Want to create your own Alexa Flash Briefing but don’t know how to code?

This article explains 1) why smart speakers are a great marketing opportunity and 2) how to create your own briefing for free  (click here to skip to setup instructions). Most other guides out there don’t tell you how to handle automatic scheduling once you have your RSS feed.

Amazon Echo 2nd Generation and Echo Dot

Amazon Echo (2nd Generation) in heather grey with Echo Dot in black

Contents  (click to skip to a section):

1) Video – Why You Should Create a Flash Briefing for Your Brand 
2) Facts about smart speaker use
3) What is a Flash Briefing?
4) Marketers: why use smart speakers for branding?
5) How to set up your own Flash Briefing (a look at three tools)
6) How to hear and share your past Flash Briefings
7) Advice: how to name your Flash Briefing
8) Get help setting up a Flash Briefing

Smart speakers – a big marketing opportunity

Why you should create a Flash Briefing for your brand today:

I started a Flash Briefing for Beetle Moment in May 2018. I’m excited about this not only because audio is my favorite medium, but because I’ve gotten in fairly early on a rapidly growing platform with a scarcity of content.

Facts About Smart Speaker Use:

  • Canalys expects 56.3 million smart speakers sold by the end of 2018. Compare that to 2016 when sales hovered around 5–6 million.
    • That is 10x growth in two years.
  • According to PSFK, 65% of people age 25-49 interact with an AI assistant at least once a day (this includes smart speakers, Siri, Cortana, etc.)
  • There are only about 5,000 Flash Briefings produced by more than 250 content providers (via Geekwire, May 2018)

What is a Flash Briefing?

It is basically a mini podcast (under ten minutes long) that people can listen to with the invocation, “Alexa, play Flash Briefing.” Then Alexa plays any briefs you’ve added via the Skills section of your Alexa app (or while logged into amazon.com in your browser). You can order the briefs as you like.

Some briefs are updated daily, others weekly or monthly. Hourly is also an option but it’s rare. They’re great because you can get quick snippets of news or information from multiple sources while you’re multitasking. You may be cooking, getting ready for work, or cleaning – and you can still listen hands-free. The beauty of audio learning is that our brains are able to retain information we hear even if we’re doing other tasks. This isn’t possible with reading text or watching video.

The Flash Briefing Skill API is a new addition to the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) that enables developers to add their feeds to the Alexa Flash Briefing, which delivers pre-recorded audio clips and text-to-speech (TTS) updates to customers. – Amazon Developers
Examples of Flash Briefings include updates from news sources and broadcasters, blogs, recent headlines, weather, political or financial news, abbreviated podcasts or snippets, and industry updates (such as sales, marketing, or fintech), among others. Mine is about marketing and technology.
Hear the latest episodes from Voice Marketing – Daily Beetle Moment:

Examples of popular news Flash Briefings

Examples of popular news Flash Briefings

Marketing – Flash Briefings for Audio Branding:

I’ve been focused on how we can use smart speakers to surpass what we do with podcasts. There’s that, then there’s the opportunity for brands to be of service. The new advertising, in ways. Beyond what we call a “relationship” with a brand via tweets etc… but much more.
black speaker close up
Isn’t helping a customer so much better than just being amusing on Twitter or programming a bot to answer customer service questions? What if we could use AI to make brands’ presence on smart speakers truly of service?

Check out Bob Knorpp’s article on voice for brands. And because Alexa’s general search capabilities are nascent today, if brands could swoop in to make the assistant truly assistive and smarter — big win.

How to set up your own Flash Briefing:

First step: create an RSS Feed.

Your RSS feed is where you’ll upload the audio files (mp3s are best). Here are two ways to do it:

    1. THE HARD WAY – DIY. Code it yourself. Much like the iOS App Store, Amazon is great for customers and awful for developers. I scoured the internet for a simple set of steps on how to do this without coding and couldn’t find it.  That’s mainly why I’m writing this post to help you.
      I tried using GitHub and Node and Terminal and after banging my head for two weeks, I found tools that handle the code for you. Like a CMS helps you blog.

      To automate mp3 upload, you can hard code it yourself and create a JSON and command that accesses an Amazon S3 bucket. Coding knowledge required. This video from Dabble Labs can help if you want to venture down this path. I prefer DIY but I just didn’t have the coding chops. Dabble Labs is a great resource if you have basic to intermediate code knowledge though.  I spent ten hours trying the code route with no luck and finally gave up because I found:
    2. THE BEST EASIEST WAY: Acast <–Use my link here to get a $25 Amazon gift card when you sign up for a year! Acast is what I use for both my podcast and Flash Briefing. It’s chock full of features to syndicate your podcast to every major podcatcher including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, SoundCloud and more. Plus: Acast RSS feeds are compatible with Alexa Flash Briefing. (Helpful note: Anchor.fm RSS feeds are NOT compatible with Alexa Flash Briefing!)You can easily embed your audio with an embed code to have a great looking player of past episodes on your blog. Like the embedded Voice Marketing audio below.

      Get a $25 Amazon Gift Card when you sign up for a year of podcast hosting on Acast Open here.

      Watch my interview with Acast’s marketing director: Acast’s Tess Neudeck: What Podcasters Should Know – Beetle Moment Podcast ep. 72

3. I do NOT like Effct, but I’m keeping the old instructions here for anyone who needs them. Effct.co – a simple way to set up and upload Alexa Flash Briefings. You have to pay for scheduling. The UI is okay. The system sometimes doesn’t work and briefs don’t get published. The support is two guys in a Facebook group. There are a lot of technical difficulties with this platform. When my briefs weren’t published correctly three times I started looking for an alternative and found Pippa via Dr. Teri Fisher (Alexa in Canada).

4. Another tool you may like is SoundUp. Jen Lehner has a post on this: How to Set Up a Flash Briefing – A Guide for Marketers (featuring SoundUp). I haven’t tried it.

  • With Pippa: Start your Flash Briefing in a matter of minutes without coding.
  • Publish your briefs with a handy normalize tool that formats it for Alexa.
  • Schedule your briefs as far in advance as you want with Premium.

A) Effct – free version:

This will get you rolling. You can set up all the initial settings through Effct, not even having to touch your Amazon Developer dashboard.

B) Effct Premium – $20/month:

This allows you to schedule briefs in advance. This is the easiest way, otherwise you’ll have to go into Effct and manually upload your audio every day or week (depending on your cadence). I prefer a set it and forget it method.

How to Set Up Your Briefing on Effct:

  1. Create an account on Effct.
  2. When you first login, you will login to your Amazon.com account. (Grant permission for Effct to access your Amazon account – this makes everything really easy.)
  3. Add a brief.
  4. Create an Amazon Developer account (free and simple to do – you may already have one if you’ve hosted a podcast or other files with S3 before ).
  5. Back on Effct, name your brief. Click here for tips on naming your Flash Briefing. (Note: you can change the brief name later by re-submitting your draft skill, but it’s better to get it right the first time.)

    Flash Briefing creation step 1 on Effct

    Name your Flash Briefing

  6. Choose content type: audio or text. I highly recommend audio to personalize it with your voice vs. Alexa’s 1960s telephone operator voice. But if you want an electronic voice to read your text, here are the upsides: you won’t have to worry about getting the volume right and it requires no recording so it’s faster
  7. Choose a frequency – hourly, daily, or weekly. I recommend weekly unless you can churn out a ton of content and schedule it in bulk (remember, scheduling requires Effct Premium).
  8. Choose a genre, then category. Use whatever matches your content best.

    choose your keywords box

    Choose up to 30 keywords based on what your target audience is likely to search for.

  9. Add up to thirty keywords. These matter if you want to be found. What would your ideal audience search for when looking for Skills related to your content? Think: industry, city, business name, category, vertical, competitors.
  10. Upload a 512×512 image. It’s easy to create one in Canva or Picmonkey if you don’t have Adobe. Alexa logos are displayed as a circle, but you must upload a square.
    How to easily create your Alexa Flash Briefing icon:
    Create a 512×512 canvas. Choose a circle outline in a different color from your background from the Shapes or Overlays menu. Place the circle on top  of the square canvas. Add your text and/or logo so they fit inside the circle, then delete the circle.
  11. Fill in the rest of the settings and two lengths of descriptions – short and long. See mine for ideas.
  12. Add your first brief to submit to Amazon for certification. (Mine took less than 24 hours to be certified.)
  13. To enable your briefing, find your Alexa skill on Amazon.com, and click “Enable.” You’re done – great job!

This is optional but I think a great idea: create a blog post for each briefing (this will serve as the Read More URL you need for each one) and host the archived mp3 there. Create a page for all posts in the category (call it Flash Briefing). See how I do it here.

Advice – how to name your Flash Briefing (SEO and UX in mind):

  • Keep it short and simple
  • It should be easy to say – no tongue twisters (for invocation)
  • The name should make it very clear what the brief is about
  • Try to include at least one main keyword in your name, as long as it doesn’t seem forced (by keyword, I mean something your target audience would likely search for and which is highly related to your content – please don’t try and cheat here because just as Google recognizes keyword stuffing, Amazon does or will, too)

    • Example: I renamed mine from Beetle Moment to Beetle Moment Marketing to include “marketing” because after some thought, I realized this keyword would help listeners find my brief when they searched “marketing” and because most people don’t know what a Beetle Moment is.
Want help setting up your own Alexa Flash Briefing?

Guide to create your own Alexa Flash Briefing

Flash Briefing is Alexa’s native news feature and a great voice marketing channel