The TV murmured along in the background as I cleaned house until I heard what I thought was the voice of a child speaking about farm-to-table concepts that seemed much older than the age I perceived coming through the TV speakers. It seemed odd. I was thrown off, and completely missed the message from the advertising restaurant.
When I saw the commercial later, I was still too distracted because of the disconnect between the voice and the message to know what the company was trying to tell me, the consumer.
In an age when video is moving to dominate media consumption—not only TV and streaming services, but across social media channels and websites—the right voice to explain, to inform, to appeal, to sell, and to inspire makes a difference in whether someone donates or buys, or whether someone passes you by.
Likewise audio prompts within your organization’s phone systems, in your office environments, and in radio advertising can make a difference in how a consumer or donor experiences what you have to offer . . . or doesn’t.
Recently, as I boarded an elevator from a parking garage to a major metropolitan arts facility, I heard the burdened and disdainful voice of a man “welcome” me, and routinely utter the names of the sophisticated, creative, and lively venues within this arts complex. It was quite a juxtaposition. There I was about to experience an electric, creative atmosphere, and the voice welcoming me sounded as though he was bored, sad, and depressed.
Whether realized or not by this company’s elevator occupants, his voice is creating an atmosphere for this facility—a downcast and disheartening atmosphere.
In truth, the voice you use to embody your organization's in video and audio representations is important. But what do you look for? How do you find a quality voice for your message? Here are four ideas to get you started:
You’ve heard it before, “Know your audience.” As a business leader, you likely have already created an avatar, or profile, of your ideal customer. With this ideal man and/or woman in mind, write a script that sounds natural, conveys a clear message, and includes an action step. And once you have a decent draft, read it out loud to yourself. Are there any clunky words or phrases? Or are there any back-to-back sounds that are awkward? Revise the script until you have something that seems natural.
Depending on your audience, and the message of your script, you’ll want to think about delivery. Would you like it to sound warm and comforting, or are you looking for conversational, yet energetic? Think about the feelings you want to convey with this message. And think about those feelings in relationship to the wording and the message. Do they match? For example, in the elevator, the gentleman delivered the word welcome as if he were sad, when it should’ve sounded warm and friendly . . . in other words, the word welcome should’ve sounded welcoming. If you’re trying to convey an urgent message, one that you’d like customers to act on quickly, you don’t want a warm and welcoming delivery, but an energetic, lively, yet friendly delivery.
More often than not, we can grasp an age range from someone based on the tone of his or her voice. A voice talent’s tone needs to match and be identifiable with the audience you’re trying to reach. In the farm-to-table restaurant commercial mentioned previously, the voice sounded like an early teen. Yet, the message of the commercial was focused on consciousness in food preparation, something few teenagers seem to be concerned with. A disconnect between the tone, the target audience, and the message won’t compel anyone to take action.
It’s often easier to grab the admin assistant with the great phone voice, or the singing maintenance man for a quick “read through” of your outgoing message, but resist the urge. It’s not enough to have a nice voice. A quality voice talent must be able to tap into the audience your trying to reach with the feelings you want to convey, so that anyone who hears it will want to take action.
Your message is too important for it to sound like it’s being read from a handwritten notebook. With intentional script writing and the right voice, you’ll move beyond your customer or donor’s heads and into their hearts.
Jennifer Wilder is a social media professional who helps brands reach customers through online conversations. Over the last decade, she has worked with LifeWay Christian Resources, Leading The Way, The reThink Group/Orange, and The John Maxwell Company. Jen and her husband Nathan live in Kennesaw, Georgia, with their soon-to-be-Instagram-famous Chocolate Labrador Retriever, Copper.
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I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.