🎥 Communications Introductions: Emily Busse
Director of Communications at Loom
Thank you for reading this edition of The Switchboard.
Emily Busse is the Director of Communications at Loom where she leads internal communications as well as external PR, social, and content strategy. Prior to Loom, Busse led communications & PR programs for a diverse set of fast-growth startups and enterprise SaaS companies at LaunchSquad. She has also worked as a reporter, covering local news in Iowa and as a freelancer in San Francisco.
What sparked your professional path into Communications?
My path started in local journalism. I went to school and worked at newspapers for a few years in Iowa and Illinois. During nights I listened to the police scanner and covered Cops & Crime and on weekends covered features from City Council news to local festivals and everything in between. I loved it because I enjoyed the variety and the ability to tell very different stories — I was able to become a Subject Matter Expert (SME) on different topics every day, it pushed me out of my comfort zone constantly, and I was never bored. I also loved the experience of publishing something and seeing how readers would react and engage with it.
When I wanted to move out of the Midwest, I applied to journalism jobs in Denver and California, and threw one PR job application in the mix! I wound up getting that offer in comms from an agency called LaunchSquad. At the time, I figured I would “sell out” for a couple of years to get me to SF and then transition back into local journalism, but I ended up loving Communications more than I expected. Just like with journalism, I was able to build mini-expertise in many different areas, meet and learn from people I never otherwise would cross paths with, and help tell stories that impacted customers, companies, and industries. I ended up working at Launchsquad for eight years. The agency has an incredible team and storytelling ethos, and it was a wonderful place to build a career. (Hint: check them out, they’re hiring!)
Through my time at LaunchSquad, I learned about internal communications via my clients. Over the years, I would help some of my clients with translating our external comms work internally and I also helped with several crisis communications strategies that overlapped with internal comms closely. I was immediately drawn to it. I love project management and the ability to bring people together by telling a clear and cohesive story. I saw how internal comms had a bearing on the success of so many levers: from employee engagement and morale to productivity, product roadmap, and external storytelling. Strong internal comms is absolutely essential to long-term business success and it comes with so much humanity, opportunities for delight, and tricky problem-solving. I knew I would want to explore that career path further in the future.
To that end, a friend and mentor recommended I look into Loom when they hired a communications director. I wasn’t looking to leave LaunchSquad at the time but I was immediately drawn to the opportunity. There's so much space for ownership and impact. The company is growing and the people are incredible. I can be even more hands-on than ever before. Just like when I made the switch from journalism to PR, I used to worry that going in-house would be “boring.” Instead, I’m learning so much every day, pushing myself to hone new skills, and have the ability to have an even deeper impact on a team + company. I’m very excited about Loom’s product mission and I’m glad I made the jump because the role came with internal comms as part of the overall domain I would be leading.
What is one project you are particularly proud to have accomplished over the years?
At Loom, we’ve had the opportunity as a small-but-mighty internal comms team (of two; myself and my amazing Communication Manager) to really build a full-fledged internal comms arm for the first time. This is still very much a work in progress, but it’s exciting and satisfying because it’s so needed at this moment so there’s executive buy-in and the whole team feels the impact of our work. Here are a few examples of how this is taking shape:
Internal Comms Cadence: We’re rethinking the ways we utilize all our available channels for internal comms — from looms, slack, zoom, and Notion to more traditional modes of communication like email newsletters. Instead of shoving everything into an information-dense All-Hands, we’re trying to rethink the cadence of comms so it’s more digestible, discoverable, and consistent.
Space for Delight: Creating opportunities for joy + delight at work is core to Loom’s product and company culture, so we’re working to infuse more of that into every method of internal comms. Our All-Hands have the funny name “Funky Monkey” so we’re weaving that branding throughout our other channels to carry it through and create rituals. We’re also utilizing our own product to create “supercuts” of looms to highlight and hold up fun cultural moments, such as introducing new teammates to team pets, to houseplant tours.
How We Work Principles: We’re also partnering with our executive team and People team to build out a refreshed and in-depth How We Work guidebook that is aimed at improving productivity, efficiency, and self-serve access to info. But it should also give all team members more autonomy and clarity about how to spend + prioritize their time day-to-day.
Again, all of this is in progress, but it’s such a rare opportunity to get to build these pieces from the ground up with cross-functional teams that care deeply about it.
What are the skills that are most important for someone to succeed in Communications?
There are so many to highlight! First, flexibility and empathy go hand in hand for this role. Everyone you work with cross-functionally has their own objectives, and not everyone necessarily has the time to provide everything you need on the comms side. This means comms professionals, in my opinion, have to be some of the most flexible and agile people on the team in order to get everything done.
Empathy is critical when it comes to the act of crafting communications. Every time we’re building messages, you’re constantly asking yourself, “How is my audience going to interpret this, react to it, or internalize what I’m sharing? And what action or behavior change might this encourage?” It’s an endless process of anticipation, learning, and recalibration. This also requires a certain level of natural curiosity about your audiences.
Finally, balancing humility and confidence are key for anyone in any job. I’m very aware of the things I’m good at and have expertise in. But I’m also very aware of the things I don’t know, and am still learning constantly. Knowing that distinction is a helpful skill in and of itself. When trying to launch an Engineering blog, I know I’m not the expert on the content in the editorial calendar, but I know I can build the ed cal and project manage the best way to execute on it while aligning with our overall brand.
In your role, how do you focus on Internal Communications?
I was the first dedicated communications hire at Loom. My team’s domain includes both external and internal communications. I love the ability to work between both people-focused and business-focused teams. In straddling both roles, it’s busy for a small team but also is a benefit in that it allows us to understand both sides of our story deeply. We’re able to help facilitate our values of transparency and humanity while also ensuring that tone is also conveyed in the way we speak publicly. It makes for a more cohesive brand in the end.
One of the biggest focuses for us over the next several months is going to be working with our cross-functional teams to continue solving the big, thorny challenge of scaling knowledge across a fully remote + distributed team. We’ve made progress, but there’s still so much opportunity for growth and impact on that front. We’re trying to push ourselves to be creative and experimental when it comes to the ways we utilize different comms channels, approaches to distributing and documenting information, and keeping teams engaged.
I also learned about the importance of creating a mission for All-Hands after reading your article in The Switchboard! It helped me make the case for really creating a philosophy statement that now guides our approach to all-hands meetings.
How do you continue learning about the field of Communications?
Reaching out proactively and having conversations with others to learn more about their work is so insightful to me. I now have regular meetings with Internal Comms leaders from other peer companies. It’s fun to be able to discuss the nitty gritty challenges and wins, and we always come out of the chats with ideas from the other person’s side to try on our team.
I’ve had the book Honestly Speaking by Andrew Blotky on my shelf for a long time and I just started re-reading it. It’s been a nice way to re-center some of the principles behind connection and communication at work.
Internally, I mentioned we think about a lot of our initiatives as “experiments.” Not because we don’t believe in them or want to be constantly changing processes, but so that the need for analysis, iteration, and feedback is baked in. We are consistently looking to our team to give us feedback and input (whether in a formal survey or just anecdotally through their organic engagement). We take that seriously and use it to shape our internal comms roadmap.
Thank you for reading The Switchboard. ☎️ Every edition is personally curated by me — Julia Levy. This post is based on a live interview conversation and edited for publication. Learn more about why I write.