Vice President, Strategic Communications
National Pork Board
As vice president of strategic communications, Kevin Waetke, APR leads internal and external communications efforts for the National Pork Board based in Des Moines, Iowa. With other members of the Board's senior management team, he plays a critical role in defining and leading the national communications strategy, and delivering clear and consistent messages to America’s pork producers, national media, opinion leaders, consumers and other key audiences.
Waetke grew up on a century hog farm in eastern Iowa and uses this experience daily in his interaction with the 15 producer board members of the Pork Checkoff, as well as with the numerous producer committees that are led by volunteer pig farmers. He joined the Pork Checkoff in 2013 and in that time assisted the National Pork Board in defining and implementing its new vision, mission and five-year strategic plan. With a combination of agriculture and communications experience, he is excited to be part of a team that shares the story of U.S. pork production and helps to shape the dialogue and build relationships with the industry's key players on a national and global level.
On a national level, Waetke is currently a member of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance communications committee, where he co-leads a sub-committee focused on research and message development. People have an emotional connection with food and currently the U.S. food production industry is facing ongoing cynicism and criticism about how food is produced. The USFRA is an organization of 100 farm and agriculture-related industries with a sole mission of sharing the story of modern agricultural production. Waetke helps to shape this story through the development of communications tools. He travels the country in support of USFRA and the National Pork Board, speaking to organizations and participating in the ongoing dialogue about food production, agriculture, social responsibility and consumer outreach.
Prior to joining the National Pork Board, Waetke spent 10 years leading communications in the U.S. financial services industry. He previously worked at life insurance and annuity leader Aviva USA, and, prior to that, as the communications director for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. At Aviva USA, Waetke was the Assistant Vice President of corporate communications and had dual roles of building the Aviva brand in the U.S. following its acquisition by London-based Aviva plc, and defending the life insurance and annuity business model from critics.
During his seven years with Wells Fargo – from 2003 to 2010 – he directed national media relations outreach during the height of the U.S. financial downturn. During those years, Waetke led the development of community outreach and education programs designed to assist homeowners in modifying their housing debt. The balance of his final three years at Wells Fargo were spent in daily communications with major national news media including the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Associated Press, National Public Radio, national television networks (NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN) and the Reuters and Dow Jones newswires.
Professionally, Waetke has also led public relations for Maytag Corporation (Newton, Iowa) in 2003, just prior to its acquisition by Whirlpool. He was director of corporate communications for MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company (1997-2003) and was recognized for his crisis communications and emergency preparedness. He began is PR career in health care at Mercy Medical Center (1992-1997).
He is also a former news reporter and assignment editor for WHO-TV (1986-1991), and also worked in television news at KWWL-TV (Waterloo, Iowa), WQAD-TV (Moline, Illinois) and KWQCTV (Davenport, Iowa). Waetke credits his years as a news reporter in shaping his professional public and media relations skills, and his ability to distill complex information into easily understandable concepts. The ability to connect with individuals on a personal basis and then share their stories through words and video are the building blocks of proactive communications.
In 2013, he served as an adjunct professor to the Drake University School of Journalism and Mass Communications, teaching a course in crisis communications and reputation management. He has both graduate and undergraduate degrees in Journalism and Mass Communications from Drake University, Des Moines.