Alexa Won’t Matter If They Don’t Know Who To Ask For!


(By Gary Berkowitz) Lately, you can’t pick up a trade without reading an article about Alexa and smart speakers. The consensus is that smart speakers (Amazon, Google, etc.) will bring radio back into homes where radios have been disappearing over the past decade. I support this theory 100%, but there are a few areas to carefully look at as we enter this new territory. If listeners don’t know you’re there and if they don’t know who to ask for, smart speakers will be just one more technology that we (radio) will compete with versus be a part of. With that in mind, please keep these ideas in mind.

Do more than run obligatory liners about Alexa skills. Saying, “Alexa, play Magic 106.5” may not be enough. We need to explain to listeners that we are available there and wherever they have a smart speaker, they have us. The same goes for smartphones. I have recommended to many stations the line, “If you have a phone, you have a radio.” Campaigns should be developed that explain the smart speaker explosion (as well as phone apps) and how to listen to us. Be creative. Be fun. This is what radio does best. Making your station a “must listen” on smart speakers is crucial for our new found “in home” success.

I continue to hear stations (in all formats) do a poor job of on-air ID. Jocks more often than not, rush through, mumble and do not SELL the call letters and dial position. This will have a very adverse effect on smart speaker share, because, as the title of this article says, “Alexa won’t matter if they don’t know who to ask for.” Whether you’re a dairy or PPM market, it does not matter when it comes to Alexa. She is all about recall, so it’s back to the future! This all reminds me of “The Bob Morgan Mantra.” Bob was the Market Manager of CBS/Rochester for many years. In every meeting, Bob reminded us that we had to be “brilliant with the basics.” Alexa has brought that back into the forefront (not that it ever left).

Catchy, fun and memorable (singalong) jingles could have a rebirth. We have been in a very “drums and call letter” style of jingles for a while. I suggest that stations use catchy jingles to help listeners remember who they are listening to. Put aside cool and hip. Think “singalong” and “memorable” so when they say “Alexa, play…,” they say you because they remember you.

Talk content will need careful management to ensure that the Alexa message is clear and easy to remember. Do you want your jocks selling more listening opportunities (Alexa, Google Home) or some tertiary pop culture story (Ok, ok…take it easy on this for me saying it!).

In summary: This new smart speaker technology is going to require us to go back to the basics of doing “memorable programming,” so listeners put us top of mind. So, remember, Alexa won’t matter if listeners don’t remember who to ask for.

– Call letters and dial position always first, last and in many cases, in-between.
– Clever, creative promos that tell listeners that they can listen to us on their smart speaker. Go beyond the sweeper.
– Acquire easy-to remember-Alexa skills.
– Review imaging to ensure that it clearly addresses smart speaker technology.
– Discovering jingles that are clever, memorable, and excel in “singalong.”

Smart speakers are giving us the opportunity of a lifetime to be part of a technology that is exploding. Let’s not miss the train! I’m ready to get on board. How about you?

Gary Berkowitz is President of Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in AC and Classic Hits formats. Contact him at 248.737.3727, [email protected], or


  1. Now we’re back to call letters? Please stop. Oh, and no one got a $1000 iPhone because it’s “also a radio”… The industry keeps trying to be “radio” on every new platform and device, and that’s not going to work, because it’s not working now.

  2. Here are a few points to emphasis relative to jumping into this new craze, and why I believe it’s more problematic than anyone is talking about (read: requires more developer time, which makes it expensive).

    *) You do not need a unique call for your Intent to be executed. Alex Skills have an ARN #, a “Skill ID” that allows different stations to use the same words. It’s up to the listeners to define which response fits there needs.

    Elements to be aware of are:

    *) An “utterance” is what activates an “Intent.”

    *) For Alexa, there are “slots” and “slot types”

    We’re talking about, at minimum, creating 20-35 utterance variations for how someone can ask Alexa for your station. Trying to train your audience to voice one phrase will be fruitless.

    I suggest viewing the following videos. You won’t understand much of what’s discussed, but you will get a grip on the complexities faced when employing smart speakers and what your development research must cover.

    This is 16:20 long, at 4:00 he begins talking about those items mentioned above:

    This video is only 7:00 long, and discusses the “backend” that’s also needed:

    I know we don’t need to know how to fix an engine to drive a car, but you do need to understand how a Skill is evoked so you’ll get efficient use from a smart speaker.

    The whole concept of employing smart speakers is based on this premise, which is not discussed: “You have to understand how a user interacts with your server.”

  3. I have written several articles about this for a couple of years now, and have even done videos showing the issues listeners are having with finding our radio stations on the different smart speakers devices. Just this morning I wanted to listen to Channel 94-1 in Omaha, Nebraska and 107-7 The Beat in Bend, Oregon. After several attempts, Alexa failed (as it often does) to find either one of the stations. Google easily found both stations just by saying the name of the radio stations.
    Remember that you are now competing, not just locally but globally. So your station’s name needs to be unique and memorable.
    Don’t produce promos that say, “Hey Google/Alexa listen to/play (my station)” without testing it out yourself. I was listening to a station on my Google smart speaker when they ran a promo that said, “Alexa, play (the name of station)”. My Alexa played a completely different radio station than the asked for. And trust me. Having a ‘skill’ doesn’t always work.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here