Public Relations Writing

Course Overview
This applied writing skills laboratory covers major communicative tools of the public relations trade, including news releases, features, speeches, pitch letters, fact sheets, public service announcements, and more. The skills of writing are learned by doing; you will have ample opportunities to learn. The course is also an apples service-learning class, which means that as an integral part of class work you will be paired with a local nonprofit to help them identify needs, plan, and produce public relations materials for them. Budget 3 to 5 hours per week of your time for this component.

Course Objectives
By the end of the course, students should be able to
*quickly produce any of the professional written materials required in the public relations profession;
*integrate strategy into communication pieces to target appropriate audiences and media, to effectively advocate a cause, and to meet organizational goals and objectives;
*articulate the role of public relations in a nonprofit environment and the contribution it can make to quality of community life;

* because this course simulates the working conditions of most public relations firms and is a service-learning course, you will learn to

* professionally present material,
* establish client relations,
* work as part of a creative team;
* develop a portfolio.

JOMC 53: Newswriting and JOMC 130: Principles of Public Relations.

Required Texts
Thompson’s (1996) Targeting the Message and The Associated Press Stylebook All readings should be completed before the class sessions for which they are assigned.

Recommended Texts
Webster’s New World Dictionary and Kessler & McDonald’s When Words Collide Additional materials may be handed out in class or be available on reserve in the library.

Computer Supplies
Bring a 3.5″ disk to each class. All work should be saved to disk and not to the hard drive.

Reference Materials
Use of reference materials to double check accuracy is encouraged. These materials are available in the classroom and in the School’s library on the second floor.

Keep up with current events by reading The Daily Tar Heel and another news source, such as the Raleigh News & Observer or listen to National Public Radio’s (91.5) Morning Edition or All Things Considered.

Expect periodic quizzes on the readings and on current events. All current events questions will be taken from The Daily Tar Heel because it is readily available. Quizzes will be given without prior notice at the beginning of the class period and may not be made up, except as noted below.

Assignments and Deadlines
All writing assignments must be typed, double-spaced and turned in on time. For outside assignments, late papers will receive a reduced grade unless you and I agree before the assignment that it can be late. Otherwise the assignment will receive an F. No assignment will be accepted if it is turned in more than 24 hours after its deadline.

Outside Assignments/Service-Learning Placement

What & When: As part of the Assisting People to Plan Learning Experiences in Service (apples) program, a student-initiated program to promote service-learning, you will work 3 to 5 hours each week with a local nonprofit client to produce communications pieces for them. This opportunity lets you take class concepts and apply them in a practical setting while contributing to the welfare of the community.

Who and Where: Apples coordinators will supply a list of organizations that have requested our help from which you can choose for whom you would like to work. You will produce a variety of pieces to meet client needs: due dates for these are on the following class schedule, although they are subject to change based on individual client needs. At the end of the class, final copies of all materials produced during the semester will be presented in a press kit to the client.

Why: The apples experience is valuable in many ways. Students have found that it helps them clarify their career goals and develop client relations skills. You will often have many more opportunities to directly manage projects than you do with a regular internship. You will also be contributing to the community of which you are a part and seeing how public relations can be an integral part of meeting social needs in this country.

How: We will regularly discuss in class issues that arise based on your experience. We will also discuss how to resolve any conflicts that may arise. A class listserv will facilitate out-of-class discussion and allow for postings of related web sites, etc. Think of the listserv as an online journal of your experiences, with the chance to share and discuss with others their experiences. Remember: as you gain professional pieces for your portfolio and experience in working in the not-for-profit realm, do not forget that you are representing the University in general and the public relations program in particular. Professionalism is expected. Note that your client’s evaluation of you is part of your grade for the class.

Two exams, a midterm and a final, will be given. Both will be practical application exams, similar to exercises given in class. Failure to show up for the mid-term exam will result in a grade of F. Failure to complete the final exam will result in a grade of AB.

Course Grade Calculation
I will calculate your final grade as follows:

In-class assignments 22%
Client assignments 18%
Listserv contributions 10%
Quizzes 10%
Midterm exam 15%
Final exam 15%
apples client evaluations 10%

A+= 98 to 100, A = 92-97 A- 90-91
B+ = 88 to 89, B = 82-87 B- 80-81
C+ = 78 to 79, C = 72-77 C- 70-71
D+ = 68 to 69, D = 62-67 D- 60-61
F = 59 or below

Because much discussion has taken place recently concerning grade inflation, what follows should help you understand the grading scale and my expectations of you in the class.

“A” students do not miss classes during the semester. They read and critically engage all the assigned textbook chapters and any optional readings on reserve in the library before the material is covered in class. Written assignments and exams exhibit proper style and formatting, integrate strategic planning and targeting, and are written precisely and concisely. All materials are turned in on time, and all rewrite opportunities are used. These students keep up with current events. In terms of their service learning placement, they work on providing professional client relations, are flexible concerning client needs and resources, and participate thoughtfully in reflection sessions and on the class listserv.

“B” students miss one or two classes during the semester, but these are excused absences. They usually read the assigned textbook chapters and some of the optional readings on reserve in the library before the material is covered in class. Written assignments and exams usually exhibit proper style and formatting, integrate strategic planning and targeting, and are written precisely and concisely. All materials are turned in on time, and all rewrite opportunities are used. These students tend to keep up with current events. In terms of their service-learning placement, they work through any problems with client relations, meet client needs while remaining sensitive to client resources, and participate in all reflection sessions and on the class listserv.

” C ” students miss one or two classes during the semester, usually excused. They read the assigned textbook chapters and some of the optional readings on reserve in the library just before the material is covered on the exam. Written assignments and exams usually exhibit proper style and formatting, but they do not always integrate strategic planning and targeting and are not always written precisely and concisely. All materials are turned in on time, and most rewrite opportunities are used. These students sometimes keep up with current events. In terms of their service-learning placement, they experience some communication problems with their clients, and their participation in reflection sessions and on the listserv demonstrates a moderate, but not in-depth, understanding of client needs and expect ions.

“D” students miss three or more classes during the semester. They skim the assigned textbook chapters. Written assignments and exams usually exhibit proper style and formatting, but they often lack integrated strategic planning and targeting and are often not written precisely and concisely. Materials are not always turned in on time, and only some rewrite opportunities are used. These students fail to keep up with current events. In terms of their service-learning placement, they often experience misunderstandings with their client, do not fully participate in reflection sessions and the class listserv, and do not demonstrate a connection between class concepts and the service placement.

Pep Talk
This class will at intervals be time consuming and difficult. Your first few assignments possibly will receive low grades, which can be discouraging. Realize that if you put forth the effort, your work should improve throughout the semester, and this improvement will be reflected in your grades. Please come talk to me at any time if you have questions or concerns about the course. I have scheduled individual midterm conferences so we can review your progress and concerns at that time. My objective for the course is to make it a positive learning experience, admittedly through your hard work. I am a resource available for your help, not an obstacle in your path. Also remember that throughout the course we will discuss issues that arise with your service-learning placements. Part of your job is to establish good client relations, but I am here to help you with any client problems that arise that you would like help or guidance in handling professionally.

Honor and Campus Codes
It is the responsibility of each student to abide by the UNC Honor Code-which prohibits lying, cheating, or stealing when these actions involve academic processes or University, student, or academic personnel acting in an official capacity–and the Campus Code–which prohibits students from significantly impairing the welfare or educational opportunities of others in the University community.

Regular class attendance is a student obligation, and a student is responsible for all work, including tests and written work, of all class meetings. No right or privilege exists that permits a student to be absent from any given number of class meetings.

Note: In practical terms, much of your grade is based on in-class assignments and quizzes, making regular class attendance vital. An unexcused absence will result in a “0” for that day’s assignment. When computing grade averages, one “0” is equivalent to three Fs.

You may make-up work you missed because of an absence only upon documented proof of a good reason: a doctor’s note if you are sick, a mechanic’s bill if your car dies, etc. It will be easier to obtain permission than forgiveness. If you have a condition requiring special assistance, please notify me as soon as possible and I will be happy to work with you to ensure you get the most out of the class experience.

Proposed Class Schedule (subject to mutually negotiated change)

Date Class Topic Reading Service-Learning Component
8/18 Introduction syllabus discuss objectives/goals for placement
8/20 Review of PR Principles Thompson Chapt. 1 apples coordinator in to discuss placements
8/25 Legal/Ethical Principles Thompson Chapt. 2 turn in top 3 site choices to me
8/27 Theoretical Bases Thompson Chapt. 3 receive placement
9/1 Theoretical Bases cont Thompson Chapt 4 contact your site by this date

News Media Approaches

9/3 Fact Sheets Thompson Chapt. 5 contribute to listserv by this date
9/8 Media Advisories Thompson Chapt. 6 on site and given orientation by this date
9/10 Media Guides/Lists discuss client needs/basic news pieces regular
9/15 News Basics Thompson Chapt. 10 3-5 hour/week schedule set up
9/17 News Releases Thompson Chapt. 11
9/22 News Releases draft of first client piece due to me
9/24 Pitch Letters Zinsser Chapt. 2-3*
9/29 Features Releases Zinsser Chapt. 6-7* Have you contributed to the listserv lately?
10/1 Magazine Articles
10/6 Photos and Outlines Zinsser Chapt. 14, 16* draft of second client piece due to me
10/8 Artwork/Info graphics
10/13 Individual conferences discuss final pieces for client
10/15 Midterm Exam
10/20 Resume s/Portfolios apples leaders in for midterm reflection

Advocacy Approaches
10/22 Letters to the Editor Have you contributed to the listserv lately?
10/27 Op/Ed Pieces
10/29 Writing for the Ear Thompson Chapt. 7 Are ideas for final pieces approved yet?
11/3 Broadcast News Releases
11/5 Public Service Announc.
11/10 Speechwriting Thompson Chapt. 12 Have you contributed to the listserv lately?
11/12 Speechwriting cont. Thompson Chapt. 13
11/17 Backgrounders/White Papers draft of third client piece due to me
11/19 Brochures Thompson Chapt. 8
11/24 Newsletters Thompson Chapt. 9
12/1 Review Final reflection session
12/3 Final Exam
12/8 Final copies of all client pieces due to me and to client in portfolio format
* on reserve in the Park Library, second floor Carroll Hall. All Zinsser chapters here.
Outside Assignments: Client Pieces for Service-Learning Placement

To demonstrate mastery of different formats, I would like you to prepare the following three communications pieces for your client. However, your client may not want or need one or more of these pieces. If that is the case, work with the client to determine what would best meet the needs of the organization and come see me to work out substitutions. Dues dates are flexible, based on client needs, but any variations from the printed dates should be negotiated with me beforehand.

1. The Fact Sheet should contain up-to-date information that would assist reporters in writing stories about your group. Think of what information a reporter would need to be able to accurately and easily write about your cause or organization. The fact sheet can be a general one for the organization or a more specific one about an event or a specific aspect of the organization. Draft due 9/22 or when negotiated

2 The Print News Release may be either a hard news release (I to 2 pages) or a feature news release (3 to 4 pages). The topic of the release is up to you and the client. Draft due 10/6, or when negotiated

3 The Broadcast News Release OR PSAs should be either a I -page broadcast news release or 2 PSAs of differing lengths (determine length by calling target radio stations and finding out their preferences). Draft due 11/7, or when negotiated

4 To demonstrate the ability to work with your client to identify needs, plan, and support organizational goals and objectives, I would like you to prepare additional pieces for your client based on need. How many pieces depends on the size and scope: designing and implementing a fully linked and in-depth web site is plenty, but one pitch letter is not. Talk to your client about their needs, then talk to me to ensure the pieces will be of sufficient scope to complete the assignment for the class. But remember, clients often don’t know what they need. Your role then becomes that of a management advisor. Talk to them and to me about how best to meet their needs. Drafts due throughout the semester as you establish client needs and desire feedback from me

Two final, clean copies of all work will be presented in portfolio format, one to me and one to the client, by 12/8-not open to negotiation!

Questions? Come see me in class or during office hours (T, Th 11- 12, 1:30-2:30, or by appointment). Call me or email me. There are no stupid questions, and this can be difficult work.

School: University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
Professor: Pat Curtin
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