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Remembering Microsoft's First Communications Exec Pam Edstrom

Pam Edstrom, who many say played a key role in shaping the image of Microsoft and its cofounder Bill Gates, passed away last week at the age of 71 following a four-month battle with cancer.

Microsoft hired Edstrom in 1982 as its first director of public relations where she crafted the company's communications strategy, which many believe helped bring visibility to what was then an obscure startup. Two years later, she joined Melissa Waggener Zorkin, who, at the time, had a boutique PR agency. The two later formed Waggener Edstrom, now known as WE Communications.

Initially, Edstrom balked at Waggener-Zorkin's overtures to join her until she convinced Gates and then-Microsoft President Jon Shirley what they collectively could do for Microsoft. In those early years, Edstrom cultivated relationships with influential business and technology reporters, helping spread the mission and values Gates and Microsoft had and the oft-described goal of bringing PCs to every user. "We spent time very directly designing our roles, and spent endless hours simply working side by side," Waggener-Zorkin said in a blog post published on the agency's Web site in a tribute to Edstrom.

Many veterans of the agency have landed key communications roles at companies such as Expedia, Lenovo, Starbucks and T-Mobile, according to Geekwire, which was the first to report on Edstrom's death. Microsoft's current VP of communications, Frank X. Shaw, is a former president of the agency, the report noted.

In response to her death, Gates told The New York Times that Edstrom "defined new ways of doing PR that made a huge mark on Microsoft and the entire industry."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 04/03/2017 at 12:18 PM


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