The battle for vocal supremacy through voice-first devices is well underway with two of the largest digital players—Amazon and Google—leading the pack, followed by Apple, Microsoft and Samsung, and is undeniably going to have a huge impact on advertising budgets.

It’s also only a matter of time until someone asks: “How does your marketing and PR strategy support our voice initiatives?”

The voice marketing opportunity is clearly larger than search or voice-search shopping alone

It ranges from customer support to voice shopping, like the partnership between Google and Walmart through Google Assistant, or simply by asking, “Alexa, shop for xyz…”, and a lot more. There are also voice-only sponsorships and branded engagements with voice applications, known as “skills” on Alexa, or “actions” on Google Home and Google Assistant, that enhance the user experience and enable consumers to do more with a brand. About 4,000 products have Alexa and 1,500 have Google assistant integrated into various devices.

Indeed, through 2018, 69 million people in the U.S. are expected to use voice-enabled digital assistants at least monthly, with 42 million Americans listening to podcasts weekly. Voice is expected to account for over half of all mobile searches by 2020, and we expect over 75 percent of homes to be voice activated by then. People can speak 125 to 175 words per minute, compared to being able to type 38-40 words per minute on a keyboard. Just do the math.

As the proliferation and adoption of these voice devices (and voice assistants on existing home and personal devices like refrigerators, phones, televisions, mirrors, car dashboards, etc.) rapidly increase, value-add voice advertising and brand experiences increase exponentially.

Moreover, brand awareness and media buying in a voice-first world will contribute to groundbreaking content opportunities and even ad formats. No media company, publisher or brand can afford to miss the boat. Voice is the new medium. We will soon be having conversations with intelligent bots, and a brand’s audio persona will either improve our brand experience or deteriorate it. But “voice” must be thought of as another connected vehicle or channel, as opposed to a standalone one, so the brand experience is fully integrated and consistent across the media mix.

Some brands appoint an agency of record for tying together voice marketing efforts

That was the case for financial services leader JPMorgan Chase, which selected VaynerMedia as its AOR to develop voice applications. As brand advertisers evolve their approach and agency model to build their voice marketing capability, they should consider following these steps:

1. Articulate a voice-marketing strategy with specific requirements

Determine where voice can enhance the customer-brand experience, whether it is in the context of voice search or enabling fun, interactive or value-add experiences on voice-first devices like Google Home or Amazon Echo.

2. Assess existing roster voice-capabilities

Review your existing agency roster to evaluate their strategic and technical competencies in voice marketing. Ask for recent examples and determine if they can meet your existing and future needs.

3. Search and evaluate voice-service agency resources

If existing roster agencies are not adequately skilled to meet your voice marketing requirements, don’t hesitate to quickly look outside of your roster for experienced, skilled agencies. If you are unclear which agency is best suited to meet your needs, consider conducting a request for information (RFI) or request for proposal (RFP) process to learn about their offering, narrow down the list and select the right partner.

4. Incorporate new agency talent into existing work flow

Voice shouldn’t be handled as a siloed marketing activity. Strategize how these voice resources will integrate with existing brand building and marketing campaign processes and workflows, from user experience to campaign analytics.

5. Evaluate their performance as part of your regular agency assessment

Examine how well these voice marketing resources perform and collaborate with other agencies to allow for immediate course correction and ongoing client/agency relationship improvements, as you may already do for other agencies in other marketing disciplines (creative, media, PR, etc.).

If voice is all about interaction with technology, including easy access to information, content delivery, smart home, communication search and shopping, Amazon and Google are not likely to slow down their efforts to hold a prominent share of this new emerging category. This was apparent during this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

With so much noise about voice marketing in the marketplace currently, the smart public relations professional will need be able to quell client confusion about how voice fits into an overall public relations strategy. So, go beyond the noise, and make sure to seize these emerging voice opportunities with a clear mindset and conceptualized strategy in mind.

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Bruno Gralpois

Bruno Gralpois

Bruno Gralpois is a co-founder and principal of Agency Mania Solutions, a platform designed to help clients and their agencies work better. Agency Mania Solutions’ work with many of the top 200 brands provides a front-row seat to the agency review cycle and emerging trends. Follow Bruno on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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