Communicating like the pros: Insights from Google


Jessica Powell leads Google’s global communications team. She joined Google in 2006 after having worked in journalism, marketing, translation, and policy in Europe and Asia. At Google she has held various roles, including leading the Asia, Southern Europe and emerging markets PR teams. Based out of Mountain View, California, her team covers internal and external communications for everything from consumer products and artificial intelligence; to regulatory affairs, M&A, and stories about various Google oddities. She is the author of a book, Literary Paris, has lived in ten countries, and speaks six languages.

1. How does Google and Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, think about Communications? Where does Comms sit within the organisation?

Google’s culture is reflective of our mission to make information accessible to everyone. Communications was one of the first non-engineering functions created in the company’s early days, and it continues to play a vital role. Comms is its own area and reports directly to Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai.

2. What advice do you have for a company that’s struggling to cut through the noise?

Lean into and amplify what makes your product or service different. If you’re in a situation where you’re in a crowded market or struggling to get attention, experiment with new and unexpected formats–Snapchat, podcasts, Reddit AMAs….obviously, what you do should be consistent with your brand. A lot of companies may not need a Snapchat strategy, just like many companies won’t benefit much from landing something in a traditional broadsheet. It’s all about where your demographic is and who you are trying to influence.

3. What do you think is Google’s biggest opportunity in terms of Communications and what do you think is Google’s Achilles heel?

We have an advantage in that the company likes to reward unconventional thinking and risk-taking, so we try to embody that spirit in our internal and external comms. That can mean unexpected things that surprise consumers, reporters, and employees — like using a GIF as a press statement, or posting internally a quirky internal video recapping the week’s news. Of course there are times where it’s smarter to be conventional too. As for our achilles heel, it’s simple: as a company we produce a lot of products and a lot of news, and so we’re competing with ourselves to get our message heard.

4. From where you sit in Silicon Valley, what is your view of today’s global media landscape?

Media coverage knows no boundaries! Social media and new communication formats have made the sharing of news and media easier and faster than ever. The media landscape is truly global, and you can no longer assume a piece of news will stay in one country or market. This of course has its advantages and disadvantages!

5. Google has brought personalised services into the palms of millions worldwide. What are the next steps similarly immersive technologies, and how do they stand to continue to reinvent user interactions?

We are continuing to work on making Search and other Google services more helpful to people throughout their day. A great example of that is through the Google Assistant. We believe people should be able to move seamlessly across Google services in a natural way, and get assistance that understands your context, situation, and needs—all while respecting your privacy and protecting your data. Smart assistance should understand all of these things and be helpful at the right time, in the right way.

Jessica will be speaking at the Corporate Affairs Summit 2017.

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