Tag Archives: textbook

Social Media for Strategic Communication: Creative Strategies and Research-Based Applications

Geah Pressgrove, West Virginia University

Social Media for Strategic Communication: Creative Strategies and Research-Based Applications
Author: Karen Freberg 
Sage, 2018
ISBN: 9781506387109

In the last 15 years, a veritable explosion of social media channels has entered and forever changed the practice of public relations. What does this mean for public relations educators? Well, if you are committed to preparing students for careers, it likely means you are constantly evolving your pedagogical approach. While our ethos of ethically building mutually beneficial relationships remains foundational, preparing students for the digital landscape means that we, as professors, need to consider how this fast-paced environment impacts students’ ability to think strategically and effectively produce content. In fact, the most recent Commission on Public Relations Education report (2018) indicates that employers are most concerned about what entry-level practitioners can produce and do, including writing for the web. Further, the report indicates that social media is the most highly rated technology-curriculum topic by practitioners. 

In the book, Social Media for Strategic Communication: Creative Strategies and Research-Based Applications, Karen Freberg (2018), associate professor of Strategic Communication at the University of Louisville, takes a comprehensive approach to preparing students to produce social media content and enabling them to compete for industry positions with a social media focus. In the book, Freberg draws both on research and practitioner insights from various disciplines. Focusing on strategies, behaviors and mindset, the text is both a guidebook and resource for professor, practitioner and student alike. Based on her own research, experience teaching social media and significant professional connections, Freberg’s text takes the guesswork out of how to approach and teach strategic social media. 

Book’s Composition and Organization 

The book is thoughtfully organized into three parts, first focusing on foundations, followed by strategies, and concluding with careers. In the first part, Freberg frames strategic use of social media as both an art and science, then takes the reader through the ethical and legal considerations of communicating on social media. At the conclusion of part one, the text reinforces the importance of research by reviewing social media monitoring, listening and analysis. This framework is then built on throughout the remainder of the text. 

In part two, the focus is on strategy-based campaign planning concepts ranging from audience segmentation and writing for social media to budgeting, calendaring and evaluation. Importantly, Freberg does not propose that strategic planning for social media is different from public relations.  Instead, she expands on foundational concepts taught across the core of public relations curriculum.  For instance, the first chapter of part two of the text takes readers through the strategic campaign planning process using language that should be familiar to any public relations student.  The following chapters dive more deeply into each step and expand on the topics in a social media-specific context, including areas such as influencers, creators, managing and curating content, and common writing mistakes on social media. 

In part three, the focus is on ensuring the reader understands the pervasive role of social media by covering specializations as diverse as entertainment, crisis communication, sports, nonprofit, health care and international communication. Concluding in this way allows the reader to consider how all they have learned could be applied in different disciplines and myriad interests.  

Book’s Strengths and Weaknesses 

As you read this review, you may be asking yourself if a book published in 2018 can remain relevant and current. The answer is yes. Rather than focusing on platform features and trends, this text offers a clear framework for developing a strategic mindset. For example, each chapter of the text begins with a “Humans of Social Media” feature that introduces the reader to thought leaders in the field. Rather than aging like so many social media case studies, these interviews provide industry relevant insights that frame the chapter content. 

The utility of the text is further strengthened by the use of tables and figures that break up what could be dense reading and provide quick reference to key concepts. For example, tables that provide a comparative glimpse at performance metrics reinforce the importance of advanced and behavioral metrics as compared to basic metrics (e.g., likes, followers). Other tables offer examples for students to reflect on (e.g., sample vision statements, sample content calendars), while others offer templates for their own efforts (e.g., social media audits, content templates). Further, the thought questions and exercises that conclude each chapter offer ready-made discussion prompts and assignments that apply chapter learning outcomes to real-world scenarios. 

One critique of the text could be the lack of emphasis on paid social media strategies. There are presently a few pages dedicated to the topic in the budgeting section of Chapter 10. Additional passing reference to paid content is included in relevant chapters. However, I would argue that with algorithms limiting organic reach, this topic is central to a strategic social media mindset. To overcome this limitation in my own courses, I have supplemented with digital certifications and simulation-type activities that provide a more well-rounded view. A more comprehensive discussion of the role of paid social media seems an appropriate addition for future editions of the text.

While the book provides an in-depth review of important topics like ethics and legal fundamentals, a second area for improvement would be an enhanced focus on diversity related content.  For instance, including accessibility guides and multicultural perspectives would be valuable in the sections focused on understanding the target audience. Additionally, examples that highlight model approaches to equity focused social media communication would help students understand best practices. Further, lifting up diverse voices in the “Humans of Social Media” profiles and resources would also improve students’ understanding of strategic social media careers. 

Who Would Benefit from Reading this Book?

When considering textbooks for a strategic social media course at my institution, I compiled a comprehensive list and narrowed the options to four possible texts. I then gathered a group of a dozen students from varying classes across the public relations curriculum and allowed them to review and offer their thoughts on the options. The students unanimously chose the Freberg text because of low cost and ease of reading, as well as features like interviews with industry insiders, tables that synthesize key topics, and an abundance of resources. I shared their sentiment and the text has now been used with high praise from students and instructors alike for three semesters.

In addition to a foundational text for social media courses, the practical insights and research-based approach of this book makes it appropriate for instructors looking to supplement their other public relations courses or activities. For example, I have referenced chapters related to monitoring, listening, and analysis in a research methods course. The book’s sections on strategic planning, budgeting, evaluation, and calendaring provide an additional resource for students developing campaign plans, such as those for the capstone. The content related to writing offers supplemental insights for a public relations writing course, or sections of a broader writing course seeking more specialized modules. This text is also useful outside of the traditional classroom. For example, the professional branding content has proved useful as part of programming for the Public Relations Student Society of America at my college. Also, I have encouraged graduates starting careers with a social media role to purchase the text as a reference guide. 

Overall, this text has been well worth the financial investment for me, my students, and my graduates.  


Commission on Public Relations Education. (2018). Fast forward: Foundations + future state. Educators + practitioners: The Commission on Public Relations Education 2017 report on undergraduate education. http://www.commissionpred.org/ commission-reports/fast-forward-foundations-future-state-educators-practitioners/

© Copyright 2020 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Pressgrove, G. (2020). Social media for strategic communication: Creative strategies and research-based applications.  Journal of Public Relations Education, 6(2), 200-204. http://aejmc.us/jpre/2020/08/13/social-media-for-strategic-communication-creative-strategies-and-research-based-applications/

Teach Social Media: A Plan for Creating a Course Your Students Will Love


Natalie T. J. Tindall, Lamar University

Teach Social Media: A Plan for Creating a Course Your Students Will Love

Author: Matthew J. Kushin

ISBN: 978-1088489918


If you didn’t know this already, prepare to be shocked. Teaching public relations and strategic communication in this multimodal, multimedia world is a hard job. Beyond grading and the actual physical act of teaching, those of us who profess for a living also have to maintain a connection to industry, understand and manage new trends and platforms (hello, virtual reality, Discord, and TikTok), as well as attempt to make sure we cover the knowledge, skills, and abilities that students will need in the “real world.” It feels like we can never bridge the gap between what we can teach in our courses (which may be regulated through curriculum committees, accreditation standards, and semester/quarter time constraints) and what practitioners want. The Commission on Public Relations Education’s most recent report (2018) noted that employers are concerned about the skills and abilities of incoming practitioners and what they can produce and do with (and without) those competencies. This sentiment echoes what other associations have reported. Lum (2017), in the ANA’s Educational Foundation’s report on the talent gap, wrote:

College and university curricula cannot keep pace with the rapid change going on in the industry. Course work and textbooks are out of date almost as soon as they’re published, and much that is taught about marketing and communications is outdated and unrelated to management expectations and students’ actual experience in the field. (p. 2)

Social media is one of those skill sets that many employers desire and professors must teach. Several academics, such as Sandra Duhe, Karen Freberg, and Carolyn Mae Kim, have written books that provide guidance on social media best practices, campaign development, message development and theory. What has been lacking is how instructors deploy these into a classroom environment. How should social media be taught, and what content, strategies, and approaches can we use in the classroom to not only teach social media but have students apply it? A new addition to that crop of books is Matt Kushin’s Teach Social Media, a tome that doesn’t traverse the same material as earlier books.

Contributions of the Book

Thanks to Kushin, we have a new book that fills the missing piece on classroom deployment. For a long time, Kushin has generously shared his time and expertise via his blog, and now this book fleshes out how to operate and manage a social media class. Teach Social Media builds a bridge between the university curricula and the demands of your classroom. Teach Social Media is a teaching preparation guidebook that offers a template for laddering students’ theoretical knowledge, application skills, and implementation capabilities. Few academics learned how to teach emerging social media or how to develop a social media class in an ever-evolving media environment. These factors collide when we are asked to lead, take over, and develop a social media course. The genius of this book is that Kushin walks you through the phases of the class from the start when you, as the professor, are determining what you want your students to learn through each week of the semester. Teach Social Media is not focused on the how-to’s of social media, nor is it a highly theoretical tome. It’s a book that offers the fundamentals for scaffolding and implementing an introductory social media course. It provides adaptable, ready-to-use class lectures and assignments on learning outcomes focused on knowledge, skills, and abilities to guide the course and each lesson.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Book

One of the strengths of the book is the format of each chapter. Building a new course is challenging. Luckily, Kushin lays out a 15-week semester plan for the reader. The first chapter acclimates the reader. Each subsequent chapter follows a pattern; also, each chapter has a full appendix. Applying theory and practice into courses is what many of us claim to do. Kushin offers a framework that encapsulates contemplation, reflection, and action. The WWHDR framework presented with each unit provides the professor with a way to plan his or her lessons. Some teaching books drown you in theory and case. This book encourages interactivity with the text. The goal with the book and Kushin’s overall philosophy is not to just acquire knowledge but to put that knowledge into constructive and beneficial use. The strategy chapter (Chapter 5) and the onboarding chapter (Chapter 1) were eye-openers. Rarely does one get the chance to see how others assimilate the students to a course or teach strategy. It was refreshing to see how his thinking takes the first days of class away from the standard “introduce yourself and review the syllabus” into substantive discussions about the structure of the course and the overarching “why” guiding the class.

One of the book’s weaknesses is accessibility. What I liked about the book (and I bought the hard copy edition via Amazon) is you have ebook access, which includes all assignments mentioned in the book. However, only Kindle users will have access to the ebook, which is great for Amazon book users but frustratingly terrible for others. The book does not have an index, which makes it difficult if you need to zoom to a particular place. For several years there have been broader discussions about trolling (#yourslipisshowing as an early example that is still relevant today), race and diversity in Web 2.0, and digital blackface. Given the issues with memes from a branding and a diversity aspect, I do wish that these matters had been covered in the course materials. Our students will act as brand ambassadors and communicators, and these matters are real-life, real-time situations they will need to diagnose, manage, or extinguish. Giving students and ourselves more room to work through these issues while in praxis is undeniably vital to the enterprises of teaching and public relations.

Who Would Benefit from Reading this Book?

A lot of books overpromise and under-deliver. Kushin’s work is the reverse: he under-promises and over-delivers in a concise volume that should be on every public relations professor’s shelf. This is a teaching text with an abundance of resources, templates, and classroom strategies. Matt Kushin’s book is a godsend for seasoned social media professors redeveloping their social media courses or newbie academics who are incorporating social and digital projects into their classes. The book is a step-by-step course plan for anyone teaching a social media class, and I would argue that some of the assignments can be reconfigured for a writing or research class. Even the most adept professor can learn new things from this text. I know I have, and I cannot wait to put them into practice in my own (non-social media) classes.


Commission on Public Relations Education (2018).  Fast forward: Foundations + future state. Educators + practitioners: The Commission on Public Relations Education 2017 report on undergraduate education. http://www.commissionpred.org/commission-reports/fast-forward-foundations-future-state-educators-practitioners/

Lum, E. (2017). Bridging the talent disconnect: Charting the pathways to future growth [PDF file]. https://s20896.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/talent-2017study-v3.pdf

New Media and Public Relations (3rd Edition)


Katie R. Place, Quinnipiac University

New Media and Public Relations (Third Edition)

Editor: Sandra Duhé

New York: Peter Lang, 2018

ISBN: 9781433132735 (paperback);  9781433101243 (eISBN)

336 pages

The third edition of New Media and Public Relations offers a comprehensive edited collection of original research regarding digital, social, and mobile media in public relations and strategic communications contexts. Readers of this edition will engage with entirely new content, which spans the most prolific period of new media research thus far between 2012 and 2016. This book is most appropriate for graduate students and faculty in communication disciplines who are seeking an array of new theoretical and practical concepts addressing corporate and nonprofit applications of new media, ethical and diversity implications of new media, and crisis implications of new media. It makes a strong contribution to public relations education by offering creative and cutting-edge applications of social media and public relations theory while offering excellent recommendations for future digital and social media research trajectories.

Organization of the Book

Structurally, the book features 30 chapters that are divided into eight separate categories. First, an introduction by Duhé analyzes the status of new media research since 2012. She found that scholars have largely focused on applications, perceptions, and concerns regarding new media in public relations. The introduction concludes with a spotlight on unique theoretical contributions, such as Hon’s (2015) development of a digital social advocacy model, Valentini’s (2015) critical analysis of social media, Li’s (2016) testing of a psychological empowerment framework for social media, and Vujnovic and Kruckeberg’s (2016) research regarding the concept of pseudo-transparency. The remaining seven parts feature chapters addressing emerging or groundbreaking ideas regarding new media research, corporate applications of new media, nonprofit and education advancements in new media research, ethical implications for new media use, activism and new media, community management and new media, and lastly, crisis management applications of new media.

Inclusion and New Media

Part 2, dedicated to emerging ideas, offers especially thoughtful calls for more inclusive, global, personal, and publics-focused scholarship regarding new media and public relations. Vercic, Vercic and Sriramesh’s chapter entitled, “Where have all the publics gone: The absence of publics in new media research” for example, argues that the majority of new media research remains limited to a North American perspective and remains “silent” on issues of privacy, diverse and marginalized publics, and the remaining digital divide. Similarly, Brand and Beall’s chapter entitled, “Cognitive listening theory and public relations practices in new media” acknowledges the understudied concept of listening in the context of new media. Applying Harfield’s (2014) cognitive listening model, they argue, can best enable public relations professionals to understand and interpret voices and contexts of diverse publics, manage social media listening on a global scale, and foster an effective listening environment within organizations.

Nonprofits, Ethics and New Media

Parts 4 and 5, dedicated to non-profit and ethical applications, also provide creative and thoughtful theoretical models and professional best practices for engaging with publics in the digital and social media spheres. Sutherland and Mak’s chapter in Part 4, for example, acknowledges the challenges of integrating social media and traditional media in non-profit organizations. The authors recommend the blending of dialogic and relationship management principles in order to best foster a consistent flow of communication, integration of social media and traditional media, and relationships among all key publics. Their integrated social media communication model (p. 137) offers a guide for doing so. Similarly, Sisson’s chapter acknowledges the lack of research regarding relationship management, ethics, and social media. After a thorough review of extant scholarship, she argues for greater focus on the concept of control mutuality in ethical non-profit engagement in order to give voice to all publics. In Part 5, McCorkindale applies theoretical concepts regarding care ethics (i.e., Gilligan, 1982; Tronto,1993) and moral reasoning (i.e., Colby & Kohlberg, 1987) to social media. Citing Tronto (1993), she emphasizes the importance of caring about publics (attentiveness), taking care of publics (responsibility), care giving for publics (competence), and care receiving by publics (responsiveness) (p. 163). McCorkindale’s chapter concludes with important recommendations for practice emphasizing the tenets of responsibility, nurturance, and compassion online.

Activism and New Media

Part 6 features research regarding understudied practices of activism in digital and social media environments. Frohlich’s chapter, for example, offers an extensive review of activism and social movement scholarship, focusing on the evolution of new media, public relations efforts, and activist relations. She argues that organizations must better develop specific social media strategies to engage activists and consider them as key organizational stakeholders. Similarly, Lee, Chon, Oh, and Kim’s chapter applies the situational theory of problem solving (STOPS) and communicative action in problem solving (CAPS) theories to activist publics, who are assumed to be quite active on social media. Particularly valuable is the authors’ list of digital communicative activism behaviors addressing dimensions of information acquisition, information selection, and information transmission of digital activists (pp. 202-205). This list and the concluding paragraph offer new scholars excellent ideas for future research regarding digital activism, especially concerning best communication approaches to foster online relationships among organizations and digital activist publics.


Ultimately, Sandra Duhé’s third edition of New Media and Public Relations is a joy to read. It offers timely, original, and insightful considerations for public relations students, scholars, and practitioners who are interested in digital, mobile, and social media theory development and practice. The book is well organized and provides balanced and substantial content regarding a variety of nonprofit, educational, corporate, and activist new media contexts. To strengthen future editions, the addition of a chapter that concludes the book is suggested. The concluding chapter might discuss overarching themes across all contributed chapters, overarching applications of the research to professional and educational contexts, discussion questions for classroom engagement, or additional directions for future research.


Colby, A., & Kohlberg, L. (1987). The measurement of moral judgement: Theoretical foundations and research validation. New York: Cambridge.

Gilligan, (1982). In a different voice. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Hon, L. (2015). Digital social advocacy in the Justice for Trayvon Campaign. Journal of Public Relations Research27(4), 299-321. https://doi.org/10.1080/1062726X.2015.1027771

Li, Z. (2016). Psychological empowerment on social media: Who are the empowered users? Public Relations Review42(1), 49-59. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pubrev.2015.09.001

Tronto, J. C. (1993). Moral boundaries: A political argument for an ethic of care. Psychology Press.

Valentini, C. (2015). Is using social media “good” for the public relations profession? A critical reflection. Public Relations Review41(2), 170-177. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pubrev.2014.11.009

Vujnovic, M., & Kruckeberg, D. (2016). Pitfalls and promises of transparency in the digital age. Public Relations Inquiry5(2), 121-143. https://doi.org/10.1177/2046147X16635227