How The Keyword Reshaped Google’s Communications Strategy.

Google’s editorial leaders on how a new publishing platform changes the way the company communicates.

February 8, 2017 | HUGE

Google is known for a brand voice that is friendly, approachable, and—above all—human. Maintaining that tone of voice is a full-time job for the company’s editorial department, which is responsible for everything from Google’s official Twitter feed to the company’s internal news channel to the speeches delivered by its executives.

More than a dozen years ago, the company started blogging as a way to be more authentic in its external communications. “It was a move away from press releases,” says Emily Wood, editor-in-chief of The Keyword, Google’s official blog.  But, fast forward to 2016, and there were 150 disparate blogs, each covering a particular product or capability.

“There are a lot of things happening at Google. There are a ton of products, a ton of services,” says Matt Teper, the company’s head of editorial. “Google is a part of people's lives in a million different ways, so telling the story is very difficult.”

Wood, who has been at Google since 2006, came up with the idea for the unified platform and convinced internal stakeholders and individual blog owners to support its development in collaboration with Huge. The site, dubbed The Keyword, debuted in October 2016. The dynamic platform is a better experience for readers, and it enables the brand to tell richer stories. It can showcase the amazing videos, for example, produced by Google teams. Product teams, who know their topics best, still author and produce their own content. “We want to bring the humans behind Google and the humanity of Google to life a little bit more,” says Wood.

The Keyword also features a backend that gives contributors a turnkey experience. Product teams have autonomy over their content in the content management system, while overall site control (such as homepage maintenance) is in the hands of Google’s edit team. “The CMS itself, because it was more user-friendly, makes it faster for us to publish,” says Wood. “That was a big win.”

The new workflow also means all content can be edited by Google’s editorial team, which allows the company to tell its stories with a more consistent brand voice, whether describing how students use Google Cardboard to go on virtual field trips or announce new parking availability tools in Google Maps.

Ultimately, the platform gives the company a direct line of communication to people who care about Google. “The Keyword has millions of readers and we completely control that message,” says Teper. “That's a really, really valuable thing.”