SPR Curriculum

Strategic Public RelationsCURRICULUM

GW’s online Master’s in Strategic Public Relations program is designed to provide students a rigorous, contemporary and transformational learning experience. The curriculum is structured to offer students a solid foundation in core public relations principles, best practices and techniques while nurturing their progression from PR mechanic to strategic public relations professional. The program can be completed in as few as 15 months.


6201 | Strategic Public Relations: Principles and Practice
This course examines public relations history, theory, trends, tools and tactics, and provides an in-depth analysis of major theory and practices. Special attention is given to the influence of new media on the credibility and delivery of public relations and public affairs programs. Students analyze real-world case studies as context for an applied understanding of how and why to plan, execute and evaluate these programs, and they prepare a detailed professional communications plan that addresses an important management issue affecting a public relations or public affairs challenge. They also look at the growing role and value of public relations as a management function in business, government and not-for-profit institutions, and the attendant role of public affairs in addressing public policy and political issues.

6203 | Research Methods for PR and Public Affairs Managers
This course examines proven pre- and post-program methods for measuring and evaluating effective public relations and public affairs campaigns and initiatives. Students learn basic and advanced tools and techniques, including statistical analysis, and analyze the panoply of research concepts and technology, including the use of the online and social media surveys, that affect consumer and/or political action. Conducting their own projects, students learn how research can be used to create, sell, manage and strengthen public relations and public affairs programs.

6204 | Media Relations in a Digital World
This course deconstructs the art and theory of media relations from the public relations and public affairs perspective. Students analyze the state of contemporary media – online and off – and its impact on commerce, politics and the human contract, examining key factors influencing reportorial and editorial coverage of business, government and not-for-profit interests. Special emphasis is on the advent of the Internet, the rise of citizen journalism, and the impact of blogs and other social media. Students develop a strategic media relations campaign aimed at publicizing a product, service, idea or issue of their employers or other organizations, and that uses a variety of traditional and non-traditional publicity tools and techniques guided by sound messages and directed to sensible outcomes.

6205 | Fundamentals of Business & Finance for PR Professionals
This course will explore the fundamentals of business that can be applied to small, mid-size and large organizations, public relations agencies, and start-up consultancies. Students will learn how to effectively integrate communications/PR skills with a financial “lens” to real-world business situations. The course will include the disciplines of leadership, human resource management, marketing, economics, and finance and accounting, with an emphasis on financial planning and budgeting. The combination of the textbook, relevant articles, in-class discussion, guest speakers and practical assignments will give students a strong understanding of the challenges facing today’s business leaders.

6206 | Ethical Standards in Public Relations and Public Affairs
This course explores the growing role and importance of ethics in public relations and public affairs. Students analyze personal and professional ethical assumptions and norms in American society, and consider standards, guidelines and codes of conduct that should guide relations with clients, the media, public officials, legislators, voters, employees, and others. Students learn how to identify and respond to ethical challenges, and they prepare papers as well as a research project that addresses ethical conduct in a public relations or public affairs setting.

6207 | Sustainable Communications
The Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) movement is a worldwide phenomenon and corporations, trade associations and non-profits are being asked to step up and be accountable. Public relations and communications professionals need to develop the skills to prepare strategic communications plans that reflect their organization’s commitment to CSR and enhance their employer’s reputation in the global marketplace.

6207 | Sustainable Communications Cont.

This course will examine the global CSR movement, explore the unique communications challenges it presents and offer practical suggestions and tactics to respond to this trend. The class will feature in-class activities, current research and guest speakers from NGOs, communications firms and major corporations with practical advice on meeting this challenge in the global marketplace. We will utilize case studies, professional journals and original research to explore the topic and develop a comprehensive CSR communications strategy as the capstone project for the class.

6208 | Strategic Marketing Communications
This course examines the evolution of integrated marketing communications (IMC) as a new paradigm for extending the reach and influence of public relations and public affairs through the use of both traditional and non-traditional communications approaches and technologies. Included in the mix are advertising, direct marketing, customer service, branding, blogs, podcasts, and cause marketing. Students learn about the theoretical and tactical advantages and disadvantages of integrated strategies in for-profit and not-for-profit enterprises, and they design an integrated marketing communications program, making use of both traditional and new media tools and techniques.

6223 | Political Socialization and Public Opinion
Through analytical research, first-hand accounts and theoretical constructs, this course explores key questions related to the formation of public opinion and political socialization. More specifically, this course looks at the process by which people view their engagement in public debates and politics and how they acquire and maintain their attitudes, biases, beliefs – in short, their opinions and the decisions they make as a result. Discussion centers on the forces that influence public opinion and political socialization, including the power of the press and its impact on our major institutions. Course goals include developing awareness and critical thinking regarding the role, formation and use of public opinion in contemporary public affairs and public relations; understanding the socialization processes that shape opinion, political and marketplace behavior; and analyzing how communications activities are used in the real world to influence opinion, attitudes and behavior.

6230 | Issues Management and Crisis Communications
The practice of Issues Management involves the intersection of a number of communications and policy disciplines, including environmental scanning, public policy analysis, public policy advocacy, strategic communications, media relations, grassroots mobilization, coalition management and corporate reputation management. This course will explore all of the approaches in detail and examine ways in which they work together to further the broad strategic goals of organizations.

The course will be conducted as a seminar and will require robust classroom discussion. The goal of the course is to provide students with an in-depth knowledge of the various elements of Issues Management and to equip them with the practical skills needed to shape public opinion and public policy in order to advance organizational goals.

6300 | Public Relations & Public Affairs Capstone Research Project
Students apply the knowledge and lessons gained in their courses in a major independent research project on a topic of immediate interest to their current employer or another organization that has a bearing on their professional aspirations. They design the project with the approval of faculty and in cooperation with the staff and management of the organization in question, conducting primary and secondary research, and preparing a publishable quality research paper, incisively elucidating their views and opinions with the goal of building greater understanding about and insight into the project topic.

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Students in GW’s Master’s in Strategic Public Relations online program may select courses offered within the Political Management online program to enhance their understanding of digital tools and strategy as well as develop a domestic and global perspective on public relations, communications, and advocacy. Students interested in digital communications can take Digital Strategy or Maximizing Social Media in place of their upper-level courses. Students interested in participating in one of the six Global Residencies GSPM offers can pick the location and schedule that fits their needs. Please see full list of locations here. Please contact your student services representative for more details. (Note: Course offerings are subject to availability. Additional travel costs and fees beyond tuition apply to Global Residencies).