Trick: How to Hear Alexa Flash Briefing on Your Phone (No Echo Required)

Want to listen to Alexa Flash Briefing but don’t have an Amazon Echo?

You can hear it on your smartphone. Here’s how:

Download the Amazon Mobile App if you don’t already have it.

Open the Amazon app. On the home screen, tap the circle icon on the top right under the cart.

Amazon app home screen Alexa icon
How to listen to Flash Briefing without an Echo

Now you can activate Alexa. (Give Amazon microphone permissions in your settings).

Test it:  Enable this marketing podcast skill then tap the circle to activate Alexa and say, “Alexa, play marketing podcast.”

About Flash Briefing:

Alexa delivers news and content from popular broadcasters, local weather information, and more. Here’s why you should create a Flash Briefing for your brand or business:

SHOW ME HOW: Ready to create your Flash Briefing? Here’s the best free guide featuring Effct.

JUST HELP ME: Want a smart speaker expert to handle it for you? Contact me at Beetle Moment Marketing.

Beetle Moment Marketing Podcast

Beetle Moment Marketing Flash Briefing logo - with Emily Binder
Subscribe on iTunes and add the Beetle Moment Alexa Skill in your Alexa app. Then just say, “Alexa, play marketing podcast.” Pow!

Listen on Apple Podcast button

Amazon Alexa Skill Beetle Moment Marketing Podcast
Enable the Skill then say “Alexa, play marketing podcast.”

About the Beetle Moment Marketing Podcast:

Weekly and <5 minutes: Insights and tips on the latest in marketing, business, and technology with Emily Binder. Listen to grow your brand or your brain. Answering to no one, always raw.
Start the clock on your beetle moment… now!
I have a decade of experience in marketing, from startups to global brands. I’m a consultant and marketing strategist who specializes in voice search. The podcast covers a wide range of topics, from customer service to branding and social media.

Reviews:

on June 21, 2018
Great content, love the direct approach and real, authentic voice behind the message. I’ll keep listening for sure!
Amazon Alexa Skill review for Beetle Moment Marketing podcast
Someone likes the show.
If you enjoy the podcast, please rate and review on iTunes or Amazon so others can find it. I would love your feedback – contact me here. Thank you!

How to Create an Alexa Flash Briefing for Free

Guide to create your own Alexa Flash Briefing

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 brief for free with Effct.co (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 (free or premium on Effct)
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.
EXAMPLE: Click to hear one of my Flash Briefings (it’s about tipping).
Beetle Moment Marketing Flash Briefing logo - with Emily Binder
Add Beetle Moment Marketing to your Alexa Flash Briefing! Enable the Skill in your Alexa app.

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. HARDER – DIY method – 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 Effct.co through this helpful guide to Flash Briefings for marketers from Social Media Examiner.

    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. EASIER – Effct.co method – a free and simple way to set up and upload Alexa Flash Briefings. <– This is what I use. Another tool you may like is SoundUp. Jen Lehner has a great post on this: How to Set Up a Flash Briefing – A Guide for Marketers (featuring SoundUp).
Effct logo
Effct.co is a free and easy way to create your own Flash Briefing

Effct Features:

  • 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 – currently $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.

See pricing.

Your Podcast on Alexa – another feature:

Effct also incorporates podcasts, which gives you a custom skill. You can take your existing or new podcast and get it onto Alexa this way. Users can enable or start the podcast by stating, “Alexa, enable {podcast name}” or “Alexa, start {podcast name}.”

HOW TO SET UP YOUR FLASH BRIEFING ON EFFCT.CO:

  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!

How to hear and share your past Flash Briefings (mp3 archive) with Effct:

You can play and share your Flash Briefings even after they’ve aired. Effct hosts your audio in a bucket. Visit your Briefs here: https://effct.co/briefs/ then click the blue “Add Brief” button.

Then click the pencil edit icon next the the trash icon to the right of the brief you want.

Effct edit flash briefing
Edit a past briefing to find the URL to the evergreen mp3

It will open a window showing “Current audio” followed by a URL. Click it and that opens your full mp3 URL. It will be live until you delete your Effct account or stop paying. That said, I recommend keeping a backup of all your mp3s in the cloud, whether that’s in your own S3 bucket, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.

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 a Flash Briefing for your brand or company?

Contact me. I provide audio branding and smart speaker consultations and other marketing services.

Thank you to my friends at Effct.co for sponsoring the Beetle Moment Marketing Flash Briefing! Nick and Moses are smart guys and after a bunch of research trying to set this thing up, Effct was the best solution I found.

Transparency: I received a Premium account as part of an exchange with Effct. I honestly recommend their site though and paying for Premium is well worth saving time and hassle unless you’re an expert coder.

Guide to create your own Alexa Flash Briefing
How to create your own Alexa Flash Briefing

My OG Etsy Shop – Accidental Ecommerce Education

frosted jar cake with decoration
This is the story of my Etsy shop from the early days of selling handmade online. It’s also how I cut my teeth in online marketing and ecommerce.
 In 2009, I had recently graduated from the university of Michigan and had Fridays off from my job at a the Aggression research lab studying the impact of violent media. It was a good time to start something. A colleague told me about a site called Etsy where she was selling her handmade yoga mat bags. Etsy was four years old at the time but hardly a household name.
As  for my hobbies, I was into alternative baking. When researching recipes, i came across a blog post about how to send brownies baked in jars overseas. I bought some mason jars, poured brownie batter in (made from scratch of course), baked at 350 then put boiling hot lids and rings on until they vacuum sealed. Canned brownies. I found that it worked with cake too.
I wondered if I could make extra money selling brownies and cakes baked in jars on this etsy site. My jar cakes had a one month shelf life and I offered lots of unique flavors, including vegan and gluten free options. I called my shop Adore a Jar Bakery. Get it? I created a brand, blogged and tweeted and figured out how to use Etsy’s original keyword tool to drive sales.
I tested photos, pricing and item titles and descriptions. It was a great little education in ecommerce. Over the five or so years my shop was active, I had about 200 sales, each one handmade to order and frantically shipped at USPS on my lunch break in Buckhead. It was a lot of work and I probably lost money half the time, but I loved being creative with packaging, labels, and copywriting. And every positive review warmed my heart.
Reviews of Adore A Jar Bakery Etsy shop - jar cakes
Naming my items was half the fun.
Customers loved my jar cakes, pecan pralines, vegan muffins, and granola. And the supportive, communal culture of Etsy was a great place to get my start as an entrepreneur.
I toyed with the idea of taking this side hustle full time and becoming a jar cake queen. Somehow I couldn’t make the jump because that would go against the very things I loved about Etsy – how it was truly handmade and amateur. Nowadays it’s hard to compete with the licensed pros who dominate Etsy.

Back in 2009 it was like a bake sale in the middle of Wisconsin.

As a buyer, I didn’t care that the kitchens probably weren’t up to code. I know mine wasn’t.
The point of doing things like my Etsy shop, or blogging for ten years, or investing time and energy in podcasts or my Flash Briefing is not to make money, at least not directly. If the product is YOU and the end goal is to sell your services, these are not measurable tactics. But they are powerful for education and fodder for marketing yourself and telling your story.

Tipping is Broken (And Don’t Tip on Tax)

vintage 1950s car drive-in beetle moment
According to a new creditcards.com study, nearly 2/3 of millennials typically tip below the standard 20% suggestion at restaurants. About half of adults older than 38 say they tip less than 20%. Source: Millennials Are the Worst When it Comes to Tipping.
Three reactions:
  1. 66% and 50% aren’t that far apart.
  2. Instead of once again blacklisting millennials for ruining something, let’s flip it: maybe millennials are smart enough to realize that tipping is broken and overtipping is not noble, it’s just ignorant.
  3. The suggested tip trend is presumptuous. Because they usually calculate the percentage on top of tax. That’s flat out wrong. Think about it. It’s tax: it’s going straight to the government, it is separate from the sale amount that you pay to the restaurant. Why would you tip on top of the cost of goods or services?

Seriously, the gall of a business owner to underpay their staff then suggest to their customers the amount to pay on top of the purchase amount. We take it for granted, but it’s messed up.

red bar stools in diner
Photo by R. Mac Wheeler on Unsplash

Don’t tip on tax.

50 years ago, no one did.
It’s a bizarre recent trend that coincides with the glamorization of foodie culture. So many people don’t even think about this because schools and parents aren’t teaching kids good money management.
I make a point of tipping a pretty exact amount for run of of the mill service. Pre-tax, 20% for food and 10% for basic alcohol. I tip more for a fancy cocktail that takes effort or a great wine recommendation, but taking a cap off a beer bottle is tipped at $1 a drink at the bar or 10% pre-tax at a table. I’ll tip more for great service and less for bad service.
french fries and ketchup
Photo by Christopher Flowers on Unsplash
If you think I sound like a penny pincher or a jerk unsympathetic to the plight of hospitality staff, listen to this excellent Freakonomics episode on tipping.

Because Lynn has largely built his career around tipping, it came as a bit of a surprise when Stephen Dubner asked him what he would change about the practice:

LYNN: You know, I think I would outlaw it.

Why ban tipping? Lynn has found that tipping, as currently practiced in the U.S., is in fact discriminatory. If that’s not enough to make you dislike tipping, consider what Magnus Torfason, from the Harvard Business School, has to say:

TORFASON: The more tipping you see in a given country, the more corruption you generally see in that country as well.

Thankfully there was at least one mention in the article of the fact that tipping should be a meritocracy. More importantly, that in the US customers are expected to pick up the restaurant owner’s slack for not paying their workers fair wages.
Not to mention that restaurant industry employees don’t have employer sponsored healthcare. Those who work full time still have no healthcare. This creates a drain on our healthcare system. Taxpayers like you are responsible for that check. This increases everyone’s insurance rates.
This article was annoying because it is just more pile-on blaming millennials for something that is not necessarily a bad thing. Anyway, next time you get the bill, don’t tip on tax.
This post is dedicated to Rick Myers AKA Big Tony.
This post is a follow-up to the Beetle Moment Marketing Flash Briefing. Listen to the episode here.
Beetle Moment Marketing Flash Briefing logo - with Emily Binder
Add Beetle Moment Marketing to your Alexa Flash Briefing! Enable the Skill in your Alexa app.