Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Do you go with the Yugo for voice talent?

By Propulsion Media Labs Talent #8 Marty M.

Before I became a full-time voiceover talent, one of the jobs I held was production director for a notoriously cheap radio station.  There was no equipment redundancy in the recording studios, so if something failed all production ground to a halt until the unit could be repaired.  This took a long time because they were too cheap to hire a full time engineer.  They were so cheap, they refused to pay a little extra to be tied into the office building’s backup generator.  So whenever the power went out, the station was off the air, resulting in the loss of advertising revenue and listenership while every other company in the building conducted business. 

I was surprised to learn that some of that attitude rubbed off on me.  During a conversation with a friend who knew I was planning to become a freelance voiceover professional, I told him that part of my brilliant strategy would be to charge less than all of the other voiceover talents out there.  He said “that’s all fine and good, but keep in mind that not everybody wants to drive a Yugo.”

For those who don’t remember, the Yugo was a car built in Yugoslavia and imported into the U.S. in the mid 1980’s and sold for $3995 brand new.  Totally unencumbered by the engineering process, the engines blew and the electrical systems failed after just months of use.  Mechanics used to joke that the real purpose of the rear defroster was to keep your hands warm while you were pushing your Yugo.  You’d have to look long and hard to find a worse car.  But there were a lot of people who purchased them, unable to resist being able to purchase a new car for such a low price. 

Although there were no Yugos on the road at the time of this conversation, my friend’s point was clear.  Not everyone wants to drive the cheapest car.  If they did, you would never see a Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Acura, BMW, Infiniti or Tesla on the road.   You wouldn’t even see an Accord, Camry or Focus. 

By mistakenly believing people will only pay for something if it is the rock bottom lowest price, like the radio station described above, I would be doing more work for less money, possibly resulting in lower quality work.  This is true for any product or service, and applies whether you are providing those goods/services or purchasing them.  It’s a form of “limitation thought” that holds businesses, and the overall economy, back.   

I contend that the radio station’s el-cheapo approach actually cost far more in lost revenue and listenership than they ever saved.   How many times have you used the restroom at a restaurant, and they have set the motion-activated paper towel dispenser to spit out a 4-inch length of towel?  You end up waving your hand across the sensor multiple times to get the amount of towel needed to dry your hands.  But the restaurant forgets that the extra wear and tear on the dispenser motor caused by additional activation cycles results in premature failure, costing more in repairs than what could possibly be saved by limiting the amount of paper towel dispensed.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you throw your budgets out the window and purchase a Maserati.  Nor am I saying that a professional should charge more than what is considered reasonable and customary for the good or service that they provide. 

I am saying this: if you are in the market for something, consider basing your purchase decision on the real value, not necessarily the lowest price.  In their quest for a small price tag, the Yugo purchasers actually got almost nothing for their $3995.   

Likewise, whether you are a voice-over professional, a media production company, a financial planner, a dentist, or any other business, it’s okay to charge what you are worth.  Not everybody is looking for the rock-bottom price.  And those that are don’t respect your expertise, time and investment into your business.  It may take a production company one day to edit and produce your media project, but what you are paying for is that one day, plus the investment they’ve made in state-of-the-art equipment AND the years (perhaps decades) of experience their personnel possess.

For buyers and sellers alike, it’s okay to trade-in the Yugo. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Copy Is For Your Prospect, Not You

By Propulsion Media Labs Talent #54 Jim R.

I live in multiple worlds: one as a voiceover talent, another as copywriter for clients in various business sectors featured in print, web and broadcast mediums. Put another way: I can put thoughts and sales pitches into words and bark ‘em into a microphone – for a fee, of course. Bank deposits are a beautiful thing.

I see a bunch of, ahem, ‘writing examples’ during the course of a business day. Some are brilliantly written, many are sloppy and usually about the client or their sale. Granted you need an offer – but getting a starving crowd to your door or website requires copy based on the wants, needs and desires of your ideal prospect.

See, it’s easy for marketers and business owners to adopt the age old platitude that if you build it, they will come. The reality is 180-degrees the opposite.

Are you listening closely to your customers and prospects?
What keeps your prospects up at night? What situation would they like to eradicate from their life right now? How do they speak and verbalize their need? What itch do they have that only you can scratch?

For example, in my local area there is a hearing aid retailer who seemingly has a different message every few weeks. His pitch ranges from price, to the fact we change as we get older (that TV spot features footage of him playing drums in a college band) to the heart-tugging plea that hearing loss means you’ll miss what your grandkids are saying. None of this really matters to a hearing aid prospect.

The hearing aid industry has done extensive market research which reveals the actual reason why a seasoned citizen buys a hearing aid. The real reason they buy is fear – that their adult children interpret their hearing loss as Mom or Dad becoming feeble and time to be shuttled into a retirement or nursing home.

I have two older brothers who wear hearing aids – they each went through this. My wife tells me I’m on the same path, by the way. I pretend I don’t hear her!

A spot addressing the nursing home reality for the hearing aid market will cut through the clutter and squarely address a prospects concern, fear and offer a solution to what’s keeping these prospects awake at night, staring at the ceiling fan.

OK, so how do you tap into your prospects mind? The best way is to ask your current clients, customers and patients why they chose you and how they’ve benefitted by the association. This might also be a good time to ask them how you can better serve them.

It also wouldn’t hurt to ask your best customers for a testimonial. I sometimes write something up for clients and ask them to make whatever changes they want to make, sign it and return it to me on their letterhead. Easy for them and I have a client saying how great they think I am. Way more believable to a reader than my saying it about myself. You’ll be able to use these testimonials in your print, broadcast and web marketing initiatives, too.

Now that you’ve received some feedback from your best clients, write yourself a letter from your ideal, composite customer. “Dear Mr. Big, what I really need is a better way to control my __(blank)__. If only someone could solve _(blank)_, my biggest worries, pain and frustration would go away.” This is a trick copywriters in the direct-marketing field use to make sure they have an accurate demographic and psychographic profile and understanding of the prospect they're writing an ad for.

A friend of mine, who is a best-selling author, further fleshes out the details of the characters in her novels by “interviewing” them. I’ve seen her do this and it looks like a séance. The bottom line is that she obtains an acute awareness of the characteristics of the people she brings to life in her books. Her characters always seem very real when you read her books, too. The interview technique might sound a little “out there,” but I encourage you to do the same in order to accurately profile your ideal prospective customer.

The more your broadcast, print or web copy is completely aligned with how beneficial your product is to your target client, the more these people will beat a path to your business with cash and credit cards. You have what they want, they have what you want.

Maybe that old axiom should read: build it right – and market it right – and they will come. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Voiceover With The Client In Mind: A Reflection

By Propulsion Media Labs Talent #20 Von C.

Photo Credit: PFLY CC-BY-SA
As a voice guy, if you have been doing this long enough, sometimes it’s hard to fight complacency… script after script, session after session. Then, once in a while you get a script and a chance to interact with the client and you remember what is at stake. Specifically, when you voice and or produce a radio commercial or a track for TV, internet or some other medium that we work on as voice people. I once in a while, actually more often than not, reflect on this as I go about my daily work. 

When I started in this business, some three plus decades ago, I was the dreaded client voice over. That’s what hooked me. I got a real charge out of being in front of the Neumann. This was all well and good, except as the client I was shaking in my boots hoping my advertising plan worked as the last dollar in my bank account was flying out the door toward a radio station’s coffers. About a week and a half later...to my surprise radio worked, and I still ate.

I think sometimes, you have to step back and remember what it takes to put out dollars to get yourself enough work to pay the bills. If you never have, imagine the night sweats as the money flies around between agencies and production houses, researchers and time buyers just to get the kind of results you need to stock your refrigerator and pay a few bills. When I step back occasionally and reflect…I find myself loving this line of work more and more everyday…”they” say I’m a lucky one because I love my work as I do and have for over thirty years.

Maybe… “They”… are right.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Should scripts be in ALL CAPS?

By Propulsion Media Labs Talent #27 Alyson S.

Dear Clients,

Photo Credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg, CC-BY
I know you don't mean to – but writing in ALL CAPS looks and sounds as if some of you are yelling at me and other Voice Artists. It's unintentional and apparently is what you learned in “Radio School” according to every copy writer that does it, but in fact it comes off as screaming at us. The copy is harder to read. The copywriter at that point says that he or she has VO people who in fact LIKE the ALL CAPS copy – but I have yet to meet any VO artist that does. I think it is a VO artist urban myth.
Please for the love of God and all that is good: STOP WRITING IN ALL CAPS!
(See what I did right there? I wrote in caps for emphasis and it was also me pleading with you.)

Capital letters are harder to read then standard writing – like how I am writing here. Or in any book, magazine etc... It is not natural to read in all capital letters otherwise we would be reading and writing in all Caps all the time. It is harder to read. And Voice Over Artists read the copy off the page. We don't memorize copy. We read it off the page. So in fact you are making the copy more difficult for us to read, thereby causing undue stress, and then we can't put our attention onto making the copy filled with all of our magical nuances. We are unfortunately concentrating on not making a mistake while reading your ALL CAPS COPY. So in essence, it not only makes our job harder, it might take longer for us to do our job as well as get to the right 'emotion' in the copy because of screwing up reading it.

Needless to say, when you write something in CAPS, the person reading it tends to assume you are yelling at them or making a giant exclamation point. If the whole script is in caps, how will we discern where to place emphasis? I assume you do not want us to scream the copy at you.

So there it is. I take it upon myself for all the VO artists in the 21st century to tell copy writers that some things you learned in “Radio School” is a thing of the past. It's akin to watching a VHS tape. It is incredibly passe. And it is definitely one of my (and I will go as far to say many other VO people's) pet peeves. Most people prefer to read standard writing and not read everything in CAPS. Yes, most of us now have the capabilities to convert the formatting, but that takes an extra few minutes and as we know, time is money. So in order to make life easier on us VO artists, please DO NOT WRITE IN ALL CAPS. ;)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Tip and a Tribute Thanks to Don LaFontaine

By Propulsion Media Labs Talent #34 Jim J.

The Voiceover Legend:
Don Lafontaine
I remember early in my career being obsessed with equipment.  If I just got "the right gear" my sound would match the big movie trailer guys.  I constantly spent money (what little I had at the time) on the latest and greatest gear but never got "that sound".  After a tip from a book,  I wrote a letter to my voiceover hero Don Lafontaine just to tell him how much I loved his work and how much I admired him.

I never really expected a reply but a few weeks later, a panicked front desk receptionist transferred a call to me one day and yelled, "I think you need to pick this one up Jim!!!".   I picked up the phone nervously and heard,   "Helllooo  Jimmmm!!!"   Don said it in his full out movie trailer voice which floored me in my tracks.  

He was one of the nicest guys.  So humble and talked to me for over 30 mins.  I finally asked him, "Don? What equipment do you use? What microphone?"  This was it!!! I was about to find the missing secret to make me sound more  like him. His reply said it all, "Let me tell you Jim.  It's not about the equipment, it's about the delivery.  I could come right to your tiny radio station studio and sound , more or less, exactly like I would sound in my ABC session that I am about to walk into in 2 mins.  Dont worry about the equipment, worry about delivery"

I will never forget those words from "the man" spoken back many years ago.   While I still highly suggest getting a clean and nice quality studio setup, I no longer worry about having my gear MAKE my sound as much as having my gear TRANSFER my natural delivery and sound.

Thank you Don and may you continue to rest in peace,   Jim.

(For more on LaFontaine's work, check out this youtube video!)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

New TV show on CNBC features both the car and production biz

It’s safe to say that Propulsion Media Labs is inundated with hundreds of projects each month that are courtesy of the retail automotive business:  If we’re not churning out a bunch of radio spots, we’re most definitely editing factory footage or filming a local dealer principal on our green screen.  In the midst of all of that hustle and bustle, it’s not often we have the opportunity to see either the car or the production biz as part of pop-culture (other than seeing/hearing our some of our finished work during commercial breaks of our favorite programming). That’s no longer the case thanks to a new TV show. . .

The Profit (airing Monday nights on CNBC) follows entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis as he takes over struggling businesses for a week to help get them back on their feet. It just so happens that the debut episode not only features a New York used-car operation (Car Cash), but also contains a segment in which the Car Cash Marketing Manager was given the task to record a radio spot!  See for yourself here:


Kudos to Doug at Ultra Sound Rehearsal Studios for being part of the action. . .Can’t beat the free pub on a national cable network.  We’ll have to track down Marcus so he calls PML next time!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Account Manager Lisa Jobs Joins the Propulsion Staff

Contact: Corey Dissin                                              FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Phone: 610-640-4040


Account Manager Lisa Jobs Joins the Propulsion Staff

Malvern, PA – July 22, 2013Propulsion Media Labs is proud to announce that Lisa Jobs is joining their team as an Account Manager. Lisa brings over 20 years of professional media sales experience to the company as an Account Executive at Fox29 Philadelphia, KYW Newsradio and 100.3FM.  Most recently, she has been an adjunct professor at West Chester University’s Communications Studies Department teaching a variety of courses.  In 2005, she authored and self-published the successful cookbook Sensational Stevia Desserts. 

“I’ve known Lisa for many years, and I’m very excited to have her on the Propulsion team.  The sales experience she brings to the table is going to be a great addition to our company.” said Chris Craft, Owner and President of Propulsion.

Lisa is looking forward to getting started and very excited to be back in the media business again, but with a new twist--on the production side.  She earned a Master’s of Journalism and Bachelor of Arts (Communications) from Temple University and resides in the Main Line with her husband and two sons. 

Propulsion Media Labs is a Malvern, PA based audio and video production facility, working for a national roster of clients over the last 20 years. They provide commercial post-production, camera-crew services, and voice talent casting.