Substack hires TrailRunner president Lulu Cheng Meservey to lead communications

The newsletter platform has more than 500,000 paid subscribers across its network of thousands of newsletters, with the top 10 writers collectively making more than $15 million annually.

 Lulu Cheng Meservey, first comms leader at Substack.
Lulu Cheng Meservey, first comms leader at Substack.

SAN FRANCISCO: Substack has hired Lulu Cheng Meservey as VP of communications, a newly created role at the newsletter platform. 

Cheng Meservey starts on June 14, reporting to Substack cofounder and COO Hamish McKenzie. Cheng Meservey is planning to work with Substack agency TrailRunner International, where she was most recently president, and build a communications team at the company. 

“The core responsibilities will be comms, but we also have to decide what the company wants to be,” said Cheng Meservey. “Substack is extremely mission-driven and dependent on people buying into this vision; that becomes more about strategic decision making.”

Substack’s mission is to “build a better future for writing.”

“We have big questions around: What does it mean for you to be the platform supporting the publishers? Where is the line on free press? What is the future of the internet? People dominating platforms or platforms dominating people?” said Cheng Meservey. “These are comms questions and strategic questions about where the company is going to go.”

She added that she wants her two young children to grow up with a better internet that is “good for them.” Cheng Meservey referred to today’s web content as “toxic,” noting that it stops users from thinking for themselves and developing in a healthy way intellectually.  

Substack has more than 500,000 paid subscribers across its network of thousands of newsletters, with the top 10 writers collectively making more than $15 million annually. In late March, Substack raised a $65 million round at a reported valuation of $650 million, according to Axios.

The company was founded in 2017 by Chris Best, cofounder of Kik Messenger; developer Jairaj Sethi; and McKenzie, a former PandoDaily tech reporter.

Cheng Meservey started at TrailRunner in May 2016 and her last day was June 11. TrailRunner is not naming a replacement for Cheng Meservey. Substack has been a TrailRunner client since spring. 

TrailRunner chairman and CEO Jim Wilkinson called Cheng Meservey an exceptional leader, a great communicator and a dear friend, adding that he is happy she’s joining the agency’s group of advisers.

“Because of her hard work, TrailRunner is on the right path, poised for strong continued growth with an outstanding team,” he said. “Throughout my career, I’ve taken special satisfaction when colleagues receive great opportunities, in [Cheng Meservey’s] case the opportunity to help build another terrific company. I know she’ll excel in the role, and Substack is very fortunate to have her join.”

TrailRunner opened an office in Nashville, Tennessee, this month and named director Sarah Grubbs to lead it. TrailRunner’s headquarters are in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, and the firm has offices in San Francisco; New York; Shanghai; Truckee, California; and Washington, DC.

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