Melissa Waggener Zorkin discusses how digital philanthropy and social media can be used for social good.
Melissa Waggener Zorkin, CEO, President & Founder - Waggener Edstrom
Melissa Waggener Zorkin
To her clients and colleagues, Melissa Waggener Zorkin is renowned for her belief in purpose, potential and possibility. Under her direction, Waggener Edstrom Worldwide has grown from a two-person communications agency in 1983, with Melissa and co-founder Pam Edstrom, to become one of the world’s largest independent communications companies with a talented work force of more than 800 strong. Regularly connecting with her employees and developing future agency leaders are among her top priorities.
Broadly recognized for creating innovative, now-standard approaches to communication strategies, Melissa has helped propel a wide range of clients to the forefront of every technology wave over the past two decades. A hands-on leader, she and the agency leadership team continue to expand the company into new practice areas to serve global healthcare, consumer PR and marketing, corporate communications and public affairs clients.
Melissa’s vision and leadership are instrumental to her company’s international reputation as the leading innovative strategic communications agency. She has provided strategic counsel to major brands, including Microsoft, IBM, Intel, Abbott Labs, SAP, AT&T, The Walt Disney Company, Dell, EMI Records, Virgin Interactive, Sega, AMD and Scientific American, and has also helped guide emerging brands and startups to success through the initial public stock offering (IPO) stage.
Melissa seeks to enrich and strengthen the communications profession, and is honored to be a member of the Arthur W. Page Society. In the fall of 2004, the Council of Public Relations Firms — the national trade association for the U.S. public relations industry — named Melissa as a board member among representatives of other leading PR companies.
In addition, Melissa and Waggener Edstrom Worldwide are longtime supporters of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation’s Race for the Cure. Melissa’s dedication to the foundation resulted in a two-year membership commitment to the national Susan G. Komen Foundation Board of Directors (April 2004–March 2006). The Komen Foundation is the nation’s largest private funding source for breast cancer research and community outreach programs. From 2005–2007, Melissa served on the Board of Trustees of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and she continues to serve on the Hutch Board of Ambassadors.
A Mercy Corps board member since 2006, Melissa is particularly interested in helping women entrepreneurs start their own businesses, and she has been recognized for her contributions to helping to complete a library at the L & A Memorial Academy in Ghana, and for her philanthropic efforts throughout Africa on behalf of Mercy Corps and the Adakum Foundation. Melissa also ensures that her company walks its talk by devoting 1% of annual pre-tax revenue to charitable giving and pro-bono services, and by giving employees 16 hours off annually in service to their favorite non-profit organizations.
For Melissa, it’s always been important that successful businesses use their influence to help make a difference beyond profits, and she is recognized frequently for her efforts.
In 2009, Ernst & Young awarded Melissa Pacific Northwest Regional Entrepreneur of the Year in the Media, Entertainment & Communication category, and PRWeek’s Power List named her one of the top 25 communications professionals who are critical to the profession’s growth and development. In 2008, she received the International Business Awards’ Stevie Award for Best Executive in North America.
Before founding Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, Melissa worked at Regis McKenna Inc. and for Tektronix Inc. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Lewis & Clark College.
Melissa is married with a daughter, reads several books at a time, and hikes and travels extensively for business and pleasure. When possible, she adds an extra day to business trips to visit friends; as she says, “at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is the people you have laughed with and loved.”