About Kate Kundrat: Kate Kundrat is a Social Media and Digital Marketing Strategist, who has extensive experience working with Fortune 100 companies and other high-profile clients. For the past three years, she has worked as a Social Marketing Manager at the Cola-Cola Company, consulting on social strategies for brands such as Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Sprite, Dasani, Minute Maid, VitaminWater, and more. Her resume also includes positions at Capital One and Profiles in Washington, DC, as well as consulting work for Citibank, The Nature Conservancy, and The Ogilvy Group UK.
Ms. Kundrat attended Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois for her undergrad, earning a Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies with a focus on Corporate Communication and Marketing. She completed her master’s degree 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?
[Kate Kundrat] Professionally, I’m a member of the Coca-Cola Social Leadership Team, tasked with building a Social Center of Excellence with the agility of a startup. I provide consultation on growth, strategy and best practices for social media marketing and engagement for the top CPG billion-dollar brands in North America. My goal is to bring brilliant stories to life, and to influence consumer behavior and beliefs. Formerly, I’ve worked with Capital One and consulted with Citibank, The Nature Conservancy, and The Ogilvy Group UK.
I earned a Bachelor of Science in Communication from Olivet Nazarene University near Chicago, and a Master of Professional Studies in Public Relations and Corporate Communications at Georgetown University.
[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?
[Kate Kundrat] After I completed my undergraduate degree and had a bit of work experience, I knew that I needed to build my brain–and my network–in order to achieve my goals professionally. I appreciated that the PR/CC program was built for professionals, which allowed me to both work and go to school full-time to finish the degree in a little over a year.
While Georgetown is a highly-respected name in traditional academia, I was pleasantly surprised that the required coursework was modern and practical. Having professors who have established careers in their relevant fields brought a sense of authenticity to what they were teaching, and none of the projects felt extraneous. The fact that the Capstone course meant working with a client on a communications plan (rather than writing a 300-page thesis) is just one example of that.
[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?
[Kate Kundrat] While I was attending, there were elements of both structure and flexibility within the program. The required courses provided foundational and thorough knowledge of IMC planning. Additional courses could be selected based on your passion and interest, so I gravitated toward those with a focus on digital marketing.
Georgetown taught a holistic approach to IMC planning: starting with the brief, then research, strategy, and tactics. It’s this framework that carried me across course assignments, and into my career. So often, people jump straight to the tactics (since that’s what brings the ideas to life) but being grounded in data and strategy is what sets up any campaign or project for success.
At the time, one of my favorite courses was on global marketing, taught by Rohit Bhargava. We were given the opportunity to travel to London and complete consultation projects for international clients. Instead of writing essays, we wrote blog posts, and instead of reading textbooks, we evaluated marketing campaigns that were currently active in the marketplace. I never felt like my time was wasted in that course.
[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?
[Kate Kundrat] I chose the Nature Conservancy as my Capstone client. Their communication challenge was how to increase brand relevancy with a younger demographic, since the average age of their membership at the time was 62. I worked with the Director of Cause Marketing to expand upon their upcoming campaign, “All Hands On Earth” in order to reach the millennial audience. I used a blend of primary and secondary research to complete the situation analysis and based the recommended tactics off of their available project budget.
My plan included a background, situation analysis, goal and objectives, brand positioning, messaging, strategies and tactics, budget, calendar and evaluation criteria. In addition to the full written IMC plan, I prepared a visual presentation for my peers and capstone advisors.
I would advise future students to pick a client that they are inherently interested in, because you spend a huge amount of time and focus on the brand to bring the IMC plan to life. Also, I’d recommend outlining your own project timeline carefully, since the project is so complex it would be impossible to procrastinate. This is more than a course assignment, it’s an opportunity to build your portfolio, so it’s worth the extra time and attention to detail.
[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?
[Kate Kundrat] In my day-to-day work, it seems like I’m always flexing my communication muscles. Whether it’s helping to develop high-level strategic plans, collaborating with key stakeholders, presenting to senior leadership, directing a team, or problem-solving across time zones. As I’ve mentioned before, Elements of Communications Planning provided a solid holistic and foundational approach to IMC, and the digital communication classes at the time used instructors who were subject matter experts working in the field, so the content was fresh and relevant.
At the time I was a student, Georgetown had a strong grasp of developments in communications technology. However, I try to stay mindful of current events, industry trends, and emerging platform innovations, to ensure that my work stays relevant and that I continue to experiment within the constantly changing landscape.
[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?
[Kate Kundrat] For those generally considering a master’s degree, choose a program that’s worth your time and investment. Generally, I think companies value work experience over a diploma, so think about what skills and resources you need to further your career, and choose a graduate program to help you get there.
Say “yes” to every opportunity. As an introvert, I inwardly cringe at the thought of a networking happy hour, but you never know where a connection may lead. “Experience” is just a collection of past moments, anecdotes, and lessons that you can draw from to tackle future endeavors, and some of those moments only exist outside of your standard 9-to-5 workday.
Thank you, Ms. Kundrat, for your excellent insights on Georgetown University’s Master of Professional Studies in Public Relations and Corporate Communications program!