Syllabus: Spring 2004

Introduction to Public Relations

I'm not teaching this course this semester
This syllabus is the standard for all
sections of this course, developed by
PR Studies director Mort Kaplan

Prerequisite: None
Instructor: Alton Miller
Phone: 312-344-7602

Text:  The Practice of Public Relations, (ninth Edition) by Fraser P. Seitel

Course Introduction:  Our curriculum in Public Relations helps students develop theoretical and practical appreciation of mass communication strategies aimed at shaping various publics’ perceptions and opinions of a product, service, organization, person, or issue.  Real-world in approach, the Public Relations curriculum teaches students how to analyze public relations problems and then formulate and implement viable strategies for problem resolutions.  Students are taught to write effectively for all media, deploy diverse resources or tools of the trade in the fulfillment of public relations goals, and how to successfully manage an array of public relations events.

Course Description: (from the Columbia College Catalog)This is an overview of the contemporary applications and techniques of public relations, one of the booming career opportunities in our service and information society. Situation analysis, planning, action, and evaluation are backdrops for studying actual and hypothetical situations..

Course Rationale:  (from the Columbia College Catalog) It is the underpinning for every course that is taken in the PR major.  More than that, however, it enables you to speak the language of the PR professional, an essential ingredient for those who seek a PR career.  It will also awaken you to how the public relations process relates to contemporary events.

Course Objective: Introduction to Public Relations is an overview course.  You will learn a workable definition of the term “public relations,” how it differs from advertising and journalism and how it fits into marketing.  Students will learn what skills are required for a public relations career, what such people do and the steps taken to prepare for a PR program.  You will learn about the relationship between public relations practitioners and the news media as well as the basics of target audiences, messages, special events, and how they all fit into a cohesive program as part of the promotional mix of an organization.

Class Information: Our approach will be to cover two and sometimes three chapters per session.  However, we will spend extra time on Chapters 1 & 2 and 17 & 18, and perhaps others at the instructor’s discretion. In addition, there will be a mid-term and final exam, with at least one guest lecturer at the convenience of the lecturer.  Therefore, the Syllabus will be flexible.  There may be a number of films as well. There will be homework and occasional quizzes.

Class Requirements:  It is the responsibility of each student, when absent, to determine the assignment and to prepare for discussion of the upcoming chapters (obtain notes from a classmate when absent).

All work handed in should have the following in the upper right hand corner:

    Name of Student
    Introduction to Public Relations
    Day and Time of Class
    Day handed in

I expect all work handed in except that done in the classroom, to be typed and doubled spaced.  Assignments must be handed in on time.  If you are absent, get it to my box in the department office prior to the next class.

Class Policies:Grading is as follows:

    *CLASSROOM PARTICIPATION................................. 20%
    MID –TERM EXAM......................................................... 40%
    FINAL EXAM................................................................... 40%

    *Includes homework, quizzes, and papers!

Attendance: Attendance is REQUIRED.  So is BEING ON TIME.  Being in attendance and being on time will improve your grade because what is said in class is not always the same as what is in your text; it could be the opposite.  One can ask questions in the classroom, discuss problems and get answers.  That will also be important to your grade.  Continued tardiness and absences will affect your grade.

ABBREVIATED CLASS SCHEDULE OUTLINE: This schedule is subject to change.

Week 1:  How the course will be taught. Characteristics of a professional in public relations.  What you can expect form the course; what is expected of you. Discussion of the field as a career. Including a discussion of student hopes & aspirations and timely PR activities unfolding before us in society.

Weeks 2 & 3: Chapters 1 and 2


    Clarifying the PR function.  You will understand the definition of PR and of the components of that definition.  You will learn why there is a misunderstanding of the profession, and the importance of PR to top management. We discuss the functions of PR, audiences we reach and our role as interpreters.


    Its history, up to the present day.  You will learn how this relatively new field came into being as well as historical precedents to compare with contemporary PR.  You will learn the essential four-step process for undertaking PR assignments.  The chapter also discusses social factors that led to its growth, and pioneers in the field.

 Week 4: Chapters 3 and 4

    3) COMMUNICATIONS Discussion of communications as a PR skill.  Examines theories of communications as well as the communications process and the steps that lead to understanding and misunderstanding. Also discusses impediments to effective communications. Special emphasis is placed on “the message.” Includes discussion of semantics & symbols.


    Deals with the scope of the field in companies, agencies and other organizations.  Discusses the PR function, scope, remuneration and what kind of person seems to fit.  It also deals with PR objectives and strategies related to the organization goals. You will understand the differing responsibilities with respect to agency and non-agency operations in PR

Week 5: Chapters 5 and 6


    A discussion of public opinion, motivation, attitude and how organizations use public opinion to create images.  We will also discuss how attitudes are influenced, the power of persuasion, and discovering and/or changing the organization’s image.

    6) ETHICS

    This is one of the most important current issues confronting the PR field.  It discusses ethics in public relations as well as the related fields of journalism, government and all organizations.  It includes codes of conduct and corporate social responsibility.  We will analyze ethics via certain cases, some of which will be constructed in class, some from actual happenings.

Week 6: Chapters 7 and 8


    This explores the relationship between PR professionals and lawyers.  You will learn what we mean by insider trading, disclosure laws, ethics law, privacy law, copyrightlaw and other legally oriented issues that bear importantly on PR today, including litigation PR.


    Students are introduced to and will learn how public relations use basic PR research, sampling, methodology, types of research, questionnaires, interviews, etc.  We discuss the three primary types of PR research:  surveys, communications audits and unobtrusive research.

Week 7: Chapters 9 and 10


    This is one of the most important aspects of PR – dealing with the media.  But it is not as simple as it sounds.  It includes a discussion of objectivity, so-called “handling of the media”, putting a spin on things and the relationship between journalism and PR practitioners.  It includes discussion of the power and value of publicity and how to obtain it in the print media.


    We live in a television age and its enormous relevance for PR professionals.  TV news dominates the thinking in society, so students will come to understand the relationship between PR and TV.  Also, you will learn about public service announcements, video news releases, TV interviews and a variety of do’s and don’ts for dealing with electronic media.

Week 8: Midterm and Chapters 11 and 12


    This is another vital aspect of public relations work: communicating with employees.  The employee is an essential public.  We discuss importance of credibility, methods, strategy and tactics.


    Students will become aware of various audiences and matching media to these audiences.  This chapter highlights how enlightened organizations today must be sensitive to dealing with all sectors of the community-including women, young people, seniors, African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, the gay community, etc. Also social responsibility, how companies must relate to their communities and vice-versa.

Week 9: Chapters 13, 14, and 15


    This chapter deals with the growing field of government public relations.  You will learn how individuals and organizations can deal effectively with government.  It elaborates on the U.S. Information Agency, lobbying, grassroots lobbying and political action committees, various government agencies, and how PR is involved.


    This discussion ranges broadly from the government response to consumer demands, to the consumer movement itself, fueled by Ralph Nader and others.  It discusses company consumer policies, consumer objectives and consumer activist organizations


    We will discuss what is meant by investor relations, this very important subset of the PR field.  Also, how do we deal with investors, the philosophy of investor relations and most importantly what are the components.

Week 10: Chapters 16 and 17


          We focus on how the practice of public relations has expanded globally. 

         Also, some discussion of practices in various parts of the world, including:

         Canada, Latin America, Asia, Eastern Europe, Russia, Australia and New

         Zealand, the Middle East and Africa.


    This introduces students to the basic skills of PR writing, an essential component of PR. It emphasizes the news release format, discusses writing for “the eye and ear,” readability, the “inverted pyramid,” and other tips for successful PR writing.

Week 11: Chapters 17 and 18


    This introduces students to the basic skills of PR writing, an essential component of PR. It emphasizes the news release format, discusses writing for “the eye and ear,” readability, the “inverted pyramid,” and other tips for successful PR writing.


    The focus is on various writing used by PR professionals and how to make your writing effective.  You will learn about such things as biographies, backgrounders, pitch letters, case histories, video news releases, public service announcements and other PR tools.  You will acquire the skills to write a competent press release.

Week 12: Chapters 19 and 20


    Students will become familiar with the “Net Explosion”, as it relates to how PR people use the Internet, E-mail, Web Sites, Writing for the NET, Product Promotion, and Media Relations.


    This discusses the concept of integrated marketing – a melding of disciplines of marketing, advertising, merchandising, sales promotion and PR.  What are the various activities and what are some useful tools used by practitioners, including product publicity, trade shows, spokespersons, cause-related marketing, etc.

Week 13: Chapters 21 and 22


    Crisis management is a hot topic among PR people today.  You have only to look at the news to understand why (Firestone Tires, Mitsubishi, ValueJet, Pepsi Syringes, Exxon Valdez, etc.).  Issues management is another hot topic.  What are issues?  How do we deal with them?  What’s the difference between issues management and crisis management?  You will understand these concepts and how we manage them.

    22) PR & THE FUTURE

    There is a huge potential for PR as evidence of its global effectiveness and employment continues to mount.  We will discuss the new challenges in PR counseling of top management, emerging issues and implications for beginners. DICUSSION AND REVIEW