Eight Best Practices for Effective Political Voiceover

Video voiceover for politics

New contributor! Maria Pendolino is a professional voiceover talent and is the founder of Blue Wave Voiceover, a collective of voiceover talents that look and sound like America today. Find out more about Maria at VoiceByMaria.com and follow her and her three rescue cats on Instagram.

Maria joins us to talk about best practices for voiceover in political videos, which you may have noticed frequently run online these days. Many grassroots campaigns and nonprofits may not have considering hiring professional voice talent for digital projects before, and Maria makes the case for working with the pros. Check her best practices for getting good results from your video voiceovers below.

So, 2020 was already shaping up to be the biggest year ever for political advertising! And now with COVID-19 in the mix, we have the added challenge of figuring out where and how to meet people where they’re spending time NOW to get your message across. Broadcast viewership is WAY up, as people are actually making a point to tune in to their favorite local and cable news channels. The “Drive Time” morning and evening commute block popular for terrestrial radio and podcast ads is completely gone, and we’re not sure when it will return. We’ll continue to watch these trends evolve as the political conventions approach, but since you will likely need professional political voiceover talents for your upcoming campaign advertisements, get ahead of the game and avoid common pitfalls by following these top eight best practices.

Meet Voters Where They’re At

Zero in on the voters you want to target and place ads on the media they listen to. For example, you can reach younger voters with campaign ads on Pandora or in the middle of a podcast (note that music app Spotify no longer allows political advertising). You can also get creative with placements on new behemoth video app Tik-Tok, discussion sites like Reddit or video-game streaming on Twitch.

Authentic Political voiceover Works for Millennials & Gen-Z

If you want to target younger voters in your electorate, you should know that Millennials and Gen Z trust ads that sound conversational and authentic, as if one person is simply talking to another. Avoid content and styles that sound overly preachy, authoritative or instructional.

Aim for authenticity in your choice of voiceover talent as well. Not everyone voting in this election looks and sounds like Sam Elliott, with apologies to Mr. Elliott. If you’re hoping to reach African-American voters, hire an African-American voice actor. If you want to target a Spanish-speaking demographic, hire a bilingual voiceover performer. Use both male and female voiceover artists. Let people speak to their own communities.

Give Your Voice Talent Clear Direction

Give your chosen voice performer clear direction in terms of the tone or pace that you want for your campaign ad. Listen to the performer’s demos to see if there is a spot that matches your target. Then ask them to replicate the style of that performance. This will save everyone time! You can also ask to listen in and direct the session live. We’re all really good on Zoom now, right?

Edit, Edit, Edit

To make your spot sound natural, try not to fit 60 seconds of copy into a 30-second commercial. Check your word count before sending the script to your voice artist. On average, 150 words fit comfortably in a 60-second spot. 75 words fit in a 30-second spot, and so on. If you don’t want it to sound like the Micro Machines disclaimer, then ensure you’re not asking for too much in the media time you’ve bought.

You can save valuable time by cutting out the “www” or colons and slashes in web addresses. Listeners will understand!

Provide Local Pronunciation Guides

If your script has any hard-to-pronounce words, proper names, city or town names or other localizations, be sure to provide your voice artist with phonetic pronunciations. This will help your campaign ad sound more authentic to local voters.
An easy fix: send an iPhone voice memo or other cell phone recording of you saying the word so that the voice talent can mimic your pronunciation and get it right the first time.

Include a Clear Call-To-Action in Your Spot

What should your voiceover artist ask voters to do? Make sure your political ad has a clear call-to-action. You might be asking listeners to donate, visit a website, sign a petition or share a post on their social media.

Be sure to tailor your call-to-action to the ad’s platform. In a Pandora spot, the call-to-action might be clicking on a website link. In a radio commercial, the call-to-action might be visiting a website or Facebook page. Nothing is more awkward then airing a spot on traditional terrestrial radio that tells your listener to “click on the ad”. Tailor your language to the user experience where the ad will appear!

Include Voiceover in Your Ad Budget

If you’re a vendor, remember to include voiceover in your budget when you give a client, campaign or mission-driven organization a quote for producing a spot.

Keep in mind that professional voiceover talents charge professional rates. They can be flexible to a point and may offer discounts for non-profits/NGOs, but you can be certain that the quality of the performance (and audio recording!) will match the rate. Hiring an amateur, hobbyist or non-professional may end up costing you extra time and more money in the long run or leave you with unusable audio that sounds like someone recorded on a boombox in their bathtub. Or, it might result in an ineffective and underperforming ad.

Give Yourself (and Your Voice Talent) Enough Time

Make sure you have enough time to develop your ad and get your voice performance before you deliver the final product to the client. Leave room for a live session with the talent or revision/pick-ups if you need it.

Political news moves very quickly, and you may want to create content that responds to a challenger or a news story immediately. Professional voiceover talents understand this! It’s not uncommon to expect 24-hour or same-day turnaround. Just be realistic! a 2-4 hour turnaround can be doable, but check your voiceover artist’s availability before banking on their ability to record your spot immediately.

Maria Pendolino is a professional voiceover talent and is the founder of Blue Wave Voiceover. Blue Wave Voiceover is a collective of voiceover talents that look and sound like America today. A full-time professional voice actor for more than 10 years, Maria has voiced for major brands like Google, Whole Foods, Hoover, Monistat, Robert Mondavi Wines and more. She’s contributed voiceover to campaigns for Democrats and progressives across the country. Find out more about Maria at VoiceByMaria.com and follow her and her three rescue cats on Instagram @mariapendo.

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Maria Pendolino
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