Pam Edstrom, 1946-2017: Microsoft’s first PR director was a technology communications pioneer
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Pam Edstrom, 1946-2017: Microsoft’s first PR director was a technology communications pioneer

Pam Edstrom, the sharp-witted communications professional who formed the world’s impression of Microsoft for greater than three a long time as its first public relations director after which as a chief of its longtime PR company, handed away Tuesday after a four-month battle with most cancers.

Edstrom, 71, was a pioneer of fashionable technology communications — mixing a no-nonsense, get-it-done method with flexibility, a “golden coronary heart,” an epic humorousness and a pure present for mentoring others, mentioned Melissa Waggener Zorkin, Edstrom’s longtime enterprise associate in WE Communications, the company previously referred to as Waggener Edstrom.

That mixture of traits allowed Edstrom to match wits with the likes of Microsoft’s Invoice Gates and Steve Ballmer within the firm’s early years, whereas later serving to to develop the company into a international agency with a roster of purchasers that now extends properly past the Redmond technology large.

“She leaves this indelible imprint on our folks,” Waggener Zorkin mentioned. “So a lot of our folks, she mentored. She cared a lot about that. She would do each the large issues and the small issues — no matter it took to make folks believe, to indicate them she believed in them, they usually may do something.”

Pamela Newsome Edstrom was born in Minneapolis, Minn., in February 1946. She studied criminology at Portland State College and the College of Minnesota, earlier than touchdown her first job in technology PR with Tektronix Inc.

Given her background in criminology, Edstrom would generally cease mid-sentence, reacting nearly gleefully to no matter public relations mess she was coping with on the time, able to apply her forensic expertise, Waggener Zorkin recalled.

“To her, it was all one massive crime scene,” she mentioned.

At 5-feet-tall, Edstrom was “a little drive of nature,” mentioned Frank X. Shaw, Microsoft’s vice chairman of company communications, a former Waggener Edstrom president who labored with Edstrom for a few years on the company earlier than becoming a member of the tech firm.

“Concepts dripped behind her the place she walked,” Shaw mentioned. “She at all times had an concept. She was unbelievably interested by all the things.”

However they weren’t simply concepts. One among Edstrom’s hallmarks, Shaw mentioned, was her potential to attach public relations and storytelling to enterprise targets and targets, usually stopping colleagues of their tracks by asking them which enterprise downside they have been really making an attempt to resolve.

Shaw recalled engaged on the Home windows XP launch when he was on the company, and expressing frustration to Edstrom that issues weren’t going in addition to they need to. She advised him, “Why don’t you cease complaining and simply write down what folks ought to do?” He adopted her recommendation, got here up with a plan and offered it to their purchasers at Microsoft, which turned out to be a turning level in that important launch.

“I believe the factor about Pam is that she believed in you so laborious that you simply believed in your self,” he mentioned.

Edstrom’s affect has prolonged a lot additional into the business, particularly as veterans of the company have taken high-ranking communications positions at main corporations corresponding to Expedia, Apptio, T-Cellular, Starbucks, Lenovo and plenty of others.

“I noticed a lot real heat between her and Melissa over time – their partnership is nearly marriage-level by way of two folks whose strengths actually complemented the opposite,” mentioned Corey duBrowa, a former Waggener Edstrom president who’s now Starbucks’ senior vice chairman of world communications. “I don’t assume that both of these girls get the credit score they deserve for having constructed such a tremendous international enterprise, for the tradition that gave start to what I name the ‘WE diaspora.’”

DuBrowa added, “Her function on the Microsoft enterprise was legendary – the sheer scope and scale of what she completed in her years on the company, and as Microsoft’s first in-house PR govt, actually speaks for itself: the Home windows 95 launch alone has most likely served as a case research in excellence for many college-level journalism or communications packages.”

Edstrom recalled her early days at Microsoft in a 2016 graduation speech to the College of Minnesota Faculty of Liberal Arts, reminding the viewers that there was a time when Microsoft “was simply a scrappy little start-up that nobody anticipated to final. And Invoice Gates was simply 26 years outdated. The enterprise media had NO consciousness of or INTEREST in Microsoft,” she mentioned, based on a transcript:

The issue I needed to clear up: how can a smaller firm be seen and make an influence?

Undaunted, I referred to as the New York Instances technology editor. His crisp reply was: “I don’t speak to PR folks. Drop the fabric off.”

I actually needed to dredge up my braveness after that disastrous name, and I managed to wrangle conferences with the Wall Avenue Journal, Fortune, Time, and Enterprise Week.

Within the meantime, my subsequent massive venture was Comdex, the foremost pc present of the time. 200,000 folks have been going to descend on Las Vegas. From the second attendees stepped off the airplane to the time the present ended, we have been decided that each one they’d see was Microsoft Home windows. So keychains on rental vehicles: Home windows! Cocktail napkins in bars: Home windows! Pillow circumstances in 10,000 resort rooms: Home windows!

We have been the little firm that might.

Six months later, Invoice Gates graced the duvet of Time. And a few days later, the technology editor on the New York Instances referred to as ME.

So if you recognize the place you need to go. And the issue you’re making an attempt to resolve. Then assume creatively and courageously…and possibly a little bit outrageously. And you’ll enhance your odds of attending to success.

Along with her husband, Joseph Lamberton, Edstrom is survived by her daughter Jennifer Edstrom, stepchildren Suzanne Goodman, Bryan Lamberton, Todd Lamberton and Greg Lamberton, and 7 grandchildren.

MORE: Melissa Waggener Zorkin remembers Pam Edstrom on the WE Communications site.

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