Pam Edstrom, 71, partner and co-founder of WE Communications, who was “the commanding voice behind Microsoft’s story” as it grew into a software giant, died March 28 after a four-month battle with cancer.

Pam Edstrom & Melissa Waggner ZorkinPam Edstrom (L) with Melissa Waggener Zorkin

That summary of her role with Microsoft was made by The Seattle Times in an obit by Rachel Lerman, who noted that Edstrom was Microsoft’s first PR director before joining with Melissa Waggener Zorkin to launch Waggener Edstrom Communications in 1983.

WE was the third largest firm in last year's O’Dwyer rankings with $98.7 million in net fees and 645 employees. It did not take part in the rankings released this year.

Edstrom had worked with Zorkin when they both at Tektronix, Portland tech firm. Zorkin then persuaded Edstrom to join her and leave her job as PR director of Microsoft.

A presentation by the four-person Zorkin firm to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, at which Edstrom was present, convinced Edstrom to join the firm.

Edstrom Saw Future

Frank X. Shaw, Microsoft’s VP of corporate communications and former president of WE Communications, told the Seattle Times that Edstrom was always thinking ahead, seeking out what would come next. “Pam was just a really creative, energetic, idea machine,” he said.

John Markoff, who covered Edstrom as a reporter for InfoWorld and who later joined The New York Times, working more than 30 years with Edstrom, told the Seattle Times, “She was the architect, she created the image for Microsoft.”

Edstrom believed in bringing reporters in and giving them a sense of the company and its executives, rather than the typical Silicon Valley PR strategy of the time, which was to keep a polite distance, said, Markoff. “She saw reporters as her customers.”

About 20 members of the national media once visited the Gates’ family retreat near Hood Canal and spent a weekend with him.

Surviving are her husband, Joseph Lamberton; daughter Jennifer Edstrom; stepchildren Suzanne Goodman, Todd Lamberton, Bryan Lamberton, Greg Lamberton and their spouses, and her seven grandchildren.