Anatomy of a MASSIVE Marketing Mistake 

For the past year or so wearing one of my professional hats as a radio station program director, I have been keeping an eye on a particular email marketing effort from a voiceover talent trying to pick up new radio station imaging clients.  I immediately flagged it as an example of what NOT to do, but I knew it probably wouldn’t be anything that would hurt short term.  I never unsubscribed because I wanted to see when the colossal blunder being risked would occur.  The time when it did came a week ago Monday, and I’m breaking it down here as a cautionary tale.

The first email I received in this particular marketing effort came a little over a year ago.  Aside from the big blunder, a smaller one that was made with this particular VO artist not properly researching my radio station and its format to see if there was a fit.  We’re a mainstream AC station, and a link to the website in this email did not include a demo to match my format.  Even if it’s a mass email campaign, a little personal touch and demonstration that you have some idea who you’re pitching goes a very long way in converting a lead to a client.

What made that initial email in this artist’s marketing campaign a little unusual was that it wasn’t the standard introductory “Here’s who I am and here’s what I do” or “How can I help you?” message.  It was dated January 10, 2016.  If that date rings a bell, the subject line will jog your memory.  It read…..”David Bowie”.  It was hours after his death, and it’s not uncommon for some companies to put together audio tributes, but in most cases they’re free and clear to use with no sales pitch of any kind.  This one was some dry VO liners and some produced stuff. I was OK until I got to the last line, which read something like, “Hey, if you need a new VO talent, let’s talk!” followed by contact info.  My initial thought was, “This seems tacky and exploitative”.  My second thought was, “I wonder if this person has considered what might happen in the 24 hour news cycle world in which we live where news outlets sometimes get these things wrong in an effort to be first?”

Several more of these “tributes” followed as we lost way too many legends last year……Prince, Glenn Frey, Gregg Allman, etc.  Then, it happened.  Last Monday afternoon, I get the Inbox ding and find a new email with the subject line, “Tom Petty”.  This coincided almost to the minute with the erroneous CBS News report of his death.  Same song and dance…..liners, sweepers, and the “Hey!  Hire me as your new VO talent!” tag line.   That was all I needed to permanently put this VO artist in the discard bin and unsubscribe, but I didn’t do it right away.  Several hours later, I glanced at my work email account from home and the first email in the Inbox was from……guess who?…..along with the subject line, “I’m Sorry”.  It was a profuse apology based on the backlash he had obviously received, and it also came way too late.  The damage to his prospect database is most likely permanent, and unfortunately, it was self-inflicted.

I would love to know what this VO artist was thinking when devising a marketing plan that included trying to capitalize on celebrity deaths.  I also hope……no, pray might actually be a better word…..that advice didn’t come from a professional “marketing coach” or other self-proclaimed expert.  I’d also be curious to know if this person is still able to make it as a full time VO artist a year from now.  I also hope this provides a teachable moment for you as you develop and execute your plan for freelance world domination.


Shane Wilson is an award winning broadcaster and voice talent. His voice has been heard worldwide across commercials, audiobooks, corporate and industrial videos, e-learning modules, and explained videos. Among the companies and brands who have trusted him to tell their story…..Wal Mart, Papa John’s, John Deere, Mass Mutual Life Insurance, and Cracker Barrel. Reach him at or at (205) 201-1454.

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10 Questions Voice Talent And Clients Should Be Asking Each Other 

From the novice small business owner putting together his first radio or TV commercial to the most seasoned multimedia producer, frequent communication is key to heading off many potential issues before they arise.  Coming from any other background outside the audio/video/media world, it helps both the business owner and voiceover talent to get a grip on expectations, deadlines, and technical specs.  Most importantly, it can also firm up financial terms so no one is caught off guard when revisions and/or pickups are requested.  It can turn a one-shot project into a long term relationship.

As a voice talent, what should you be asking your client?  

1) What style of read are you looking for?  Do you have an example (YouTube clip, commercial, etc.)?

2) When do you need the finished audio?

3) What is the budget for voice talent for this project?

4) What are the technical specs (sample rate, stereo/mono, Kbps rate, etc.)?

5) Do you want me to edit and QC the finished audio or will that be done by an outside party?

6) If it is a long form project (which I define as > 10 minutes of finished audio), how do you want the files divided?  Or would you prefer one long file?

7) What are your general terms for payment upon completion of the project and the submission of a final invoice?
8) How frequently do you need to hear from me throughout the length of the project?

Number 4 & 5 are especially crucial due to the time consuming nature of both editing and number of files you’ll be creating.  Failure for both sides to understand the time involved can lead to you getting shortchanged on your rates!

As a client, here are the questions you need to ask the voice you’ve chosen……..

9) What is your policy on re-takes, revisions, and pickups?

10) What forms of payment do you accept?

Have I left out any important questions you always ask your client or voiceover talent?  Add them here and we’ll make this a work in progress!  



Shane Wilson is an award winning broadcaster and voice talent.  His voice has been heard worldwide across commercials, audiobooks, corporate and industrial videos, e-learning modules, and explainer videos.  Among the companies and brands who have trusted him to tell their story…..Wal Mart, Papa John’s, John Deere, Mass Mutual Life Insurance, and Cracker Barrel.  Reach him at or at (205) 201-1454

3 Ways You Can Spend Part(s) of a Holiday Growing Your Business

With Christmas soon to be celebrated around the world, the temptation to neglect efforts to grow and enhance your entrepreneurial efforts reaches its apex.  The stress of all your extracurricular activities is at its peak, the demands on your already limited time grow exponentially, and you are already thinking about how slow the first quarter of the following year can be and how it will affect your pocketbook.  The good news is there’s good news!

With the exception of a few occasions, the world’s mileage varies when it comes to holidays.  Canada has already celebrated Thanksgiving, and every country has a different day, or multiple days, for celebrating other events, like their independence.  In the global marketplace, your holiday is just another day around the world.  Use a part of it to keep working your plan for growth and prosperity for your business!

Here are 3 things you could be doing before the holiday festivities begin in your back yard that will pay dividends……..

1) Shift your marketing efforts to foreign companies

Folks in your own country will have the day off, but folks in other countries may not.  Take an hour and send emails, postcards, etc. to introduce yourself to as many overseas prospects as possible.  They’re open for business and could need your services TODAY!

2) Send “thank you” notes to any existing foreign clients

It doesn’t have to be a hand written “thank you” note, although that is certainly going the extra mile and will be much more appreciated assuming there’s no language barrier.  Email is perfectly OK.  It keeps you at the top of the mind and is an extra mile that your competitor might not travel.

3) Check the calendar

As we’ve established, your holidays aren’t always their holidays.  Use your holiday to take some time and find out when their holidays are.  Find out how they’re celebrated, then use the knowledge to take a moment to wish them a great holiday when they occur.  It’s a nice marketing touch that will separate you from your competitor!

Down time is certainly precious, and I am certainly not suggesting that you not enjoy it on the rare occasions when you get it.  But a little time invested on a day off now could provide the seed to exponential growth down the road, and all because you took an hour to show your foreign clients a little extra love.

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In Defense of Cold Calling

A few weeks back, one of the Facebook groups on which I occasionally engage in professional discussion had someone mention that he was taking some time off from his “day job” to work on marketing and growing his voiceover business. One thing he had on his “to do” list seemed to inspire a backlash from seemingly out of nowhere, including some rather pointed words from a very well-known voiceover artist. Of all the ways we as freelancers put ourselves in front of prospective clients, none seem to generate such simultaneous endorsement and condemnation with no in between as cold calling to build a business. Count me as someone who appreciates the value of cold calling as a tool in your marketing arsenal. Done right, it might be the best way to build long lasting, and most importantly, profitable relationships.

If you’re still either on the fence or still vehemently anti-cold calling for any reason, i.e. nerves, the perception it doesn’t work, you think it’s intrusive and turns off potential clients, here are a few reasons why cold calling could be effective for you, along with a few humble suggestions on howto go about pulling it off successfully.

First, the “why”……

It costs you nothing!

In the current economy, you can’t beat free, especially when it applies to your marketing efforts. As long as you have a phone and an unlimited long distance plan, and most of us do these days, you can put it to good use to help establish yourself as you engage in a career for which you have a passion.

Personal connections still matter

In an age where email, social media, and texting rules, there is still nothing more powerful than being old fashioned. The spoken conversation still trumps the written one any day of the week when it comes to establishing relationships, both personal and professional. Cold calling proves that you’re a real live human being who can communicate.

The results are long lasting

The ultimate success barometer with cold calling isn’t gaining new clients. It’s gaining repeat, long term clients who sometimes become much more than partners in the growth of a business, both yours and theirs. They sometimes become friends as well.

So how should it be done? I certainly don’t even pretend to have all the answers, but here are a few pointers based on personal experience…….

Don’t sell them anything!

The initial goal of a cold call is not getting a “buy”. You only want a potential client to sample your product or service. As a voice talent, I’m interested in getting to someone who will agree to hear my demo, not hire me on the spot for their next project. Offering to customize the product or service and gear it to them is also very effective. No one likes pushy, and we all loathe the stereotype of the pushy salesperson. Be polite, keep it low key, and sell nothing.

Keep it brief

Time is money, and the companies you’re calling come in all shapes and sizes. This is a great way to perfect your “elevator pitch” while getting to the person who works directly with the service or product you have to offer. Assume that they’re busy and get to the point.

Treat it as an “audition”!

As a voice talent, cold calling can literally be my initial opportunity to prove I can do a great job as a company spokesperson. Regardless of what facet of media you represent, the world is your stage on a cold call. The value of a good first impression goes without saying, so make the world your stage when you make that call!

As a born introvert, cold calling was not something I looked forward to and took a while to get used to. There are far more introverts in the field of media and communications than those on the outside might ever imagine. Once you get a few under your belt, however, and realize that the worst case scenario you have pictured in your mind neverhappens, it can become quite the cash cow for you. Don’t knock it ’til you try it!

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The Most Valuable Tool in Your Voiceover Ratchet Set

Successful people have a wide range of qualities that make them a hit in their field.  In the voiceover world, talent counts, but only for so much.  Ability to market yourself to businesses who can use your services is also a plus.  Having state-of-the-art equipment shows your commitment to quality, but in many cases you may be dealing with clients who are less than tech geeks, and in the end that might only be a calling card when your client is a production studio. Of everything you have to offer as a voice talent, accountant, mechanic, or any professional endeavor, what is the one attribute that can often prove to be the most valuable…….and lucrative?

Several personal examples I have over the past few weeks illustrate that the speed at which you can deliver quality work is the most valuable tool in your voiceover ratchet set.   I am sometimes amazed at how many “fly by the seat of their pants” clients I get, whether it’s an ad agency, production company, or someone who hires me directly to do their voice mail or related project.  A client I found via Craigslist called a few weeks ago with an urgent need for two radio spots.  These were direct response ads, and they had to deliver them to the stations they bought within two hours!  While I may have questioned how well-planned this campaign may have been, the fact was that I had a window of availability and could deliver a quality product when they needed it.

As I always tell you with any topic discussed here, your mileage may vary, but in every case where someone needed a fast turnaround (which I define as either something brought to you after 9 p.m. local time for which overnight delivery is needed or within a few hours within a normal business day), they have offered a very nice premium in return for the rush service…..sometimes even double or triple my rate card (which I have but never divulge)!

I should point out that if this is a repeat client with which I have an established relationship, I would not expect a premium within reason and would probably forego it if I knew I was going to get regular work.  I’ll make that extra money eventually.  If it is a first time client and they don’t offer some sort of incentive for a rush job, don’t be afraid to ask!  The shortage of available people and the urgency to have finished audio makes it a seller’s market on your end.  Remind them of that……gently and in so many words, of course.

The equation of  Speed + Quality + Availability = Lucrative Opportunities can turn a so-so month into a really nice one!

What does “Talladega Nights” have to do with your ACX success?

Anyone making his or her living in a creative field including VO, especially those who might be lacking in business or marketing skills, would be wise to read Al Ries and Jack Trout’s groundbreaking books The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (Violate Them at Your Own Risk!) and Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.  I would make a strong argument that they would also be well-served by viewing the cinematic masterpiece Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby.  Since I’m pretty sure they’re being mentioned in the same breath for the very first time, you’re probably wondering what they have in common.

Both of Ries and Trout’s books revolve around a common theme, one familiar with folks who have populated the P2P sites over the years.  As it applies to voice talent, you could have golden tones and deliver the perfect read every time, but if you’re the 100th audition out of 114, chances are that audition will never be heard.  That has changed somewhat with several of the major sites recently, but the fact remains being first, or among the first, greatly enhances your chances of landing the gig.  Ricky Bobby’s father, Reese, reinforces the importance of being first in a poignant scene early in Talladega Nights…………..

ACX has been a hot topic in the VO world recently.  There seems to be more work available than folks available to narrate, but promptness in getting auditions to the ears of the rights holders still appears to be a huge advantage in landing the gig.  This is where being first has benefitted me tremendously over the past few weeks.  I’ve signed on to do 4 audiobooks over the course of about 2 weeks.  In at least 3 of those cases, the offer came within 24 hours of the title being posted and, subsequently, my audition being received.  I also had at least 2 rights holders/authors tell me my audition was the first one they received.  They had others behind me and they listened to several, but clearly there is sufficient non-scientific evidence that tells you being first, or among the first, on ACX auditions can provide a nice income stream.

Your mileage may vary, and on the flip side, there are many titles for which I’ve sent auditions months ago that never followed up on actually choosing a narrator.  You’ll get a definite advantage there, however, if you check it about once or twice a day and send auditions promptly, there’s a steady stream of work in it for you.

If you’re not first on ACX, you could be last.

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Craigslist…….Don’t Rule It Out

From my time hanging out in social media circles, there are many lead sources for gigs that are understandably frowned upon due to the “race to the bottom” cheapness for which some have become known.  The many pros and cons of Craigslist as a source for anything is a different debate for a different day, but I think it’s worth taking a second look at as a source for VO leads thanks to the world of Web and mobile apps.  As with many forums, message boards, and other Web-based sites, you have to sift through a load of junk to get to something legit, but now you don’t have to spend more than a few minutes getting to the good (and financially lucrative) gigs.

There are dozens of apps, both Web-based and mobile, to make Craigslist more easily searchable and customized to your tastes, but one stands out in the pack to me.  Adhunt’r does all the heavy lifting that can be involved in searching for leads on Craigslist to the point where just a few small steps can give a snapshot of all current VO opportunities both domestic and international.  It’s incredibly simple to use………….

On the main page, type in your search term.  On a daily basis, I usually search under several…….”voice over”, “voice over talent”, “voice over actor”, “voice over artist”, “voice over wanted”, and “voice over needed”……


In the Advanced Search box on the left hand side of the search return page, go to Most Recent on the pulldown bar…….


The default Filter By Location setting is All Craigslist, so your search will cover both US and worldwide listings.  Click on Advanced Search and you’ve got the up-to-date listings.

Granted, there will be a little frustration with the low paying gigs and the ones that expect you to work pro bono for the career-defining moment known as IMDB credit (or, if they’re really living in high cotton, a meal and gas money), but for me Craigslist has become a good source of steady work paying some pretty good bucks with several repeat clients.  Most importantly, you can search multiple times per day this way in about 2 to 3 minutes tops.  Every tool in your toolbox helps as you build your business.

If you bailed on Craigslist as a lead source several years ago pre-mobile and Web-based apps when it was a lot more cumbersome to navigate, now might be the time to revisit it as another tool in your kit to grow your income.  There are numerous other Craigslist apps out there, but for me this one is the easiest to use and quickest to scour.

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He’s More Than Your Average Joe

As many of us….present blog writer included….work to successfully segue from radio to full-time, self sustaining voiceover talent, it’s good to have a point of reference, particularly on a day when it seems like we’re treading water.

Joe Cipriano has far exceeded his wildest dreams to have a place near the top of the A-list in our business, and now he chronicles his journey in “Living On Air” (available HERE). Some of us fell into radio by accident, and others are bitten by the bug at a very young age and never lose the passion. Joe is squarely in the latter category, and with the combination of talent, determination, hard work, and luck in various quantities, he became a major market on-air talent at 20. From Waterbury, Connecticut to Washington, DC to Los Angeles, he relives his journey and introduces you to characters we’ve all worked with or known at some point in our career.

“Living On Air” is the story of a guy having the time of his life, and many reading this blog will resemble his remarks when they read the book. Your career mileage will vary, and most likely has if you weren’t in a major market at 20. And while I wouldn’t recommend the path he took from point A to point B, it has worked out nicely for him and will be very relatable to those of us who fell in love with radio and would have done, and still do, anything to follow our dream as it has taken us from an on-air studio to a recording booth.

“Living On Air” reminds us that even on the worst days and most dire of circumstances, i.e. the dreaded “different direction”, format change, or misguided station management, what we do on the air or in the booth still beats working any day of the week…..and twice on Sundays.

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