About Annie Lorenzana: Annie Lorenzana is an experienced Public Relations, Corporate Communications, and Digital Media Professional, who currently works as a Senior Communications Specialist for American Airlines. Before this, she was a Digital Media Specialist at Sabre Corporation, and worked as a Communications Representative at Lockheed Martin. Ms. Lorenzana began her career in the non-profit sector, working for organizations such as Mobilize.org, Rock the Vote, and ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Ms. Lorenzana attended Jacksonville University for her undergrad, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English and Theater Arts. In 2016, she completed her master’s through the Master of Professional Studies in Public Relations and Corporate Communications program at Georgetown University.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Annie Lorenzana] I earned my undergraduate degree in English and Theater Arts from Jacksonville University. At the time, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do (shocking!) but had a knack for words and storytelling and was drawn to mission-based organizations.
I spent a few years working for non-profits in a variety of communications roles and became a generalist of sorts. After some time, I began thinking of graduate school and hoping it would serve two purposes: expand my knowledge of communications and provide a network I could carry with me for the rest of my career. I chose Georgetown University School of Professional Studies and earned a degree in Corporate Communications and Public Relations.
While attending Georgetown, I began my communications role for a for-profit company. I was able to apply the knowledge I received from Georgetown into real-life business goals. Since then, I’ve continued to work in corporate communications roles, including in my current position with American Airlines.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication, and why did you ultimately choose the Master of Professional Studies in Public Relations and Corporate Communications program at Georgetown University?
[Annie Lorenzana] I decided to pursue a master’s degree in communication to expand my knowledge and also build a professional network. With these two objectives in mind, I was able to filter programs to help find the right fit.
Once I had narrowed down to a few programs, I looked more into the type of students and faculty at each program. I liked that Georgetown typically had an older student population, meaning they weren’t straight out of undergraduate. This is important if you are looking to build a cohort of mid-career professionals. I wanted to collaborate with students who had experience in the real world and brought their daily challenges into the classroom for input and consideration.
For faculty, I hoped to learn from the best in the business – public relations professionals who had worked for the major corporations, navigated incredible crisis scenarios, and were willing to share their field notes.
Georgetown was upfront about its applied approach to PR/CC. This also aligned with experience I was hoping to gain.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is Georgetown’s MPS program structured, and what concepts did the program emphasize? What skills and strategies did you learn in your classes, and how did you apply them to course assignments?
[Annie Lorenzana] Georgetown’s MPS program requires all students to complete Ethics, Communications Planning and Capstone. You’ll also learn Georgetown’s framework for communications plans, which has become my go-to standard for any major communication project.
Students have the option to select courses beyond these required three that most fit their needs. Unlike undergraduate, I was really selective of the courses I took. I made sure to seek out classes that either filled a knowledge gap or expanded an area I wanted to pursue professionally. For me, these included PR writing, speech writing, communications research and crisis communications. I also surprisingly really enjoyed Georgetown’s required Ethics course.
From these classes, I learned standard communications skills like writing a press release, building a media list and auditing research data. But I also learned about and analyzed some of the challenging scenarios today’s communications professionals are put in, and how developing my own personal code of ethics and standards could help me navigate these types of events in my own career.
To be honest, Georgetown’s MPS PR/CC is a program where you can either check in or check out. Not to say it’s easy, but I do think the people who had incredible experiences did so because they chose to engage. I’d think all grad students take this approach (hello, look at how much you are spending!), but that’s just not the case. So, if you are going to go for it, make sure you go for it.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experience completing your capstone project? What communication issue or challenge did it address, and what were your primary deliverables (i.e. communications plan, tutorial, video, visual marketing materials, etc.)? What advice do you have for students in terms of successfully completing their project?
[Annie Lorenzana] I really struggled to find the right Capstone client. My professional experience to that point had been primarily in non-profit, so I wanted a client that offered experience working for B2B or B2C. But those companies aren’t always looking for pro-bono, grad school work.
After a lot of looking, I found a company that was transitioning from a food truck to its first brick-and-mortar store. From the start, I could see there were a ton of communication opportunities and needs, and that really excited me.
I worked pretty autonomously from the client beyond a few check-in calls. I really felt like I hit my stride in finding and building client research with this project. Unfortunately, not a ton of corporations have access to expansive databases, but if you ever work with contractors or are part of any RFP process, knowing how to find data and understanding how/when it’s being manipulated is a VERY valuable skillset.
My advice for capstone students would be to know what you want out of your experience. Do you want to work for a certain industry? Do you want a communication plan that focuses on certain channels or has a specific audience? Know what you want to get out of this from the start, and then pursue a client that offers that experience.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from Georgetown’s PR and Corporate Communications program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Annie Lorenzana] Personally, Ethics was a surprise hit. Not only was the course interesting and thought-provoking, but it helped me really understand what I wanted out of a career. The topics covered are timeless – and I admit I’ve revisited them during job searches and interviews on multiple occasions!
The Georgetown communication framework quickly became my standard for communications planning. It’s everything you need in a plan, and going through each step is always a great reminder of the conversations and lessons I learned in graduate school.
Beyond these items, Georgetown showed me how much I could improve when I was actively listening and learning, and had dedicated time to professional development. You will grow so much in graduate school because the environment is dedicated to your development. But outside of that environment, you have to maintain your own momentum. You’ll have to be disciplined into finding time to read case studies, attend lectures or just take a few minutes to chat with a friend who works at another company. These things take effort and they also take time. If I left Georgetown with one thing, it was knowing the value of this investment.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting Georgetown University’s Master of Professional Studies in Public Relations and Corporate Communications program? More broadly, what advice would you give students who are either considering or starting a master’s in communication program, whether it be at Georgetown or another university?
[Annie Lorenzana] Know what you want: You need direction in graduate school in order to get the skills and experiences that are most valuable to your personal and professional development.
Be selective: It’s okay to take an extra semester so you can get into the classes you really want. And it’s okay to take a semester off if you are overwhelmed at work and not able to fully commit to the classroom. Take your time and get everything you can out of the opportunity.
Have an exit plan: Admittedly, this is something I wished I had spent a little more time on. After you graduate, you should still have a development plan! Keep your learning agility strong by knowing how you can be involved with your alma mater. Join professional organizations, attend conferences, keep going… and growing.
Thank you, Ms. Lorenzana, for your excellent insights on Georgetown University’s Master of Professional Studies in Public Relations and Corporate Communications program!