Melissa Waggener Zorkin
Global CEO and Founder
Global CEO and Founder
When Melissa Waggener Zorkin founded WE in 1983, she wanted to tell the technology stories that weren’t being told, and share the incredible ways human lives are transformed by innovation. She knew instinctively tech would play a transformational role on the world stage, changing the way we live and communicate, and she was right.
Over the decades, Melissa has partnered with the world’s most groundbreaking brands, telling their stories and navigating transformation by keeping purpose, the “why” behind innovation, as her north star. Melissa’s own bold sense of purpose is how she led WE through good times and bad, maintaining the agency’s spirit of independence and willingness to put people first, even when times were hard. The approach worked: Melissa and her co-pilot Pam Edstrom grew the company from four tech communications pioneers working out of a free office in Portland, Oregon, into one of the largest global independent communications agencies in the world.
From launching the first version of Microsoft Windows to working with world-class brands like Volvo, McDonald's, Cisco and VSP, Melissa is uniquely qualified to lead clients through transformation with a simple formula: Keep people and purpose at the center of all decisions. Under Melissa’s direction as CEO, WE Communications pursues its purpose: to use the gift of communication to move people to positive action — for clients and for the world.
Melissa is an advocate and voice for women in business and has dedicated her career to lifting up women and girls inside and outside the agency. She currently sits on the board of ColorComm, an organization dedicated to connecting and empowering women of color in the communications industry. For more than 15 years, Melissa was a member of the board of directors for Mercy Corps. Through that work and her own passion projects, she’s helped women entrepreneurs start their own businesses, and championed numerous positive social impact initiatives that served communities throughout Africa.
Mentoring young people in communications is one of Melissa’s top priorities. As a member of the Board of Advisors to the University of Southern California Annenberg Center for Public Relations, Melissa works with leaders of the world’s top brands to help connect students and academics with the PR industry. Melissa also honored the legacy of her business partner Pam Edstrom by establishing the Pam Edstrom Scholarship and Endowment Fund to support undergraduate communications students in the Pacific Northwest, where WE first opened its doors. The impact of her work, and her ability to mentor countless individuals to harness the power of their voices, earned her place in the PRWeek Hall of Femme in 2017.
As CEO of WE, she drives the agency’s commitment to creating an inclusive workplace where differing ideas, perspectives, experiences, lifestyles, and cultures are embraced and respected. In 2019 and 2020, WE received a score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI), which measures U.S. corporate policies and practices that impact LGBTQ employees.
Melissa has spoken about purpose-driven leadership at Cannes Lions, ColorComm, SHEQUALITY and the Indie Summit. She’s a regular contributor to WE’s blog, where she shares her perspective on current events, civility, leadership, ethics and innovation.
For balance, Melissa relies on her centering sense of humor and her circle of family and friends. Books — all of them — are her oxygen. If she’s not working, you can bet she’s outside, trekking through mountains to see the gorillas in Rwanda or cruising the city streets on her Vespa, living each day with passion and wonder.
Speakerships & Interviews
Keeping Communications Fresh, ColorComm Office Hours, May 2020
Fireside Chat: Leading With Purpose In An Age Defined By It, PRWeek's PRDecoded, October 2019
The New Brand Loyalty For The Purpose Age, ICCO Global Summit in Holmes Report, October 2019
Respect 360°: Meet the New CEO, PRAXIS in Reputation Today, September 2019
Diversity, Technology & Fake News, euronews, June 2019
Why purpose matters and not just for marketers, CNBC, June 2019
SHEQUALITY: Total Transparency for Leadership, PR Council, August 2018
Making Us Better, PRovoke Media, May 2020
Together, We Rise, Thrive Global, March 2020
Brands can close the Thunberg/Trump Divide, PRWeek, January 2020
Purpose is the new bottom line, Quartz, December 2019
Microsoft's 'three-part test' for getting involved, PRWeek, October 2019
A New Brand Loyalty For the Purpose Age, PRovoke Media, October 2019
Respect 360°: Meet the New CEO, Reputation Today, October 2019
GWPR Calls For Action On Gender Inequality, GWPR, October 2019
Global study: Women in PR want action to improve gender diversity, PRWeek, October 2019
WE study: Consumers are Ready to Keep Brands in Check, PRWeek, September 2019
PRWeek U.S. Power List 2019, PRWeek, July 2019
Most Influential Business Leaders in PR, Industry Leaders Magazine, July 2019
An Earth Day Call to Action, April 2020
Can Brands Be the Change we Crave?, September 2019
Cannes Lions 2019 Through Fresh Eyes, June 2019
AI and the Future of PR, March 2019