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COMSTRAT 310 Syllabus - Spring 2018

COMSTRAT 310 - DIGITAL CONTENT PROMOTION (3 CREDITS) Instructor:  Brett Atwood                                EMAIL:    batwood@wsu.ed...

WEEKS 1 & 2: Intro to Course & Overview of Semester Project


During the first two weeks, we will:
  • Be introduced to the semester-long project and general course structure
  • Explore the basics of web-based public relations and advertising campaigns
  • Review the fundamentals of a SWOT analysis and a competitive analysis. Then prepare these for your product in preparation for your looming campaign
  • Review examples of user persona research and then apply these techniques to our campaign
  • As we begin our semester campaign case study project, please identify the focus and positioning of your product and where it fits into the competitive landscape. Do not worry yet about the brand name or logo. You will conduct a competitive analysis and a SWOT analysis on the product line that they are aiming to develop a campaign for. This will be used to help shape and inform future branding and messaging elements, including social media outreach strategies. Soon you will also create at least three user persona research profiles for the audience that they anticipate targeting.

User Personas

Who is your target audience? Are there multiple target audiences for your brand or product?

Rather than think about these in broad, abstract terms, you can develop "user personas" to better visualize who your potential audience is.
Xtension is a free web-based user persona tool that you can use for this assignment

Orangebus, a U.K.-based digital agency, has created a great template that you can use to create your various user personas. Check it out (.pdf format) at:
More examples and templates to explore:

Competitive Analysis & SWOT Analysis

Many students are already familiar with the concept of a Competitive Analysis and SWOT analysis. As you may already know, you can use both of these to help identify where your product fits within the overall marketplace. By developing both of these documents, you will help focus the approach used in planning your advertising and/or PR campaigns.
A competitive analysis involves a simple exploration of your competitors in the product category or niche that you are aiming to develop a product and campaign for.
Check out this template that can help you get started:
The above template might not import correctly into Google Documents, so you might want to re-create a version of it in Google Documents and/or develop your own template.
One web-based tool that can help you better understand the website demographics of your competitors is:

In addition to understanding your competition, you should do an analysis of  the key attributes and value propositions of your potential brand. A SWOT analysis.  can help you get a clearer understanding of your product by documenting the:
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats
To do a proper SWOT analysis, you will need to really consider what the key  value propositions are in relation to the overall existing marketplace. This is  why both the SWOT analysis and competitive analysis are important as a starting  point to your campaign. You need to KNOW your brand and the larger product  category before subsequent work can begin.
Here is a worksheet that you can use to help guide your analysis:
Looking for examples? Marketingteacher.com has great examples of several brands, including:

Semester Project Overview

For the duration of the semester, we will be creating fictional brands that the class will use to generate original social media, PR and advertising campaign elements. Rather than use “real” brands or services for each campaign, you will orchestrate your campaign around a single fictional brand that you create.

The types of fictional products or services will vary, but some examples of categories include:

  • Non-alcoholic beverage (e.g. soda pop, sports drink, coffee, etc.)
  • Energy Pill
  • Airline
  • Internet-based music company
  • Shampoo or Hair Grooming Product
  • Stylish clothing line
Each student may identify other brand categories to be considered, but the above is only meant as a starter list for consideration. For each of the above soon-to-be-created brands, each student will research varying brand names and logo treatments as they consider the competitive positioning of the brand in the presumed marketplace.

When naming your brand, it is important that students NOT use any existing or "real" brands for these projects. However, you will use a trademark search engine to investigate whether your suggested brand names already exist. You may also use Adobe Photoshop or, alternatively, a free online tool to generate an original logo for your "fictional" brand.

Your campaign prep work also includes user persona research and a SWOT analysis to help determine brands strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Remember: You are inventing the brand and the attributes that define it! This is the perfect chance to examine the competitive landscape of your product to identify "opportunities" or under-served niches that you can aim to reach with your campaign. It's a clean slate!!!

Your initial research helps to define your brand, messaging, audience and its position in the marketplace. This is all essential to the second phase of your campaign: the actual social media marketing, advertising and public relations outreach that will help bring awareness of your campaign to the masses.

Over the duration of the semester, students may create some or all of these elements:
  • A social media marketing plan
  • An SEO-optimized campaign website
  • A Facebook fan page
  • A Twitter feed
  • Social media press releases
  • A targeted e-mail campaign
  • and more!
Examples of Previous Semester Campaign Sites:
Examples of Previous Semester Social Media Marketing Plans:

    COMSTRAT 310 Syllabus - Spring 2018


    Instructor:  Brett Atwood                             
    EMAIL:  batwood@wsu.edu                                     


    This course is designed to help students apply writing, critical thinking and persuasion skills to the practice and promotion of PR and advertising in both digital and social media outlets. Students will explore various digital promotion technologies, as well as use of emerging social media to study their ethical application in both advertising and PR.

    Successful completion of the course will prepare students for the next level of specialization courses in the College, as well as for an internship.

    • Develop and manage online content promotions and branded digital campaigns.
    • Ability to develop and execute social media engagement and user-oriented content strategies.
    • Evaluate campaign success in execution using key performance indicators and online tools for web development, email, metrics, and multimedia management.

    COURSE CURRICULUM MAPPING (Click to enlarge):


    The course will be taught to address digital content and social media campaigns from both a PR and advertising perspective. In general, the work created and submitted is meant to prepare students for working in the “real world.”  

    Assignments will include content creation and promotion of campaign elements using both emerging and established new media technologies, including social media, podcasts, viral videos, social media news releases and website analytics. 

    Each student will develop a campaign for a fictional brand, product or organization for the duration of the semester. Students will be expected to conceptualize and create specified elements of a promotional campaign, which will include social media press releases and web- and social media-distributed multimedia content. 

    Students will learn to optimize their campaigns and content for distribution and discovery on search engines, social networks, mobile devices and other non-traditional outlets. Best practices will be explored for press release writing, tagging, metadata creation, social network seeding, community engagement and more.

    Each student will be responsible for gathering and generating accurate analytics and measurement reports for their client and campaign. Students will learn the basic data interpretation techniques of website and social media analytics services (such as Google Analytics and Facebook Insights) that track visitor behavior, pageviews, keyword and third party site referrals.

    Although subject to change, the following tools, services and techniques may be used:
    • Search Engine Optimization and Marketing (SEO/SEM)
    • Social Media Marketing (SMM)
    • Social media networks  (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.)
    • Google Documents/Drive (an online collaborative word processor and cloud-based storage service)
    • Google AdSense (targeted website and keyword search advertising service)
    • Google Analytics (targeted website and keyword measurement and analytics service)
    • Facebook Ads (targeted social media advertising service)
    • Facebook Insights (social media measurement and analytics service)
    • YouTube Insights (viral video measurement and analytics service)
    • Google Forms and/or Polldaddy (online survey tools)
    • Dropbox (media and file sharing utility)
    • Gliffy.com (wireframing tool)

    COURSE TOPICS & SCHEDULE (Subject to Change):
    • Week 1: Intro to Course & Overview of Semester Project
    • Week 2: Content Strategy Basics: Using a SWOT Analysis, Competitive Analysis & User Persona Research to Craft our Online Campaigns
    • Week 3: Focusing our online identity: Logo creations and brand name explorations (including trademark research)
    • Week 4: Gathering online feedback: Research and feedback on our brand name and logo creations (Learning Polldaddy/Google Forms)
    • Week 5: Wireframing & Design Explorations (Gliffy.com)
    • Week 6: Website Creation Training and Workshops (Wix.com)
    • Week 7: Workshops/Legal considerations for web publishing incl. exploration of stock photo and multimedia considerations
    • Week 8: SEO Basics: Search Engine Optimization Best Practices & Case Studies/SMM Basics: Social Media Marketing Best Practices & Case Studies
    • Week 9: Social Media Marketing Plans & Case Studies 
    • Week 10: SPRING BREAK
    • Week 11Building a Facebook fan page & use of social media widgets/Building a Twitter feed & best practices in microblogging
    • Week 12Design & Campaign Considerations for Mobile & Tablet Platforms/Workshops
    • Week 13:  Learning Google Adwords & Facebook Ads
    • Week 14: Introduction to Google Analytics & Analyzing Website Traffic Reports/YouTube Insight & Video Campaigns
    • Weeks 15-16: Final Projects & Social Media Marketing Plans


    Evaluation of your work will be based on the quality and timeliness of the social media, written and/or multimedia content created for the class. This does include technical quality, but also the application of key concepts and critical thinking to the productions. 

    For this course, all key components of your grade will be determined at the end of the course. Each key element is worth 25% of your total grade. Key elements include:
    • Final delivery of a campaign website and related social media elements (25%)
    • A Social Media Marketing Plan for your campaign (25%)
    • Participation & Attendance (25%)
    • A final exam (25%)
    It is important to note that the majority of these elements will not be graded until the END of the semester. If students have any questions or want feedback sooner re: how they are doing, they should contact the instructor to arrange a one-on-one meeting to review their work.


    This course has a heavy dependence on the use of technology and students will be expected to have access to Internet-connected computers so that they may complete each assignment. Some in-class lab time will be provided, but students should expect that much of their course work will be completed in labs or on their own computers outside of class.

    Due to the rapidly changing nature of the technology and tools used in this course, specific hardware, software and online services used may vary each semester as new digital technologies and practices emerge into the mainstream. 


    A Computer Lab will be open for student use during the semester. This syllabus will be updated with computer lab hours and location shortly.

    For desktop support in the computer labs, please contact (425) 405-1592.


    Copyright (2018) Brett Atwood.

    This syllabus and all course-related materials, presentations, lectures, etc. are my intellectual property and may be protected by copyright. Selling class notes through commercial note-taking services, without my written advance permission, could be viewed as copyright infringement and/or an academic integrity violation, WAC 504-26-010 (3)(a,b,c,i). Further, the use of University electronic resources (e.g., Blackboard) for commercial purposes, including advertising to other students to buy notes, is a violation of WSU’s computer abuses and theft policy (WAC 504-26-218), a violation of WSU’s Electronic Communication policy (EP 4), and also violates the terms of use for the Blackboard software program.

    Discriminatory Conduct Statement

    Discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct (including stalking, intimate partner violence, and sexual violence) is prohibited at WSU (See WSU Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct (Executive Policy 15) and WSU Standards of Conduct for Students).

    If you feel you have experienced or have witnessed discriminatory conduct, you can contact the WSU Office for Equal Opportunity (OEO) and/or the WSU Title IX Coordinator at 509-335-8288 to discuss resources, including confidential resources, and reporting options. (Visit oeo.wsu.edu for more information).

    Most WSU employees, including faculty, who have information regarding sexual harassment or sexual misconduct are required to report the information to OEO or a designated Title IX Coordinator or Liaison.  (Visit oeo.wsu.edu/reporting-requirements for more info).

    Academic Freedom Statement

    WSU supports the faculty’s academic freedom, right to freedom of expression, and responsibility to fulfill course objectives that are approved by the Faculty Senate. This is fundamental to who we are as an institution. Along with these rights comes the responsibility to protect the freedom of expression of all members of our community, including students. The same is stated clearly in our own policies and procedures, including the Faculty Responsibilities section of the WSU Faculty Manual:

    “As teachers, professors encourage the free pursuit of learning in their students. They hold before them the best scholarly standards of their disciplines. They demonstrate respect for the student as an individual and adhere to their proper role as intellectual guides and counselors…They protect students’ academic freedom.”

    We also want to emphasize the importance of protecting freedom of expression in the classroom. Section IIB of the Faculty Manual (page 14) covers freedom of expression and accompanying responsibilities:

    “Freedom of expression is recognized as one of the essential elements of academic freedom. On a healthy campus, there is respect for the dignity and worth of all members of the campus community and a concern for the rights of others. …It is the policy of Washington State University to support and promote the rights of all individuals to express their view and opinions for or against actions or ideas in which they have an interest… The above rights exist in equal measure for each member of the University community.”

    We recognize that faculty have a strong interest in promoting respectful dialogue in the classroom. Speech and conduct that disrupts the educational process and creates a hostile environment, as that term is defined in WSU’s non-discrimination policy (Executive Policy 15), is not protected.

    We must aim to protect the freedoms and rights of every member of the WSU community, and to promote learning about diverse perspectives while ensuring that students experience a safe, constructive learning environment.

    Academic Integrity Statement

    Academic integrity is the cornerstone of higher education. As such, all members of the university community share responsibility for maintaining and promoting the principles of integrity in all activities, including academic integrity and honest scholarship. Academic integrity will be strongly enforced in this course. Students who violate WSU’s Academic Integrity Policy (identified in Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 504-26-010(3) and -404) will (i) receive an academic penalty ranging from a minimum of both a zero on that assignment and the reduction of a full letter grade on your final grade to failure of the entire course, (ii) will not have the option to withdraw from the course pending an appeal, and (iii) will be reported to the Office of Student Conduct. 

    Cheating includes, but is not limited to, plagiarism and unauthorized collaboration as defined in the Standards of Conduct for Students, WAC 504-26-010(3). You need to read and understand all of the definitions of cheating: http://app.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=504-26-010. If you have any questions about what is and is not allowed in this course, you should ask course instructors before proceeding. 

    If you wish to appeal a faculty member's decision relating to academic integrity, please use the form available at conduct.wsu.edu

    Reasonable Accommodation Syllabus Statement

    Reasonable accommodations are available in classes for students with a documented disability. If you have a disability and need accommodations to fully participate in this class, please either email or call the Access Center (access.center@wsu.edu; 509-335-3417) to schedule an appointment with an Access Advisor.  New students to the Access Center are asked to visit the Access Center website to complete an application: http://www.accesscenter.wsu.edu.

    All accommodations MUST be approved through the Access Center.  Once accommodations are approved, students are expected to meet with course instructors within two weeks to discuss implementation.

    Pullman, Everett or WSU Online: 509-335-3417  http://accesscenter.wsu.edu, Access.Center@wsu.edu

    Campus and Classroom Safety Statement

    Classroom and campus safety are of paramount importance at Washington State University, and are the shared responsibility of the entire campus population.  WSU urges students to follow the “Alert, Assess, Act” protocol for all types of emergencies and the “Run, Hide, Fight” response for an active shooter incident. Remain ALERT (through direct observation or emergency notification), ASSESS your specific situation, and ACT in the most appropriate way to assure your own safety (and the safety of others if you are able).

    Please sign up for emergency alerts on your account at MyWSU. For more information on this subject, campus safety, and related topics, please view the FBI’s Run, Hide, Fight video and visit the WSU safety portal.

    For the Everett campus, all students should also be enrolled in the local RAVE Emergency Alert system. If you are not already registered, please do so at: https://www.getrave.com/login/everettcc. You can also find Everett-specific emergency information at https://www.everettcc.edu/emergency/

    First Week Class Attendance (Rule 72)

    Students who do not attend class during the first week of the semester will likely be dropped from the course. Students with extenuating circumstances should notify the Office of Student Affairs.   Valid reasons for missing class do not relieve the student of their responsibility for that missed work.

    Academic Regulations, Rule 34a

    Students may only repeat a course graded C- or below one time at WSU during fall or spring semesters.  Additional repeats are allowed from another institution or at WSU during summer terms or by special permission of the academic unit offering the course.


    University Communication with Students

    Absolutely NO communication will be sent to external addresses (e.g., yahoo, gmail, and so forth). We will use either the email within Blackboard or “email.wsu.edu” system. 

    Late/Missed Work 

    Late work is not accepted in this class. Tests and quizzes missed due to absence cannot be made up. Do not ask for after-the-fact exceptions. Some consideration, however, might be given (at the discretion of the instructor) if there is extenuating circumstances such as prolonged hospitalization, family death, or extended individual sickness previously discussed. In cases of documented university conflict, you are responsible for making alternative arrangements a minimum of two weeks in advance and responsibilities must be fulfilled before the normally scheduled time.

    Course Participation & Attendance Policies:

    In order to ensure participation from all students, credit is given to those with strong attendance and promptness. Excessive absences will result in a lower grade for the overall course. Specifically, more than TWO will adversely affect your final grade due to reduced credit for attendance and participation.

    Class attendance is vital, as material will be introduced that is not covered in the text. Poor attendance will be reflected in your grade because of missed assignments or problems with completion. Assignments missed due to absence generally can't be made up. Do not ask unless there are exceptional circumstances for an excused absence. Consideration might be given if there is documented hospitalization, family death, university-sponsored travel (documented in advance) or extended individual sickness.

    Instructor-Student Interaction

    I will generally respond to emails within 24 hours during the week. My expectation is the same for students. You need also to check your email regularly and respond within 24 hours. I generally do not respond to emails during the weekend. Nor is it expected that you will respond over the weekend. I generally do not discuss grades or any student records issues via email. Please schedule a meeting with me to discuss these issues. If necessary, I may ask you to submit a written petition together with your work in question. The classroom is typically not an appropriate place for these discussions. 

    In-Class Technology & Mobile Phone Use Policy

    Some assignments may require use of a computer laptop or other technology during the class. Otherwise, students are required to keep cell phones on vibrate or have calls transferred to voicemail while in class.  You may not take calls, text or engage in non-class related web or mobile activity while in class. The instructor reserves the right to ask students who violate this policy repeatedly to leave the classroom. Repeat violations of this policy may be cause for a reduced grade or course credit.

    In-Class Video & Audio Recording Policy

    Students should not record audio or video of the instructor or other students in the classroom without first procuring permission or consent from all recorded subjects. This includes use of "live streaming" services (such as Facebook Live and Periscope) and other social media audio/video recordings made without permission during class. Washington state is a "two-party consent" state that requires the consent of every party to a phone call or conversation in order to make the recording lawful. For more information on the legality of recording in the classroom, see: "Is it legal to record your teachers or professors?"

    Student Service Resources in Everett

    Food Pantry
    We know it can be challenging when you’re  paying for college and living on a tight budget. WSU Everett has a food pantry of nonperishable items available to students in financial need. Interested?  Contact Dr. Ciera Graham at cagraham@wsu.edu

    Career Counseling
    Do you need assistance with writing a resume and/or cover letter? Are you preparing for a job interview? Do you need help with the job search? Spring 2018 drop in hours are Tuesday 11:00am-1:00pm, and Wednesday 1:00pm-3:00pm. No need to schedule an appointment. Please report to Room 203. Students are seen on a first come, first serve basis.  If you would like to schedule an appointment outside of drop in hours, please contact Dr. Ciera Graham, cagraham@wsu.edu.

    CARE Team
    The WSU Everett CARE Team is dedicated to the success of each student academically, socially, emotionally, physically and spiritually. The purpose of this team is to identify and develop a plan for those students that may be experiencing more than ordinary transitional issues and may need a member of the committee to check in or offer assistance in some way. Through this outreach, it is our goal to make students aware of the resources that are available to them and help them to be successful. CARE Report – If you’re a student or staff and are concerned about the psychical, social, emotional, behavioral and psychological wellbeing of a student, peer, or friend, file a CARE report at https://everett.wsu.edu/student-care-reporting/

    Mental Health Counseling
    As an institution, it is our responsibility to ensure that we meet the needs of our students. WSU Everett will be offering students three, one-on-one counseling sessions with a licensed mental health counselor at no charge. Students must be currently enrolled at the time of seeking counseling services. After these three sessions, students will have to assume all costs for subsequent sessions. Students are free to contact Chett Hill at 206-650-5910 or chett.hill@comcast.net. His office is located at 2722 Colby Ave., Suite 720, Everett, WA 98290.
     If you have any questions about counseling services please contact Dr. Ciera Graham at cagraham@wsu.edu or 425-405-1725.

    Student Services Newsletter
    WSU Everett sends out a weekly student services newsletter every Monday to all current students. This newsletter contains important information about campus events, student involvement opportunities, financial aid and scholarships and important dates and deadlines. The first newsletter of the Fall 2017 semester will be sent August 21st. Please ensure you check your WSU email regularly to stay updated on campus events and important announcements!

    Connect-a-Coug is a meet and greet for all WSU Everett students and student services staff. This is an opportunity for students to interact informally with student services staff and learn about on campus events and services. Free pizza and beverages. Dates and times for the meet and greets are below:
    • Jan 9th 11:30am-1:00pm, Room 101
    • Jan 11th 1:30pm-3:00pm, Room 101
    JCPenney Suit Up Event
    Do you need professional wear for interviews? Come at the shop at the JCPenney Alderwood location on Sunday, February 25th 6:30am-9:30pm. JCPenney is closing their story for an exclusive shopping experience for WSU Everett and Everett Community College students only.  All WSU Everett students will receive an extra 40% off on all professional wear. Bring your student ID card. If you have questions or concerns about the event, contact Dr. Ciera Graham at cagraham@wsu.edu

    Career Week
    Career Week is scheduled Feb 25th-March 1st. This week is designed to expose WSU Everett students to industry professionals and provide guidance on various career development topics. The week’s events will include a Coffee and Career Chat, a panel discussion focused on navigating a career as a new professional, networking at career fairs, and a workshop on how to dress for success. Dates and times for the workshops and events will be announced in the student newsletter.

    Interested in starting a new club?
    Are you interested in starting a new club? Do you have a favorite hobby or interest area? Consider starting your own registered student organization. For questions contact Lindsey Major, ASWSUE Student Government President ASWSUE.Pres@wsu.edu or stop by the ASWSUE Office in 200B

    CrowdCircles is on Facebook

    If you are on Facebook, then I recommend you "Like" our official class feed. On Facebook, I'll be posting interesting and timely news stories, as well as job and internship opportunities -- some of which are exclusive to this class.