Joanne Krell is a senior executive in communications with deep experience in both the social and corporate sectors. In late 2017, she co-founded and launched Defy Communications, a strategic communications firm dedicated to working with great people and organizations to help society get the outcomes it deserves.
Before launching Defy, Joanne served as executive director of corporate communications for General Motors, a senior leadership role responsible for reputation management; executive, internal and external communications; and the GM brand. Earlier in her career, she spent a dozen years at GM in a wide range of communications roles including as director of communications for Cadillac and Saab, for GM’s financial services division and as communications lead for GM’s global issues. She has worked on countless product, reputation and issue-based campaigns as well as through multiple high-profile crises.
Prior to her return to GM, Joanne was the vice president of communications for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, among the nation’s largest philanthropic foundations. While there, she implemented a strategic communications approach and structure to improve its organizational communications, an identity process to clarify the organization’s “golden why” writ large, and to propel efforts to amplify the grant-making and mission-driven investing work of the organization and its grantees, which focuses on social change toward better life outcomes for vulnerable children.
Joanne began her career in Washington, D.C., working for the American Federation of Teachers and the Air Line Pilots Association before spending several years with Widmeyer Communications (now Finn Partners) on issues ranging from education reform to health care and reproductive rights to energy policy. She later managed communications for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, helping introduce and seed board certification for teachers as a way to improve both learning and the teaching profession.
Joanne has been active in community service and local initiatives and was a board member of the Communications Network, the national organization for foundation and nonprofit communications professionals, serving as its vice chair from 2013 to 2015. She holds a bachelor’s degree in government and politics from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in marketing and advertising from Michigan State University. She has completed executive education at Oxford University and studied abroad as an undergraduate at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel.