Starbucks realigns comms, hires duBrowa

SEATTLE: Starbucks is reorganizing its PR and IR teams, including adding Waggener Edstrom's Corey duBrowa as VP, global communications and public affairs.

SEATTLE: Starbucks is reorganizing its PR and IR teams, including adding Waggener Edstrom's Corey duBrowa as VP of global communications and public affairs. Starbucks' Valerie O'Neil, who previously held the role at the coffee retailer will move into a new role as VP of global partner, or employee, communications.

Beginning January 4, duBrowa will lead Starbucks' global communications team and international public affairs staff from its Seattle headquarters, as well as oversee its agency AOR relationship with Edelman.

The changes follow a year of evaluation by Vivek Varma, SVP of public affairs, who joined the company as head of IR, PR, social responsibility, and public affairs in September 2008. He spent the past year revamping the communications team's goals and structure. Varma reports directly to Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, who rejoined the company as CEO two years ago to reinvigorate it.

“We spent the last 18 months since Howard Schultz came back focused on transforming the company,” Varma said. “We're excited about the progress we've made. There are two areas of focus for us: the partner experience and then secondly, the big growth opportunity we have outside of the US.”

DuBrowa was added to help with the international piece, while O'Neil's years of experience with the company make her the right person to lead “partner” or employee communications, an area of focus for the retailer as it emphasizes quality of experience to its customers, Varma said. Both report to Varma.

DuBrowa has worked at WE for the past 10 years where he was president of account services and helped build its public affairs offering. DuBrowa previously worked with Varma for six years through the agency's client Microsoft. Varma spent more than a decade in communications at the software company before joining Starbucks. DuBrowa has also worked in communications roles at Nike and Ketchum, and has previous retail experience, though non-comms roles with Saks Fifth Avenue and May Department Stores (now part of Macy's).

On his decision to join the in-house side of PR again, duBrowa told PRWeek, "It's an amazing brand with an amazing story to tell… and so much potential."

Starbucks also changed the reporting structure for its IR team. Led by JoAnn DeGrande, IR will report directly to CFO Troy Alstead, effective January 4. Previously it reported into Varma. However, he emphasized that the two teams will continue to work closely together.

WE CEO Melissa Waggener Zorkin said Claire Lematta, president of global strategies for the agency, will take over leadership for its North American practices on an interim basis. “We thank [duBrowa] for his contributions… and while we will miss him… I wish him great success in his new role.”

She added that the firm will “use this change as an opportunity to assess how to best structure our leadership for our North American practices moving forward.”

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