google home on a table next to speakers

The 101 on Content Strategy for Voice

google home on a table next to speakers
Ladies and gentleman, we have a bona fide "new" channel. From assistants on our phones to virtual assistants in our cars to smart speakers in our home, the rise of Voice is bringing back the power of spoken word and storytelling. However, we need to be sure someone will want to listen to that story. We also need to make sure that the story we're telling via our Voice apps aligns with the story we are telling on our other channels. Otherwise, we will miss out on the power of Voice and work against ourselves.
Here's what to consider when devising your content strategy for Voice to ensure an effective, usable, and unified customer experience.

What is content strategy?

According to content strategy consultant, Hilary Marsh, it's the practice of planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable, and effective content. 
Content strategy successfully unifies traditional and online channels while allowing for the differences of those channels. It's the connective tissue that links a Voice experience with a brand, giving priority to delivering the right information at the right time to the user.

How content strategy enhances Voice

If there's one thing we have learned with the evolution of the digital world, it’s that a user's information needs don't change because of the interface or device. The nature of their interaction, however, does change and that's amplified with Voice.
In addition, to quote Heidi Culbertson—founder and CEO of Marvee—most brands already have a brand experience its customers recognize. This means Voice experiences are really a matter of extending that same experience into other venues.
In the context of content strategy for Voice, there are two areas of opportunity that help brands extend their identity and meet their user's needs:
1) The methods and strategies used to deliver instructions and important information to users while reinforcing a specific personality or brand.
2) The guidelines and rules to ensure consistency, clarity, and usability for a user to engage with a Voice skill.
Regardless of delivery channel, our goal is always to deliver useful and usable information. "Useful" is what gives our content value to a user because it either meets a need or helps complete a task. "Usable" refers to being easily understood and navigated. Both are critical for a successful Voice skill.

Content strategy tools for Voice

Voice enables us to directly and efficiently fulfill an audience's needs and answer customer journey questions. Here are a few tools to achieve this:

Content mapping and top task exercises

These help identify what questions our audience has and what information they need. In turn, it helps us identify the most compelling use cases for Voice. This also aligns skills to the phases of an audience's journey, which can help an organization prioritize its efforts.

Content inventories

With content inventories we can catalog all of the available content. Going a step further, we can evaluate the content's quality with an audit. Both the inventory and audit are incredibly helpful during the planning and design of a Voice experience as they provide the baseline information needed to begin the process.

Language audits and ontology studies

These help inform how to word a skill's instructions and commands; how we can weave our story into a skill using language as our thread. The way we answer our audience's questions should always be guided by our overarching content strategy. Much of the existing brand experience and audits help inform the guidelines, which then lead us into the important topic of governance.


Governance is the system that enables repeatable and consistent content. This is key when multiple content creators are involved. It also identifies decision makers when there's a question so it can be resolved quickly and confidently. Governance and guidelines empower teams because they take away ambiguity, leaving them to focus on delivering clear content for their users.
Style guides not only establish personality and word choice, they also set standards (like how to handle accessibility or inclusive language). This is the backbone of a content creation process because it ensures the consistency audiences expect from a brand across channels. Voice content is not an exception.

Branding and the customer experience

Branding is a key part of today’s customer experiences. Branding guides many aspects of voice and tone and even how something is delivered. Voice brings a new dimension to a brand because it evolves voice and tone from figurative terms to literal ones. However, how strongly a brand or brand icon is tied to a Voice experience depends on many considerations.
Tread carefully when considering adding Voice to a long-established brand icon. If Voice is a new, unexpected space for your icon or perhaps the first time your icon will have a voice, it may make more sense to take a complementary approach that co-exists with that icon.
Regardless of the direction you choose, make sure your branding doesn't get in the way of a user being able to accomplish their task or getting the information they need. It's important to remember that our audiences live in a multi-channel world but expect a unified customer experience. Fortunately, content strategy makes that unity possible. 
Susan and Scot Westwater will be on stage at VOICE this July 23rd to share their framework and strategies for identifying, creating, and launching a successful voice skill.