clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The woman who helped build Michelle Obama’s brand is joining Instagram

Kristina Schake is joining Instagram to lead comms, and current comms boss David Swain is leaving after almost a decade at Facebook.


Instagram is getting a new communications boss.

Current comms head David Swain, who has been at Facebook for almost a decade and has had the top communications job at Instagram since early 2013, is leaving the company. Swain announced his departure internally on Tuesday.

To replace him, Instagram has hired Kristina Schake, the deputy comms director for Hillary Clinton’s recent presidential campaign and the former comms chief for first lady Michelle Obama. She was also chief communications officer at L'Oreal for two years.

David Swain is leaving Facebook after almost a decade.

A company spokesperson confirmed both changes.

Schake is stepping into a role that hasn’t dealt with much drama over the past few years. Instagram isn’t going through an IPO (like Snapchat) or dealing with potential buyers and a slumping stock (like Twitter). As part of Facebook, it doesn’t report revenue numbers and only reports user numbers when it wants to.

That means Schake’s new role will be more about building Instagram’s brand than anything else, according to a source, which was her focus with both Obama and Clinton. The company is growing quickly — it now has 600 million users — and is trying to expand its advertising business. Instagram wants to grow its brand at the same time.

Schake has some experience here. She’s credited with helping Obama craft her public image as first lady. Remember the time Obama danced with Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show”? Or was seen shopping “undercover” at Target? Schake reportedly pushed those decisions. (Revamping Clinton’s public image during her campaign, on the other hand, was not as successful.)

Swain’s departure is not a surprise. He spent almost five years at Facebook before joining Instagram, and the company has been searching for his replacement since last summer. He has not yet decided where he’ll go next.

Schake will join Instagram in March, and Swain will oversee her transition. He will leave the company in early April.

After almost a decade at Facebook and Instagram, I’ve had to dig out old computers in boxes to try to find photos from the early days. And then I realized I was still carrying around a red Blackberry in 2008 when photos at work were more of a novelty. When I joined Facebook, my now 8-year-old daughter hadn’t been born, and my 10-year-old son would soon say his first word. Facebook was still just one website and a team of a few hundred people with outsized ambition. The opportunities that ambition opened for me in those first few years are still hard to grasp. It was a learning curve akin to a vertical wall. And I loved every second of it. By 2012 it was clear that realizing our vision required more than one company, so we asked this little 18-month-old startup called Instagram to join the family. What @kevin, @mikey, and few dozen people had created at Instagram by the time I joined was equally hard to grasp. There was an understanding of community, design and culture that I had never seen in tech. What followed was four years of deep gratitude for experiences I would share with colleagues you could only dream to have. Over the next few months I will be moving on to the next chapter but Instagram and Facebook will stay family. For Instagram, I’m excited we’ve found one of the most creative thinkers in the business to take the reigns. Welcome, @kkschake! Here’s a fuzzy throwback to @zuck prepping the day before f8 in 2008 – the quiet moments when you see all the pieces come together. Still sporting the sandals. And @kevin and @mikeyk making the job fun. One of my favorites - @kevin at our first photo shoot together taking the photo into the ocean.

A post shared by David Swain (@swain) on

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.