Writing for Mass Communication

About This Class

Note: I've taken a break from teaching at Boston University as my day job at HubSpot has gotten busier and I've added a dog and a baby to my life.  That said, I figured I'd keep the syllabus live in case anyone wants to use it for personal edification. I loved teaching and hope to return to it some day when things aren't so bustling.


Writing for Mass Communication, or CM 331 (D1), CM331 is the third writing course in the Boston University curriculum for students majoring in mass communications, advertising or public relations. The materials presented in this course are designed to strengthen writing skills and prepare students for careers in the communications industry. The class will culminate with a professional writing portfolio for each student. 

Download the detailed syllabus.


General Class Reading

2013 or 2014 edition of The Associated Press Stylebook 

Reading assigned during class or over email 


Class 1: Making a name for yourself

There are 250,000 college students in Boston alone. You may not come across them all, but for every internship you pursue, every job offer you desire, you’re going to be up against a good number of them. This course is all about developing a professional writing portfolio that will help you stand out from the crowd.  We’ll start by building you a home base for your writing through http://theme.wordpress.com/  then spend the semester adding to it and perfecting your writing. 

In Class:


Class 2: Building a Professional Blog

The blog assignment is cornerstone to this CM331 class. Students will create and maintain a professional blog throughout the semester showcases their professional interests and growing expertise. The blog will culminate in the blog showcase on December 3rd and will have a minimum of eight posts. We’ll have some time in class throughout the semester for blog writing and brainstorming topics. 

Types of Blog Posts:

  • Your first blog post

Class 3: SEO and Writing for Web

The Internet radically changed the way we find and consume content. Search engine rank has become a major factor in writing across genres from web copy to journalism. This class will cover how to optimize your writing for search engines and for the way readers consume content online. The assignment for next week will be to draft a set of homepage and subpage copy that is written in web-style and search friendly. Deliverables for next week: 1) Homepage copy 2) a list of search terms 


Class 4: Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the most challenging and yet important channels for marketers.  The vast majority of marketing emails are ignored or marked as spam. This class will cover the pitfalls of bad email marketing and prepare you to write email copy that actually gets read. The assignment for next week will be to create an email and landing page.

In Class workshops

Subject Line Workshop

Deliverables for next week:

  1. A full email with subject, sender and CAN-SPAM compliance for HubWay
  2. Blog!


Class 5: Writing for PR

Writing for PR is all about knowing what makes something newsworthy and how to position your announcement in the context of a larger news angle. This class will cover the various types of media relations writing and some best practices in getting pitches right. The assignment for next week will be to write a press release based on a collection of facts. Deliverables for next week: 1) Perfectly written press release 2) Blog



Class 6: Journalism and Feature Writing

The feature assignment is another hallmark of this class. In this class we’ll revisit what makes something newsworthy, talk about hard news vs. features, and delve into angles. This class will also introduce the feature assignment, due October 29.

Assignment details and what I'll be looking for when I grade it.


Class 7: Interview Techniques

On October 15th we’ll talk through your feature topics and explore the skill of interviewing and finding the story. If there’s time, we’ll also take a look at how your blogs are shaping up and do some peer reviewing of each other’s work. 



Class 8: Workshop Features

This class marks the final opportunity to workshop your work-in-progress features and get feedback from each other before submitting on October 29th. We’ll also talk about how the journalism industry as a whole is changing and examine some new skills that are emerging as critical for journalists. Features are due next week.

Class 9: Feature Article Read Aloud

This class will give us the chance to hear some, hopefully all of the journalism features. We’ll also have a writing workshop for your blogs and talk about the remaining semester.


Class 10: Speechwriting

Some of the greatest speeches in history were not written by the speaker, but by a talented writer behind the scenes. This class will explore the structure and style of a good speech and give the class an opportunity to try out some speechwriting of its own.

Class 11: Writing Ad Copy

Just do it. You’re worth it. Got Milk? Can you hear me now? This class will talk about the art and science of ad copy. We’ll cover great examples throughout history and cover how to do it well for your own ads.


Class 12: Building a Marketing Strategy

A marketing strategy is what pulls all of the various tactics we’ve covered together into an influential campaign. We’ll address what goes into a marketing strategy and give a preview of the final assignment.


Class 13: Blog Showcase

This is it! The culmination of your class blogs. Blogs at this point should be in tip-top shape, optimized for search, and compelling for readers. We will spend part of the class presenting each blog and part talking about how to grow your blog’s audience.

Class 14: Marketing Campaign Pitches

Part of your final grade is the presentation pitch you give for your campaign. More than a read- through of your document, this pitch should be crafted as if the class were the company you are trying to influence to go with your campaign. It should identify the challenges the company or organization faces and how this particular campaign will help address them.