Successful AU Alumna Series: Katie Castellano

This is an installment of a series featuring successful American University alumna.

Are you looking to get more likes on your next Instagram photo? Katie Castellano can help. Katie fully embraces the digital marketing world and is passionate about implementing successful social media strategy. As a 2015 graduate of AU's School of Communication, Katie earned a degree in Public Communication with minor in Cinema Studies. During her time at AU, she served as the President of AU's Social Media Club, worked as an SOC ambassador and held communication-focused internships. Currently, she works as a Community Manager for Meredith Xcelerated Marketing (MXM), a full-service content marketing agency. 

Her Campus American University: How did you develop a passion for public relations and marketing?

Katie Castellano: When I applied to AU, I thought maybe I would major in journalism. I learned that it wasn’t for me. After taking some classes and getting more involved in clubs, I discovered my passion for public relations and marketing. I took Understanding Media with Scott Talan, and his class definitely solidified my interest in the field. That’s also when I first heard about AU Social Media Club, which I credit for helping me get to where I am today!

HCAU: What made you want to work at MXM?

KC: I had heard several people from MXM speak at Social Media Club events, specifically at the Social Learning Summit. I knew that I wanted to pursue social media marketing, so I always had MXM in the back of my mind.

HCAU: How did your previous internships and involvement in AU’s Social Media Club prepare you for your position at MXM?

KC: Social Media Club introduced me to the company in the first place, so it helped me develop relationships with people who worked at the company and who I work with now! The one internship I had that taught me a great deal about social media marketing was at National Geographic Channel. I worked alongside the social media team and helped brainstorm ideas, write copy and find assets for different social posts. National Geographic Channel strives to make the internship program educational, and it was by far the best internship experience I had during my time at AU, and where I learned the most.

HCAU: Walk me through a typical day at MXM. What are your primary duties and responsibilities?

KC: Every day is different! As a Community Manager, I write editorial calendars, gather data for reports and monitor social media platforms, which include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. My client is a coffee company, so we have customers writing to us on social media asking us all sorts of questions and comments – from product availability to compliments and sharing love of the brand. I am responsible for engaging with those users on behalf of the brand. In addition to these common responsibilities, I also assist in the planning and execution of social activations like tweet chats or online giveaways.

HCAU: What is your favorite part of working at MXM?

KC: Definitely the people! One of MXM’s core values is “Have Each Other’s Backs,” and I always feel supported by my teammates and coworkers. I look forward to going to work every day and a big part of that is the people I work with! We take our work seriously, but we also know how to have fun during the process.

HCAU: What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

KC: Almost every communications professor I had at AU emphasized the importance of a hand-written thank you note. Professor Kumar especially emphasized this! My current boss at MXM still has my thank you note at her desk, and says that was a huge plus for her when hiring me. Writing a thank-you note after an interview shows that you care and that you really want the position. Always, always, always email a thank you the day of an interview and then follow up with a handwritten thank-you note.

HCAU: What advice do you have for current AU students looking to break into the strategic communication field?

KC: Intern as much as you can! Not only will you learn a lot, but you will impress potential employers with your internship experience. It shows that you acquired valuable communication skills, while at the same time organized and efficient. Interning while being a full-time student, while also being involved in clubs (also get involved in a relevant club!) and maybe maintaining a part-time job shows that you know how to manage your time well.

HCAU: For students interested in working in social media—what positions or job titles should they be looking for?

KC: At MXM, the entry-level position is “Community Manager.” I would also look for titles like “Social Media Coordinator” or “Marketing Coordinator."

HCAU: What are some of your top personal branding tips?

KC: For online, try and get a professional headshot! Different AU clubs will have events where they bring in a photographer takes headshots for professional profiles (AU Social Media Club has one every year!). If you are unable to do that, find a friend with a good camera and see if they can help you out. For in person, I would get business cards. You can get them pretty cheap online, with the option to design them yourself. I always kept a few in my wallet – you never know when you could meet a potential connection!

HCAU: Where do you see yourself in five years?

KC: I hope to still be doing social media marketing, but with more responsibilities! I absolutely love what I am doing now, and I can’t wait to move up in the field.