Tuesday, February 25, 2014

In A World of Puppies and Kittens

There I've got your attention.

I learned a great deal when I left broadcasting in the mid 80s to venture into the world of public relations and marketing. I quickly learned that Beef was not what's for dinner in many households and that healthy eating messages weren't going to change people's habits much. I learned that consumers generally think farmers are good, honest people and the products they produce are for the most part healthy.  I learned that many people dream of striking it rich through gaming and never give up but do give up millions in the quest. I learned that consumers generally do not trust big business and their government.  I also learned that advertisers and marketers will never completely reach their target audience because the target constantly moves and changes its face. I also learned how important one word could be.

I remember a time when companies separated marketing functions from public relations and most of the time had separate agencies doing the work without having contact with each other. Bizarre. Thankfully, some of that has changed in the last 20 years.  Some say that social media is changing the face of public relations and for a PR practitioner to survive and be successful, a focus on social media is imperative. I think the problem is much more basic than that.

I'm not going to go in to a long tirade here on the subject.  However, it is my belief that somewhere along the road oft traveled, the word “relations” was dropped or misplaced.  We used to hear these terms:  media relations, public relations, customer relations, employee relations etc.  When the industry started using abbreviations like PR and MR I think they managed to forget the most important word in the phrase: relations. 

I used to speak to college groups about my experiences, offered suggestions and often talked about that very word.  Young students, wide eyed and idealistic had all sorts to grand ideas on how they planned to change things once they obtained that parchment to hang on the wall and ventured into the world.  I doubt if my opinion changed very many of them. But, I told them that they should never forget or misplace the word “relations” and that it would be the single most import word to ever impact their career.  Without a focus on relationships, success can never be obtained. It's true in our personal lives. It's true in our business lives and it's certainly true in social media.

So, I say to a world that loves puppies and a kittens, remember you need have to have a relationship with that big clumsy elephant in the room or you might get stepped on.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Noises in the Studio

Admit it. You've dealt with these.

After several years of makeshift home recording solutions, I finally spent a summer, about 4 years ago, creating my current recording space. I found a place in the lower level sometimes called a basement. Our home has as much living space in the basement level as there is above ground. So, there's a family room, a workshop for my “home improvement” tools, a storage room, office, full bath and a 6 x 8 space that I converted into a home voiceover studio. I bought the half inch thick sheet rock, and layered them with Green Glue (r) in between. I treated the room acoustically and added the necessary lighting. Since the space faces a foundation wall I don't get any outside noise, except for the weekly trash hauler truck with the faulty muffler whose vibration resonates through the earth. The draw-back to this space is that it is near the main heating/air conditioning plant and the water heater which have to be dealt with come recording time. The room has a nice tone for recording. I'm happy with the results.
Like most people doing their voiceover work from home, I also need to come up with solutions to common problems. So here are my problems and how I deal with them:

1. HVAC – I have a forced air system that supplies heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. It happens to be on the other side of the wall of my voiceover booth. It was unavoidable. The layered sheet rock blocks out most of its noise but if the HVAC is running my noise floor rises to about -45 db, not acceptable in my book. So I either warm up the house to a higher higher temperature than normal or cool it to a lower than normal temp before I start a recording session. Then I simply shut the system down (on/off switch) for the next hour to hour and a half. I record for that period then turn the system back on and use the next hour to edit my work. The house stays relatively warm or cool during that period until I re-energize the system. It works pretty well.

2. Water Heater – It's located in the same space as the HVAC. The water heater runs on natural gas. So, when it's heating water it sounds like the exhaust of a rocket ship. This is not good. The water heater has a thermostat dial on the front. If I am impatient and don't want to wait for the cycle to finish, I simply adjust the dial to a lower temp to shut it down. I have to remember to turn it back up after the session so no one gets a cold shower later.

3. Washer & Dryer - Both of these appliances are on the upper level and at the far end of the house, as is the refrigerator. The only appliance noise from upstairs that I have to deal with is a faint low frequency groan of the dryer that vibrates through the floor above when it's running. The simple solution - we do laundry when I'm not recording.

The Wiener Dogs - Jake and Penny
4.The Wiener Dogs – My partner is away during the day. That leaves me with two miniature dachshunds and a cat. As most people know, the cat sleeps most of the day so he can prowl at night and crinkle plastic bags with his claws. He knows this annoys us and will wake us from a sound sleep. Any person that has dachshunds in their family will tell you that they bark at anything the moves. This can be a problem. Our two hot dogs do sleep a great deal and love to cover up under a comforter or blanket. So, during recording sessions, I make sure the drapes are pulled and doors closed so they can't see out. This cuts down on barking noises and is reasonably successful most of the time, except when someone else is walking their dog in the neighborhood. They know. I don't know how but they know. This too shall pass in time.

5. Noisy Clothing – I learned very early on that nylon wind pants are a no-no in a voiceover studio. As a matter of fact anything nylon seems to make a noise that is simply unacceptable. So I keep the the clothing to functional soft cotton fabrics. Fleece, cotton t-shirts and well broken-in blue jeans work best for me. I suppose cotton pajamas will work too. Hmmmmm.....I don't have any of those (ha ha).