The courses and course sequence represented here apply to students entering the program with the fall 2015 term. Please click on course titles below to see course descriptions.

Program Sequence

First Semester
Second Semester
Third Semester (Summer)
Fourth Semester
Capstone Strategy Project (Second Semester)

Elective Courses

These Strategic Communications courses are typically offered during the summer. Students may also choose courses in another program, School, or Department.

New for Fall 2015 Cohort: Areas of Focus

To broaden your curricular choice, we have designed three areas of focus enabling you to specialize in a particular area of interest or examine a new discipline. These areas of focus will provide you with opportunities to meet growing industry needs for specific focus within the strategic communications discipline and afford more employment opportunities when advancing in your career.

Starting with the 2015–2016 academic year, the three areas of focus are Branding, Corporate Communications/Public Affairs, and Nonprofit Communications. Students are welcome to select their four electives from among those listed in each area. They may also choose courses that don’t necessarily ‘fit’ into a focus area as well as explore options in other Schools at Columbia University, providing the content fits with the Strategic Communications discipline.


Elective course options include opportunities to explore the business rationale for valuing brands, to examine the discipline of global marketing communications, to understand the value of visual communications within today’s business context, or how to use content in a way that supports business, organizational, and user goals.

Corporate Communications/Public Affairs

Elective course options include examining in-depth the practices of crisis communications, internal communications, building a compelling consistent story about an organization, or crafting powerful opinions in many formats.

Nonprofit Communications

Elective course options include understanding the practice of corporate social responsibility from the business and the NGO perspective, writing opinion pieces for a variety of channels, developing a discrete project in a writing workshop, or planning an organization’s communications response to a potential crisis.

Core Courses

SCOM K4100 Campus Practicum. 1 pt.


The first four-day residency in August is designed to give incoming students a full immersion in our world of Strategic Communications. While two of the four fall courses officially kick-off in the residency and continue on the first Saturday session, the other two courses feature in-class assignments. This structure gives students a good taste of what’s to come. The days are full but peppered with group activities and fun assignments that allow students to get to know each other and begin to network. One evening is devoted to a networking event with the prior cohort of students.

SCOM K4101 Communication, Persuasion, and Audience. 3 pts.


This course examines some of the fundamental components of strategic communications—how to communicate, how to persuade, and how to do so ethically. Your assumptions about communications will be challenged as we explore the intersections between information, communication, and meaning in today’s social media world. We examine various theories of persuasion in order to learn how persuasion works in changing our attitudes and behaviors, and we apply ethical reasoning to real-world strategic communications issues as we consider the effects of our communications on relevant stakeholders.

Students will learn theories of communication, persuasion and ethics. Students will practice their ability to write for multiple audiences, with each assignment presenting increasingly complex challenges to students. The group exercises will involve the discussion of sample communications forms and concepts from reading while assignments will demonstrate mastery of both.

Social strategy is executed through workshops in the residency and Saturday Sessions, as well as five interactive online lectures each week that gives students a chance to discuss relevant topics.

SCOM K4104 Organizational Strategy and Leadership. 3 pts.


This course focuses on the language and underlying theories of strategic management and their use in communicating critical organizational messages to key internal and external constituents and stakeholders. The course helps communications professionals enhance their capacity to partner with other members of executive leadership of corporations, nonprofits or governmental entities (including “c-level” leaders) to ensure clear messaging to key constituencies regarding the organization’s mission, vision and strategy. It empowers communications leaders to “translate” the “languages” of organizational strategy and leadership into clearly articulated communications strategies and tactical plans. The course emphasizes practical application in real-world settings through the use of simulations, case analyses and related publications.

SCOM K4112 Strategic Storytelling. 1.5 pts.


In this half-term course, students will learn how to combine strategic thinking with storytelling to create presentations that engage, motivate and inspire audiences. Students are introduced to the concepts of audience analysis, obstacles and barriers, theme/message, and behavioral goals, and how they are used to help construct strategic presentations. We will also examine the ways in which presenters can use the power of story to evoke emotion and drive decision-making. Students will get an opportunity to develop their storytelling skills by developing a persuasive, story-based Pecha Kucha presentation, a six-minute presentation composed of slides that advance automatically every twenty seconds and are accompanied by a live narration.

SCOM K4116 Strategic Writing. 1.5 pts.


In this course, students will explore communications strategy in an analytical framework while practicing writing skills. Coursework will focus on the role of writing in the strategic process, assessing an organization’s identity, understanding its audiences, developing messages for those audiences, writing in standard communications forms, and delivering messages via appropriate channels. Students will complete individual and group exercises in online forums and in class and will master standard written communications forms. Students will execute three discrete writing assignments, which will depend on the students’ industry experience and the written formats their professional practice requires.

SCOM K4201 The Practice of Leadership. 2 pts.


The overall objective of The Practice of Leadership is to help each student develop his or her own style of leadership that embraces ethical behavior and fosters a culture of transparency and collaboration. The course will explore best practices in leadership skills such as hiring, mentoring, team-building, and collaboration. Students will understand the purpose of inspiring staff, encouraging creative thinking, supporting professional development and embracing an organization’s values.

SCOM K4213 Persuasive Presenting. 1 pt.


This one-credit course will be an opportunity for students to create an individual persuasive presentation to demonstrate their suitability for a particular job or opportunity. Students will identify an opportunity, practice a 2-3 minute presentation, and videotape the final version for submission. Students may also give the presentation in person to a panel of faculty, industry recruiters, and guests on the final day of the semester.

SCOM K4125 Setting Strategic Direction. 3 pts.


An effective strategic communications program begins with the answers to four fundamental questions: (1) With whom should we communicate? (2) What does she or he do now that represents an opportunity or a problem for us? (3) What would we like her or him to do differently? (4) How can communications change what she or he feels, so that she or he will change her or his behavior the way we would like? Setting the Strategic Direction introduces students to a process for thinking systematically about these fundamental questions as a foundation for the formulation of communications strategy.

SCOM K4128 Insight Discovery. 3 pts.


Research plays a central role in defining strategies to drive communications efforts, because it allows you to define who your target audience might be and gain a rich understanding of what they think, feel and believe about your product/issue/organization, your competition, and the environment in which you operate. In this course, we combine theory and practice to see how you can use research to find true insights about your target, and how you can translate these insights into effective strategy and persuasive communications. We focus on understanding both the principles and the process of conducting good market research for communication development and the opportunity for hands-on practice. The course will provide you with the knowledge and confidence to become educated users and purchasers of research, in order to develop strategic communications plans that are rooted in solid consumer and market understanding.

SCOM K4130 Campus Practicum. 1 pt.


Students spend the first part of this two-day residency collaborating with their Capstone teams to fine tune their storytelling and visual presentation of their strategies. On the second day student groups present their strategy, insight, objective for communications, and proposed execution to faculty and their Capstone client.

SCOM K4301 Creative Expression and Channel Architecture. 3 pts.


Creative Expression and Channel Architecture work in concert to help you craft the right message to reach your target at the right time and place to be effective. In today’s cluttered environment where no single medium guarantees your message will reach or persuade your target audience to act, it is critical to communicate effectively at every touchpoint. A well-designed, integrated marketing communications (IMC) plan helps to improve the odds that an audience(s) will receive the message and behave accordingly to help reach stated goals. Over the course of the semester, we will study and practice building messaging and channel strategies that serve as the foundation to impactful integrated communications programs. We’ll examine various communication tactics that help bring strategies to life—traditional, digital, social, and experiential touchpoints—and the role of individual communications channels in an overall mix. Along the way, you will develop a deeper understanding of the creative process—how to develop messages that resonate with a target audience, fuel effective creative expressions, and evaluate communication efforts.

SCOM K4200 Campus Practicum. 1 pt.


The final semester kicks off with significant content from the elective courses that students choose for the fall, in addition to the Practice of Leadership course and an introduction to the Persuasive Presenting short course that culminates in an individual presentation by each student to a select group of industry experts, recruiters, and faculty. Students reconvene during lunch and will spend one evening networking with the incoming cohort with the perspective of three semesters of study completed and future opportunities in sight.

Capstone Strategy Project.


The Strategic Communications Capstone Project, which incorporates SCOM K4301 Creative Expression and Channel Architecture, is an opportunity to demonstrate understanding of strategic communications. In the spring semester, students will work in small teams for a real-world client to research and propose a communications strategy, an optimal target audience, and propose creative execution. Students will develop and present this strategy, in addition to a communications plan, sample creative and measurement objectives, to address stated communication objectives and make the most of limited resources to drive results. Throughout the project, Columbia faculty and experts from the New York communications field will advise students.

Elective Courses

COMM K4121 Building Internal Engagement. 3 pts.


Through strategic internal communication, employees are focused on driving business results and encouraged to act as Brand ambassadors on behalf of their organization, building the organization's reputation. This course focuses on communications from the inside-out, addressing the opportunities, challenges, and issues communication professionals face today in dealing proactively and reactively with internal stakeholders.

How can leaders build credibility with employees in an authentic way? How do you influence your CEO to take a leadership position and act as the champion of the employee communications effort? How can an internal communications strategy ensure truthful and respectful communication during times of change?

This course emphasizes research, communications planning, messaging, execution of tactics, and consulting inside a complex, ever-changing organization - all designed to drive engagement.

COMM K4170 Crisis Communications. 3 pts.


This course covers the basic elements of crisis communications and the procedures for creating crisis communications plans and for reacting to crises when they occur. How best to develop various plans for different critical audiences and understand the most effective strategies for communicating your organization’s message during a crisis is explored. The course examines various types of crises that can occur with corporations and nonprofit organizations and the differences and similarities among them. How to avoid the classic and common pitfalls of crisis communications are addressed, as are ethical issues that arise during crises. Numerous case studies are discussed in class and exercises both in and outside of class are assigned so students gain experience in crisis communication situations. A crisis communications plan is created for a client.

COMM K4202 Communications for Social Change. 3 pts.


Analyzing how strategic communications can be used to generate and impact public discourse, and, ultimately, to produce social change is a critical component of understanding the democratic process. How does the use of the media affect the tenor and quality of public debate? What methodologies are nonprofit strategists using to determine messages and test salience? How do they evaluate whether their efforts serve intended audiences? We explore both the theoretical context and practical applications related to the use of communications by not-for-profit organizations. Throughout the term, faculty and guest speakers discuss current communications initiatives of nonprofits in the social justice, health, environment and education arenas. As a final project, students work in teams to develop and carry out a communications project for an actual nonprofit in need of assistance. Projects could include research, framing/messaging, branding, public relations or advertising. Completed work will constitute a valuable part of a student's portfolio.

COMM K4203 The Master Narrative. 3 pts.


This course provides students with an understanding of how large organizations develop a compelling story, or “master narrative,” and tell that story consistently, via multiple media platforms, in a competitive communications environment. Using case studies, students will examine the process organizations undertake to define and drive a master narrative through positive and negative news cycles and understand the importance of integrating all communications — media, Internet, marketing, advertising, government and stakeholder outreach — in the effort to craft and sustain a compelling narrative.

Students will learn how to create a master narrative, how to define a message frame that fits the narrative and keep all communications within this frame, how to determine key audiences, vehicles for reaching these audiences, how to manage Internet and traditional media in telling a story, how to measure success and readjust a master narrative based on circumstances, how to take advantage when the 24/7 communications cycle puts an organization in the spotlight, and how to define and manage through crises to protect a master narrative.

COMM K4210 Communication and Global Brands. 3 pts.


This course examines the discipline of global marketing communications, including the environmental factors that enabled global marketing. The course assesses early models of communications management and the current factors that enable global communications programs: the identification of global target audiences; the kinds of products and services that lend themselves to global communications and those that don’t; and the characteristics of leadership brands that are preeminent in global communications today. Students consider how levels of development and cultural values affect communications programs and how local differences can be reflected in global programs. Message creation and the available methods of message distribution are evaluated in the context of current and future trends. Students learn how to approach strategy and develop an integrated, holistic global communications program and how to manage such a program.

COMM K4235 The Power of Opinion. 3 pts.


In this small, intensive workshop, students learn to how to express a strong, well substantiated point of view in an op-ed, speech, and media interview. Classroom work includes analyzing the best examples of each genre, articulating the differences between them, and critiquing student work.

COMM K4245 The Business of Issues. 3 pts.


In our interconnected world, business cannot insulate itself from major global problems such as poverty, human rights abuse, HIV and AIDS, global warming, the inequality of women, corruption, disasters, and wars. Indeed, today businesses are expected to embody responsible corporate citizenship and to become part of the solution to these challenges of globalization. This course explores what communicators – whether they work for the private sector or nonprofits - need to know about these global issues and what strategic approaches they should take to promote social responsibility in companies doing business in the global market place.

COMM K4260 The Value of Brand: Making the Business Case. 3 pts.


This course introduces students to the economic importance of brand building activities based on the proven link between brand equity and business performance. Students examine the role that strategy and communication play in building brand equity, and explore how the changing media landscape is causing companies to rethink traditional brand-building practices. Students need to use critical thinking, case-analysis, market research, and strategic presentations to persuade a business decision maker to invest in brand building efforts. For students who are interested in building stronger brand cultures within their organizations (for both the profit and nonprofit sectors) and/or for pursuing careers on the brand side of strategy, this course answers the question: Why should businesses and institutions care about branding?

COMM K4265 Visualizing Brand. 3 pts.


This course focuses on exploring and clarifying the value and role of strategic visual communications within today's business context. Through a combination of readings, case studies, class discussions, simulations, and guest speakers, students will recognize the importance visuals play in effective communications, understand the role of visuals in building brand identity and marketing messages, and gain insight into how visuals can help them to communicate more clearly and effectively. The class will also examine the role visuals play in bridging cultural divides across the World Wide Web and in the global marketplace as a whole. In addition, students will build competencies in “the language of design” that will increase their effectiveness in selecting, briefing, leading, and evaluating design resources and their creative work. Students will work in teams throughout the course and will deliver a final project that allows them to demonstrate their understanding and application of the concepts they have learned in class.

COMM K4270 Content Strategy: Achieving Business Goals Through Content. 3 pts.


Sitting at the intersection of business strategy, digital development, user experience, communications, and publishing, content strategy has emerged over the last few years as a discipline examining the purpose behind content (in all manifestations) and how it supports business, organizational, and user goals. While it originated in digital web design and user experience, content strategy now encompasses a much broader set of considerations and addresses content creation, distribution, and governance across multiple channels, especially the interplay among digital, social, and traditional media. Content strategy provides a holistic approach for unlocking the value behind content and for increasing its effectiveness in achieving business and organizational objectives. This course will present the fundamentals of content strategy and explore the discipline’s approaches, techniques, and tools that course participants can apply directly to the content situation in their own organization. It will draw parallels with – and highlight distinctions among – traditional communications strategy, publishing, and content strategy, and provide students with a framework to create a sustainable program grounded in meaningful, actionable content.

The University reserves the right to withdraw or modify the courses of instruction or to change the instructors as may become necessary.