Member Spotlight: Matt Charles, DPA, APR

As an independent communications practitioner, Matt Charles, DPA, APR, specializes in media relations, crisis communications, issues management and community engagement services for non-profits, higher education and startups. Past experience includes serving as deputy spokesperson for the University of Virginia, director of media relations for the UVA Darden School of Business, director of communications and public relations for Danville (Va.) Regional Foundation, special investigator for the New York City Administration for Children Services and on-camera television host. Matt also works as a professor of strategic communication and public relations teaching at UVA, American University, Northeastern University, Purdue University, University of Maryland University College, University of Denver University College and Chautauqua Institution Special Studies program.

In August, Matt was appointed to the Fulbright Specialist Communications and Journalism roster  — a unique opportunity for U.S. academics and established professionals to engage in two- to six-week, project-based exchanges at host institutions across the globe.

Learn more about his work at

Where are you from? Where did you go to school?

I am from Danville, Virginia, but lived in Richmond, New York City and Los Angeles before my wife, Melissa, and I and returned to Charlottesville to raise our son, Cooper. We both attended the University of Virginia as undergrads. I also earned a master’s from Virginia Commonwealth University, doctorate from Valdosta State University and certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University.

How long have you been an Independent Practitioner (IP)?

I’ve been an IP since 2003, doing some consulting while holding full-time positions. However, I recently transitioned to IP and teaching full-time. This allows more time for family.

What’s your favorite part of having your own business?

No day is the same — it could entail running a press conference, consulting on a crisis, facilitating a community event or teaching a class. I also appreciate getting to know new clients. Really understanding their business, goals and objectives helps us together achieve actionable business outcomes.

What do you find most challenging about having your own business?

Balancing incoming requests from new clients. I always want to help and I have learned how to manage my day to get it all done. Coming from a 24/7 crisis management position at UVA really helps me schedule my time.

What does public relations mean to you?

Successful public relations involves two-way engagement where the practitioner really listens to the needs of target audiences. From an inside perspective, it is essential to have access to senior leaders to assist with policy-making. This helps head off potential issues before they become issues — or worse — crises.

What excites you most about PR and the future of the industry?

It is constantly changing from day-to-day. With emerging media that operates on a 24/7 news cycle and new technologies, there is a lot of opportunity to learn new things to better monitor for issues and engage with key publics.

Can you share the best career advice you’ve received?

Always maintain perspective. By that I mean when things seem really tough, realize that things could always be a lot worse. Be mindful, take a breath, keep an even head. These actions help one stay grounded to get the job done.

What has been your greatest experience or achievement in your career to date?

I have had the honor of working with several high-performing teams at some pretty amazing institutions. That being said, for me it’s things like helping a student who is going through a rough time with their family or in their job get through a class or securing media coverage for the theatre company and nonprofit organization my wife started.

When you’re not working, where can we find you?

You ask that question at an interesting time in my life. I was heavily involved in coaching my son’s baseball teams and helping him earn his black belt in taekwondo. He now has fallen in love with acting (which isn’t a surprise given my wife’s background as a theatre, TV and film actor), so it is safe to say I will be spending more time at the theatre.

One last question: What’s your favorite restaurant in RVA?

Burger Bach.