About Bethany Sims: Bethany Sims is a Senior Account Executive at Porter Novelli, one of the world’s leading public relations agencies. Her job entails producing and executing integrated communication plans for her clients, managing earned and social media teams, and creating content for cross-channel campaigns. She is passionate about consumer-centric thinking and transforming complex concepts into simple and engaging communications.
Ms. Sims holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing from the University of Kentucky. She completed her master’s in 2018, graduating from Georgetown University’s Master of Professional Studies in Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Bethany Sims] Like many young professionals, I had several jobs after graduating college before I found the right fit for me. After earning my undergrad degree in marketing from University of Kentucky, I was a creative recruiter for my first position. Recruiting taught me the basics of how creative and communication teams are structured for large companies, which was a good start for my career. I realized I would rather be doing many of the jobs I was recruiting for and my next role was as a marketing manager for a financial services startup.
After that, it was onto Washington, DC as marketing director for a small business focused on financial services. Working at startups and small companies early in my career helped me understand the field of communications and marketing. On small teams, you get to try more and learn what you want to specialize in early in your career. Now, I’m with Porter Novelli, a global PR firm. I was connected to Porter Novelli through my research professor my second semester of grad school, so my master’s program paid off for me quickly.
[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 Integrated Marketing Communications program at Georgetown University?
[Bethany Sims] After working in marketing for five years, I knew that I wanted to specialize in communications. While I think it was good for me to start out at small companies, I knew I wanted to try to work for different industries on a larger scale. At first, I started to explore everything from certificate programs to getting my MBA, but I didn’t see a way to get what I wanted without going back to school for communications.
Ultimately, I choose Georgetown’s IMC program for the mix of consumer-focused research, branding courses and the heavy focus on writing. It was the only program I applied to and it turned out to be the right choice for me.
[MastersinCommunications.com] How is Georgetown’s IMC 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?
[Bethany Sims] Georgetown has four core classes you have to take before going into the variety of electives. My issue was I wanted to take everything. The two most practically helpful classes were focused on research and analytics. We got to dive into the different tools and software for our assignments and had class time to use the tools, which is such a help now in my day-to-day role.
I also really liked that it was structured for students who wanted to keep working while in school. So many of the lectures were like practice I could apply to my full-time job the next day. The professors are all active communication professionals so the real-life examples are extremely helpful.
When thinking about classes to take, make sure you select electives that offer variety to add to your skillset. A few of the classes I took taught similar skills and I wish I would have diversified my selection a bit more. There were a few courses I wanted to take but didn’t get the chance to because of scheduling conflicts or the class not being offered during certain semesters. The management and budgeting class, as well as the public speaking class, would have both been beneficial and practical skills.
[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?
[Bethany Sims] For my capstone, the final deliverable was a fully integrated communications plan to solve for your client’s challenge. In Georgetown’s program, students find their own client, but if you have trouble, advisors are quick to help with connections and recommendations.
My client was the US Chamber of Commerce, and the challenge was to craft a communications plan for a digital product scheduled for launch in 2019. My challenge was a bit unique in launching a communications program for a yet-to-be-launched product, but I was fortunate to have a highly involved client who was able to provide a lot of research. Capstone is structured for several deliverables throughout the semester which helps to keep the project on track. Students must conduct primary research, write a plan outline, and deliver the final plan as key deliverables. We had weekly class meetings and a weekly check-in scheduled with our advisor.
I presented my plan twice, once to my class and once to my client at their offices. The client presentation wasn’t required, but I wanted to present my plan after spending so much time on it. After three months of work, it really all came down to a 15-minute presentation and a 25-page deck.
For future or current master’s students, it is never too soon to start thinking about your capstone project for your course. Pick an industry you are somewhat familiar with; your final result will be better and your client connection stronger. Also utilize your classmates, everyone is going through this together and I found it was so helpful to meet up to bounce ideas off each other.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from Georgetown’s MPS in Integrated Marketing Communications program have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Bethany Sims] The network, hands down. Yes, you want to do a good job in class, but the lasting impact from your program are your connections. Part of that is how you conduct yourself in class. Would you give a job to your classmate who texted through class or wasn’t engaged? Know how you are building a reputation in the classroom with your peers, professors, and guest speakers. When I was looking for a job, I took every guest speaker I could to coffee and had a specific ask to talk about my career. I got three interviews from doing that and landed a job through my research professor. She had seen my work all semester and when she heard I was looking, generously offered to pass on my resume to her old firm with a recommendation.
As far as connections, I think that is something that will pay off for a long time. My fellow alumni and I are basically all at the same level in our career right now but down the road, that’s where future jobs and new business leads will come from. The Georgetown network will be a valuable resource at every stage in my career.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting Georgetown University’s Master of Professional Studies in Integrated Marking 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?
[Bethany Sims] You’ll freak out a few times the first semester but just focus on getting that first semester out of the way. Learned confidence is the best way to prove to yourself you can do this. If you are considering getting a master’s, there are a few things you should check before starting. First, the cost. How are you going to pay for school? I took out loans because I was fortunate enough not to have any undergrad debt because of scholarships and generous parents. But I found that many companies have scholarship programs for graduate students and employers can be willing to help out.
Second, why are you doing this? I remember talking to a friend who was applying to MBA programs because it “seemed like a good next step.” Don’t go back and get your master’s because you think it’s the next thing you need to do to check a box or reach a standard. Go back to get your master’s if you know it will open the door you want to go through in your chosen field. Third, pick some things to cut. While I was working and in school, I dropped my volunteer activities and kept Friday night as my time to take off from any type of work. Other than that, I was mainly doing homework. I missed a lot of parties, birthdays, and trips but now that my master’s is behind me and I got the job I wanted, I know it was all worth it.
Thank you, Ms. Sims, for your excellent insights on Georgetown University’s Master of Professional Studies in Integrated Marking Communications program!