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COMSTRAT 383 - Spring 2016 Syllabus

COMSTRAT 383  – Creative Media Strategies & Techniques (3 CREDITS) Instructor:  Brett Atwood                                Office...

Good Night, and Good Luck

To the students of COMSTRAT 383:

Thank you!!!

I had a fantastic time working with you this past semester. It was a pleasure to work with all of you on your semester-long projects.

Please have a safe and fun summer! :)

Semester Portfolio Project


Throughout the semester, you will be working on a portfolio designed to use your PR skills. I will be sharing examples of completed physical portfolios in class today.


The first step in this project is to determine what client you would like to develop a portfolio for. You should identify a local business, nonprofit or organization that you would like to partner with for this semester-long project. This will be your "client" that you will connect with as you research and gather information for this project. Once you have a potential client, you will need to get it approved by the instructor.

After that, you will want to meet with your client to begin researching and gathering information for this project.


Some things to consider in choosing your client:
  • Is there an aspect of this organization that I personally connect to? 
  • Is this client in an industry that relates to my ultimate career goal? 
  • What degree of difficulty will there be in getting cooperation from this client? 
  • Will I need to get approval from a national corporate office for some of the campaign elements? 
  • Is my campaign contribution original and unique? 
  • Is there an identifiable need for a PR campaign in the potential client?
  • NOTE: Some of you may choose a company that already has many of these campaign assets available in print or online. Please be aware that I am looking for you to create an ORIGINAL campaign -- not re-purpose an existing media kit that might already exist. If you do choose a well-known organization with existing PR assets, I will expect that your work will be original. 
  • Prior to committing to your potential client, you should email me with your suggested pick. You are also free to contact me for an e-mail, phone, Skype or in-person consultation on your choice if you prefer one-on-one guidance on this project prior to beginning your work.
Please note: Although you will be conducting real planning and research for the client, you will not necessarily be executing the campaign. Thus, you should be clear in identifying your intentions to any organization that you contact. You should plan to "deliver" the final product to your client at the end of the semester. They can determine what (if anything) to do with it. For the purpose of this class, your success will be based on the portfolio itself.


This class project will include the following elements which will all relate to the selected organization (client):
  • 1. a Strategic Plan (typically about five-seven pages in length)
    • There will first be DRAFT version due earlier in the semester. The final version (revised) will be turned in at the end.
  • 2. History/Backgrounder of the organization/activity or one of its major events.
  • 3. Online research survey created with Google Forms
  • 4. Two news/press releases
  • 5. Fact sheet
  • 6. Media target list
  • 7. An email campaign piece.
  • 8. Newsletter 
  • 9. One-page overview of a digital strategy for your client, including social media
  • 10. Your resume (or print out of LinkedIn resume).
Please note that the above elements are subject to change, but this does represent an estimate of the types of writing and strategic content you will be developing this semester.

We will be working on the above one piece at a time through the coming weeks with the goal of acquiring a completed portfolio at the end of the semester. This completed project comprises a large portion of your semester grade, but it will also be something that you can use to show off your completed work to potential future employers!


Yes! Use the link below to get a printable document that you share with your client. It gives a bit of context and explanation on the structure of the project, including what they should expect from students. If you have any suggested edits or additions you would like me to add to this document, please let me know!

WEEKS 13 & 14: E-mail Campaigns & Newsletters/Evaluations & Measurement


For the final weeks of our course, we will:
  • Learn how to create and distribute original newsletters and e-mail campaigns using Vertical Response, Wix ShoutOut or another preferred creation tool
  • Examine various evaluation and measurement tools to help us better understand how to measure the effectiveness of our campaigns.
  • Have final one-on-one consultations during the week of April 18-22 before turning in our completed portfolios on April 26.
  • Continue to work on and finalize all elements for your semester project campaign portfolio for your client. Review the original blog post with assignment details for a list of what should be included in the final submission. This will be due on Tuesday, April 26.
  • Create an original newsletter for your client and include this in your final portfolio. Due with final portfolio.
  • Create an e-mail campaign piece for your client  and include it in your final portfolio. Due April 7.
  • Create a one-page overview of a potential digital strategy for your client. Due with final portfolio.
    • This might take the form of a revised Web page, viral PR video campaign or other digital element.
    • Please make sure that your thoughts on the digital component of your campaign are addressed either on a separate piece of paper or within the strategic plan.
    • If you don't feel that there should be a digital component to your campaign, then please justify that position.
    • Add this overview to your final portfolio.
  • Begin the take-home final exam, which is due by email no later than midnight at the end of Tuesday, May 3.

One-on-One Consultations

For the week of April 18-22 , we will be holding one-on-one consultations with all students to discuss and review progress on and completion of your semester project. Please be prepared to discuss any last-minute concerns and/or questions you have for this project, which will be due on April 26.

It is anticipated that each student will meet for about 7-10 minutes with the instructor on their designated day of consultation.

For this week, students will only need to show up to class on the day they are assigned.

If your last name begins with the letters M-Z, then please show up for a consultation on Tuesday, April 19

If your last name begins with the letters A-L, then please show up for a consultation on Thursday, April 21.

Wikis & PR/Ad Campaigns

Wikipedia logoWikipedia.org has become one of the most popular information Web sites – despite the fact that  it is a nonprofit, user-edited resource. Many people use the site for research  and many companies are monitoring how they are represented on their respective  entries on the site.
 This week, we will take a closer look at the Wikipedia format -- and the role it might play in PR and/or advertising campaigns. Most mainstream companies already have a wiki page. Search for any brand on Google and see how high the wikipedia entry ranks -- it is usually among the top results!
To become familiar with the wiki format, register with the site so that you  will have permission to edit and/or create an entry. There is a "Create Account"  link at the upper right-hand side of the homepage or you can simply click here.
Once you are registered, you can use the search box to find an existing entry  on your selected topic.
On that page, you will find an "edit" link that allows you to add your text  or image to the existing page.
To create a new entry, there is a page that will help you establish a new  entry topic  here.
If you want to add an image, click  here for information on uploading.
 Ready to make an edit? Find a related theme or topic to your semester  campaign and make a valuable contribution to that wiki entry.
Here is a great Wikipedia "cheat sheet" for formatting of your text.
Content Guidelines:
If you do edit or create any wikipedia entry, it is important to remember  that each article is meant to document existing research -- it is not meant as a  place for "original research" and/or opinions. The voice and tone should be  neutral and all information presented should be verifiable with attribution.
Click here for a downloadable "best practices" guide for PR professionals  using wikipedia (.pdf file)
There have been many controversies over use of wikipedia for PR and/or  political purposes. Here are a few articles that documents some of these issues:
Additional resources:
  • Looking for even more tips on "best practices" for wiki creation and campaigns? Click here.
  • A complete online tutorial to creating your own wiki page is here.
  • There are also some general tips to help you here.
Related Links:

Collaboration Activity: Crisis Management Activity

Please review the four media campaign building scenarios below and share your thoughts.

Scenario 1: JC Penney
  • JC Penney came under fire by bloggers and the media for a recent billboard campaign promoting a kettle that some say resembled Hitler.
  • The company claimed it was unintentional but still suffered from backlash on social media.
  • Develop a strategy to help JC Penney in this situation.

Scenario 2: Takata

  • Takata has issued a massive recall of automotive airbags, which is a development that impacts millions of vehicles and dozens of car brands.
  • Develop a strategy to help Takata during this crisis.

Scenario 3: FIFA

  • FIFA (the organization behind the World Cup) is under attack by industry observers and media due to allegations of corruption
  • Develop a crisis response strategy that will help reinstate confidence in the FIFA and enthusiasm for the next World Cup.

 Scenario 4: CVS

  • In 2014, CVS made a corporate decision to ban the sale of all tobacco products from its pharmacies. In the aftermath, there has been some complaints and a decline in sales.
  • Develop a strategy to justify this position to stockholders amidst news that this has caused a decline in sales and the stock price.

For the above media campaign strategies, you might consider:
  • Who is/are the public(s) you are trying to reach?
  • How will you reach them?
  • Develop specific strategies for your crisis response campaign
  • What is your message?
  • Are there key “talking points”?

Measurement & Evaluation

There are several new media applications that you can use to help track your media coverage. Some options include:
Learn more about Hitwise in this video preview:

The New Hitwise from Experian Hitwise on Vimeo.

Social Media Monitoring & Evaluation Tools


There are multiple services that you can use monitor online chatter about your brand in social media and across the web including:

Managing multiple social media channels can be a pain. That's why there are services that you can use to help you monitor and maintain your social media channels in one centralized spot.

HootSuite is a social media management service that helps you stay on top of multiple social networks -- all from one centralized "dashboard." You can use HootSuite to schedule messages and tweets, as well as to track mentions of your brand/organization. You can also gain a richer understanding of social media traffic trends and developments that help you follow newsworthy developments related to your organization.

HootSuite offers a free version that you can use to get started -- but professional organizations will likely want to investigate upgrading to the premium paid versions (to unlock useful extras and features).

Check out HootSuite to get started.


Another great social media management tool is TweetDeck, which is an app that allows you to better organize and monitor your Twitter feeds. Use TweetDeck to arrange your feeds with customizable columns with useful filters, including hashtags and relevant keywords. You can also use TweetDeck to advance schedule your Tweets.

Check out TweetDeck to get started.

Viral Videos: Case Studies

Not all viral video campaigns are convincing or successful. Take a look at the following campaigns. What do you think?

As you review these viral video campaigns, consider the following:
  1. What makes a successful viral video? How should success be measured?
  2. What works or does not work about "viral videos?"
  3. Would you pass any of these on to a friend? Why? Why not?
  4. How prominent is the brand placement in these videos?
  5. Would you change the strategy to make the branding more or less identifiable? Why?

Nonprofits can use viral video campaigns to generate awareness and donations for various causes. However, they don't always work out the way intended. Witness the pitiful case of the ill-fated Eightbucks.org campaign. Launched (and abandoned) in 2007, the campaign invited users to download and remix a video of comedian Bill Cosby.

However, there were only two "user-generated" submissions (one of which was themed to WSU in Pullman)!!!

Here is all that remains of the campaign on YouTube...


One of the most successful viral ad campaigns of all time is the Dove Evolution beauty campaign series. In 2006, Dove won several awards for this campaign, which eventually moved to TV ads (but started with exclusive distribution on the Internet and social networks). There's lots of coverage on the Internet, but here is an example of one piece addressing the early success.


T-Mobile popularized the "Flash Mob" phenomena with a series of viral videos that showed "spontaneous" dances in random and unexpected places. The video below has over 38 million views.


The following video is all that remains of the launch website for Philips Bodygroom...a "sensitive" product that launched with a raunchy campaign site.


The campaign has evolved and continues with new videos at Shaveeverywhere.com.


A series of humorous clips with Sue Teller mysteriously appeared on YouTube. Notice the subtle product placement. 

Related Links:

    Web PR Techniques

    Portfolio Assignment: Newsletter

    Many corporations use newsletters to communicate a combination of serious and/or feature news to their customer base. Newsletters can also be used to foster brand loyalty. While many people associate the newsletter format with old-fashioned print distribution, they may also be distributed electronically. 

    Here are some good examples of newsletters and other resources that might help you lock down a content strategy for your newsletter:


    Use the Google Documents or Microsoft Word templates to create a brief (1-3 pages) newsletter for your client. You can also use Wix's ShoutOut tool, Vertical Response, or Adobe InDesign to build a newsletter.

    Creating your own newsletter is actually pretty easy. Unless you are already a graphic design expert,  I recommend you use a template to get started. Users of Microsoft Word or Google Documents will find several free templates that are easy to download and install.

    Whichever method you use to create your newsletter, there are some "best practices" to consider. This .pdf guide from Vertical Response contains "5 Steps to Newsletter Success."
    Example Newsletter:

    OPTION 1: Google Drive/Documents Newsletter Templates
    • To get started, visit the Google Template Gallery.
    • Once there, you can browse through several categories and templates by selecting "More" in the upper right.
    • Under the section titled "Work" you will see several "Newsletter" design options.
    • Try to pick a template that has a design that is a good fit aesthetically for your client. Don't be afraid to experiment!
    • Once you select you template, you can populate it with text and images.
    Related Links:

    OPTION 2: Microsoft Word Newsletter & Brochure Templates

    If you prefer, you can also use existing templates that are available for Microsoft Word. Here are some useful template links:

      OPTION 3: Wix ShoutOut

      Wix recently expanded to include the capacity to create newsletters via ShoutOut.

      OPTION 4: Adobe InDesign

      If you are comfortable with Adobe InDesign, you can use it make a newsletter. The video below shows you some InDesign tips and tricks for newsletter creation.
       OPTION 5: Vertical Response

      Vertical Response includes several newsletter templates that you can use. Login to your Vertical Response account and select Purpose > Newsletter/General.

      WEEKS 11 & 12: Learning Google Forms and Vertical Response


      For the next couple of weeks, we will:
      • Learn how to create and distribute an online survey using Google Forms. Students will create a sample survey that helps to gather information that can be used to help fine tune the strategic plan.
      • Learn how to create and distribute original newsletters and e-mail campaigns using Vertical Response and/or other tools.
      • Examine various digital persuasion, social media and viral videos strategies in the PR and advertising industries.
      • Create a sample survey to gather feedback on key messaging ideas for your campaign using Google Forms. 
      • Create a one-page overview of a potential digital strategy for your client. Please complete and include in your final portfolio, due near the end of April.
        • This might take the form of a revised Web page, viral PR video campaign or other digital element.
        • Please make sure that your thoughts on the digital component of your campaign are addressed either on a separate piece of paper or within the strategic plan.
        • If you don't feel that there should be a digital component to your campaign, then please justify that position.
        • Add this overview to your portfolio for the final version that is due near the end of the semester.
      • Create an e-mail campaign piece for your client using Vertical Response. Please send me your completed email by April 7.

      Portfolio Assignment: E-Mail Campaign

      Use Vertical Response to create a targeted email campaign on behalf of your client. Include a copy of this as a downloadable .pdf in your portfolio. Note: You do NOT need to actually "distribute" your email campaign! However, you can email a copy to yourself (and me) under the "Send Test" button on the top right top of the screen.

      Please send me a copy of your completed email campaign no later than April 7. Also, please have a printed copy of your email in your final portfolio.

      Learning Vertical Response Email Builder

      Create an email campaign for your client

      To create an e-mail campaign for your client, you can use a free Web-based program for email content development and distribution. There are literally dozens of services and programs to choose from, but we will use the Vertical Response for our training.

      Additional Resources:

      For help and tutorials, visit the Support page.

      There's also some free Marketing Resources on this page.

      Three Practice Images:

        Google Drive - How to Build a Survey

        You can use Google Drive to create form surveys to send out or publish on a website. Watch this video tutorial to learn how:

        More info:

          Portfolio Assignment: Create a Survey

          Create a survey using the Forms feature on Google Drive.

          Construct a seven question survey that you can use to gather potential information from your targeted audience for your client.

          You can use this survey to test key messaging concepts or ideas and/or to determine what the needs are of the potential user base for your product or service.

          You do not need to distribute the survey after completion! However, you should print out a copy for inclusion in your final portfolio and to turn in.

          DUE DATE:  March 31

          In-Class Assignment: Google Forms Training

          For this practice survey design assignment, your client is Washington State University. WSU is looking to gather information about attitudes and interests of the student population towards campus-sponsored events and clubs. The information gathered might help it develop future marketing and promotion campaigns geared at increasing student participation in these activities.

          Please use the Forms feature of Google Drive to create a new survey for WSU with seven questions, including at least one of each of the following question styles:
          • Multiple choice question
          • Checkbox question
          • Short answer style question
          • Linear Scale question
          • Multiple Choice Grid question
          Then, after the survey is completed, share it with three students in the class so that you have some actual response data to view. You can access your survey results in your Google Drive dashboard.

          WEEKS 9 & 10 OVERVIEW: Media Target Lists & Working with the Media


          For the next couple of weeks, we will:
          • Further revise/refine our campaign materials
          • Discuss both the traditional and social press release formats
          • Use CisionPoint, a popular PR database resource, to create a media target list for our client

          Students should:
          • Reading:
            • For the next couple of weeks, please read the following:
              • Chapter 3 ("Finding and Making News")
              • Chapter 4 ("Working with Journalists and Bloggers")
              • Chapter 5 ("Writing the News Release")
          • Media Target List:
            •  Create a media target list for your client. Who are the seven "A-list" media outlets that you would ideally target and distribute your press releases to? Use CisionPoint to assemble this media target list and then export the info into a document that you will include in your final campaign portfolio.

          Content Strategy and Social Media Campaigns

          Content Strategy and Social Media Campaigns

          As a digital content manager and web content strategist at the company behind a leading virtual world, I work daily to help curate and create multiple media elements that are then used across a website, email campaigns, social networks and in external paid and non-paid campaigns.

          Unlike a traditional "editor" role, I'm thinking about more than just the written word.  All text content must be readable and understandable, but also findable, actionable and shareable. Is there a clear call-to-action in our content? What is our objective for each campaign?

          Further, I also have to consider how content might be re-distributed and/or re-purposed in other channels of delivery.  For example, will it be easily indexed on search engines? Do we make it easy for people to share it via social networks, such as Facebook? Would they even want to? Why or why not?

          There's lots to consider, to be sure.
          An example of a "landing page" targeted at the steampunk community. 
          For example, a key mission is to make the website easier to navigate while helping the company to meet critical "key performance indicators" (KPIs), such as acquisition (attracting new users) and retention (keeping existing users happy and engaged). We also want to build and amplify brand loyalty.

          For acquisition, a key consideration is how friendly our content is for search engines. What can we do to make sure that our site comes up for key searches on Google and other search engines? This is where Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy becomes critical. This means that you might actually develop targeted promo campaigns centrally themed to specific popular keyword searches and/or interests. For example, we recently did a whole campaign around the emerging machinima artform. There have also been landing pages and campaigns developed for education, romance, pets, goth and more, The "best practices" and tactics for SEO will be discussed in greater detail in the coming weeks.

          A banner from a "landing page" for a machinima-themed campaign.
          For retention, the site should have functionality that encourages people to stick around. The Destination Guide project, which is a directory of cool content inside the virtual world, perfectly fits that objective.

          There's also deep Facebook integration there, which allows for easy sharing of cool spots that people may want to comment on and/or show off to friends. Why is this important? It helps to build engagement and brand loyalty among existing users -- but also lets them help spread the word of how cool SL is. This is a critical and cost-effective way to help expand awareness of SL to people that might not even be aware of it!

            An example of a promo video on the official YouTube channel for SL.

          The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has a fantastic blog post with an essential checklist (.pdf file) that is extremely helpful in determine what you will say and how you will say it in your content and campaign creations.

          As you think about how you'd develop an online presence for your semester "client," you'll want to review this checklist to make sure you are hitting these critical points for content that is:
          • Findable
          • Readable
          • Understandable
          • Actionable
          • Shareable
          An example of a promo shot viewable on the SL blog.

          CisionPoint Training

          CisonPoint is one of the most popular public relations tool in use today. According to Cision's Web site, 49 of the 50 top PR agencies use this tool.

          CisionPoint is a subscription-based utility that contains a current database of most media outlets. Each outlet is categorized and indexed by location, media type, genre and other variables. In addition, each outlet contains contact information for the current staff. Some listings even contain an editorial calendar for topics slated to be covered in the future on that outlet.

          Here is the Web site to log-in:


          NOTE: We have a limited access academic account that we will be using in class. If you have not been given your unique username/password by email, then I will provide it to you in person during class.

          To train on CisionPoint in class, we will be reviewing some help and video tutorial resources provided by Cision.

          Here are the links that you might find useful in learning CisionPoint:

          This is a non-graded practice exercise that will help you learn CisionPoint to build targeted media lists. Try to use CisionPoint to find targeted media lists for the following scenarios:
          1. You are working on a PR campaign for Windows 10 from Microsoft. Use CisionPoint to prepare a target media list for possible coverage of the product launch. Specifically, create these lists:
            1. U.S.-based Internet secuirty-themed magazines
            2. Computer/video game blogs
            3. Washington state television stations ALL
          2. You are launching a new beauty product in the New York City market only.
            1. Create a list of potential beauty and fashion media outlets in the New York City area.
          3. The Spanish-speaking audience is one of the largest target audiences in the U.S. You are representing a client that wants to target the Spanish-speaking sports fan.
            1. Compile a list of all daily newspaper and Internet sites that cover sports and cater to the Spanish-speaking audience.

            CisionPoint Accreditation Opportunity

            CisionPoint student accreditation proves to employers that you have a comprehensive knowledge of CisionPoint and are ready to use it in the workplace.

            Upon successful completion of the course requirements, you may apply for accreditation and receive a certificate. CisionPoint accreditation looks great on a résumé!

            To get started, you must first register at the link below:
            Next, registered students can begin the accreditation program at the following website - http://cisiontraining.com/university-program/

            WEEKS 7 & 8 OVERVIEW: Press Releases & One-on-One Consultations


            For the next couple of weeks, we will:
            • Have one-on-one consultations about our semester project
            • Continue to revise our Strategic Plan
            • Complete our press releases, backgrounder and fact sheet
            • Learn about both the traditional and social press release formats
            • Practice press release writing 
            • Practice pitching to the media
            • Read Chapter 5 of the textbook ("Writing the News Release") Backgrounder and Fact Sheet Press Releases
            Create two original Press Releases for your client.
            • It is recommended that you use either Google Documents or Microsoft Word templates for your press releases.
            • When your press releases are ready, please print them out and be prepared to discuss/review in class.
            • Press Releases - Please bring printed copies to class on March 3

            Pitching Your Story

            Press Release Writing Exercise

            LET'S PRACTICE!

            For the following three practice scenarios, please select a lede style and then construct your press release lede for each announcement.

            (Disclaimer: These are not necessarily REAL situations and/or announcements! They are only practice scenarios for this assignment...)

            • Client: Amazon.com
            • E-commerce giant Amazon.com is acquiring popular DVD rental kiosk company Redbox.
            • Amazon already has a streaming video service as part of its Amazon Prime service and the new deal is expected to make it more competitive with Netflix.

            • Retailer J.C. Penney has hired former Apple senior VP of retail operations Ron Johnson as its new CEO
            • The retailer is launching an ambitious rebranding campaign this month to re-position it as embracing "fair and square" pricing without compromising style. Many experts suggest that the retailer is emulating the popular approach of Target in its new campaign.
            • The outlet has also come under fire by conservative activists who are opposed to the hiring of openly gay comedienne Ellen DeGeneres as its spokesperson. 
            • Johnson has gone on the record to defend their choice to hire Ellen. See video statement at: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7398105n


            Related Links

            Press Release Assignment

            For your portfolio, you should create two press releases for your client. After consulting with your client, what are two newsworthy or feature-worthy developments that might each warrant a press release? Think carefully about how a news or feature reporter might value the information that you include. What will peak their interest for possible news or feature coverage of your client?

            You might choose to use one of the many press release templates available in Google Drive/Documents.

            This link will take you to a list of available press release templates in Google Documents.

            DUE: February 25


            Which template should I use?

            The type of press release that you create depends on the situation and needs of your client. Don't be afraid to download several templates and explore. Find the one that fits the tone and aesthetic that is appropriate for your client.

            How do I get my press release exported from Google Documents and on to my digital portfolio?

            Once completed, you should save your press release (File > Save) then select File > Download > Word (or you can use PDF, if you prefer). At this point, you will have a saved version of the file on your local hard drive. You should now be able to print it out to add to your overall semester portfolio.

            Can I use Microsoft Word?

            Absolutely! Microsoft Word also has templates available. See this link for a few.

            What type of lede should I use when writing my press release?

            In most situations, the lede of your press release will be driven by the potential news value of the announcement. However, there are some scenarios where you might try a "feature" approach to your press release. This is appropriate for "soft news" and situations where the "news value" is not immediately apparent. Whatever style you choose, it should be an appropriate fit for your client and the type of message that aligns with your strategic plan!

            Introduction to News Releases

            Are you familiar with the news release format? PR practitioners typically issue a news release to journalists and other audiences when they have an announcement or significant news development for their client.

            A good press release requires that you quickly and clearly communicate the news value of your company's announcement to the media outlets that you target.

            Something to always consider: How will a journalist judge your release if they are very busy? Imagine that the recipient has dozens of press releases a day. How will your press release stand to be perceived as valuable by the journalist to the news beat that they cover?

            NEWS LEDE

            If your announcement is "hard news," then the traditional news lede approach may be appropriate. This means that the key W's should be present in the first sentence or two of your press release: who, what, when, where and (sometimes) why. Sound familiar? You might recall this approach from your journalism classes.

            Some examples:

            FEATURE LEDE

            What if your news announcement is lightweight and/or fun? "Soft news" announcements that target columnists, magazines or feature-oriented publications may be better communicated through a more feature-style approach to your writing. This means that you can include playful, creative and/or descriptive details for your lede. You'll still need to convey important "news" near the lede -- but the first two sentences might not necessarily contain all the basic details. BE CAREFUL with this approach as you do run the risk of the release being perceived as frivolous by many journalists.

            Some examples:


            In determining what style of lede to choose, consider the content and context. What type of info are you trying to communicate? What is the context in which it will be received? Which approach will be more likely to be successful considering the style of media outlet you are targeting? What is the NEWS VALUE (if any) of the announcement?

            WEEKS 5 & 6 OVERVIEW: Backgrounders, Fact Sheets & Press Releases


            During these weeks, we will:
            • Begin to revise our Strategic Plan, to include the Competitive Analysis and SWOT Analysis
            • Prepare for one-on-one consultations re: the semester project
            • Learn about backgrounders and fact sheets
            • Review and practice press release writing 

            Students should:
            • Read Chapter 2 of the textbook ("Becoming a Persuasive Writer")
            • Backgrounder and Fact Sheet
              • Create a one-page "backgrounder" and a separate one-page "fact sheet" for your chosen client
                • The backgrounder should include a basic history of the client and an elaboration of your anticipated client campaign messaging. It should also communicate the value offered by the client to the customer. Finally, it should include an indication of the future direction and initiatives of the company.    
              • The fact sheet should be more visual in the way the text is presented. Don't be afraid to explore use of various fonts, font sizes and bold headers in the document you create.
                • When your backgrounder and fact sheet are ready, please print them out and be prepared to discuss in class.
                • Backgrounder and Fact Sheet Drafts Due Week of February 16-18
            • Two Original Press Releases

            Backgrounders and Fact Sheets


            Over the past few weeks, we have been discussing one of the critical first steps in developing your campaign -- research. Through research on previous campaigns and circumstances about your client, you can better understand the current needs for the new campaign.

            One step in this process is finding the information that will be used in the creation of a backgrounder. As part of the media portfolio, the backgrounder serves to answer any anticipated "overview" questions about the client.

            This is a helpful way to communicate basic background/overview information to the media and other defined publics.
            Here are some examples of backgrounders:
            FACT SHEETS

            Another step in the research phase of your campaign planning is the creation of a fact sheet. A fact sheet is similar to a backgrounder in that it also contains an overview of the client and its activities. However, unlike a backgrounder, a fact sheet is usually structured so that the information can be digested quickly "at-a-glance." It is very visual in nature and it is not uncommon to use bolded headers and bullet points. The fact sheet is used by the media or audience to get a quick understanding of the client and/or a specific initiative.

            Here are some examples:
            Here is a site with some advice and templates:

            WEEKS 3 & 4 OVERVIEW: Preparing your Strategic Plan, Competitive Analysis & SWOT Analysis

            For this week, the class will:
            • Begin work on our Strategic Plan, to include the Competitive Analysis and SWOT Analysis
            • Discuss the basics and best practices in preparing a strategic plan
            • Conduct brief one-on-one consultations between instructor and student re: progress on the strategic plan.
            • Learn about the six principles of persuasion. 
            • Identify and reach out to a potential client that you would like to partner with for the semester-long practice campaign project. Meet with your client to assess their campaign needs and to gather information to complete the Competitive Analysis, SWOT Analysis and the related Strategic Plan
            • Prepare first draft of Strategic Plan for Thursday, Feb. 4
            • Read chapters 1, 2 and 18 in the textbook

            The Six Universal Principles of Persuasion

            In the following video presenation, Dr. Robert Cialdini discusses the "six universal principles of persuasion" including:
            • Reciprocity
            • Scarcity
            • Authority
            • Consistency
            • Liking
            • Consensus
            By understanding each of the above, you can help to define and refine your strategic planning and content messaging for your campaigns.


            The Greatest TED Talk Ever Sold?

            Acclaimed humorist and filmmaker Morgan Spurlock tackles marketing transparency, product placement and brand strategy in a most unconventional way in this TED talk.

            Content & Storytelling: Is the PR Landscape Shifting?

            The video below features several top PR executives and thought leaders as they discuss strategies that may help a company deliver its story and content in the digital age. All featured speakers are chief digital officers, chief strategy officers or chief content strategists at major agencies including RF | Binder, Burson Marstellar, Fenton Communications, Edelman and Ruder Finn.

            This video presentation comes from a panel at a recent CDO Summit.

            Overview of the Strategic Planning Process

            The following video helps add more context to the strategic planning process.

            Preparing your Strategic Plan Part 2: Competitive Analysis & SWOT Analysis

            Many students are already familiar with the concept of a  Competitive Analysis and SWOT analysis.

            As you may already know, you can use both of these to help identify where your client's product fits within the overall marketplace. By developing both of these documents, you will help focus the approach used in planning your advertising and/or PR campaigns.


            A competitive analysis involves a simple exploration of your competitors in the product category or niche that you are aiming to develop a product and campaign for.

            Check out this template that can help you get started:

            SWOT ANALYSIS 

            In addition to understanding your competition, you should do an analysis of the key attributes and value propositions offered by your client. A SWOT analysis can help you get a clearer understanding of your client by documenting the:
            • Strengths
            • Weaknesses
            • Opportunities
            • Threats
            To do a proper SWOT analysis, you will need to really consider what the key value propositions are in relation to the overall existing marketplace. This is why both the SWOT analysis and competitive analysis are important as a starting point to your strategic plan. You need to KNOW your brand and the larger product category before subsequent work can begin.

            Here is a worksheet that you can use to help guide your SWOT analysis:
            Looking for examples? Marketingteacher.com has great examples of several brands, including:

            Your Assignment:

            As we begin our semester campaign case study project, please work with your client to identify the focus and positioning of your campaign and where it fits into the competitive landscape. Use this information to create a competitive analysis and a SWOT analysis. Both of these documents will be included within an overall Strategic Plan that will be a key part of your semester portfolio.

            This research will be used to help shape and inform future branding and messaging elements, including press releases and other PR campaign elements.

            Preparing your Strategic Plan Part 1: What Should be in your Strategic Plan?

            In consultation with you client, you will need to prepare a Strategic Plan that includes both the competitive and SWOT analysis. The slides below detail elements to include in the overall Strategic Plan that will play a key part in your semester campaign portfolio. 

            It is also important to note that not all strategic plans are structured the same way!

            This can be confusing if you are looking for a universal "template" to follow when starting your first draft. However, there are some commonalities found in most strategic plans.

            The areas that you should typically cover include:
            • Situation Overview
            • Objectives/Goals
            • Audience
            • Strategy
            • Tactics
            • Calendar/Milestones
            • Budget
            • Evaluation

            Below are some examples of strategic plans.
            Some useful links on strategic planning:

            WEEK 2 OVERVIEW: Preparing for Writing & Intro to the Strategic Plan

            For week two, the class will:
            • Practice use of collaborative editing tools, such as Google Drive
            • Collaborate on strategic responses to several crisis management and messaging case studies
            • Continue to prepare and brainstorm on our semester campaign project
            • Discuss the basics and best practices in preparing a strategic plan
            • Identify and reach out to a potential client that you would like to partner with for the semester-long practice campaign project
            • Read chapters 1 and 2 in the textbook

            Collaboration Exercise: Case Studies in Public Relations

            • Collaborate with other students in your team to brainstorm strategy and messaging for one of the following five "case study" scenarios.
            • For your case study scenario, consider the following:
              • What is the desired communication outcome?
              • Who is our target audience?
              • What are our target audience’s needs, concerns and interests?
              • What is our message?
              • What communication channel is most effective?
              • Who is the most believable spokesperson?
            • The goal on this "shared project" is to collectively contribute to and create a written response that every member of your team has contributed to. I don't expect one person to "do it all," but you should contribute your fair share of work.
              • This project also gives you a chance to get familiar with team-collaborative technologies, such as Google Documents. These types of tools are becoming commonplace in the PR workforce. There will be many times when you will "collaborate" with other PR practitioners, so this is a good chance to get comfortable with these "share" technologies.
            • Here are the scenarios that you need your input:
              • Jet Blue
                • Low-cost carrier JetBlue is worried that frustration over added fees (e.g. baggage check-in, extra-room seats, etc.), as well as ongoing concerns over recent terrorist threats, have caused consumers to avoid air travel
                • What can they do publicize their service as a safe, inexpensive form of travel?
              • Save the Children
                • Save the Children is “the leading independent organization creating real and lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world”
                • The organization has contributed significantly to help victims of Hurricane Katrina
                • This needs to be communicated and used to spread awareness of the organization and solicit new donations
                • However, the organization needs to be sensitive to how it portrays this message so that it is not seen as “exploiting” those that it helps
              • Facebook
                • Loyal users of Facebook are concerned that the site is violating the privacy of its users with many of its new features
                • What can be done to help the site keep its most vocal critics happy while letting the general user base know that Facebook values user privacy?
              • Exxon
                • Oil giant Exxon is about to announce record profits for the quarter
                • There is a known sensitivity due to consumer frustration with rising gas prices.
                • Exxon needs to appease investors, but also calm consumer and federal concerns about price gouging.
              • WSU
                • Washington State University has a reputation for being a “party school”
                • Administrators want to shake this image!
                • What can they do?

            Web-Based Tools: Learning Google Drive/Documents and Dropbox

            For this course, we will be using several online services, including file sharing/storage sites and content creation tools.

            Here are two services that are good to be familiar with at the beginning of the semester.


            If you have a Google account, you can use it to access the web-based "cloud" storage platform Google Drive. This free service allows you to store up to 15GB of documents and media. Check out the video below for more info:

            In addition, you can access the Google Documents area within Google Drive to create written reports and documents that can be kept private and/or shared with others. You can even collaborate in "real time" with others on a single document!

            Here is a video that explains more about Google Documents:

            1. Introduction to Google Drive
            2. Composing in Google Docs
            3. Sharing Files & Folders
            4. Document Organization

            Another popular file hosting/sharing service is Dropbox, a free storage space that enables you to easily share and transfer files with others.

            This service gives you a limited amount of free storage space that is particularly useful for large file transfers, such as multimedia files.

            What is Dropbox? Video:

            Preparing for Writing

            The following slideshow discusses some of the considerations in preparing your strategies and tactics in public relations writing and campaigns.

            WEEK 1 OVERVIEW: Welcome!

            Welcome to ComStrat 383! One of the unique aspects of this course is that we will be using many Web-based resources that will help you learn as the class progresses. These tools and techniques will help you build a campaign portfolio that will be due at the end of the semester.

            Over the next few weeks, we will be discussing several communication and campaign-building tools, including:
            • Media Directories (CisionPoint)
            • Email Marketing (Wix ShoutOut & Vertical Response) 
            • Cloud-based Storage (Dropbox & Google Drive)
            • Collaborative Editing (Google Documents)
            • Survey Creations (Google Forms)
            • Online Portfolio Tools (LinkedIn, Wix, Behance)
            • Web-based Press Releases (Newswire)
            • Campaign Analytics
            • and much more!
            For the first week, we will start with a focus on the basics of writing for PR and advertising campaigns. We will also learn how to use Google Drive/Documents and Dropbox.

            • Read Chapter 1 "Getting Organized for Writing"
            • Identify a semester project client by Thursday, Jan. 21

            COMSTRAT 383 - Spring 2016 Syllabus

            COMSTRAT 383  – Creative Media Strategies & Techniques
            (3 CREDITS)

            Instructor:  Brett Atwood                             
            Office:  GWH 234                                                                        
            Hours:  By appointment                                   
            Phone:  (425) 405-1771
            EMAIL:  batwood@wsu.edu


            COURSE OVERVIEW:

            This course is designed to help students develop writing and speaking skills specific to public relations and media purposes. It aims to utilize traditional writing, social media and "real-time Web" persuasion and evaluation tactics for the purpose of showing how to understand, identify and target audiences, including media gatekeepers. Students are encouraged to develop ethical thinking and planning skills with the final goal of creating a portfolio that demonstrates their talents and skills in persuasion.

            • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of principles in writing for public relations materials across multiple channels, industries and cultures.
            • Master the skill of resourcefulness – demonstrating the ability to critically think, research, draft and ultimately craft clear messages and finished product that is organized and uses correct grammar, punctuation, spelling and AP Style standards. 
            • Develop professional skills valued in public relations industry through hands-on learning and application.
            COURSE CURRICULUM MAPPING (Click to enlarge):


            Class Portfolio

            Throughout the semester, you will be working on a portfolio/project designed to use your PR skills. You will develop a media usage plan for a client that you choose -- approved by this instructor.

            The class project will include the following which will all relate to the selected organization (client):

            PORTFOLIO ASSIGNMENTS INCLUDE: (subject to change)
            1. History/Backgrounder of the organization/activity or one of its major events.
            2. A preliminary Strategic Plan
              1. An early draft will be turned in for credit, but it will later be revised before the end of the semester
            3. Online research survey (via Google Forms)
            4. Two news/press releases
            5. Fact sheet
            6. Media target list
            7. Newsletter design (2-4 pages)
            8. An e-mail campaign piece
            9. One-page overview of a digital strategy for your client, including social media
            10. Your resume (on LinkedIn and/or on a digital portfolio site).
            You will be completing the project parts throughout the semester. Attach your resume to the project at the end of the semester.

            You must describe and show the complete portfolio, near the end of the semester, to the entire class. At that time, you will turn it in for final grading. Plan to have the final version of the project bound or presented in a binder or folder suitable for sharing with the organization. (Make two copies: one for you to keep and one for me to evaluate). Neatness and organization of the portfolio and the class presentation will be very important.

            COURSE TOPICS (Subject to Change):
            • Learning Google Documents
            • Preparing for Writing/PR Writing Basics
            • Portfolio Overview
            • Learning LinkedIn
            • Preparing a Strategic Plan
            • Press Releases
            • Social Media Press Releases
            • Learning Google Forms
            • Backgrounders & Fact Sheets
            • Ethics
            • Best Practices in Working with the Media
            • Content Strategy Case Studies
            • Twitter and "Real Time Web" Monitoring Tools
            • Viral PR & Digital Marketing Tactics
            • Facebook and PR
            • Wikis & PR
            • Newsletters
            • Learning I-Builder
            • Measurement & Evaluation Best Practices
            • Learning Google Analytics


            Grading criteria for written assignments will include:
            • Grammar and AP style
            • Critical thinking
            • Application of public relations techniques demonstrated in the textbook and in class lectures/exercises
            • Arguments are well-defended
            • Organization of thought

            COURSE GRADING:



            Strategic Plan (draft)



            Google Forms Survey



            Backgrounder (draft)



            Fact Sheet (draft)


            Two original press releases (drafts)



            Media list


            Digital strategy (draft)

            Newsletter (draft)

            E-mail Campaign or brochure (draft)

            Portfolio - Final Version

            Final Exam



            Grading Scale:


            points total


            Points total


            375 - 400C+300 -314


            360 -374C285-299


            345 -359C-
            270 -284


            330 -344D+255 -269
            B-315 -329D
            240 - 254

            0 - 239


            This course has a heavy dependence on use of technology and students will be expected to have access to Internet-connected computers so that they may complete each assignment. Some in-class lab time will be provided, but students should expect that much of their course work will be completed in labs or on their own computers outside of class.

            Due to the rapidly changing nature of the technology and tools used in this course, specific hardware, software and online services used may vary each semester as new digital technologies and practices emerge into the mainstream.


            Room 162 (Computer Lab) will be open for student use during. This syllabus will be updated with computer lab hours shortly.

            For desktop support in the computer labs, please contact (425) 405-1592.


            Copyright (2016) Brett Atwood.

            This syllabus and all course-related materials, presentations, lectures, etc. are my intellectual property and may be protected by copyright. Selling class notes through commercial note taking services, without my written advance permission, could be viewed as copyright infringement and/or an academic integrity violation, WAC 504-26-010 (3)(a,b,c,i). Further, the use of University electronic resources (e.g., Blackboard) for commercial purposes, including advertising to other students to buy notes, is a violation of WSU’s computer abuses and theft policy (WAC 504-26-218), a violation of WSU’s Electronic Communication policy (EP 4), and also violates the terms of use for the Blackboard software program.

            Discriminatory Conduct Statement

            Discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct (including stalking, intimate partner violence, and sexual violence) is prohibited at WSU (See WSU Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct (Executive Policy 15) and WSU Standards of Conduct for Students).

            If you feel you have experienced or have witnessed discriminatory conduct, you can contact the WSU Office for Equal Opportunity (OEO) and/or the WSU Title IX Coordinator at 509-335-8288 to discuss resources, including confidential resources, and reporting options. (Visit oeo.wsu.edu for more information).

            Most WSU employees, including faculty, who have information regarding sexual harassment or sexual misconduct are required to report the information to OEO or a designated Title IX Coordinator or Liaison.  (Visit oeo.wsu.edu/reporting-requirements for more info).

            Academic Integrity Statement

            Washington State University, a community dedicated to the advancement of knowledge, expects all Academic integrity will be strongly enforced in this course. Cheating is defined in the Standards for Student Conduct WAC 504-26-010(3). It is strongly recommended that you read and understand these definitions:  http://apps.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=504-26-010.

            Violation of academic integrity on any assignment will involve (i) an academic penalty ranging from a minimum of both a zero on that assignment and the reduction of a full letter grade on your final grade to failure of the entire course, (ii) filing of case with the Office of Student Conduct, and per university regulations, (iii) inability to withdraw from the course.

            More information regarding WSU policies can be found at: http://academicintegrity.wsu.edu/

            Reasonable Accommodation Syllabus Statement

            Reasonable accommodations are available for students with a documented disability. If you have a disability and need accommodations to fully participate in this class, please either visit or call the Access Center (Washington Building 217; 509-335-3417) to schedule an appointment with an Access Advisor. All accommodations MUST be approved through the Access Center.

            Pullman, Everett or WSU Online: 509-335-3417  http://accesscenter.wsu.edu, Access.Center@wsu.edu
            Spokane: http://spokane.wsu.edu/students/current/studentaffairs/disability/
            Tri-Cities: http://www.tricity.wsu.edu/disability/
            Vancouver: 360-546-9138 http://studentaffairs.vancouver.wsu.edu/student-resource-center/disability-services

            Campus and Classroom Safety Statement

            Classroom and campus safety are of paramount importance at Washington State University, and are the shared responsibility of the entire campus population.  WSU urges students to follow the “Alert, Assess, Act” protocol for all types of emergencies and the “Run, Hide, Fight” response for an active shooter incident. Remain ALERT (through direct observation or emergency notification), ASSESS your specific situation, and ACT in the most appropriate way to assure your own safety (and the safety of others if you are able).

            Please sign up for emergency alerts on your account at MyWSU. For more information on this subject, campus safety, and related topics, please view the FBI’s Run, Hide, Fight video and visit the WSU safety portal.

            For the Everett campus, all students should also be enrolled in the local RAVE Emergency Alert system. If you are not already registered, please do so at: https://www.getrave.com/login/everettcc. You can also find Everett-specific emergency information at https://www.everettcc.edu/emergency/

            First Week Class Attendance (Rule 72)

            Students who do not attend class during the first week of the semester will likely be dropped from the course. Students with extenuating circumstances should notify the Office of Student Affairs.   Valid reasons for missing class do not relieve the student of their responsibility for that missed work.

            Academic Regulations, Rule 34a

            Students may only repeat a course graded C- or below one time at WSU during fall or spring semesters.  Additional repeats are allowed from another institution or at WSU during summer terms or by special permission of the academic unit offering the course.


            University Communication with Students

            Absolutely NO communication will be sent to external addresses (e.g., yahoo, gmail, and so forth). We will use either the email within Blackboard or “email.wsu.edu” system.

            Late/Missed Work & Incomplete Policy

            Late work is not accepted in this class. Tests and quizzes missed due to absence cannot be made up. Do not ask for after-the-fact exceptions. Some consideration, however, might be given (at the discretion of the instructor) if there is extenuating circumstances such as prolonged hospitalization, family death, or extended individual sickness previously discussed. In cases of documented university conflict, you are responsible for making alternative arrangements a minimum of two weeks in advance and responsibilities must be fulfilled before the normally scheduled time.

            Incompletes will NOT be given except in cases of documented emergencies, and the student must be passing the course at the time the Incomplete is requested.  The Incomplete will be assigned ONLY for those circumstances (sickness, accident, death) that meet the literal interpretation of Academic Rule, 90h.  Sickness, accident or death must be documented.

            Class Attendance

            Attendance is both mandatory and critical to your success in this class, and I will be taking attendance throughout the course of the semester. Since attendance is a critical factor in the functioning of a participation based class, in group as well as classroom activities, more than three unexcused absences (including those from classes held at any alternative meeting places) may result in an automatic failure of this course. Please notify me immediately (or in advance if possible) via email regarding absence due to emergency, illness, athletic or other University sponsored activities. If you expect to be absent for more than the accepted number of absences due to an outside activity, please consult with both me and the program advisor before missing classes. Arriving more than fifteen minutes late for class will be counted as an absence. Some consideration, however, may be given (on a limited basis and at the discretion of the instructor) if there are extenuating circumstances for highly infrequent tardiness.

            You are responsible for finding out what you missed on the days that you were absent. Be sure to get the name and contact information of someone else in the class so that you can easily get copies of the notes and materials that you missed..

            Instructor-Student Interaction

            I will generally respond to emails within 24 hours during the week. My expectation is the same for students. You need also to check your email regularly and respond within 24 hours. I generally do not respond to emails during the weekend. Nor is it expected that you will respond over the weekend. I generally do not discuss grades or any student records issues via email. Please schedule a meeting with me to discuss these issues. If necessary, I may ask you to submit a written petition together with your work in question. The classroom is typically not an appropriate place for these discussions.

            In-Class Technology & Mobile Phone Use Policy

            Some assignments may require use of a computer laptop or other technology during the class. Otherwise, students are required to keep cell phones on vibrate or have calls transferred to voicemail while in class.  You may not take calls, text or engage in non-class related web or mobile activity while in class. The instructor reserves the right to ask students who violate this policy repeatedly to leave the classroom. Repeat violations of this policy may be cause for a reduced grade or course credit.

            In-Class Video & Audio Recording Policy

            Students should not record audio or video of the instructor or other students in the classroom without first procuring permission or consent from all recorded subjects. Washington state is a "two-party consent" state that requires the consent of every party to a phone call or conversation in order to make the recording lawful. For more information on the legality of recording in the classroom, see: "Is it legal to record your teachers or professors?"