Hampton University President Appoints Nationally Recognized Strategic Communications & Branding Expert, Richelle D. Payne, to Senior Leadership Team

Global Agency Partner and Thought Leader in Branding and Business Transformation Tapped to Become Vice President for Strategic Communications and Marketing


Hampton, VA (March 29, 2023):         Hampton University President Darrell K. Williams announced today the appointment of Richelle D. Payne, Vice President for Strategic Communications and Marketing, leading efforts to advance the institution’s national reputation for academic and community excellence.

Payne is an industry leader with more than 30 years of experience in public relations, change management, brand and reputation management, and crisis preparedness. In 2022, she was named to the Philadelphia Titan 100 and received the Top Woman in PR-Change Maker award from PR News. She is president emeritus of the National Black Public Relations Society, Inc., a member of the national board of directors for Diversity Action Alliance, strategic adviser to Public Relations Society of America, and member of the National Association of Black Journalists. 

Payne will serve on President Williams’ Senior Leadership Team and lead all marketing and communications for the academic and research enterprise, athletics, and alumni affairs. She is charged with redefining and executing on the university’s strategic communications and marketing plan, overseeing the university’s primary communications channels while identifying marketing strategies to help advance student success, strengthen alumni support, and move the brand forward.

“I am thrilled to welcome Richelle back to her Home by the Sea,” said Williams. “She is a highly accomplished communications professional, with experience in reputation management, a track record of progressive responsibility in agency leadership and management, and more than a decade immersed in the issues and challenges of higher education. She has a stellar reputation as an honest and accountable leader, with a proven ability to motivate and support her teams. In many conversations during the search, Richelle impressed Hampton colleagues with her warmth, insight, and thoughtful approach to complex issues. I very much look forward to working with her in the coming years.”

She previously served as partner and senior director of brand management for Ascendant Group, a branding and book marketing agency in the Greater Philadelphia area. At Ascendant, she was instrumental in expanding the agency’s practice areas and growth across offices in four states and global teams in the Netherlands, Canada, the UAE, and Cairo, ultimately leading the firm to excel to seven-plus figures, a feat achieved by only 1.7% of Black-owned companies.

A former journalist, college English instructor, and serial entrepreneur, Payne has provided counsel and coaching on the behavioral changes that help senior business leaders grow their reputation and revenue. She has worked across a variety of industries for such clients as The Obama Foundation, T.D. Jakes Enterprises, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Pittsburgh Public Schools, actor, activist and author Dondre Whitfield, NBA athletes-turned-executives, Verizon Enterprise Solutions, LPL Financial, and Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA).

“It is an honor to be invited to join Hampton at a time of exciting growth and opportunity,” Payne said. “President Williams’ vision for delivering the #1 student experience in America along with the institution’s rich history, culture of innovation and collaboration, and strong curriculum are extraordinary. I am excited to help share the inspiring stories of Hampton students, faculty, and alumni on the world stage. And, as an alumna, I am happy to return home.”

Payne has received industry recognition from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), American Corporate Video, Dalton Pen Company, and the Hampton Roads Black Media Professionals (HRBMP). She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Hampton University, a master’s degree in Corporate Communication from Duquesne University, and the CCP (certified communications professional) designation from the AWC Matrix Foundation.


Hampton University is a comprehensive institution of higher education. For more than 150 years, it has been dedicated to the promotion of learning, building of character, and preparation of promising students for positions of leadership and service. It emphasizes a scientific and professional curriculum with a strong liberal arts undergirding. In carrying out its mission, the University requires that everything that it does be of highest quality. A historically Black institution, Hampton University is committed to multiculturalism. The University serves students from diverse national, cultural, and economic backgrounds. Research and public service are integral parts of Hampton’s mission. In order to enhance scholarship and discovery, the faculty is engaged in writing, research, and grantsmanship. In achieving its mission, Hampton University offers exemplary programs and opportunities which enable students, faculty and staff to grow, develop and contribute to our society in a productive and useful manner. For more information, visit: hamptonu.edu