization.

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Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #292 – Don’t Itemize. Summarize.

Prior to this past Christmas, I heard a talent talking about how his whole family was going to another state, where they hadn’t gathered in years, for the holidays.

But the story really bogged down when he started itemizing everyone who would be there.  One sister, her husband, and her two children; her brother, his wife, and their three kids; her, her husband and their three daughters; and an aunt that they hadn’t seen in years.

No one’s reading the guest list.  Summarize, instead of Itemize.  “Three families, an aunt, 13 people in all…”

The Art of Storytelling lies partly in honing things down to their most concise version, then just letting it breathe a little bit.  But when you get too detailed – especially about people your listener doesn’t know (or care about), the story becomes rudderless and lacks momentum.

Tommy Kramer Coaching Tip #291 – Why it may be better to NOT intro Traffic

(Larry) “And now let’s check that drive into work again.  Here’s Don Googleheimer…”

(Don, the Traffic guy) “Thanks, Teresa.  Good morning, everybody…”

I actually heard this the other day.  The male half of a morning team intros the Traffic, then the Traffic guy thanks his female partner.

This shows the listener that it’s prerecorded.  Or that the Traffic guy isn’t listening.

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