Leveraging Voice Media To Drive Customer Engagement

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This blog post features our guest speaker Colin Alexander, founder of Conduit Voice Media. Colin started Conduit Voice Media because he believes in the power of storytelling. With decades of experience in the digital media landscape, his team is dedicated to bringing your brand’s story to life. From the bustling streets of Halifax to the serene landscapes of Atlantic Canada, his business has helped businesses connect with their audience through compelling audio and video content. The mission of Conduit Voice Media is to create, engage, and connect people all over the digital world.

This conversation brings to the forefront the importance of maintaining authenticity in voice media. From overcoming recording nerves to achieving a professional voice quality, Colin shares his industry expert tips and real-life success stories.


Here is the summary of our discussion.

I would like you to explain the whole concept of voice media. What does it mean?

When I started this company, the idea was that I wanted to help Nova Scotia. I wanted to help Nova Scotian business owners. Something that I've noticed just growing up watching TV - the advertisements and the awareness pieces that spoke to me and the ones that didn't - the ones that always spoke to me were always from the perspective of the business or the operation and maybe it was the owner operator or one of their key staff members delivering the message. Those were the messages that I listened to. And that was what I tried to channel when I started this business. So, the whole concept, so to speak of voice media, is really distilling and articulating your voice into some media format, whether that be audio, video, or even text.

Would you say one could connect with an audience without a video contact? Just voice?

Certainly, and I think you and I are kind of in the process of doing that right now. And we're seeing and have seen over the course of the last 12 or 13 years, a large uptick in specifically audio content. We see this with audiobooks. Now, I'm not sure if you're a fan but myself, my wife, and many others, that's how we engage with literature. More often than not now is through the use of audiobooks and it's wonderful. And podcasting. Businesses, organizations, not-for-profit, and social enterprises are turning to podcasting to get their message out, to get their voice out. And the reality is, most people feel a lot more comfortable sitting in front of a microphone than they do sitting in front of a camera. And so, they have a much more easier time I should say being their authentic selves.

So, why should somebody listening to the show today care about this? How does it impact their business?

There's a few different ways that we can look at it. The easiest and the most organic or the most wholesome way, I like to think of is that when you're a small business owner, or when you have a small business, you have a pretty heavy communications net, right? You're connecting with potential clients, active clients, and past clients, all the time. It's very much a daily task that you have to undergo with things like podcasting. There are certain elements to that communications piece that you can somewhat remove from your day-to-day because you have a recording of you saying something about a thing. And so, what we see happening more and more and more, is businesses are engaging in podcasts. They're being invited to be guests. They are starting podcasts. And what they're doing is they're using this as their digital content base. And so - and we hear this all the time - and I'm sure all of you out there in small business land have been like, you gotta rock social media. You got to have content. Podcasting is one of the best ways to get authentic, organic, honest, and truthful words to your why. And it's a great way to do that, with virtually no barrier to entry. All you need is a microphone and a computer. Chances are you might already have those two things sitting on your desk right now. Right? And so really the short answer is how does it impact small businesses? It helps us get our messages out there more consistently. And in a way that many of the online audience are engaging with through the use of digital content like podcasting or video.

If I were a small business owner, for example, and I'm listening to this show right now, and I don't like the idea of podcasting, how can I use the concept of voice media to promote my business?


I was on a website - reading a blog - and I noticed that they included a voice recording with the blog. So, similar to that of an audiobook, but from the perspective of somebody who doesn't want to be on camera, or somebody who doesn't want to have their face attached to whatever is happening. This is a really good way for them to say okay, well I can still be a little bit behind the scenes. But we're still connecting with that human element. I'm not just getting you to read the page. And then hopefully, you'll learn something and then move off and then maybe you'll come back to me when you need to animate something, and we'll do some business. The idea is that they're connecting with your voice, you're telling them this information. And now when they have a phone call with you, and they say “Hey, I was on your website. I saw your blog. You were talking about this. I'm really interested. I'd like to know more.” The voice that is responding to them is the same voice that they heard on the website telling them about the thing and that helps us build trust so much faster.


Is there something your business does that would make my voice sound better?

This is true in every industry - you have the people who are so incredibly knowledgeable about the thing, but my gosh, they don't know how to talk to people. And you know, they're technical or they're very deep into their sphere, and it can be tough for them to connect outside of that. So, one of the things that we do when we're working with clients on podcasting is there's a little bit of coaching involved. What I prefer to do - and I appreciate that we meet on online a lot and we read on Zoom and things like that, and that's wonderful – is to be in a room together, you can see me, hear me, feel me and vice versa. And what we do is just a couple of few quick recordings, we kind of get rolling on a topic and I kind of get a sense of how it goes and I'm listening back to it. And I'm making notes basically as I'm listening to the first little session and saying, Okay, well what do we do? Do I need to move any microphones? Do I need to coach this person to start or stop saying this or that? Or do they need to carry themselves a little bit differently? The reality is, and this is sort of just what I've noticed, over the course of time, there are three things that are very, very common to folks who are just getting into recording and who are just getting ready to do this whole podcasting thing or this whole audiobook thing. The first thing is microphone etiquette. And I can actually kind of show you folks right here. So, if you put your thumb and your pinky finger full extension, you should be exactly that far away from your microphone when speaking. Now that's give or take. You'd be surprised how much that one little trick helps a lot of people because it gets them back. As opposed to like, crunched in leaning forward, and talking like this from the microphone. It's not great for vocal quality. The other thing that I noticed is very, very common, is folks get nervous and I understand once that red light goes on. It's like you're in a different world. It's a different game entirely. So, we do a couple of things there. One, I hide the red light, like I call for it. But the other piece is to remind folks, and this works for any of you out there in radio land today. You are recording to a malleable digital file, not a tape. There is nothing you can say that we can't remove. There is no mistake that you can make that we can't edit. There is literally no way you can fail. I won't let you. When most people realize this, then they relax a lot. The other thing that I noticed is that as people are talking and they're getting more excited, you'll notice their shoulders slowly start to creep up and until they're so excited or they're so nervous. They have no neck left. And because their shoulders are up so high towards their ears, and oftentimes, it's just a gentle reminder like, hey, take a deep breath. Take two or three we're not in a rush for time. Relax. Let's start again, get those shoulders down. And with those three things you can be from zero to broadcast hero in less than a week.

Are there free tools in this space for a small business owner?

Absolutely. So, if you're doing things like podcasting, if you're doing things like audio books, or you're doing dictation of blogs, I think that's so wonderful. I want to see more of that. But if these are the kinds of things that you're engaging in, there is a tool that you absolutely must be aware of. It’s called Adobe podcast. It’s currently in its beta form. It is free to use, but there is a premium service as well that allows you a little bit more functionality and a little bit more space. The idea behind Adobe podcast is that it’s an AI tool. Although loosely AI so I don't want people to get scared about that. It's a logarithmic tool. It's highly sophisticated. And what it does is you can send it a piece of recording through the web online and for completely zero cost to you. It will clean up that recording to almost as good as what you could do in a studio. I have used Adobe podcast. The function specific to the tool is called Enhanced speech. I've used this oh my gosh, so much. If I've got a rough recording - something that didn't get captured well - Adobe podcast has saved me. But if you're somebody who's just starting in the space, you will know nothing about audio editing, you know nothing about audio processing. You don't need to. You can use this tool and it will do a great job for you. I cannot promote it enough. I love it.

Can you share success stories of small businesses that have used voice media effectively?

Yeah, there's a couple that come to mind.

The first one is a bit of a local success story. And this is not my business. But I want to give a huge shout-out and huge congratulations to both Rhys Waters and Jonathan Burns. Over at Pod Starter, what they were able to do - in cutting into this market and supporting small businesses who have no idea, no start point with this kind of audio content, and absolutely no idea of where they even want to take it. They came up with a way of dealing with these businesses, and they have to date I think created like top 10 podcasts out of this region with constituents from Halifax businesses from Halifax, Nova Scotia as a whole and they are in the business a little bit different than me. They're in the business of creating monetized podcasts when appropriate. But they are doing such wonderful work with this medium. And I have to shout out to them just because of what they've been able to do for businesses in this space. So, folks, if you really have no idea where to start, reach out to Jon and Reese. Reach out to me of course but these guys are phenomenal in this space, from my own perspective. I shot a series of videos a couple of years ago for the craft distillers association of Nova Scotia. And this has been something. Two years since completing those productions, I have met with people just in conversation just on the street. And, you know, they've said, “Oh, we saw this video – that barrelling tied down in the valley and put together and it was so lovely and it really made us want to go meet the owners”. Because I showcase the owners in the video. Russell and Colleen, lovely human beings. And this kind of goes back to what we were talking about in the beginning – which is showing our authentic selves. And how that connects with people. Because like I said, I'm standing in the grocery line with some random lady I've never met before in my life. Turns out one of my videos connected with her and connected her with two really awesome people who were doing great work down in the valley.

Any ethical considerations in the voice media space?

Ultimately, that's going to depend on your industry. You're going to have different restrictions on public information sharing and things like that. If you're a doctor versus if you are somebody like me and you're in videography. That being said, I kind of like to say - Don't say anything your mother wouldn't want to hear you say. Unless you're on one of those podcasts that's driving controversy. The reality is we don't want to hear you be mean, nasty, rude, or punching down on other people. There's a time and a place for that. There's a format of podcast for that. But if you're in the small business world, you might want to consider that this is your image. And people are going to connect with this information and get a sense of who you really are. And if you are on that recording and you're being a rude, nasty person, people are going to get that impression of you. So, I always caution people - don't say anything that your mother wouldn't want to hear you say. The other piece is, be mindful of privacy. I mean, I know we're just speaking about a past client. We're in the position right now that they are a public business. So, we can talk about that pretty safely. But I might have more questions or might have more qualms or hang ups about maybe divulging personal information about either of those to business owners, or about myself or anybody in my life. It's very important. That's kind of the point. Point to is to stay on topic as much as you can. And when you stay on topic, you'll find that for the most part, you're not finding yourself in the hot water of some of those maybe more controversial conversations. Maybe there's controversy in your industry. Great to talk about that stuff but remember to keep it respectful.

 

What are your thoughts on the use of AI?

I'm so glad you and I are having this conversation. I really have some very passionate thoughts and feelings around AI and this is a really good time to have a conversation. Here's the short of it. AI is such a powerful, powerful technology and it's going to become and has become - is becoming - a very very powerful tool for business. Listen all, I'm not gonna lie. Anybody who's been watching the news knows that Sports Illustrated just laid off 10,000 - I think - of their writers. Basically their entire writing staff. To replace with AI. We're seeing these bubble is happening within Hollywood Studios. We're seeing this happening in a big way in the tech sector right now with jobs being displaced or replaced by AI. Guys, folks, friends, loved ones, humans, fellow human beings, fellow citizens of this planet, this is happening at the largest levels of business, like multibillion dollar, 100 billion dollar a year companies and it will happen at those levels. You will see people lose their jobs. But what you're going to see as a result of that is a larger uptick of population of experts within the gig economy. You're going to see more small businesses open. Some of these folks will go and they will work for another company doing what they had done before. Yes, but the estimates on that right now are actually pretty low. So, we've got this problem, or this looming beast of job displacement or job replacement with AI. And I want to tell you folks, this right now and I truly honestly believe this. If you're in small business, this tool is up boom. It is one of the most useful things that you can train yourself and your staff to use. Because what we're seeing, and we've spent a lot of time looking at report after report after report - where 5% of businesses that are using this AI technology are reinvesting directly back into their businesses, back into their staff and back into themselves. So, that means things like wage increases or salary maintaining while workload decreases. Tell me when was the last time in the last 40 years you've heard anything like that happening in business? That, hey, we've got this new tool, you can do a better job with it. But now we're going to give you less to do as a result of that. Now, it's just going to simply make you more efficient. And your reward for that is having more time on your hands, not more work. The last 50 or 40 years, I've never heard anything like that happening. But 25% of these businesses in North America are doing exactly that. With these tools. So, I guess that's my point with it, folks, let's be part of that 25%. Let's get that 25% up to 60%. So, all of us here in the small business space are using these tools. We're interacting with these tools we're understanding these tools, but we're responsible with them. We use them in an ethical way. And we use them in a way that truly enhances our businesses and our bottom lines, not replaces our people. Not destroy everything that we have built when it comes to the authenticity of our brand voice. Because that's what AI is never going to get right for you. You are still going to have to be there behind that little robot telling it what to say and what to do to sound just like you. So, the human element hasn't been removed. What we need to do as Nova Scotians is looking at this as an opportunity to upskill ourselves, upskill our workforces, upskill our small business ecosphere, and create a much stronger and harder to dislodge middle class in Nova Scotia. Because the more we use these tools, the greater value we can bring to our businesses, the higher salary increases that we can pass on to our employees and to ourselves and to our shareholders.

If we could but see, I'd love to see a show of hands from people in fields like accounting, or physicists or mathematicians. Let’s see a show of hands from those folks who utilize their calculator every day, for whatever function and how much of a boom that was for those folks at that industry. Now, the reality here is we as the users do need to be careful you know, we need to define for ourselves and for our governments. What does this look like? How do we move forward with this thing sustainably? How do we move forward with this thing ethically, responsibly? And we don't have all those answers yet. And that's part of the issue and I think that's what makes a lot of people kind of scared - we don't have policy in place for this yet. And I get it. Everything in this world could change tomorrow, folks, it all could change tomorrow, but the reality is, this is here to stay. Let's learn to work with it. And we won't be swept away by it.

Now that being said, you know, I still work with graphic designers despite things like Sora or Midjourney or anything like that. The reality is where I'm at in my business, I still need these people around me, and I still need human beings making those decisions. AI does a really great job of a lot of things. But what it doesn't do a great job is hitting you in the heart and that's what I'm in the business of. And so I still use my graphic designers. I still use my copywriters and I hope that they use these tools to make their lives easier. Learn these tools, use them, embrace them because they will get you to the level that I am at and still utilize graphic designers and copywriters, and all these people much faster. And there's nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with having some help along the way.


What would you like to learn as a founder yourself?

I think I'm at a point right now in my business where I'm learning more and more how to work on it, as opposed to working in it. That's really where a lot of my focus has been in the last number of months. I’ve been doing a lot of leadership training.


Any last words for our audience?

Don't be scared. Media content is a lot easier than it seems. And so, I'll leave you with this. In the digital content world, whether you're doing audio, video, blog, whatever, whatever efforts you're undertaking to support your business online. Done is a lot better than perfect. Just do it, put it out, put it up, and learn. Learn after each and everyone that you do - how to make it better and how to drive closer and closer to that vision. But done is better than perfect.

 

Have you ever listened to an audiobook narrated by the author where you feel like you are in the same room with the author? Or have you ever watched a founder tell their story on their website and you feel like retelling that story for them to whoever cares to listen? Voice media connects entrepreneurs with their audience in a unique way. That’s because everyone’s got a voice.

 

This blog is about personal development for entrepreneurs based on the principles of fairness, compassion, and commitment. This includes the practice of 'speaking' positive affirmations, which can be a powerful tool to support self-development. Hopefully, you’re impacted positively in some ways. As we all know, personal circumstances are quite different. So, I encourage you to apply the lessons in line with your own context and seek professional guidance as may be applicable. Remember “Let's continue to learn together and be encouraged to keep on connecting”.