Courses in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications online master’s programs are designed by our expert faculty with years of media industry experience. All M.S. in Communications and M.S. in Communications Management course descriptions are listed below.
Introduction to Digital Communications – 3 Credits
Digital media, including web, social and mobile technologies, has dramatically affected and expanded the ways in which we communicate, including the creation, dissemination and consumption of news and information. More recently, Web 2.0 and social media have evolved to form a global communications layer that has reshaped personal and professional interaction in our time.
Students in this course will examine the evolving nature of digital communications, beginning with an understanding of foundational concepts of Internet technologies and web content as well as critical issues of digital media culture, Internet governance, ethics and diversity in the digital age. Students will evaluate the use and impact of digital communications technologies and media in the context of existing theory and research as well as case studies and analyses of emerging trends across the public communications spectrum.
Ability to explain and differentiate between various analog and digital media technologies
Twitter, WordPress, Hootsuite, Google Analytics
Explain and differentiate between the characteristics of analog and digital media as well as the properties of digital media technologies that impact traditional practices and create new opportunities in communications industries, including broadcast and print media, advertising, public relations, and journalism.
Describe and explain the evolution of digital communications platforms in the Internet age, including foundational Internet technologies and those of the dynamic Web 2.0 era as well as emergent post-PC technologies.
Explain and address the evolving needs and behaviors of the digital media user, emergent trends in online and mobile communications, and concepts of interactive and responsive design.
Develop and reinforce essential skills for communicators in the digital age, including the creation and consumption of digital media; a foundational understanding of blogging, digital content management and social networking platforms; and mobile and emergent media platforms.
Differentiate between innovations across communications organizations by identifying best practices, trends, entrepreneurship efforts and needs for further innovation.
From earliest times, we have created stories to communicate important events, insights and experiences. Stories are basic building blocks for newspaper and magazine articles; films, photographs, advertising and public relations campaigns; and television and radio broadcasts.
Photojournalists, screenwriters, advertising executives, television directors, public relations managers, investigative journalists and graphic designers—all media professionals—must understand how to use story concepts and tools of storytelling to communicate to an audience. In this course, students will examine stories in many forms and analyze story form to become better storytellers in any field.
This course will primarily cover the production of the video component of a web site. More advanced courses on web production will advance the concepts of producing a fully functional multimedia web site.
Effective storytelling techniques, including the ability to identify, compare and contrast themes and characteristics in stories
Identify and use the underlying universal themes in stories.
Discern the elements of a good story by identifying the characteristics, analyzing the universal themes and evaluating the structures and components.
Demonstrate the duties of a multimedia producer by producing three projects.
Develop good storytelling techniques by writing concept statements, outlines, scripts and storyboards.
Engage viewers in content by using social media such as YouTube.
Social media is now a critical component to all successful media, advertising and public relations initiatives. This course will give you a solid foundation of social media skills and knowledge of its manifold effects on both the communications industry and society as a whole. Relying on a blend of videos, readings, case studies, expert interviews, weekly discussions and practical exercises, you will bolster your social media understanding and know-how no matter your prior experience with social media. This course aims to push you not only to be competent with different tools, strategies and tactics but ultimately to be an effective social media communicator.
Upon completion of this course, you will be able to
analyze the strategic use of social media channels for businesses, organizations and communications professionals;
apply social media tactics and strategy to achieve a business or professional goal;
evaluate the social media presence of a single brand;
discuss the cultural impact of social media, including concepts of privacy, viral media, memes, anonymous and semi-anonymous communications, citizen journalism, global uprisings’ political and ethical implications, and issues of diversity;
analyze a societal issue that has been impacted by the rise of social media;
apply the basics of social media measurement; and
create a comprehensive social media strategy to achieve a business-related social media goal.
This course covers legal issues that affect public communications and matters related to media law. Topics covered include the First Amendment, media regulation, libel, privacy, intellectual property, corporate speech, commercial speech and advertising regulation, free press/fair trial, and access issues.
Critical thinking skills, argumentation, knowledge of legal issues impacting media communicators
Identify potential issues that could subject a media company to legal action by applying legal principles to media law issues.
Analyze legal arguments of all parties in litigation by applying legal precedent to hypothetical or real situations relevant to media communications.
Differentiate among the various types of laws by explaining the roles of the Constitution, common law, and statutory and administrative law.
Explain the limits of the First Amendment by contrasting freedom of speech and press with other societal interests.
Compare and contrast civil and criminal cases by outlining the route that cases travel through the legal system, differentiating the levels of courts and identifying the relevant parties and their responsibilities.
Demonstrate critical thinking skills by analyzing and summarizing the facts, procedure, reasoning, holding and implications of a judicial decision.
This course is an introduction to the strategic digital communications systems that allow communications professionals to select audiences, deliver appropriate content over various channels and capture data to better understand end users.
Marketers, community managers, editors and publishers who wish to use state-of-the-art digital media tools to manage and deliver multiple media to numerous devices will find this course especially beneficial.
Audience acquisition platforms, including social media, search, marketing automation and online advertising; content management systems and content strategies; development and production techniques, such as A/B testing; data management and analysis
Facebook ad creation, Hootsuite, Marketo, Google Keyword Planner, Google Analytics, web site hosting providers, WordPress, Tableau
Define the function and purpose of the predominant digital media services and their role in a communications enterprise, focusing on the following:
Data management platforms
Asset management and content design
Web content management and the essential technologies of data generation for analysis (analytics)
Data warehousing technologies
Social media management platforms
A/B testing platforms
Assemble these technologies into a logical schema that generates data and results in appropriate outcomes to address communication problems at varying levels of complexity.
Design a technology solution set at the appropriate scale for a complex strategic communication problem.
Demonstrate the ability to integrate new technologies into a framework and describe in writing any changes to the current schema created by new devices, industry consolidation or changes in technological capabilities.
Two facts: The advertising industry favors the nimble mind, and every decision an agency makes for its clients pivots on strategic understanding and acumen. This course will explore the strategic development process and train students in its execution. That process will be examined through multiple lenses, including case studies of leading national brands; a Strategic Project, focusing on a brand of a student’s choosing; and numerous readings and writing assignments throughout the semester. Strategic Projects are at the core of the course. Students will be required to research and analyze industry/consumer data, derive compelling strategic recommendations from it, and write a lively, persuasive document for submission to a potential client. Readings will include works from mainstream marketing leaders and today’s most provocative marketing gadflies. There will be an emphasis on developing students’ writing and presentation skills as well as deepening their understanding of the industry and their eventual role in it.
Strategy in campaign process, strategic brand platforms
Describe the role of strategy in the broader communications/campaign development process.
Construct and present compelling strategic brand platforms, and improve skills in professional writing and presentation, brainstorming, and teamwork.
Explain and discuss the dynamics of the advertising industry, how an agency works, its strategic functions and the agency role for which the student is best suited.
Develop a familiarity with the industry’s ethical standards and obligations and an understanding of its potential to both promote and benefit from diversity.
Topics in Advertising: Communications Planning – 3 Credits
Media planning, as a discipline, has evolved from a game of numbers executed in a media buy to a much more strategic pursuit. Media planning—now more frequently referred to as communications planning—is about developing a holistic plan that drives brand marketing across platforms. Advertising in mass media is still valuable, but the rapid increase in the use of digital media has changed the playing field. Communications planning encompasses all ways to reach out to the consumer—including traditional and digital communication, word of mouth, and product placement—and should inform the creative and development processes.
By examining the world of media from the perspectives of the client, the agency media/digital planner and the media organization seller, students will gain insights into all elements of the communications planning process. Students are challenged to ensure the client’s advertising budget will generate the greatest value and achieve the best results in the right set of media channels for their client.
The trick to communications planning today is connecting the consumers’ needs and wants with a brand’s proposition through various channels and/or content areas. The main factors driving these changes are:
Accessibility of content
Volume of available content
Consumers’ ability to create and syndicate content on their own
Today’s consumers know they are being marketed to, and they actually enjoy it when it’s done in the right way. While a good media plan does need to be clever, it also must be commercially viable—meaning it must sell the product.
Evaluation and analysis of research and data; math and language of media planning; ability to define target audiences, develop consumer insights, present and write compelling communications strategies
Simmons, MRI+, AdSpender, SRDS, eMarketer, comScore, media buying software
Analyze what media is and what it isn’t, and recognize how consumers are using and interacting with media today.
Examine diverse target audiences across age, gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation, and develop strategies to reach them.
Evaluate and create research that will lead to insights into a target audience’s behavior as it relates both to brand and media habits.
Develop the critical thinking ability to apply concepts, theories and principles in media behavior to create viable integrated communications strategies for customer engagement.
Create a compelling sales presentation to ensure that media properties are included on the media plan recommendation.
Enhance presentation and teamwork skills.
Develop proficiency with the tools available for media decision making, and learn to evaluate and analyze data to develop a sound media recommendation.
Learn and use the language of media planning.
Apply media planning concepts and theories to write an effective media plan recommendation for a client. Gain skill and confidence in using media-buying software to create media schedules.
This course examines the transformative roles that the Internet and digital media are playing in the advertising industry.
Students will learn about the digital revolution and the profound changes it has wrought in consumer behavior as well as marketers’ responses to those behavioral changes. Digital media is changing the way media is planned and bought, the form and purpose of advertising messages, and the nature of advertising research. It is blurring the lines between medium, message, content, user and producer. Most profoundly, it is changing the balance of power between the consumer/message receiver and the marketer/message sender. In this course, students will examine the major forms of digital communication (e.g., web sites, social networks, blogs, online video and mobile), how they work and how to think about using them strategically for advertising.
Social aspects of the web and search, which have been the engines of the current digital transformation, will be explored in depth as will mobile, which is the engine of the next digital transformation. This course should make students question everything they think they know about advertising. Marketers and advertising agency professionals are questioning everything they thought they knew about consumers, media and messaging—and so should students. Students will consider the new ethical challenges created by digital media with a focus on the ethical challenges of the Internet as it relates to children.
Ability to use digital media strategically—individually and in concert—from a marketing and/or advertising perspective
Sysomos, MRI+, Simmons
Learn to actively compare and contrast the uses and effectiveness of the major forms of digital communication (e.g., web sites, social networks, blogs, online video and mobile).
Participate in deep, analytical discussions about digital media dynamics, and gain expertise on the issues defining digital media advertising.
Demonstrate mastery in using different digital media strategically—individually and in concert—from a marketing and/or advertising perspective.
Develop the ability to lead a digital media advertising project in the workplace.
Advertising and Public Relations Research Design – 3 Credits
Advertising and public relations are giant industries in today’s marketing communications. Every marketing decision made by a company requires well-developed justifications and precise judgments. Every dollar invested in effective advertising and public relations campaigns must be spent at the right time, for the right reasons and with the high expectation for the maximum return of investment. This is where research and technology come into play. A multimillion-dollar advertising or public relations campaign could be in vain without having strong research support.
This course is designed for students who want to acquire the basic knowledge of research methods and applications to solve marketing communication and strategic communication problems. Students will learn the essential aspects of research, from planning to evaluation, utilizing the case study approach.
Students will develop research skills that enable them to discover invaluable insights related to consumers, employees or other groups. This course also will assist students in making sound judgments and applying critical thinking skills when choosing among various methods to solve research problems.
Secondary and primary research evaluation; creative problem solving; applied professional ethics in advertising and public relations research decision making; secondary, syndicated, qualitative and quantitative research method design, selection and implementation; qualitative and quantitative data collection, reduction and analysis; multicultural and diversity sensitivity toward research topics and people; strategic and analytical thinking; social media analytics for advertising and public relations research; professional research writing and presentation
ABI/IFORM; BUDDY; Business and Company Resource Center, Business & Industry, Business Source Elite; CREW; Factiva; GIG; LexisNexis; MRI+; Mintel reports; Plunkett Research Online; Simmons; TableBase; Warc; Microsoft Office; Qualtrics (and other online survey tools); digital audio recorders and video recorders; SPSS; NVivo; social media analytical software
Describe the essentials of research within advertising and public relations contexts.
Demonstrate how to evaluate information for problem solving.
Explain how to apply professional ethics in using advertising and public relations research in decision making.
Illustrate how to use secondary, syndicated, qualitative and quantitative research methods.
Select appropriate research methodologies to investigate various advertising and public relations situations.
Describe the diverse marketplaces and demonstrate how research can bring deeper understanding and meaning to diverse groups.
Demonstrate analytical thinking skills for the advertising and public relations industries.
Apply key concepts of current methods, including social media analytics that are applicable to advertising and public relations research.
Demonstrate writing and presentation skills that effectively communicate research outcomes to various business partners.
This course introduces students to the breadth of public relations theories. Topics covered include: defining the practice, organizational legitimacy, best practices in planning, management, crisis communication, issues management, social responsibility, reputation management and global public relations. Students examine a framework for excellence in public relations by looking at models, roles, communication, organizational culture, diversity and ethics. The theories students learn in this course form the foundation for the research they conduct during their program and can be applied to the final capstone or thesis project and future professional practice.
Development of conceptual and theoretical frameworks, theory analysis
Explain, analyze, synthesize and apply a selection of the most influential theories and research findings on public relations.
Develop a conceptual framework to analyze the management of public relations and, in turn, enhance the understanding of public relations practices.
Apply a theoretical framework to an actual public relations case by researching, writing and producing a case study project.
Analyze how theories relate to professional practices, and produce a research proposal.
This course seeks to examine historical and current management theories, literature and practices for the purposes of
understanding the business environment in which public relations operates;
applying the best of these theories toward the management of the public relations function within an organization;
identifying how the public relations function can add value to the organization, including the areas of multiculturalism, diversity and gender; and
ensuring that the public relations function adheres to the highest professional ethical standards as set forth by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).
Knowledge of management theories, literature and practices; application of this knowledge to the management of an organization; management plan development
Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint (or the Mac iWork equivalents: Pages, Numbers and Keynote); a non-proprietary online infographic creation software; access to both online and print business news sources (The Wall Street Journal and other national newspapers, CNNMoney, etc.)
Demonstrate the connection between management theory and practical management application through the written and verbal analysis of a recent management news story or case study.
Explain the value and uses of both the science and the art of management in modern organizations.
Develop a management plan for a specific organization of the student’s choosing, targeting the four management functions of planning and decision making, organizing, leading, and controlling.
Make a compelling case for why public relations is a management function in today’s organizational environment.
Identify and share best practices in public relations/communications management through the application and implementation of a strategic plan to address a specific crisis.
Public Relations Campaign Planning and Execution – 3 Credits
This course is required for the public relations specialization. Students take a hands-on approach to learning the importance of communication campaigns for a range of organizations—for-profit, not-for-profit, governmental and political.
Analysis and strategic planning, identification of appropriate tactics and communication strategies
Apply a full range of public relations and management skills in a real-world setting.
Judge the work of professionals in the field.
Analyze, research and plan on behalf of a client.
Describe, discuss and identify practical campaign tools and tactics.
This course focuses on the production and delivery of journalism through web and mobile devices. It is a skills course, which requires critical and conceptual analysis of how web and mobile stories demand new approaches, techniques and strategies. In this course, students will learn about and create journalism for digital and evolving media forms, while building their portfolios, multimedia story skills and journalistic vision.
This is a creative, hands-on course focused on rethinking and reinventing the editorial experience for digital audiences and new story platforms. Throughout the term, students will critique the work of their class peers, as well as industry leaders, while building their own projects for public display.
Students in this course will examine the evolving world of web and mobile journalism, from the standpoint of both production and consumption. Basic multimedia understanding is preferred; no coding is required.
Students learn how to strategically produce and distribute stories for a range of digital devices and screens. This journalism class requires students to critically dissect and create multiple forms of media (i.e., text, audio, video and content for apps, etc.). All students must use a smartphone capable of recording high-quality audio and video. Students must also be able to use current iOS or Android apps on a phone or tablet device. Students must post assignments to web sites and apps and are required to follow assignment specs and develop multimedia work that is polished, with compelling content and strong production elements.
Smartphone production and multimedia editing techniques are taught (these techniques are taught to be transferable, not specific to a single program or platform). You will also discuss and use a range of free online and social platforms.
Demonstrate high-quality storytelling for digital and evolving media forms by regularly producing stories in text, audio and video.
Judge own work and the work of peers by comparing and discussing class assignments and projects.
Appraise the strengths and weaknesses of a wide array of journalism web sites and mobile products and services by analyzing, discussing and presenting on these varied forms of digital media.
Expand skill set beyond writing and into creative digital idea development, necessary for large-scale projects, by constructing strategic media plans and digital content pitches.
Examine how Internet-based media and editors can be mindful of diversity, ethical issues and major business decisions by comparing and contrasting samples from class and the media industry.
Data has become an increasingly powerful journalistic tool that has a role to play in every step of the process, from identifying important trends to creating interactive graphics to measuring how stories are being received by the audience. Data also has the potential to provide unique insights into how the world really works. Data can be the difference between thinking we know something and truly knowing it.
This course will help students understand how data is being used by journalists today, how to augment traditional stories with data and how to find new stories in data. Students will learn how to find and manipulate existing datasets as well as how to build their own data sources.
Data retrieval and manipulation of datasets, use of graphical data in storytelling
Excel with NodeXL add-on, Tableau
Learn what opportunities and challenges different types of data present. Apply this new knowledge by finding, downloading and manipulating structured data from government, research and other sources.
Apply skill as journalists by “interviewing the data,” and thereby uncovering the stories the data contains as well as understanding its limitations.
Grow storytelling skills while learning how to augment stories with graphical data displays that communicate information to the reader.
Expand investigative skills while learning how to use the Freedom of Information Act to request and obtain previously unavailable data from the federal government.
The way people access, interact with and publish digital information is in a period of constant flux driven by new technology platforms. The last 10 years have seen audience attention fragment from “the Internet,” as defined by a browser on a desktop, to a variety of relatively new devices, driving the need to learn how to identify and embrace new opportunities posed by emerging technologies that will impact the media of tomorrow.
This course prepares students to be media futurists, people who predict and project change in media through the lens of technology. Students will be exposed to emerging technologies and trends that promise to further evolve the paradigm for how people access, interact with and publish information in the future.
Students also will learn how to spot emerging trends. In the process, students will be better prepared for a career in which they embrace and exploit new opportunities. Rather than constantly adapting to, or fighting, external changes outside of their influence, students will be on their way to becoming agents of creative disruption and change themselves.
Field test new and emerging technologies; identify and articulate new technologies, their benefits and problems; articulate future media products enabled by emerging technologies
Smartphone or tablet; one piece of approved emerging technology in the $50 to $500 range; current technologies that include virtual and augmented reality headsets, specifically the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and HoloLens; the free Unity3D gaming engine used to create VR and AR experiences; open source code for creating simple, interactive data visualizations; microdrones for aerial footage; Arduino microprocessors and sensors for acquiring real-world data; and depth cameras for scanning real-world environments
Identify the steady shift in usage patterns across platforms over time. Delineate the benefits and uses of each, and project their likely cycle of evolution over time.
Identify and explain new trends and opportunities posed by media technologies that are just now entering the consumer market, such as Internet-connected glasses, smart watches and other “fashion-tech” and VR headsets.
Articulate potential uses for media technology in journalism and storytelling, and spot and evaluate new trends.
Articulate the disruptions in the relationship between journalist and audience created by emerging technologies, and apply strategies for adapting to a future of continued disruption.
Appraise new products and services that solve real problems for audiences using these and other new technologies, as informed by real-world field tests that students design and implement.
This course focuses on the principles for maximizing the value of online content through
efficient workflow management to reduce production cost,
N-tier systems management to reduce latency and increase the efficiency and reach of multiple digital distribution channels,
structuring content management system (CMS) outputs for data generation and analysis,
content optimization, and
search engine optimization (SEO).
To understand how content is valued in a multiplatform environment, students must first understand how the basic distribution system works. The broad category name for multiple platform distribution is CMS. In this course, students will explore how a CMS influences and fixes the value of various forms of content. Through analysis of web traffic, content structure and the principles of SEO, students will learn how to use content systems to earn maximum value in a web-based environment.
Advanced Social Media for Communicators – 3 Credits
As social media has become the primary way that companies, brands and individuals connect with their audience, it has also become increasingly important to coordinate messaging across platforms. Professionals who not only possess leadership and management skills but also have a deep understanding of digital branding and social media are the ones who keep things on track.
Designed for managers of social media professionals, the Advanced Social Media for Communicators course focuses on strategies of effective digital team management and social media planning, implementation and evaluation. This course introduces students to public relations, mass communication and social psychology theories related to professional practice. It also orients students to effective strategies that are required for efficient, excellent and ethical agency in an increasingly digital, social media-driven business environment. The course builds on the basic skills, theory and best practices in social media learned in core courses, with an emphasis on the role of the manager and managerial decision-making.
Moz, Social Studio, Brandwatch/Crimson Hexagon, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google Analytics
Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:
Leverage industry-standard tools and platforms, practice methods of evaluation with advanced analytics and craft search strategy.
Observe media and industry trends to drive strategy, content and achieve business goals.
Apply multimedia journalism to campaigns by utilizing innovative visual storytelling techniques and strategies.
Take advantage of available data through advanced social analytics and Google Analytics.
Successfully manage digital teams and oversee projects from multiple locations and possibly multiple regions.
The Diversity, Inclusion and Leadership course provides students with the tools to analytically and critically examine the forces that make the pursuit of diversity and inclusion more difficult, and to design effective strategies to increase inclusion in organizations.
This course deals with issues that are at once large, sweeping and very personal. Students will be encouraged to be active contributors in discussions. It is the hope that students will express themselves as contributors to their community/workplace/society from the point of view of their own cultures and identities. Students will be challenged to examine issues from various perspectives, some that they may not have previously considered or dismissed out of hand.
Through this course, students will be called upon to leave any racial, ethnic, class, gender and sexual-orientation-based comfort zone behind. The opportunity to learn about life from people who do not share students’ identities will be presented; there may be times when students may not like everything they hear.
Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:
Examine and explain concepts such as identity, hegemony, framing and stereotypes.
Describe the importance of salience of group identity and how power is used to serve group identities.
Discuss concepts such as racism, sexism, ableism and intersectionality.
Examine and explain concepts involving inclusive leadership in the workplace.
Apply proactive strategies to foster inclusion in the workplace that are aimed at getting results.
Strategic Communications Management in the Digital Age – 3 Credits
This course introduces students to public relations, mass communication, and social psychology theories applicable to professional practice and orients them to effective strategies that are required in an increasingly digital and social media-driven working environment.
After taking this course, students will be able to:
Describe key theories that are needed to manage communication between an organization and its diverse publics.
Apply the theories pertaining to mass communication, persuasion, and social influence to current cases, issues, and situations in organizational communications.
Identify current codes of ethics in the communications industry and discuss their application to current cases and news reports.
Describe how the continuing growth and development of digital and social media have dramatically changed organizational and media environments, roles, and relationships and the implications for professional communicators.
Describe and discuss diversity and inclusion strategies and their intrinsic role in organizational communications.
Produce a comprehensive project that discusses a theory and technological trends to explain a current case in strategic communication.