Drop Box

Take This Class?
About Report/Present
About Exams


CMGT 509
Influential Communication
in the Marketplace

Taught on Contract for
Annenberg School for Communication
University of Southern California


Wednesday 2:00-4:50pm, starting January 10, 2018
Room: ANN 406 (map)

Texts & Resources
  • Main Text: The Dynamics of Persuasion, Fifth Edition, by Richard M. Perloff.
  • Supplemental Readings for each week will appear in the password-protected Drop Box (see link top left). Readings will usually appear several days before the class with which they're associated.

Instructor Info

Dr. Kelton Rhoads. USC Office Room ASC 333 (that's the old Annenberg building). Office hours are before and after class, starting at 1:00 pm (if you can't find me in the adjunct office, please call or text; I may be in the library) and lasting after class until students leave, or my bus leaves, whichever comes first. You may also call me at work by phone at any time during normal working hours (9am-5pm weekdays). For most class-related communication, I prefer phone calls and office visits to email or texts. As my student, you are my client, and as my client, you can call me! You'll receive my phone numbers in class.

Course Description

This interdisciplinary course explores an area of overlap that’s shared among the disciplines of marketing, communication, and the psychology of influence. The tools of persuasion we study in this course are deployed in the marketplace to sell products, services, and to an increasing degree, to also market ideas and behaviors. We will examine the use of these influence tactics in marketing and social marketing, as well as in related disciplines of public relations, crisis communication, reputation management, advertising, and related disciplines. The course concentrates on persuasion and compliance tactics known to the social sciences that may be communicated both interpersonally and through mass-media venues, with the “sale” of a product, idea, or behavior as the goal. The course will locate and leverage the effective strategies of changing human behavior, with an emphasis on finding and selecting appropriate tactics.

Specific objectives of this course include:

  • Concepts and a language for understanding influence in the marketplace;
  • Skills to create persuasive messages in marketing communications;
  • Knowledge about what differentiates non-persuasive from persuasive appeals;
  • Ability to locate influence tactics along a continuum of social desirability;
  • Knowledge of common ethical considerations about influence tactics as they relate to marketing;
  • Analytical tools to engage influence strategies most appropriate to a particular situation, product, idea, and time.

Class Calendar

The class calendar is available in the Drop Box at the top left of this page. Topic dates may change slightly during the semester, so I prefer you download the latest & most current calendar from the Drop Box. The major topics covered in the calendar are these:

• Marketing, Communication & Influence
• Relationship-based Tactics
• Credibility-based Tactics
• Reason-based Tactics
• Cognitive-based Tactics
• Emotion-based Tactics
• Unintended Consequences of Marketing
• Humor
• Appeals: The Advertiser's Staple
• Authenticity
• Going Negative
• Campaigns



Grades will be calculated on these weights:

  • Written Campaign Analysis, 20%
  • Oral Report on Unintended Consequence, 20%
  • Midterm Open Book Exam, 35%.
  • Final Group Paper, 20%
  • Participation, 5%

Written Campaign Analysis Report

The written report is on an influence campaign that you examine in some detail (most reports will be of commercial marketing or social action campaigns). Written reports are to be a maximum of 4 pages, single spaced.

A draft of your report will be previewed by me, the prof, before you hand in a final version, so there are actually two hand-in deadlines for this project. Hand me a physical, paper copy of your report (not electronic, not email) on each due date. You'll also need to give me several times I can call you during the following week, and a telephone number. We'll get in touch by phone (not email or text), and we'll discuss. I will likely have some suggestions for revisions. I'm particularly critical of political topics that advocate a partisan position, so be forewarned, and stay fair and balanced.

For more detail about reports, click on the "About Report/Present" link in the top left corner.

Oral Presentation: Unintended Consequences of Marketing

In the latter half of the semester, you'll present a topic to the class in a 10-minute presentation to sub-groups of the class (that is, you won't be presenting to the entire class at once). It's like a written report, except the oral presentation is added to the requirement. (You need to have a one-sheet handout for the class.) The topic for this presentation is: unintended consequences of marketing.

For more detail about the presentation, click on the "About Report/Present" link in the top left corner.

Midterm Exam

There will be one midterm, open-note, open-text, open computer exam. Your computer is allowed for paperless reviewing of PDFs and class notes. It's not to be used during tests for keyword searching, searching the internet, or messaging to or from others. So I have a "no internet, no keyboard" rule for exams. WiFi off, no internet access, and no typing. You may use your touchpad, mouse, or other locating device, but not your keyboard for typing. Please plan appropriately. Tests are open, because this is a graduate course, where memory isn't emphasized--but knowing the material, and where to find it, is. The exam needs to be completed in the time allowed. The exam will concentrate on your knowledge of the material we've covered, and your ability to apply the principles we've learned. You should be familiar with the material assigned as reading, the material presented in lectures, to do well on the tests. Some of the standardized test questions that come with the textbooks may be used in the construction of tests. See the extensive online exam review page link at top left of this page for more info, titled "About Tests."

Final Group Paper

Please see the "About Report/Present" link for information about the final group paper.


To obtain good participation scores:

(1) Please show up on time and pay attention. Meet class deadlines without drama or last-minute negotiations. Being on time is especially important in classrooms that have no convenient back door. I do keep attendance records, but I overlook one absence for the semester in classes that meet once a week. If you miss more than that, please provide documentation as to why. I want you to make every effort to be in class on days you are assigned to present, and on exam dates. Please don't skip these particular days of class unless you're sick. If you attend class, please show up on time.

SFInternet access: When I have allowed students full internet access during class, I've gotten some of my lowest test scores ever. Humans are not good at splitting attention, so during lectures & discussions, turn your internet access off, turn your cell phone off, and please attend to the discussions we're having.

(2) Participate during discussions and exercises. High-quality comments are requested of students that:

  • Offer an informed, studied, constructive, relevant perspective;
  • Contribute to moving discussion and analysis forward, rather than diverting or distracting from it;
  • Include evidence or logic. Comments need to go beyond “I liked…” and “I didn’t like…” which are mere opinions and therefore of secondary concern in a social science class.
  • Avoid partisanship. Please don't attempt to recruit for your ideology in this class, or make snarky comments about other people's belief systems, candidates, etc.
  • Stay on topic. Questions and comments should be on-topic, not diverge into other areas that are perhaps interesting, but off-topic. Beware discussions of Hollywood shenanigans, which seems to be a perpetual vortex here in Los Angeles.

(3) Participation in this class should be accomplished without drama, special deals, or negotiations with the prof. I strive to make tasks and deadlines for this class as equivalent as possible. I expect you to take on the challenges, duties, responsibilities, and inconveniences of this class with the same aplomb as your colleagues.

Final scores may be adjusted several points downward if participation or attendance are substandard.

Class Policies

Class policies are found under the "Take This Class?" link at the top left of this page. Please read the policies in their entirety and be certain you are comfortable with them before you decide to take this class. Also review the Drop Box weekly for assignments and announcements.

Full is Full...

The administration instructs us: "If a class that you are teaching is full, please do not grant permission to any students to add the course to their schedule. Unfortunately, many of our rooms are already scheduled to their maximum capacity. In addition, we have set many of our class capacities at certain levels in order to keep class sizes more manageable."

Copyright © 2001-18, Kelton Rhoads, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.