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Public Relations Writing: Syllabus

        Marketing Communication Department
        Instructor: Alton Miller
        Course number 54-1701 (old style: 54-1860)

      Course Description: This course qualifies as a writing intensive course. It covers all forms of writing for public relations, including magazine queries, securing television and radio interviews, coverage memos, media alerts, news releases, features, trade presses, and public relations presentations. Prerequisite: 54-1700 Introduction to Public Relations.

      Course Objective: The course emphasizes the strategy of crafting and delivering a PR message -- not just getting in ink or on the air -- with special emphasis on pre-writing, preparation and editing. Students learn to develop a "Message Planner" as a platform on which all PR writing and strategy can be based.

      Class Information: There are three sections of this course: two in-classroom and one online. Typically these classes number about 15; in the summer classes are usually smaller. For the fall and spring terms, each in-class section meets once a week, at 624 S. Michigan, 8th floor, in Room 803 on Wednesday mornings, 9:00-11:50 p.m., and in Room 805 on Wednesday evenings, 5:30-8:20 p.m. Online section students are required to login for course information twice weekly: new material is posted every Tuesday and Friday.

      Class Requirements: Over the course of the term students will write 10-15 releases, PSAs, and other short PR writings, which with their final revisions comprise a final project -- a portfolio due at the end of the term. The required text is Public Relations Writing Form and Style (Sixth Edition) by Doug Newsom and Bob Carrell. A second text requirement is to read at least one Chicago newspaper daily. Students are required to bring the current day's issue of a local newspaper to each class session.

      Class Policies: Short quizzes are used to review discussion and readings. In the fall and spring terms there are both a midterm and a final exam; in the summer term, just a final exam. Grades will depend approximately 1/3 on attendance and the quizzes, 1/3 on the exam(s), and 1/3 on the final project. Also, check out how I grade a press release . Students should always keep copies of all written work, as some assignments will not be returned.

      Attendance: Attendance is especially important, and final grades will suffer from missing more than one class, habitual tardiness, or falling behind the class schedule. Makeup work will be required for all absences, and assignments are due on schedule, regardless of the reason for the absence. Students are urged to share information -- by phone, or online at the Student Conference Room .

      Abbreviated class schedule outline (subject to change) -- this is the syllabus for both in-class and online students. In addition to the subject of focus of each session, many classes will include writing exercises designed to make you a fast, effective writer of press releases.

      Class One: Press Release Basics

      The basics of PR writing -- the journalistic 5 W's... analyzing the elements of a news story... the role of the editor... For next week, read Chapter 1.

      Class Two: How to Plan your Message

      The news angle, the message... the press release and media alert format... using a message planner... the use of direct quotes... For next week, read Chapter 5.

      Class Three: Different Types of Release

      Press releases for arts events and other activities... the relationship of the press release to the press kit, and the press conference... different types of press release. For next week, read Chapter 12.

      Class Four: Developing a More Powerful Message

      Creativity and focus, framing and targeting... putting words and visual concepts together to pack a wallop. For next week, read Chapter 4.

      Class Five: Research and Fact-Finding

      Fact-finding, newsgathering, organizing your information... essentials for interviews... research tools. For next week, read Chapter 3.

      Class Six: Press Release Enhancements

      Different ways to diversify your style and make your copy more compelling.... different types of press release lead. For next week, read Chapter 14.

      Class Seven: PR Writing and the Web

      How public relations professionals are using the Internet... Web-based challenges and opportunities... writing for Web sites. For next week, read Chapter 6.

      Class Eight: Midterm Exam

      Multiple choice test and a writing exercise. In-class students will be given a total of two hours to complete the exam. Online midterm may be administered online (by appointment) or in the Marketing Communication Department (student's choice) -- either way, the exam time will be limited to two hours. For next week, read Chapter 10.

      Class Nine: 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. For next week, read Chapter 11.

      Class Ten: Video News Releases and Radio Actualities

      VNRs, filmscripts, presentations, visual treatments... how do news outlets use your PR submissions.. new technologies in PR. For next week, read Chapter 2.

      Class Eleven: The Art of the Interview

      Memos, pitch letters and confirmation letters... "scripting" the interview... how to meet the media. For next week, read Chapters 17 and 18.

      Class Twelve: Newsletters, Brochures and Advertising

      Advertising for the PR professional... developing a concept and a visual... developing newsletter and brochure applications... stages of creativity. For next week, read Chapter 16.

      Class Thirteen: Speeches and Presentations

      Types of speeches... the mechanics of organization... making brief remarks, presentations, formal speeches. For next week, read Chapter 15.

      Class Fourteen: Public Relations Campaign Design

      Developing the outline of a PR campaign and communicating your ideas to different publics... different types of media kit. For next week, re-read Chapter 6.

      Class Fifteen: Final Exam

      Multiple choice test and a writing exercise. Both in-class and online students will take the class in the classroom. Students will be given a total of two hours to complete the exam.

      Bio outline: Part of your assignment for Class 2 is a brief biographical outline (one page is enough) organized into three topics:

      I. Youth

      1. your family background...

      2. where you grew up...

      3. where you went to school...

      4. family life, etc., up through high school...

      II. Current life

      1. your college education...

      2. work experience...

      3. interests in the past four years or so...

      4. up to the present...

      III. Spring 2011

      1. put yourself a decade in the future...

      2. write about what you did...

      3. what you accomplished, in the decade 2001-2011...

      4. be realistic, whatever that means to you...

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