Constructing Messages & Audiences

Constructing Messages & Audiences – COMM 613
syllabus | schedule of events
Spring 2013, Queens University of Charlotte
Dr. John A. McArthur

Seminar Description
The description from our course catalog reads: “This course explores ways by which we construct and disseminate messages to a variety of audiences for a variety of purposes, including to lead, motivate, persuade, inform and advocate. 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. Students will explore how best to 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..”

Goals for your Thinking, Knowing, Doing, and Making
At the conclusion of this course, students should be able to:

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


  • Strategic Communication Plan (30%)
    Each student will author a strategic communication plan that addresses a particular organization and its needs. The strategic communication plan involves an analysis of the organization as well as recommendations for its communication endeavors. The goal of this assignment is to learn appropriate format and criteria for successful strategic communication plans.
  • Theoretical Applications (30%)
    The three theoretical application papers in this class should be connections between the theories we are learning in class and your framework for how they might be applied to a organizational setting in strategic communication. They are meant to be “trial runs” for the theoretical grounding section of your final strategic communication plans. The goal is to connect theory to practice in a way that would allow you to base a strategic communication proposal upon the theory. You might answer the question: “How could this theory be used to improve an organization’s strategic communication efforts?” The organizational model for the application should follow the organizational design of the theory. These connections should be tightly written in no more than 2 pages.
  • Formal Presentations (30%)
    Each student will present two formal presentations. One will serve the purpose of motivating or persuading an audience. The other will serve a dual purpose of informing and advocating for a cause. The outcomes for these speeches are to consider the audience characteristics, plan a message, and evaluate the success of that message.
  • Participation: Twitter & Class (10%)
    Every student should be participating in class discussions many multiple times in each session. The classroom discussions will count for approximately half of this assessment. In addition, all students should be on Twitter as many PR and strategic communication professionals are having a vibrant conversation about the field in that space. You can choose to be on Twitter and “just listen,” but for this class, you should be sharing what you’re hearing with your classmates. So, a basic Twitter participation might look something like 3 @mentions, 4 re-tweets, and 5 original posts per week.

Notes about work produced in this seminar

At the Master’s level, all student papers should be clear, logically organized, concise, and error-free. Whereas the role of the professor is to provide counsel for you on the organization and thought processes of early drafts of your writing, the onus of responsibility falls to the student for soliciting support in proofreading and editing. Students who require writing support should avail themselves of the resources available in both the Library and the Center for Student Success on the lower level of the Dana Building.

Appropriate citation and attribution is necessary for all writing (in all media) in this course. Images, texts, video clips, tweets, and all other replicated work should be attributed in a manner appropriate to the presentation medium.

Readings and Supplies

  • Ihlen, O., van Ruler, B., & Fredriksson, M. (2009). Public Relations and Social Theory. New York: Routledge.
  • Shedroff, N. (2001). experience design 1. New Riders Press.
  • Supplemental Readings available on Moodle/via library.
  • Students may also find one or more of the following readings valuable:
    • Baer, J. & Naslund, A. (2011). The Now Revolution.
    • Botsman, R., & Rogers, R. (2010). What’s Mine is Yours: The rise of Collaborative Consumption. New York: Harper Business.
    • Denning, S. (2004). Squirrel Inc. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
    • Godin, S. (2008). Tribes. New York: Penguin Group.
    • Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2007). Made to Stick: Why some ideas survive and others die. New York: Random House.
    • Heath C., & Heath, D. (2010). Switch!: How to change things when change is hard. New York: Random House.
    • Kelleher, T. (2007). Public Relations Online.
    • Kim, W.C., & Mauborgne, R. (2005). Blue Ocean Strategy. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.
    • Kovach, B. & Rosenstiel, T. (2010). Blur: How to know what’s true in an age of information overload.
    • Nayar, V. (2010). Employees First, Customers Second. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.
    • Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling Alone: The collapse and revival of the American community.
    • Putnam, R. (2004). Better Together: Restoring the American community.
    • Quelch, J.A., & Jocz, K.A. (2007). Greater Good: How good marketing makes for better democracy. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.
    • Solis, B. (2009). Engage!
    • Solis, B. (2011). The End of Business as Usual.
    • Solis, B., & Breakenridge D. (2009). Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: How social media is reinventing the aging business of PR. Upper Saddle Ridge, NJ: FT Press.
    • Twitchell, J. B. (2004). Branded Nation: The marketing of Megachurch, College Inc., and Museumworld. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • Readings independently identified by each student.
  • Students will also need a Twitter account and access to the Internet on a weekly basis.
  • Students may purchase other materials during the semester including supplies for projects as designed by the student in accordance with the project requirements.

Course Policies and Statements

Late/Missed Work Policy: Always make arrangements with me as soon as you know about an upcoming absence. Arrangements for making up missed work must be made in advance, and I encourage you to discuss with me any concerns you have regarding deadlines in advance. Assignments submitted late will be severely penalized by 10% of the original point allocation per calendar day late. Thus, assignments submitted after 10 days late will earn no points. The dates on our schedule are the official due dates. All readings and materials are due during class time on the date specified. Dates are subject to change, and any changes will be made in writing.

Attendance Policy: Attendance is expected in this course. If you will be missing class for any reason, let me know as soon as possible. If you miss class, you are responsible for contacting a classmate to find out what work was missed. Excessive absences (3 or more) will result in automatic failure of the course.

Queens University of Charlotte Graduate School Information: Participation in this seminar is governed by the graduate academic policies found in the Student Catalog; the policies of the School of Communication Graduate Student Qualifications Committee; and the Queens University of Charlotte Honor Code. Failure to uphold any of these policies by any participant will be dealt with swiftly and severely, in accordance with the regulations of each policy.

Disability Accommodations: If you are a student with a verified disability and you require accommodations, please provide me with the necessary memorandum that was given to you by Student Disability Services. Contact: The Coordinator of Disability Services: Sandy Rogelberg, 704-337-2508.

Honor Code: The Honor Code, which permeates all phases of university life, is based on three fundamental principles. It assumes that Queens students: a) are truthful at all times, b) respect the property of others (this includes written works, thus, plagiarism is a Honor Code violation), and c) are honest in tests, examinations, term papers, and all other academic assignments. It is a violation of the Honor Code for a student to be untruthful concerning the reason for a class absence. If you believe that you have witnessed a violation of the Queens Honor Code, I encourage you to speak with me confidentially. All members of the Queens community adhere to the Honor Code, these expectations are outlined in the Honor Code Booklet,

Queens University of Charlotte Honor Code

As a member of the Queens University of Charlotte community, I will endeavor to create a spirit of integrity and honor for its own sake at Queens University of Charlotte.

Academic Pledge: I pledge truthfulness and absolute honesty in the performance of all academic work.

Community Pledge: I pledge to be truthful at all times, to treat others with respect, to respect the property of others,and to adhere to University policies.

Accepting both the privileges and responsibilities of living by this code of honor, I resolve to uphold this code and not to tolerate any violations of its spirit or principles.

E-mail: Students’ Queens University of Charlotte e-mail (Qmail) is an official form of communication for this course, and will be used to disseminate materials and provide updates in group and individual form. Please check your email regularly.

University Closings / Cancelled Classes: In the rare occasion when it is necessary to close the university announcements will be made on TV and radio, and will be posted on the Queens web site, The best way for the Queens community to receive fast and accurate information about closings is to sign up for QALERT at Remember, you must register as a new user each academic year, even if you’ve signed up in the past. NOTE: If classes are meeting but you feel that you cannot find a safe way to get to class, you should notify me as soon as possible.

Intellectual Property Policy: Queens University of Charlotte faculty and students adhere to the Queens’ Intellectual Property Policy and U.S. Copyright Law. See Faculty Handbook,, and the Queens University of Charlotte website at

A Notation
This content may be modified on a regular basis to facilitate effectiveness in the seminar experience. Seminar participants are advised to check this page often for revisions.
Last update: December, 2012