Successful AU Alumna Series: Morgan Gress

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

Morgan Gress knows how to communicate strategically. Whether she’s telling a brand’s story online or crafting tactics for editorial work, she continues to excel as a well-versed public relations professional. As a 2012 graduate of AU’s School of Communication, Morgan received a degree in Public Communication with a minor in Art History. Currently, Morgan is an editor at 1776, a global incubator for startups who contribute to education, energy, sustainability, government and other important industries.

Her Campus American University: What made you want to work at 1776? How did your previous editorial positions lead to this role?

Morgan Gress: I was excited about two big things when I accepted the position at 1776. First, the 1776 mission to help startups changing the world in industries that affect our everyday lives like education, energy, health and others. The chance to be a part of that story was one I could not pass up. The second thing that made we want to work for 1776 was the opportunity to build something from scratch with a great group of people. That kind of challenge doesn’t present itself very often. My previous positions gave me a good mix of PR, marketing and editorial perspective, which I knew would be a necessary trifecta in this role. No matter what department you’re in, telling a great story is a key skill and I think my past editorial experience helped develop that before I joined 1776.

HCAU: Did you always know you were interested in writing and editing when studying public communication?

MG: I don’t think you can divorce writing and editing from communication. It’s really the foundation. Plus, I wanted to be a magazine editor when I was growing up, so it was always in the back of my mind!

HCAU: What made you want to work in both PR and journalism?

MG: I happened by those opportunities by way of an internship I took my senior year of college. It was less about the actual work or what the individual organizations did, and more about the creative and awesome people (including our FamousDC readership!) I had the good fortune to work with in my roles. If there is ever a choice between prestige and people, I say go for the people. It hasn’t failed me yet.

HCAU: Walk us through a typical day. What are your primary duties and responsibilities at 1776?

MG: I can’t say there is a typical day when working for a startup, but I standardly start out organizing the priorities ahead for me and my team. It’s then a bit of editing and approving content, followed by meetings with the different organizational leads to make sure we’re integrating with their teams and helping each part of 1776 achieve its goals. One of the best parts about my job is that I work closely with everyone on the team. My role is to make sure that the entire digital marketing team – from blog posts to Instagram to Facebook ads – is positioning the 1776 brand in a way that resonates and engages our audience. We do this through a lot of different platforms and tactics, but the most important one is storytelling so I spend a lot of time thinking about the story we are telling everyday.

HCAU: What is your favorite part of working at 1776?

MG: Have I already talked about the people? In all seriousness though, I guess I have three favorite things: 1. The people and entrepreneurs that I work with everyday, who are working so hard to make this world a bit better. 2. The opportunity to build a branded content platform that helps those entrepreneurs tell their story is not just a great challenge, it’s fun! and 3. To see that the work I do isn’t just focused on DC or even the U.S., but really has international implications. Challenge Cup is a great example of entrepreneurship around the world and experiencing it firsthand is beyond inspiring.

HCAU: You’ve been able to create content centering on education, energy, health and smart cities at 1776. What is your favorite topic to write about?

MG: I really like smart cities. It’s fun to think about my commute and what company is going to make it better or how I pay for something and to think that will be improved in five years from now by a startup member that sits next to me at 1776.

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

MG: Hustle.

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

MG: Yes, be a good writer and check all those boxes so you get in the door, but after you’re there be smart about how the business works. If you know your clients’ businesses and you know your firm’s (or wherever you work) priorities and business model, you’ll know the right way to standout by providing value. Many times communication degrees don’t require math or financial courses – take one.

HCAU: Where do you see yourself in five years?

MG: I’m not sure where that will be or with what company, but I hope that it will be with great, creative people working toward something meaningful.  

All photos courtesy of Morgan Gress.