Classes you can take in the GW Online Master’s in Strategic Public Relations program

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With a Master’s in Strategic Public Relations (SPR) from The George Washington University (GW), everyone from the seasoned PR professional to the student looking for better job prospects can develop broad, deep expertise in public relations, enhanced by training in strategic thinking. The GW SPR program is a 100 percent online degree track that can be completed in as few as 18 months. Designed for both convenience and thorough career preparation, our public relations master’s degree requires the completion of 10 courses, each one worth three credit-hours.

Overview of the Strategic Public Relations curriculum
A total of 30 credit-hours, spread across 10 lasses, are necessary for finishing the strategic public relations master’s online. The specific course titles, which are subject to availability each year, are:

  • Ethical Standards in Public Relations and Public Affairs.
  • Fundamentals of Business and Finance for PR Professionals.
  • Issues Management and Crisis Communications.
  • Media Relations in the New Media World.
  • Political Socialization and Public Opinion.
  • Public Relations Principles and Practices.
  • Public Relations and Public Affairs Capstone Research Project.
  • Research Methods for PR and Public Affairs Managers.
  • Strategic Marketing Communications.
  • Sustainable Communications.

Let’s look in greater detail at what a select few of these courses cover:

Public Opinion and Political Socialization
Research skills are critical to PR success. For example, many PR professionals have to conduct extensive market research on the history and development of public opinion, primarily to see how their respective organizations can best understand and shape it. This course narrows the research focus to the formation of political opinions, with special attention devoted to the pivotal role of the press. Communications strategies are also analyzed in the context of their political influence.

Media Relations in the New Media World

The preeminent media institutions are always changing. Traditional news sources such as newspapers and magazines have been overtaken by search engines and social networks, both of which have greater speed and scale for information delivery. The Pew Research Center once charted the progress of social media adoption over a decade and found that it surged from only 7 percent use among all Americans in 2005 to 65 percent by 2015. Internet search, online education directories and program websites are also by far the most common ways prospective SPR find out about program options. In response, PR professionals must continuously update their strategies and tactics to reach target audiences. In this class, students gain insight into how media relations influence domains like commerce and politics, as well as what determines coverage of specific issues.

Sustainable Communications
Organizations of all stripes are expected by the public to behave responsibly and be accountable for their actions. The Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) movement is one of the most prominent manifestations of this social attitude, and it has resulted in companies vying to reduce landfill waste, improve energy efficiency and promote products such as “fair trade”-labeled commodities (e.g., coffee). Professionals with SPR backgrounds from a public relations masters program are well-equipped to work on CSR-aware campaigns. This class exposes them to corporations, NGOs and communications firms with real-world experience in the intersection of CSR and PR, provides additional background via case studies and professional journals and culminates in a capstone project involving the formulation of a full-fledged CSR-compliant strategy.

Issues Management and Crisis Communications
Managing a PR crisis can be a make or break moment for an organization. An inadequate response can damage its image and even hurt its bottom line via actions such as advertiser boycotts. However, effective crisis management has been complicated by the proliferation of communications channels, especially social media accounts that can create trouble through poorly received posts, protracted interactions or simple mistakes like posting personal content to a corporate page. In this course, students are immersed in a seminar designed to promote robust discussion of intersecting issues in reputation management, public policy analysis and advocacy strategic communications and grassroots mobilization.

Public Relations and Public Affairs Capstone Research Project
The SPR capstone project is every student’s opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills acquired throughout the program to an original research initiative. Each capstone effort is designed in tandem with faculty members and will produce a publishable research paper. It is usually conducted on topics of immediate interest to students’ employers or to other organizations that could shape their academic and professional careers. If you are familiar with the thesis/dissertations required in some undergraduate and graduate education tracks, then you already have insight into capstones, which serve similar purposes. Capstone projects typically have broader audiences than theses, as they are intended mainly to further professional development rather than answer a narrow academic question.

Other SPR course details and options to know about
Online graduates receive the same degrees as students completing the degree on campus. Additionally, there is the option to select classes with the GW Political Management online program. Specific Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) courses such as Maximizing Social Media may be substituted for the standard upper-level SPR requirements. GSPM Global Residencies – i.e., short-term study abroad opportunities – may also be pursued.

With a convenient online format and only 10 core requirements, the Master’s in Strategic Public Relations online is the ideal option for experienced PR and communications professionals, marketing and advertising experts, public affairs officers and anyone seeking to advance or pivot to a PR career. An advanced degree in the field is the best credential for qualifying for positions such as PR manager, which have strong growth prospects and excellent compensation. Learn more about the program by requesting our brochure or contacting us via live chat.

Recommended readings:
The most important ways in which marketing and PR converge
Mapping out the PR job hunt