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On the Case With…

Each month, as part of “The Business Case for Public Relations,” PRSA asks an industry leader to reflect on his or her career and make a “business case” for public relations.

More from “On the Case With…”

On the Case with Dana Vickers Shelley


January 28, 2013

Dana Vickers Shelley leads the Southern Poverty Law Center’s efforts to inform and engage policy, media, advocacy and community audiences around its mission to fight hate and bigotry, and to seek justice for the most vulnerable members of society.

Shelley, who serves as director of public affairs for the center, has been involved in progressive communications work for more than two decades and has served on the management committee of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. She was also a senior appointee in the Clinton Administration, as deputy press secretary to Ronald H. Brown.

Shelley holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree in public administration from American University’s Key Executive Leadership Program. She is a member of PRSA, National Association of Black Journalists, Native American Journalists Association and American Association of University Women.

Regarding February, she says, “I see Black History Month as the annual kick-off of my continued learning about and appreciation for the accomplishments and contributions of Black people in America.”

Name: Dana Vickers Shelley

Childhood ambition:
Like many girls growing up in Detroit (“Motown”) in the ‘60s, I wanted to be talented and stylish like Diana Ross and The Supremes.

Current livelihood:
I recently joined the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., as director of public affairs.

What changed (i.e. how you became interested in public relations):
Enthusiasm for politics, journalism and pop culture shifted my plans of studying law to public relations. 

First public relations job:
A summer job with the late Ofield Dukes, APR, Fellow PRSA, brought me to Washington, D.C., where I saw how politics, journalism and pop culture converge. I was hooked. 

What you know now that you wish you’d known then:
The need to balance doing exceptional work with communicating your expertise — years ago, as a young professional, woman and person of color, it was essential for me to do great work, not promote the fact I was doing it.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received:
I’ve been the recipient of amazing mentoring, from Dukes to the late Michael K. Deaver, who I worked with at Edelman. From these two, I learned the importance of listening and bringing together people from different perspectives if you want to accomplish great things.

Greatest professional accomplishment:
Former colleagues, clients and staff members have said they would want to work with or hire me again.

If you weren’t in public relations, you would be:
An elected official at the state level, where I could create policies to help children succeed in school and in life

Desired legacy:
Mentoring PR rock stars as they grow professionally ... and bringing more people with diverse perspectives and backgrounds into public relations

Make a “business case” for public relations:
When PR expertise is included as an organization develops overall strategy, information and decisions about the audience/constituents/customers will be more useful and relevant.



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