an Amazon Smart Speaker sitting on an end table next to a woman who looks pleased to own the smart speaker.

As the popularity of smart speakers and home assistants like Amazon Alexa and Echo grows, so do their uses and capabilities. One such ability that has seen significant adoption by users are Alexa Skills, and more namely, Flash Briefings.

Here’s everything you need to know about what Alexa Skills are (if you didn’t already), what the Flash Briefing Alexa Skill does, and why you should consider taking advantage of it for your brand’s audio content strategy.

You’ll also find a few common types of Flash Briefing ‘introductions’. Similar to podcasts,  each publication’s flash briefing has its own intro. We’ve brought forward the most common and paired them with a few samples to give you some inspiration.

What are Alexa Skills?

Alexa Skills are independently produced additions to Amazon Alexa’s default abilities, which  can be enabled through the Alexa Skills store, much like you would download and use an app on your phone or tablet.

Users are becoming more comfortable with entrusting tasks to Alexa, and in doing so, are open to enabling more Skills. Skills have been developed by many companies for a number of different uses.

These Skills are created to stretch the usefulness of Alexa as an assistant, and have been adopted by the vast majority of users in one way or another. There are Alexa Skills for playing games, meditation, shopping, self-help inspiration, home climate control, music, children’s entertainment, news updates from many different publications, and more.  

The Popularity of Flash Briefing Skills

News updates were identified as being highly useful and of massive potential from the birth of the smart speaker and AI assistants.

Market research firm Futuresource reports that 32% of users are asking for news updates from their assistants. Approximately 40 million Americans own a smart speaker, so that’s about 13 million people asking for news updates, either on a daily or weekly basis.

When served through a voice assistant, news updates are known as Flash Briefings. Alexa is able to fetch updates – Flash Briefings – from any publication or company who has created an Alexa Flash Briefing Skill and published it in the Alexa Skills Store.

How Smart Speaker Owners Use Flash Briefings

Users navigate through or do a search in the Alexa store, much like an app store as mentioned above, to discover Flash Briefing Skills released by publications. Once they find a Flash Briefing from a publication they like, they enable it. Users can have an unlimited number of different publications’ Flash Briefings enabled. And when they say “Alexa, play my flash briefing,” the home assistant will begin to play each of the enabled Flash Briefings consecutively.

Why You Should Consider Developing a Flash Briefing Skill for Your Brand

Flash Briefings aren’t just for news outlets. Any online content that is updated and published regularly can take advantage of the Skill.

If you’ve developed a content strategy, and know that you’ll be pushing new content daily or weekly, then you can supplement your content strategy by developing a Flash Briefing as another distribution channel.  

Millions of people are beginning to expect access to their preferred content through AI assistants and audio versions. Yet, there are only about 1,000 Flash Briefing Skills currently available in the Alexa Skills Store. There’s a noticeable disparity between demand and supply here.

Making your content available through Flash Briefings is further covering your bases for increasing content consumption in 2019 and beyond. As demand for audio content continues to grow, incorporating audio into your strategy now puts you ahead of the other publications in your industry who may be slower-to-the-draw.

How to Make Alexa Skills Work for You – Flash Briefings

When venturing into developing an Alexa Skill for your own Flash Briefings, the first step is to create a solid action plan.

Ask yourself the following four questions to ensure you’ll get the most out of it:

  1. Do we have the development resources or budget to hire development resources?
  2. Do we want to have the briefing read in Alexa’s voice, or have a custom recording of the content available for Alexa to serve to the user instead?
  3. How will we promote our new Skill to ensure our audience knows about it?
  4. How will we measure its success?  

The answers to these questions will greatly inform your plan and help to avoid the development efforts being in vain.

Development Resources

Amazon has created a comprehensive developer’s platform and Skills Kit to make the development of Alexa Skills as streamlined as possible. Depending on the kind of Skill you want, development can range from relatively easy to very difficult. Luckily, Flash Briefings tend to fall on the ‘easy’ side of the scale for anyone with a bit of development experience and with an understanding of standard computer languages.

For a step-by-step guide as to what’s required in the development of your Flash Briefing, check out Amazon’s Guide to Understanding the Flash Briefings API. Even if you’re not tech-savvy, this will give you a good baseline for what kind of developer you may need to hire.

Voice of the Content

In order for your content to be pushed through a user’s smart speaker, it must be available in an audio format. You have two options here:

  1. Publish the content with coding that allows Alexa to read the content aloud.
  2. Provide an audio recording of the content. You can have the author provide the voice over, or hire a voice actor (or two) to provide the voice over for all recordings to:
    1. Have your content heard in a human voice with the ability to convey the intended emotion and story. If this is an appealing option, check out Flash Briefing example scripts at the of article for inspiration.
    2. Begin developing a recurring voice for your brand that will contribute to the familiarity and continuity of your brand in the ears of your listeners.

The nature of your content should be taken into consideration when deciding which voice option will work best for you. As long as you’re prioritizing the listener experience, then you’ll make the right decision!

Promoting Your Alexa Flash Briefing Skill

As your newly developed Skill becomes another extension of your brand, it should be woven into the marketing plan like any other channel. Consider promoting it through your social channels, email newsletter, webinars, podcasts, videos, landing pages, blog posts, and other available marketing initiatives. Some companies even place links to their Skills in their email signatures. Ad Age is promoting their’s through their daily newsletter:

Amazon will also assist in getting the word out about your new Flash Briefing Skill. They’re able to include your Skill in their marketing channels, but in order for them to do so, they outline some requirements that must be met by the Skill, and you. Once those requirements are met, not only will Amazon help promote your Skill in the Skills Store, Alexa can recommend the skill to users when she isn’t able to answer the question without the assistance of your skill!

Measuring the Usage and Performance of the Flash Briefing

Amazon now provides a metrics dashboard for you to access and report on the usage of your Skill. They’re able to provide you with all the key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll need to prove the usefulness of the Skill, and ultimately the return on investment (ROI) that comes with increasing how often your Skill is used, and how much of your content is consumed.

4 Commonly Used Flash Briefing Intros, and Examples for Inspiration

Developing an intro for your Flash Briefing allows you to create a component of consistency that listeners will become accustomed to hearing. These intros, when used every time, will become an extension of your brand and prepare your listeners to absorb what’s coming up next.

Because Alexa plays briefings back-to-back from a user’s favorite publications, a good intro helps the listener ‘shift gears’ into your briefing. Let’s take a look at the commonly used intros and some example scripts.

The ‘Catchphrase’ Intro

Coming up with a unique name and saying for your Flash Briefing, and using that in the intro for each briefing, will definitely help you achieve that consistent ‘shifting gears’ tone we mentioned above.

Catchphrase Intro Examples

CBC News:

“Here’s the news, this hour.”

Mini Movie Review:

(Intro music…) “Welcome to a ‘piecing it together’ mini movie review.”

The Speaker Introduces Themselves Every Time in a New Recording

In this type of intro, the speaker, or ‘host,’ introduces him or herself, and alerts listeners to what briefing they’ve tuned into. This is not a pre-recorded intro. It’s slightly different every time, but uses the same format to create consistency.

The merit here is that it keeps the intro very personable and relatable. It’s as though the host is speaking directly to you in your home, telling you all about the cool stuff they’ve recently learned.

Speaker Introduction Examples

The Gaming Observer:
“How’s it going everybody? Adrian Simple here from The Gaming Observer, and this is your daily gaming update for November 4th, 2018. Feel free to head to our website for links to everything reported on here today. Let’s get right into it!”

The Cloud Guru:
“Okay – Hello cloud gurus, and welcome to the AWS Flash Briefing this week.”

The Sponsored Ad Intro

Some companies have been trying to monetize their Flash Briefings by including an ad spot in their intros. When a Flash Briefing has gained a listenership, the company can begin to include it in their sponsorship packages, similar to how podcast advertising works.

Although this type of intro might be more suited for a well established Flash Briefing, it’s one to keep in mind as you grow your own.

Sponsored Ad Intro Example

Homebuyer School:
“Welcome to the Homebuyers School Flash Briefing, brought to you by Brookfield Residential. Get ready to learn strategies and tactics on the home buying process. Join Karl Yeh as he talks with experts who are savvy and experienced to help you find your perfect home.”

Pre-recorded, Produced Intro

Often paired with music, this prerecording is often formatted so that a third-party, like a voice actor, presents the host, as well as the Flash Briefing to the listener. It creates an air of professionalism and projects a focus of high-quality on a publication’s behalf. This option, compared to the others, will be the one that becomes the greatest component of consistency.

Pre-recorded, Produced Intro Example

The Sewing Seed:
“Welcome to the Sewing Seed Flash Briefing: One guy’s thoughts on family, faith, farming, and financial freedom. And now, 20 miles from his church, 20 yards from the chicken coup, and 20 feet from his house, your host – Matt Miller.”

Will You Make Alexa Skills?

In a world saturated by content, would you consider breaking into another channel like the Flash Briefing Alexa Skill? Or have you done so already? Do you use Flash Briefings yourself? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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