Quick Take with Katie Busse
Katie Busse is Sr. Manager of Digital & Social Communications for Medela, a medical device company and market leader in breastfeeding products. Katie is dedicated to empowering Moms and families meet their breastfeeding goals through compelling and meaningful content as lead for social and paid media for the U.S. brand. As a new Mom herself to her son, Jacob, she is completely immersed in the world of parenting, feeding, teething, and relating more than ever to her online communities she cultivates.
Describe your first years at Medela. What were you doing for the company and where were you at in your life on a more personal level?
I started my journey with Medela in 2012 on the Product Management team, which was responsible for bringing new product innovation to market. It was an exciting time due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which required breast pump coverage for all moms. Originally, I was heavily involved with reimagining our product portfolio to better meet the needs of our moms and the insurance market. As a mid-twenty something myself, I was part of the Millennial target market (and still am), so I really understood the complications and frustrations moms felt due to not understanding the new insurance benefit – or insurance coverage in general.
The “a-ha” moment that made me really fall in love with this company was helping define what insurance coverage meant for breastfeeding moms. I had to educate moms about how to acquire their products in a new way through the insurance channel. It was an amazing feeling to take a complex topic like breastfeeding, pumping, and insurance, and make it understandable and easier to navigate – while helping these moms meet their breastfeeding goals.
This inspired me to pivot my career path to our Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) team, where I am now the Senior Manager of Digital & Social Communications. I’m extremely passionate about delivering Mom content that matters at the right time in her journey and understanding who and what Medela is, what these moms are looking for when they come to us, and how our branding can resonate and be most relevant to their needs.
What things did you learn about your audience in that time?
At that time, our audience was evolving. They were once Moms who had only word of mouth understanding of breastfeeding and relied on family, friends, and their health professionals for guidance to get started. It’s been interesting to watch our Moms transition into digital natives, asking Google or Alexa their questions first, downloading apps to keep them on track, and expecting more out of Medela as their go-to for breastfeeding guidance. I personally evolved with our audience, transitioning into marriage and motherhood.
Did anything about that audience, their motivations and experiences, seem foreign to you? Unrelatable?
Let’s be honest. In my early twenties, as someone who wasn’t a mom yet, I wasn’t going to my friends to talk about the latest in breastfeeding or pumping. Fortunately, Medela invests in the critical research we need to understand our audience and I was able to immerse myself into understanding her needs and motivations. I also have an amazing group of Mom coworkers to lean on when I needed a gut check along the way before becoming a mother myself.
What was it like to market a product you had never used but knew you may have to use at some point?
Working for Medela pre-motherhood had a learning curve, but it’s hard not to get behind the culture. I work with a passionate team that stands behind our products and our brand message. It’s important for me to feel like I’m a part of something bigger than myself. Many of my friends and family were breastfeeding Moms at the time and kept me energized about my first experience with the product when that time came. I’d hear things like “you’re going to love it!” or “you’re so lucky you work there, just wait until you’re a Mom!” I think the collective of these experiences helped to build up my anticipation for eventually becoming a breastfeeding and pumping Mom myself.
Describe what it was like to pump for the first time.
I became a Mom in January 2018 with the birth of my son, Jacob. The first time pumping was not what I expected at all. I imagined I would open up my breast pump, assemble it and wash the parts, and just press ‘Start’ and I would be on my way to pumping endless breast milk. Unfortunately, I had a low supply. My expectations of easily transitioning from baby to breast pump quickly changed when I had to settle into pumping every two hours to build my supply while managing cluster feeding at night. Like most Moms, these challenges made me question my commitment to breastfeeding and pumping. Luckily, I had access to lactation consultants, as well as a membership to 24/7 LC™, which gave me middle of the night access to an LC to help me through those really rough moments when I needed some extra support.
Did you think about the work you’d done for new moms as you pumped?
To my benefit or my detriment, I know a lot about Medela breast pumps. All of a sudden I found myself trying different settings, rhythms, connecting my Sonata to my MyMedela app and tracking every moment ferociously. I found myself becoming a solo focus group as I tried different techniques and things I learned from my colleagues, and also our social media Moms. I kept track of all of my questions and ideas in a note on my cell phone. The very first day I returned to work I shared all of these ideas with my team.
Can you describe your transition back to work?
Luckily, I have a great manager who made sure I took the appropriate breaks to pump and was understanding if I had to slip out of a meeting or two to keep my supply on track. I am fortunate that Medela has several nursing mother rooms I was able to use when it was time to pump. Each room is stocked with the essentials (spare parts, cleaning supplies, a refrigerator, a storage cubby, etc.) so I didn’t have to bring too much to work to successfully pump throughout the day. Of course, I was emotionally upset about having to leave my little one, but having a great team made it easier.
Can you give some detail about the surreal nature of being a working/pumping mom working on how to connect with other working moms?
There was this amazing lightbulb moment once I started working as a breastfeeding Mom. All of a sudden, every challenge and every victory made me feel so much sadness and excitement with our Moms. It’s a feeling you can truly only get once you are your audience. Breastfeeding and pumping are hard, but also rewarding! I learned a lot by listening, and was able to adapt that back into content and programs that truly matter.
Becoming my audience most impacted how I viewed the tone of our content. I am now more conscious of the different phases of motherhood, especially new motherhood. There’s being scared, excited, happy, isolated, confident, and more. Emotional connection is such a critical component of our relationship with our audience, and being a new Mom myself allowed me to put a better lens on the tone of our content.
Once you became a working/pumping mom, were there assumptions you realized you’d made previously that were off base?
I think the most underestimated challenge for me returning to work as a breastfeeding Mom was breast milk management. This is a process! It’s not done once you pump at work, because there’s the milk transport to home (while staying cold), rationing the breast milk into bottles for daycare, freezing any excess you might be lucky enough to have, cleaning your pump parts and bottles, and starting over the next day. Pumping at work to still provide breast milk for your baby takes dedication that isn’t celebrated enough.
What is the value of having a team that has members who are, in fact, the target audience?
There’s immeasurable value to having target audience team members in your business to reflect with or bounce an idea off of. I also think there’s value in having non-target audience team members to provide a fresh or different perspective.
Looking back now, what do you think people need to know when they’re trying to connect with millennial moms? What makes them such a different kind of group?
Millennial Moms are complex. They aren’t using a single source for information, they are transferring between app, social, friends and family, web, and more interchangeably. There were moments for me in the middle of the night when I’d have a very specific question I would Google and then find myself on the Babycenter app, back over on Facebook, and eventually wind up somewhere on a forum with other Moms all to get the answer to that one question. With such a small period of time to catch her on each source – and such a short period of time when she may be in each stage of her pregnancy and breastfeeding journey - your content needs to be compelling and omni-channel.
If you’re not the target audience, what can you do to fill that gap?
Research! Get out there and talk to your target audience. There’s no worse mistake you can make as a marketer than to make assumptions without data. As much as I’m currently a Mom, I’m not reflective of every Mom. I continue to take a pulse of the market to be sure we’re reaching her at the right time and speaking appropriately to the various demographics that make up “Millennial Mom."