PUBLIC RELATIONS WRITING

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Marketing Communication Department - Instructor: Alton Miller


COURSE OBJECTIVES AND SYLLABUS

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: 54-1800 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 "Direction Sheet" as a platform on which all PR writing and strategy can be based.

Class Information: Normally I teach two classes in this subject. This summer (June 14-July 14) just one class is scheduled to meet twice weekly, on Mondays & Wednesdays, 1:00- 5:00pm. In the fall and spring terms, each class meets once a week: one class on Tuesday, 5:30-8:20pm, and the other class on Wednesday, 9:00-11:50am. All classes meet at 624 S. Michigan, 8th floor. Typically these classes number about 15.

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 Handbook for PR Writing (Third Edition) by Thomas Bivins. 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 assignments often will not be returned.

Attendance: Attendance is important, and final grades will suffer from habitual tardiness. Makeup work will be required for absences, whether or not they are excused.

ABBREVIATED CLASS SCHEDULE OUTLINE

    (subject to change; These syllabus notes from the Spring 1999 term have been left online as a resource for students considering taking this course in Fall 1999.)

Class 1 - Introductions

Class 2 - Press Release Development

    Press release planning... The use of direct quotes.
    Check the assignment link for homework assignment.

Class 3 - Press Release Improvement

    Types of press release... press release classroom exercise ("Evita"). Check the assignment link for homework assignment.

Class 4 - Product Releases, Backgrounders

    Types of leads for press releases... Focus on press releases to introduce products. Check the assignment link for homework assignment.

Class 5 - Planning Your Writing

    Fact-finding, newsgathering, organizing your information Essentials for interviews; research tools... press release classroom exercise. Check the assignment link for homework assignment.

Class 6 - Perfecting the Press Release

    Concentration on writing problems; editing your own work for content, layout, grammar, clarity, conciseness, style; press release classroom writing exercise. Check the assignment link for homework assignment.

Class 7 - Midterm Exam - open book

    Exam is mostly writing exercise; also Q&A based on previous quizzes. Make-up exam: the following Friday, 2pm - in room 800 of Torco Bldg. (624 S. Mich.) Check the assignment link for homework assignment.

Class 8 - Broadcast Release & PSA

    Four principal vehicles for broadcast publicity... Differences, writing for the ear vs. the eye... Basic principles of writing for the ear, and formats for the broadcast release & PSA. Check the assignment link for homework assignment.

Class 9 - More on Writing for the Ear

    Exercises in broadcast release & PSA writing. Check the assignment link for homework assignment.

Class 10 - Video News Releases, Other Visuals

    VNRs, filmscripts, presentations, visual treatments... New technologies in PR. Check the assignment link for homework assignment.

Class 11 - Interviews and Talk Shows

    Preparation for interviews; techniques for the interviewee. Check the assignment link for homework assignment.

Class 12 - Speeches and Presentations

    Preparation for speeches -- scripted, extemporaneous and impromptu. Presentation basics. Check the assignment link for homework assignment.

Class 13 - Ad Copy & Brochure Overview

    Advertising for the PR professional... Stages of ad creativity... Developing a concept & visual... Overview of brochures and newsletters. Check the assignment link for homework assignment.

Class 14 - Summing it up

    Final pointers on press release elements: 5 W's, message, angle, Direction Sheet, PSAs, etc. Classroom writing exercise Check the assignment link for homework assignment.

Class 15 - Final Exam

    Final portfolio due -- Make-up exam: the following Friday, 2pm - in room 800 of Torco Bldg. (624 S. Mich.)

Bio outline:

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

    I. Youth

    Your family background, where you grew up, where you went to school, etc., up through high school

    II. Current life

    Your college education, work experience, interests in the past four years or so, up to the present...

    III. Spring 2009

    Put yourself a decade in the future, and write about what you did, what you accomplished, in the decade 1999-2009. Be realistic, whatever that means to you...