DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #24: Why I’m Confused…no, I mean why I’m confused on how personal I should make my audioblog entries. What did you think I meant?

C’mon…that’s not how it works.

DON’T WANNA READ? THEN LISTEN!:

When I set first set out to make a bog late last year, I asked the VO community for advice on what makes a good blog. The most interesting thing, to me, was how consistently I received two particular pieces of advice that were completely contradictory! The first one was, “Personalize your blog, so you can make sure it’s unique.” The other piece of advice was, “Don’t talk about yourself.”

…Umm…wait, what? Am I, like, the only one who was confused when I read that?

And I friggin’ heard it over and over again, too!

“Make sure that your blog is unique to you.”

“Don’t talk about yourself.”

“Personalize your blog.”

“Don’t write ‘ME-ME-ME’ Stories, no one will read them.”

“The best voice actors are the voice actors who let their unique experiences and relationship with words guide the delivery of their copy, and it’s the same thing with a blog.”

“Nobody cares about your personal trials and tribulations, they’ve got their own to worry about, especially since it’s mostly other VO talent who will read it.”

“Only by making your blog personal can you make it stand out among the cluttered blogosphere.”

“Don’t talk about yourself, that’s just advertising.”

The best conclusion I could come to was that good blogs were blogs where the authors kept their personal experiences brief, and then used them to talk about a larger point that was relevant to the VO community at large. So there were personal experiences, sure, but they were usually summed up in a sentence or two before moving on to talk about the bigger picture. For that reason, there is a line that divides blogging and advertising, but it’s pretty razor-thin if you think about it.

For example, here’s something I’ve been really conflicted about. Recently, I got a new website and a spiffy new logo created for me, and–

Wai-wai-wait, hold on, hold on! I’m getting to a broader point, I promise!

Anyway. I was thinking about writing an audioblog entry about the process behind its conception, and why I like my new website so much. The idea, of course, being that I would be starting a conversation about the larger, broader topic of what I think makes a good website (unique design, downloadable demos, easily-accessed contact info, stuff like that). The thing is, every time I sat down to write that entry, I kept thinking to myself, “Hold on…am I advertising? I don’t mean to…how do I make that last sentence sound more helpful and less like the copy for an infomercial…?”

There are a few audioblog entries that I simply never went through with for that exact reason. They just sat in my draft folder, and never saw the light of day. I started from scratch, because I couldn’t help but think, “Hold on…of what use is this to someone else? Not much at all, really.”

I set out, long ago, to divide my blog and my website as distinctly as I possibly could with regard to its goals. I’m not saying I don’t advertise myself. I have to. Go to my website, or my Facebook page (page, not profile), my Tumblr account, or a couple other social media profiles that aren’t particularly conversation-centered…and you’ll find that I advertise the living hell out of myself. Like I said, we have to, it’s the nature of our business. If no one is aware we exist, we can’t expect to get work. My goal, though, was to make sure, to the extent that I could, that my blog would be an open conversation, for anyone, on all things VO. My audience, after all, is mostly other VO talent. I’d have to imagine that if I just turned my blog into a long rant about myself, that the immediate reaction’s just gonna be, “Uh-huh, that’s nice Dave, we don’t care.”

So, for however little it’s worth, here are a few ways I tried to make my blog personal without turning it into a glorified ad.

1) Keep your personal experiences brief. A sentence or two, but a paragraph at the most. One of my earliest blog entries, entry #4, was an entry in which I talked about why I got into acting–namely, because I’m autistic, and wanted to get to understand people better. Personal, sure, but not very relevant to the vast majority of my other readers. Not surprisingly, it’s one of my least shared entries.

2) Add a (somewhat) unique feature to it. For me, that was the narration feature. I figured, I’m in voice-over, so it only makes sense for me to narrate my own entries, right? I figured it would give a personal touch. Sure, many people won’t listen and would prefer just to read, but the narration feature is there if they want it.

3) Add a blogroll, or a list of other blogs people can check out. It’s a nice little way of sayin’, “Hey, I’m not the center of the universe.”

4) Link to other social media in general. I post my audioblog entries in a number of forums on Linkedin, and whenever I find that good discussion has arisen on a particular thread, I go back and edit my audioblog entries to include links to those discussion threads. I think other people bring up great points about my entries and further the discussion to the point where I want future readers to know about it.

5) Acknowledge that it’s partially impossible. My website is for advertising, and my blog is for discussion, and I try to keep the two separate…but there’s no denying that my blog will help me a little bit on the advertising end. Each blog entry makes me a tad more Google-friendly (something we ALL want, let’s be honest), and while I don’t claim myself to be a VO superstar by any means, it did help my internet presence–more people knew who I was after I started blogging than before.

I guess a funny way to end this entry would be a sentence with some sort of “wink-wink” humor to the effect of, “So remember, make your posts relevant, and don’t advertise yourself…like placing videos to projects you did, such as this one I recently completed for Miken Accu-Flex 2.0 hockey sticks.” However, I’m not going to do that. I would never, ever, EVER post videos of VO projects I recently completed below this paragraph.

Okay, sorry, now I backed myself into an uncomfortable position where I have to post the video to make the joke work–you don’t have to watch it, go ahead and ignore it if you want!

DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #23: Why Nobody Wants To Listen To Me…no, I mean why sometimes it’s important to keep our egos in check. What did you think I meant?

It’s great to have pride in your job…just remember what your job is.

DON’T WANNA READ? THEN LISTEN!:

Times are tough in this economy. So, in an attempt to keep our business strong, I think many of us, as a natural reaction, have come to uphold VO as a sacred art. An irreplaceable one. One that only we can do! One in which we, as sacred keepers of our god-like voices, stand atop Mt. Olympus and declare to the heavens, “GOD, I ROCK!!!” So imagine how much of a reality check it was when a respected colleague of mine posted this in one of my favorite forums (voice-overs.com–I highly recommend it!). By all means, go check it out for yourself, but here’s the most important part of it: he quoted another (successful) voice actor who said, “I think some people are taking our jobs waaaay too seriously. We say words for money. That’s it. And we should be grateful we were given nice voices and the ability to learn how to act.”

Ho. Ly. CRAP. Considering all the talk about the “infestation of newbies,” the “rates crisis,” and the “devaluing of VO services” that takes place today, this was a very brave thing of them to say…and, in my opinion, so desperately needed!

I love what I do. At the same time, I feel like it’s important to be realistic about what my job is really worth. I think it’s important to take criticism, to laugh at myself, and to keep my real-life priorities in check. Heresy, I know, but it’s a heresy that we all need to take to heart a bit.

Think about it. Sure, as VO talent, for the sake of our business, we want as much exposure as we can get. We all want that national spot for McDonald’s. We all want to dethrone Robert Downey Jr. as the voice of Nissan. We all want to be recognized as serious, competent VO talent so that we can command a respectable business. Because if we command a respectable business, we command respect, right?

Nope. C’mon, guys. Most people don’t want to listen to us…and “us” includes Robert Downey Jr., for that matter–most of the people I talk to have no idea that he does the Nissan commercials! The average person doesn’t watch TV for advertisements, they watch it for their favorite TV shows. In fact, I don’t think it would be such a stretch for me to say that there are people out there who hate ads. Think of it this way. Y’know when you’re watching a YouTube video with a lot of hits, and an ad pops up, and the “Skip To Video” button becomes available after five seconds? How many of you just have your cursor hovering over that skip button, rapidly clicking, just begging to get to your video and not caring at all about whatever ad is being shoved in your face?

Yup. That’s what I thought!

For that matter, businesses are catching on to the fact that people don’t like ads…most notably, DVR makers. According to an article* in the Wall Street Journal by Shalini Ramachandran, Dish Network unveiled a new DVR feature back in March that’s slowly gaining more prominence called “Auto Hop” which allows watchers to automatically skip the ads of their recorded programs. Apparently, some networks aren’t too happy about this.

To be fair, clearly advertising on TV has some value, or else it wouldn’t cost anything. By “some,” I mean that the same article noted that CBS brings in $4.9 billion in advertising revenue from “Two and a Half Men”‘s time slot alone. NBC brings in $4.7 billion from ads that air during “Smash,” ABC brings in $3.9 billion from ads that air during “Modern Family,” and Fox gets a nice $3.1 billion from ads that air during “American Idol.” So, yeah, not exactly chump change. Still, the fact that there’s a demand for something like Auto-Hop is proof enough of what our job is in the grand scheme of things: we speak words for money.

Sure, there’s acting involved. Sure, it’s more difficult than it looks (well, sounds). Sure, one has to make sure they can do the best job they can do with their audio equipment and their recording environment. Sure, it takes a consistent marketing effort. Sure, not everyone can do this. Sure, being successful at this business–at any business–involves taking ourselves seriously to a degree. I won’t ever say, argue, or imply that this is a skill-less, thankless, meaningless job. It most certainly isn’t! My point, and the point of the person quoted above, is merely that there is such a thing as taking one’s job too seriously sometimes. Remember, we speak words for money. Words that, even when spoken by Iron Man, people generally aren’t interested in hearing.

PS: Sorry for plugging them again, but…well, actually, no, I’m not sorry. 😀 The voice-overs.com forum, which I linked to early in the entry, is a forum that everybody should sign up for and join. It was immensely helpful for me, and unlike other forums, egos are checked at the door there!

*Source: “Zap! New DVR Wipes Out Ads” by Shalini Ramachandran, Wall Street Journal, May 11.

Some great discussion about this topic took place at…

1. The “Voice-Over Professionals” Linkedin Group

2. The “Voice-Over Vision” Linkedin Group

3. The “Working Voice Actor” Linkedin Group