Public Relations Technology

Spring 1997

Dr. Diane F. Witmer, APR

Course Goals and Objectives: 

This course focuses on the practice of public relations and the use of 
computer technology.  In that context, you will consider the strategic 
decision of using the Internet and World Wide Web as public relations tools, 
the ethics and "netiquette" of PR in the electronic environment, resources 
that practitioners use, and the ways in which practitioners might interface 
with journalists, clients and target publics via electronic methods. You will 
explore the Web pages of public relations agencies, professional associations, 
corporations, and other organizations to consider how (or if) computer 
technology influences the development of rhetorical strategies to meet 
organizational goals.  You also will have opportunities to exchange comments, 
ideas, and questions in an electronic discussion via a private class listserv 
and personal e-mail.

By successfully completing this course, you will be able to:

     * utilize computer technology as a tool in the four-step 
       public relations process.
     * use e-mail, newsgroups, subscription lists for discussion 
       and collaboration.
     * use the Internet and the World Wide Web to access information 
       for research and resources (ftp, Archie, etc.).
     * determine appropriate and effective use of the World Wide in 
       public relations.
     * create Web pages that meet public relations goals.

Texts and Study Materials:

LaSalle, K. (1995). Life in Cyberspace. 

Gaffin, A. (1995).  EFF's Guide to the Internet, v. 3.11
   (formerly The Big Dummy's Guide to the Internet)
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Crispen, D.P. (1994) Roadmap Workshop, adapted 
   for the Web as "Patrick Crispen's Roadmap 96."

Daily study of radio or television newscasts and one major daily newspaper 
   (e.g., New York Times, Chicago Tribune, or Wall Street Journal).  

Regular attendance and careful notes from class activities, lecture, and 

At least two 3-1/2" diskettes, formatted for the lab Macintosh computers.

Additional on- and off-line readings, resources, and assignments as 
   announced in class.

Please bring all materials to class!

Recommended Readings:

Strunk, W. Jr. & White, E.B.  (1979).  Elements of Style.  New York:  


You may earn a maximum of 100 points during the semester.  Final course grades 
are assigned as follows: 

    90 - 100 points  =  A           60 - 69 points  =  D
    80 -  89 points  =  B            0 - 59 points  =  F
    70 -  79 points  =  C

If your final grade is between two point values, I will round "X.4" down, and 
"X.5" up.  In other words, a 79.4 is 79, or a C, but a 79.5 is rounded to 80, 
which is a B.  If you want to play on the safe side, you may boost your grade by 
earning some extra points as described in the "Additional Activities" section of 
this syllabus.

Course Requirements: 

To pass this course with a minimum grade of "D," you will need to follow
certain guidelines:

1.   Regular attendance is necessary.  I will take attendance at the 
     beginning of each class meeting, and you may earn up to 3 extra points 
     for perfect attendance. Please do not assume that you do not need to 
     attend class if a guest speaker or lab time is scheduled.  I expect you 
     there, armed with at least one pertinent question, and ready to discuss 
     the topic at hand.  If class attendance falls off for a guest speaker or 
     lab time, I will cancel all future speakers or in-class  work time.  It 
     is to your advantage to attend all classes, since test material  will be 
     drawn from in-class discussions, and exercises.  You are responsible for 
     all notes, handouts, and assigned readings.  If you must miss a class, it 
     is up to you to get notes and materials from fellow students.  Develop a 
     buddy system and exchange phone numbers!

2.   All written work must be proofed and typed in 12-point type, double 
     spaced (unless it is in full layout form), with one-inch margins top, 
     bottom, and sides.

3.   Late assignments are abhorrent in business and are not acceptable in this 
     class.  In practice, they can lose an account or cost you your job.  
     Therefore, all late assignments result in a zero.  Only severe medical 
     problems are acceptable reasons for missing exams or presentations.  If 
     such an emergency arises, you must notify me in advance and provide 
     written verification in order to be excused and scheduled for make-up 

     Computer problems do not constitute excuses for late assignments.  Back 
     up your work frequently (every 10 minutes or so) and keep an extra backup 
     diskette of your work.  By making frequent backups, you will only lose a 
     few minutes if your computer crashes or the power goes out.  This is 
     especially important when you are writing to a deadline!  Keeping a 
     second, backup diskette guards against losing your work if the first 
     diskette is damaged.

4.   You must complete all course activities listed above to earn a minimum 
     grade of "D."

5.   You must earn a minimum of 60 points as described above to earn a minimum 
     grade of "D."

6.   Any proven case of plagiarism or violation of ethical conduct will result 
     in failure of the class and may be reported to the dean of students.  
     Ignorance of what constitutes plagiarism is no excuse.  If you are in 
     doubt, see me.

     Hints for using sources: Remember that whenever you borrow the words or 
     ideas of another person or organization, you must accurately cite the 
     source.  This means more than a simple bibliographic listing.  You also 
     must specify in the body of your text where and how the information can 
     be found. If you use a direct quotation, you must use quotation marks, 
     then cite the author(s), date, and page numbers of the original text.  
     For example, if you quote elements of crisis planning from the Howard and 
     Mathews text the quote might be "Legal and insurance ramifications must 
     be foremost in your mind during any significant crisis" (Howard & 
     Mathews, 1994, p. 182).  The quote and parenthetical citation should look 
     like this one, and a complete citation should appear in your list of 

               Howard, C.M. & Mathews, W.K. (1985). On deadline: 
          Managing media relations. Prospect Heights, IL:  
          Waveland Press, Inc.

     The same type of citation (but not necessarily the page number) must be 
     included any time you paraphrase or borrow ideas from another source.  
     Be sure to check the style manual for detailed guidelines for the style 
     you follow!

     Appropriate citing of sources does three things.  First, it gives the 
     reader the proper information to find and use the source you cite.  
     Second, it enables the reader to distinguish your ideas from those of 
     others.  Finally, it protects you, because failure to credit the original 
     author of material you use can be construed as plagiarism.

7.   Please feel free to contact me with any problems, questions, ideas, or 
     suggestions.  You are welcome visit any time I'm in my office, or to 
     contact me by:
     a.   phoning me at my office 494-4417.
     b.   leaving a note in my mailbox in LAEB 2114.
     c.   coming to see me during my posted office hours (no appointment 
     d.   setting up an office appointment that's mutually convenient.
     e.   sending e-mail to  This 
          is your best option for a quick response!

8.   Caution:  Please remember that University facilities are for 
     instructional use, and that this class is focused on professional use 
     of Internet and Web technology.  Thus, all the Web pages you create here 
     or to which you link from your pages should be appropriate to a 
     professional environment, and within the bounds of good taste.  

9.   Remember, this is a great chance to hone your skills, and to learn new 

     Have fun!

Course Activities:

You may earn points toward your final course grade by completing assignments, 
taking exams, and participating in class activities. Each activity is worth a 
maximum number of points as follows:

     Exam #1:                                15 points
     Exam #2                                 15 points
     Exam #3:                                15 points
     Weekly Electronic Discussions            5 points
     Class Resource Page                      5 points
     Individual Web Page                     10 points
     Individual Project & Presentation       10 points
     Group Web Project                       15 points
     Roadmap Homework                        10 points
          Total                             100 points
     Additional Writing Assignments constitute part of the minimum 
     requirement for passing this class.
Examinations February 17, March 28, & Finals Week (45 points): 

The three exams (15 points each) are multiple choice and are not cumulative.  
Questions cover materials from the text, class activities (including 
discussions, exercises and lectures).  The exams are designed to evaluate both 
your recall and your ability to apply course concepts to realistic situations.  
The lectures do not necessarily repeat the textbook.  I will assume you have 
kept up with the assignments listed in the syllabus.  The exam grades will 
reward those who have kept up with the readings and maintained good lecture 

Weekly Electronic Discussions Due as Shown on Schedule (5 points): 

Throughout this course, we will use e-mail and the Internet, as channels for 
discussion, and as practice for utilizing the medium for public relations.  We 
will use both class time and homework for exchange of ideas and discussion of 
course concepts on a newsgroup that has been created for our class.  
Naturally, I hope you'll find the electronic discussions fun and an 
interesting way to extend our in-class discussions, and that you'll contribute 
often. For class credit, you'll need to contribute to the electronic 
discussion a minimum of once each week, beginning January 17 with the e-mail 
assignment, and running continuously for 14 weeks through April 21.  Please 
feel free to enter the discussion often and in any way that you think is 
appropriate, including (but certainly not limited to):
     * asking questions about course concepts, 
     * analyzing the concept under discussion, 
     * sharing a personal opinion of how you think an approach 
       &works (or doesn't), 
     * describing your experience of how course concepts are applied 
       (or misapplied) in practice,
     * considering ways in which a topic might be extended in practice,
     * discussing the ethical ramifications of current public relations 
       practices you observe,
     * introducing a topic of your own that you think is pertinent to 
       public relations.
I will check and record your weekly participation.  To earn credit for a given 
week, you must make sure that your message is posted by 10:00 a.m. on the 
Monday it is due.  Since e-mail is automatically date/time stamped, you can 
send your contribution to the newsgroup discussion any time of the day or 
night, but be sure to send it well before 10:00 a.m. of each due date, to 
avoid problems with system lags.  Of course, if you've been actively 
contributing all week, you won't need to worry about deadlines!  Bear in mind 
that you'll need to participate every week.  You cannot get extra credit for 
sending multiple messages in a single week, although you certainly are welcome 
to post as often as you wish.

Class Resource Page Due February 7 (5 points): 

Your first project will be to create a Web page as a class that will serve as 
a quick reference and resource for class members during the semester.  This 
will help you get started with using the Web and writing html documents.  The 
project will involve finding the resources you believe you will use to 
research, plan, create Web pages, and evaluate your individual and group Web 

Individual Web Page Due March 17 (10 points): 

You will create a personal Web page in this course, which will be evaluated by 
your peers.  You will be graded on loading time, eye appeal, content, quality 
of writing (including grammar and spelling!), and technical accuracy.  During 
the semester, you will also have an opportunity to continue developing and 
updating your page.

Individual Project Due February 21. Presentation as 
Scheduled (10 points): 

Your individual project will be a 2-3-page report and a 10-minute in-class 
presentation on any form of computer-mediated communication that you find 
interesting and useful for public relations (e.g., a particular subscription 
list, newsgroup, Web site, ftp site, etc.).  In the report, you will first 
describe the group, list, or site (including instructions for accessing it), 
then discuss how it is being used as a public relations tool, or how it might 
be useful to a PR practitioner.  Be sure to critique the strengths and 
weaknesses of your subject, and to include ideas that we have discussed in 
class or read in our texts.  Remember that grammar, syntax, and spelling are 
important.  The presentation should reflect your best professional style, and 
you should dress as you would for a formal business presentation.  

Group Web Project Due April 28. Presentation as Scheduled (15 points): 

The capstone assignment in this course will be designing a Web page for a 
service or product of your choice, as a part of a 5- or 6-member team. In this 
project, you will determine what the the organizational goals are, what public 
relations should accomplish to support those goals, criteria by which your 
work can be evaluated, the public or publics you need to reach, and best 
channels by which to them, then create a Web page that you believe will 
accomplish your goals and objectives.  At the end of the semester, your group 
will report on your project in a 20-30 minute class presentation.  This is a 
collaborative effort, so you will need to work as a group, not as individuals, 
and I will schedule class time for this purpose.  Everyone in the group will 
receive the same grade on the Web page (15 points), but you will receive an 
individual grade on your portion of the presentation.  The Web page will be 
graded on how clear articulation of your goals and objectives, how well it 
accomplishes your stated goals and objectives, eye appeal, content, technical 
accuracy, and creativity, and reasonable loading time. The presentation should 
reflect your best professional style, and you should dress as you would for a 
formal business presentation.

Roadmap Homework Due as Shown on Schedule (10 points): 

To help develop your expertise for utilizing the Information Superhighway, you 
will work independently on "Roadmap" assignments via the World Wide Web.  I 
will get you started, then you will have an opportunity to demonstrate 
initiative in completing the Roadmap Workshop.  Ten of the assignments include 
homework, which you will turn in via electronic means or as traditional "hard 
copy" reports, as specified.  Each homework assignment is worth a maximum of 
one point toward your final grade.  Please note that almost all of the 
assignments are explained in the Roadmap lessons. Bear in mind that 
test questions will cover all Roadmap lessons. The Roadmap lessons and the 
corresponding assignments are:
Server Commands
MAP02 Homework
Due 1/24/997
(E-mail to "Dr. Di" the file you get)
Levels of Internet
MAP03 Homework
Due 1/29/97
(E-mail your answer to "Dr. Di")
MAP05 Homework
Due 2/5/97
(Print out and turn in to
"Dr. Di" a "hard copy" of
the LISTSERV RefCard)
Other Mail Servers
Spamming & Urban Legends
+ Flame War
Internet Security
MAP10 Homework
Due 2/19/97
(E-mail to "Dr. Di" the
command you used to follow
the RM assignment)
Telnet (Part One)
Telnet (Part Two)
MAP12 Homework
Due 2/26/97
(Hard Copy 1-page report
of your experience following
Map 12)
FTP (Part One)
FTP (Part Two)
FTP File Compression
Pop Quiz #1
Pop Quiz #1
Due 3/5/97
(E-mail your answers to "Dr. Di")
FTP Addresses
Gopher (Part One)
Gopher (Part Two)
MAP19 Homework
Due 3/19/97
(Hard Copy 1-page report
of what you found)
Bookmarks & Booklists
MAP21 Homework
Due 4/2/97
(Hard Copy 1-page report
of what you found)
WWW (Part One)
WWW (Part Two)
Address Searches & Finger
MAP25 Homework
Due 4/16/97
(Look up "Dr. Di" in the
Ph directory on the Purdue
Web. E-mail to "Dr. Di"
your report of what you found)
Neat Stuff
to Check Out
MAP-Extra Homework
Due 4/23/97
(Try something on list
& Hard Copy 1-page report
of what you found)
on the Internet

& Other Talkers
Guest Lecture
The Future...
Writing Assignments 

There will be several in-class and homework exercises or group projects.  
Some of these will include short reports that will be graded on a 
check/plus/minus system.  While they will not add or subtract from your 
earned points, they will result in your point total being a "plus" or a 
"minus." This can be an important factor if you are on the borderline 
between two grades.

Additional Activities: 

You have an opportunity to earn up to 10 extra points (the equivalent of 
one full grade!) toward your final course grade by putting forth some extra 
effort as follows:

Your Photograph (1 point): 

I'd like to get to know you and to remember your name.  You can help 
me speed up the process by providing me with a photograph of yourself 
with your name (the first name should be the one you prefer I use in 
class) neatly printed on the front.  A clear photocopy of your 
student ID card with personal information blocked out will do.  
Please keep it snapshot size.

For credit, this is due Wednesday, January 15.

Class Attendance (3 points maximum)

I will take roll at each class meeting, and reward excellent 
attendance.  Remember:  it is your responsibility to be sure your 
presence is recorded.  Tardiness of ten minutes or more constitutes 
half an unexcused absence.  Chronic tardiness, even if it is less 
than ten minutes, will automatically disqualify you for these extra 
points.  I'll award points as follows:

Perfect, On-Time Attendance             3 points
Two Excused Absences or Less            2 points
Two Total Absences or Less              1 point
        (including Unexcused & Excused combinations)

I'll record your attendance through May 2.  If you have any 
questions about your attendance record at any time during the 
semester, be sure to ask me about it before the last week of class.

Writing Lab (3 points maximum):  

This course has a writing component, so efforts to improve your 
writing skills should be rewarded.  You may earn one point each time 
you go to the writing lab and provide me with documentation of your 
visit.  At your request, the lab will notify me in writing that you 
have been there.  One of these points may be earned by sending me 
evidence of an online visit to OWL via the Purdue gopher or e-mail.

For credit, this is due Friday, April 18.  (Note:  I must RECEIVE 
notification from the writing lab by this date, so you should VISIT 
the writing lab no later than Monday, April 14.)

Test Questions Due January 31, March 7, & April 23 (1 point 
each for 3 points maximum): 

You are welcome to submit questions for any of the three scheduled 
exams.  You will earn one point for each exam in which I use your 
question(s), and you may submit questions for all three exams.  All 
items must: 
        * be multiple choice,
        * include five possible answers, 
        * be drawn from the material covered in the exam for which 
        you are submitting the questions (see the schedule for a 
        list of chapters 
          each exam covers),
        * include the correct answer to each question, 
        * be drawn from lecture or assigned reading, and
        * indicate the specific source (including page number) from which 
        the question was drawn.

Hint:  It takes only one question to earn the point, but I suggest 
you submit several in order to increase your chance that I use at 
least one.

For credit, this is on or before the days indicated on the attached 
class schedule.


This course emphasizes the ethical practice of public relations, which is 
based on personal integrity.  Any proven case of plagiarism or violation of 
university standards of conduct will result in immediate failure of the class.  


Assignments must be completed prior to each scheduled class meeting.  
Additional assignments may be announced.  All assignments are due at the 
beginning of class.  Late assignments are not accepted for credit.  

NOTE:   ED = Electronic Discussion
        RM = Roadmap

Number     Date         Topic                         Assignment DUE:
1          Jan 13       Intro & Course Overview
           Jan 15       Intro to Mac Labs             Cyberspace, Ch. 1
                                                      Review Syllabus
           Jan 17       Intro to Mac Labs (Con't)     E-Mail to "Dr. Di"
2          Jan 20       Martin Luthor King Jr B-Day   No Class
           Jan 22       E-Mail                        Cyberspace, Ch. 3
           Jan 24       Intro to the Internet         RM02
3          Jan 27       Class Resource Page 
           Jan 29       Internet Tools                Cyberspace, Ch. 2
           Jan 31       Finding Resources on the Net  Exam 1 Questions
4          Feb 3        Intro to the Web              ED2
           Feb 5        Intro to the Web              RM05
           Feb 7        Designing a Web Page          Class Resource Page
5          Feb 10       Designing a Web Page          ED3
           Feb 12       Web Page Evaluations          Evaluations
           Feb 14       Overview of Networks          Cyberspace, Ch. 4
6          Feb 17       Exam 1                        EXAM 1 (Thru 2/14)
           Feb 19       Newsgroups & Lists            RM10
           Feb 21       Individual Web Projects       Individual Web Page
7          Feb 24       Using the 'Net for PR         Cyberspace, Ch. 5
           Feb 26       Client Assignments            RM12
           Feb 28        Strategic Planning
8          Mar 3        Research on the 'Net          Cyberspace, Chs. 6, 7
           Mar 5        Group Web Projects
                                                      RM Quiz 1
           Mar 7        Individual Web Projects       Exam 2 Questions
           Mar 10-15    Spring Break                  No Class
9          Mar 17       Individual Presentations      ED7
           Mar 19       Individual Presentations      RM19
           Mar 21       Individual Presentations
10         Mar 24       Individual Presentations      ED8
           Mar 26       Web Projects
           Mar 28       Exam 2                        EXAM 2 (Thru 3/21)

11         Mar 31       Planning the Campaign         Cyberspace, Ch. 8
           Apr 2        Planning the Campaign         RM21
           Apr 4        Web Projects
12         Apr 7        Web Projects                  Cyberspace, Ch. 9
           Apr 9        Evaluation
           Apr 11       TBD
13         Apr 14       Web Projects                  Cyberspace, Ch. 10
           Apr 16       Web Projects                  RM25
           Apr 18       Web Projects                  Writing Lab Due
14         Apr 21       Selected Cases                Cyberspace, Ch. 11
           Apr 23       Selected Cases                RM Extra
                                                      Exam 3 Questions
           Apr 25       Wrap Up & Review
15         Apr 28       Group Presentations
           Apr 30       Group Presentations
           May 2        Group Presentations
16         May 5-10     FINALS WEEK                   EXAM 3

Back to Course Syllabi

April 4, 1997.