Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

The Voice of Voicemail

When you ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, few mention voicemail professional. But by all accounts, Lorraine Nelson, formerly of Portland, has made it into a successful career as the voice talent for Audix and other automated phone services.

hqdefaultCurrently heard on 45 million voicemail mailboxes, Nelson’s voice may be one of the most familiar voices in America that you never heard on radio or TV. We hear it when we call someone who doesn’t answer, which is often.

After a spate of recent calls that all went to voicemail, I began to wonder who I was actually talking with. Then I stumbled across a YouTube video produced by the Wall Street Journal that identified Nelson, who has been called the “computer lady” on Audix for a decade.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Nelson worked for KGW-TV in Portland from 1989 to 1992 handling public affairs, news and documentaries. She graduated from the University of Colorado in 1979 with a degree in broadcast journalism.

Nelson began her career as a voice talent in 1985, started her own communications company in 1990 and worked as a account representative for YellowBook USA. Then she became

In her interview with WSJ, Nelson said she lent her voice to Audix with the intention of presenting an upbeat, happy personality. After all, she has to deliver the news that the person you are calling isn’t there or won’t take your call. You need cheering up.


NPR’s Carl Kassell

People eager to spruce up their voice mail can try to call into NPR’s “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” quiz show to win a special greeting by legendary announcer Carl Kasell. Or you can go online and hire Nelson to voice a personalized message, which has become an extended part of her voicemail voice business. She has 45 million references, which should push her to the top of Angie’s List.

Nelson now calls New London, Connecticut as home and identifies her profession as marketing and advertising. But she still clings to the title of “Voice of Voicemail.” And why not.

Her top three “skills”  noted on her LinkedIn profile are voice acting, voice mail and messaging. As they say in branding, you are what people think you are. Or, in this case, what people have heard from you.

Being the Voice of Voicemail is a honorable and, in its own way, a trailblazing profession. As soon as someone invented caller ID, a lot of calls went unanswered. It seem uncivilized, if not impolite, to have a couple of gravelly clicks to signal the time to leave your voicemail message. Or worse, a robotic sounding voice like the one we are forced to follow on GPS systems.

iStock_000001966206SmallAudix and Nelson came to the rescue of our troubled ears. They provided a soothing answer to our vexing incomplete phone call. While pleasant isn’t a panacea for disappointment or disgust, it is a lot better than a gruff, “Who is this and what do you want?”

For some of us, it is almost its own delight to have the person we call not answer so we can listen to Lorraine.

If we saw Nelson on the street, no one would recognize her. But if she walked by while we were on our phone, we would recognize her in a voicemail minute.


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