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what hath the mail brought?

Failure

Just got home from a nice day with the kids – errands, the park, play and only minor meltdowns…mostly theirs. It was a very nice day as we came home from a day of fun.

In the mail was a bubble envelope with a demo CD from a person promoting his voice over services. I wasn’t immediately familiar with him…I meet and talk with a lot of people each week so I was a bit concerned that I had asked for a demo and didn’t remember making the request. I don’t think that’s the case here. But should it be a case of my 40-heimers combined with toddler-induced brain dripping kicking in on me, I’ll apologize now.

Nope, this here was one of them un-so-licited type demos, pardner. And except for what I felt was a sincere attempt to market himself as best as he knew how, I’m afraid this wanna-be voice talent fell woefully short.

I don’t want to embarrass him by outing him (OK, it’s a guy; that cuts the suspects in half). My point is not to hurt or insult…but this screams to be a teaching moment for voice talents everywhere because the mistakes (plural) here in this envelope are textbook on how the underprepared should not present themselves as professional voice over talent until they are really ready.

He was so not ready.

1. The demo sucked
On a positive note, the audio quality on the demo was clear. The vocal tone was not unlistenable. That about wraps it up for the “positives” column.

The negatives include 10 full commercials as individual demos; three of which I bothered to listen to. Like any producer, I pretty much knew all about this guy’s performance abilities and training after the first 15 seconds of the first cut.

Each cut sounded exactly the same. A confectionary spot, a Mother’s Day spot and a car dealer’s spot…the reads, the inflections (when there were some) were about a half step above monotone. Music? Sound effects? No, not for this fella…just a ton of breath sounds (Mrs. audio’connell pointed that out and she never comments on those things). Oh and each cut included a weird clip of some audio not related to the demo spot just before the real demo began.

If this guy was professionally trained (and I don’t think he was) that voice over trainer should be flogged with wet string cheese. So should his demo producer.

2. Branding, branding, where for art thou branding?!
This gentleman has a perfectly fine domain name for voice over; this domain seems to be his brand. That’s a positive.

The fact that there’s no consistent typeface or icon that unifies the domain name/business name on the CD, the CD case, the business card and the mailing envelope says to me he was having fun with Microsoft Word Art in the same way a first grader might in a computer 101 class. It looked amateurish which matched perfectly with his demo.

Maybe he meant to have a microphone as his logo. Among all the collateral he included, I counted three, no four different microphone types pictured with clear outlines of where they were cut and pasted. (Sigh!)

This is basic blocking and tackling here folks and this fella clearly never made it to a team practice. I’ll let pass the fact that he spelled my company’s name incorrectly in two spots on the envelope. I suppose he could have repaired that damage in his customized cover letter to me, had he included one.

And the hits just keep on coming…

3. Making claims he can’t back up
This voice talent who sent me this unsolicited kit claims within it that he “writes great ad copy” in addition to his “voice talent”. Well let’s put that to the test, shall we?

Which would you select as the most successful tag line if forced to choose?

• “Captivate – Grab Your Audience”

• “A Unique Voice for Unique Times”

• “Get the Attention You Need Now”

Aw heck, let’s live on the edge and just throw the whole mess in as tag lines/slogans. That’s problem number 1. A “great ad copy” writer understands that there has to be one key, salient marketing message the reader or listener needs to take away from an ad or collateral piece.

Now maybe this part is more subjective than objective but, see, I either want to “captivate” or “grab” my audience since these two words pretty much mean the same thing…a few strong words usually have a greater impact than a lot of mediocre words.

“A Unique Voice for Unique Times”. Well, we’re in a recession so does this mean his voice matches the economic climate (a downer) or that he’s the voice for the new poor?

As harsh as all this may sound in its critique, this is how decision makers – the ones that don’t immediately trash a whole kit like this – will think about this person’s voice and brand and they are right!

Advertising, marketing and creative directors and producers notice this stuff. They are the final judges and no talent can afford to fail in any of these categories because there are so many quality voice talents who DO train, who DO produce a listenable demo and who DO create a sharp (not necessarily expensive) look and feel (full of well written copy) with their collateral that will catch the ear and eye of key decision makers.

It’s absolutely OK to have a desire and dream to pursue a voice over career but that chase does not start with a slapped together CD featuring poor, clearly untrained performance wrapped in the marketing equivalent of the Sunday comics!

Pretend for a minute you owned a business – that wasn’t voice over related – and your business’ expensive and important “make or break” marketing campaign required professional audio. Under those circumstances, who would you rather hire: just a “voice” or a voice over professional?

We all make mistakes, me too. Perfection is tough but very good is attainable.

Based on what I saw and heard today in this package, this poor fella has his work cut out for him. It’s not insurmountable but it won’t be easy either. Nothing worth doing ever is, I guess.

follower, groupie or sycophant?

britney-spears

As a courtesy, I’ll say upfront that if you’ve no idea what Twitter is or is all about then this contest I’m about to reference regarding CNN and the actor Ashton Kutcher probably won’t interest you. If you like topical stories or information about social media, it might.

Oprah’s name and that of Britney Spears will come up too. Oh, so NOW you ARE interested!

The deal is that Kutcher challenged CNN and Ted Turner to a race of sorts: be the first person or organization (as CNN is a thing not a person within the noun family) to reach 1,000,000 followers on Twitter. Late Thursday night, early Friday morning, Kutcher beat CNN to the 1 million followers mark. Britney Spears tried to ride this race’s coat tails and evidently came in third without so much as breaking a sweat.

As new people are obviously joining Twitter at a staggering rate with no followers, with my 280 followers currently, I did not come in in last place in the Twitter follower race. Phew! You can find me @audioconnell.

Kutcher has promised to donate 10,000 mosquito nets if he won. And when he won he showed up a donation check for $100,000 to be donated to the “Malaria No More”‘ fund. That’s nice.

Hitching her wagon to the Twitter train, Oprah announced she opened up a Twitter account and got 30,000+ followers before her first post which is supposed to come during a taping of her show Friday. Bet she sets the record for fastest to reach 1,000,000 followers. I also expect to see the Twitter Fail Whale a whole lot in the coming days.

What does this all mean?

Do these millions of new followers some of whom have to be joining Twitter for the first time have any idea why they are following these folks let alone what the service is and how it can be used? Using Twitter is not rocket science but I sure feel strongly that some of these people now joining Twitter are doing it because Ashton, Oprah or Britney said to and that’s where it will end for many of them.

It feels like one of those cross roads moments or possibly the perfect storm for Twitter. Tons of free publicity from a famous movie star, an international cable news organization and the most popular broadcaster and trendsetter in U.S. daytime television; to get just one of those parties to support them, most companies would be thrilled.

But Twitter is supposed to be about community. One follows other Twitter users because they think there will be interesting discussion based on content, the “name” or the “brand” matters little if nothing interesting is tweeted.

Some of my 280 followers don’t get that. They want to sell me something and think I’ll immediately follow them if they follow me. I don’t. I check their profile and only if it interests me do I follow them. I feel they are not in it for the “community” attitude of Twitter and therefore seem disingenuous to me. If I want a commercial, I’ll watch TV.

What will all these new users mean to social media as these new users get their first taste of it through Twitter and the links that often accompany tweets? Probably broader acceptance if these new users go on to follow more than just Britney, Oprah and Ashton (after all, if Britney, Oprah and Ashton lose interest and tweet less frequently, their followers will have less and less to follow).

Through the links in tweets I’ve been exposed to some interesting resources in social media, marketing, advertising, voice over and my local community that I would not have otherwise found. I’ve also followed some of the people on Twitter because of their content and they offer even more content. That is useful to me. I’ve no real idea if I’m saying anything of use to others…I guess I hope I am but I’m also not losing sleep over it.

I’ve also un-followed people whose content didn’t interest me after a while or those folks who offer nothing more than 140 characters of self-aggrandizing commercials. It’s a bit of a balancing act to gain the content that you want and don’t want on Twitter while not allowing it to be a complete time suck.

I guess as a crossroads moment, it’s an evolution for the service itself and for social media. Sometimes it takes famous peoples’ involvement to help the general public be aware or take the time to learn about new products or services like Twitter and Social Media. As there are no rules per se with Social Media, how these many millions of new users will drive the service is an unknown.

Twitter probably won’t be the same after all this and I guess that’s as it should be.

how do these things happen?

starz_logo

A couple of people who were so very kind to offer congrats on my latest national voice over job also asked me how the job came about.

When I explained that a virtuoso voice talent like me is world renowned for my vocal prowess and constantly chased by all the famous voice over producers to voice their projects and that it’s actually less common for me not to be doing 10-12 national spots a day so this job really wasn’t so uncommon…they uttered a word akin to cow dung.

True enough 🙂

The story of how this spot came about actually struck me as a bit humorous because I kind of ignored the call when it came in. Arrogance, thy name is Peter. Or is it idiot?

Correct either way I suppose.

It was a Monday evening and I was at a networking dinner with my fellow members of Buffalo Niagara Sales and Marketing Executives. During the cocktail hour I was speaking with my friend Julie Waldron who owns Pro Forma Total Business and who was a new member to the association.

My new i-phone (which I am still loving by the way) buzzed in with a call but there wasn’t a name associated with the number that popped up on the screen. In any event, I tried to answer the call in the hotel ballroom but either I missed the call or it dropped out because of where I was in the room. It went to voice mail and I went back the cocktail hour figuring I would check it later.

Well the call was from one of my agents at Big Fish Voice Company at a phone number different than what’s programmed in my phone (I find that happens a lot…folks must be playing the “phone extension” game, I guess). And she did leave a message which I didn’t pick up because I was networking.

My Big Fish agent (thinking about that…shouldn’t I just call her “shark”…you know, in a good way) called back again and started referencing information from her voice mail expecting that I’d listened to it (I should have I suppose but there were hors d’oeuvres and stuff). So we had a fun little phone dance in which I sounded a bit like a lobotomy patient (who? what? when? who?!) until I finally understood what she was talking about.

Dates, times and studio session confirmed, I recorded the ISDN session on Wednesday and off it went to radio around the country. Total session time for the :60 spot – about 20 minutes.

Had I auditioned for the spot? Nope. This is a wonderful example of an agent who knows her business. She submitted demos to the client, based on their specs and discussed the benefits of each voice. There was not a cattle call. This time, I won and I am sure there are times when I have not. To me the point is less about the win and more about the process which includes an agent who encourages a dialogue with clients, serves as a vital resource and whose judgment is valued by the client.

Spewing an email for a customized audition to a hundred male voice talent based solely on the fact that they are not female doesn’t work so well for the talent or the agent. Sure, in some cases it needs to be done but the win ratio for both parties seems kinda low to me.

So that’s how the spot came to be. My thanks to Big Fish and to Starz…hopefully we’ll all get to do this again real soon. I appreciate the business.

MEDIA RELEASE – Starz® Entertainment Secures O’Connell for National Radio Campaign

audio'connell Media Release

BUFFALO, New York, April 3, 2009 – – To promote its two new hit comedies, Head Case and Party Down, Starz Entertainment secured the voiceover talents of Peter K. O’Connell for their most recent national radio commercial. O’Connell is President of audio’connell Voice-Over Talent and has been a professional voice talent for 27 years.

LISTEN TO A SAMPLE HERE

Head Case stars Alexandra Wentworth as Dr. Elizabeth Goode a brash and judgmental therapist who uses her own unconventional methods of therapy to treat the elite of the entertainment, sports and music industries who often appear as themselves on the show. Party Down is about a group of struggling dreamers (employed by the L.A. catering company “Party Down”) who are stuck working for tips while waiting for their big break in Hollywood. Starz currently airs new episodes of these two original series, back to back, on Friday nights on its national cable channel.

Starz Entertainment is a premium movie provider operating in the United States. Starz Entertainment offers 16 movie channels including the flagship Starz® and Encore® brands with approximately 17.7 million and 31.7 million subscribers respectively. Starz Entertainment airs more than 1,000 movies per month across its pay TV channels. Starz Entertainment provides quality movies and original, compelling content, viewed through our premium and commercial-free networks, or as a broadband download.

audio’connell Voice-Over Talent is a worldwide, English language-based voice talent organization. The company also operates International Voice Talents, a company featuring professional foreign language male and female voice actors. audio’connell Voice-Over Talent and International Voice Talents provide voice talent for commercials, animation, corporate narrations, documentaries, broadcast voice imaging, audio books, podcasts and messaging on-hold (MOH). Industries served by the two companies include advertising agencies, media and broadcast production companies as well as both large and small businesses around the world.

Mr. O’Connell also owns Voice-Over Workshop, which provides professional voice over training to novice and experienced voice talent world-wide.

audio’connell Voice-Over Talent, International Voice Talents and Voice Over Workshop are all a part of O’Connell Companies.

– 30 –

NOTES TO EDITORS

Company Media Releases ON LINE:
http://www.audioconnell.com/media

Company Name Pronunciation:
au·dio·o’·con·nell (awe-de-oh-oh-kah-nel) or au·di-o’·con·nell (awe-de-oh-kah-nel)

Company Name Spelling:
Use lower case letters- audio’connell or audio’connell Voice-Over Talent

Company Web:
http://www.audioconnell.com

Company Blog:
http://www.voxmarketising.com

O’Connell Voice-Over Resume:
See resume here

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which social media tribe do you belong to?

internet_globe

I do enjoy the dust up of opinions caused by the discussion of Social Media and Social Networking and how to use it from a marketing perspective and from a user’s perspective.

There’s….

“The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread” Tribe

“The Social Media/Networking is a Total Time Suck” Tribe

“The Occasionally Dip My Toe in The Water” Tribe

…and the always popular

“Prove It To Me” Tribe

There is always a few with such strong opinions (usually negative) that I get a kick out of it. Make no mistake, I myself do not shy away from strong opinions while also knowing that when I issue absolutes, I risk a little egg on my face.

As usually, I’m always the odd man out as I belong to the…

“Social Media/Networking is a Part of My Overall Marketing Mix” Tribe

Ours is a small tribe made up of folks who actually write and live by a marketing plan that has objectives, goals, targeted audiences and measures against it.

Some in our tribe do not use Social Media at all…but they can still be in our Tribe and not the “Time Suck” tribe because they have reviewed – not unilaterally dismissed – Social Media tools and decided it doesn’t work for their marketing objectives.

Smart marketers, whatever their business, adapt and study a changing landscape. Today’s change includes understanding and usually adapting to having Social Media and Social Networking as a part of the marketing mix.

The Social Media marketing mix is like an old family recipe – you make up the ingredients and portions based on some basic assumptions. A cake will need things like flour, eggs, water etc., but you may decide to add a little bit more of this or that or bake for a shorter or longer time than is standard.

With Social Media and Social Networking – it’s like an internet cake. Basic ingredients include having a free account on the most popular Social Media outlets: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, FriendFeed. Again, it’s free – the worst that could happen is that you get some SEO love from your account if all you ever do is set up a basic informational profile.

Then, if you want to dig deeper, you can figure out how these services and others (like blogs, podcasts, video sharing) might or can benefit your marketing objectives. Because your time is valuable, part of how you assess the marketing value of these tools is to decide how much time you can and are willing to commit to their execution. Time is as much a marketing expense to a business as the actual layout of cash.

If the answer is yes – we/me should do this and I can do this – great, carry on. If the answer is no, it doesn’t fit with our objectives and budget (primarily time but also possibly money) – great, carry on. In both cases, you really studied what you need to know about the tools and compared them to your marketing objectives and made a smart business decision.

You were not simply dismissive!

It seems simple but that process is a fail for many small business people because their busy-ness (not their business) helps them to avoid learning new things and ultimately they seem resistant to change…they enjoy the comfort zone of the familiar.

To them I wish nothing but a comfortable and obviously unplanned snooze.