Corey duBrowa | Influence 100

Corey DuBrowa 

Senior Vice President of Global Communications and International Public Affairs
Starbucks Coffee Company 

Corey DuBrowa describes his own career best — introducing the world’s biggest sports brand (Nike) to new customers, counseling the founder of the world’s largest software company (Microsoft) as he transitioned to become a philanthropist and helping the world’s largest coffee company (Starbucks) return to prominence.   

DuBrowa has been responsible for global communications and international public affairs at Starbucks since 2010. On the communications side, he’s rolled out some of Starbucks’ most popular — and divisive — campaigns. Just in the last few years, DuBrowa oversaw two campaigns that generated tremendous attention: Starbucks’ partnership with Arizona State University to provide subsidized tuition to employees and the #RaceTogether initiative in amid ongoing tensions between police and the black community. While both campaigns can — and have been — analyzed in depth, looking at the bigger picture DuBrowa has clearly shown to grasp the power of putting in motion campaigns that mobilize everyone from customers to employees. 

Prior to joining Starbucks, Corey spent a decade as president of the Americas region and business development at Waggener Edstrom, in addition to individual consulting assignments for clients ranging from Microsoft to T-Mobile to Toshiba, and served in a client- side communications capacity for Nike prior to that, leading employee communication efforts and urban marketing strategy for the US region. 

Please share a notable career highlight. 
Announcing our Starbucks College Achievement Plan in partnership with Arizona State University and Arne Duncan (Secretary of Education) still stands as a career highlight for me. And now nearly 6,000 Starbucks partners are pursuing their undergrad degrees, tuition free, through ASU.

What is the most rewarding/challenging aspect about a career in communications/marketing?
In many respects, today's shifting media environment has turned CCOs into the Chief Brand Officers of their respective companies (notwithstanding the work of our CMO counterparts). This is an entirely rewarding but extremely challenging output that has fundamentally shifted the responsibilities and demands of our jobs.

What skills/experience will the CCO of the future need that may not be required today?
I tend to agree with Fred Cook and the USC Annenberg team that 360 degree thinking; adaptability; cultural competency; empathy; intellectual curiosity will be the defining characteristics of senior comms and public affairs leaders. To some extent, all of these are present and "count" today, but a few (cultural competency, empathy) may not be particularly high on the meter.

What skill/experience is required of today's CCO that might not be as relevant in the future?
Media relations. Kind of a gimme. Fine to have but not the defining skill or experience base from which to build any longer.

Who or what inspires you to be your best? 
My family. My team. My CEO, who believes none of us can "take any plays off."

What is on your must-read/view/listen to list? 
For all time, or for this time? :) I think I'd be a much less well-rounded human without having read Graham Greene, Sylvia Plath and David Foster Wallace; without having obsessed over "The Wire" and the Godfather trilogy (well, really the first two, not the third); and without having spent a lot of time as a young person wondering why the Clash and all the hip-hop guys I loved were so angry. This is an almost endless topic for debate.

Most interesting place you've traveled to?
I've been lucky to travel to more than thirty countries over the years — sometimes for work, sometimes for pleasure, always with a wide-eyed sense of curiosity and wonder. Travel is perhaps one of the most valuable experiences we can have as human beings, and the place that never ceases to amaze me every time is Brazil. Despite its various challenges, its people and culture and diversity are just wondrous and amazing. And the futebol is pretty fantastic, too.