Culture   Point of View

Reflections from Fese Elango, Communications Apprentice

November 16, 2021

The world of PR, marketing and communications is one that carries many connotations. To some, advertising and campaigns can trigger contempt and controversy (Kendall Jenner I’m looking at you) or incite nostalgic emotions as you watch a young pup befriend a pack of Budweiser Clydesdales. Other campaigns, however, can create much needed social commentary and serve as a voice for the commonly forgotten – challenging narratives and notions of what we know to be true.  

Luckily, despite my lack of background in communications – I happened to stumble upon an agency that is rooted in the latter.  

As I reflect on my apprenticeship journey, I am instantly drawn to an image of my first day. A zoom screen meeting full of 25+ people welcoming me to the team, congratulating me on my recent graduation from Gonzaga University and expressing excitement for what DH could offer me. Instantly I felt at ease (still nervous) but hopeful that the community feeling I had searched for after college would be found at DH.  

I’d say that that’s something DH does well. Amongst a lot of things, DH really excels at community.

Community as a concept and culture 

I may be four months removed from academic content, but one concept that I gained from my degree in Biology is that of community. In Ecology, a community is defined as “the population of all species living and interacting in an area.” Although I did not live and interact in Spokane for this role, I still felt like a valued member of the community. With this in mind, my idea of community has shifted over my time with DH. How can people I see for a few moments everyday on my computer harness an infectious energy and passion that motivates me to dig deeper and step outside of my comfort zone? I’m not sure how to answer that question, but I know I’m grateful to have gotten an opportunity to not only be a part of something good – but learn from a place doing good in Spokane and the surrounding areas.  

Community as cornerstone for change  

As an apprentice at DH, I’ve gotten the chance to work closely on our Washington State Department of Health COVID-19 project and see the impact of allowing community members to share their own stories, rather than having their stories written for them. As someone who loves any and all things equity and inclusion, DH’s mile wide approach to communications makes my heart sing a little. As I previously mentioned, I stumbled into this sector and had ideas of PR work informed by some of the most egregious marketing campaigns – these fears were soon quelled when I learned the intention behind our work with DOH and DH’s social change marketing mission. For me, an approach, mission or value is just a few words strung together until life is breathed into them. In one of my first weeks at DH I got the chance to learn about our company’s social change marketing approach from Dr. Mallory Peak and see how sustainability, consciousness, and connection are embedded into our work. The learning continued as I dove deeper into our work with DOH – getting first-hand experience of the power of empowering others. In this account, community members and trusted messengers are given resources and tools to create relevant programming for members of their own community.  I’ve spent my weeks talking and listening to community partners expressing their projects and initiatives to keep fellow community members safe amidst COVID-19 and will forever be impacted by their response to systemic barriers in our society. If the past year and half of the pandemic has proved anything, it’s that COVID-19 has exposed fragmented and fractured parts of our most important institutions and the “normal” or “comfortable” way of solving problems is not the best way.

I’m grateful DH jumped into a pool of uncertainty and unknown by tackling this campaign and even more grateful to have been given the opportunity to swim alongside account members, leads and community organizations to redefine what communications campaigns can and should look like.

More from the blog

The power of community media: A path to deeper engagement 

The demand for audiences’ attention is higher today than ever before. Relying on traditional media channels alone is no longer enough.

Remembering DH founder Jim Desautel.

His vision, entrepreneurship and gifted storytelling laid our foundation as a social impact agency.

DH’s 2023 Year-in-Review

Social impact is the central idea stretching across our work at DH — and that’s never been more evident than in ...