ENL 352: Public Relations Writing

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ENL 352: Public Relations Writing
MWF 1:00-1:50 Liberal Arts 108

Prerequisites: ENL 260; English Majors, Minors, Liberal Arts English Concentrations, or permission of instructor
Course Info
Instructor Info
Dr. Elisabeth Buck Email: [email protected] Twitter: @ElisabethHBuck Office Hours: MWF:11:00-12:45 
& by appointment LARTS 325
Development of a comprehensive understanding of the principles and purposes of public relations. This writing-intensive course explores rhetorical strategies used by individuals, agencies, corporations, and governments to reach intended audiences. Students gain experience in public speaking and writing press releases, brochures, speeches, and audio-visual press releases.
What is this course?
Public relations is an exciting and dynamic field that requires practitioners to possess a sophisticated understanding of language and audience(s). As such, this course will ask you to develop these skills through the investigation of real-world scenarios. More specifically, we will explore the following genres and concerns of  PR writing:
Social Media/Digital Writing
Speeches and Press Conferences
Persuasive Tactics
Feature Writing/Backgrounders
News/Press Releases
What can you expect to learn in ENL 352?
Blogging (click for link to course blog)
What are the major assignments in ENL 352?
The blog will be the main way to practice and evaluate specific genres of PR writing. Over the course of the semester, you will need to compose in four different genres, based on course readings and class discussions. You will have a prompt for each blog post and you will create a news release, a pitch, a feature article (or backgrounder), and background materials for a press conference. Blog posts will be evaluated based on three criteria: 1) understanding of genre 2) relevancy of context 3) effectiveness of writing.
(Almost) every Friday, we will consider a "real world" public relations scenario and you will discuss—sometimes individually and sometimes as a full class—how you, as a PR professional, would respond to this situation. We will also occasionally discuss strategies for obtaining PR/professional positions by workshopping LinkedIn profiles, resumes, and cover letters. These case study Fridays will constitute a substantial proportion of in-class participation. If you have to miss a Friday, however, you can make up this work via email.
Case Study Fridays and Class Work
The take-home midterm will be your opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of some of the ethical, legal, and professional implications of public relations writing, as well as the particular kinds of writing often completed by those working in PR.
For the final project in the class, you will need to reach out to and network with a non-profit organization. You will communicate with this organization and prepare materials based on their needs. This might mean writing a focus article, creating brochures, and/or crafting other publicity documents. The final in ENL 352 will involve preparing a digital portfolio that includes your communication with and materials developed for this organization, as well as presenting your materials to the class.
Final PR Project + Portfolio
Please click here for additional information about the final project. 
How will you be evaluated?
Total Points: 950-1000 =A           900-949= A-           870-899= B+           840-869=B           800-839=B- 770-799=C+             740-769=C             700-739=C-     670-699=D+     640-669=D 600-639=D-         599 and below=F
Blogging 300 points (75 points each) Midterm  

200 points Case Study Fridays/In-Class Work 150 points* Final Project 

300 points Attendance & Participation 50 points 1,000 points total* *points may be slightly higher or lower depending on total number of in-class activities
What else do you need to know to be successful in this course?
All UMass Dartmouth students are expected to maintain high standards of academic integrity and scholarly practice. The University does not tolerate academic dishonesty of any variety, whether as result of a failure to understand proper academic and scholarly procedure, or as an act of intentional dishonesty.  For the complete statement on Academic Regulations and Procedures, see the UMass Dartmouth Student Handbook:
Academic Integrity
If you have a documented disability and require accommodations to obtain equal access in this course, please meet with me at the beginning of the semester and provide the appropriate paperwork from the Center for Access and Success (CAS). To contact CAS or learn more about the university's procedures for accommodating students with disabilities at their website:
Accommodations for Learning Disabilities and Differences
The purpose of a university is to disseminate information, as well as to explore a universe of ideas, to encourage diverse perspectives and robust expression, and to foster the development of critical and analytical thinking skills. In many classes, including this one, students and faculty examine and analyze challenging and controversial topics. If a topic covered in this class triggers post-traumatic stress or other emotional distress, please discuss the matter with the professor or seek out confidential resources available at: the Counseling Center 508-999-8648 or - 8650, the Victim Advocate in the Center for Women, Gender and Sexuality, 508-910-4584. In an emergency contact the Department of Public Safety at 508-999-9191 24 hrs./day. UMass Dartmouth, following national guidance from the Office of Civil Rights, requires that faculty follow UMass Dartmouth policy as a “mandated reporter” of any disclosure of sexual harassment, abuse, and/or violence shared with the faculty member in person and/or via email. These disclosures include but are not limited to reports of sexual assault, relational abuse, relational/domestic violence, and stalking. While faculty are often able to help students locate appropriate channels of assistance on campus, disclosure by the student to the faculty member requires that the faculty member inform the University’s Title IX Coordinator in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at 508-999-8008 to help ensure that the student’s safety and welfare is being addressed, even if the student requests that the disclosure not be shared. For confidential counseling support and assistance see
Additional Support and Title IX Information
Attendance Policy
Your attendance at every class meeting is very important due to the community-oriented nature of this course; however, I understand that emergencies arise, people get sick, and, sometimes, things just happen. For this reason, you are given three  “free” absences in which your grade will be unaffected. If you miss four or more classes, your overall grade may be lowered one half letter at the end of the semester. This means that an A will be lowered to an A-, a B to a B-, etc.   Please note that it will be helpful to exchange numbers with a classmate (or friend them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, etc.) so that, in the event of an absence, they can let you know what was missed.  I am also always happy to meet to meet with you during my office hours to discuss absences and missed work.
All work is due on the date indicated on the syllabus. Since assignments in this course will be collected electronically, they must be sent to me or posted by the beginning of class, unless otherwise noted on the course schedule. If an emergency prevents you from submitting this work on time, please let me know as soon as possible the nature of this emergency, and I will do my best to work with you. I do accept late/incomplete work, but your grade will be impacted based on the severity of the tardiness and/or omissions.
Late/Missed/Incomplete Work
This classroom will be a place where all ideas, opinions, and voices are welcome. Therefore, any threatening, disrespectful, or discriminatory behavior will not be tolerated. I advocate for a respectful use of technology: this means that I do not ban any technologies—in fact, I encourage you to bring an iPad, laptop, etc. to class—but I also hope that you will consider how you feel when you’re trying to have a conversation with someone, and they keep checking their phone. Technology is (often) awesome and helpful, but so is interacting with people in a face-to-face capacity. It is also okay if you need to bring food/drink to class. I just ask that you abide by the airplane rule, and try not to bring anything too messy, smelly, or loud.
Classroom Etiquette and Decorum
FERPA Statement
FERPA (The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) protects your privacy as a student; university personnel and faculty are not permitted to share information about your academic progress with anyone outside the university (e.g., your parents) without your permission. Blogs, websites, wikis, and other Internet-based compositions are PUBLIC. Thus, if you wish to protect your privacy, or simply prefer to remain anonymous, you may choose to publish using only your first name, initials, or a pseudonym; however, you must also be willing to share your information with everyone else in this course (instructor and students). Please note that I will not grade or evaluate your any of your work publicly.
A Note on Formatting and Submitting Assignments
All work in this course will be submitted electronically, not just in an effort to “go green,” but also because my handwriting is atrocious, and I want to make sure you’re able to read my feedback via typed comments.  We will go over in class the process of submitting assignments. A note on citations: PR writing generally does not require you to adhere to an academic citation style like APA or MLA. You will need to document your sources, but it will often only be in-text. Most PR genres adhere to the standards established in the Associated Press (AP) stylebook.
Your continued enrollment in this course is confirmation that you agree to the policies outlined in this syllabus.
Weeks One and Two: Introduction to PR Writing and Ethical Concerns
Note: One of the main reasons why I create a digital syllabus is that I adapt my courses to the specific students and the trajectory of class discussion; also, sometimes situations arise over the semester that require assignments or materials to shift. Putting the syllabus in this form means that I can make these alterations easily, so make sure that you check back with the document often. However, I will never make a major change (e.g., to a due date) without also announcing this in class and/or in an email.
What will we actually be doing/reading in ENL 352?
M 1/22
Syllabus and Introductions For next class:
Read: "Five Top Tips to Write Effectively for PR"
and "How to Turbocharge Your Writing for Public Relations"
All readings are hyperlinked (just click the title)
W 1/24
Conventions of PR Writing
F 1/26
Case Study Friday For next class:
read: Public Relations Society of America Member Code of Ethics
skim: "Ethics and Public Relations" (you don't need to read the whole thing)
M 1/29
PR Ethics, Part 1 For next class: find an example of something that you consider to be an unethical implementation of PR &
W 1/31
PR Ethics, Part 2 & Intro to Press Releases
F 2/1
Case Study Friday For next class:
Weeks Three and Four: Press Releases, Pitches, and Understanding Audiences
skim R.J. Reynolds' press releases
read: Target press release
read: Wal Mart press release
read: Costco press release
M 2/5 
Understanding press releases, part 1
for next class: find an example of a press release from a company that you are interested in (print or bring to class on device)
W 2/7
Understanding press releases, part 2
F 2/9
Case Study Friday For next class:
Blog post 1 due by 1:00 on Friday, February 16th
M 2/12
Understanding/evaluating pitches
W 2/14  
Reverse engineering a pitch
read: "Three Effective Journalist Pitch Samples" and
F 2/16
Blog Post 1 Due
Case Study Friday For next class: bring an example of someone—individual, celebrity, or corporation—who caused a PR nightmare on social media (by this point, you should be able to determine what constitutes a "PR nightmare").
T 2/20
No class on Monday for President's Day (class moved to Tuesday) 
Wrap up on pitch unit
For next class:
Weeks Five and Six: Social Media and Writing for the Web
W 2/21
Social media PR strategies 
F 2/23
Case Study Friday (group presentations of social media coding) 
For next class: find an example of a PR blogger and be prepared to discuss their strategies for web writing
M 2/26 
Blogging and PR For next class:
W 2/28
Analyzing corporate blogs
F 3/1 
Case Study Friday (LinkedIn) For next class:
Weeks Seven and Eight: Design and Print Materials
M 3/5
Assessing good vs. bad design
W 3/7 
Developing print PR materials
F 3/9
Midterm Review (no in-class meeting, online only) 
M 3/12-F3/16
Spring Break
Weeks Eight and Nine: Feature Writing and Backgrounders
M 3/19
Introduction to feature writing For next class:
W 3/21
Analyzing feature story structure(s)
F 3/23
Case Study Friday For next class:
M 3/26 
Midterm Due Understanding backgrounders
W 3/28
Workshop: creating a backgrounder For next class: bring a resume, if you have one
F 3/30
Weeks Ten and Eleven: Press Conferences and Speeches
M 4/2
Oveview of final project
For next class: watch at least one recent speech by a political figure
W 4/4
Verbal persuasive techniques
F 4/6
No class meeting today (Dr. Buck at conference) 
Online Case Study Friday  
For next class: peer review of pitches to non-profit organizations
M 4/9  
In-class final project peer review day 1 (initial pitches) 
For next class:
W 4/11
Preparing for a press conference: what do you need?
F 4/13
Case Study Friday: Press Conferences For next class: work on final projects
Weeks Twelve and Thirteen: Writing for/in Media
M 4/16
Patriot's Day, No Class
W 4/18
In-class peer review day 2 (rough drafts of PR deliverables and/or portfolio) 
For next class: bring a cover letter, if you have one
F 4/21 
Case Study Friday (Cover Letters) 
M 4/23
Mock press conference day 1
W 4/25
Mock press conference day 1
F 4/28 
Mock press conference day 2
Week Fourteen:
M 4/30
Final Class Meeting 
Final Project Presentations
Blog post 3 due by 1:00 on Friday, April 6th
Blog post 4 due by 1:00 on Monday, April 23rd
take a look at some examples of this PR blogger's "Rock the Pitch" series (link to product review pitch)
read: Article 1
read: Article 2
read: Article 3
read: Article 4
read: "Winning Social Media Strategies for Public Relations"
skim: the Whole Foods blog
skim: the Disney Parks blog
skim: the Starbucks blog
read: "Design Principles"
For next class: find an example of effective print design
read: "Crumple PR Convention" and be sure to follow the links to feature story examples
All work for final project must be completed by Friday, May 4th
read "A Perfect Example of a Great Press Conference" and watch embedded conference (it begins at about 3:34)
read: "What is a Backgrounder and How Do I Write One?"
read: Fiskars corporate backgrounder
read: Synopsys corporate backgrounder
read: Livescribe corporate backgrounder
Blog post 2 due by 1:00 on Wednesday, February 28th
Case Study Friday (Resumes) For next class: work on blog post
For next class: prepare for mock press conference & work on final projects