COLUMBIA COLLEGE CHICAGO

DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNICATION

PUBLIC RELATIONS PROGRAM

SPRING 2018

 

Course name: Public Relations Writing I (online)

Course number: 54-1701-05

 

Meeting day / time:

Building address & room number: This asynchronous ONLINE course is at http://prwriting.columbiacollege.net, as well as Moodle. Instructor is available and provides rapid feedback at all times, via email.

 

Course Description: (from the Columbia College catalog) This is a writing-intensive course that covers a wide range of tools for communicating public relations messages, including press releases, media alerts, public service announcements, video news releases, pitch letters, speechwriting, brochures and  newsletters. At the successful completion of the semester, each student has produced a writing portfolio.

 

Instructor contact information: Alton Miller

Email:    amiller@colum.edu

Office:   33 E. Congress, Room 201R  312-369-7770

Phone:  312-280-0884 (outside school hours)  

 

Office hours/location:

Monday and Tuesday, 10am-12pm. 33 E. Congress, Room 201R.  Always email or call to confirm appointment, as availabilities will change.

 

Course prerequisites: N/A

 

Instructional Fee: $40

 

Learning and Performance Outcomes:

 

Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:

  • Demonstrate critical thinking skills related to the 5Ws and the H - who, what, where, when, why and how.

  • Plan and execute on-target messages to an organization's audiences.

  • Write media communications in form and style suitable for the public relations profession

  • Produce a range of PR materials that conform to professional standards, including Associated Press style and acceptable use of grammar, punctuation and spelling.

  • Appreciate the importance of professional behavior, including collaborative work with class colleagues, and meeting deadlines.

 

Required texts and materials: Associated Press Style Book (recommended)

Recommended reading and materials:

 

Grading Scale:

 

100-94 %                   A

93-90 %                     A-

89-87 %                     B+

86-83 %                     B

82-80 %                     B-

79-77 %                     C+

76-73 %                     C

72-70 %                     C-

69-60 %                     D

Below 60%                F

 

 

Weighting:

Eight written homework assignments:  60 percent  

(Based on your final revision grades)

Mid-term and final exams: 30 percent

On-time and preparedness (i.e., development of good work/study habits): 10 percent

(see also, Final Portfolio, below)

 

Grade Changes:

Only an instructor can change a grade. The request for a grade change must be submitted by the end of the semester following the term for which the original grade was awarded. Both the department chair and the dean of the appropriate school must approve the change.

 

Procedures for Grade Grievance:
The faculty member and chair of the department in which the disputed grade was awarded resolve grade grievances. Every attempt should be made to resolve the grade grievance through consultations between the student and the instructor or among the student, instructor, and the department chair (or subject-area coordinator when that person is charged with resolving grade grievances). In the event that these consultations fail to resolve the grievance, an appeal procedure is available to students. For the procedure to go forward, written documentation is required. All documents must be dated. The grading and evaluation policies outlined in the course syllabus will form the basis for resolution of all grade grievances. http://students.colum.edu/handbook/entries/academic-grievance-procedure/

 

Communication and Media Innovation Department Attendance Policy:

Excessive absences may result in a lowered grade, or in extreme circumstances, failure of the course. Likewise chronic lateness or missed deadlines can result in a lowered grade. Please discuss this with your instructor. As noted in the learning objectives, professionals are expected to be on time and prepared for each class session. Grades may be reduced for lateness and leaving early.

 

Statement of Academic Integrity:

Academic honesty is expected of all students. All quotes and source material must be properly attributed and verified. Your writing must be original, truthful and accurate. Any work you present as your own must be your own. Violations of this policy include plagiarism and any other form of cheating. An instructor who suspects a violation will discuss the matter confidentially with the student. If the matter remains unresolved, the issue will be referred to the Communication and Media Innovation Department Chair and the Academic Integrity Committee, where both instructor and student must provide documentation of their positions. Consequences of violating the policy may include failing the assignment, failing the course, or a recommendation of suspension or expulsion from the college.


Incomplete Grade Policy:

An "Incomplete" grade will be granted rarely and only in conformance with college-wide policies. For the full policy statement and a copy of the Student-Faculty Agreement of Incomplete Grade, go to http://incompletegrade.columbiacollege.net/

 

Repeating this course for credit:

If you do not earn the minimum C grade required to count toward your CMI major, you must repeat this course (or take an alternative course if your concentration includes that option). You may take a course a total of two times in your effort to earn a C or better grade. You will not be permitted to take it a third time. The policy applies to any course taken in the Spring 2014 semester and beyond. Students must speak with a CMI faculty adviser before taking a course for the second time.

 

Services for Students with Disabilities:

Columbia College Chicago seeks to maintain a supportive academic environment for students with disabilities. Students who self-identify as having a disability should present their documentation to the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office. After the documentation has been reviewed and approved by the SSD office, a Columbia College accommodation letter will be provided to the student. Students are encouraged to present their Columbia accommodation letters to each instructor at the beginning of the semester so that accommodations can be arranged in a timely manner by the College, the department, or the faculty member, as appropriate. Accommodations will begin at the time the letter is presented. Students with disabilities who do not have an accommodation letter should visit the SSD office, Room 304, 623 S. Wabash Ave. (312-369-8296).

 

Links to other academic information:

For general information regarding grades, registration holds, college advising center, the Learning Studio and more: http://students.colum.edu/articles/?category=academic

To learn more about college counseling services:  http://students.colum.edu/health-center/counseling-services/  To find out more about the college's Portfolio Center and the Talent Pool database: http://students.colum.edu/portfolio-center/talent-pool.php

 

Communication:

It is your responsibility to know what's going on. This includes checking your Loop mail and Moodle every day for announcements, updates and changes in the course schedule. Instructor contact information is at the top of this syllabus and can be used to schedule individual consultations. Note that it is important for the instructor and for each student to be on time or early to each class session and to be fully engaged until each session is over.

 

Classroom behavior:

No food or drink is allowed in the classroom. Laptops, smartphones and other digital devices may be used only for taking notes and doing in-class work. If you disrupt the class with a digital device or are found to be using it for non-course work, you may be asked to leave the classroom, which could affect your course grade.

 


Important Dates:

 

Add/Drop and Withdraw dates:

Last day to add: Monday, January 29

Last day to drop: Monday, February 5

Last day to withdraw: Monday, March 19

 

Please see the Registrar website for a complete listing of add, drop, and withdrawal deadlines particular to the session in which your course is taught: http://students.colum.edu/registrar/Registration/registration-dates.php

 

Class Meeting Schedule (This schedule is subject to change)

Abbreviated class schedule outline: In addition to the subject of focus of each session, many classes will include impromptu writing exercises designed to make you a fast, effective writer of press releases..

Lesson One: Press Release Basics

The basics of journalistic writing - the 5 W's, inverted pyramid ... the importance of story in PR writing . . . analyzing the elements of a news story... Lesson One assignment due midnight Sunday.

Assignments: See online assignments page for all the information you need to do the first major writing assignment of this course -- which is to write a press release about a food drive, after you have read the lesson through to the final page (page 10). Name the assignment "PRW-yourname-PRHeart" and email to me by midnight next Sunday. This is a "benchmark" assignment and will not be graded, so do your best and don't worry about the rest. Note that there are other "classroom exercises" and feedback specified within the lesson, which do not appear in this assignments link. Follow instructions and make your weekly contribution to the Student Conference Area

Lesson Two: Writing for Editors

The news angle... the role of the editor... what do editors look for in a story? the press release and media alert format... the use of direct quotes... .

Assignments: See online assignments page  to see the details for the following "Westland" assignment: Prepare a Message Planner for "Westland" . . . Rewrite your "PR Heart" Press Release for "Westland" . . . Also: Prepare a Media Alert for the "Westland" news conference.

Follow instructions and make your weekly contribution to the Student Conference Area

Lesson Three: Pre-writing and Planning your Message

The importance of the writing process . . . outlining, clustering and other ways of organizing information . . . crafting the message . . . the importance of revisions.

Assignments: See online assignments page and write a Message Planner and Press Release on "Evita", Visit the link to your PR Checklist Go online to a news service website (Chicago Tribune, Sun-Times, etc.) and email me a link to a story you believe was generated by a press release. Be prepared to support your finding. Very important re Naming Files Click on that link and follow instructions. If you have not yet done so, prepare a Media Alert for the "Westland" news conference. (Click "MP" online for more information on creating your Message Planner.)

Follow instructions and make your weekly contribution to the Student Conference Area

Lesson Four: Features

Discovering feature material, placement of ideas . . . Other uses of PR writing for feature stories. Also, press releases for arts events and similar activities... the relationship of the press release to the press kit, and the press conference.

Assignments: See online assignments page and write a Message Planner and Feature Release for "Lowden Park" See online assignments page for case study and other helpful information. Follow instructions and make your weekly contribution to the Conference

Lesson Five: Pitching Stories and Interviews

Memos, pitch letters and confirmation letters... "scripting" the interview... how to meet the media.

Assignments: See online assignments page and prepare a Pitch Letter and a Confirmation Letter for "Haddaway" . As with any new assignment, you will need to first prepare a Message Planner. Follow instructions and make your weekly contribution to the Conference Area.

Lesson Six: Product Release

Various types of press release, and how they work together ... Focus on the special requirements of the Product Release.

Assignments: See online assignments page and write a Message Planner and Product Release for "Natgo." Follow instructions and make your weekly contribution to the Conference Area

Lesson Seven: Broadcast Release & PSA

Four principal vehicles for broadcast publicity... differences in writing for the ear vs. the eye... basic principles of writing for the ear, and formats for the broadcast release/PSA.

See online assignments page and revise your Message Planner for the Westland College food drive. By now you have learned how your earlier work can be improved.Prepare a 30-second PSA on the Westland College food drive. It should "Begin" on Jan. 14 and "End" on Jan. 21. Prepare a Broadcast Release on the Westland College food drive. It should also "Begin" on Jan. 14 and "End" on Jan. 21. Follow instructions and make your weekly contribution to the Conference Area

Lesson Eight: Midterm Exam

See online assignments page and follow detailed instructions at the midterm link.iple choice


Lesson Nine: Video News Releases and Radio Actualities

VNRs, filmscripts, presentations, visual treatments... how do news outlets use your PR submissions.. new technologies in PR.

Assignments: See online assignments page and write a Message Planner and VNR for the client or cause of your choice." Follow instructions and make your weekly contribution to the Conference Area

Lesson Ten: PR Writing and the Web

How public relations professionals are using the Internet... Web-based challenges and opportunities. Writing for Web sites.

Assignments: See online assignments page and after reading the lesson material,  complete a FAQ sheet responding to a list of  topics on this week's subject. You will need this information to complete your final exam. Also, don't forget to make your weekly contribution to the Student Conference Area

Lesson Eleven: Research and Fact-Finding

Fact-finding, newsgathering, organizing your information... essentials for interviews... research tools.

Assignments: See online assignments page and after reading the lesson material,  complete a FAQ sheet responding to a list of  topics on this week's subject. You will need this information to complete your final exam. Also, don't forget to make your weekly contribution to the Student Conference Area

Lesson Twelve: Newsletters, Backgrounders and Position Papers

Public relations writing for internal audiences. Writing backgrounders, position papers and other longer pieces for different publics. Also, discussion of advertising for the PR professional... developing a concept and a visual... stages of creativity.

Assignments: See online assignments page and after reading the lesson material,  complete a FAQ sheet responding to a list of  topics on this week's subject. You will need this information to complete your final exam. Also, don't forget to make your weekly contribution to the Student Conference Area

Lesson Thirteen: Speeches and Presentations

Types of speeches... the mechanics of organization... making brief remarks, presentations, formal speeches.

Assignments: See online assignments page and after reading the lesson material, complete a FAQ sheet responding to a list of  topics on this week's subject. You will need this information to complete your final exam. Also, don't forget to make your weekly contribution to the Student Conference Area


Lesson Fourteen: Public Relations Campaign Design

Developing the outline of a PR campaign and communicating your ideas to different publics... different types of media kit.

Assignments: See online assignments page and after reading the lesson material,  complete a FAQ sheet responding to a list of  topics on this week's subject. You will need this information to complete your final exam. Also, don't forget to make your weekly contribution to the Student Conference Area

Lesson Fifteen: Final Exam

Multiple choice test and a writing exercise. multiple choice test (open notes) will test your recall and your reasoning based on the FAQ reflections you have prepared. Students will be given a total of three hours to complete the exam.

 

Final Portfolio:

 

Your final portfolio will include your final drafts of the weekly assignments, as follows: (asterisks indicate assignments factored into your grade - see "Weighting" above. Other assignments are pass/fail)

 

  • *Press Release: "Westland"

(Note: I do not need a copy of your benchmark release, "PRHeart")

  • *Press Release: "Event Release" ("Evita")
  • *Press Release: "Product Release" ("Natgo")
  • *Press Release: "Feature Release" ("Lowden Park")
  • *Press Release: "Haddaway" (Midterm)
  • *30-second PSA  (Assignment: "PSA"
  • *Broadcast Release (Assignment: "PSA")
  • Script Treatment (Assignment: "VNR")
  • Working Script (Assignment: VNR")
  • *Confirmation Letter (Assignment: "Pitch")
  • *Pitch Letter (Assignment: "Pitch")

 

*Your final grade will be based on an average of the grades assigned to each of your final drafts. You may progressively improve your grade during the 15 week term by rewriting and improving the quality of each rewritten draft. An improved grade overwrites a previous grade on all assignments including the midterm. For example, say you get a "C" on your "PSA" assignment; then, after a rewrite you earn an "A" on the next draft. The "C" and the "A" average out to an "A", not a "B".

 

Your final grade will be based on the average as described, but may be adversely affected by missed deadlines, work that is consistently unimproved (i.e., multiple edits with no corresponding improvements), lack of participation in the Student Conference Area, serious grammar problems, and poor performance on any pop quizzes.



Alton Miller has served as Associate Dean of the School of Media Arts at Columbia College Chicago (2005-2012), where he is also an associate professor, teaching writing and political communications. His career includes public relations in arts, politics and the media.

 

Arts:   Mr. Miller came to Chicago as a ballet manager.  Formerly PR director of the Washington Theater Club (1965-68) and associate producing director of Arena Stage (1968-76) in his native Washington, D.C., and managing director of the Washington Ballet (1978-83), he was named general director of Maria Tallchief's Chicago City Ballet in 1983. A decade later he created brochures and CDs, and was featured on a statewide speaking tour to articulate the economic impact of the arts, as a consultant for the Illinois Arts Alliance.

 

Politics:   In 1984 he changed careers when he was appointed press secretary to Chicago mayor Harold Washington, a position he held until the mayor's death in November 1987. As a communications consultant he worked with then Senate candidate Carol Moseley-Braun, Philadelphia Mayor Wilson Goode, Chicago City Treasurer Miriam Santos, the Illinois Arts Alliance, the Chicago Board of Education, and for United Auto Workers in its contract dispute with Caterpillar, Inc., in Decatur and Peoria, Illinois.

 

Media:   A freelance writer, and the author of three nonfiction works, including the Chicago best-seller Harold Washington: The Mayor, The Man (1989), Mr. Miller served as theater writer and drama critic for Washington Calendar Magazine (1976-1980), and as the replacement first-nighter for the Washington Star, during David Richards' sabbatical. (1978). As critic for Chicago Times Magazine (1989-1990), his beat was arts, politics and the media. His other two published books cover politics and the arts: Climbing a Great Mountain and the biography of concert singer William Warfield. His articles, arts/politics commentary, have appeared in numerous publications and online, including his own website at www.altonmiller.com.

 

Academics: Mr. Miller served as Associate Dean of the School of Media Arts at Columbia College Chicago (2005-2012), where he began his teaching career as an adjunct professor in 1990. Following his appointment as Director of the Public Relations Studies program, he was granted tenure in 2005. He was the author of the proposal and the principal investigator for a $1.5 million DOD grant, "Crisis Communications Research Project," studying the potential applications for social media in crisis prevention and response. Also in 2005 he was awarded his M.F.A. in Writing by Goddard College in Vermont. His thesis was a political novel, Chicago Power & Light.


Family: He has a daughter, Julie, from his first marriage, and a granddaughter, Margaret. A widower in 2005, he remarried (Dominika) and is the father of Victoria (born 2007) and Nina (2011).