Master's in Strategic Public Relations Online

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A Progressive Master’s for
the Modern PR World

In today’s information-intense society, the public relations profession is influenced not only by society’s ability to access information, but also by the speed and magnitude at which it is consumed. As such, success as a public relations professional is measured by your ability to command attention, gain trust, and convey key messages to internal and external audiences.

At the George Washington University, we recognize the critical role strategy, foresight and adaptability play in navigating the evolving communications landscape. GW’s Graduate School of Political Management delivers a comprehensive education that can equip professionals to solve modern public relations issues for corporations, associations, nonprofits, political campaigns and government.

Our 100% online Master’s in Strategic Public Relations program is designed to help you keep up in this advancing industry, whether you are a seasoned PR veteran or new to the profession. You can expand your toolkit, extend your network, broaden your mind and enhance your vision to gain the skills to face the profession’s greatest challenges.

Why GW’s Masters in Strategic Public Relations?

A Strong Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of public relations managers and specialists is expected to grow as much as 23 percent from 2010 to 2020, compared to a 14 percent projected national average employment growth rate over the same timeframe.

Evolving business models, a growing emphasis on corporate social responsibility and the rise in social media are generating unprecedented demands on the communications industry and creating new opportunities for experienced public relations specialists. While competition for entry-level jobs may be high, PR specialists with an advanced degree, a strategic mindset and specialized skills will be poised for success.

As roles shift and new positions open, the need for PR managers will also rise. Those who take extra strides to stand out, such as pursuing an advanced degree from a leading institution like GW, can reap the rewards of their investment through increased earning potential and competitive appeal.

The Evolving Professional Landscape

Today’s Public Relations and Communications professionals are being tasked with an increasing range of responsibilities. While companies of all sizes and segments define public relations differently, the core principles and practices remain true and are affected by the shifting business landscape. New media outlets, savvy consumers, and greater scrutiny – both externally and internally – are driving higher levels of transparency and accountability. Our program prepares you to respond and succeed in that environment.

A New Paradigm for Integrated Public Relations

Professionals in all facets of marketing, communications, public relations, and public affairs are facing the widespread adoption of social media, and the corresponding need to adapt strategies, implement policies, and manage a communication-intensive environment. Previously independent functions are now converging; traditional roles are evolving to incorporate a modern, integrated communications model that leverages best practices from both traditional and new media and uses all the tools of the marketing and communications fields.

Public relations executives are also playing an increasingly-significant role in the boardroom by connecting an organization’s customer service, social footprint, and reputation to bottom-line performance. Through effective management and employment of integrated PR strategies, public relations professionals are proving vital to the long-term success of companies worldwide.

Factors Affecting the New PR Model

  • Decline in traditional product PR
  • Rise of new media outlets & consumer engagement
  • Rapid spread of information
  • Emphasis on corporate social responsibility
  • Increased focus on outcomes & ROI

Master the Art of Strategic PR

GW’s online Master’s in Strategic Public Relations program is designed to provide students a rigorous, contemporary, and transformational learning experience. The curriculum is structured to offer students a solid foundation in core public relations principles, best practices and techniques while nurturing their progression from PR mechanic to strategic public relations professional.

Our courses encompass both the breadth and depth of the Public Relations role within a variety of employment settings. Students gain insight into business management and ethical standards that shape their role; learn strategies and tactics for managing sensitive topics such as social responsibility and crisis communication; and develop a deeper appreciation of the role political and government factors play in earning the trust of internal and external audiences.

The GW master’s program features 10* three-credit hour courses that can be completed entirely online in just 18 months. Students graduate with the professional acumen, a credible degree, an expanded professional network, and the personal pride of being a member of the prestigious GW alumni community.

Course Name Credit Hours
Public Relations Principles and Practices 3
Media Relations in the New Media World 3
Fundamentals of Finance and Management for PR Professionals 3
Ethical Standards in Public Relations and Public Affairs 3
Strategic Marketing Communications 3
Applied Public Relations and Public Affairs Research 3
Issues Management and Crisis Communications 3
Sustainability Communication Strategies 3
Political Socialization and Public Opinion 3
Public Relations and Public Affairs Capstone Research Project 3
Total Credit Hours 30*

*Effective Fall 2016.

Students in GW’s Master’s in Strategic Public Relations online program may select courses offered within the Political Management online program to enhance their understanding of digital tools and strategy as well as develop a domestic and global perspective on public relations, communications, and advocacy. Students interested in digital communications can take Digital Strategy or Maximizing Social Media in place of their upper-level courses. Students interested in participating in one of the six Global Residencies GSPM offers can pick the location and schedule that fits their needs. Please see full list of locations here. Please contact your student services representative for more details. (Note: Course offerings are subject to availability. Additional travel costs and fees beyond tuition apply to Global Residencies).

Who Should Pursue a Masters in Strategic Public Relations?

Career PR & Communications Professionals

GW’s Master’s in Strategic Public Relations online program attracts some of the industry’s leading subject matter experts and rising talent. While some hold public relations roles within the political and government arena, many others work in public relations firms, corporations or associations.

Most students in the online program have several years of experience in the field and are pursuing their Master’s at GW for career advancement and professional growth. They are ambitious working professionals who are driven by the program’s rigor and credibility within the industry, as well as the unique opportunity to benefit from the wealth of expertise and resources only found at GW – in the heart of the nation’s capital. There are others who are seeking a career transition and see public relations as a clear growth area. All are welcome and add to the discussion and debate in our virtual classroom.

Whether you are working in government or not, PR professionals are often faced with political challenges both directly and indirectly related to public policy and regulation. Through understanding the intricacies of public policy, advocacy and communications in this context, students gain new perspectives and valuable skills to capture their audience’s attention, shape policy, earn the trust of the public and their management, and be successful regardless of where their career takes them.

Marketing & Advertising Professionals

In the communication-intense environment of modern business, traditional marketing and advertising professionals face an onslaught of new challenges. While underlying objectives and core functions remain relatively unchanged, marketing and external relations teams are adapting strategies, processes and responsibilities to align with new demands. Many companies are reallocating budgets to reflect a greater emphasis on social media participation, website optimization, and the ongoing measurement and evaluation of public relations initiatives.

Marketing professionals serve a vital role in engaging with – and on behalf of – internal stakeholders and the general public. Functional departments now have an increased level of interaction with customers, amplifying the importance of operational efficiencies, customer service and streamlined communication processes.

For marketing and advertising teams, the ability to earn the trust of their customers and management and to effectively serve as a conduit of information is paramount to a corporation’s viability. As a student in GW’s online Master’s in Strategic Public Relations Program, professionals in these traditional roles can develop a solid framework of public relations best practices, learn how to implement them within their organization, and establish metrics for measuring and communicating their impact.

Public Affairs Officers

Public relations within a political, government or military setting shares the same common principles as PR in commercial environments, yet also offers opportunities and challenges unique to the public arena.

Public affairs officers (PAOs) have direct, ongoing interaction with the media to communicate on behalf of their client or organization. They are responsible for building a public persona, shaping opinion and keeping audiences abreast of issues that may affect them personally or the delivery of services by the government. Success or failure as a PAO is marked by diplomacy and tact when engaging with the community. As well, the ability to anticipate audience response, be ahead of the curve and give sound advice regarding dynamic situations and select which tactics to deploy is paramount.

The role of the public affairs officer is high profile with significant accountability. In addition to representing their client or company, PAOs also perform research, develop communication strategies, and prepare speeches, testimony and other presentation materials. They review and oversee the production of press releases, news articles, public statements and other informational documents to ensure alignment with internal objectives and adherence to legal and security measures.

Career Advancement & Pivoting

Positioning Yourself for Advancement

The public relations field offers numerous pathways for advancement. Some professionals pursue a Master’s in Strategic Public Relations to refine skills, develop a solid understanding of the big picture, and learn how to manage teams within traditional PR firms and communication environments. Seasoned PR professionals might look to advance within their organization, seek new opportunities within their industry, or apply experience and knowledge to a new professional setting. Other students aspire to open their own PR practice and choose GW’s master’s program to learn the latest tricks of the trade and develop the broad operational and financial framework from which to establish a profitable and sustainable business.

Pivoting from a Career in Journalism

Others choose to earn their Master’s in Strategic Public Relations because they are pivoting to the PR profession from a different role in the communications industry or from a different profession, such as journalism. These careers share many transferrable skill sets that lend themselves to establishing a positive career trajectory in public relations. People who transition to public relations from a journalism background often benefit from leveraging writing and interpersonal skills honed earlier in their careers. Likewise, they will have a unique insider’s perspective on successful tactics for interacting with and influencing traditional media outlets. A master’s program that specializes in strategic PR helps journalists build on prior experience and hone new skills to develop a well-rounded knowledge sphere that can springboard a career in public relations.

Whether pivoting from other careers such as communications or journalism, aspiring to advance within an organization or planning to establish a private consultancy, people choose to further their education in public relations to build on experience; embrace new tactics and techniques; learn strategies for successfully engaging and securing the support of key stakeholders; and building a profitable cutting-edge business.

  • Contact

    Looking for more info about the online Strategic Public Relations program or the PR profession? We invite you to contact our Recruitment Services office to speak with a personal Enrollment Advisor or watch one of our webinar recordings:

  • PR Industry Trends & Keys to Success

    This webinar focuses on current and emerging trends in the PR field and how you can leverage these strategies and tactics to successfully represent your organization in today’s communication intensive environment.

  • Effectively Leveraging Social Media

    With an emphasis on how to effectively leverage Twitter and other Social Media channels to accomplish your communications goals, our panelists discuss strategies for reaching your audience and improving overall communications impact.