40 Under 40 2019 | Jaime Riley

Jaime Riley is always on. Her job as VP of global communications at Starbucks, a role at a company with some 380,000 employees in 80 markets, requires her to be. On any given day, Riley is tasked with a range of responsibilities, ranging from defining the brand’s innovation and sustainability narrative, to driving analyst, shareholder and financial stakeholder engagement around Starbucks’ business growth agenda, to developing integrated storytelling for product launches.

In addition to all this, she oversees Starbucks’ rapid response issue management team. When Riley was promoted from director of corporate communications to her current role last year, the company was facing one of the largest crises in its recent history: A Starbucks employee called the police on two black men waiting in a store in Philadelphia, leading to their arrest. The incident had some customers calling for a boycott and others questioning the brand’s reputation. 

In the ensuing months, Riley skillfully directed the brand’s post-incident PR strategy, overseeing some of Starbucks’ most significant social impact stories, including the opening of the country’s first American Sign Language (ASL)-centric store in Washington, DC. She also led communications planning as the company opened new Community Stores in underserved neighborhoods around the country. Finally, her deft understanding of the media landscape was instrumental in reframing Starbucks’ business growth agenda narrative, including how the company announced major initiatives, such as its agreement with Nestle Global Coffee Alliance and partnerships with Alibaba and UberEats. 

"Jaime set a new standard for leadership in a year of transformation for the company," said John Kelly, SVP of global public affairs and social impact. "She led her team with humanity as the guiding principle, acted with urgency and never lost sight of our fundamental principle that Starbucks is a place where all people are welcome." 

  • Before her promotion to VP of global communications, Riley served as a director of corporate communications at Starbucks focused on the issues of management and social impact initiatives. 
  • Prior to Starbucks, Riley developed and executed strategic communications programs for financial, professional services, consumer retail and enterprise technology organizations. 
  • A Clemson University alum, Riley regularly travels across the country to watch the Tigers play, including during this year’s College Football Playoff National Championship game at Levi's Stadium in San Francisco. 

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