WILL SHELLING (he/him/his)
Senior Consultant | Counsel Public Affairs
“We’re seeing more people in GR now that represent those we advocate towards and on behalf of.”
Tell us about your work.
I’ve always worked to support progressive and substantive change, whether at a small scale with my community, or a national scale with clients. At Counsel Public Affairs, I service government relations clients in British Columbia and federally, as well as developing our practice focused on justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI).
The JEDI practice melds aspects of our government relations and public relations work, through things like workshop design, inclusive communications, and inclusive strategy. Here I work with various clients to see how intersectionality can help inform client decisions and whom to connect with; both in government and in their communities. For every client issue, there’s an intersectional connection, and finding it helps clients to target advocacy to help those who need it, see who benefits the most, and find unlikely allies in the process.
A best practice in government relations is...
Practicing sincerity. Often, folks believe that consultant lobbyists are just trying to extract something out of them. I think that simple things like remembering to follow up, listening to understand, and importantly, being kind, results in richer relationships; not just within our workplaces but outside of it too.
Is there an unexpected skill which you have discovered is also important to the field?
Active listening. My facilitation experience is a major skill I’ve brought back to my work in GR. It helps by remaining attentive, understanding what folks are saying, and being able to reflect on what they bring up. I find this helps not only with client relationships, but with government especially, as giving someone your full attention improves your relationship with them.
Is there any wisdom you would like to share to other professionals ambitious to assume a leadership position in this sector?
Listening and valuing the opinions of those who are both above and below you in rank within your organization is something that is deeply undervalued in those striving for leadership. The best leaders I've seen are those who accept feedback, take suggestions, and adapt their actions continuously to create an inclusive workplace for GR firms.
How have you seen the profession evolve? How do you see it evolving into the future?
In the brief time I’ve been in GR, I've seen the profession slowly include and value folks from marginalized communities. We’re seeing more people in GR now that represent those we advocate towards and on behalf of, and it’s beyond necessary to create and maintain safe workplaces for folks to thrive in. However, we still need to shift our systems to be more equitable and inclusive, so that anyone with interest or experience can get involved in GR and PR. This means we need robust systems of wellness and staff support to keep these folks here so they can thrive.
If I weren’t working in GR I would …
Be back in school, getting a PhD in public policy. I’m extremely interested in how the banality of policy and the actions of those implementing it can often reproduce or create new harm against IBPOC (Indigenous, Black, and Persons of Colour), women and femmes, or marginalized communities. Nerdy answer, I know!
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About Counsel Public Affairs
Established in 2004, Counsel is a national firm with a team of over 30 team members representing Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Ottawa.
Counsel provides a full suite of services in national and provincial government relations and public affairs, including lobbying, crisis communications, strategic communications, media training, “PR4GR” campaigns, public opinion research, Indigenous facilitation, and justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion consulting.
Participate in upcoming features!
For details, contact GRIC Professional Development & Partnerships Chair, Elaine Larsen Wells, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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