Writing for Brands on Smart Speaker – Narrator or Spokesperson?

BX | VX
April 26, 2019

When creating content for a voice application, should one write in the first person or in the third person?

Picture the following scenario:
“Alexa, ask Encore Cinemas what movies are playing.”

This is a straight forward question for which we can easily access content. However, if

Using the First Person, we might answer the question like this:
“We currently have three feature films running. They are…”

Writing in the Second Person, we might answer the question like this:
“You can see three different feature films at Encore Cinemas. They are…”

And if we compose our content in the Third Person, it might say:
“Encore Cinemas is currently showing three feature films. They are…”

 

To determine the best narrative voice for our smart speaker, we need to take into account that the narrator itself has a personality. When we ask users about their experience using the device, they often use the pronoun “she” when referring to Amazon’s smart speaker. This is no accident. Amazon has poured endless resources into making the technology feel more human so that conversations feel more natural. We wake the device by using a human name. We speak to the device in complete sentences. The device refers to itself as “I” and even uses filler words like “hmm” when it has an error. Everything about the experience is designed for the machine to stay in character as a human. It makes perfect sense that one would absorb this humanization and begin to think of device as having a personality.

It is because of this embedded personality that branded content can’t be written in the first person. If an Alexa device says “I”, “me”, or “we”, a user is going to associate the statement as coming from the persona of the device instead of the voice of a brand. Therefore, statements like “we open at nine in the morning” are going to be confusing and sound unnatural.

Writing in the second or third person solves this problem. By referring to the brand by name, the device itself remains the narrator personality that audiences are familiar with. For instance, our answer on store hours would be better phrased as “The gallery opens at nine in the morning”.

 

When writing content for smart speakers:

First Person: Confusing to users. Not recommended.

Second Person: Works well for marketing but can be tricky and repetitious.

Third Person: Ideal for most uses.

 

When writing branded content for voice assistants like Alexa, think of the device as a narrator rather than a spokesperson.

Headquartered in Sacramento, CA servicing clients across the United States. We create connected, consistent marketing systems across print, digital and voice platforms.

Copyright © 2019 Voice & Reason, LLC. All rights reserved.

Resources

3 Tough questions to ask a digital agency

The hidden costs of web development

Voicify – voice experience platform

Connect

     

Copyright © 2019 Voice & Reason, LLC. All rights reserved.

Voice & Reason