Deisha Barnett: 40 Under 40 2015

Senior director, corporate communications, Walmart

Deisha Barnett is on the frontlines of Walmart’s national media strategy, guiding and responding to journalists, as well as picking up the phone in a recall or other merchandise crises. Leading all US merchandise and brand communications efforts for the world’s largest retailer requires a proactive approach that the energetic PR pro embraces.

She directs the communications strategy around the biggest shopping events of the year, including back to school and Black Friday, when millions flood through the retailer’s doors. Last year she spearheaded her team in coining a new phrase for the post-Thanksgiving shopping bonanza, the "New Black Friday," which was picked up by national media. Throughout the season she worked with the issues team to "mitigate noise from critics."

Leading a team of seven and managing several agency partners, Barnett wouldn’t seem to have time for much else. Yet, Walmart’s top executives turn to her for strategic counsel on issues impacting the customer and the company’s reputation.

Recognized internally as a leader, Barnett was named to the CEO’s mentoring circle
in 2010, as a "Walmart Corporate Affairs Key Leader."

She also led comms for the retailer’s community giving and diversity initiatives. Barnett’s team was instrumental in raising awareness for Walmart’s impact on social issues like hunger and women’s empowerment.

"Deisha has led and grown a communications team that pushes our business forward by sharing innovative offerings with our millions of customers in new and compelling ways," says Dan Bartlett, EVP, corporate affairs at Walmart.

From a young age Barnett knew she wanted to be in PR. The daughter of a school teacher, she selected communications, and pitched her mom on the idea and a college 14 hours away from home. An internship at Ketchum led to a full-time role where she first got hooked on consumer PR. Eight years in at Walmart and she still remembers her first media hit with the San Francisco Chronicle.

Barnett is a guest lecturer at her alma mater, Clark Atlanta University. She is active in both the National Black Public Relations Society and the Public Relations Society of America.

- Barnett helped launch Walmart’s first crowd-sourced philanthropy effort in partnership with Facebook

- Her disciplined approach led to a PR-specific communications research rollout that examines consumer exposure to messages and their intent to purchase

- Through the Atlanta-based Kate’s Club, Barnett mentors and supports kids and teens that have lost a parent or sibling

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