MC431      Half Unit
Critical Approaches to Strategic Communications

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Professor Lee Edwards


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Strategic Communications. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

This course provides an advanced understanding of theoretical knowledge in the field of media and communication as it relates to strategic communications and the key promotional industries of advertising, branding and public relations. The focus is on the role, scope and activities of strategic communications in contemporary societies and in the context of globalisation and the digital age. Topics cover the context, practices and challenges of strategic communications, and are likely to include: the advance of promotional culture in and across public, political, non-profit and corporate institutions; professional structures and identities of the strategic communications industries; discourses of strategic communications, including reputation and relationship management; technologies of strategic communications; globalisation and strategic communications; strategic communications and inequalities (gender, 'race', class); and the ethics of strategic communications.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars totalling a minimum of 20 hours across Michaelmas Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online lectures and in-person classes/classes delivered online. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of term.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce one 1,500 word essay in the MT.

Indicative reading

  • Aronczyk, M. and Powers, D. (eds) 2012. Blowing up the brand. New York: Peter Lang.
  • Banet-Weiser, S. and Mukherjee, R. (eds) 2012. Commodity activism: Cultural resistance in neoliberal times. New York: NYU Press
  • Cronin, A. 2018. Public relations capitalism. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
  • Davis, A. 2013. Promotional cultures: the rise and spread of advertising, public relations, marketing and branding.  Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Edwards, L. 2018. Understanding public relations: Theory, culture and society. London: Sage.
  • Ihlen, O and Fredriksson, M. (eds) 2018. Public relations and social theory: Key figures, concepts and developments (second edition). New York/London: Routledge.
  • Leiss, W. et al. 2005. Social communication in advertising: Consumption in the mediated marketplace. London: Routledge.
  • Macnamara, J. 2015. Organizational listening: the missing essential in public communication. New York: Peter Lang.
  • Moloney, K. & McGrath, C. 2019. Rethinking public relations: Persuasion, democracy and society. London: Routledge.
  • Turow, J. 2017. The aisles have eyes: How retailers track your shopping, strip your privacy and define your power. New Haven, CT., Yale University Press.
  • Webster, JG. 2014. The marketplace of attention: how audiences take shape in a digital age. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the LT.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 18.5
Merit 59.3
Pass 22.2
Fail 0

Teachers' comment

This course offers students an advanced theoretical engagement with the different ways in which strategic communications industries affect society and culture. A wide range of perspectives is adopted in the course and the focus is on exploration and enquiry. My aim is to help students develop their own journey of intellectual engagement and understanding, through a critical analyses of the most influential contemporary communication industries, whose work often goes unseen or unnoticed. You should expect to be challenged by core and extended readings, be ready to participate in seminar activities, to engage with your classmates in robust discussions, and to use your critical capacities in new and creative ways. 


Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Media & Communications

Total students 2020/21: 34

Average class size 2020/21: 16

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills