Rivian hires former Tesla, Apple exec to lead communications

Electric vehicle maker Rivian (RIVN) hired Sarah O’Brien to lead the company’s communications efforts on Friday. O’Brien previously served as vice president of communications at Tesla during the launch of the Model 3 and at Apple before that for a critical eight-year stretch.

Rivian taps former Tesla, Apple communications leader

Tesla hired O’Brien in September 2016 as vice president of communication, serving until August 2017 during the launch of the Model 3, Solar Roof, and Tesla Semi Truck.

The relationship lasted just over a year, with O’Brien reportedly leaving due to “drama surrounding Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk’s aborted attempt to take the electric carmaker private,” according to Bloomberg.

Before her two-year stint at Tesla, O’Brien worked for over eight years at Apple, leading communications for the Apple Watch (which now has over two billion active users) in addition to launches for the global iPhone, iPad, App Store, and the iTunes Music Festival.

Most recently, O’Brien spent the last four years at Meta as vice president of executive and product communications.

O’Brien starts her position as chief communications officer at Rivian, starting June 30, 2023. Commenting on her new role, the new communications leader said:

Rivian is still in the early chapters of its incredible story, and I’m thrilled to be able to play a role in telling the next chapters. Rivian is delivering on an ambitious mission, not only to create electric vehicles that redefine the ownership experience, but to provide its customers with real ways to get carbon out of transportation and drive real impact. By helping to tell Rivian’s stories, we hope to inspire people from across the world to explore responsibly and preserve our natural world.

Her new responsibilities at Rivian will include overseeing the EV maker’s communications efforts, including products (like the upcoming R2), consumer (managing brand reputation), internal (informing employees on updates), and corporate communications (media and public relations).

Electrek’s Take

O’Brien is joining Rivian at a critical time. The EV maker is scaling production capabilities while at the same time, striving to achieve positive gross margins by the second half of 2024.

Communications will be vital in the EV maker’s ability to hit its targets. As a startup, building a reputable brand is vital for future success. O’Brien will help shape Rivian’s brand identity going forward with the hopes of building trust with customers by relaying what makes the EV maker unique.

The new COO is also tasked with attracting investors. Rivian’s stock (like most startups) is down over 80% from the start of 2022, making it harder to raise cheap funds through equity raises.

O’Brien led communications for Tesla, Apple, and Meta, during critical stretches of their history, and she will be doing the same for Rivian.

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