The Voice Talent Audience Dilemma
Who Voice Talents are Really Marketing To
Is there an audience dilemma in the voiceover marketing world? One of the things I learned in drama school and from seeing a great deal of theater when I was younger (because I’m ancient now), was that the audience and the actors on stage are one. There is an exchange of information via story-telling—a reciprocity, if you will. In that very moment, the actors are actively engaging with the audience & viewers. They may not acknowledge them directly, but their exchange of energy validates both and thus creates a new rapport during every performance. They need the audience. The audience needs them. And that relationship is developed over the course of the show’s run and possibly over time in the evolution of other productions. That very story-telling dynamic has existed for centuries in the same way, changing lives.
The voice over blogging vortex operates in a similar fashion, although with some major differences. The audiences, for one, are entirely digital. Voice actors don’t go to a designated stage somewhere in a major metropolis or countryside to recite their posts in front of a public audience comprised of several different target markets, hoping that a select few will greet them for a post-performance meet-and-greet and hopefully hire them for a new commercial campaign based on their astute knowledge of how the business operates. In the digital world anyone can see/read your blog. The piece itself must have an audience in mind, but how and where it’s published will determine whether or not it’s reaching the right people and having the necessary effect. For potential clients (and some may be converted readers and vice versa), it can establish a layer of professional credibility. For other fellow voice actors, it can be inspirational and educational. The resources are ever-present.
These days blogging seems to be ubiquitous throughout a variety of different types of industries, not just voice over. The Kool-Aid offered up by Google and the SEO vampires has us all delusional, collectively singing the same anthem, and now we’ve got the seemingly perpetual bug. “Must not stop blogging every week!” “No fine-tuning, just publish anything and everything.” “My aunt died this week and I want you all to know about it” “Oh, I can’t wait to share these photos of me and Simon, our new cat.” “It’s not voice over related but it’s some kind of content and will generate traffic right?!” The opportunities to blog are endless and, in voice over specifically, seem to exist mainly for the sole purpose of educating one’s colleagues, to share one’s success stories or knowledge of the business. There’s an obvious market for that and it certainly has its place.
But with one exception: It feels as if the voice talent of today are scrambling, almost clueless when it comes to the realities behind blogging, at least as it appears from an audience’s perspective.
On the contrary, there are many voice talents who are fluent in their target markets; who, in fact, understand their audiences so well they can commit to writing a post every week or, sometimes, every few days. They know who they’re writing for and why, and it serves them well. Many of these voice talents are active coaches with students, or business consultants and have branded themselves as such. A level of consistency is maintained throughout their content, and it is obvious they have studied and paid attention to their specific markets.
However, I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve run across a random voice talent’s blog from any number of resources, whether it’s a Facebook support forum, LinkedIn Group, or just some random blogging community, and found the subject matter to be completely unoriginal and similar to the vast majority of other bloggers out there. We all want to be heard, no matter the cost, yet, at times, it’s difficult to distinguish any one blog, because we’re all talking about the same thing from our own point of view. And usually it takes place in the form of the following generic headlines:
“Are you ready for a career in voice over?”
“Do you have what it takes to maintain a steady income as a voice talent?"
“5 tips to land an agent in today’s competitive voice over market”
“25 ways to be productive while maximizing a healthy client roster”
“How to exponentially increase clients via social media.”
“Why your voiceover website blows”
The list goes on.
How often have we read these types of posts from almost any and every voice talent, and from many who haven’t been working very long? Sometimes from people who just jumped on the scene, even. Since when did we voice talents suddenly become life coaches?
Most of the time it’s because someone told us to.
The purpose here is not to shun the existing voice over blogging community or discourage any talent from writing what they feel to be resourceful material for someone else. Many of us wouldn't be where we are if it weren't for an extra nugget of wisdom from a major industry resource or blogger. The amount of free information is readily available at our finger tips and there's no arguing there. But you have to marvel at the idea of a voice talent so eager for website traffic that they’ll write just about anything to get at the top list of Google. Why be original when you can just post a high volume of unrelated clutter for weeks on end? You also have to wonder what happened after a voice talent took their very first class, completed their shiny new demo or finished a brand new website, and set out into the competitive frenzy. I’m sure they were lectured on the importance of having a demo in the first place, landing an agent, trying their hand at the casting sites, maintaining some kind of social media presence, if any. But chances are their voice over coach did NOT tell them about the importance of having a blog to stay relevant. And probably for good reason:
The actual voice seekers, the people hiring us, don’t actually care about our blogs.
They don’t have time to care. Sound harsh? Well, that’s just the reality of this business.
New Era, Different Times
We can all agree that the industry is obviously drastically different today than it was 10 years ago. Heck, even 4 years ago for that matter. And let’s face it, we don’t need to be in a major market to book work (although it definitely still helps with some of the bigger accounts). Gone are the days when you waited for the phone to ring, and all you had to do was drive or hop a ride on the subway to the studio for an audition or booking. That still happens for some folks, but with the majority of the business going digital and a more evolved online mind-set, the possibilities are seemingly endless. Without a doubt, we’ve found new ways to market ourselves outside of having an agent, being on a casting site, or getting referrals from fellow colleagues— whatever the method of acquiring and securing work may be. Many talents attend conferences unrelated to voice over and actually find clients and build those relationships (Oh yeah, it happens). Some people simply like being more creative, working harder at it and reaping the long-term rewards. We don’t like signing our souls over to one person to be our primary marketing method when they are simply one piece of the pie chart. On the other hand, some of us are perfectly happy with those long-time agents to procure the majority of our work, so we can focus on other things like that vacation in Cancun or enjoying champagne on the yacht along the Hudson, never ever having to send out a thank you post card, cold email or newsletter.
Voice over seems to be the only industry I can think of where some of the competing parties (talents), market to their competition in order be visible to the people that are actually hiring them—at least in the online world. An older post I wrote in 2013 called The Voice Over Cult confirmed a similar frustration. Today, that same issue is still present and one over which I’m constantly scratching my head. Voice actors marketing to other voice actors for the sole purpose of website traffic, and better SEO? Are our choices this limited or are we not really broadening our minds? Are we running out of original ideas? For the voice over coach/consultant, this kind of blogging makes sense. But for us talents who aren’t taking the default path to coaching early on—is it absolutely necessary?
Everyone is different and many factors can also influence our posting frequency or lack thereof. Being in NY, LA, CHI or perhaps Atlanta, can have its benefits. Granted, not everyone has this convenience and privilege. Some of us have to try a lot harder to be heard by more than just our demos. Again, we want to be heard outside of what we’re normally hired for and also want to show another side of our branding. Staying authentic while showing another layer of our professional personality can actually help us stand out more. Nevertheless, you will often find some of us marketing to either one of two audiences:
The obvious audience - other voice talents, colleagues/friends in and out of the industry and family. Usually aspiring talents, newbies and/or veterans looking to empathize with, confirm or contradict a viewpoint.
The desired audience – voice seekers whether they come in the form of producers, directors, casting directors, creative directors, associate producers, audio engineers, production coordinators, writers, copywriters, content directors, media planners, digital directors, etc. In short, people who are still the professional gatekeepers of a great deal of the work we’re seeking. And, of course, the creative and business liaisons brokering some of those deals: agents and managers.
Regardless, in this new era, we have to constantly be excavating new methods and avenues of marketing ourselves to potential clients. Enter blogging and this newish predicament facing digitally-savvy working voice talent. The ability to blog and publish our information to a largely global audience has made us all a bit cock-sure in the belief that we’re so knowledgeable in our chosen field. That we know what we’re talking about and in-demand even if, perhaps, some of us haven’t been doing it for that long or booking any solid work. All of this has prompted me to look at things very realistically going forward even in my business and ask the following questions:
Why do we voice talents actually blog in the first place?
Who are we really trying to reach?
Who is our audience?
And more importantly, what insanely busy, micro-managed creative director or producer will care enough to put down their work load to read a 5-page column on how we got into VO in the first place? “Ok I just listened to your reel for over a minute! Now I have to read your blog?! Damn."
The audience dilemma - something to think about.
Thank you for reading.