Pam Edstrom, the voice behind Microsoft’s story, dies at 71

Pam Edstrom, one of the co-founders of Waggener Edstrom Communications, which became one of the largest independent public- relations firms in the world, has died.

Pam Edstrom, a leading public-relations executive who helped shape Microsoft’s image for more than 30 years, died Tuesday after a four-month battle with cancer. She was 71.

Edstrom was one-half of the name behind one of the largest independent public-relations firms in the world: Bellevue-based WE Communications, previously known as Waggener Edstrom Communications.

She served as Microsoft’s first PR director before helping to launch Waggener Edstrom, where she was the commanding voice behind Microsoft’s story as the software firm grew from a small technology company to the powerhouse it is now.

She was the ultimate truth-teller, her colleagues said, and an inspiring mentor for countless young public-relations professionals.

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She was also hysterically funny, said Melissa Waggener Zorkin, Edstrom’s longtime business partner and CEO of WE.

“We would laugh until we cried all the time,” Waggener Zorkin said. “Sometimes in public.”

She remembers a time when she and Edstrom met with their general manager, who also oversaw human resources. He was reading off statistics on the company, and told them the firm had 86 people.

Edstrom promptly stood up from her chair and flopped on the floor.

“She landed on the floor and she didn’t even try to break her fall,” Waggener Zorkin said. “She said, ‘I can’t believe we have 86 people! You’re kidding me!’ ”

The pair had set a goal of reaching 50 people, and had been so busy they didn’t realize how much the company had grown.

It took Waggener Zorkin three attempts to convince Edstrom to join her small public-relations venture in the early 1980s. The two knew of each other when they both worked at Portland technology company Tektronix but…

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