What's In A Voice?

Last night I was laying in bed and thinking about the quality that so many people ask for from their voice over artists, "relatable."

Relatable? Don't talk to me about relatability.

After giving it some solid thought, I realized that what most clients actually want is not someone who can "relate" to their customers, but someone that can truly EMPATHIZE with the situation their customers are in.

It's marketing 101, right? Find what's bothering your customer and then you can start to make it better - just like Paul McCartney singing to Julian Lennon *(except with about 200 or so less repetitions of the word "na").

But here's the thing...

If I'm a man between the ages of 45 and 65 and I need peace of mind from a great insurance policy, hearing the voice of another man between the ages of 45 and 65, who is speaking in a conversational manner rather than using the tone of an announcer to deliver sales pitch, isn't gonna make a damn bit of difference to me.

What is going to make a difference is if the voice of the person telling me that I can find peace of mind with XYZ Insurance can tell me that everything is gonna be okay from the position of someone who understands the fear I'm feeling, then I'm gonna feel better about calling XYZ to set up an appointment.

The same holds true for corporate videos and explainers. It doesn't matter whose voice is giving you the information as much as the person delivering the copy can empathize with each individual watching the video. You have to have a voice who knows their audience is most likely uncomfortable, maybe even a little bored with the very idea of sitting through another one of "those videos from corporate." What you need to get through to them is the voice of the person who leans over and says, "I've seen this before, don't worry, you're gonna like it more than you think."

Let's take me for an example.

I born into a cult and raised to believe that any person who wasn't part of our specific religious group (including our own family members) was most likely controlled by demons and wanted nothing more than to convince me to do things that would make God angry enough to watch me die a horrible death and then resurrect me so that he could burn me again a thousand years later.


As it happens, there is no target demographic for cult survivors and we don't really have a peer group you can pull from.

But... many people can empathize with my upbringing because they are decent human beings with healthy understandings of emotions.

So when you hire your voice over talent, you don't need to advertise your gym by hiring someone who sounds like they go to the gym. You first need to find someone who understands why people go to the gym and can talk to them from appreciation of circumstance.

To put it another way, we don't marry people just like ourselves.

(Well...sometimes we do and then promptly learn that it was a bad idea to have made that choice.)

The relationships that last are the ones where people from different backgrounds understand and accept each other. And those are the kinds of relationships you want to have with your clients and employees.

If you'd like to know more about the empathetic approach to voice over, feel free to give me call or send me an email. Besides picking up a few new ideas, you will probably make a new friend as well.


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Written by Ripley Johnson