This topic will inspire mixed opinions and probably passionate disagreement from some readers. Listeners do not call radio stations as much as they once did, and the audience has a higher expectation for what comes out of the speakers, leading to more and more personalities using ringers or voice actors as callers.

Should You Use Voice Actors?

In addition to organic contributions from listeners calling, sources for setting up phone calls include regular contributors, family and friends, and paid voice actors. They’re all staged ringers, so let’s call them voice actors to cover anyone who plays a contributing role on a show, paid or unpaid.

There are solid reasons to use voice actors. The most obvious (and best) reason is that they sound better. Voice actors can be directed, coached, and even scripted. Personalities can count on them to be in sync with the storyline because they play a role in your story.

Fake Callers: Who Cares?

Some personalities refuse to consider a segment with “fake” callers because they think the show should be pure and organic. They instead take a chance on listener calls to move a break forward.

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That’s a noble sentiment and probably works for shows with a high volume of calls and a phone screener to sift through the phone lines and coach the callers. For others (and the vast majority of personalities), performing on the radio is Show Biz.

The vast majority of listeners don’t think about it and don’t care. Their judgment is limited to whether or not a segment is entertaining. Sure, there are a handful of die-hard fans who may question you (read on), but don’t let a microscopic minority influence your decision.

Voice actors are instrumental in creating a manufactured reality, shows that sound natural but are created to attract a larger audience. The truth is that most shows don’t get enough good callers, and those who do call are not trained to perform.

Managing Questions About Voice Actors

Creating compelling content is hard work and your preparation is rewarded when you use voice actors instead of “real” listeners, but it can lead to awkward conversations. To avoid probing questions from curious listeners and even coworkers, some personalities needlessly avoid voice actors.

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Here are a couple of ways to manage questions internally and externally about using voice actors:

Protect The Secret: The manager must be in the loop to get it in the budget and to relieve her anxiety when hearing something controversial from a caller, but the staff doesn’t need to know. When an account executive is asked about a great relationship feature, the last thing you want is them saying, “Yeah, it’s terrific, but did you know the callers aren’t real?” This has happened.

Manage The Buzz: Use voice actors well, and there’ll be a listener buzz about more segments. You’ll be asked about stories more often, which is fantastic. It’s human nature to brag about the clever ideas you created but resist the temptation. Nobody needs to know how the sausage is made at the factory. The only thing that matters is they love how it tastes.

Direct Questions: Occasionally, you will be asked a direct question from a super-fan. Remember that a magician never reveals secrets. There are ways to deflect a question without lying. When asked if the calls are “real,” a simple response like these is effective:

You wo’t believe some of the calls we don’t put on the air. people are really messed up!

Isn’t it amazing? I would never call a radio station either, but we’re so blessed that many of our listeners relate to us as friends.


A final note about the controversy surrounding voice actors: Some personalities refuse to use them because they’re afraid a competitor will call attention to them. That might happen, but so what? Competition talking about the show is a good thing. Let them talk. Buying a commercial to promote your show would be expensive, if not impossible!

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If this happens, stay out of conversations about it. Ignore it and it will fade quickly. If it comes up on social media, respond with a disarming comment as described above, and remember:

Most listeners don’t care if it’s real. They may be curious, but they judge it based on how entertaining it is.

Voice actors are a tremendous resource for your personality toolbox. Use them wisely to create engaging content.