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COURSE NAME: "Multimedia Strategic Communications"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2019

EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: W 9:00-11:45 AM

This course introduces students to the art and craft of multimedia storytelling for strategic business communications in the profit and not for profit sector. It provides background and analysis for how storytelling has evolved in the digital landscape, requiring communicators to rethink concepts of audience, engagement, use of trusted sources, and dynamic updating. In this context, students will take part in the hands-on, beginning-to-end creation of multimedia projects. Depending on each project’s concept, content, and goals, various off-the-shelf software platforms will be explored and utilized for content management and creative presentation in the form of basic apps, interactive storytelling, blogs, bots, and more. A key challenge to strategic communications—dissemination, making stories stand out in today’s sea of content—will be incorporated from the start into decision making and production.

Everyone today can be a content creator, a publisher, a videographer, and a disseminator. This represents a sea change of opportunity in strategic communications and marketing, with even under-resourced organizations now able to not only create their own messaging, but appeal to their audiences and communities directly.

This course provides an experiential overview of how effective strategic communications incorporates age-old storytelling principles with new multimedia techniques to develop, evolve, and sell a brand with impact. These same techniques will be used to inspire and facilitate creative, artistic presentations in students’ own storytelling as they produce multimedia content for select local businesses.  

We begin with a recent history and definition of multimedia storytelling, experiencing and critiquing case studies of consumer-oriented projects emerging from the traditional information worlds of print and documentary storytelling. What are the pitfalls of multimedia storytelling (a picture may tell a thousand words…or not)? We will then examine case studies of how a variety of organizations have run with these emerging trends in immersive and participatory culture to spur action and involvement, and how marketing success can be measured through the art of e-analytics tailored to different audiences and different multimedia goals.

In this context, students will conceive of and develop class-created multimedia projects tied to the mission of either a nonprofit or small for-profit--one American and one Italian business--including direct collaboration with organization leaders in developing their brand narratives. The course will show how to research and select open-source storytelling platforms, apps, resources, and tools best suited to the projects, be they original apps or self-designed, multimedia blogs. Students will test and share examples, with a focus on user experience, and ultimately launch and disseminate their projects online. Collaboration and meeting individual deadlines for the team's benefit will be a key aspect of production.

Readings will include texts by influential media, cultural and social analysts on the evolution and potential of multimedia storytelling and marketing, including Henry Jenkins, Malcolm Gladwell, William Gibson, and Katie Davis.


By the end of the course students will be able to:

1. Understand the effect and potential of multimedia production on strategic communications and marketing for organizations

2. Understand and be able to define basic trends in multimedia, transmedia and immersive media storytelling

3. Incorporate classic storytelling and storyboarding techniques in planning a multimedia project tied to the marketing of an organization's mission and strategic goals

4. Research and assess storytelling platforms ranging from (but not limited to) app creation, crowdsourcing, interactive and nonlinear storytelling

5. Implement a content management system

6. Produce a multimedia project from conceptualization to dissemination

7. Incorporate collaboration and the value of different points of view, input and discussion in multimedia production
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked CultureJenkins, H. et alNew York University PressISBN 978-1-4798-5605-3  

Midterm ExamDemonstrate knowledge of trends and terminology in multimedia storytelling used in communications and marketing. Be able to analyze a piece of multimedia storytelling used by an organization that is particularly effective according to the principles discussed in class.20
Storytelling MatrixSubmit a group story plan and strategic outline of your chosen multimedia project, considering the organization’s mission and goals, format, audience, engagement, and measures of success. Include specifics on your individual responsibilities within this plan.15
Final PaperDescribe and assess your project in 1000 words, with images. Demonstrate having researched various story platforms and formats, explaining what you chose. Include what you found challenging, what you'd do differently, and how you could build on this project.30
Production UpdatePresent to the class a project update. Discuss your area of responsibility as well as group progress on content management and principles of user experience, engagement, dissemination, and meeting project goals.15
Attendance and ParticipationAttendance and participation is required, with active contribution to class projects. More than TWO unexcused absences will result in automatic loss of a letter grade.20

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and apply them to creative practice with an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading and multimedia research beyond that required for the course. Participation and collaboration in class projects is proactive and of dependable, high quality and with keen attention to detail and schedule deadlines.
BThis is a highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluate theory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and findings and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture and reference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading and research beyond the required assignments. Group assignments are completed on deadline and collaboration is active.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings and viewings. Basic group responsibilities are met.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material, Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included. Group work is lacking in collaboration and the meeting of deadlines. In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until May 8,  2018. 

More than two unexcused absences will result in automatic loss of a full letter grade.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Week 1 - Introduction and Course Overview: What is Multimedia Storytelling for Strategic Communications?

Defining multimedia storytelling: from eternal principles to exciting new directions in trans- and immersive media.


Gibson, W. (2003). Pattern Recognition. Berkley. [Excerpts in class Moodle book.]

Gladwell, M. (2000). The Stickiness Factor. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference (pp. 89-110).  New York: Little, Brown, and Company.

Jenkins, H., Ford, S., and Green, J. (2013). Sticky Content, Spreadable Practices. Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture. New York and London: New York University Press.

Additional Assignment

Explore on your own. What defines good multimedia storytelling for you? Bring examples next week; it could be online fiction, games, apps, blogs…as long as they incorporate multimedia and tell stories. How and why do they engage you?

Week 2 - The Evolution of Media Storytelling: New Modes of Presenting and Engaging for a Purpose

Examining the evolving world of multimedia and transmedia storytelling used to engage audiences and consumers—exploring trends in nonlinear story experiences through case studies, with a focus on the interactive role of participatory audiences and convergence—from film to gaming.


Jenkins, H., Ford, S., and Green, J. (2013). "The Value of Media Engagement" Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture. New York and London: New York University Press. Chapter 3, pp. 132-152.

Phillips, A. (2012 ). What is Transmedia Anyway? A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling. New York: McGraw Hill.

Additional Assignment

Explore and assess examples of multimedia and transmedia brand storytelling that you find particularly effective. How and why do they engage you?

Week 3 - Case Studies in the Evolution of Who is Media: Organizations Telling Their Own Stories

Starting with their traditional content, public libraries and museums make apps; nonprofits for hunger and girl power make games for change.


“Biblion: The Boundless Library” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNlxyLLNi1g

Case Study:  Developing an updated “brand story” for Carnegie Corporation of New York, with StoryWorldwide.

 [“Half the Sky Movement” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6Ahpocmjs0]


Lee, D. (2013). The New York Public Library and the World of Tomorrow. In Peters, T. and Bell, L. (2013).  The Handheld Library: Mobile Technology and the Librarian, ABC-CLIO.

[Murphy, T. (2013). Making a Game of Nick Kristof’s [and Sheryl WuDunn’s] Half the Sky Movement. Retrived from http://www.humanosphere.org/basics/2013/03/half-the-sky-game/]

Additional Assignment

Explore on your own. Find effective examples of nonprofits using new and multimedia to spur action; it could be fictional storylines, games, apps, blogs…as long as they incorporate multimedia and tell stories. How and why do they engage you?

Week 4 - Organization Client Visit #1

In the next two weeks, students will be introduced to two organizations, one for profit, one non-profit, one American, one Italian.  In preparation, materials will be provided for you to learn about their missions and communications goals.


Jenkins, H., Ford, S., and Green, J. (2013). Producerly Texts and Cultural Resources. Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture. New York and London: New York University Press.

Week 5 - Conceptualizing Your Story

Matching the story of a business with the story you tell: it’s all about the mission. Outlining, storyboarding,and goal setting with helpful online tools…all while keeping creativity at the fore.


Gardner, H. And Davis, K. (2013). Acts (and Apps) of Imagination Among Today’s Youth. The App Generation: How Today’s Youth navigate Identity, Intimacy and Imagination in a Digital World. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Optional Reading (depending on your project):

Gitner, S. (2016). The Building Blocks of Visual Storytelling: How Are Visual Images Created and Combined Logically to Tell a Coherent Story with a Beginning, Middle, and End? Multimedia Storytelling for Digital Communicators in a Multiplatform World. New York and London: Routledge.

Gitner, S. (2016). How Can Multimedia Storytelling Be Used To Tell True-Life Stories? Multimedia Storytellingfor Digital Communicators in a Multiplatform World. New York and London: Routledge.


Week 6 - MIDTERM / Research

Choosing a content management management system and addressing content rights; choosing your storytelling platform.

Week 7 - The Platform

Making the most of the platform you choose, including pitching a partnership.

Weeks 8-10 Production

Week 11-12

User Experience Testing, Fine-Tuning, Dissemination

Weeks 13-14

Release and Screenings