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Wanda Herndon  

Former Senior VP of Global Communications for Starbucks

Wanda J. Herndon, former senior vice president of global communications for Starbucks Coffee Company, founded W Communications, a strategic communications consulting firm, in 2006. For most of her 30-plus-year career, she led communications, public relations and marketing functions for leading brands and Fortune 500 companies. She held senior level positions, not only at Starbucks Coffee Company, but also for DuPont, The Dow Chemical Company and the Michigan House of Representatives.

As president and CEO of W Communications, Herndon provides strategic communications counsel, strategy development and execution in the areas of brand management, corporate reputation management, public relations, media relations, issues management, diversity, public affairs, executive communications, social responsibility, financial communications, and employee communications. W Communications' clients include: Starbucks Coffee Company, one of the most recognized and respected brands in the world; lululemon athletica, a high-end retailer of yoga-inspired athletic wear; and Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc., which is responsible for marketing and selling ABILIFY™, an antipsychotic medication.

In January 2008, when Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz returned to the CEO position of the company, he asked Herndon to once again lead the Starbucks communications function and rejoin the executive team. Her return engagement with Starbucks continued through the end of 2008, and she continues to provide strategic communications counsel as requested.

Herndon served as senior vice president of global communications for Starbucks Coffee Company and officer of the company from 1995 to 2006. Starbucks recruited her to create, build and lead its international communications function. In a period of phenomenal growth for Starbucks, Herndon was the chief communications officer, and directed the development and execution of all global communications strategies and activities that included corporate reputation management, key brand message development, executive communications, public affairs, media relations, employee communications, financial communications, issues management, public relations, environmental affairs and customer relations. She directed a team of communications professionals based at Starbucks corporate headquarters in Seattle, Washington, as well as a team of communications experts and agencies around the world. Under her leadership, the communications team created innovative, award-winning annual reports, and produced and executed entertaining, business-focused Starbucks annual meetings, attended by over 5,000 shareholders each year. As a member of Starbucks executive leadership team, Herndon represented the company on various community boards and with national organizations. Reporting to the chairman and chief executive officer, she supported, enhanced, protected and expanded the Starbucks brand and reputation as the company grew from 12,000 employees and approximately 550 stores in North America in 1995 to more than 100,000 employees and over 11,000 stores in 37 countries in 2006. During Herndon's tenure, Starbucks grew from fiscal 1995 revenues of approximately $465 million to more than $6.3 billion in fiscal 2005.

Prior to joining Starbucks, Herndon held a number of senior communications management positions at the DuPont Chemical Company from 1990 to 1995. During her tenure, she held assignments in the DuPont Agricultural Products Department where she was responsible for internal and external communications. She also managed a global team of communications professionals who provided strategic internal and external communications leadership and supported DuPont's $6 billion Polymers and Automotive business. In her final role, she lead corporate employee communications and served as communications counselor to the chief executive officer and the corporation's senior management team on communications and change strategies that resulted in behavioral and cultural changes.

In 1978, Herndon was the first African American and first external hire for the communications development program at The Dow Chemical Company, which was designed to bring new talent into the company. Over her 12-year Dow career that spanned from 1978 to 1990, she served in numerous communications and marketing management roles that included marketing communications manager for Lorsban insecticides, group communications manager for the Specialty Plastics Department, and communications director for DowBrands, the consumer division of The Dow Chemical Company, where she was responsible for establishing the corporate communications function for the division and building the brand.

Additionally, while serving as a legislative assistant, from 1975 to 1977, to a member of the Michigan House of Representatives, Herndon reviewed proposed legislation, organized legislative hearings, planned fundraising events as well as handled constituent issues.

Herndon, who received her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from Michigan State University, established the Wanda J. Herndon Endowed Journalism Scholarship in 2004 at her alma mater. She was named one of the twelve leading African Americans in public relations by PR Week magazine. Additionally, in 2005, Black Professionals magazine named her one of the "Top 100 Black Professionals in Corporate America." In 2008, she received the Economic and Business Award from The Black Women's Agenda, Inc. In 2002, Herndon received the prestigious Distinguished Alumni Award from Michigan State University. She has been a guest lecturer at several colleges and universities including: Michigan State University; Mott College; the University of Texas at Arlington; and the University of Washington.

Herndon is active with several local and national community organizations. She is vice president of The 5th Avenue Theatre board, a nonprofit musical theatrical venue, and a senior advisor to One Reel, a nonprofit art, cultural and special events producer. She is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., serving on the International Fund Development committee, and the Seattle Chapter of The Links, Inc., serving on the public relations committee. She is president of the Wanda J. Herndon Foundation, which makes charitable contributions to various organizations, and is on the executive board of the Lacewing Foundation, which provides assistance to women and children throughout the world. Herndon recently ended a 10-year term as a member of the executive boards of the YWCA of King County, and Zion Preparatory Academy, a private school focused on African American youth. She was one of the original members of the Starbucks Foundation board. Additionally, from 2001 to 2006, she was a minority owner of the NBA Seattle Supersonics and the WNBA Seattle Storm professional basketball teams, and served on the executive board of the Basketball Club of Seattle, LLC, former owners of these professional basketball franchises. Currently, Herndon is one of the producers of the New York Broadway musical, "Memphis," playing at the Shubert Theater.

Topics

One Voice: Communicating Your Brand with Passion During Good, Great and Not-So Great Times

As the Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for Starbucks Coffee Company, one of the most respected and recognized global brands, Wanda Herndon guided the company's communications strategy during its period of tremendous growth between 1995 and 2006.

Work: It's Not All About the Grind!

Herndon clearly understands that work is not all about the daily grind and she shares her philosophy on how to manage the 'it' of work and play.  Herndon shares with the audience how to achieve career success without losing touch with one's self and with life outside of work.

Diversity Brew: Creating the Perfect Blend for Tomorrow's Workforce

Herndon shares her experiences as she rose to Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for Starbucks Coffee Company and discusses why creating the "perfect blend" of employees can lead to phenomenal business success.

Mentoring: A 360-degree Experience

Dynamic and engaging, Herndon delivers straight talk on the benefits of mentoring and being mentored, and the responsibility that is associated with both.

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Speech Topics


One Voice: Communicating Your Brand with Passion During Good, Great and Not-So Great Times

As the Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for Starbucks Coffee Company, one of the most respected and recognized global brands, Wanda Herndon guided the company's communications strategy during its period of tremendous growth between 1995 and 2006.

Work: It's Not All About the Grind!

Herndon clearly understands that work is not all about the daily grind and she shares her philosophy on how to manage the 'it' of work and play. Herndon shares with the audience how to achieve career success without losing touch with one's self and with life outside of work.

Diversity Brew: Creating the Perfect Blend for Tomorrow's Workforce

Herndon shares her experiences as she rose to Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for Starbucks Coffee Company and discusses why creating the "perfect blend" of employees can lead to phenomenal business success.

Mentoring: A 360-degree Experience

Dynamic and engaging, Herndon delivers straight talk on the benefits of mentoring and being mentored, and the responsibility that is associated with both.

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