Before you begin, please note that the following article was written in September 2015, long before Voices dot com bought VoiceBank. I think my story proves that past behavior is a good indicator of future behavior.
Beginning bloggers often ask me how to write a story that gets a lot of attention and traction.
They realize they have to cut through a lot of clutter to reach an audience suffering from information overload, and they don’t know how.
In a way, blogging is a bit like a voice-over career. With thousands of hopefuls jumping like Shrek’s donkey shouting “Pick me, pick me!,” how do you make sure your voice is heard?
As far as blogging goes, there are a few tried-and-tested ways to grab people’s attention:
1. Have a strong headline;
2. Use numbered lists (like I’m doing right now);
3. Tap into problems your readers are experiencing, and offer practical solutions;
4. Be provocative as well as entertaining.
Stories that prove to be particularly popular are the ones claiming to reveal success secrets of those who have made it. Content aggregators can’t seem to get enough of articles like:
“6 Behaviors of the Most Successful People”
“4 Remarkable Insights to Inspire Social Media Success”
“8 Habits of Exceptionally Successful CEOs”
“11 Secrets of Irresistible People”
I don’t even have to read these stories to tell you what “secrets” they reveal:
• Be yourself, and believe in yourself
• Work hard and play hard
• Be proactive and stay focused
• Keep on learning
• Stay in shape, mentally and physically
• Be persistent and flexible
• Do what you love, and love what you do
• Don’t get comfortable, stay hungry
• Always exceed expectations
That’s all good, but there are a few things that are frequently overlooked. Here’s one aspect all successful people and organizations have in common:
They are open to feedback, and willing to change course when they’re moving in the wrong direction.
A GREAT TEAM
A management team is useless if it only consists of cheerleaders. Cheerleaders love everything you do, and they will only tell you what you want to hear. We can all use some positive reinforcement once in a while, but a great company builds on its strengths, and it works on its weaknesses.
It takes clever and fearless critics to point out those weaknesses. They have the guts to tell you what you don’t want to hear. For that, critics may get a bad rep, because they are often seen as unsupportive contrarians who only want to disrupt and destroy.
Some companies have developed a culture where any form of criticism is being suppressed, because it is seen as being disloyal. It turns out that those companies not only close themselves off from inside critique. They don’t want to hear it from the outside either. And once a business stops listening to those who use their products or services, it is pretty much doomed.
You’ve probably heard of the show Undercover Boss. It features CEOs of struggling companies. Most of these men and women seem to have one thing in common: they have lost touch with reality. They know something’s wrong with their business, but they can’t put a finger on it because the people they surround themselves with are just as clueless, or they are too afraid to speak up.
So, the boss goes undercover and works a few jobs on different levels to find out what’s going on, and to hear what people are really thinking. What they usually discover is that the employees they work with on the show, are very much aware of what’s wrong. Some of them even have good ideas about how to fix it.
The program always ends with the CEO revealing him or herself, and implementing some or all of the recommendations and suggestions he/she picked up in the field. But there’s more.
The people who spoke up (not knowing they were talking to their boss) are publicly praised and rewarded, instead of being punished for criticizing the company.
The moral of the story? Whether you’re a public organization, a publicly traded company, or you run your own business, feedback is necessary for your survival. Otherwise you’re operating in a vacuum. Even if the criticism is harsh, and feels like a personal attack, you are being given a gift. How you handle that gift is up to you.
Now, if you’re a solopreneur like me, you can’t go undercover in your own business. You need some other system to get feedback. That’s where a coach or mentor comes in.
Being a coach myself, I often have to be the bearer of bad news. It’s no fun telling people what they don’t want to hear. Hopes are high and egos are fragile. Susceptible people love to believe that they are special, and that they have what it takes to be the next Mel Blanc or Tom Kenny.
When that’s clearly not the case, it’s easier for a student to blame the messenger, and find another coach who will take their money and tell them what they want to hear. It’s just as easy to sign up for a site that will validate their status as a “professional” voice artist, in spite of their lack of talent. But “easy” won’t get them anywhere, because easy is an illusion.
Here’s the ugly truth:
If recording voice-overs was easy, everybody would be doing it, and they all would make tons of money. Instead, it’s the companies and individuals that want you to believe that it’s easy, that are making the money.
But I digress. The topic was feedback.
VOICES on “VOICES”
Over the past few weeks, this blog sparked a wave of criticism directed toward voices.com (VDC), one of the many online casting services. Colleagues like Iona Frances, who would normally bite her tongue on this topic, felt compelled to respond, and she shared her experience, as did many others.
The big question is: What will voices.com do with this feedback? I’m pretty sure the management has read the articles as well as the comments, and they can’t be too pleased. Countless colleagues have called Canada to cancel their membership, and have asked for a refund. Some have even contacted a lawyer.
If I were the CEO of “Voices,” I would listen, and listen carefully. This is an opportunity to learn and grow as a company. If the critique is valid, changes must be made. If the feedback is based on false assumptions, the company needs to set the record straight. What it cannot do, is to remain silent.
Ignoring a problem does not make it go away.
The worst thing “Voices” could do, is to give those who give them feedback, a hard time. But based on what I have heard, that’s exactly what’s been happening. It’s easier for an elephant to fly in the sky using his ears, than for VDC users to cancel their membership. Even those who thought they had been removed from the VDC database years ago, found out that they’re still in the system!
Instead of trying to regain the trust of members who each paid $399 or more for services they feel they’re not receiving, VDC is giving callers an earful. That’s not how you treat the talent your site supposedly supports. Moreover, it only confirms the negative impression people had in the first place.
After a deluge of devastating one-star reviews in August 2017, the moderator of the VDC Facebook page removed the review option altogether, deleting all the comments. Why does the image of an ostrich sticking its head in the sand suddenly pop up?
As for me, I have always retained a free membership that allowed me to monitor developments and changes at “Voices” from the inside. Rather than have other people tell me about sliding rates and managed projects, I could see for myself what was going on.
One day in September 2015 when I tried to log on in, I made an interesting discovery: my account had been removed.
Without any warning or explanation.
Apparently, that’s how this company deals with those who dare to criticize it. You have been warned!
I have only one thing to say:
“Voices.com, thanks for the feedback.
Keep on doing what you’re doing, but know that we’re on to you.
WE HAVE HAD IT!”
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice