SMU ADV 4333-701 Topics in Digital Media Marketing

Digital Content Marketing
SMU ADV 433-701

Course Books

  1. Content Strategy for the Web
  2. The Storytelling Animal

Course Description

IRL a person will see up to 4K ads in just one day. It’s a noisy world in the digital space, so what do you do when your boss is telling your content team that your brand needs to stand out, get on Snapchat, Pinterest, Reddit, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr tomorrow “because the millennials love them”, make content “go viral”, oh yeah, and create big waves with a small budget. And while they might be okay with not seeing true ROI from a billboard, they definitely don’t want to “waste” money on digital tactics because they need to see the return happen in days of launching your campaign. And remember, digital content can make or break any brand in seconds. Fans love and hate you on a whim, and keeping up with trends, current events, pop culture seems overwhelming without the right tools. Freaked out yet?

While it’s easy to get distracted in the content world, when you have the right strategy and a thorough plan in place, you can justify each and every piece of content and make the most out of the limited time and budget you have.

The ultimate goal of content: Bringing context to your brands’ message through your website, social media channels, email campaigns and other interactive media while simultaneously adding value to your target audience’s daily lives through authentic content (all while keeping your boss happy).

But don’t stress out. It can be tough out there for a digital content strategist, but it’s also super exciting. There’s limitless possibilities and tools and channels are changing constantly. Humanizing your brand is the future and high quality, purposeful and focused content is the solution. This course will explore the backend of developing sound content strategies that reflect larger business objectives, the channels and tools that can support the execution and optimization of awesome content, and will teach you how to stay nimble and keep your brand safe in an ever changing world full of hungry consumers chomping away on content.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Understand the key factors of successful digital content and the ability to differentiate between strong and weak content
  2. Familiarity with the purpose and process of developing a content strategy that reflects larger business objectives
  3. Map a content execution plan and editorial calendar for a digital campaign
  4. Track and assess content performance with the help of social listening and measurement tools
  5. Audit existing brand content and their target audience response
  6. Build and present a formalized case for holistic digital content campaign reflecting each stage in the customer journey

Policies / Expectations

In-Class Engagement: In order to have a dynamic class, I expect people to be present, pleasant, deep thinkers and focused. Laptops and tablets are allowed, but smartphones should not be the primary method of notetaking or research during class.

You’re on the honor system for not online shopping, ordering Favor, reading BuzzFeed, double tapping Instagram posts, following your favorite sports team, etc. If I notice that you are distracted, sleeping, rude, zoned out, texting under your desk, laughing when noone else is, your desk is vibrating from your smartphone; I will address it. If the behavior continues, it will affect your participation grade and ultimately hinder your learning (aka your future).

Protip: Leave your smartphone in your pocket or bag.

Grade Breakdown

Grades are final, and you have one week to discuss your grade with me. If I do not provide enough feedback or justification of your grade, I’m happy to talk through my assessment, but the likeliness of negotiating a higher grade (even by a point) is highly unlikely.

Bonus points are available, but only if you dress up for Halloween (because we have class that night). Note that cat ears with regular clothes will receive less extra credit then people who go all out.  

Attendance (10%)Participation (15%)Audience Audit (30%)Final Pitch (40%)LWT (5%)

Attendance 10%

Attendance is required. You’re allowed two unexcused absences. University-sanctioned absences will be excused and are eligible for make-up work. You must provide official documentation detailing your absence.

Late arrivals will also affect your attendance grade. I reserve the right to deduct points based on how late you are, and how much your tardiness has disrupted the flow of the class.

Medical absences require a doctor’s note from a medical professional who examined you and specifically prescribed your absence from class on the day you missed class.

If you plan to observe a religious holiday anytime this Fall, you must inform me by September 1 for it to be considered an excused absence.

Participation 15%

Everyone has their preferred method of communication and contributing, so the following interactions will factor into your participation grade. While some of us are internal processors or have anxiety around public speaking, the truth of the matter is that in business, you’re expected to be communicative in person as well as over Slack, IM or email. If you are just talking to talk, that will also affect your participation grade in a negative manner.

  1. General class engagement (out loud): examples include thoughtful or challenging questions, asking why, playing devil’s advocate (without being mean), congratulating your peers with an explanation behind it.
  2. Emailing book discussion questions prior to scheduled book review (3 questions per book → 6 total)
  3. At least one thoughtful question or comment after a Last Week Today review.
  4. Sharing at least 2 articles in the facebook group with an insightful status about how that article is relevant or thought-provoking. Posting an article without a comment does not count because that’s just content without context.

Last Week Today (LWT) 5%

Each student will be responsible for giving one 5-minute review of two pieces* of digital content that has been published in the seven days prior to their assigned deadline. Just like Jon Oliver, we’re here to think critically of each piece and provide insights to the class into the who, what, where, why, and results.

*Note that one content is “the best” and the other should be “the worst”. A british accent is not required, but you need to be prepared to deliver your findings in less than 5-minutes. If you show a video – that will not factor into your 5 minutes. Visual support or props are allowed.

And yes, I will be timing you. We will have five minutes after each for questions and comments from your classmates.

Audience Audit 30%

You will be assigned a national brand and be asked to audit their existing content and target audience. You will research their digital behavior, interest, demographic details, everyday needs and pain points, shopping habits, aspirations, and pop culture references. You will be then asked to cross reference these insights with the brand’s ability to deliver content that does or does not add value, and make high level digital content recommendations on how this brand can improve online engagement and overall sales.

Final Project: Content Pivot Pitch 40%

Rather than having a final exam, small groups will tasked with pitching a content strategy pivot to their peers, who will be acting as the client. Groups will work together to help reposition an established brand (which will be assigned mid-way through the semester) to a new target audience online. This presentation will include well-defined key performance indicators that reflect larger business objectives, a mapped out customer journey reflecting detailed audience research, a refreshed brand persona, and a holistic and tactical go-to-market campaign with stand out digital content examples. Grades will be given based on the following criteria.

Appendix (10%)Presentation Content (30%)Presentation Skills (30%)Peer Evaluations (20%)Questions as Client (10%)

Weekly Breakdown

DayDateTopicAssignments Due
Week 1
T8/22Course Introduction

Syllabus Review


Sign up for a Last Week Today time
TR8/24Digital Content Marketing 101: The BasicsContent Strategy for the Web: Reality SectionIntro survey due
Week 2
T8/29Building digital content strategies that make $$


Brands will be assigned for audience assignment



TR8/31Audience Research & Customer JourneyContent Strategy for the Web: Discovery Section
Week 3
T9/5Standing Out: Swipe right on great content
TR9/7Storytelling 101Content Strategy for the Web: Strategy Section
Week 4
T9/12Call To Action → Conversion (where great storytelling meets KPIs, creating action and growing the bottom line)
TR9/14Content Mapping: Brainstorming with a content mindContent Strategy for the Web: Success SectionContent Strategy discussion questions due by 5pm
Week 5
T9/19Part 1 / Book Club: Content Strategy Part 2 / Audience Audit Working Session
TR9/21Digital Breakdown: Content for SEO vs. Amazon
Week 6
T9/26Guest Speaker
TR9/28Digital Breakdown: Web Content + UX
Week 7
T10/3Content Analytics: Content people like numbers, too
TR10/5Digital Breakdown: Social Media ContentAudience Audit Due by 5pm
Week 8
TFall Break
TR10/12Digital Breakdown: Email ContentThe StoryTelling Animal: Chapters 1-3
Week 9
T10/17Digital Breakdown: Customer Service + Community Management
TR10/19Digital Breakdown: Paid Media ContentThe StoryTelling Animal: Chapters 4-6
Week 10
T10/24Digital Breakdown: Influencer Content
TR10/26Online to offline: Why great digital content should lead offline content The StoryTelling Animal: Chapters 7-9The Storytelling Animal discussion questions due by 5pm
Week 11
T10/31Part 1 / Scare Tactics: The good, the bad, and the horrific of holiday-centric digital content

Part 2 / Book Club: The Storytelling Animal

🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃🎃Costumes Optional
TR11/2Tools, Tools, Tools
Week 12
T11/7Guest Speaker (Allison in Lisbon)
TR11/9Video class: Web Summit from the front-ish row (Allison in Lisbon)
Week 13
T11/14Content Planning + Execution: Building Digital Campaigns & Editorial calendars
TR11/16Retaining Content Buy-in: Reporting, optimization, auditing, and how to be persuasive
Week 14
T11/21Final Project Working Session
TRThanksgiving
Week 15
T11/28Final Presentations
TR11/30Final Presentations (Last Day of Class)

University Policies

Academic Integrity:

All work presented in this class must be the product of your own effort. You work should not be copied without appropriate citation from any source, including the Internet. Any student caught presenting work which is not his or her own will face disciplinary action, which may include a zero for an assignment, receiving a failing grade for the class, or being expelled from the university. See http://smu.edu/studentlife/PCL_05_HC.asp for more information.

Disability Accommodations: Students needing academic accommodations for a disability must first contact Ms. Rebecca Marin, Coordinator, Services for Students with Disabilities (214-768-4557) to verify the disability and establish eligibility for accommodations. They should then schedule an appointment with the professor to make appropriate arrangements (See University Policy No. 2.4)

Religious Observance: Religiously observant students wishing to be absent on holidays that require missing class should notify their professors in writing at the beginning of the semester and should discuss with them, in advance, acceptable ways of making up any work missed because of the absence. (See University Policy No. 1.9)

Excused Absences for University Extracurricular Activities: Students participating in an officially sanctioned, scheduled University extracurricular activity should be given the opportunity to make up class assignments or other graded assignments missed as a result of their participation. It is the responsibility of the student to make arrangements with the instructor prior to any missed scheduled examination or other missed assignment for making up the work. (University Undergraduate Catalog)