Vanessa Wakeman, Founder & CEO
An accomplished leader with deep knowledge about the politics of social change and mastery at advancing the efforts of values-driven entities, Vanessa Wakeman is a trusted advisor to organizations around the globe. She has been successfully leading initiatives to support mission driven transformation and communications for nonprofits, socially responsible companies and other stakeholder groups since she founded The Wakeman Agency in 2003.
Vanessa ideates approaches to build and restore trust with internal and external audiences, in order to develop ongoing, sustainable practices and communications that strengthen organizational positioning in the marketplace and amongst key audiences. She has proven expertise in developing communications strategies that drive action. Vanessa has increasingly been called upon by a host of organizations to help them reimagine their values, culture and operations through the lens of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. Her approach to communications uses behavioral science practices to shift perceptions and behaviors.
Vanessa has masterminded engagements with Echoing Green, The New York Women’s Foundation, The Emotional Institute, Hispanics in Philanthropy, New York Urban League, Metropolitan College of New York, National Domestic Workers Alliance, The Africa-America Institute, Animal Farm Foundation, Help for Children, Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), ShoreTel, UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, Interledger Foundation, The Alliance for Financial Inclusion, Emmett Till Legacy Foundation, Generation, the END Fund, United Way of New York City, ClimateWorks and many others.
In 2021, Vanessa was inducted into the PRWeek Hall of Femme (Hall of Fame for women in public relations) and chosen as one of PRovoke Media’s Innovator 25, which recognizes global marketing and communications experts who are taking social innovation to new heights. She was also recognized as one of the 100 Most Influential Black Leaders in New York in City & State magazine’s 2020 Black Power List, has been celebrated as a Champion of PR by PRWeek and one of 50 Game Changers of PR by PR News. In 2018, Vanessa was profiled in Diverse Voices: Profiles in Leadership, a book showcasing 40 multicultural public relations leaders.
Prior to launching The Wakeman Agency, Vanessa was a technologist at Morgan Stanley. She was credited with building the most racially and gender inclusive technology team in the Americas and was a key member of the crisis team responsible for disaster preparedness for Y2K and disaster recovery after 9/11.
In addition to her work at The Wakeman Agency, Vanessa serves on the Board of Directors of the Public Relations Society of America Foundation and the Commission for Public Relations Education, leading the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee to develop curriculum standards through a multicultural lens. Vanessa also serves as a Professional-In-Residence at University of Florida, with a focus on the intersection of social change, racial justice and strategic communications.