Describing voices can be an enormous challenge, and it’s no surprise. The nitty-gritty of communication can be one of the hardest topics to communicate about objectively. Discussing voices is no exception — It’s awkward to zero in on how people, brands, and audiences talk.
This article has been updated in August 2021.
When describing voices, pay attention to their defining characteristics. For instance, the accent, timbre, vocabulary, pacing, and other factors that give speech its richness are highly unique. By describing these characteristics in detail, you can settle on ideal marketing strategies and engage audiences constructively.
What goes into describing a voice, and how can you avoid pitfalls? While there are many elements to a good description, we’ll focus on the most critical aspects. Here’s everything you need to know to describe voices accurately, inoffensively, and productively.
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This post was updated on March 2021
Why Describing Voices Matters
Being able to describe voices is an essential skill for marketers, leaders, and creative directors. It lets you specify how you want your brand, ad campaigns, or internal communications to come across. By venturing into this unknown, you stand to make a more significant outreach impact.
Imagine that you’re creating a YouTube commercial for your Internet of Things software company. Although there’s nothing wrong with showing off your enterprise’s formidable skills and impressive project track record for the general public, that’s not the primary goal. What you really want to do is get industrial entrepreneurs on board. You need to come up with an authoritative, trustworthy brand tone. You’ll also need to use language that appeals to the technical, knowledgeable voice your audience employs.
As this example demonstrates, voice descriptions are integral to even the most basic outreach and engagement projects. Marketing is a two-way street. As with any dialog, you need to know and respect your conversation partner. Specifying definitive voice characteristics thoroughly makes it easier to hit the perfect stride.
Describing Voices vs. Describing Brand Voices
A brand voice represents the general or overall tone your marketing takes. This isn’t always the same as the voices you’ll describe when creating individual ads. For instance, you might require your commercial to feature a scene where a member of the general public learned about your products or services from an in-the-know neighbor. In such a case, you’d want to specify the voices that each character represented. Ideally, you’d choose vocal characteristics that reinforced your existing marketing content.
The Three Golden Rules of Describing Voices
OK, so there’s no such thing as a formal rule for describing voices. Nonetheless, countless marketers seem to trip up in a few critical areas — accuracy, sensitivity, and descriptive efficiency:
1. Be Accurate
Accurate voice descriptions should remain objective, but this is easier said than done. Thanks to our familiarity with spoken language, many of us characterize voices in implicitly subjective ways. For instance, it’s easy to visualize a marketer requesting an ad read that
- Sounds like a famous movie star or public figure,
- Evokes a familiar social role, such as a teacher, boss, or athlete, or
- Conveys a cool, hip, or youthful tone.
Technically, there’s nothing wrong with these descriptions, but they’re impractical. For instance, two different people may have completely distinct ideas of what constitutes a “cool” voice. Similarly, who’s to say that a teacher or boss should sound a certain way?
Go beyond these kinds of descriptions to give your voice talent a better feel for what you want. When describing voices, pay attention to:
Should an announcer’s voice be high-pitched or baritone? Will a raspy tone make your brand feel less appealing than a smooth or sensual one? Should the voice actors talk slower or faster than average?
Specifying the finer details from the start makes it easier to keep your voice consistent throughout. While the 30 seconds it takes to listen to an ad might not seem like much, it’s an eon in marketing terms. Since audiences may consume your content repeatedly, think hard about how you prefer to come across.
Manner of Speech
Accents and vocal quirks can make voices more endearing to audiences. Characters that use colorful or exciting vocabulary may also be more memorable. Leverage these outreach tricks by including relevant specifications in your descriptions. Even if you end up providing added detail, your voice talent may find them helpful for getting into character. These kinds of explanations are particularly beneficial when you want someone to improvise.
Mode of expression is particularly important when you’re marketing to niche segments. Although authenticity is vital, so is making a connection. Expressing yourself genuinely in language that people understand can make it easier to cross the chasm.
Voices should set a specific tone. While your ad copy helps establish the atmosphere, providing helpful cues is also a good idea. For instance, instead of saying that a character’s voice should be boring, try a more descriptive word, like “monotonous” or “flat.”
In audio ads and videos, the mood depends on many factors. Everything from the visuals to the background music has an effect. Since people tend to zero in on speech, however, it pays to be detailed. For more descriptive inspiration, check out this great list of ways writers describe voices.
2. Be Sensitive
Most business leaders recognize the value of making their consumers feel comfortable. From cultivating accommodating retail environments to getting behind social issues, the worth of a welcoming attitude is beyond contention.
Your branding is no exception. When describing voices, it might be tempting to use stereotypes and generic labels, but they’re best avoided. If your voice actor follows such instructions, then they might deliver work that offends your audience. Even if they don’t, you could end up with content that falls flat of the ideal since stereotypes aren’t very explanatory. Set a tone that helps your brand spread further by coming up with richer, more expressive voice standards.
Sensitivity is a huge component of effective outreach. Remember that your perspective might not always mesh with your listeners’ views. Also bear in mind that even if you don’t care what other people think, you’ve got to consider the bottom line. An ad that speaks to a broader segment of the populace will ultimately win you more business.
3. Be Efficient and Objective-oriented
When describing voices, try to have a goal in mind. For instance, consider
- Why it’s necessary or worthwhile to distinguish one character or voice from another,
- How a particular voice might sound in context and if other alternatives might work better, and
- Whether a specific tone will resonate with your audience or merely come across as gimmicky.
We’ve already mentioned the importance of descriptiveness. With that said, there’s a vast difference between being detailed and overwhelming people. For instance, your voice actor probably doesn’t need to know that you were inspired to come up with a particular commercial spot while you were sitting in traffic unless the ad’s topic directly relates to that anecdote.
How can you tell when you’ve provided enough info? Asking your voice talent for their opinions is a smart move. After completing a successful ad read or voiceover, test the waters by soliciting feedback. Asking whether your briefing helped or hindered the voice actors can dramatically streamline future work.
Creating a Solid Branding Voice Description
How do successful marketers use illustrative communication techniques to describe voices? The easiest way to get the ball rolling is to sample your existing content.
Go through your radio spots, Facebook posts, and other marketing materials. Look for the items that are the most representative of your brand — those that set you apart from your competitors.
Next, try to describe your chosen assets in no more than four words, heeding the golden rules from earlier. From here, expand upon each characteristic with a one- or two-sentence description and some basic usage rules. For instance, if you felt your brand was youthful, you might write that it matches the energy of social movements, uses slang, and avoids jaded or overly political language. For more tips on how to create a brand voice chart, try this article from the Content Marketing Institute.
Transitioning to a Voice-over Voice Description
Now that you’ve fleshed out your brand’s tone, use it to specify how your commercials should sound and feel. Although you might not be as direct as having a character speak for the company, most dialog should reflect the company’s values or driving point.
Suppose that you set a branding rule specifying that your company should only use formal language. A character who represents a general member of the public might be an exception to this guideline. After all, contrast is a great way to reinforce a point and make yourself look good by comparison.
Remember to stay flexible. Even though corporate branding guidelines work best when they establish a consistent tone, this doesn’t mean they should never change. As your brand evolves, so should your marketing content, and voiceover descriptions are the ideal testing bed for exploration.
Using Voice Descriptions for Fun and Profit
Feel like an expert marketing voice describer? Go forth and conquer the outreach world, but keep our three essential rules in mind as you do. Be aware that your branding — and voiceover — voices can inform your corporate culture. Establish a feel that reflects your values and leaves room for growth.
And always remember to use professional voice actors and actresses. When in doubt, leave it the pros, and Bunny Studio has over 100,000 voices of every kind imaginable to help you out with your projects. If you’re looking to give your brand the voice it deserves, get in touch with us!