ENL 642: Public Relations Techniques

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ENL 642
Public Relations Techniques
June 18th-August 6th, 2018

Tuesdays (with exception of July 3rd):


Dr. Elisabeth Buck

Email: [email protected] Twitter: @ElisabethHBuck Office Hours: 
M 3:00-5:00

Course Description
ENL 642: Public Relations Techniques will provide in-depth exploration into the major genres of public relations writing, including press releases, pitches, feature articles, and PR on/in social media. Students will also have the opportunity to research and analyze PR strategies and develop skills attentive to emerging trends in the field. 

Required Materials:
Instructor Info
Link to course blog (meeting space for online classes) 
Course readings (all hyperlinked in course schedule) 
Computer/phone with ability to access Instagram and Twitter
What constitutes the work of public relations?
How to apply/recognize PR discourse and tactics
Including press releases, pitches, PR for social media, feature writing, backgrounders, and press conferences
Course Topics: What can you expect to learn? 
Strategies for unpacking and analyzing PR campaigns
Standards of writing for PR genres 
What are the main ethical concerns related to PR? 
Overview of Major Assignments 
Each week during our F2F meetings, someone will take the lead on facilitating discussion + selecting at least one reading for the class. The readings/discussion should involve a recent example of a PR campaign and/or a "nightmare." We'll use these discussions as a springboard for understanding how PR manifests in real world scenarios

Discussion Leading
Online genre practice/discussions
Our online meetings (Thursdays) will offer opportunities to practice the PR genres we've discussed in class; you'll also be able to comment on your classmates' work and engage in discussion 

PR Campaign Analysis
The culminating assignment in the course will involve an analysis of a particular space. You will, based on your observations and research, write a PR campaign in reverse, providing a comprehensive analysis of the space's PR strategies 

Click here for full description of final project.

All major assignments will be evaluated using the following criteria:
A- Exemplary. Shows excellent command of course concepts. Synthesizes sources to develop and support claims. Selects and organizes material, creating reader-based documents. Uses a style that is fluent and coherent. Demonstrates command over audience needs, genre conventions, and information design principles. Contains no mechanical or citation errors. Overall, demonstrates a combination of excellence, thoroughness, and attention to detail.
B- Accomplished. Demonstrates understanding of course concepts. Shows judgment and tact in the selection of material for the intended audience and purpose. Supports claims and organizes material. Language and tone adapted to the audience. Has few mechanical errors. May be revised to address minor problems. 

C-Developing. Meets all basic requirements, but needs revision to strengthen the organization or style, to meet genre conventions, or to adjust the language and tone for the intended audience. Mechanics need some attention, but do not detract from the writer’s purpose. Overall, needs revision to strengthen the writer’s position and to meet the audience’s needs.
D-Beginning. Responds to the assignment, but needs significant revision in one of the major areas (content, organization, style, or delivery) to cover essential points, to support generalizations, or to appropriately respond to the audience and purpose. Mechanical errors detract from the message, making it difficult for the reader to access the main points.

F- Unacceptable. Provides an inadequate response and does not meet one or more of the assignment’s basic requirements.
Incompletes. According to the university catalogue, an incomplete may be given only in exceptional circumstances. You must be passing at the time of the request or be sufficiently close to passing. If the work is not completed within one year of the recording of the incomplete grade, the grade will become an F(I). The incomplete policy for this course is that at least 70% of the course must be already completed.

Academic Integrity

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:

Accommodations for Learning Disabilities and Differences

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:

Additional Support and Title IX Information

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

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. Please communicate with me if you must miss a F2F class meeting. 

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.

Late/Missed/Incomplete 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.

Classroom Etiquette, Decorum, and Accessibility

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 am committed to making this classroom and all course materials accessible, so please let me know if there is anything that I can do to adapt the materials to your needs. 

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.

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

Other Course Policies
Course Schedule
Week One: Intro to PR and Ethics of Public Relations 
Tuesday June 19th

Class topics:
-Intro to public relations 
-Discussion leader example

To prepare for Thursday's online meeting read:
 "The Power of Storytelling in Public Relations"
Tuesday June 19th

Class topics:
-discuss definitions of public relations + potential ethical concerns

To prepare for Tuesday's class read:
Public Relations Society of America Member Code of Ethics
"Ethics of Public Relations" (it's okay to just skim this) 
"7 Tips for Writing a Killer Press Release" 
Week Two: Press Releases and Pitches
Target Press Release
Wal Mart Press Release
Costco Press Release
"Three Effective Journalist Pitch Samples"
"Pitches vs. Press Releases: What's the Difference?" 
Tuesday June 26th

Class topics:
-Structure of press releases and pitches

To prepare for Thursday's online meeting read:
Article 1
Article 2
Article 3
Article 4
Thursday June 28th

Class topics:
-crafting press releases and pitches

To prepare for Tuesday's class read:
Week Three: Social Media Strategies 
"Public Relations and Social Media: Deliberate or Creative Strategic Planning" 
"Six Ways Social Media Has Changed Public Relations"
Tuesday July 3rd
Online due to holiday

Class topics:
-Intersections of public relations and social media

To prepare for Thursday's online meeting: 
Thursday July 5th

Class topics:
-analyzing Twitter accounts for PR strategies

To prepare for Tuesday's class read:
read "Tweeting an Ethos" and identify one corporate Twitter account that you'd be interested in analyzing
Week Four: Identifying Social Media Influencers 
"Under the Influence: The Power of Social Media Influencers" 
"What Does it Cost to be Big on Instagram?" 
Tuesday July 10th

Class topics:
-Understanding the role of influencers in/to PR

To prepare for Thursday's online meeting: 
Thursday July 12th

Class topics:
-analyzing influencer accounts 

To prepare for Tuesday's class read:
read "How to Curate the Perfect IG Feed" and identify an influencer on Instagram that you'd like to analyze
Week Five: Feature Articles 
"Crumple PR Convention" (and be sure to follow links to feature article examples)
"Love Before First Sight" 
Tuesday July 17th

Class topics:
-Understanding feature articles

To prepare for Thursday's online meeting read: 
Thursday July 19th

Class topics:
practicing/structuring feature articles

To prepare for Tuesday's class read:
"Top Brass"
"Commitment to Social Justice"
"What is a Backgrounder and How Do I Write One?"
"A Perfect Example of a Great Press Conference" (and watch embedded conference--it begins at about 3:34)
Week Six: Backgrounders and Press Conferences
Tuesday July 24th

Class topics:
-Overview of backgrounders and PR role in press conferences
-brief overview of final project

To prepare for Thursday's online meeting read: 
Thursday July 26th

Class topics:
-practicing/structuring backgrounders and press conferences

To prepare for Tuesday's class read:
Fiskars Corporate Backgrounder
Synopsis Corporate Backgrounder
Livescribe Corporate Backgrounder
Week Seven: Public Relations Campaigns
Tuesday July 31st

Class topics:
-Developing a PR campaign: analysis in reverse

To prepare for Thursday's online meeting:

find at least two recent job postings for PR positons
Thursday August 2nd

Class topics:
-class wrap-up + looking for employment in PR

"Ten Steps to Writing a Successful Public Relations Plan" 
"Confronting Whiteness in Public Relations Campaigns and Research with Women" 
"How Nashville Became One Big Bachelorette Party"
Final Week
Monday August 6th

PR Campaign Analysis due by midnight on August 6th
Readings for Dan's presentation: 
"Wonder Woman Set Leak--The Story" 
"What Will Movie Studios Do To Protect Their Property?"
"Should Studios Be Angry About Leaks?"
Reading for Kelsey's presentation: 
"Burger King Apologizes" 
"This Fashion Brand Grew on Instagram with the Help of Celebs, Relatable Models" 
"Instagram Star Isn't What She Seems" (helpful to watch video too) 
Readings for Sam's Presentation:
"Wal Mart Pulls 'Impeach 45' Clothing"
"Wal Mart Pulls Shirts That Hint at Lynching Journalists" 
"Are Corporations Becoming the New Arbiters of Public Morality?"  
Readings for Amber's Presentation:
"Dunkin' Donuts CEO"
"The Case for the Outspoken CEO" 
For Sharon's Presentation:

"Open Letter from the CEO" 

"Paper John's Founder Used N-Word on Conference Call"

"Papa John's Should Have..."

For Erin's Presentation:

"John Kavanaugh's Former Clerks" 

"The Selling of Judge Brett Kavanaugh"

For Madison's Presentation:

Note: Some sensitive subject matter here, including domestic violence
"Pop Tarts' Bizarre Ad"
"Beer Ad Pulled" 
"Snapchat Lost $800 Million" 
"The CMO's Guide"