For the past 15 years, Melissa Gong Mitchell has specialized in coalescing communities of common interest and building advocacy initiatives on the cutting edge of public policy strategy and communications.  Melissa’s approach to creating coalitions is through powerful ideas, strategic communications and focused execution.  Learn more about Melissa and working at HLG…

Q. What is your primary client focus at HLG?

At HLG, we have a talented group of professionals focused on the aging, pharmaceuticals and healthcare fields.  Within this area, I lead several teams, working with our clients to develop winning strategies to better communicate and operate in an ever-changing and increasingly competitive environment.  Our portfolio within the aging field is second to none.  It includes healthcare but also stretches far beyond into financial services, technology and growing industries like home care.

Almost five years ago, HLG conceived and created the Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA), the only global cross-sector, business-based coalition committed to helping businesses and society at large prepare for the most transformative demographic trend of this century – population aging.  GCOA and its member companies work with governments, global institutions, academics and think tanks to elevate the dialogue on aging and advance comprehensive public policies and market-based solutions that will ensure the global aging phenomenon is viewed not as a crisis, but as an opportunity. 

Q. What type of work does managing GCOA entail?

As Executive Director, I spearhead development and lead execution of GCOA’s strategies across three core work streams:  the silver economy, active and healthy aging and care.  My work is aimed at ensuring leadership positioning on these topics for GCOA itself and our individual members, some of the world’s most significant companies.  This includes creating forums for dynamic and influential dialogue, crafting key messages, identifying new venues for communicating those messages, liaising with members and third-party partners to align and advance our goals, developing white papers and research, and representing GCOA at public forums to build consensus among diverse groups of stakeholders. 

Q. What does your typical day at HLG look like?

Every day is different, and that is what makes working at HLG highly rewarding.  It’s never mundane, and it’s always thought-provoking.  One day, I will be in the office all day in meetings and on conference calls with team members and clients working to develop strategies together, and the next, I will be traveling to a conference to execute upon those strategies.  For example, in July I spent a week in China where GCOA held a high-level summit including business, government and academic leaders from across China and the world to help develop active aging policies, practices and solutions for a rapidly aging Chinese population.  The programs I spent months developing (the messaging, the participants, the media) through time zone differences and language barriers were then carried out in Shanghai and Shenyang, where GCOA and our members strengthened our network and built an ongoing dialogue with key influentials. The end game:  to make the social, economic and policy connections between healthy and active aging and economic growth and fiscal sustainability and to bring both public- and private-sector leadership together to build aging strategies for people of all ages.

Q. How would you describe the profile of an HLG employee? 

There’s certainly no cookie-cutter profile for HLG employees. At this intersection where public policy, business strategy and strategic communications collide, you will find a very special group of professionals – Capitol Hill veterans, corporate strategy experts, political speechwriters, and simply the smartest people and some of the hardest workers I’ve ever met.  An HLG employee is a strategic thinker, a jack-of-all-trades who can advise CEOs, trade associations and a myriad of industry sectors, and a practitioner who knows how to turn strategy into execution.

Q. What part of your education and career experience best prepared you for success at HLG?

From college, where I majored in journalism and psychology and minored in art, to business school, where I concentrated in entrepreneurship and marketing, and through the first decade of my career that was all about political advocacy, I developed critical skills not found in one college course or in one particular job.  My communications philosophy has come to be about crafting the most powerful message possible by first analyzing and understanding the audience you need to reach.  This process starts by taking a look at an idea or issue from multiple angles, asking questions about the beliefs and motives of target audiences, building an argument that is supported by data and caters to their needs, and developing it in a physical form – spoken or written – that is eloquent, organized and relatable.

Q. What makes working for HLG different from other communications and advocacy firms?

HLG is a young firm, enabling us to be entrepreneurial and to develop our culture around our people and their talents – and that makes the firm incredibly effective and a great place to learn.  The way we work is collegial in nature, as our client teams aren’t siloed into practice areas or along geographical lines. We operate to serve our clients’ needs, but in a fresh and creative way.  We draw connections where other firms have never made connections before, and each of our team members has the strategic insight to understand the ever-changing business and policy environments in which companies, associations and business leaders make their critical decisions.