Choose Your Track, Part II: Strategic Communication

(Note: Last month, we posted the first of a two-part blog series on the ASP Study Tracks. Read about the Public Policy Track here. Continue to read below for the second post of the series.)

Students in the Strategic Communication Track are on the forefront of the converging fields of public relations and marketing communication. In addition to discussion-style class lectures, our students gain first-hand experience through DC-based fieldwork activities and client work. We compare how different types of national organizations— such as private companies, global non-profits, government agencies, and congressional offices— develop strategic goals and objectives, choose appropriate communication channels and tactics, and measure the impact of their work.

StratComm at WP 3

Students directly engage with these organizations and the communication professionals who work in them to gain first-hand exposure to the best communication practices through formative research, strategic planning, message formation and storytelling, and more. Students explore these learning objectives further in their communications internships. Recent internship sites have included multiple House and Senate offices, The ONE Campaign, the Clapham Group, National Immigration Forum, the Borenstein Group, the American Enterprise Institute, Philanthropy Magazine, and even the business development department of the Washington Redskins!

StratComm Presentations

Group presentations on how a client organization could effectively respond to a possible crisis scenario.

In our “Advocacy and Development” course, we work collaboratively in small teams for a real-world client to research and propose a communications plan. Previous clients have included Bread for the World and the Accord Network. In “Case Studies in Strategic Communication,” students design two graduate school-style case studies, both supported by original interviews and research. This semester, the first case study—a group exercise— focused on the immigration debate in light of the 2016 Presidential Election. By interviewing four different organizations who are stakeholders in this issue, we compared how different organizations practice strategic communication in a crisis and the processes they use to document and respond to lessons learned from the experience. In our second case study—an individual project— each student focuses on a specific communication situation at their internship office or organization.

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The students hear from the public relations and social media team at Honest Tea.

In addition to our communication proposals and case studies, we also discuss and explore how biblical teachings inform our use of strategic communication, primarily through conversations with Christian professionals who excel both in the quality of their work and in the “faithful practice” of their jobs.

If you are a major in Communication, Public Relations, Business Administration, International Business, or Marketing, we encourage you to consider joining this study track! To learn more, click here.

StratComm at WP 4

The Strategic Communication students met Austin Graff (front right), a Talent Acquisition & Branding Specialist at The Washington Post.

See below for more pictures of the Strategic Communication Track at work, both in the classroom and in the field.

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The Strategic Communication Track joins the Public Policy students for a briefing at the National Transportation Safety Board.

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Sharlene Oong (Messiah College) presents her research on a communication plan used by her internship site, The Clapham Group.

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For more information on the immigration debate, the students hear from Dr. Mark Hugo Lopez, Director of Hispanic Research at the Pew Research Center.

Strategic Communication Snapshot {Fall 2015}

ASP is excited to have 5 trail-blazing students in our new Strategic Communication track this semester, and they have been busy engaging communication leaders in Washington, D.C. Currently, we are putting together a communication campaign for Bread for the World, as well as constructing two case studies – one based on the Ebola Outbreak in 2014 that the students are researching as a group, and the other done individually for their internship offices. Our students have great internship placements this semester at the Washington Redskins’ Business Development and Operations Department;  public relations firm, the Borenstein Group; Genocide Watch; Susan B. Anthony List; and a congressional office.

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Fall 2015 Strategic Communication: program director Peter Baker; Dietrich Heiss, Judson University; Brandan Wilchcombe, Taylor University; Christine Orr, Azusa Pacific University; Jodie Howard, Messiah College; Victoria Goebel, Gordon College; and ASP fellow in strategic communication Jacque Isaacs

We started our first week by meeting with Jared Noetzel, Church Relations Coordinator at Bread for the World. The students will be developing and presenting a communication campaign to Bread in three parts: a Formative Research Paper, analyzing tools such as a public relations audit and a SWOT analysis to build the foundation for their communication campaign; a Strategic Plan, working with Bread to establish goals and objectives for the campaign; and an Evaluation and Monitoring Plan, which will help measure and determine to what degree the campaign has achieved its goals. This has been a great experience for the students to work with a real client, understand their mission and vision, and apply what we are learning in the classroom in a way that creates value for a DC-based Christian organization.

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Strat Comm at Bread for the World

Next, we began work on the Strategic Communication case studies. The students are writing a group case study about the Ebola Outbreak in 2014, focusing on a communication decision that was influential which helps us to understand the big picture. We met with four professionals who actively worked on the Ebola Outbreak in 2014. First, we went to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and met with Marty Bahamonde, Director of Disaster Operations in the Office of External Affairs. FEMA’s strategic communication team worked directly with the CDC as they responded to the unfolding crisis. The student’s also video-conferenced with Rev. Susan Sytsma Bratt, associate pastor at Northridge Presbyterian Church, which is located in the Dallas community where the first Ebola victim in the USA was staying. She shared a fascinating first-person perspective on communication in Dallas during the crisis and how she and her church chose to respond.

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Strat Comm at FEMA

We also met with Jonathan V. Last, reporter at the Weekly Standard, who covered the case closely. He provided valuable insight to the students about what was being told to the media, when, and by whom. Lastly, we met with Caroline Booth, the communication director for Congressman Pete Sessions, whose district includes Texas Presbyterian Health Hospital, the focus of the Ebola crisis. The next step of this case study is for the students conduct their own primary research and interview more professionals. We can’t wait to see who they are able to speak with!

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Strat Comm at Congressman Pete Session’s office

Strategic Communication concludes its first half of the semester by sending each student to their internships with the assignment of identifying a decision point at their offices that they can focus on for their individual case study. This is a great opportunity for the students to add value to their internship placement sites. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve travelled in just a few short weeks. Next week, the students will present the research portion of their communication campaign to Bread for the World. We are thankful for all of the opportunities that are being made available to our students, and we are excited for the good work they are completely this semester.

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