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Alexa, What’s the Future of PR?
By: Mike Bush
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Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and Google. Four so-called virtual assistants that are aiming to capture market share offering voice commands that result in anything from turning on the lights through providing an update on last night’s big game. Each has its own bells and whistles, but combined, these might just be the four horsemen of the digital apocalypse.

That might sound like an exaggeration, but if you’ve walked into a room and said “Alexa, what’s the weather?” (and had Alexa answer), you know this is a huge thing. Within a week of having Alexa, I’d asked her for a variety of updates, from sports scores and weather through music and news. I’d also left her searching on a variety of questions (when I ask Alexa who the funny one in the house is, she can’t yet determine that between my wife and I; the answer is obviously "Mike is the funny one.").

What’s most interesting, perhaps, is that Alexa has become a sort of gateway drug in our household. If she can’t answer a question, my wife (iPhone owner) and I (the Android Fanboi) scramble to our phones, calling out for our personal assistants.

What does this long glimpse into my home life mean for PR?

If you draw parallels into the early days of SEO or Google News, there is a ton we can take away. These four assistants offer what they believe is the best answer. It’s like only using the “I Feel Lucky” button on Google. As such, earning the pole position in searches is going to become more crucial than ever. In SEO, earning a spot on the first page of results used to be a milestone. Now, it’s first prize and a set of nine non-winners.

Looking to find out if anyone else has thought about this, I approached the really smart folks at Stone Temple Consulting. Eric Enge, the company's CEO, was a step ahead of me (of course he was!), and had this to say:
There are ways to increase your chances of getting a featured snippet in Google. Featured snippets are the way to get into Google Now, and we’ve done quite a lot of work in that area.
But when it came to the other assistants, he cautioned that the market is still in its infancy, and he wasn’t aware of anyone who’d undertaken the initiative. (Enge also referred me to a great resource on the company’s site; if you’re feeling so motivated, do a quick Ctrl-F for ‘Will Getting a Featured Snippet Help My Traffic?’)

For PR people, yes, the market is in its infancy. But from pre-programmed commands like “Alexa, what’s my sports update?” which brings up news about various pre-selected teams, through more open searches like “OK, Google, find me a great local bar,” the proliferation of voice search will open a new channel to communicate our message. The fastest-moving flacks will be the ones who figure out how to best capitalize on this channel.

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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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