COM 623, Strategic Organizational Communication
Fall 2013

Professor Tom Kelleher, Ph.D.
Contact Info. 956-9944
Crawford Hall 314
Meeting Times and Place Monday, 2:30-5:00 p.m.
BusAd D301
Office Hours

Tuesday, 10:30 a.m. - noon; 1:30 - 3:30 p.m.
Wednesday, 1:30 - 3:00 p.m.

By appointment.

Course Overview
In COM 623, we will read, analyze, discuss and write about major concepts and processes of strategic organizational communication and public relations. COM 623 is a core course in the communication M.A. for students specializing in organizational/intercultural communication. The catalog description reads: Theories, concepts and applications of strategic communication and public relations to achieve organizational goals.

We will learn about the following:

Success in this course means you will:

  1. discuss perspectives of organizational communication and public relations
  2. analyze strategic communication processes
  3. analyze the use of communication technologies in organizational communication and public relations
  4. apply organizational communication theory and public relations theory to your academic and professional interests
  5. evaluate theoretical research in public relations and organizational communication
  6. develop communication strategy
  7. synthesize academic literature

Related to the above objectives, students in this course will develop knowledge and skills directly related to the following student learning outcomes (SLOs) for the Communication MA program:

Required Resources

Your final grade will be based on class participation including weekly discussion and quizzes on readings, an open-book midterm exam, a term paper, and in-class presentations.

Final Grade Requirements
A = 90-100% 
B = 80-89% 
C = 70-79% 
D = 60-69% 
F = Below 60% 

Grading Weight
Weekly reading/quizzes 30%
Participation & attendance 10%
Midterm exam 20%
Annotated bibliography 10%
Term paper 20%
Oral presentation 10%

Weekly reading/quizzes (30%)
Primary Objectives: 2, 3
Any day with assigned reading due as listed in the course timeline is a likely day to have a brief quiz right at the beginning of the class period. Quizzes mainly will cover assigned readings, but with advance notice, quizzes also may cover material from class lectures, class discussion, online postings and handouts. The idea is to motivate you to keep up with the reading and to come to class prepared for informed seminar discussion!

Participation and Attendance (10%)
Primary Objectives: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
The participation portion of your grade will reflect your contributions as an individual and as a member of the class as a whole. Your participation in class discussions should reflect your reading and preparation. Here are some examples. Of course, many combinations of factors are possible. These are only examples.
Participation Grade Example
10 perfect attendance in class*; regularly made resourceful and constructive comments in class discussions that reflected reading, preparation and a solid understanding of the material covered; always prepared to make connections between required readings and outside literature, research projects, etc.; recognized by peers as class leader in discussions
9 perfect attendance, participated regularly in class, made connections between required readings and outside literature, clearly kept up with reading
8 getting a little behind on the reading at times made it hard for this student to get involved in discussions of more advanced concepts
7 good participation, but didn't seem to take non-graded assignments and deadlines very seriously
6 often unprepared

*Since the class only meets 14 times this semester, one unexcused absence will mean 8 points maximum for participation and attendance for the semester, two unexcused absences will mean 6 points, etc. Being late or leaving early without an acceptable excuse or advance approval will equal one tardy. Being late or leaving early twice will equal one unexcused absence.

Midterm exam (20%)
Primary Objectives:
2, 3, 6
This will be an open-book, open-note exam in class on October 28. Laptops are welcome. Basically, the exam will include a few open-ended questions or scenarios that will serve as prompts. Your job will be to respond to the prompts by choosing appropriate concepts and theories covered in class and applying those.

Annotated bibliography (10%)
Primary Objectives: 5, 7
This will be the first stage of your term paper (i.e., literature review). You will be required to select at least ten key academic sources (e.g., journal articles, books, book chapters) that you can use in your review. Each entry should include both the full APA-style citation and a short (about 150-word) description and evaluation of the work. Each entry should either imply or state directly how the work is relevant to your term paper. The annotated bibliography is due November 18.

Term paper (20%)
Primary Objectives: 1,4, 5, 7
This topic-oriented academic literature review should focus on specific theories and research that can be used to better understand and practice organizational communication or public relations in one of the contexts covered in Chapters 15-21 of your text: business/industry, government/politics, military public affairs, nonprofits/NGOs, health care, education, or associations/unions. This paper will require APA style. The paper should conclude with specific questions or hypotheses for future research. We will discuss expectations for the paper early in the semester, and will spend a good deal of time on the project after the midterm.

Oral presentation (10%)
Primary Objectives: 1,4, 5, 7
For your oral presentation, you will teach a short lesson on the same general topic as your literature review. Students may work in small teams on oral presentations if their topics overlap (i.e., if they are working on papers in that generally relate to the same chapter from the text). The lesson need not be as theoretically detailed as the paper. Primary Objectives: 1, 2, 5, 7

Seeking Help
This course should provide a great learning experience for all of us. The success of the course depends largely on effective student-teacher interaction. Don't feel like you have to have a pressing problem to talk to me. I look forward to hearing your input. I'll be available during my office hours unless announced otherwise. Of course, I'm often in and available at times not posted as office hours. Generally, I'll leave my office door open if I'm available. If my door is closed, that either means I'm out or that I'm in but working on deadline or getting ready for class. (Mondays will normally be busy this semester since I have another course mid-day and will be gearing up for this course in the afternoon.) In any case, we can set an appointment if that works better.

Special Accommodations
Students requiring special accommodations must notify me and present appropriate supporting documentation by the end of the second week of class.

Academic Honesty
Academic dishonesty of any sort will not be tolerated. I take plagiarism very seriously. Please see me if you have any questions about academic honesty, and I'll be happy to discuss such issues in advance of you submitting your work.

Preliminary Class Timeline 
This should give you a general overview of what we'll cover. Additional readings, speakers and assignments may be added as we go.
Class Days General Topics Assignments and readings
August 26

Course overview and syllabus

  • Syllabus
  • Chapter 1
  • University of Washington. (n.d.). Writing a psychology literature review. Retrieved August 20, 2013 from
Sept 2

No class (but keep up with reading)

Organizational roles and public relations jobs

  • Chapter 2
  • Diga, M., & Kelleher, T. (2009). Social media use, perceptions of decision-making power, and public relations roles. Public Relations Review, 35 (4), 440-442. (Available via University of Hawaii at Manoa Libraries).
  • A draft of Marichris Diga's M.A. thesis will be available on our course Laulima site as an example of how a literature review led to an empirical study and eventual publication.
Sept 9

Organizational settings


  • Chapter 3
  • Ragan Communications, & NASDAQ OMX. (2012). Structuring a social media team. Retrieved August 21, 2013 from
Sept 16

Systems, networks, and other communication theory

  • Chapter 7
  • Chapter 8
Sept 23 Internal and external communication
  • Chapter 9
  • Chapter 10
Sept 30 Research
  • Chapter 11
Oct 7 Planning
Oct 14 Action, communication, and persuasion
  • Chapter 13
  • Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies (Chapters 1, 2, & 4). Boston: Harvard Business Review Press. (Chapters 1, 2, & 4 will be placed on reserve.)
Oct 21 Measurement and evaluation
  • Chapter 14
  • The Conclave. (2013, June). Complete social media measurement standards. Retrieved August 21, 2013 from
  • Jeffrey, A (2013, June 4) Social media measurement: A step-by-step approach. Gainesville, FL: Institute for Public Relations. Retrieved August 21, 2013 from
Oct 28 Midterm
Nov 4

Academic research

Discuss theoretical review

  • University of Washington. (n.d.). Writing a psychology literature review. Retrieved August 20, 2013 from
  • Bring one example of a peer-reviewed publication that a) includes a good literature review, and b) you will be able to cite in your own term paper. Be prepared to discuss.
Nov 11

No class

Areas of professional practice

  • Review Chapters 15-21.
Nov 18 Work sessions for term papers, peer discussion and editing
  • Annotated bibliography due.
  • Confirm student presentation topics, teams, and times.
Nov 25 Work sessions for term papers, peer discussion and editing
  • Rough draft due for peer editing.
Dec 2 Student presentations
  • Student presentations.
Dec 9 Student presentations
  • Student presentations.
  • Term paper due.