By Tiffany E. Browne, Director
We kicked off the New Year by welcoming Melissa Mellor and Derek Turner to our leadership team. Not only do Melissa and Derek embody Hatcher values, they also bring an inherent belief that our work must be informative, speak truth, and raise awareness. In a brief conversation, we caught a glimpse of how each views the importance of their work overall and, specifically, here at Hatcher.
Do you remember when you became passionate about a cause? What was the cause and how did it affect you? How does it align with your personal and professional life?
Melissa: I’m a longtime advocate for effective, engaging, and equitable education opportunities for every child. For me, passion grows from both personal experience, as well as opportunities to deepen my understanding of the issues I care about. My own education experiences and those of my children, combined with what I’ve learned from research and practice, have shown me how essential it is for each child to feel safe and supported, have a sense of belonging and autonomy, have access to engaging instruction and ideas, and be seen and valued for who they are.
Derek: I lived in Oklahoma City from 1991–1993 before moving to Richmond, VA. I remember coming home from school in 1995 and my parents telling me about the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and that children were killed in the attack. I recall feeling sad, but also helpless because I was too far away to be with my friends who lost family members. Then, my mom reminded me that we’re never helpless. There is always something we can do. So, I did something. I organized my high school friends and we knocked on thousands of doors in our Virginia community to raise money for the victims’ families. I knew then I was never helpless to act and that I could make a difference.
Does the work of a communications professional inform the audience or does the audience inform the work?
Melissa: Both! Strategic communications can raise awareness, deepen understanding, eliminate misperception, clarify the facts, and expand perspective; these are all crucial examples of informing the audience.
Knowing what your audience thinks, who they trust, where they get their information, and what they’re poised to do should inform our work to reach them. The important takeaway here: the audience is essential to every communications effort. It’s easy to get lost in producing the best report, podcast, messaging…you name it. None of that matters without an audience to learn from it, be moved by it, engage with it, share it, and do something because of it.
Derek: Both. How a communications professional crafts and delivers a message can have a profound effect on the audience. We can evoke rage, joy, sympathy, sadness, and more through our craft. At the same time, the response from the audience could differ from what the communicator intended. At that point, a good communications professional needs to pivot the strategy based on audience feedback.
How important is it to you that the work you and your team do brings about a truth?
Melissa: This should be the ultimate goal of any communicator — to make more people aware of a truth or to inspire more people to take action that brings forth a truth.
What’s messy about humanity is that we don’t all have the same view of what a truth is. As much as we might like to believe that a compelling piece of data or a fact-based argument will shine a spotlight on the truth and all will be well, entrenched beliefs, emotions, and competing messages can muddy the waters. That’s what can make a communicator’s job so challenging, but also so rewarding, when we cut through the noise and make the truth real for someone who hasn’t seen it or experienced it before.
I’m grateful to be working at Hatcher, where my team and I can partner with organizations that are focused on truths in education — across data, research, practice, and policy — that will help young people thrive.
Derek: Bringing about a truth is so important, especially as misinformation and disinformation are surging everywhere.
One of the reasons I’m so excited about joining Hatcher is that speaking truth to power is embedded in the ethos of the firm.