I was recently challenged to consider what business I’m actually in. My first reaction was that ‘I’m in the voice over business of course,’ which is true, but isn’t complete. From a marketing standpoint I needed to dig a little deeper. Reading marketing guru Terry O’Reilly’s book This I Know was helpful in this regard. For example, he notes that Nike isn’t in the shoe selling business, they are in the motivation business, and Molsen isn’t in the beer business they are in the party-lifestyle business (there are many, many more examples). This is what these companies are actually selling. I had to figure out what I was actually selling.
Working as a genetic counselor (years ago in what seems like another life), and then as a writer, gave me a lot of practice putting myself in others’ shoes. And the more you practice empathy the better you get at it. So I tend to get pretty emotionally invested in my scripts because I can envision how they impact the listener. When I considered this in the context of the role of voice over, my epiphany was that I am in the emotional-connection-between-the-script-and-the-listener business. (I know this isn’t as snappy as ‘Just do it,’ but I’m working on it.)
Why is this important for my clients? Let’s say you have a story or message to get across; a product or service you want to sell. You’ve done the research, put in the hard work, and have reams of data. With absolute certainty you leap into the market knowing you and your product are the best. And you tell everyone. And show them the data, but don’t get very far. O’Reilly says “…straight information is seductive because it seduces the person dispensing the information into thinking that a mere data dump is effective. But the key – the true secret to influencing someone – is to make them feel your message in their gut, not just intellectually understand it. Emotion is the differentiator”
He was writing about the advertising message in general, which of course is critically important, but I would also argue that the delivery of that message is equally important. TV commercials, radio ads, audiobooks, documentaries, e-learning content (and many more) must connect emotionally with the audience to make an impact. The emotional link between script and audience is forged by voice actors. There are exceptions – many TV and internet ads can evoke feelings with images only, but the right words uttered in the right way can be downright immortal. Would anyone still remember ‘where’s the beef’ if the words had only appeared on screen rather than dear Clara Peller uttering them?
Trained, experience voice artists can break down a well written script into its key emotional beats, then navigate those beats to elicit the desired emotional response of the listener. Lots of people are good readers, and lots of people have nice voices, but professional voice actors have the training, experience, and skill to elevate the written word to an emotional level, to connect with the audience, and move the listener to action.