If you work in marketing, you may feel that ‘audio’ and ‘voice,’ seem to be cropping up everywhere. From brands creating their podcasts, to companies developing their own Alexa Skills, to the incorporation of voice activation in a wide myriad of devices, the applications of voice and audio are truly astounding.
For many companies, one of the easiest ways to start to dip your toe into the audio medium is by converting your corporate blog into an audio blog (and if you’re wondering what that is, we’ve talked about the Rise of the Audio Blog here).
After all, most companies are creating content at a pretty fast clip (many even creating an in-house newsroom). So, it only makes sense to leverage this pool of well-researched and insightful articles into audio storytelling gold.
But where do you start?
Here’s what you need to know about the challenges and tricks to creating audio content from your blog articles, including how you can leverage production tools and resources to make the whole process run smoother.
Step 1: Appreciate That the Written Word and the Spoken Word Differ
If you’re used to predominantly working in one medium (e.g. in writing), then you may not realize just how different how we speak, and how we write, can be. On the spoken front, we tend to be more casual and far less structured than how we write.
While that may seem obvious (of course we’re more casual in speech), what can be strikingly awkward is when you attempt to read a piece of writing in a conversational tone. Suddenly, words that flowed well on the page trip you up. Why did that feel so jarring?
Plus, add to the mix the fact that much of our online writing is structured in a way that’s meant to appease search engines, and skimming readers. We’ve layered our content with headings and subheadings, and then added enrichment through multimedia, including photos, video and audio snippets, as we go. How do we account for those – if we’re going to turn a blog post into an audio clip?
Step 2: You’ll Have to Conduct Small Re-writes or Improvise
The hardest part of writing is getting those first thoughts down on the page. With a fully-fledged and published post, the bulk of the hard work is behind you. However, before you can turn your post into an audio blog, you’ll need to make some small ‘scripting’ tweaks, especially when it comes to the tone, and several on-page elements. Here’s how:
Creating a Conversational Tone
There’s no hard science here – your first stop in re-writing your post for a conversational feel is to actually begin by reading it out loud. How does it feel? Is it natural and fluid, or stiff and disjointed? Are you able to read it smoothly all the way through, or are you squinting and stumbling as you go?
Smooth out the rough edges wherever needed.
During this process, if you find yourself at a loss of words, it can help to put down the page. Think through, what is the one point that we’re trying to drive home in this sentence, paragraph or section? Then, don’t write it out – describe it out loud. Say it several times and then jot it down when you’re confident.
Subheadings and Headings
There’s no doubt that headings and subheadings pose a stumbling block. They’re often like sentences, but not. Many headings and subheadings are purposefully incomplete in order to give the reader an idea of what’s to come, without spilling all the beans. Plus, because they’re often used to join two sections, these structural elements can often pose a bit of a ‘leap’ as they attempt to bridge information together.
Here’s an example of a screen shot from our blog post on How to Give the Best Voice Over Direction. Take a look at the heading and subheading:
The first heading is almost conversational, but most people would agree that it doesn’t make sense for the narrator to be asking questions of him or herself. What feels more natural, is for the narrator to speak directly to the audience, like this:
“So, how then, should vocal direction be given?”
The next sentence would then be tweaked slightly – like this:
“Well, the answer to this question will depend on the nature and…”
Then what about the subheading just below, that simply reads ‘Tone?’
This will require the addition of more context in order to join the preceding sentence together with the subheading, like this:
“Let’s look at a few ways to give the best voice over direction to our hired voice talent. We’ll start off with how you should define the tone of the project.”
Of course, if adding re-writes feels arduous, the other option is to improvise as you’re reading, always keeping in mind that the goal is to create a conversational, natural feeling narration. This isn’t for the faint of heart and will require some skill, but if you’re feeling brave then there’s nothing stopping you from jumping in!
Embedded Images and Other Media
This is perhaps the trickiest element of all. Especially in recent years, many blogs have placed a strong focus on enriching content with visual media.
When it comes to accessibility, these visuals are likely to have rich alt-text descriptions and and transcriptions. The way you set-up a website to increase accessibility is an art and a science. But does it have a place in your narrated blog post?
Unless it’s crucial to the story, chances are that the answer is ‘no.’
The reason why is that what you’re creating, the audio narration, is best provided as an alternative version of the story, not an exact recreation of it. So while having audio on your page can be a great enhancement for accessibility to content, you have to remember that your audio blog is creating accessibility to the story itself, not just to the digital version of the article. This is your chance to tell the story in a verbal way, one that doesn’t rely on visuals. This is why it makes sense to re-write certain portions of the story, so that it can operate independently of visuals, wherever possible.
Links to Other Resources
If you’ve been doing your SEO due diligence, your content is likely to contain at least a few links out to credible sources, as well as other content on your site. You have a few options on how to manage the mention of links:
- If they take away from the flow of the story, don’t mention them.
- OR: Instead of mentioning the link, put the focus on citing the source of the data or facts that you’re highlighting (e.g. According to Forbes, professional development is important for 86 percent of working individuals).
- OR: If you’re linking to another article or part of your site, let listeners know that it’s available and where. For example: “You can read more about the issue by visiting our FAQ page at www.company.com/faq.”
Step 3: Audio Doesn’t Work for All Types of Content
Understanding how to convert your written content to a beautiful audio narration is the first step in realizing that not all content will work well in audio form. Knowing this at the outset will save you a lot of time and effort. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Content that converts well to audio:
- Long and short-form storytelling
- Testimonials – especially when they are narrated or supplied in audio or video by the happy client.
- Inspirational content
- How-tos for aspirational content – for instance, how to speak to your teenager.
Content that doesn’t convert well to audio:
- Technical how-tos involving complex parts and technology
- Visual-spatial material like maps (this only works well for GPS and wayfinding systems)
There are probably a whole host of other content types that work well, and others that don’t. However, this list is a good start. Always give your potential audio blog content a run through by talking it out on your own before deciding to invest time and resources into re-writing and recording.
Step 4: Source a Voice and Record the Audio Blog Content
Two popular options dominate here:
- Author narration
- Voice actor narration
Here are a few pros and cons for each option:
Author Narration Pros
- They’re familiar with the content – and they may even be an expert.
- They may be readily available and interested.
- They may have a fan following who will be interested in hearing the author’s voice – ultimately helping your content gain traction faster.
Author Narration Cons
- There’s no guarantee that their spoken voice is as engaging as their written voice.
- They’re not as likely to have recording studio know-how.
- You may have to (and likely should) pay them extra for this service.
- Unless you have an in-house studio expert, you’ll need to hire a studio or freelancer to process the audio files for you.
Voice Actor Narration Pros
- They’re trained storytellers and the best in the biz when it comes to bringing your content to life.
- You have the option to hire voice actors in every accent, dialect and language your heart desires.
- Fast turnaround time, especially when you hire through online platforms (e.g. Voices.com voice actors can often turn around files in as little as 24 hours).
- They know how to use recording equipment. Freelance voice actors are especially adept at this, as many have their own in-home studios.
Voice Actor Narration Cons
- They may cost more than if you’d paid the author or someone who works at your company.
- Their performance depends on your ability to give artistic or vocal direction.
- If the article was written in the voice of an industry expert, but it was voiced by a voice actor, the audience may have been expecting the author.
- The actor may lack expertise or understanding of the topic they’re reading about. This may result in a slight disconnect delivery wise, whereas an author narrating their own work will be better equipped to connect and communicate ideas in the article, even drawing on knowledge outside the scope of the article to create a more believable and confident read.
Step 5: Upload the File for Use in Your Embedded Audio Player
If your blog is one of the millions of WordPress blogs, you should have no issue embedding an audio file onto your post. One of the great things about this CMS is that there is seemingly a plugin for everything. However, even if you’re not on WordPress, most other CMS systems will offer you similar capabilities – and a helpline if you run into issues!
For most brands, the question of how to embed the audio files won’t be on the technical side – but on the strategic side. This is because there are many options for how you place the content, and each will have advantages and disadvantages when it comes to driving certain types of engagement.
We’ve rounded up 5 Examples of Audio Blogs so you can see how leading publications like the New York Times and Marketplace are leveraging audio player placement and capability to drive the best results.
Will You Convert Your Articles to Audio?
Well there it is – how to convert your blog into an audio blog in five easy steps.
Have you embarked on this process for your brand yet? If so, what other considerations did you run into – and how have you overcome them?
Do you think that this content strategy will enhance your content and improve your results? Or maybe you’ve seen other examples of publications that are doing this well?
Share your comments with our community. We’d love to learn from your experience.