How voice technology is reshaping PR

The technology is quickly changing and with new offerings from companies like Google, it’s more important than ever to make your content appear in voice-activated searches.

Since Apple introduced voice technology with Siri in 2011, the tech trend has exploded and become relatively mainstream.

Voice assistants are now in 32 percent of US homes, and are expected to be in nearly 50 percent by the end of the year after the holiday shopping season, according to Adobe Analytics’ State of Voice Assistants 2018 survey.

Voice search is infiltrating more and more aspects of consumers’ daily lives. Beyond primary activities like playing music (70 percent), checking the weather (64 percent) and setting reminders (46 percent), people are increasingly using smart speakers’ voice assistants for bite-sized information like online search (47 percent), checking the news (46 percent) and basic research (35 percent).

The applications for voice technology are growing every day. However, what does voice technology mean for PR and marketers’ content strategies?

Giving brands a voice with Google Speakable

The growth of users’ requests for information and news is encouraging and where there’s the most immediate potential.

It’s still early days, but it looks like the technology is finally moving beyond voice assistant responses like “here’s what I found on the Web” that provides a list of (sometimes helpful, sometimes not) articles that you still have to sift through manually to find the answer to your question.

Now, with technology like Google Speakable (still in beta), consumers can actually continue the voice experience with excerpts of relevant content that’s read aloud, content that could feature products, cite brands as sources or give updates on companies’ latest developments.

In a blog post, Google notes:

In order to fulfill news queries with results people can count on, we collaborated on a new schema.org structured data specification called speakable for eligible publishers to mark up sections of a news article that are most relevant to be read aloud by the Google Assistant.

When people ask the Google Assistant – ‘Hey Google, what’s the latest news on NASA?’, the Google Assistant responds with an excerpt from a news article and the name of the news organization. Then the Google Assistant asks if the user would like to hear another news article and also sends the relevant links to the user’s mobile device.

PR tactics to adopt

According to comScore, half of all queries will be voice searches by 2020, so to capitalize on this trend with Google Speakable and get clients and brands featured, PR pros may soon need to look at incorporating some audio-friendly tactics in their pitching and content.

Some suggestions include:

1. Write concise content that could be read aloud in answer to a question.

2. Find other keywords to explain and tag your topic, so it aligns with how people search for it.

3. Target valid news sites that will be recognized as an eligible publisher by Google.

4. Submit your brand or clients’ sites and blogs for inclusion in the Google News Publisher Center.

5. Using Schema.org/speakable code to identify and mark audio snippets on your site or in contributed content (check out this WordPress plug-in to help).

With voice on the rise, content strategies are not going to just be about downloads, clicks and likes anymore. PR and marketing communications pros will also need to evaluate voice engagement as this increasingly becomes a way consumers interact with brands and learn about products, trends and developments.

Meredith L. Eaton is the Director of North America at Red Lorry Yellow Lorry. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.

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