31 May 2018

EAs and PAs – same difference?

Author :

People often ask what is the difference between a PA and an EA.

If we consider a PA and an EA to have completely different functions, then we can perhaps distinguish them on the basis of the duties they perform – or perhaps, the emphasis of their duties.

The primary job of a Personal assistant is to alleviate the individual or individuals they are supporting of their general organisational admin, so that their time can be dedicated to the more pressing demands of their own role. Mostly, this will include duties taking phone calls, organising and booking any travel, accommodation and venues, as well as being responsible for general diary management and making sure no important deadlines or meetings will be overlooked. A PA is fundamental to the smooth running of the business and will be one step ahead in terms of making arrangements and knowing times, dates, names and places to provide for those they support.

Whereas a PA may work for a private household, media personality or sportsperson for instance, an EA would more generally be associated with a business or company – one distinction between the two.

An EA is also more likely to be heavily involved in the business itself, for instance having specialist knowledge of the business sector. EAs generally report to the CEO or managing director of the company and they may have a high level of responsibility over lots of projects going on within the company as well as just providing a support role.

The mind-set of an EA is very pro-active, involving being one step ahead and having exceptional decision making and problem solving skills. Perhaps, we could distinguish on the basis that the PAs mind set is more reactive – responding to any issues that may arise and always making sure everything is taken care of. An EA may be called upon to take the place of a CEO or Senior Director in a meeting and report back on actions discussed, which is perhaps less common in a PA role.

In any sense, EAs and PAs are a valuable asset to any organisation and are often the unsung heroes of workplace success!

If you’re an EA or PA looking for an opportunity to kickstart your professional development, come and join us in Perth for the 5th Public Sector EA/PA Summit. Stay tuned for information regarding the summit by following us on Facebook @ Akolade Aust 

Written by: Beth Hampton

I came to Australia in late 2016, having spent some time travelling through Southeast Asia and briefly living in Singapore – I was ready to embrace the lifestyle of a working Sydneysider!
I grew up in London, and completed my degree in Psychology at the University of York. I always dreamed of landing a job in the police, but figured it was worth swapping the handcuffs and late shifts for an exciting new city and a job full of fun and opportunity in a fantastic company like Akolade!
Love cooking, playing the piano, terrible British soap operas, an ice-cold G&T and exploring new places.
Follow me on LinkedIn for information regarding future Akolade events as well as future blogs posts @ Beth Hampton

25 May 2018

Supply chain secrets unveiled – where Australia is currently positioned

Author :

Wouldn’t it be a sweet world if you could predict the future and be spot on?

Especially in a market where customer demands shift in the blink of an eye, new tech is constantly emerging and your entire operating model is under combat.

Predictive analytics is on the horizon for the total supply chain and the after-sales service landscape in an industry projected to be worth more than $9 billion by 2020.

Leveraging emerging tech and predictive, real-time analytics and digitising your supply chain to gain end to end and real-time visibility has been on the radar for a while, but it is finally beginning to take hold.  Leveraging predictive analytics to plan for inventory demands minimise waste and building on legacy systems and improving accuracy seems to be the next big step for supply chain professionals. But building this into your strategy and operations is no easy feat. Then there’s IoT and the Cloud to harness.

While analytics and efficiency is one thing, how can you create a proper, cutting-edge supply chain without focusing everything around the customer? After all, they really have become the centre of attention in every industry.

Discovering the best way to rejig your supply chain to better serve your customer, while still increasing profit and performance, seems to be the key in achieving a successful and efficient operation. Some of the major transformations that have seen this come to fruition centre around:

- Embedding a transformative omni-channel operating model to improve customer-centricity

- Segmenting your supply chain around your customers to remain competitive

- Leveraging SC technology and CX methodologies for effective and seamless global market

- Ensuring your operation is at full capacity and customer-centric with minimal expenses 

Redesigning your process and operations to achieve greater customer centricity

- Improving the quality of your global SC and developing a strategic roadmap to improve CX

It’s the more ‘futuristic’ side of supply chain; drones, autonomous vehicles, co-bots, 3D printing…

I bet you’re wondering are any actually a priority and worth the investment of time and attention right now?

It’s potentially the most exciting thing of all, talking about all the future possibilities.

But it’s not worth a dime if you can’t draw it back to the present to be able to develop a practical strategic roadmap and understand the best direction for you….

Front of mind for supply chain professionals is the future of last mile delivery; assessing the options and selecting the right fit technology to best deliver their strategic goals.

Once that’s been determined, developing the business case and roadmap to introduce this tech and operating model into your daily activities is key in gaining the necessary support internally to make the initiative a success.

Drones may seem a far off futuristic concept, but plans for their introduction into a number of leading organsiations’ last mile operations, are progressing quite rapidly. The biggest barrier to overcome though will be legislative barriers and understanding the future regulations around drones to prepare an effective strategy.

Then of course there is the disruption to the supply chain that will be created through the introduction of with autonomous vehicles and understanding how far off they are and how to prepare. Despite what tech you are attracted to, there will always be the same age old puzzle of how best to seamlessly deploy and integrate it into your operations to cause minimal disruption to business and the most ROI.

Still interested? Stay tuned for information on upcoming conferences and summits by following us on Facebook @ Akolade Aust 

Written by: Gracie Fea

Originally from NZ, Gracie worked as a Broadcast Journalist for a few years before moving to London, and then to Sydney, where she fatefully came across conference production and quickly realised it was her dream role. Getting to speak with such passionate and successful people and create an agenda so that people can see themselves in other’s experiences, really spins her wheels.

She has a hunger to hear everyone’s unique story and really thrives from creating a platform for them to share these and help move their industry forward through collaboration.

Follow me on LinkedIn for information regarding future Akolade events as well as future blogs posts Gracie Fea

24 May 2018

Data and IoT: The revolutionary change that is taking the world by storm

Author :

Data and the Internet of Things are transforming the way organisations are operated. But what is it exactly doing and where can we see this merge take us?

This revolutionary change is essentially the stepping stone for bigger and better opportunities for organisations. More than 80% of businesses adopting Internet of Things and Big Data have already seen increase in their revenue. 

The remarkable growth in the number of devices connected to IoT and the exponential increase in data generation means the future of Big Data will not be the same. Research indicates that the IoT market will grow to $7.1 trillion by 2020 and the Big Data market will reach an estimated $103 billion globally. The impact of this will be felt in all aspects of organisations and as such will enforce them to consider upgrading their current workforce, systems and technology to accommodate this change.

Data is good – Lots of data is better! Data has now become the bread and butter for organisations who cleverly want to gain a competitive edge in their industry. Using data to optimise your business revenue is now considered a fool-proof plan to success. Patrick Wright, Chief Technology and Operations Officer from NAB stated “Data is the digital currency of our future”. The faster organisations take this ‘mantra’ on board, the easier it will be to get ahead and drive business value.

With all this data being generated, organisations are now focussing on transforming themselves into Data Powered organisations. Empowering themselves with data and equipping themselves with workforce and business analysis means that organisations have found a strategy to continuously outgrow themselves.

Ultimately, statistics, metric calculations and data analytics is the road to take to ensure future growth in workforce, infrastructure and business revenue. 

Still interested? Stay tuned for information on upcoming conferences and summits by following us on Facebook @ Akolade Aust 

Written by: Vishi Peters 

Vishi is a Conference Producer of Akolade’s Government and Digital portfolio. She has a strong interest in current affairs and enjoys giving an educated opinion about emerging trends. She is passionate about photography, enjoys playing cricket and cooking different cuisines and expanding her knowledge of food.  

Follow me on LinkedIn for information regarding future Akolade events as well as future blogs posts Vishi Peters

23 May 2018

How the budget impacts the NFP sector

Author :

An in-depth look at how the 2018 federal budget affects the NFPs sector

Following Treasurer Scott Morrison’s announcement of the federal 2018-19 budget at Parliament House on Tuesday, it has become clear that the budget left little to the Not-for-Profit sector.

Whilst it appears that sectors, such as mental health and aged care, will benefit from the new budget, organisations in other sectors working for the greater good are now left to fill in some of the financial gaps.

“A responsible budget would strengthen the revenue base so that the government can do its job, especially to provide the essential services people need and protect from poverty,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie. “Unfortunately, this budget does the opposite, and the budget mistakes of the 2000s are being repeated.”

With the escalating housing crisis, the sector expected to hear of budget plans to address the almost 200 people who are homeless on any given night and a plan to overcome unaffordable housing as fewer people are able to afford a home.

Furthermore, disability funding and the Newstart and Youth Allowances were virtually ignored, despite calls from the sector for reforms and improvements.

However, in one of the few measures aimed at Not-for-Profits, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission will receive funding from the 2018 federal budget for anticipated litigation as the sector seeks to pursue a regulatory enforcement role.

This promised funding came on the back of the 2017 federal budget’s commitment to the NFP sector, with the $3 million going towards increasing accessibility to the Annual Information Statements and Charity Register, an updated IT system and web design, and an implementation of a customer relationship management system.

A spokesperson from the ACNC told Third Sector that “ahead of the 2018 Federal Budget, the ACNC informed the Government that we were not appropriately resourced for litigation should issues arise in the course of charity regulation. The Government allocated an additional $1 million to the ACNC for litigation for the 2018-19 financial year.

“The ACNC is now properly resourced, should it be necessary to clarify any questions of charity law or regulation through appeals.”

With the rising social inequality, the 2018 budget proposed a further $1 million for ACNC under the increasing demand for a longer-term strategy and further funding to social infrastructure to address the escalating social issues.

With this additional funding and an overall “have” and “have not” across the Not-for-Profit industry, here’s what the sector can expect from the 2018 budget:

Aged Care

The federal budget demonstrated commitment to the future of aged care with NFP services receiving substantial funding to improve care services but did little to improve long term issues, like staffing shortages.

Dementia Australia welcomed a $5 billion federal government funding for aged care, which will increase the quality and the overall ageing for Australians.

“This funding will go towards helping thousands of Australians who are on the waiting list to receive home care packages, with some people waiting more than 12 months to receive support,” said Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe.

Mental Health

Mental health has become one of the nations’ top priorities with the federal budget announcing substantial investment over the next four years to strengthen suicide prevention programs, provide advice and achieve better support for consumers.

The Commission’s CEO, Dr Peggy Brown AO, said the annual budget increase will strengthen the sector’s ability to understand what does and doesn’t work.

“This includes monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan and aspects of the National Disability Insurance Scheme relating to psychological disability.”


The Turnbull Government confirmed its commitment to the NDIS with $43 billion funding secured. Chief Executive of the NDIS, Dr Ken Baker, said the sector relies on all sides of politics for a plan for long-term funding.

“Any future Treasurer should be clear that the NDIS is not a political football,” Dr Baker said. “It is a source of security for people with disability and their families who have enough uncertainty in their lives. Long-term certainty for the NDIS is imperative.”

Indigenous Australia

In response to the budget, Oxfam called out the lack of funding commitments to address the worsening health and disadvantage, poverty, and discrimination faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said that while the Government proposed $550 million for rural health services, it failed to recognise Aboriginal people in remote Australia.

The Government is continuing with the Community Development Program with minor changes and has effectively abandoned the National Partnership for Remote Indigenous Housing. The Budget also failed to recognise funding commitments for Western Australia, Queensland, and South Australia.

“Oxfam Australia shares the widespread concerns of Australia’s Indigenous leaders and peak groups,” said Dr Szoke. “This Budget has been yet another squandered opportunity to work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People to drive the solutions to the challenges they face.”

Although the budget welcomed some improvements to the Indigenous sector, organistions working for a more inclusive society and an overall healthier life for Australia’s first people, can expect to wait longer for financial support.

Tax reform

Low and middle-income earners received substantial relief in this year’s budget with plans to implement tax cuts and introduce a flat tax rate with earners standing to gain a tax offset of approximately $200 to $530.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie pointed out that more tax cuts were coming at the wrong time, leaving low income earners vulnerable to the changes.

“There is a seven-year plan for tax cuts, but where’s the seven-year plan for reducing poverty among adults and children, guaranteeing growth funding for health care, and closing the gaps in essential services such as mental and dental health and affordable housing?” asked Dr Goldie.

This relief comes as rising costs and stagnating wages in the economy continue to cripple workers. The future growth of this sector, however, is still heavily reliant on the business sector as housing becomes increasingly unaffordable for vulnerable groups.


The budget proposed an extra $54 million to tackle violence across the nation, including domestic violence, sexual assault, cyber safety and elder abuse.

With domestic and family abuse estimated to cost the economy upwards of $12.7 billion each year, $54 million is a small investment towards an important societal issue and a blow to the Not-for-Profits acting on behalf of abuse victims.


The Government announced a new round to the robodebt scheme, with measures implemented to recover fines and save $300 million.

“The proposal to deduct State Government fines from social security payments without their agreement is unnecessary, intrusive, and could leave many people homeless,” said Dr Goldie. “The ball is in the states’ court to reform the system of court-ordered fines so that people are no longer imprisoned because they can’t afford to pay.”

These changes will leave NFPs in the sector to fight further for an increasing support for the nations most vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Refugees and migrants

Support services for refugees and asylum seekers was cut by $54 million, putting vulnerable people under greater pressure to survive in the face of adversity, societal issues such as violence and welfare cuts, and the rising costs of living.

Dr Goldie said the 2018 budget would leave some of the most vulnerable people in the community open to disadvantage.

“New migrants lacking paid work, who will be left without income support for the first four years. This is not the way to welcome people to this country and help them contribute to its future prosperity.”

The limited resources allocated to the refugee’s sector will leave NFPs with several gaps to fill as disadvantaged refugees are put under further stress.

Still interested? Stay tuned for information on upcoming conferences and summits by following us on Facebook @ Akolade Aust 

Written by: Naomi Neilson 

Recently graduated with a Bachelor in Communications with a major in Journalism and Public Relations, Naomi Neilson has jumped straight into the world of media and press with Third Sector. She is motivated and passionate to explore the industry and thrives on creating an interactive and social platform for Third Sectors unique readers.

In her free time she can be found either watching the footy or designing her next big art piece around sourcing stories and engaging with new people.

Follow me on LinkedIn for information regarding future Akolade events as well as future blogs posts Naomi Neilson

18 May 2018

Is the future of contact centres an AI workforce?

Author :

Despite recent industry cut backs including the loss of 100 jobs at Vodafone’s Hobart centre, experts remain positive about the ongoing need for human agents- though perhaps not as many.

As more customers take to online channels to resolve their queries, call volumes are steadily declining across contact centres. However consumers are likely to call the centre directly when they face more complex queries.

It’s arguable that the contact centre agent doesn’t face redundancy in the near future, however their role will evolve as calls become longer and a shift in the conversations agents have with customers.

Chat bots are regarded by some as being the beginning of the end for a human contact centre workforce. Industry veterans, however, will recall a few of these doomsday predictions in the form of Interactive Voice Response, speech recognition and WAP to name a few.

Although automation ensures basic transactions happen quickly and smoothly, they lack what we demand in more challenging situations- empathy, instinct and interpretation. A robot cannot provide comfort or support when something goes wrong or negotiate with a dissatisfied customer.

Let us also not forget Microsoft’s ill-fated social media chatbot which quickly picked up racial slurs and insulted users with derogatory comments. Tay was designed to learn from her conversations and become progressively smarter but racists and online trolls meant she quickly developed some very bad habits.

Humans and robots are equipped with vastly different skillsets which complement each other- robots with prompt analytics and the ability to quickly turn over menial tasks while humans can use this data to consider a customer’s history and provide insight based on experience.

Perhaps we should not focus on the possibility of humans being replaced with AI, but instead how we can collaborate with it to deliver a truly seamless customer experience.

Still interested? Stay tuned for information on the upcoming 2nd Contact Centre Summit by following us on Facebook @ Akolade Aust 

Written by: Claire Dowler

Claire is the manager of Akolade’s government and digital portfolio. She’s passionate about emerging digital trends, particularly in the public sector. In her spare time she enjoys picking up heavy things and putting them back down again and animals are her favourite kind of people. 

Follow me on LinkedIn for information regarding future Akolade events as well as future blogs posts @ Claire Dowler

17 May 2018

Four questions people ask every time you speak

Author :

You step up to speak. You’ve got an important message to share. You need people to get this. You’ve spent days, maybe even weeks preparing for this.

I could list a hundred thoughts that are likely running through your head as you walk onto the stage:

Don’t stuff this up
I hope this makes sense
I hope I’ve prepared enough
What if people laugh at me?
What’s my opening line?
How did I get roped into doing this?

But have you ever wondered what’s going through the mind of your audience? What’s ticking around in their brain as they sit in silence staring back at you. 

I’m not a mind reader, but as someone who has sat through countless presentations and conferences I can give you four big questions I ask every time I hear someone speak. If you are a leader or communicator that wants to better connect with your audience, they are four questions worth considering.

Question #1 - Do You Believe This?

This question is about energy.

When you speak, people want to know that you stand by your words. I can’t believe this if you don’t. There is something contagious about the passion and energy a person exudes when they are convinced of their content and message. It is also glaringly obvious when a person is delivering a message they do not personally believe themselves.

Build Conviction. Get passionate about your message. Passion is not just seen in volume, it isn’t just about being loud. It is seen in value. If you want to become passionate about what you do, invest the time and effort to understand deeply why your message and content is valuable to you and to those you are sharing it with. 

Question #2 - Do I Believe You? 

This question is about authenticity

An audience would rather engage with someone who is raw and authentic over a someone who is polished and fake. An audience will forgive you for tripping over a few words but they won’t forgive someone they perceive as fake. Trust is the foundation for connecting your message.

Avoid Comparison. Ultimately people want to connect with you but they can’t do that if you’re trying to be somebody else. The best pathway to authenticity is being comfortable in your own skin. Find how you communicate most naturally, own it, then keep growing.  

Question #3 - Do You Care About Me? 

This question is about generosity

Is your content seeking or serving? Are you sharing this information because you believe it will serve and benefit those who are listening. Or are you sharing this information with the sole intent of seeking something from them? As the popular saying goes “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. 

Deliver Value. Whether it is a sales pitch, department update or change process, focus on adding value first, before asking for anything in return. Put simply, give more than you take.

Question #4 - Do You Understand Me?

This question is about empathy

People want to know that you’ve done the work to understand them. It means answering the “what’s in it for me” question before you get in the room. Empathy has been described as the ability to sit in someone’s shoes and see things from their perspective. It is the ability to find the connection between the content or message you deliver and the challenges people face. 

Show Understanding. Show people you have done the work required to know how your message or big idea is relevant to the key challenge or problems they face. 

Still interested? Stay tuned for information on the upcoming Corporate Communications Leadership Forum @ Akolade Aust 

Written by Shane Hatton, Founder of Lead the Room

I've spent the last 12 years working in organisations across the government, retail, creative and not-for-profit sectors so my approach blends my experience in business, marketing and counselling. I'm a creative at heart and so you can be sure that a journey with me will be along the road less travelled.

Follow me on LinkedIn @ Shane Hatton

11 May 2018

My Health Record to be rolled out by the end of 2018

Author :

Healthcare providers across Australia are preparing for the complete rollout of the My Health Record to every citizen by the end of this year- unless they have opted out.

Over 5.5 million Australians, 20% of the population currently have a My Health Record with the goal of reaching 100% before 2019.

The system is an integral component of the digital transformation which is revolutionising the healthcare sector, enabling busy departments to access real time information, reduce wait times and deliver a higher quality of care.

According to ADHA, “hospital staff can use My Health Record via connected systems every day including to provide input into discharge summaries documenting a patient’s encounter in the hospital. To date, more than 1.5 million discharge summaries have been uploaded to the My Health Record system.”

Recently published research from ADHA found that the quality of data captured and the method of information management varied across hospitals. This highlighted the need for uniform and accessible summaries to be standardised for information to be transferred seamlessly and correctly across organisations.

In corporation with the agency’s delivery partners, some of the engagement activities include:

·        Jurisdictions have commenced front-line awareness through education of clinical staff to ensure readiness for the opt out period
·       Thirty-one PHNs in partnership with ADHA have been engaged to provide awareness and have reached out to over 4,000 GP practices and 2,800 community pharmacies
·       The Agency’s Provider Readiness Education team has so far provided over 700 education sessions across the country to a wide range of clinical stakeholders
·       The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and the Agency will work together to help raise awareness and support for GPs and their patients to effectively use the My Health Record

Bringing together 20+ digital hospital leaders from around Australia and internationally, the 2nd Digital Hospitals Summit is returning to the Swissotel Sydney this June 18-20.

With a practical focus on implementing digital processes in your hospital, the summit will equip attendees with the ability to leverage real time data for enhanced decision making and ensure complete interoperability with your IT infrastructure.

Still interested? Stay tuned for information on the upcoming 2nd Digital Hospitals Summit by following us on Facebook @ Akolade Aust 

Written by: Claire Dowler

Claire is the manager of Akolade’s government and digital portfolio. She’s passionate about emerging digital trends, particularly in the public sector. In her spare time she enjoys picking up heavy things and putting them back down again and animals are her favourite kind of people. 

Follow me on LinkedIn for information regarding future Akolade events as well as future blogs posts @ Claire Dowler

09 May 2018

Improving your soft skills as an executive assistant

Author :

Executive assistants continue to be in high demand, especially those with strong technical and soft skills. But what exactly ARE soft skills?

Your soft skills include your personality traits or character traits, your interpersonal skills and your social skills. They are intangible, less measurable, and not so easy to observe.

However, you can detect soft skills in an individual by observing their behaviour, how well they interact with others, and their ability to effectively lead others.

So, let’s have a moment of self-reflection. Do you have good people skills?  Do you have good leaderships skills?  How about communication skills?  

Some examples of the key soft skills that make for a killer EA are:
  •     Attention to details
  •     Common sense
  •     Active listening 
  •     Flexible personality
  •     Strong communication
  •     Time management
  •     Project management
  •     Curiosity

If you have any doubt that soft skills matter, just think about some of the most successful administrative staff you know. Chances are, they all have strong people skills – they’re excellent communicators and adept leaders, and they seem to have the magic touch when it comes to getting things done. They also have a knack for problem solving and negotiation and always exercise sound judgment.

The good news for those people who feel they may not possess these soft skills is that they – just like hard skills – can be developed over time. All that is required is a commitment to learning these skills, a willingness to acknowledge the areas where you may be lacking and education. Indeed, some workplaces are more than willing to help employees strengthen their soft skills.

Soft skills will continue to be a big factor in the success of administrative professionals. If you make the effort and take the time to improve your interpersonal skills at work, there’s a good chance it will pay off in advancement opportunities! 
Still interested? Stay tuned for information on the upcoming 5th Public Sector EA/PA Summit by following us on Facebook @ Akolade Aust 
Written by: Beth Hampton
I came to Australia in late 2016, having spent some time travelling through Southeast Asia and briefly living in Singapore – I was ready to embrace the lifestyle of a working Sydneysider!
I grew up in London, and completed my degree in Psychology at the University of York. I always dreamed of landing a job in the police, but figured it was worth swapping the handcuffs and late shifts for an exciting new city and a job full of fun and opportunity in a fantastic company like Akolade!
Love cooking, playing the piano, terrible British soap operas, an ice-cold G&T and exploring new places.
Follow me on LinkedIn for information regarding future Akolade events as well as future blogs posts @ Beth Hampton

04 May 2018

Four steps to making your marketing content voice search-friendly

Author :

    It's been a big couple of years for voice search. 

    In May 2016, Sundar Pichai, Google's CEO, said they were already seeing one in five searches conducted by voice (how many searches you do in a day?), smart speakers officially had their hockey stick moment with more than 25 million sold in 2017 (basically, everyone in Australia, and a few of our pets, has a smart speaker), big brands teamed up to integrate voice search into their customer experience (Walmart and Google are 'changing the way we shop'), and myriad agencies launched - Versa in Australia, for example - that specialise in voice experience.

    By any measure, that's actual momentum. It isn't just an experiment in Silicon Valley or half-cooked beta tests that flopped; these are real-life use cases proving the tech in real life. But, for the most part, the domain of voice search (or voice experience) is only being tended to by the tech nerds. Sadly, the marketers that understand or are interested in this space are few and far between and, frankly, that's a problem.

    So, some real talk.

    I believe marketers are on the cusp of falling behind the eight ball with voice search and we need to pay attention to what this means for our marketing. So many have asserted that this is to be a seismic shift that compares with the introduction of smartphones a little over 10 years ago, and it may even be bigger. And it's coming very soon - both Comscore and Tractica say that, by 2020, half of all searches will be executed using our voice. Check your watches, because it's five minutes to midnight, friends.

    Woah. Heavy. Let's take a moment.

    Ok. What does that all mean for marketing? Search has always been about content, it's the reason why search engines sprung up in the first place because we couldn't find the stuff we wanted to read because there was so much of it - what's new, huh? - and, since then, search engines have continued to be the thread that holds the web together with all kinds of content now added to their massive catalogues of data. So, it makes sense that voice search will continue to be about content and quality, relevant, useful content winning the day. 

    Right now, there isn't a bunch of content on the internet that meets voice search needs very well. There are a few snippets, but I'd hazard a guess that it's one to two percent of the internet, at the most. Enter the marketing opportunity: by moving first and creating audio-ready versions of our marketing content, we have the opportunity to fill this growing void and ensure the content we want our customers to hear is what they do hear. The alternative? The algorithms do their own thing and, before you know it, negative comments, incomplete reviews and misinformation about your brand are being played over speakers all day, every day.

    Let's own voice search rather than getting owned by it.

    It is, of course, relatively early days for this tech, but let's not forget how quickly these things take off. There are three things that, right now, help to position your marketing content in a way that is voice search-friendly and, over time, can help you to capitalise on the voice search opportunity.

    First things first, how does your content sound?

    I don't mean this question metaphorically, but, literally, how does it sound when it's read aloud? Ask yourself:

    • Does your content flow naturally in an almost conversational-style when it's read aloud? This doesn't mean it has to have a casual or quirky tone, but does it sound like something that would come out of your mouth if you're telling someone else about your product/service/brand?
    • Is it easy to digest the information you're sharing in that content? Have you structured your content in a way that prioritises important info or are you burying the lead? If you're not giving the most pertinent information up front, voice search queries may not return your content to a relevant search query because what you're trying to say just isn't clear.
    • What question does each of your content items answer? Can you tell what someone might say (or type) into a search to get there? If you can't articulate that in a way that a customer would, it's going to be challenging for voice search queries to favour your result. Likewise, if you have multiple items answering the same/similar questions and they're not clearly labelled or prioritised, you're making it hard for Google to prefer your content over others. And Google just doesn't do hard.
    • Take a snapshot of your content, perhaps some of the most and least visited or engaged with items, and audit that content with these questions in mind. Once you've identified the answers to these questions, you can begin thinking about re-structuring your content in a way that makes sense for voice search.

    Know what your customer is asking

    Many marketers can't give a good answer when asked 'what are your customers searching for when they land on your site/app/profile/some other online thing?'. Search is the most inherent digital behaviour we have and it's not going away. Search engines have accustomed us to use only a question or phrase to get to something specific. It makes sense this is how they find your marketing content; sure, you might get a bunch of traffic from paid media campaigns, but those are increasingly informed by what people are asking for elsewhere. 

    Voice search demands that marketers get back into keyword research the way that perhaps we used to do five to 10 years ago. The 'snippets' at the top of search results pages are the things that Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa and others are often reading to you when you ask a question. These snippets are more heavily influenced by keywords that match a user's search phrase or term. So, we have to begin looking at those common keywords (for larger volumes of content consider a keyword planner tool) that reveal specific questions your customers are asking so you can deliver highly tuned content that meets that need.

    Keyword research is not about stuffing your content with term x or phrase y, because that hasn't worked for years and it certainly isn't about to come back into vogue, thank you very much. Keyword research in the context of voice search, however, is critical because that snippet may be the first, or even the only, interaction your customer has with your brand.

    Get to work prioritising, re-imagining, tweaking and testing your content

    So, you've realised your content doesn't sound great when read aloud, you have a clear idea of terms and phrases people use to get to your content and you're ready to do something about it. Firstly, yay, congratulations! Getting to this point is a high-five moment, because you're aware of the big opportunity that voice search represents. There are four things you want to do to get your marketing content to the point that it's playing nice with voice search.

    1. Prioritise based on organic search traffic
    Unless you are a multi-billion dollar marketing department with little else on the cards for the next 12 months, you probs can't afford to spend the time and/or money re-factoring all your content to suit voice search. So, start with the data; identify the content items that get most of their traffic from search and start working on adjusting your content from the top down. Generally, you're probably getting 70 or 80 percent of traffic from 10 to 20 percent of content; start there because it's an obvious, substantial opportunity.

    2. Re-imagine your content formats
    It's likely your current content formats ('templates', 'article types', 'page types' etc) are not well suited to voice search queries. Spend time doing the work up front to re-structure these on technical and editorial levels. Are you using heading 1, 2 and 3 formats in a way that makes the content easy to read? Are you writing soft, crooning introductions to your content that don't immediately answer a customer's question? Once you've decided on a small number of revised formats, only then should you start re-working the content.

    3. Make tweaks, not large cuts
    Remember, you're working with hard-working content, so it's likely doing ok in search already; don't compromise that and don't create duplicates for voice search. Firstly, re-structure the content to fit a new format, keeping your keyword research in mind. Next, re-write intro paragraph/s into juicy, useful, easy-to-hear snippets. Finally, tweak that  metadata for pages, videos, images etc, written with the right keywords in mind, but in a way that sounds human. I recommend getting a search-savvy, experienced journalist or editor to work with you on this; SEO or advertising copywriters will not deliver the best outcome.

    4. Test. And. Learn.
    Search adapts to new content and queries very quickly; previously, you had to wait for months (like, a lot of months) before you knew if you'd had an impact on search traffic, but now it's not uncommon to get a result within weeks or just days, depending on traffic volumes. Commit to a testing program with your updated content, keeping a close eye on the data and asking your journalist/editor to make changes based on the data. Start with 10 percent of your content and, once you're winning, increase by 10 percent more and so on.

    The most important take-away here is that you don't have to re-work all your content right away. Yes, the voice search wave is building, but if we start moving in this direction now, we'll be well placed to take advantage of the opportunity once this thing matures in a couple of years. The important thing is to start now, however; making marketing content voice search-friendly is a long term play, so the sooner you start paying attention and optimising for this medium, the greater the advantage you have over competitors and pundits on the internet who might want to hijack the way your brand sounds to your ideal customer.

    Article First Published on Cognitives Voice.

    Written by: Andrés López-Varela

    Andrés a digital and travel marketing consultant based in Sydney, Australia working with brands locally and globally. He is the former Global Content Editor for Tourism Australia, who owned the delivery of TA’s digital content roadmap and made content operations more effective on a global scale. Andrés is also a podcaster, producing and co-hosting The Destinationists, a show for the modern travel marketer.