COMM 362 Public Relations Writing Banner

Intersession 2006

9:00 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.


Dr. Diane Witmer, APR, Fellow PRSA
Office Hours: Mondays 1:15-2:15

Office: College Park Suite 650 Room 27
Phone: 657-278-7008


Course Goals and Objectives:


Public Relations Writing will provide you with basic skills and understanding of writing to meet public relations goals with a variety of target audiences through various media. By successfully completing this course, you will be able to:

         Use library and Internet resources to support research for writing.

         Develop a systematic plan for writing public relations materials.

         Apply appropriate writing styles for specific media.

         Adapt your writing style to reach targeted publics.




English 101 or equivalent with a grade of C or better, COMM 101 and COMM 361, typing ability, junior standing. A grade of C or better is required in this course to satisfy the upper division writing course requirement.


Texts and Study Materials:


         Bivins, T. H. (2005) Public Relations Writing: The Essentials of Style and Format. (5th edition). New York: McGraw-Hill.

         Associated Press Style Book and Libel Manual.

         The COMM 362 Blackboard Web site, available through the student portal at

         Two Scantron Forms 882-ES.

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

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

         Additional readings and assignments as announced in class.

         Recommended: A good dictionary and a thesaurus.




You may earn a maximum of 1,000 points during the semester. I will assign final course grades as follows:







































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: 200 points

Exam #2: 200 points

3 AP Quizzes (open book): 150 points

Writing Assignments 450 points


Examinations (400 points):


The two exams are multiple choice and are not cumulative. Questions cover materials from the text and class activities, including discussions, exercises and lectures. The lectures do not necessarily repeat the textbook, and the exam grades will reward those who have kept up with the readings and maintained good lecture notes. Each exam is designed to evaluate both your recall and your ability to apply course concepts to realistic situations. You will need a Scantron 882-ES for each of the exams.


Quizzes (150 points):


You will have an opportunity to take three online quizzes. The quizzes are open book and multiple choice. Questions cover materials from the AP Style Manual, and are designed to help you learn appropriate style for many journalistic outlets.


Writing Assignments (450 points):


You will have an opportunity to practice and discuss your writing, and you will complete a number of in-class and homework assignments. We will use a combination of peer evaluations and instructor feedback to help you hone your writing skills and to experiment with a variety of public relations writing styles. Because the number of in-class and homework assignments you complete will depend on how fast we move as a class, individual assignments do not carry a specific number of course points. Instead, each is scored with "pencil points," which will be averaged at the end of the semester, then calculated as a percentage of the total 450 course points allotted for homework & in-class assignments. Thus, the "pencil points" you earn on individual assignments are not the equivalent of course points. They are simply a way of scoring your assignments. Each of your in-class and homework assignments will be graded as follows:


9-10 pencil points

The assignment is of outstanding quality and formatted. It contains no more than one spelling, grammar, or syntax error, demonstrates excellent public relations judgment and creativity, is audience centered, and is completed on time. It is well organized, and it reflects careful research.

8 pencil points

The assignment is of good quality and properly formatted. It contains no more than two spelling, grammar or syntax errors, demonstrates good public relations judgment and creativity, is audience centered, and is completed on time. It may need minor editing, rewriting, or re-organization.

7 pencil points

The assignment is of acceptable quality and properly formatted. It contains no more than three spelling, grammar, or syntax errors, demonstrates good public relations judgment, is audience centered, and is completed on time. It may require substantial rewriting and restructuring.

6 pencil points

The assignment is properly formatted. It contains no more than four spelling, grammar, or syntax, demonstrates reasonable public relations judgment, is audience centered, and is completed on time. It may need extensive rewriting and restructuring.

1-5 pencil points

The assignment is properly formatted. It contains five or more spelling, grammar or syntax errors, and is completed on time. You may have more than five errors and still earn points if your work shows effort, demonstrates good public relations judgment, and is audience centered.

0 pencil points

The assignment has major deficiencies in style or format, or is not completed on time, or reflects little effort on the part of the writer.


Note: In the practice of public relations, misspelling a proper noun (e.g., a person's name) can be deadly to you or your client, and will be counted as three errors in your assignments.


You will see a check next to each sentence in which I've noted an error. You may find more than five checks on your page, but you cannot get less than a "0" on any assignment. REMINDER: The pencil points on assignments do not add up to the 450 points for writing assignments.


Helpful Hints:

         Keep a copy of your papers because I may retain them as examples for future classes.

         Pay attention to details. Follow all instructions with care!



Classroom Etiquette


We are working in a computer lab, which can pose certain challenges during the lecture/discussion portion of the course. Please move away from the computers and/or dim your computer screens to minimize distractions. Out of respect for your classmates, please do not engage in side talk, working on assignments for other classes, checking e-mail, or other activities that are not directly related to the topic at hand.


Course Policies and Requirements


         Regular attendance is expected and necessary in this class. Please do not assume that you can skip class if a lab or guest speaker is scheduled. I expect you there, armed with your course materials and books, ready to discuss the topic at hand. Excessive tardiness or absences will affect your grade.

         You are responsible for all notes, handouts, and assigned readings. If an emergency arises that necessitates your missing a class, it is up to you to get notes and materials from fellow students. Develop a buddy system and exchange phone numbers! Please notify me in advance if you must miss a class.

         As a matter of courtesy and professionalism, set your pagers and cell phones to silent alerts during class time.

         You must type and double-space all work, unless you receive other instructions.

         You must turn in all assignments on time. I do not accept late assignments. Only severe medical problems are acceptable reasons for missing assignments, and it is your responsibility to make immediate arrangements with me for make-up work. Computer problems and crashed disks are not valid reasons for late work. If a medical emergency arises, you must notify me in advance of the class and provide verification in order to be excused and scheduled for make-up work.

         For your protection and my peace of mind, keep copies of all your completed assignments, including those handed in on diskettes.

         See me immediately if you have any difficulties in this course. Do not wait a week or until the end of the semester to contact me with problems. I'm always happy to help you in any way I can, but any delay in communicating with me reduces your chances of getting help.

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

         You must earn a minimum of 600 points to earn a minimum grade of "D."

         Any proven case of plagiarism or violation of ethical conduct will result in immediate failure of the class. In this course, plagiarism includes but is not limited to: borrowing another person's ideas without acknowledgment; using paraphrased material without attribution; not citing quoted material; copying from any source and presenting the work as your own; downloading and using as your own any sentences, paragraphs, or entire documents off the Internet (including source code, scripts, graphics, or other Web elements); using anyone else's assistance (other than the instructor or a lab TA) to fulfill course requirements.

Tentative Schedule


Assignments must be completed prior to each scheduled class meeting. Additional assignments may be announced.





Assignment Due

(All Reading in Bivins text unless otherwise indicated)


Jan 3

Jan 4

Overview, Introductions
Writing for Public Relations; Planning & Research
Message Strategy; Ethics & PR Writing

Chapters 1 & 2
Chapters 3 & 4


Jan 9
Jan 10

Jan 11

Media Relations & Placement
Crisis Communication;
News Releases & Backgrounders
Annual Reports & Social Responsibility Reports

Chapter 5, AP Quiz #1
Chapter 6 & 7

Chapter 8

Midterm Exam (Chapters 1-8)


Jan 16
Jan 17

Jan 18

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Newsletters, Magazines, & Feature Writing
Brochures & Other Information Pieces;
Print Advertising
Television and Radio; Speeches & Presentations

Guest Speaker: Genelle Belmas

No Class
Chapter 9, AP Quiz #2
Chapters 10 & 11
Chapters 12 & 13


Jan 23
Jan 24

Jan 25

Design, Printing, & Desktop Publishing
Computer Writing & the Internet;
Writing for Diverse Audiences
Wrap-up and Final Exam

Chapter 14, AP Quiz #3
Chapter 15
Chapter 16

Final Exam (Chapters 9-16)

December 13, 2005