I’m Dana Vickers Shelley, founder and president of DVStrategies. I’m a communications specialist advising leaders who are changing the world, and a consultant, speaker and coach to dynamic and diverse teams and individuals. I work with CEOs, communications directors and staff at foundations, nonprofits, government agencies and socially responsible businesses.
No matter what I call what I do — strategic communications, public affairs, community relations, public relations — it boils down to helping people solve problems by getting their messages across, saying what they need to say, and making friends and allies.
At least that’s how I explained “public relations” and “communications” to my Mom years ago. Mom understood the value of communications and productive interpersonal and cross-cultural relationships. She was an elementary school librarian who wrote the quote you see on the front page of my website, and taught it to her students throughout her 30-year career. “Life is short; therefore I shall be a crusader in the struggle against ignorance and fear, beginning with myself.”
As an employee, consultant or board member, I’ve been a crusader myself at times, having worked in many different sectors. I’ve been a senior vice president at Edelman Public Relations and Fenton Communications, providing strategic communications counsel for clients such as the Coca-Cola Company Task Force, Ford Foundation, NAACP National Voter Fund, Nike, SC Johnson, NATO 50th Anniversary Summit and Discovery Communications. At the Annie E. Casey Foundation, I advised senior leaders and grantees on public affairs, message development, brand management and employee communications as director of strategic communications.
I served as deputy press secretary to Secretary Ronald H. Brown at the U.S. Department of Commerce, and handled outreach efforts in the White House Office of Public Liaison (now Office of Public Engagement) to communicate administration programs and initiatives to African-American and Hispanic leaders. Earlier in my career, I was director of public affairs at Black Enterprise magazine, the spokesperson for the D.C. Lottery Board, special assistant to Chairman Paul G. Kirk, Jr., of the Democratic National Committee, and a writer-researcher at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. And there was my first job as the opening shift counter-girl at Dunkin’ Donuts.
What did these organizations have in common? While each was unique in its mission and day-to-day priorities, each organization needed to find the right way to develop and deliver messages to its strategic audiences. They all had a wide range of constituents, customers and competitors, yet in some cases, they missed opportunities to reach and engage those audiences in a compelling way.
Regardless of sector, most organizations can be more effective by developing cross-sector partnerships and alliances; my experience doing communications, public affairs and public relations in a range of industries on a variety of issues has allowed me to help bring folks together. For me, that’s what it’s all about.