Voice as a Delivery Channel: Your Voice Content Playbook

If you want to get lasting ROI and have some extra revenue options, you should strongly consider paying attention to voice as a key delivery channel. It plays an increasingly prominent role in daily life, with voice assistants being popular for search, ecommerce, and admin tasks, and podcasts being consumed in astounding numbers (22% of the US population listen weekly).

But how do you introduce voice content to an established marketing strategy with optimal smoothness? In the run up to making voice a priority, you need to know the basics: how voice content has become prominent, what types you need to be thinking about, and how you can produce your first piece of content. Let’s run through them!

What does voice content consist of?

Voice content first entered mainstream prominence through the rapid rise of podcasting. Before smartphones became the convenient, 24-7 internet access devices they are today, podcasts allowed people to keep up with relevant digital industry news while away from their computers.

By now, voice content has become a very broad category, encompassing various elements of spoken language that play distinct roles in the digital world. Let’s look at some more of them:

  • Voice searches. Though you don’t produce this content, it’s still critically important to think about, because ranking well in voice search presents its own challenges.
  • Narrations (particularly for guides). Technical writing is a challenge because human communication is complicated, but some narration can usually clear things up.
  • Audio ads. Whether inserted into podcasts, served between tracks on streaming services, or used for digital radio, an audio-only ad can be a cheap and effective tool.
  • Live roundtables. Through VoIP technology and stable internet infrastructure, a brand can host online audio discussions (useful for promotion and gathering feedback).

voice content example - live audio discussion

Whatever form it takes, and whether you’re producing it or trying to respond to it, voice content is demanding in a way that can make established marketers sweat. The key is adaptation – the more willing your business is to change how it operates, the better you’ll cope.

Why you need to care about voice content

With all that established, why should you focus on voice content above all the other types of content you could be thinking about? There are numerous core reasons, including these:

  • The spoken word is incredibly resonant. There’s a power to speech that can’t be matched through text, and much of it stems from the innate humanizing effect of hearing someone’s voice – instead of dealing with a company, you’re dealing with a person, and personality is an increasingly-vital part of branding.
  • Voice search can be highly convenient. While it doesn’t suit all circumstances, voice search – well, voice commands in general – can be very powerful. Think of a busy driver wanting to find somewhere to park, or someone out for a walk with the urge to find some lunch: if you can just talk to your smartphone and get directions, you might as well.
  • Language processing adds a layer of abstraction. No matter which device or channel someone uses to issue a voice command, the process is going to depend on the quality and nature of the natural language processing: it needs to not only figure out what they said, but also what they meant within context. If you don’t pay close attention to how this affects your brand, you might find it very damaging.
  • It’s a natural fit for advertising. Regular online advertising is struggling in a time of ad-blocking tools and wary consumers, but voice advertising remains strong – someone who’s listening to an hour-long podcast is unlikely to go to the effort of skipping a 30-second ad, and if they’re using a streaming music app, they might not have the option to. Place an ad well, and it can prove very powerful.
  • It’s the easiest route to long-form content. Writing a long article takes time and care, and it’s somewhat taxing on the fingertips. Recording a long podcast, though, can be as simple as having a conversation with a colleague: before you know it, an hour has gone by and you’ve generated a solid piece of content that can be automatically transcribed to make an article version.
  • The barrier to entry is extremely low. While I also mean this for content producers (you only need a microphone and a recording device), I mainly mean it for listeners. This is because reading can be tiring, as can watching video, but it’s extremely easy to put some voice content on in the background and let it wash over you, or to speak a few words to a voice assistant while relaxing on your sofa.

Why you need a unique voice

If you’ve decided that you’d like to start producing voice content, you need to think carefully about your voice: the unique tone and style that you’d like to set your brand apart. This will carry across every piece of content that you release (whether it’s a voiceover, a podcast, or an ad), and ultimately be the biggest motivating factor for those who continue to consume your content.

When you’re delivering the messages, updates, and snippets of information that you intend to get across, are you going to be authoritative? Personable? Cheerful? Neutral? Verbose? Succinct? Formal? Informal? It’s entirely up to you, but make a decision based on what your followers would like (plus what’s true to your company).

Podcasting coach Jeremy Slate made a useful point in his interview on Marketing Speak:

It’s important to make sure that the parts of your story that you tell work with what you’re doing now.

The story you communicate about your brand has to gel with the identity you want to build and maintain, or you’re wasting everyone’s time.

Additionally, imagine your content being parsed and read by voice assistants. Do you write in a way that’s digestible and clear? Would your text sound confusing or long-winded if read aloud? Adopt a strongly-conversational style in all your content, factoring in every distinct step of your conversion process, and it will prove effective no matter how it’s ultimately presented.

How to produce your first piece of voice content

Interested in adding voice content to your production line? I strongly suggest starting with a podcast guide of some kind, because it’s a low-stakes option that can be creatively rewarding (and highly informative on the production side). Here’s a quick guide to getting your first piece of voice content produced and distributed:

  • Identify something your followers want to know. Down the line, you can get more experimental, but it’s logical (and easiest) to start with something you know will get an audience. Look into the questions you commonly receive, and think about what’s currently getting a lot of attention in your industry. Is there a key topic trending?
  • Create a straightforward title. Using the topic you’ve picked, set out a title that will draw someone to listen to your content. Go for something simple and actionable, such as “How to Effectively Use Marketing Automation” (you can also use the listicle format – that typically plays well).
  • Write a basic script outline. If you want to script the entire thing in detail, you can, but don’t forget that you have expertise that will come out naturally as you speak. If you can put together a bare-bones framework that gives you topics to hit at particular beats, the resulting content will likely sound more relaxed and confident.
  • Record using decent equipment. You don’t need a professional sound studio, but you do need to do better than whatever old microphone you have lying around. Your smartphone might suffice, but if you’re going to be doing more voice content, you should invest in a decent USB microphone with a stand and a pop shield.
  • Do some basic editing. At a minimum, you should include an intro and an outro. The intro should set up the name of the podcast or guide series (or the brand responsible, if you’ve yet to come up with a name), and the outro should provide the listener with more options for following said brand (social media handles, for instance). You’ll also need to clear up any noise and tweak the volume levels: Audacity is great for this (and free).
  • Promote it on every viable platform. Now that you have your piece of content recorded and edited, you should promote it as widely as you can. Link to it across social media and on your website – down the line, you might want to use something like Spreaker to get podcasts on multiple podcasting platforms, but don’t commit just yet.
  • Request detailed feedback. Your first attempt at voice content might be horrible, but that’s not an issue in itself. There’s a learning curve to be overcome, and you’ll get better the more voice content you produce, so what really matters is that you gather accurate feedback and use it to improve.

Revitalize your brand

If you’ve never released any type of voice content, you have a golden opportunity to give your brand a new lease on life, so take advantage of it. Show people that your brand is more than just a set of bland professionals by getting your voice out there – when they discover that you have a lot of interesting and engaging things to say, they’ll gravitate towards you.

At the same time, rework your brand image to fit in the new era of voice search accessibility. Think carefully about the distinction between how people search in text and how they search through voice, and cater your content accordingly. For instance, people tend to like asking questions, so anticipate those questions and include them as subheadings to make your content more likely to be selected to answer voice searches.