Your business has a personality, whether you are aware of it or not. Your customers' understanding of who you are, and what you do, as a business, may be very different from the vision you have of yourself.
To communicate your marketing message effectively, you must first clearly and honestly identify your business personality. To do this, you have to define three deceptively simple-seeming concepts:
1. Who you are
2. What you do
3. Why you do it better than the competition
You hear what you see
We experience our lives through our senses. We see, hear, touch and smell. People experience the Internet through a computer monitor, and as a result the Web has become a profoundly visual venue.
People believe what they see is the most important element in delivering a message, but I would argue that what you hear outweighs what you see. Companies spend millions of dollars on attractive logos and pithy corporate names, and I have no argument with developing a proper logo or a great name. But successful company names and logos have an element inherent in their design that goes beyond how they look. It is how they sound.
When you see a visual brand representation, a signal goes off in your head and a little voice whispers that company name. Try to think of a popular corporate logo without the name of that company sounding silently in your head. Sound, and more specifically the human voice, is the most underutilized marketing tool we have at our disposal.
The Web is made for sound
The Web is a multimedia platform. Your Web site should use every possible tool available to establish your image and deliver your marketing message. No one was able to stop the flood of images from overtaking the Web, and soon audio will follow.
If you implement audio on your Web site properly, your message will get through the visual noise and you will connect with your audience in a truly human way. But how do you effectively implement voice on the Web?
- List all the human attributes inherent in your business personality. An accounting firm may want to project stability, reliability and a conventional outlook—think the avuncular voice of Walter Cronkite. An advertising agency might want to deliver a hip, cutting edge, creative personality—think the edgy delivery of Chris Rock or Dennis Leary. Great voice actors are available at very reasonable prices and can project the desired style and delivery.
- What are the audio qualities of the signature voice? Do you want a man or a woman, or both? Do you want a deep, base voice full of conviction, a snooty British accent dripping in condescension, or comic rapid-fire patter aimed to amuse and entertain? Accent is as important as delivery.
- What kind of language, phrasing and cadence is required to give the voice its personality? When we were looking for a voice for a DVD to be used at the winter baseball meetings, we decided on a combination of Dizzy Dean and Mel Allen. The key was that good-ole-boy southern charm conveyed through a combination of baseball jargon, phrasing and dialect. We weren't looking for someone to imitate Dizzy Dean, just someone who could deliver the essence of Dizzy's love for the game.
- Do you prefer wet or dry? Have you ever watched one of those "The Making of..." documentaries on a how a movie was made? Sometimes they will show you a scene with dialog but no music or sound effects. It's really very flat, even with the actors doing their dramatic best. Voice without music or sound effects is called a "dry" delivery. When the effects and the music are added in postproduction, the scene delivers real emotional impact. The music and f/x provide emotional clues and memory hooks.
- Write the script. Having the voice in my head is a great help in writing the script. Whether you're shooting for Sidney Greenstreet or Rod Serling, the cadence, phrasing and language are what make the script come alive and create the personality that will represent your company. Unrelated to the actual voice (but definitely of importance to the script) is the point of view. The script should not be about you; it should be about how your audience can benefit from knowing you. Don't fall into the trap of focusing on you and listing a bunch of product or service features. Talk about what you can do for your audience, and in that way you will make a real connection.
- Audition the talent. Once you have a script, it's time to audition voices to find the one that fits the personality you are looking for—and, of course, the price you are willing to pay.
- Implement on the Web. Once the voice audio is complete, music and sound effects can be added as needed. The audio tracks are then cut into digestible clips, compressed and converted into appropriate implementable files.
In a world of mental clutter, information anxiety and narrow attention spans, your Web voice could become the next big weapon in Web media presentation and marketing.
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