CLAS Industry Spotlight: Public Relations

Trying to decide how to use your CLAS degree when you graduate? Have you considered a career in public relations? “Public relations specialists create and maintain a favorable public image for the organization they represent. They design media releases to shape public perception of their organization and to increase awareness of its work and goals” (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Start exploring a career in PR today!

In this post:

Alumni Insights:


Chet Dalzell, ’83
Senior Director, Communications & Industry Relations at Digital Advertising Alliance
College Major: Journalism
LinkedIn URL: (If you reach out to Chet on LinkedIn, remember to mention that you found his info through this blog post)

Why did you decide to pursue a career in public relations? (See Response)
What is your favorite part about your job? (See response)
What advice do you have for current students looking to enter this field? (See Response)

Relevant Articles:
From Intern to Account Executive: How to Grow a Career in PR
2015-01-15 by Richard D. Pace

“Securing a position as an intern takes well-planned strategies. From an objective point of view, an intern is in a good position to make the step from intern to account executive. There are several points to consider [in order] to achieve this goal. College students should be vigilant of potential internships available in top firms during semester breaks or summer vacations. This is a good way to earn job valuable experience in this field. It’s extremely important for college students to focus on the details of their experience in public relations gained from entry level jobs to internships…”

Structure of Public Relations Industry:
“The public relations industry consists of various structures: corporate agencies dedicated solely to providing public relations services, independent public relations firms, solo practitioners, and then there are public affairs and public relations departments (in-house) within corporations, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and colleges and universities. A single designated distribution channel for public relations content does not exist; instead, PR professionals rely on all available media outlets to gather information as well as spread news on behalf of their clients. They work closely with journalists at television stations, magazines, newspapers, Web sites, and radio stations to pitch and place stories. They also gather information as part of their communications strategy for clients. Depending on the type of agency or specialty of the individual practitioner, public relations services may be offered in areas such as brand marketing, corporate positioning, corporate social responsibility, crisis management, digital marketing, opinion research, organizational communications, public affairs/government relations, as well as general public relations.” (Retrieved from

Related Positions:

(Retrieved from

Industry Job Boards:
Search for internships and jobs
Media Bistro
O’Dwyer’s PR

Professional Associations:
Build your professional network and industry knowledge. Additional professional associations on

Public Relations Society of America: Resources for networking, professional recognition, professional development and education, industry blogs, and a job center.

The Association for Women in Communications: “AWC is a professional organization that champions the advancement of women across all communications disciplines by recognizing excellence, promoting leadership and positioning its members at the forefront of the evolving communications era.”

Additional Research Resources:

Adweek: “Adweek is the leading source of news for marketing, media and advertising professionals. It delivers insightful, forward-thinking content across various platforms”

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Public Relations Specialist – Center for Communication: “Center for Communication is an independent nonprofit media forum with 501(c) (3) status that was founded in 1980 by the late Dr. Frank Stanton, president of CBS Corp. The mission is to bridge the gap between the media and entertainment industry and the colleges and universities. The Center’s extensive program of 45 FREE seminars and workshops picks up where the academic world leaves off, offering students the opportunity to experience firsthand the inner-workings of the media industry, and learn from leading professionals in all fields of media and communications.”

Council of Public Relations Firms: Includes industry related blog posts and career advice.

PR Week: “Breaking news, analysis, and opinion fuels and is distributed through the Breakfast Briefing, Weekly Online edition, Twitter, and Facebook.”

(Additional resources on, Industry Guides, and O*NET)

Interview with Chet Dalzell, ’83
Senior Director, Communications & Industry Relations at Digital Advertising Alliance

Why did you decide to pursue a career in public relations?
It was really by accident! When I was graduated, my journalism experience was limited to WHUS-FM where I had been a news director, supplemented by an academic exercise: an Honors Thesis on the impact of unions on Fleet Street in London (my last semester at UConn happened to be the university’s first England study-abroad program). When I had returned from Europe, I started applying for jobs anywhere a reporter, writer or editor was sought. I had some great interviews, but no firm offers, until I applied at the State Capitol for a press officer post – and got it (hired by another UConn journalism grad, by the way, who I had not previously known). It paid just $11,700/year – and I was ecstatic. I quickly learned that journalism and liberal arts curricula and experiences well prepare PR spokespersons and writers. My career track began – and I’ve only moved forward.

What is your favorite part about your job?
Bringing people together and discovering common ground is what makes me tick. PR sometimes is cast as “creating buzz,” “developing and delivering key messages” and “spinning” negative and positive circumstances, and sometimes, on the face of PR in practice, it can involve any of these situations and all the connotations. At the heart of what I seek to do as a PR professional is to establish greater education and understanding for the clients I represent among the audiences that matter to them most. Sometimes that audience is the public at large. Sometimes it’s an individual thought leader – but when you can achieve recognition and understanding, you can start to build bridges. Trust is the currency we seek to earn.

What advice do you have for current students looking to enter this field?
I never thought of my UConn education as a means for getting a job, but rather as a discipline to teach myself how to be curious, how to unlock knowledge, how to apply information practically and enjoyably, and maybe, even, make the community and the world a better place. This perspective might serve others, too, in my field. My academic advisor encouraged me to study every subject I had the least bit of interest in – while meeting degree requirements – and to broaden my world view in ways that confronted, almost constantly, my own comfort zones. Beginning my career as a generalist gave me an ability to meet with total strangers, and those who may root for the other side, and discover what is shared and valued. There’s plenty of time in one’s career to become a specialist, and my own PR practice enabled my development of focused expertise in advertising and marketing. I’d love to tell any student to venture out in the world, discover his or her own individuality, celebrate it – respect others in doing the same – and learn to learn, and apply knowledge constructively. When I see a résumé, or meet a job prospect, yes I pay attention to academic excellence among new grads and an ability to express oneself with confidence, but I’m constantly drawn to those who have diverse experiences, often far from my own. After being intrigued by these differences you can bet I then look to discover the experiences that we share!

Unless otherwise cited, direct quotes are from the organization’s “about me” page. The UConn Center for Career Development does our best to provide up to date, relevant resources, however the CCD does not specifically endorse any of these sites. Before joining an organization, investing in classes, or utilizing a placement agency be sure to check its credentials through additional sources.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Public Relations Specialists,
on the Internet at (visited February 06, 2015).

By Emily Merritt
Emily Merritt Career Consultant, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Emily Merritt