Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


School of Journalism and Mass Communications

First Advisor

August Grant


The convergence and integration of communication disciplines is a daunting challenge for educators. Traditional distinctions of advertising, public relations, and integrated communication are becoming blurred by the growth of social media and other new media channels. The advent of strategic communications is a newer iteration of this coalescence of technology, analytics, and practice.

Silos of branding, issues management, media relations, image management, research, and many other communications (applied and specialty) as well as skills and traits are being combined in favor of a more comprehensive, strategic communications approach. The multi-platform, multi-disciplinary communicator is becoming the expected product of undergraduate programs in mass communications.

However, this rapid transition of the media education landscape is also causing confusion among communications faculty. Distinctions of what is strategic, what is integrated, what is public relations and what is advertising are becoming blurred. This change foments the question, “What is strategic communications?”

As a solution, this research seeks to better define strategic communications for the purpose of impacting methods of instruction.

In many academic and professional circles, strategic communications is considered a highly attractive solution for the future. Its popularity is strong in both instruction and ultimately in the practice. More importantly, from an education perspective, the results here will help educators discern what preparations are needed to train students for understanding and ultimately practicing the discipline.

This definition of strategic communications is established through analysis of academic opinion. As a matrix for this definition, strategic communications is defined across three dimensions: applied communications, specialty communications, and communication skills and traits. Further insight is also obtained via a research instrument that allows comparison and contrast of strategic communications with three other contemporary communications disciplines: integrated communications, public relations, and advertising. Measurement is accomplished via a Mean Value of Importance: (MVOI). Original research conducted includes a faculty focus group and a quantitative survey of faculty via an online measure. The inquiry yielded 212 faculty respondents, out of a purposive sample pool of 580, teaching in one or more of the aforementioned four disciplines: strategic communications, integrated communications, public relations and advertising. Findings indicate unique differentiators and surprising similarities between the four disciplines across three dimensions of communication: applied, specialty, and skills and traits.

While a comprehensive definition of strategic communications among the communications disciplines remains elusive, results of this study indicate the discipline represents a hybrid of all three other disciplines. In addition, there are varying concentrations of applied communications, strategic communications and communications skills and traits rounding out the terminology.


© 2016, Jeffrey A. Ranta