Melissa C. Potter on creating opportunities for all voices in entertainment - Kathy Varol
melissa c. potter
May 24, 2023   |   Episode #: 056

Melissa C. Potter on creating opportunities for all voices in entertainment

Show Notes:

Melissa C. Potter honed her expertise in the topics of Race, Identity, Culture, and Equity working in both the social justice and entertainment worlds. Today she is the Vice President of Strategy and Impact at Paramount, upholding the company’s commitment to the long-term social impact of cultural shifts in society as driven across a diverse collection of brands including CBS, SHOWTIME, MTV, BET, and Nickelodeon.

Melissa is also responsible for the MTV Entertainment Group’s Culture Orientation program. Working in collaboration with the country’s leading racial and social justice organizations, this initiative unites shared values, increases understanding, and amplifies learning to empower the entire creative community to tell stories that reflect the diversity of Paramount viewers.

Part of Paramount’s mission is to increase representation on both sides of the camera through their Content for Change initiative.

In this episode we discuss:
✅ The power of media to break down narratives that enable intolerance, hurtful stereotypes, and systemic racism
✅ The importance of multidimensional storytelling
✅ How MTV is addressing mental health and inspiring civic action


3 episode takeaways (listen to the full episode for a lot more gems!): 

1️⃣ Melissa’s career journey is a great example of the magic that can happen when you follow your interests—even when those interests don’t clearly overlap or immediately present an end destination. It might be that the end destination doesn’t exist yet, but you’re developing your unique skills so that you’re ready when it does.

Melissa’s background in entertainment, PR, communications, social justice, and sociology isn’t something found on most resumes. But it’s this specific combination that makes her the perfect candidate for leading strategy and impact for Content for Change at Paramount, a role that didn’t exist until 2020.

2️⃣ Our impressions can be influenced by the status quo, as well as our internal and systemic biases. This is why measurement is so important. Data enables us to move beyond the lens of bias to understand where we currently stand so that we can figure out how to get to where we want to go.

Paramount’s analysis of its content was a critical first step to developing a strategy around Content for Change.

3️⃣ Stories are powerful. They have the ability to capture our attention, to draw us in, to make us feel seen, understood, and less alone. Stories also shape our perspectives. They have the power to expand our understanding of others, and consequently increase our capacity for empathy and compassion.

But stories aren’t inherently good. Stories can just as easily cause damage, increase misunderstanding, reinforce damaging stereotypes, and promote intolerance. The stories we tell are important. They shape us. We must handle them with care.


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