As the founders of Defy, we want our strategic communications firm to convey our thinking, personality and style. With Defy’s launch, we welcome you to Defy’s official blog space, “Why Defy?” We plan for this to be a primary location to get a sense of how we think, what we stand for and what you can expect from Defy.
And what better way to kick off Defy’s blog space with a piece that explains our name, timing, vision and what we hope to achieve. This blog’s titular entry features responses to key questions by both founders of Defy, Joanne Krell and Omar Hussain.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY “DEFY?”
Joanne: Personally, I like the definition that says, “to challenge to do the impossible” and I am a big fan of the synonym, brave. Look, you can always go to the negative, but that’s not the point here. We’re living in difficult times and I am a believer that we can live in a better world, a more enjoyable world, a more just world, a world that makes our children optimistic about the future. And to do so, a certain bravery is required to take on difficult challenges and turn a negative into a positive. I’ve spent the better part of my adulthood doing that and every time, the courageous move – by definition, as difficult as it might be – has been the right move.
Omar: Varying industries love to focus on “disruption” after the fact or when it’s about to happen. I’d argue that no other industry experiences disruption more frequently than communications. I think the reason for this is that in 2017, the field of communications has become deeper and wider than ever, and now elements of neuroscience, social anthropology and evolving technological interventions have to be recognized in your communications theory and practice. So when it comes to being modern, you have to stay ahead of the curve, resist conventional thinking, defy convention and evolve. From a practice standpoint, that is certainly what I mean by “Defy.”
From an emotional standpoint, I’ve always been amazed at moments in time when someone or something decides to demonstrate what now is suddenly possible through an act of defiance. Examples of this have played out in a variety of forms in recent history: from Rosa Parks defying bigotry, to Elie Wiesel surviving the Holocaust and making sure the protest and truth of the event was never altered, to even artists like Jack Kerouac or Marlon Brando who defied the standard approach to their respective crafts and created new forms and methods for everyone that followed.
The examples differ from one another but one truth seems to always prevail, the power to defy is inextricably linked to the power of hope.
Joanne: There are lots of excellent people doing great communications work, many of whom we have had the honor and pleasure of working with and from whom we have learned a great deal. The early part of my career was spent in the agency world and I loved it and have maintained relationships and friendships for decades. I’ve probably worked with dozens and dozens of firms all across the globe and feel lucky for the experience.
We have a specific point of view about how we want to progress in this world; how there is so much possibility that could be realized if it could just be unlocked. In fact, there was a day that Omar and I were talking about this, about the current volatile landscape and how people and organizations will manage through it, and he wisely noted how there is a time and place for everything, and that no matter the organization — public or private, profit or non-profit, large or small – each truly will have to determine what impact they want to have in the world. And we just knew that this was the time for us to bring our decades of experience and our big, next-generation thinking to help unleash the resources and opportunities for those who are held back and to help many people and organizations realize the success and outcomes they deserve.
Omar: Personally, when it comes working for the public good, I’ve never thought about it as “why now?” It’s something I’ve always pursued, and over the course of my career I’ve been fortunate to work on a number of important issues and causes, from helping to start a nonprofit developing leadership among Sudanese refugees, to becoming involved with the Leon and Sylvia Panetta Institute for Public Policy, to working for favorable admission and financial aid policies for immigrant students and families, to supporting the social impact from a large philanthropic foundation like the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
With Defy, I feel as though now is an exceptional time for a mission-driven firm to look for partnerships with great people and great organizations to accelerate the rate of social impact and change. Our society deserves better outcomes than the ones it’s receiving right now. Fortunately, there are many already out there striving to deliver those outcomes. Now is the perfect time for Defy to help.
HOW WILL YOU KNOW YOU’RE SUCCESSFUL?
Joanne: Undoubtedly, success will come through service to others. There are so many tremendous people doing extraordinary work and they deserve to have their voice better heard and understood. Defy’s ability to partner with those people and organizations to elevate and amplify their work and their message, to really break through the crowded landscape and help them get the success they deserve will be a sign of our success. Honestly, it’s very exciting to envision that possibility and then to go to the wall for them to make it so.
Omar: For a communications firm that strives to partner on mission-driven work, so much of our success will be measured by the great people and great organizations with whom we partner, and specifically, how well we partner, strategize and execute toward the specified outcomes. So success in that sense will likely be determined by the nature of the work, project to project. But ultimately, if Defy is collectively viewed by those who know of us as a willing partner who wants to help, and we’re defined by the fact that we’re thoughtful, calm, caring and trustworthy partners, I think that’s all the success for which I could ask.