How And Where To Book
More Political Voice Over Work
By Carl Bishop
Ever since I started voicing political spots I've been asked by colleagues how I book so many of them. Well, there are three main factors.
The last one needs to happen first.
PICK A PARTY
You could tell yourself that you'll work for both political parties - double the work, Red money - Blue money, they both spend Green!
Good luck with that, because the producers are fiercely loyal to their party, i.e. the people that make Donkey spots would never make Elephant spots.
You're either a Democrat or a Republican, and don't say you're Independent. How many Independent candidates have an advertising budget?
PREPARE FOR 24/7
Now that you've chosen your side, it's on to step two (we're going in reverse order, so don't get lost ). Step two requires being prepared to do the work 24/7 for about two to three months.
If you're booked on a Broadway show, or you're the voice of a network affiliate or work split shift doing traffic reports at the radio station, this may not work for you. Political spots come together very quickly, some in a matter of hours - and the voice talent is the last to know she or he is going to be working until the producer calls in a panic. So be ready.
FINDING THE WORK …
Step three: Where to find this work?
I was extremely fortunate to meet a producer and owner of a production facility back in 2006, just before the 2008 Presidential primary was getting under way. She hired me to do Audio Post mixing, and somewhere along the way I started reading scratch tracks. She and the client liked what they heard and I was off and running.
My agent also helps to bring in auditions, so if you have an agent, make sure they have a good political demo from you, and remind them that you want to go after this work.
Also, it never hurts to reach out to political consultancies on your own.
WHO SELECTS VOICE TALENT?
There are three entities in the political VO chain:
Campaign staff is for the most part busy crafting the message with the candidate and running the day-to-day of the campaign.
They farm the work of creating the advertising to the political consultant who has a relationship with producers, or a large production house that the consultant hires to make the spots, including hiring voice actors.
The campaign staff typically does not do the hiring of a voice actor, though they will ultimately approve the talent. After all, they are paying the bill.
The people you need to develop relationships with are the producers and production houses and the consultants.
I've found that most of my work comes directly from producers. The consultants know who I am, of course, but I've never dealt directly with them.
It's possible, especially with social media to reach out to a campaign manager or candidate directly, so you never know. But I've found the effort is better used by approaching the decision makers.
Linkedin and Twitter are good places to find the folks that make political ads, so start conversations with them there.
FEMALE VOICES CATCHING UP
Finally, a word on male and female voices in political voice overs.
Like all advertising, political VO was traditionally a male dominated club - but that's changing.
A study by an Associate Professor of Political Science Patricia Stratch at the University of Albany in Albany, NY, released in March of 2016, found that male voices still dominated in political spots 63% to 28%.
Yet Strach said,
I'm biased to using me for political voice overs, but this study also uncovered some interesting reasons why women are increasingly used in political spots, and it's not just to bring more fairness to the game.
For instance, women voices are preferred when:
But women's voices are sought less for topics on foreign policy or national defense. (Hillary, Angela, or the Prime Minister of New Zealand; Jacinda Ardern, may beg to differ.)
The research also finds that female voices get used more for attack ads, either talking about a candidate's policy or something personal, because a woman's voice is perceived to not be quite so mean, which could minimize backlash.
I think what also matters in the choice of voices is the target audience demographic. For instance, as the Democratic party moves further left, I predict you're going to start hearing more Black and Latino voices, and certainly younger voices.
I hope this helps or inspires you to start going out for political voice overs. It's a nice little niche that comes back to you every two years. Now go out there and get some work!
Editor's note: Political voice over performance and marketing are also taught in the recent VoiceOverXtra webinar recording, Performing Political VO, with J. Michael Collins and Celia Siegel. Details.
Carl Bishop is an actor and voice over talent who spends an almost unhealthy amount of time in front of a microphone from his studio in Manhattan's East Village. The world's top brands have hired him for their national campaigns, including Gillette, Comcast XFinity, Advair, Bayer, Head and Shoulders, and others. Carl is the voice of "Bandit" (a German Munitions expert) in the "Rainbow 6: Siege" video game. He has narrated TV shows and promos for The Weather Channel, Travel Channel, Discovery and PBS. He's voiced those funny commercials you see on SNL. Carl also does corporate narration and e-learning for Pepsi, HP, Cigna and the U.S. Army. And Carl was live announcer for the NBC Upfronts specials where he brought to the stage Joan Rivers, Andy Cohen, Nick Cannon, and a Kardashian or two. When the red light is off, Carl enjoys gardening and caring for his wise old cat, and his wise-acre husband.
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