by Trevor Waddington, Truth Tree Principal
The next time you are with a group of students or parents, ask them if they have an Amazon Echo or Google Home. Data tell us there’s a pretty good chance many of them will respond in the affirmative, and that number is on the rise. According to InfoScout and NDP Group, the majority of today’s users of these devices are wealthy, young families. Sound like anyone you know?
For those that don’t know, Amazon Echo – “Hey Alexa,” or Google Home Assistant - “Okay Google,” are smart speakers or voice-controlled intelligent personal assistants. Introduced to consumers in November 2014, these devices are the quintessence of the impulse economy, making it simple to receive information, control household devices, or make a purchase in literal seconds – the faster you can get something, the better.
This puts independent schools in an awkward position because our admission process is long, filled with steps, and in the end, you may not get to “purchase” the service desired. So, in an era where consumers demand speed and convenience, what are schools to do?
You give them as much speed, and convenience as your ethos will allow.
Why You Should Invest in Voice-First Tech for Your School
We’ve already shown that users of these devices have a considerable overlap with the population at most independent schools, but not every market is the same. Before going on, I would poll the families at your school to find out if this something you should pursue now or in the future.
Content on these devices, as it stands today, is like real estate. Once you plant your flag on a subject, it’s yours to keep. So if I were to ask my Amazon Echo, ‘Hey Alexa, what are activities I can do with my kids in Olney, Maryland?’ She may respond, ‘According to Truth Tree Academy, here are the top 5 best things to do with kids in Olney, Maryland…’ Your brand owns that real estate.
Creating and distributing content on these devices is a mostly untapped market for K-12 organizations. Saint Louis University is well ahead of the curve, not only distributing 2,300+ Amazon Echo Dots in all dorm rooms, but they’ve developed exclusive Alexa Skills just for their students. (More on Alexa Skills in a moment)
Remember when your top ad bullets included, ‘one-to-one laptop program’ and ‘Five 3D Printers in our STEM Lab’? This also demonstrates your tech geekdom but unlike these two examples…
It’s FREE to develop an Amazon Skill or Google Action. It just takes time to learn how to create them.
How to Leverage Voice-First for Your School
For your current families, you can have a skill with the following intents:
The lunch menu (find out and order lunch through the device)
Contact directory (find out the number for the upper school principal and call through the device)
Class-specific announcements or highlights
Trivia contest (trivia about your school where the weekly winner gets a $5 credit to the school store)
For prospective families, you could have a skill that provides the following:
RSVP for an open house
Schedule a private tour
Get advice on how to apply for financial aid
Listen to your school’s podcast or blog post
5 tips on how to prepare for a shadow/visitation day
Want my THREE favorite ideas to drive brand recognition? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Put the Above Ideas into Practice and Create Your First Alexa Skill and Google Action
When I first started dabbling in this tech a year ago, my head was spinning. I needed three different platforms, lessons in coding, and a tech geek dictionary. Luckily, I discovered VoiceFlow along the way. This brilliant platform allows you to create both an Alexa Skill and a Google Action seamlessly. Other platforms will perform the same functions that VoiceFlow will, but none had the capabilities and ease of use, nor the free version of VoiceFlow. Oh, and for full transparency, I don’t have any affiliation with them and am not making a nickel from promoting them here (I did try 😉).
Instead of going through the how-to here, Voiceflow has both written tutorials and videos to walk you through everything from A to Z.
How It Will Make Your Life Easier
Admittedly, even with VoiceFlow, it takes time to set up a skill or action flow, but once completed, it becomes a virtual cut and paste job of content and links. But think of the possibilities for you and the people around you.
Fewer phone calls and emails asking about stuff they can ask their smart speaker.
For the parent that doesn’t ‘have time to read the e-newsletter,’ now s/he can listen to it.
You don’t have to worry about the board member who asks, ‘why don’t we have an Alexa Skill?’
It’s a free way to expand your brand bandwidth
If you are tech-savvy and want to make the current and future tech-heads in your community happy, I strongly suggest you at very least get your voice-first real estate and at most be at the forefront of speed and convenience for independent schools.