It’s generally well known – by clients of mine whom I’ve worked with for awhile – that I am game to voice pretty much anything. In fact, I encourage offbeat, parody, and “joke” prompts — they provide a welcome respite from the run-of-the-mill (but highly necessary) IVR stock prompts. It’s especially fun when some of these “oddball” prompts are wedged in-between serious ones…in the midst of serious prompts might be a prompt which says: “Are you still listening?” I love it.
However, there are limits. I have backed off a few projects which brought up such feeling of discomfort, that I respectfully passed on them — I recently blogged about politely declining to voice the call-girl’s information line (I’m still trying to figure out what the “Swedish Butterfly” is..) but here is a list of other areas in which I’m just not comfortable lending my voiceprint to:
A well-placed expletive in humorous copy where it makes sense and carries some comic weight — no problem. An excessive amount of gratuitous potty-mouth – not interested in doing it.
2. Religious Content
Everyone’s personal beliefs and convictions are intimate and should be a private thing. I’m always taken a bit aback when I voice a very straightforward and business-like phone tree, and the last line says something like: “Thank you for calling and go forth with the Light of Jesus!” I struggle with the appropriateness of introducing that into a clearly business context. I also voice a large amount of conference intro prompts and many are from religious groups — not problematic if they simply wanted me to welcome their callers and instruct them on how to mute and unmute their line; instead I’m actually often asked to evangelize and quote scripture — almost like a warm-up act for the minister or church leader hosting the call. Let’s just say that I am religiously….neutral. Would prefer to not be put in the position of imparting rhetoric for which I have no strong feeling.
3. Slandering Groups
This seems pretty self-evident, but I found myself in the midst of a conference call a few years ago, with an ad agency in one city, and the client in another, and all I knew about the project was that they needed an extensive national auto-dialer recorded for a political bill they needed passed. My daydreams of what Louis Vuitton bag I was going to purchase with the windfall from this latest project was cruelly disrupted by the client talking about ”making sure this gay marriage bill didn’t get passed!” Yep — I was smack in the middle of having committed myself to voicing a dialer that would drum up support for squashing the gay marriage bill — a project that I absolutely could not voice with any conscience. After the call, I spoke with the ad agent and recused myself — to my detriment. Haven’t heard from them since.
4. You Using My Voice
This one surprises many people, but if copy is written in the first person: “Hi, this is Theresa, and welcome to my conference”, I will automatically change it to: “Hi, and welcome to Theresa’s conference.” Theresa is not me, and may not create the image that she has my voice. I’m totally OK with me being “cast” in a character: “Hi, this is Liz from Victoria’s Secret, and if you have a second, I’d like to follow up on your last purchase.” But I will not “impersonate” or “personify” a real person with my voice.
The list is pretty short. There’s a greater sense of appropriateness now than there used to be; years ago, I voiced a radio spot for a fast-food chain that was so sexist, that the male voice in the spot stopped the session and complained about the content to the ad agency, while I — all of 22 — stood mutely, secretly hoping he wouldn’t blow the job for both of us. Hopefully, we have a greater awareness of what’s kosher and what likely isn’t — and I do a better job of listening to that “no” voice which tells me to pass.
Next post: I’m approached a lot by voice talent about how to get into voice-over in general, and into IVR voicing, specifically — next post, I’ll give some tips to those hoping to get started!