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 lead 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, Wanda 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.
In January 2008, when Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz returned to the CEO position of the company, he asked Wanda 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.
Wanda served as senior vice president of Global Communications for Starbucks Coffee Company and an officer of the company from 1995 to 2006. She created and built its international communications function during a period of phenomenal growth for Starbucks. She 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 more than 5,000 shareholders each year. As a member of Starbucks executive leadership team, Wanda 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 Wanda’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, Wanda 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, Wanda 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 for Lorsban insecticides, the Specialty Plastics Department, and 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, Wanda reviewed proposed legislation, organized legislative hearings, planned fundraising events as well as handled constituent issues.
Wanda , who received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism as well as a honorary doctorate of humanities from Michigan State University (MSU), 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 Development Award from The Black Women’s Agenda, Inc. In 2001, Wanda received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Michigan State University College of Communications Arts and Sciences. In 2002, Wanda received the prestigious Distinguished Alumni Award from Michigan State University. In 2014, she received the Michigan State University Black Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni Award. And in 2015, Wanda was named one of the Puget Sound Business Journal’s 2015 Women of Influence. She has been a guest lecturer at several colleges and universities including: Michigan State University; Villanova University; Mott College; the University of Texas at Arlington; and the University of Washington. Wanda is currently a featured speaker with the American Program Bureau.