Diane Hessan

Founder and Chairman, Communispace

Diane Hessan is a successful marketer, entrepreneur, and author. She is the founder and chairman of Communispace, a leading consumer collaboration agency “with a Blue Chip client list that would make a Madison Avenue giant jealous,” according to Advertising Age. A pioneer in creating online communities to help marketers get inspiration from their consumers, Hessan helped found Communispace in 1999—when no one knew what social media was—and hasn’t looked back.

Today, she leads Communispace’s 500+ employees in building and managing the nearly 700 private communities the company has created for a premier list of more than 200 global corporations. Communispace’s revenues have tripled in the last four years, and the company enjoys a 90+ percent client retention rate. It has received a wide range of awards for product innovation, marketing leadership, and corporate culture, including the Mass Econ Gold Award for the company that has had the Most Significant Economic Impact in Greater Boston. In 2011, in light of the company’s decision to expand its global operations rapidly, Communispace investors and employees sold Communispace to Omnicom, the premier global marketing services conglomerate. Communispace still operates independently, and Omnicom is investing in the company’s global presence, as evidenced by its recent expansions into China, France, South Africa, Mexico, and Brazil.

Hessan has spent her 35-year career helping companies become customer-focused—both as a business executive, and as co-author of the book Customer-Centered Growth: Five Strategies for Building Competitive Advantage. The book was a Business Week best-seller and was published in 11 languages. She has received many honors for her leadership, including Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year (National Finalist), the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneur of the Year, Boston Business Journal Most Admired CEO, the Boston Chamber Pinnacle Award, a Mass High-Tech All-Star, and a range of Best Boss citations. Recently, The Boston Globe listed her as No. 3 on its Top Women in Technology List, and Communispace was listed as one of 25 Top Places to Work in Boston.

Hessan serves on the boards of numerous organizations including The Tufts University Board of Trustees, Panera, The Boston Philharmonic (where she was chair), the Advertising Research Foundation, and Horizons for Homeless Children. She has been a major player in the development of Boston’s Innovation District, where she has mentored and inspired hundreds of entrepreneurs to bring their businesses to new levels. In 2012, Horizons and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick presented Hessan with an award to recognize her work building awareness of the problem of homeless children in Massachusetts. She was selected to join Governor Patrick on his first trade mission to Israel, and also was elected to the Governor’s Innovation Council.

She is a graduate of Tufts University and Harvard Business School, and is the co-founder of The Sound Bytes, an a cappella group that sings about business.

Diane Hessan