by Annisa Charles
In 1988, Suzi Brown received her degree in communications with a concentration in public relations (PR) from Cal State Fullerton. Twenty years later, she went on to work for the largest employer in Orange County, CA.
Brown loved writing, so in college, she chose PR as her emphasis and even joined PRSSA. She liked that there aren’t as many tight deadlines or self-publicity as in journalism. She also enjoyed how PR involves making a strategy and seeing the ramifications of your labor.
Working in PR means being responsive and handling crisis and reputation management, which is very strategic, said Brown.
During her last semester at CSUF, she interned at Disneyland and was ecstatic. She always wanted to work there due to it seeming like a fun company, but after the internship was over, there were no positions available to hire her. Brown’s dream was to be hired and work for Disney one day. “So I vowed to myself that someday I would get back to Disney, and it took me 20 years,” she said.
After her Disney internship, she applied to the City of Anaheim and was hired as a communication specialist for the utilities department. She went on to work for the parent company of Carl’s Jr restaurants, starting as a manager and receiving a promotion to director.
The company was moving, and she decided she couldn’t move due to her children. She took on a public information officer job at Anaheim Elementary School District. During the interview, she admitted she knew nothing about school PR. They said it was something she could learn, and she still landed the job. Brown said it was because they wanted someone who knew Anaheim; at this point, all her employment had been within Anaheim.
The schools were all around Disneyland, so the company would reach out and want to work with the schools. Due to this constant connection, Brown gained Disney connections that would eventually tell her that a position opened as the director of media relations. This was 20 years after interning at Disneyland, but she applied for the position and got it.
Today, Brown is the vice president of communications, meaning she oversees internal, external and executive communications. She explained this includes checking and creating communications for fans, Cast Members and the press; communicating with everyone effectively keeps everyone in the loop of what’s going on and keeps everyone happy.
Now, 20 years later, her reasoning for wanting to work for them had changed. She explained after having so many experiences with other companies, she wanted to work for them because she feels strongly about Disney and supports their views.
Brown advises students to try and work for smaller companies first to build resumes. She explained that when working for a small business, you get experience working in many different PR/communication aspects, as she did when she worked for the city of Anaheim. This can benefit recent graduates trying to figure out what direction in their career they want to pursue and adds to their skills for future jobs.
Another piece of advice Brown gives to students is to create their own experiences when trying to get a job that requires prior experience. This can be done through volunteer work, which shows you’re passionate and adds to your portfolio.
“It’s hard to get that first experience, but sometimes you have do it yourself. There’s a saying, ‘Don’t wait for your ship to come in. Sometimes you have to swim out to meet it.',” said Brown.