About Adrianna Montero: Adrianna Montero currently serves as an SEO and Digital Marketing Strategist for MasterControl, a software company based in Salt Lake City. Her responsibilities include managing content and SEO strategy for the company’s websites, as well as the various paid marketing campaigns used to drive site traffic. Prior to joining MasterControl, Ms. Montero worked as an SEO Specialist at Clearlink, and before that, spent nearly five years as Marketing Director for The Utah Advocates law firm.
Ms. Montero graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Westminster College in 2012. She returned to Westminster to pursue her master’s degree, completing the school’s Master of Strategic Communication program in 2015.
[MastersinCommunications.com] May we please have a brief description of your educational and professional background?
[Adrianna Montero] I started my passion for advertising and marketing at Westminster College as a communication major in the undergraduate program. I graduated in 2012, and then proceeded to apply and accept a spot in Westminster’s Master of Strategic Communication program in 2013. I graduated with my master’s degree in 2015.
All my job positions have been in the communication field, starting with an internship as a content specialist that turned into my first job after college as a Creative Content Manager at an online agency called Spyderwise Media. I managed all the content produced including social media updates, proposals, presentations, and website articles. Our team was small, so I wore many hats and gained experience in various digital marketing and communication areas.
After this position, I accepted a position as a Marketing Director at The Utah Advocates law firm where I built a marketing department and expanded the company into three states over my five years. I helped with both digital communication strategies and traditional media plans. While I worked at the law firm, I started my master’s degree at Westminster.
Currently, I’m the SEO and Digital Specialist at MasterControl, a company that provides industry-specific quality and compliance software solutions to regulated companies. I manage the content of our websites from a technical perspective for the search engines and from a user perspective for format, content, and layout. I must understand the customer journey and match our content to our target persona, so we promote the right message and story. I’m also in charge of various online paid campaigns driving traffic to our site, such as LinkedIn, social media, and pay-per-click (PPC) with Google and Bing.
As I build campaigns and new SEO and content strategies, I work constantly with our internal writing team, design team, and web development team. This requires project management skills and internal communication skills.
Outside of work, I am on the board of the American Advertising Federation of Utah. The AAF-Utah is a group of local advertising and marketing leaders from both in-house marketing departments and advertising agencies. I oversee the communications and PR committee for the group and manage the social posting, event invites, and the website presence.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree in communication, and why did you ultimately choose Westminster College’s Master of Strategic Communication?
[Adrianna Montero] I looked to a graduate program because I wanted to obtain a higher level of strategic thinking in marketing and better my leadership skills. I’ve been in the marketing and strategic communication world my whole career, and I want to continue in this career path. I chose Westminster for my degree because of the competency-based program. I believe in working with real clients on projects that would directly impact their companies as well as practicing skills from the program in my day-to-day work. I appreciated the program enlisting the help of adjunct faculty who are actively working in the communications industry. This allowed for school projects to incorporate new trends and current conversations. Because I’m pursuing a career in digital marketing which is an ever-changing field, faculty who were up-to-date with new tactics was a great benefit.
I researched programs across the country and ended up debating on Westminster and USC Annenberg. Westminster’s competency-based program was built for students working full time and even encouraged remote participation. This allowed for more flexibility in my schedule which I wanted. And again, working outside the classroom on real clients and projects appealed to me.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of your experience completing the curriculum for this program? What key concepts did the program emphasize, and how did the five specific content areas (Rhetoric and Strategic Public Relations, Visual Communication and Brand Strategy, Organizational Communication and Culture, Integrated Marketing Communication, and Instructional Design) inform your learning outcomes? What skills and strategies did you learn in your classes, and how did you apply them to course assignments?
[Adrianna Montero] Every semester helped to grow my overall marketing and communication skills. We focused on five different areas of internal and external communication over the course of the program.
The rhetoric and public relations semester gave me insight on how to review my messaging strategies with a rhetorical lens as well as better understand how my audience might view the message. This isn’t just for the content or copy on the website, but how the images play together, what the design is saying to the user, and so much more. I now look at pieces of content holistically and always strive to think of what the end user is seeing.
Our second semester was focused on grammar. This semester was very tactical and applicable in the moment to everything I did. I was able to edit emails, presentations, proposals, and website content at a higher level. When an error was made, I was able to explain why the grammar was incorrect in the message and how to fix it.
The organizational communication and culture semester was a highlight for me because I find organizational communication fascinating. It was one of my favorite courses in my undergraduate studies as well. Better understanding culture and reading the organizational communication of a company has helped me navigate relationships in a different way. I observe interactions between coworkers, bosses and employees, and I can determine how to proceed with my questions or projects, so I am more successful in my path and career.
The integrated marketing communication (IMC) semester was one of the most applicable to everything I have done and will do in my career. Much of my day-to-day during the program and even now is researching, strategizing, and planning marketing and advertising campaigns. These almost always consider multiple delivery methods which means I have to plan ahead so everything coordinates correctly and stays on brand.
The last semester was focused on instructional design and website creation. Because I had experience in website creation already, I took this semester to advance those skills and jump into the website code more than just the front end. This has helped me as I grow into advanced SEO roles. I also learned how users interact with websites and studied up on user experience (UX) which is a huge aspect of digital marketing that I focus on today.
[MastersinCommunications.com] As a student of Westminster College’s online/hybrid program format, what were your experiences interacting with course faculty and peers both in and outside of classes? What learning technologies did this program use, and were they effective in helping you feel connected to your professors and class cohort?
[Adrianna Montero] The online program format forced me to practice communicating in various ways whether it be with my cohort, mentors, or faculty.
Typically, I communicated with the faculty via email or in person at meetings. If a conversation couldn’t be handled over email, I’d typically schedule an in-person meeting on campus or at a local coffee shop. Access to the mentors was made readily available which helped us stay in communication. Occasionally there were moments I had to jump online during a mentor’s office hours during the evenings when a meeting wasn’t scheduled to get questions answered.
My cohort and I were also in constant communication. We met as often as needed in person when putting final documents together or kicking off projects, and we emailed daily. Our cohort preferred meeting in person, so we worked to schedule meetings in advance. At times, we did have phone conference calls when in person meetings weren’t possible.
The one- or two-day residencies were a great way for our cohorts to kick off the semesters. It was the only mandatory in-person meeting of the program, and it provided an opportunity for the cohort to prepare communication plans and a cadence for the upcoming projects. If there were questions on group projects, we could get answers immediately from the cohort and faculty. The residencies also allowed us to meet the other students which encouraged more networking and connecting with individuals in our industry.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Westminster College’s program is unique in that it includes a fully funded international trip during which students work collaboratively on a field project for a non-profit or other organization. Could you describe your experiences on this trip, and what learning outcomes, professional connections, and hands-on experience you gained from it?
[Adrianna Montero] Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the international trip due to my work load and responsibilities at my office. I was sad to miss out on such an opportunity. Because a few of the students in my cohort were unable to go as well, we all worked longer hours prior to the trip to help prepare projects or tasks that would be finalized on the trip.
I felt like I missed out on some of the humanitarian side of the program because I couldn’t present projects at the nonprofit or have hands-on work with the nonprofit team. I also lost out on the opportunity to bond and build stronger connections with my cohort and others on the trip.
[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please describe your experience completing your Corporate Training and Capstone Project? Which client did you work with, and how did you collaborate with your team of peers on a strategic communication project? How did your faculty advisor(s) support you in your research and work?
[Adrianna Montero] My cohort worked with a nonprofit called Peruvian Hearts. This is a nonprofit in Peru focusing on the education and development of girls in the country to encourage careers and personal growth. Our faculty had a connection to Peruvian Hearts and our Capstone trip was to Peru, so this group made perfect sense. Our cohort was also 100% female, so encouraging young girls to seek education was a cause that resounded with each of us.
The organization had specific goals in mind when we reached out to them. They needed to build a new website and grow their donations. Our team set out to research the best website formats and messaging that would convey the right story to the donor base. I have experience building websites, so I was able to take charge on this aspect of the project and teach my cohort how to build a site. Our faculty advisor was also very web savvy and helped when needed with more advanced layout options and questions. To help grow the donor base, our cohort created a fundraising plan. Much of the research we did was through interviews with those working and volunteering for Peruvian Hearts and reviewing successful fundraising plans and methods. This plan put our integrated marketing communication (IMC) skills to the test, skills we developed in the semester prior to our capstone. The plan included digital, traditional, and grass roots marketing efforts with specific parameters for each section.
We launched the final website and presented the fundraising plan to the nonprofit leaders before the trip to Peru. Those on the trip were able to take videos and photos that would eventually be added to the website to convey the story and message of the nonprofit mission.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What key takeaways, experiences, or connections from Westminster College’s Master of Strategic Communication have you found to be the most helpful for you in your career path?
[Adrianna Montero] There are many key takeaways from my experience in the MSC program at Westminster. Though it was stressful at times and added extra work to my already busy schedule, I wouldn’t change a thing. The experiences and knowledge I gained allowed me to grow and develop in my own career both during the program and now, post-program.
Although each course was useful in its own way, two stand out to me as the most beneficial thus far. One course was on grammar and the other was the IMC course. I’ve always had a solid understanding of grammar and the basic ways to communicate correctly. But this course took grammar to a new level. I not only learned new aspects to grammar, but better understood why sentences were structured in certain ways and how to utilize grammar to make more of a statement in my writing. My emails to team members and bosses now are proofread with a new lens as are my presentations and any documents. The IMC course blended directly into my daily work, and still does today. I work with so many campaigns and various marketing channels, that understanding how they work together and having a holistic approach is crucial to a successful campaign.
One experience that has helped in my career as a marketing leader was being the cohort team lead. I was appointed our cohort team lead for two different semesters which allowed for more project management and leadership experience. When members of the cohort weren’t meeting deadlines or producing work that was up to our standards, I had to hold them accountable and mentor them.
Lastly, and one of the greatest gains from the program, are the connections I made. Those in my cohort and the faculty advisors are still some of my greatest supporters of my career. My cohort still communicates with one another and we meet up to catch up on our lives and encourage career support and guidance. We all have our own strengths, and we can help guide or be a sounding board to one another when necessary.
[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice would you give students just starting Westminster College’s Master of Strategic Communication program? More broadly, what advice would you give students who are either considering or starting a master’s in communication program, whether it is at Westminster College or another university?
[Adrianna Montero] The idea of higher education was always something I wanted to pursue, so for me it was the debate of what school and what program. When finding the right program for you, it’s important to know what type of education you’re looking for. These days, all colleges and universities aren’t the traditional academic environment. The MSC program was competency-based which allowed for more customized projects and focuses while still building the main skills of a strategic communication degree. It also allowed for more current trends to be taught in the classroom and live, applicable strategies to be tested. Some students prefer the standard academic approach with a more theory-based teaching while others want a large class with more opportunity for networking. Knowing the education experience you want will help narrow down your options.
I’m proud that I chose the MSC program in the first place. I knew I wanted a smaller class size with projects that would directly impact my career and work at the time, but I’m a more traditional student when it comes to learning. I love lectures and long readings, so the MSC program was out of my comfort zone, though everything I wanted. It forced me to step out of the box and communicate and learn differently which has helped my career.
Thank you, Ms. Montero, for your excellent insights on Westminster College’s Master of Strategic Communication program!