Strategic Public Relations Course Listings

The Graduate School of Political Management offers a variety of courses covering politics, communications, and advocacy. Students should consult the GW Registrar to determine what courses are available in a given semester.

IMPORTANT NOTE: These course listings and syllabi should be used for guidance. Only order books or complete assignments based on syllabi that your professor posts on Blackboard.

PSPR 6201 – Strategic Public Relations Principles & Practices
The Theoretical Foundations of PR Strategy & Tactics
This course examines public relations history, theory, trends, tools and tactics, and provides an in-depth analysis of major theory and practices. Special attention is given to the influence of new media on the credibility and delivery of public relations and public affairs programs. Students analyze real-world case studies as context for an applied understanding of how and why to plan, execute and evaluate these programs, and they prepare a detailed professional communications plan that addresses an important management issue affecting a public relations or public affairs challenge. They also look at the growing role and value of public relations as a management function in business, government and not-for-profit institutions, and the attendant role of public affairs in addressing public policy and political issues. Syllabus

PSPR 6202 - Advanced Writing for Communications Professionals

From Context to Composition and Beyond
This course examines the essentials of effective public relations and public affairs writing, emphasizing strategic thinking and compositional precision as the source of their efficacy and power. Students learn to write time-tested professional communications for the media and other target audiences such as legislators or voters, creating and editing their classmates’ as well as their own backgrounders, press releases, media alerts, issue primers, stump speeches, pitch letters, plans and proposals. They also study the views of reporters and editors regarding what’s right and wrong with today’s public relations and public affairs writing. Lastly, they learn about writing for blogs, Web sites and other online media, and compose a press kit of their completed assignments in both draft and edited form. Syllabus

PSPR 6203 – Research Methods

Measuring & Evaluating PR and PA Program Success
This course examines proven pre- and post-program methods for measuring and evaluating effective public relations and public affairs campaigns and initiatives. Students learn basic and advanced tools and techniques, including statistical analysis, and analyze the panoply of research concepts and technology, including the use of the online and social media surveys, that affect consumer and/or political action. Conducting their own projects, students learn how research can be used to create, sell, manage and strengthen public relations and public affairs programs. Syllabus

PSPR 6204 – Media Relations in a Digital World

New Tools, New Challenges, New Thinking
This course deconstructs the art and theory of media relations from the public relations and public affairs perspective. Students analyze the state of contemporary media – online and off – and its impact on commerce, politics and the human contract, examining key factors influencing reportorial and editorial coverage of business, government and not-for-profit interests. Special emphasis is on the advent of the Internet, the rise of citizen journalism, and the impact of blogs and other social media. Students develop a strategic media relations campaign aimed at publicizing a product, service, idea or issue of their employers or other organizations, and that uses a variety of traditional and non-traditional publicity tools and techniques guided by sound messages and directed to sensible outcomes. Syllabus


PSPR 6205 – Fundamentals of Business and Finance for PR/PA Professionals

How PR Firms and Departments Operate for Profit & Success
This course will explore the fundamentals of business that can be applied to small, mid-size and large organizations, public relations agencies, and start-up consultancies. Students will learn how to effectively integrate communications/PR skills with a financial “lens” to real-world business situations. The course will include the disciplines of leadership, human resource management, marketing, economics, and finance and accounting, with an emphasis on financial planning and budgeting. The combination of the textbook, relevant articles, in-class discussion, guest speakers and practical assignments will give students a strong understanding of the challenges facing today’s business leaders. 


PSPR 6206 – Ethical Standards in Public Relations & Public Affairs

The Framework of Professional Credibility & Accountability
This course explores the growing role and importance of ethics in public relations and public affairs. Students analyze personal and professional ethical assumptions and norms in American society, and consider standards, guidelines and codes of conduct that should guide relations with clients, the media, public officials, legislators, voters, employees, and others. Students learn how to identify and respond to ethical challenges, and they prepare papers as well as a research project that addresses ethical conduct in a public relations or public affairs setting. Syllabus

PSPR 6207 – Sustainability Communications

The Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) movement is a worldwide phenomenon and corporations, trade associations and non-profits are being asked to step up and be accountable. Public relations and communications professionals need to develop the skills to prepare strategic communications plans that reflect their organization's commitment to CSR and enhance their employer's reputation in the global marketplace.

This course will examine the global CSR movement, explore the unique communications challenges it presents and offer practical suggestions and tactics to respond to this trend. The class will feature in-class activities, current research and guest speakers from NGOs, communications firms and major corporations with practical advice on meeting this challenge in the global marketplace. We will utilize case studies, professional journals and original research to explore the topic and develop a comprehensive CSR communications strategy as the capstone project for the class. Syllabus

PSPR 6208 – Integrated Marketing Communications

A New Paradigm for Extending the Reach & Impact of Public Relations & Public Affairs
This course examines the evolution of integrated marketing communications (IMC) as a new paradigm for extending the reach and influence of public relations and public affairs through the use of both traditional and non-traditional communications approaches and technologies. Included in the mix are advertising, direct marketing, customer service, branding, blogs, podcasts, and cause marketing. Students learn about the theoretical and tactical advantages and disadvantages of integrated strategies in for-profit and not-for-profit enterprises, and they design an integrated marketing communications program, making use of both traditional and new media tools and techniques. (Prof. Mark Phillips) Syllabus

PSPR 6222 - Multicultural Marketing and Engagement

As multicultural communities increase in size and reach and as diverse institutions gain national prominence, the need for engagement is clear. Today, the general market is necessarily multicultural. The course prepares students for effective and ethical public engagement on behalf of contemporary organizations communicating issues and commitments to diverse audiences and multicultural messages to the general market. From a base of cultural understanding, students will study effective engagement strategies and techniques. Syllabus

PSPR 6223 - Public Opinion, Political Socialization and Public Relations

Through analytical research, first-hand accounts and theoretical constructs, this course explores key questions related to the formation of public opinion and political socialization. More specifically, this course looks at the process by which people view their engagement in public debates and politics and how they acquire and maintain their attitudes, biases, beliefs - in short, their opinions and the decisions they make as a result. Discussion centers on the forces that influence public opinion and political socialization, including the power of the press and its impact on our major institutions. Course goals include developing awareness and critical thinking regarding the role, formation and use of public opinion in contemporary public affairs and public relations; understanding the socialization processes that shape opinion, political and marketplace behavior; and analyzing how communications activities are used in the real world to influence opinion, attitudes and behavior. Syllabus

PSPR 6224 - Global Public Relations and Public Affairs - Strategy and Practice

This course builds on students’ prior academic and/or on-the-job experience to develop a global understanding and practical tools for using public relations and public affairs to promote and defend companies, government entities, non-profit organizations, and individual candidates on the world stage. The course surveys how global public relations and public affairs strategies are developed and implemented, emphasizing successful case studies and failures. Students examine communications theories and practice, and from that study, gain insights into beliefs and behaviors that cross continents, as well as the unique challenges arising from differences in language, culture, politics, and economics worldwide. The course studies global media and social networks and examines how digital and social media are revolutionizing the way public relations executives work with global and local stakeholders who have gained tremendous power once limited to those who had the capital to own communications enterprises. After completing this course, students will: understand the role of public relations and public affairs worldwide; assess, develop, and implement a comprehensive global public relations/public affairs strategy with culturally- and country-appropriate messaging and channels; and strengthen their creative problem-solving, writing, and presentation skills relevant to public relations roles. Syllabus

PSPR 6225 - Managing Trade Association and Nonprofit Communications in a Changing Environment

This course is designed to help communicators currently working - or hoping to work - in trade associations and nonprofit (ANP) organizations become more effective in the planning and execution of their programs. By its very nature, this course will be practical and reality-based, with guest speakers drawn from many organizations and communications backgrounds. 

In the context of this class, effective communications means understanding the goals, environments, structures, constraints, opportunities and challenges facing associations and nonprofit organizations, and developing and implementing communication plans to achieve those goals. Effective also means working within the limitations communicators often face, such as (but by no means limited to): dwindling budgets, divided membership, fragmented boards and hesitant leadership, the decline of traditional news media, the rise of blogs, the surge of social media and more. Syllabus

PSPR 6226 - Digital Communications Platforms and Strategies

The course will examine the theories and approach to digital communications and review the major digital platforms utilized by companies, government agencies, non-profits and associations to accomplish their strategic communications goals and objectives. The class will provide active hands-on opportunities for students to become familiar with the major platforms and the tactics and techniques top organizations deploy to further their objectives. The class will be led by an adjunct with deep digital skills and experience and feature case studies, guest speakers and practical application of the skills and strategies in use at the leading edge of digital communications. Syllabus

PSPR 6230 - Crisis and Issues Management

The practice of Issues Management involves the intersection of a number of communications and policy disciplines, including environmental scanning, public policy analysis, public policy advocacy, strategic communications, media relations, grassroots mobilization, coalition management and corporate reputation management. This course will explore all of the approaches in detail and examine ways in which they work together to further the broad strategic goals of organizations.

The course will be conducted as a seminar and will require robust classroom discussion. The goal of the course is to provide students with an in-depth knowledge of the various elements of Issues Management and to equip them with the practical skills needed to shape public opinion and public policy in order to advance organizational goals. Syllabus

CPS 6300 – Public Relations & Public Affairs Capstone Research Project

Applying PR & PA Skills and Knowledge to Independent Research
Students apply the knowledge and lessons gained in their courses in a major independent research project on a topic of immediate interest to their current employer or another organization that has a bearing on their professional aspirations. They design the project with the approval of faculty and in cooperation with the staff and management of the organization in question, conducting primary and secondary research, and preparing a publishable quality research paper, incisively elucidating their views and opinions with the goal of building greater understanding about and insight into the project topic. Syllabus

PMGT 6420 Corporate Public Affairs (3 credits; offered spring every other year)

Exploration of major functional areas in corporate public affairs, with a focus on the political and policy dynamics operating in the United States and other democracies abroad. Development and deployment of appropriate strategy, research, and tactics for corporations managing the complexities related to a global economy and shifting political alliances.

PMGT 6452 Digital Strategy (3 credits; offered fall)

Development of an integrated digital strategy for use in advocacy and electoral campaigns. Introduction to the theoretical concepts, distinctive technologies, applied skills, and managerial challenges associated with digital campaigning. Search engine optimization, GPS, online payment systems, customizing back- and front-end systems to meet strategic goals and budget parameters, working with IT vendors and distance volunteers, legal and cultural considerations in US and other regimes, site rollout and scaling, security and privacy. NOTE: This is a pre-requisite for all PMGT Digital courses. (Professors I. Koski and S. Zurn)

PMGT 6456 Speechcraft (3 credits; offered fall)

Analysis and techniques used in speechwriting and presentations for public officials and candidates. Managing the political optics and understanding a speech's visual context and non-verbal communication capabilities (Rose Garden, Oval Office, campaign stump speech, ceremonial occasion, congressional testimony). Modulating speaker style, tone, and pacing, and staging the speech for effect. (Professor D. McGroarty)

6200-Global Perspective Residencies

Global Perspective courses vary by time and location. Courses include Advocating in Europe (Brussels, Belgium), Advocating in Latin America (Sao Paulo and Brazilia, Brazil) and Advocating in Washington, DC, Advocating in China (Beijing and Hong Kong), Advocating in the United Kingdom (London), Advocating in South Africa (Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Praetoria), and Advocating in Germany (Berlin). Students will participate in online preparatory classes through Blackboard prior to arriving for an intensive weeklong program from dusk until dawn, meeting with business executives, public affairs experts, political leaders, NGO executives, media representatives, and professors at GW’s partner schools. For more information, visit the Global Perspective Residencies page.