CREDO is “the mobile carrier with a conscience.” It is also the first political activist group to create an Alexa skill to help spread its progressive message which launches today. Voicebot caught up with CREDO’s CEO Ray Morris and VP of Marketing Trish Tobin, to discuss their experience in designing and developing the Alexa skill with the help of Witlingo’s Ahmed Bouzid.
Why did you choose to develop an Alexa skill?
Ray Morris: Several of us in the office already have Alexa devices and we’re quite smitten. We talk to each other about we use Alexa and which new skills we’re using. Ahmed [of Witlingo] reached out to us because he has been following our activism efforts – he is very enthusiastic and supportive of the work we’re doing. He said we should work together to create an Alexa skill to let people follow our activism and to let them what we’re doing.
He is a very enthusiastic person. The more we talked about it, the more we liked it. In the past year, we have looked to new channels to persist our message because it is an important one. We support important causes like human rights, basic civil liberties, women’s rights and the environment. Because of this, our members come in many shapes and sizes and different social and economic backgrounds. We’re always looking for a new channel to find new audiences who like what we’re saying and want to support our progressive network. Alexa seemed like a natural extension for us.
Morris: We’ve aggressively moved into the digital market, heavy into the social. We’ve changed the make-up of where and how we’re pushing our message and it’s been very successful. We’re a smaller company and unlike other digital mediums where we can have an agency help us, we didn’t know where to start with developing an Alexa skill.
It was nice to find Ahmed, a ready-made partner who came to us as an expert. It gave us comfort and confidence to find a great partner who has the expertise. I’d love to be in this market and push our message in a new way. How do you do that? In this case, it sort of came to us. Ahmed is such an excited evangelist for the platform. It’s great to partner with people like that.
What are you hoping to accomplish with your new Alexa skill?
Morris: What I’m hoping is that eventually the adoption [of Alexa] keeps getting larger. Through my personal experience in software development, I’ve learned that the companies who move earlier do better in these spaces in finding new members. There is a vacuum right now on Alexa for progressive causes, to be the first voice on there for meaningful social change. It seems like a natural fit for CREDO. It seems like the right time as it’s getting easier to use Alexa and there are now a lot more skills.
New and evolving skills now in the market are changing the way that many of us use Alexa beyond just asking for the weather, what movies are playing or to play a certain station. We’re getting our news from Alexa and now it can be just as easy to get the CREDO news about what actions we’re taking and what is important to us.
How are you creating or selecting your Alexa skill content?
Morris: We’ve democratized our philanthropy. We give $150,000 a month to three progressive causes. We give a primer to our members each month and they can then vote to pick their favorite. It is one of our most popular interactions with our membership base. We wanted to find easier ways for them to vote.
Trish Tobin: The skill’s content is a feed directly from the CREDO blog. So for instance, there’s a story on the blog now about the three groups up for donations this month: Americans for Tax Fairness, Detention Watch Network and Rainforest Action Network. Though it’s not available yet, we can really see a world where we allow people to vote through Alexa so you can cast your vote with just your voice. Right now, Alexa can text you a link to the article to your phone and from the article you can vote for your favorite group. With Alexa, we can get you there one step faster.
Do you plan to take this to other platforms, such as Google Home?
Tobin: We definitely want to move on to Google Home. Alexa was stage one so that we could prove to ourselves that we could work on this kind of platform. So now we want to work with other content and platforms.
What is the thing that surprised you most when developing for Alexa?
Tobin: We were concerned about how Alexa’s voice would sound with some subjects. Our content doesn’t necessarily use your standard Alexa lingo. Our message is our brand, after all. We don’t want to have a really powerful headline and have it sound funky. But it came across better than expected.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when building the skill?
Tobin: It did cause us to rethink our headlines on the blog – getting to the point more quickly to make our content better. But shorter and to the point is probably better regardless.
Morris: You know what it feels like? In the early days of search you had to get smart about your search terms. The same learning curve is happening now with Alexa and you can hear it when you listen to news broadcasts or breaking news events. There was some of this too even in the way we ask questions, learning the vernacular of Alexa. It was a normal learning curve.
What’s your favorite Alexa skill today?
Tobin: I’m still a newbie: but listening to music. Sports scores are kind of fun because you don’t have to get up off the couch to check the score. Sounds lazy but I can ask before so I know if I need to change the channel.
Morris: My lazy one is I have one in my bathroom so when I get ready, I can ask about the weather, listen to the NPR update. We have a bunch in our household. There so handy.
Founded in 1985, CREDO gives individuals the power to make positive social change every day. Whenever members use a CREDO product or service, they generate critical donations for progressive causes (at no extra cost) and fund vital activism work. Since 1985, CREDO has donated over $83 million to progressive nonprofits, and the company has built a network of over 5 million activists. Visit CREDO Mobile, CREDO Action and CREDO Donations to learn more.