Communication and Media Studies 625

COMS 625: Issues Management

Prerequisites: Graduate standing

Credit Hours: (3) Three hours seminar

The study of distinctive advocacy roles, relationships and strategies to maintain mutual lines of communication between various types of organizations and their publics, including research and analysis of problems and issues, preparation and planning of appropriate action, development and implementation of effective communication and systematic evaluation.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

This course has three foci, (1) understanding and interpreting the role of advocacy, primarily but not exclusively, in public, corporate and industrial settings, (2) understanding and interpreting the role of management within large and small corporations and (3) understanding and interpreting the nature and scope of various publics which are served by management and corporations.

In a complex society, the role of advocacy involves far more than acting as a spokesperson on behalf of a corporate client. It may involve many other roles such as representation, defense, negotiation, and mediation. Commitment to these roles cannot be based solely on enumeration or blind loyalty but must include the advocates awareness of psychological motivation, reputation, ethics and self respect.

Representation of large or small corporations to their target publics requires understanding the philosophies, policies programs and practices of management. To accomplish this, advocates must gain management's attention, acceptance and trust and be able to communicate freely and openly with them. Because publics have particular needs, they require different types of communication. Some publics are within organizations, others are without; some are marginally important others are primarily important; some are latent others are active. The identification, prioritization and classification of publics are essential to the development of communication strategies.


Detailed Description of the Conduct of the Course

This course will be conducted as a seminar. Students will be expected to research topics and deliver papers several times during the semester. Students will be expected to find public relations case histories relevant to the topics dealt within class. Public relations practitioners and advocates will be invited to share their experience and insights with students. Each student will be expected to complete a detailed public or corporate advocacy project for a real or fictional client.

Course Outline

During the semester the course will cover the following topics among others:

1. Background: theory in attitude formation and change
2. The evolution of public and corporate advocacy
3. Definition of various roles of advocacy
4. The ethical tension between responsibility and loyalty
5. Development of honesty and trust within management
6. Cultivation of relationships with administration and management
7. Identification of stated and unstated missional philosophies, programs and practices within corporations
8. Managerial structures and communication patterns
9. Internal and external perceptions about organizations
10. Cultivation of relationships with various publics
11. Latent and aware publics
12. Internal and external publics
13. Primary and secondary publics
14. Hostile and friendly publics
15. Research and analysis of perceived and real problems
16. Planning defensive and offensive action
17. Choice of appropriate media for communication strategies
18. Evaluation and feedback techniques


Goals and Objectives of the Course

Students will be able to:

1. understand the various roles of public and corporate advocacy
2. identify the ethical tension between responsibility and loyalty
3. cultivate positive and honest relationships with management
4. conduct surveys to discover missional priorities
5. analyze managerial structures and communications patterns
6. define and classify relevant publics
7. identify perceived and real problems
8. plan for appropriate action
9. choose effective media strategies
10. conduct evaluations


Assessment Measures

1. Each student will be expected to research two topics related to the above mentioned goals of the course and agreed upon by faculty and student. Reports will be presented and shared with all members of the seminar on specific dates. Grades will be based on faculty evaluation of papers presented and on peer evaluation of presentations.
2. Each student will be expected to discuss his/her final advocacy project with a public relations practitioner, preferably outside of the university, and obtain appropriate feedback before final presentation. This consultation will be documented and evaluated.
3. Each student will be expected to make a formal presentation of his/her final public or corporate advocacy project before peers and a jury of public relations practitioners. Grades will be based upon faculty's and public relations practitioners' evaluations of the presentation.


Other Course Information

Primary texts will include:

  • Seitel, F. P. (1989). The practice of public relations. Columbus: Merrill Publishing Company.
  • Wilcox, D. L., Ault, P. H., & Agee, W. K. (1989). Public relations strategies and tactics. New York: Harper Row Publishers.
  • Hendrix, J. A. (1988). Public relations cases. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company.
  • Botan, C., & Hazelton, V. (1989). Public relations theory. Hillsdale, N.J.: L. Earlbaun Associates.


Review and Approval

August 2001 David Dobkins, Chair