Political Voiceovers – How to Choose the Voice of Your Campaign

Political Radio AdvertisingThe right voiceover is as important to your political commercial as the message. Whether the commercial is for a candidate running for President or dog catcher, the most successful users of political voiceover know that doing it right can result in victory while using the wrong political voice talent almost always renders the message ineffective.

We are talking here about voice talent. Not announcers, not actors, but people who combine those skills with others to create a special sound that uniquely links a message to a candidate or political position (such as a ballot initiative).

Here are five hot points to keep in mind when auditioning and hiring a voice talent for your political spot.

1. YOUR SIGNATURE VOICE: QUALITY AND EXPERIENCE ARE EVERYTHING

The commercials you spend so much time and money to produce are the tools that will get your message to the most voters. Period. On television, the voice must complement the message and its supporting video and graphics. On radio, the voice IS the message. You cannot afford to deliver your critical words with anything less than the most experienced and talented voice you can find. Quality is subjective. You have your tastes. Someone else’s may be different. But when you listen to an online demo or custom demo, if you find a talent who’s willing to provide one), listen not only for the big things but for the little ones that speak to a voice talent’s skills. Here’s a quick checklist:

Does the voice sound strong and consistent, even at softer levels? Is it believable when it says “This is where we stand”? Do you hear any distracting artifacts such as pops, clicks, noisy breathing or anything else that distracts attention from the words being voiced?  Is the background quiet or do you hear room noise, wall bounce-back, air conditioning racket or any other distracting noises? Is the delivery truly in tune with the message — or is the voice talent just reading words from a page? Does the delivery match the style and tone of the copy? The wrong pairing of voice and copy sinks many an otherwise well-written commercial. Send the voice talent a message letting him or her know you’re considering their demo. Does the talent get back to you in a reasonable amount of time? Any problem getting your message through? How will you establish a relationship with someone if you can’t connect in the same ways you would contact any other vendor?

EXPERIENCE is another key element in crafting compelling political commercials. A professional voice talent with political commercial experience will always have a special demo available containing nothing but political commercials and reads. You’re really not interested in how a voice talent does commercials for auto dealers, banks and other industries. You want that compelling, compassionate, sincere sound that punches your message through the clutter of competing spots.

2. NEVER HIRE A VOICE TALENT BASED ON PRICE

The Internet can provide you with thousands of people who would love to voice your political commercial. Many of them will be more than happy to do so at rock bottom prices, as little as $50 and perhaps less (you probably see a number of their Google ads around this article right now).

Be very careful of cut rate voice talent. Most either are new to the business or are rarely hired for voiceover work. This does not necessarily mean they won’t do a good job for you BUT be sure you hire based on QUALITY and not on price. If you’re at the point where spending $50 instead of $350 for the one tool that will deliver your message with the most effect, you really need to re-think how you’re approaching your ad budgeting. It’s worth it to cut some other expenses to get the right voice talent. You can find that extra $300 somewhere! It WILL pay off in votes.

3. INSIST ON FLEXIBILITY AND TIMELINESS

Since you never know when some new element or issue will appear in a political campaign you need to be ready to attack, defend, explain or amplify your candidate’s message — sometimes, literally, on a moment’s notice. Your voice talent needs to be capable of quick turnaround when a new voiceover is needed.

Most professional voice talents work in the studio every day. They either own their own (the most common scenario) or have quick and easy access to a studio nearby. In the case of part-time talent, you could have an availability issue. This does not mean you should avoid part-time talent; many are very good. When you’re looking for a political voice, however, it means you should insist that deadlines can be met dependably.

Professionals are used to quick turnaround. “I need it yesterday” is pretty much the way most clients come to us. We understand the value of time and that fast turnaround can often make or break a political situation. Be sure the voice talent you are considering can match the urgency you will often require.

4. BE CONSISTENT — USE YOUR VOICE TALENT FOR EVERYTHING

Many candidates overlook the many creative ways they can use their voice talent to further their campaigns. Most marketers will tell you that consistency is a key ingredient when delivering a cross-platform message.

In my own experience of working with candidates at many levels of government, I have, in addition to voicing TV and radio commercials:

handled the voicemail prompts on the telephone systems at campaign headquarters voiced introductions and other segments of campaign podcasts introduced audio and video selections on candidates’ websites voiced get-out-the-vote messages for telephone sweeps voiced candidates’ audio books recorded introductions and other messages for donor meetings, lunches, dinners and all kinds of get-togethers voiced fund-raising DVDs and other media

You get the idea.

Any voice talent will be happy to give you a package price for the many other ways your “signature voice” can assist your campaign. Just ask!

5. REMEMBER: YOU’RE HIRING A VOICE, NOT A DISCIPLE

Any candidate wants to be surrounded by people who agree with his or her political message. That makes sense for almost everyone in the organization except the voice talent.

First, you will rarely if ever actually meet the person who gives voice to your message, unless you use local talent. (Many voice talents won’t work with local candidates, by the way, since for every person who associates that voice with a pleasing message, someone else will identify it as the sound of the enemy. This can be very bad for voice talent who thus alienate potential local clients.)

Second, you will, if you have followed the guidelines in this article, select your voice talent based on quality, experience, professionalism and versatility — NOT on their political ideology. It is not appropriate to ask prospective voice talent providers whether they agree with the politics they will be espousing on the air. Some may volunteer that they do, which is great for you! (Careful, though: as in any industry there are those who will say anything to get the job.)

The right political voiceover is a potent tool for your campaign. The wrong one can sidetrack your message or distract from its effectiveness. It is worth the effort to get it right.

Doug McLeod has been the signature voice of political campaigns, regional and national broadcast advertisers, television networks and audio books for over 20 years. He voices TV and radio commercials, industrial videos, TV documentaries, audio books and character voices for video games and animation from his world-class studio in Scottsdale, Arizona. McLeod is also an award-winning commercial and documentary writer.

Email for a custom demo:  mailto: dmcleod01@msn.com

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