Defy Communications was launched in 2017 by co-founders Joanne Krell and Omar Hussain as a way to connect the most courageous and modern communications strategies with mission-driven work. Ultimately, it’s Defy’s mission to partner with extraordinary people and organizations on issues, causes and movements that defy convention, perception and limitation while helping to deliver the outcomes our society deserves.
We show up. We dive in. We run hard. We are passionate about people, causes and movements that contribute to a more just world and it drives our commitment every day.
There are all kinds of superheroes out there, and at the core, they share one thing in common and so do we: an outrageous commitment to doing the right thing. There is no substitute for decency and we live by it.
Defy Communications was launched in 2017 by co-founders Joanne Krell and Omar Hussain to connect the most courageous and modern communications strategies with mission-driven work. We believe that communications reach is more profound and broader than ever. Our approach is to work in true collaboration. We listen deeply, remain open to new ideas from start to finish, and communicate clearly and frequently with your team so that you always know what to expect and when.
We appreciate that budgets are finite and that it is best to be wise with resources. With Defy, you are paying for insights, expertise, counsel, and activation that you can trust and depend upon to serve you and your organization well.
You are not paying for fancy overhead and perks. Excellence, decency, courage, and good humor define our core values, and entering and working in communities respectfully and with significant consideration is a principle that drives our approach.
We possess the strategic and organizational agility necessary to get things done, and we have a keen understanding of the communications landscape and how to navigate it successfully. We put our strong work ethic to work for you, and we promise that our lights do not go out until yours do.
Meet our team
The Importance of DEIJ
We would be remiss to talk about our work without grounding it in our fundamental approach to how we work regarding equity, diversity, inclusion, and justice. We believe that the equity journey requires a two-prong approach: an ongoing, personal self-examination of one’s experiences and observations, as well as a nuanced view of societal and global systems. One’s self-examination is undergirded by deep reflections and ongoing dialogues, both within oneself and others from different backgrounds. These dialogues are most successful when difficult questions are asked. Answers are given honestly, and everyone listens deeply to understand how opportunities and resources have been made available or not been made available within different contexts. This personal journey requires empathy, courage, openness to diverse perspectives, and a belief that the world we live in is not an equal playing field. Opportunities and resources are not distributed evenly across communities. And for us, understanding the systems creating inequities—rooted in socio-economic, political, racial, or one of many other contexts—creates a driving moral imperative to address the critical systems and societal mechanisms to undo these inequities.
Defy is both woman- and minority-owned. As a Jewish woman from Baltimore and a Pakistani man from San Jose, our respective experiences have shown us the nature in which access to opportunities and resources shapes lives and communities for decades, if not centuries. These experiences have also forged our connection to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, which serve as the basic framework for Defy—a strategic communications firm that works with mission-driven organizations. It is mission-critical for us to do as much as we can to expand our knowledge, thinking, and empathy on our current journey to grow as individuals and as a firm.
Before Defy opened its doors, Joanne Krell, co-founder of Defy, sought systems change through her work experiences relating to educational outcomes and teacher training, gender equity vis-à-vis national policy, the future of mobility, and racial and health equity. She served as the executive director of corporate communications at General Motors, the vice president for Communications at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and through work supporting nonprofits, unions, and other organizations while working in Washington, D.C.
For Omar Hussain, equity and justice is a consistent trait at each stop in his career. Before co-launching Defy, Omar worked at multiple nonprofits, the University of Michigan and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Among the issues, he pursued local solutions for Sudanese refugees, seeking favorable federal, state, and institutional policies for undocumented students in higher education; and leading nationwide communications work focused on health equity and racial equity.