The 7 public relations execs Robinhood tasked with fixing its image following the GameStop fallout
- Robinhood has a core team of seven communications and marketing professionals.
- This team, with technology, finance, and political backgrounds, face the task of fixing the trading app’s image.
- Robinhood is under heavy scrutiny for its role in the GameStop short squeeze.
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Robinhood, a trading app valued at $11.7 billion, has been going through growing pains, hiring scores of lawyers, engineers, and public relations executives.
Critics like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) have attacked Robinhood after the company restricted users from buying stock in GameStop and other companies during a trading frenzy, which led to a class-action lawsuit.
Public sentiment quickly turned against Robinhood, with 82.87% of its social media mentions being negative on January 28 after it halted buying of stocks of companies like GameStop, according to consumer intelligence company Brandwatch. (Robinhood allowed limited buying for those stocks a day later.)
The SEC said it would review the actions of some brokerages that restricted trading around GameStop and other volatile stocks as well as any market manipulation, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The company’s investors include venture capital heavyweights like Andreessen Horowitz, D1 Partners, Google’s venture arm GV, Index Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, and Sequoia.
Robinhood, whose first head of communications, Jack Randall, exited the company, has a core team of seven communications and marketing professionals — more than half of whom have only been on the job for less than six months, with experience in finance, politics, and technology.
The team is tasked with talking to the media, developing its PR strategy, and crafting its messaging as the company gears up for a $20 billion IPO, expected to take place later this year.
Robinhood is also hiring for a product communications manager and corporate communications manager, according to its website.
Here are the seven key players, listed alphabetially, that are tasked with helping Robinhood tamp down its crises, rehabilitate its image, and prepare for its IPO.
Nora Chan, corporate communications lead
A former corporate communications manager at Facebook and account director at Brunswick Group, Chan joined Robinhood in April 2019, according to LinkedIn. At Robinhood, she’s handled communications around the app’s crypto trading as Bloomberg probed its underlying technology and a $65 million settlement fee Robinhood paid to the SEC for allegedly misleading customers. At Facebook, she handled communications around some hot-button issues like when the social media giant faced tough questions about how it moderates content on its platform from investors and handles user data.
Lavinia Chirico, product communications lead
Chirico has provided statements and answered questions from journalists about some of Robinhood’s heavily scrutinized trading platform. Most recently, she led communications around Robinhood’s web app outage when users rushed to buy shares of Gamestop in January and before that, a glitch in its app that allowed users to trade with unlimited amounts of borrow cash. She also helped promote Robinhood’s free options trading feature.
Josh Drobnyk, VP of corporate relations and communications
Drobnyk, who oversees corporate, public policy and employee communications, is leading Robinhood’s efforts to defend its reputation during the biggest business story of the year so far — all while only being two weeks on the job. Facing explosive demand on its platform due to the GameStop short squeeze, Robinhood raised $1 billion in fresh capital to meet lending requirements and Drobnyk had to answer questions from The New York Times, which broke the news. A Washington D.C. PR veteran, Drobnyk joined Robinhood from FINRA, its chief regulator, where he was senior vice president of communications. Before that, he served stints as a spokesperson for the Treasury Department and as deputy chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.
Joele Frank, external PR agency
Robinhood hired Joele Frank last year, according to a source familiar with the matter. A powerhouse in financial communications and crisis management, Joele Frank has represented multinational brands like Teva Pharmaceuticals and Time Warner during high-profile deals. Not much is known about the firm’s remit for Robinhood — it’s long been known for keeping its client work confidential. The firm didn’t respond to emailed requests for comment.
Jacqueline Ortiz Ramsay, head of public policy communications
Ortiz Ramsay is a recent hire at Robinhood, having only joined earlier this month, according to Politico. Like her boss, Drobnyk, she faces an uphill battle in helping Robinhood court public favor after the GameStop controversy. Before coming to Robinhood, Ortiz Ramsay ran the PR department for lobbying group the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions. There, she helped NAFCU position itself as a better alternative for young people to deposit their money than banks.
Christina Smedley, CMO
Smedley was hired to integrate the marketing, content, and communications functions while creating new teams in areas like product marketing and brand strategy. Fast forward five months, she’s is tackling a mushrooming crisis. She has a deep background in technology and finance, having helped Facebook with communications around its messenger service and Novi, a cryptocurrency wallet. She also was VP of global brand and communications at PayPal, where she led work on the company’s 2014 rebrand, various acquisitions like Venmo, and its 2015 IPO, according to LinkedIn.
Jessica Woods, internal communications lead
Woods is tasked with keeping Robinhood’s employees informed through the crisis. Before Robinhood, Woods had a stint at Palantir, where she founded the internal and executive communications functions, and was chief of staff to its COO, according to LinkedIn.
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