Desiree Peterkin Bell: The Power of Purpose

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By Evan J. Cutts

There are countless ways to be a leader and impact those around you. Discourse on leadership styles has drawn attention to the ‘mindful leader’ and “value-driven leader.’ Desiree Peterkin Bell ascribes her leadership style to her personal mantra: “Purpose, not position.”

The founder and CEO of Public Affairs Firm, DPBell & Associates, defines her mantra as “placing your purpose, which is ultimately your passion, above your position.”

In practice, leading with our purpose allows us to wake with excitement for our projects and goals. DPB passion is about both communication and representing marginalized voices to make an impact. With 22 years experience, Desiree Peterkin Bell has founded a company to do just that.

“We’ve had amazing opportunities to work with candidates who stand for representing those on the margins and give voice and bring awareness to issues that impact people’s lives”

As President and founder of DPBell and Associates, Desiree has advised and worked on issues with former President Barack Obama, former Mayors Michael Bloomberg, Cory Booker and Michael Nutter, the Democratic National Convention Committee, Forbes,  and much more.

“We don’t do [traditional] PR. If you just want to get on TV or in the newspaper, we’re probably not the firm for you. If you’re working for social justice and highlighting marginalized voices that have been silenced historically, we are the firm for you. We live to make an impact and move the needle.”

Desiree Peterkin Bell also leverages her expertise as a political and communication strategist to represent to educate students and women professionals globally. She recently co-authored Women Who Inspire (2017) with author and Professional Success Coach Kate Butler. The book sold out on Amazon in 24-hours, quickly becoming an Amazon #1 Bestseller. Desiree will be releasing another co-authored book with Kate Butler books, Women Who Influence in late March.

As an educator, Desiree Peterkin Bell currently serves as the professor of Urban Communications—a course she designed—at the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication.

“The course was designed with the idea of cities as incubators of change. My students learn about topics ranging from fake news to Black Lives Matter and crisis communication,” she said.

Her course prepares students to engage with urban spaces as mediums for communication. Students are provided tools to analyze the production of civic narratives, the relationship between cities and federal government, and the impacts of a 24-hour news cycle.

With all that she manages and oversees, Desiree Peterkin Bell is an advocate for work-life integration over work-life balance.

“I truly believe in work-life integration because balance means 50-50. We live in a reality where circumstances won’t operate that way every single day. Some days are 60-40 or 90-10, expecting otherwise can be very stressful and try to force you to live in confines of an unreality.”

Now, Desiree Peterkin Bell finds opportunities to integrate her personal and professional life effectively.

“If I have a speech and I’m talking to people about the power of community or Urban Communication outside of class, I’ll bring my daughter with me,” she explained. “I think it’s important for her to see me presenting to a large group of people about important matters in our community and country.”

Intentional choices like this also reflect her forward-thinking mindset. Wherever Bell shares her insights, she is a setting an example for strong, articulate leadership for both her daughter and audiences globally.

The trail that she is blazing is a sign of more impactful leadership to come.

“In 2018 and beyond, I think we’re going to see an increase of Black women in the room, at the table, and making the decisions.”