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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.