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COM 613 Constructing Messages and Audiences

Note: the following is representative information for example purposes and is subject to change as course and student needs change over time.

Course Description

This course explores ways by which we construct and disseminate messages to a variety of audiences for a variety of purposes, including leading, motivating, persuading, informing, and advocating for issues. Whether targeting consumers, employees, media professionals, investors, friends, family, or like-minded individuals, students will learn effective tools for creating messages that advance goals, and build and engage community, while learning how to best analyze audiences, craft messages, design information, choose among communication media, shape user experience, and evaluate success. The course gives special attention to how digital technology impacts effective communication including how to best consume, filter, create, and critically analyze messages. Students also explore the implications of evolving communication channels on society, especially with regard to opportunities for conversation, engagement, advocacy, and experimentation.

Course Objectives

After completing this course, students are prepared to:

  • Consider critically the field of strategic communication.
  • Understand and thoughtfully discuss the domains of strategic communication in various contexts.
  • Evaluate, address, and explain the concepts of strategic communication.
  • Identify and raise issues related to successful communication practices.
  • Develop and ask theoretically-based questions surrounding the practice of strategic communication.
  • Produce a strategic communication plan.

Topic of Study

Describing Messages & Audiences

Questions to consider:

  • Why would it be important for a field like strategic communication to have a foundation of substantial theory?
  • What historical elements of the fields of public relations and corporate communication allowed the field to exist in the absence of thoughtful discourse?
  • How might a strategic communication plan that is grounded in theory be different from one that isn't?

After completing this topic of study, students are prepared to:

  • Explain the role of theory in shaping strategic communication practice.
  • Describe the importance of using theory to shape strategic communication practice.
  • Design the framework for a strategic communication plan.

Building Capital

Questions to consider:

  • How does each theorist define capital?
  • When Bordieu describes the various types of capital, what does that reveal about the concept of capital?
  • When Putnam focuses on social capital, how does that build upon Bordieu's concept of capital?
  • In your experience, how have you seen capital applied in your work or relationship settings?

After completing this topic of study, students are prepared to:

  • Articulate the concept of capital and the multiple roles of capital in communication.
  • Compare the various theoretical viewpoints surrounding capital.
  • Discern the ways that capital can be applied to strategic communication practice.
  • Discuss the domains of strategic communication in various contexts.
  • Identify and raise issues related to successful communication practices.

Orienting Our Structures & Spheres

Questions to consider:

  • How does each theorist view the relationship between people and their circumstances?
  • How does each theorist suggest that society operates? Who is in control? How is that control exerted?
  • As you read, do you feel like this theorist is describing your experience in society?
  • Pay special attention to Giddens' definitions of structure and agency and Habermas' 4-part claim about intelligibility-truth-truthfulness-legitimacy. How do these ideas resonate with your experience?
  • Also, if you haven't been reading the notes at the end of each chapter about the life of each theorist, be sure that you do. What do the notes tell you about how each theorist's lived experience may have shaped his theory?

After completing this topic of study, students are prepared to:

  • Define the relationship between human agency and structures, according to Giddens.
  • Define the nature of communication in Habermas’ public sphere.
  • Contrast the assumptions and central concepts of Giddens’ Structuration Theory and Habermas’ Public Sphere.

Developing Image

Questions to consider:

Goffman's Impression Management Theory comes to us from interpersonal communication, but it may have implications for broader communication scenarios as well. As you read, consider the following questions:

  • Can organizations and brands be viewed successfully through interpersonal communication theory?
  • What is the difference between (1) an expression an individual gives and (2) an expression that is given off?
  • Do you think Goffman's theory comes from a functional perspective (managing relationships to maximize outcomes) or a cocreational one (working together for mutual understanding)? How does your answer shape your perception of the theory?

Weber’s Theory on Legitimacy examines strategies in which an organization might invest to achieve legitimacy. As you read, consider the following:

  • What strategies does an organization use to establish legitimacy?
  • Which strategies serve short-term goals? Which serve long-term goals?
  • How might situational circumstances impact an organization’s ability to apply one or more of these strategies?

After completing this topic of study, students are prepared to:

  • Justify, using theory, the importance of image in a strategic communication setting.
  • Apply the 4 key concepts present in Goffman's theory of impression management.
  • Identify multiple vehicles for achieving personal legitimacy, according to Weber.
  • Discern an appropriate course of action for a practical scenario that works in accordance with one or both of the theories presented.
  • Develop and ask theoretically-based questions surrounding the practice of strategic communication.

Contemplating Multiple Audiences

Questions to consider:

As you read about feminist theory, think about the following questions:

  • What is the underlying goal of feminist theory?
  • What would be the outcomes of feminist theory if it was applied to strategic communication?
  • Using the chart on page 256, can you tell how the goals of the variety of feminist factions are all related, yet all unique?

When considering Spivak, think about the following:

  • What is the underlying goal of post-colonial theory?
  • What would be the outcomes of post-colonial theory if it was applied to strategic communication?
  • How does the information in Spivak's biography speak to her theory? From what geo-socio-political circumstances might you expect to see post-colonial theory emerge in coming years?

After completing this topic of study, students are prepared to:

  • Discern the value of feminist and post-colonial approaches to strategic communication.
  • Recognize the major divisions of feminist discourse.
  • Define the role of post-colonial theory in a post-colonial setting, according to Spivak.
  • Describe the means whereby feminist and/or post-colonial theory can shape strategic communication practice.
  • Develop and ask theoretically-based questions surrounding the practice of strategic communication.

Designing for User-Experience

Questions to consider:

  • What is the underlying goal of information design theory?
  • How does information design theory expand to become user-experience design theory?
  • What is the role of the user/receiver in the receipt of a message?
  • How does Shedroff's workbook make you rethink what you read in the Williams and Mazur articles?

After completing this topic of study, students are prepared to:

  • Discern the role of user-experience design in the construction of messages and audiences.
  • Recognize the variety of influences shaping user-experience design.
  • Describe the means whereby user-experience design theory can shape strategic communication practice.

Digitizing Audiences & Messages

Questions to consider:

  • What is the underlying goal of developing a theory of digital and media literacy?
  • Can you recognize gaps in these literacies in your own practice or in others around you?
  • How will digital and media literacy impact our ability to create messages and construct audiences?

After completing this topic of study, students are prepared to:

  • Describe the role of literacies in a 21st century, digital society.
  • Infer the impact of digital communication for the field of strategic communication.
  • Produce a strategic communication plan.

Note: the following is representative information for example purposes and is subject to change as course and student needs change over time.