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  • Writer's pictureShane Elsberry

Anatomy of a MASSIVE Marketing Mistake 

For the past year or so wearing one of my professional hats as a radio station program director, I have been keeping an eye on a particular email marketing effort from a voiceover talent trying to pick up new radio station imaging clients.  I immediately flagged it as an example of what NOT to do, but I knew it probably wouldn’t be anything that would hurt short term.  I never unsubscribed because I wanted to see when the colossal blunder being risked would occur.  The time when it did came a week ago Monday, and I’m breaking it down here as a cautionary tale.

The first email I received in this particular marketing effort came a little over a year ago.  Aside from the big blunder, a smaller one that was made with this particular VO artist not properly researching my radio station and its format to see if there was a fit.  We’re a mainstream AC station, and a link to the website in this email did not include a demo to match my format.  Even if it’s a mass email campaign, a little personal touch and demonstration that you have some idea who you’re pitching goes a very long way in converting a lead to a client.

What made that initial email in this artist’s marketing campaign a little unusual was that it wasn’t the standard introductory “Here’s who I am and here’s what I do” or “How can I help you?” message.  It was dated January 10, 2016.  If that date rings a bell, the subject line will jog your memory.  It read…..”David Bowie”.  It was hours after his death, and it’s not uncommon for some companies to put together audio tributes, but in most cases they’re free and clear to use with no sales pitch of any kind.  This one was some dry VO liners and some produced stuff. I was OK until I got to the last line, which read something like, “Hey, if you need a new VO talent, let’s talk!” followed by contact info.  My initial thought was, “This seems tacky and exploitative”.  My second thought was, “I wonder if this person has considered what might happen in the 24 hour news cycle world in which we live where news outlets sometimes get these things wrong in an effort to be first?”

Several more of these “tributes” followed as we lost way too many legends last year……Prince, Glenn Frey, Gregg Allman, etc.  Then, it happened.  Last Monday afternoon, I get the Inbox ding and find a new email with the subject line, “Tom Petty”.  This coincided almost to the minute with the erroneous CBS News report of his death.  Same song and dance…..liners, sweepers, and the “Hey!  Hire me as your new VO talent!” tag line.   That was all I needed to permanently put this VO artist in the discard bin and unsubscribe, but I didn’t do it right away.  Several hours later, I glanced at my work email account from home and the first email in the Inbox was from……guess who?…..along with the subject line, “I’m Sorry”.  It was a profuse apology based on the backlash he had obviously received, and it also came way too late.  The damage to his prospect database is most likely permanent, and unfortunately, it was self-inflicted.

I would love to know what this VO artist was thinking when devising a marketing plan that included trying to capitalize on celebrity deaths.  I also hope……no, pray might actually be a better word…..that advice didn’t come from a professional “marketing coach” or other self-proclaimed expert.  I’d also be curious to know if this person is still able to make it as a full time VO artist a year from now.  I also hope this provides a teachable moment for you as you develop and execute your plan for freelance world domination.


Shane Wilson is an award winning broadcaster and voice talent. His voice has been heard worldwide across commercials, audiobooks, corporate and industrial videos, e-learning modules, and explained videos. Among the companies and brands who have trusted him to tell their story…..Wal Mart, Papa John’s, John Deere, Mass Mutual Life Insurance, and Cracker Barrel. Reach him at or at (205) 201-1454.

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