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COMSTRAT 310 Syllabus - Spring 2020

COMSTRAT 310 - DIGITAL CONTENT PROMOTION (3 CREDITS) Instructor:  Brett Atwood                                Email: batwood@wsu.edu Of...

COMSTRAT 310 Syllabus - Spring 2020


Instructor:  Brett Atwood                             
Email: batwood@wsu.edu
Office: WSU Everett 411
Office Hours: Before/After Class (or email for a specific appointment)

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 the 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.


This course does not have a required textbook.
  • 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.



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, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Google Documents/Drive (an online collaborative word processor and cloud-based storage service)
  • Google Ads (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 CrowdSignal (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 CrowdSignal/Google Forms)
  • Week 5: Wireframing & Design Explorations (Gliffy.com)
  • Week 6: Website Creation Training and Workshops (Wix or Weebly)
  • 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 Ads & Facebook Ads
  • Week 14: Introduction to Google Analytics & Analyzing Website Traffic Reports/YouTube Insight & Video Campaigns 
  • Week 15TBD
  • Week 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%)
* Please note that excessive unexcused absences can result in an automatic failure of this class. Specifically, more than TWO will adversely affect your final grade due to reduced credit for attendance and participation. Upon the third unexcused absence, students will lose "Participation & Attendance" points. More than six unexcused absences in total will result in automatic failure of the course

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 regarding how they are doing, they should contact the instructor to arrange a one-on-one meeting to review their work.



Using elements of a “Research, Writing, and Creativity” rubric – your work will be evaluated using the following criteria:
  • Research and Preparation: Student demonstrates thoughtful preparation and research
  • Content: Meets all the criteria for the assignment. All content is in the students’ own words (or cited appropriately) and is accurate.
  • Complete and Thorough: All aspects and sections of the assignment are completed in full with no holes. Demonstrated the ability to research to complete all tables, templates or outline requirements
  • Creativity: Students demonstrate creativity and innovation in completing the assignment content and any layout or design elements. The final product is unique, powerful, effective, and compelling.
  • Conventions: Document is easy to read and all elements are very clearly written, labeled. The document has no misspellings or grammatical errors. All template elements or outline sections are complete and thorough.
  • Design and Planning: Website and social channels are well designed, planned, and executed. It demonstrates meaningful use of time; it is free of errors.
  • Audience Awareness: Website and social channels show evidence of consistent attention to audience and purpose
  • Graphics and Media: Website and social channels demonstrate brand consistency throughout. Photos, icons, and other artwork are used creatively and work together thematically.
  • Content and Messaging: Content on website pages and social media about/bios are creatively written and cleverly presented. Consistency in the message is evident throughout.
  • Conventions: Grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization is correct throughout the website page content and social media about/bio. No errors in the text. Relevant links function properly.
  • Resource Documentation: Student(s) demonstrate evidence of documentation throughout digital assets where possible including giving credit to any websites, photos articles, blogs or other resources used.

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. 


The Math & Writing Lab (located on the second floor) will be open for student use throughout the semester. Some computers in the lab have the fully licensed version of Adobe Creative Cloud, which can be used if needed for some assignments.

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


Copyright (2019) 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

Students with Disabilities: 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://everett.wsu.edu/campus-emergency-procedures/ and 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., Gmail, Yahoo, and so forth). For student-to-faculty correspondence, please use the official WSU email 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 are 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. 

Specifically, more than TWO will adversely affect your final grade due to reduced credit for attendance and participation. Upon the third unexcused absence, students will lose "Participation & Attendance" points. Thus, excessive absences will result in a lower grade for the overall course - and more than six unexcused absences in total will result in automatic failure of the course

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.

As stated by WSU Academic Regulations 72, “Students are responsible for ensuring that they attend all class meetings and complete all in-class and out-of-class work as assigned by the instructor.” 

The following categories constitute “excused absences”:

1. University Sponsored.  Any student who is required to participate in off-campus, university-sponsored activities such as field trips, musical performances, judging teams, intercollegiate athletic events, etc., should obtain an official Class Absence Request form from the faculty or staff member supervising the off-campus activity. The form must contain specific information concerning the activity and date, be signed by the supervising faculty or staff member, and be submitted by the student at least one week in advance to the individual instructors of the student’s classes.  It is recommended, but not required, that a student not be penalized for absence from class provided a properly signed Class Absence Request form has been filed with the instructor prior to the absence. These university-sponsored absences are subject to an instructor’s attendance policy and are not intended to imply additional acceptable absences. In all instances, it is the student’s responsibility to make up all work missed.

2. Military Service Members.  Students who are members of the National Guard or a reserve branch of a military service are occasionally required to miss class for weekend drills, active duty, and related responsibilities.  In such a case, instructors should not penalize students for the absences and should allow them to make-up the missed work. In each instance, it is the responsibility of the student to inform the instructor of the duty before the absence and complete the missed work as soon as reasonably possible.

3. Flexible Attendance as an Access Accommodation.  Due to certain disabilities or chronic medical conditions, flexibility with attendance may be regarded as a reasonable accommodation.  In these situations, instructors will receive notification of approved accommodations and procedures from the Access Center.  The Access Center also provides accommodations on a temporary basis for injuries such as broken limbs or concussions but does not provide accommodations for acute illnesses (e.g., flu, mono).

4. Other Absences.  Students must sometimes miss class meetings, examinations, or other academic obligations affecting their grades due to personal circumstances.  It is the responsibility of the student to provide a written explanation for the absence to the instructor as soon as it is reasonable to do so.  When possible, students should provide appropriate documentation for their absence but instructors cannot require written excuses from health care professionals. 

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?"

More Information on WSU Policies

For more information and/or context on many of the policies cited in this syllabus,visit the WSU Policy website.