audio’connell in raleigh, NC 2015

Voice-Over Talents Peter K. O'Connell, Debra Stamp and Rowell Gormon in Raleigh, NC April 2015

Voice-Over Talents Peter K. O’Connell, Debra Stamp and Rowell Gormon in Raleigh, NC April 2015

All I want to say about this dinner in Raleigh, NC with fellow Faffers Deb Stamp and Rowell Gormon is that we pretty much closed the place. And then kept talking in the parking lot.

A great night thanks to Deb and Rowell.

what i know about voice-over talents after attending faffcamp 2

 Peter K. O'Connell hosting a marketing session at FaffCamp 2015 (Photo Courtesy of Brad Venable)

Peter K. O’Connell hosting a marketing session at FaffCamp 2015 (Photo Courtesy of Brad Venable)

I have been fortunate to have been included in a great many FaffCons and FaffCamps. These are unconferences and conferences for voice-over talent and they are among the most revered voice-over events by anyone who has ever attended one.

Full disclosure, I am on the FaffCamp and FaffCon committees because I believe so strongly in them. Also because I am so small, conference producer Amy Snively hardly notices I’m there.

At this FaffCamp, I offered a marketing planning presentation on Saturday and Sunday. Though the presentation was meant to be informative and somewhat light-hearted, I noticed a couple of things in both groups that I believe are universal among voice-over business owners.

Maybe you’ll see yourself in some of this. I certainly see myself in some of it.

Making a point or just scaring his audience, Voice-Over Talent Peter K. O'Connell makes a point during his FaffCamp 2015 presentation (Photo Courtesy of Sean Caldwell)

Making a point or just scaring his audience, Voice-Over Talent Peter K. O’Connell makes a point during his FaffCamp 2015 presentation (Photo Courtesy of Sean Caldwell)

1. Most voice-over business owners generally don’t like the business part of the voice-over business. In no way am I saying they don’t do it well but they don’t like it much. I think they like it less than most business owners.

2. Though they themselves are a key part of the marketing food chain with the service they provide, voice-over talents do not like doing marketing much. It overwhelms them and intimidates them for the same reason I think it intimidates most small business owners: “where do I start?!” syndrome.

3. Which leads me to the universal acknowledgement by almost all of my session participants that they each suffer in varying degrees from the malady “Paralysis by Analysis”. The non-medical marketing definition is “I don’t know what to do first so I won’t do anything.” (EDITOR’S NOTE: The author also sometimes suffers from this malady.)

4. Most voice-over people are pretty smart and strong and even though sometimes paralyzed by the fear of marketing, they understand that they have to do and when led a little bit, they can take the reins and run with a marketing plan. That takes guts and strength to jump into something even when you’re not fully sure what you’re supposed to be doing

I post this not so much for the FaffCampers who attended my presentations (and thank you for doing that) but for other voice talents who couldn’t make it to San Antonio. I want you to be reminded that you are not alone in your business challenges and that rather than have it be a mountain, operational and marketing challenges can be only a bump in the road to your ultimate business success.

Just remember to believe in yourself and your abilities…even those abilities you don’t think you have.

hold that microphone

 Voice-Over Talent Peter K. O'Connell enjoys his new traveling mic stand

Voice-Over Talent Peter K. O’Connell enjoys his new traveling mic stand

There are very few days off for voice-over talents.

One reason is that, as a small business owner providing a sometimes time sensitive service in a creative industry, when the client says it’s “go-time” you need to record pretty quickly.

So when I go on the road, I need to be able to effectively and professionally record which I have been doing for years. However, microphone stands have been a problem for me. They need to be small and portable but usually that means cheap and breakable (that’s no good).

This new small, portable and pretty strong tripod and mic holder that I just purchased is doing its job quite nicely. My arm, which had to hold on to the mic prior to this solution, is very happy.

cleveland fumbles the brand

Cleveland Browns 2015 Logo

ESPN reports the Cleveland Browns have updated their primary logo.

Voxmarketising reports all the Browns really did was put lipstick on a pig.

Tell me, tell me I dare you, where are the oohs and aahs in this big brand change? A new panatone orange and a brown facemask? A better typeface?! Well OK, the typeface IS better.

Forget imagery for a second….do you know how much it costs to change signage and imagery for any big business, let alone an NFL franchise?! Millions of dollars! Millions….for this crap?!

Back to the imagery, the brand, the look. Supposedly the uniforms will be updated in April and will compliment this new helmet. No, no they won’t. Only a brown paper bag will compliment this helmet and that has been worn before many times at Cleveland Browns games (pretty big talk coming from a long suffering Bills fan, I’ll grant you).

The Browns team president noted the helmet IS the logo for Cleveland and with it’s rich, storied tradition blah, blah blah the city would implode if the Browns changed the helmet to include a new logo (well, he didn’t say that exactly).

No, no the city wouldn’t implode but the city of Cleveland should be pretty pissed off if this is the result of two years worth of NFL branding research. Clearly, the Cavaliers and the Indians are the modern sports leaders in Cleveland.

‘Put a fresh coat of paint on the logo and call it new’ is not what a city like Cleveland deserves or needs. It says alot that a new secondary logo for the “Dawg Pound” comes across as more professional than the team’s main logo which, again, is a helmet.

A football helmet. That’s the logo. THAT’S what passes for creativity in Cleveland. There is a pretty terrific creative arts community in Cleveland and they have got to be collectively screaming “WTF!” Again.

I didn’t know the Browns were focusing on a branding change before I read the ESPN story. Yet, some weeks ago when the internet started to go crazy for a bunch of unsolicited helmet designs from a company called Deeyung Entertainment, I was totally wowed by Deeyung’s Cleveland Browns helmet design. It really stood out to me at the time.

Cleveland Brown Helmet Concepts Design DEEYUNG ENTERTAINMENT

Cleveland Brown Helmet Concepts Design DEEYUNG ENTERTAINMENT

A mean-ass dog perched, waiting for you in the shadows. THAT’S football imagery. That screams toughness, meaness, FOOTBALL for God’s sake!

The logo says ‘Our offense will run all over your defense. Our defense will chew up and spit out your offense.’

People don’t get bit by Tigers, Lions and Bears much but more than a few people know what it’s like to get bit by a mean dog. That’s a logo that speaks to your football audience.

You put a paper stick underneath the Browns’ ‘new’ 2015 helmet design and you’ve got yourself an ORANGE TOOTSIE POP! That’s not football! What a missed opportunity for a brand with unlimited potential. Oy!

So I guess I’ll summarize by making a declarative statement. I don’t like the new Cleveland Browns logo. :)

3 reasons attending FaffCamp is critical for your voice-over career

FaffCamp is March 19-22, 2015 in San Antonio, Texas

FaffCamp is March 19-22, 2015 in San Antonio, Texas

FaffCamp is coming to San Antonio, Texas March 19-22 this year. If you’re already attending, I look forward to seeing you there as I will be there as an attendee and a presenter.

Registration information is here.

If you work in voice-over, you are invited to attend…like right here, now, this is your invitation. That knocking sound you hear is opportunity.

For those uninitiated, FaffCamp is a peer-to-peer professional development conference for working voiceover pros (not just voice talents, voice actors, and narrators, but all pros who do work related to voice overs). It’s participant driven and highly interactive, just like its sister event FaffCon.

But at FaffCamp much of the agenda is set in advance, which makes it possible for Faff Camp to welcome a larger group.

Plus, there are cool things we do only at Faff Camp, like Topic Tables, Adopt-a-Question, and Lightning Talks! And since we have two tracks, Starting Smart and Working Pro, we welcome voice talents at ALL career stages.

I don’t have an ownership stake in FaffCamp or FaffCon but I am on the organizing committee and have been for many years, because I believe in it.

 This is FaffCamp producer Amy Snively, associate producer Lauren McCullough and Peter K. O'Connell (me), the sponsorship guy at FaffCamp 2013

This is FaffCamp producer Amy Snively, associate producer Lauren McCullough and Peter K. O’Connell (me), “the sponsorship guy” at FaffCamp 2013

FaffCamp and FaffCon have directly helped my voice-over business and here’s how I think it can help yours:

1. FaffCamp presents interactive and expert advice on performance, technology and business management from vetted industry leaders. All of this information is specifically tailored to the voice-over business because the people presenting it are working in the voice-over business

2. FaffCamp is like Voice-Over College. FaffCamp brings together a whole lot professionally and financially successful voice-over talents. Many of these folks are past Faffers who have both learned a lot and shared a lot at Faff events. Bottom line: walking and talking between sessions, at meals and in other social times is basically like going to Voice-Over College. If you have questions – the answers are likely at FaffCamp.

3. You’re surrounded by people who understand you. Either you are today or want to be someone who sits in a booth all day and talks to him/herself. You’re not normal and neither are FaffCamp attendees, cause we do the same thing. We understand the professional and personal challenges of being a performer, a small business owner and bread winner. You got questions? Very likely we’ve got experienced answers and the meter is NOT running.

One last piece of advice: Go.

female voice talents – there may be an opportunity for you

npr_logo

News from All Access today reported that National Public Radio is dropping their current underwriting voice talent. They have one in the interim but it sounds like they may be willing to audition other voices. They seem to want a female voice. Go get ‘em, ladies (and no I don’t know where to send you — you have to do SOME work here).

Now while you ladies are practicing saying “This is NPR. National Public Radio” I’d like to address this change of voice talent at NPR.

The long time underwriting voice talent for NPR was a gentleman named Frank Tavares, who had been the underwriting voice talent for a reported 31 years. He was great but a change was made and that’s showbiz.

The network’s idea, it would seem, was to insert a cost-saving move while also vocally changing things up a bit by adding a female voice. OK, no problem there.

Auditions were held and the winning voice talent was an actress named Sabrina Farhi, who started on NPR in October 2013.

Her NPR underwriting reads were awful. Dreadful. Like nails on an angry chalkboard.

And none of the bad NPR reads were her fault. Repeat, NONE of them! I can prove it.

I’d heard Sabrina’s underwriting reads and could not get past the horrible, robotic read she voiced. This was the winner? Didn’t anyone else hear how tone deaf and unlistenable these underwriting reads sounded?

So after a while, during the few times I actually listened to NPR, I just switched away during the underwriting reads. Not what the network wanted, I’m sure. But I assumed it was just my professional ear not being able to grasp what the network was looking for. Maybe I was missing the musicality of it all. Certainly, I’d been wrong before (I told myself) and maybe I’m wrong on this.

Well, given the announced change, I guess not.

However, after reading tonight’s news on the change at NPR, I went to Sabrina Farhi’s web site and listened to her commercial voice-over demo. I couldn’t figure out how this voice got hired!

Upon further investigation, I rule as follows:

Sabrina Farhi has a wonderful voice which offers a clean, thoughtful interpretation of copy. The voice I heard on the TIAA CREF commercial was NOT the read I heard for the NPR underwriting voice-overs.

This woman is a talented voice actress with real chops who, if she was directed to use that TIAA CREF voice on the NPR underwriting reads, would and probably should still be employed today. On a side note, she like me has terrible trouble pronouncing the word “statistically”. And so if she’s anything like me, she’s an amazing voice talent! ;)

So my professional experience leads me to believe that it’s not the voice talent that’s at fault in this case, it’s the producers.

Yup, somebody either in underwriting production or in the underwriting department directed Sabrina to read in a monotone, cold and oblivious way that was evidently unlistenable to more people than just me.

The underwriting voice for NPR has to have a certain authority to it, yes, but NPR (more than any broadcast network) has a kind of humanism attached to it (in my opinion, anyway) that needs to be conveyed in the voice of the radio network. Frank did a great job doing that and Sabrina probably could have too if someone was directing her correctly.

So now it’s been announced that voice talent Jessica Hansen will serve as NPR’s underwriting announcer in a trail run beginning this month. Here’s hoping that she gets a new director who better understands voice-over direction, voice talents in general and the NPR brand.