COMM 3220A

Public Relations Writing

Spring 2018

Instructor: Dr. David W. Bulla


Lab 16_3220_SPR_18

Lab 15_COMM_3220-SPR_18




Lab10_Personality profile_202_F_09



Lab 6: Various assignments (Daniel Roberts lecture)

Lab 5: MEMORANDUM_3220 (template)


Lab 3

Fact Sheets Reading (reading for Lab 3)


Press release template_3220_SPR_18



COMM 3220 syllabus_SPR_2018_Bull2b

Power Points:






















Handouts, etc. …

News event assignment sheet

Katie Couric on interviewing:


New Yorker personality profile of Henry Worsley

Mark Grabowski’s profile reading




Strong action verbs



Watching Williams Die

Press release template_3220_SPR_18



Practice_News brief for COMM_3220

AP Style_COMM_3220


Phone: (706) 993-0054

Office: Allgood E-123


Office hours: By appointment (email me)

Meeting time: Mondays and Wednesdays, 1-2:15 p.m.

Required Texts (bring all to class daily): Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on

            Media Law, Associated Press

Newsom, Doug and Haynes, James (2009). Public Relations Writing: Form and Style (11h edition).

Wadsworth: Boston, MA.

Suggested but not required: Strunk, W. and White, E.B., The Elements of Style

Welcome to COMM 3220, Public Relations Writing!

Welcome to PR Writing! In this class, you’ll learn about all the various styles of writing PR professionals do. You’ll also hone your grammar, basic writing, fluency, style, etc. If you apply yourself and work hard, you will leave this class a better writer – one good enough to get a job as a PR professional at the entry level.

Official course description

Public Relations Writing (COMM 3220A) is designed to enhance students’ writing skills for public relations in a variety of formats. Students will enhance their knowledge of AP style, improve their interview skills, and learn to recognize and critique public relations efforts in mass media. Students are expected to be active viewers and users of mass media while taking this class and should become active consumers of news and news programs as well. Course Prerequisites: COMC 2010, COMC 2000, and COMJ 3020, or permission of the instructor.


Course overview:

Writing for mass communication audiences is essential for the public relations field. Students will learn the fundamentals of writing for mass communication, including the writing process (conceive, collect, create, and correct). There will have multiple writing projects and engage in discussions about the give-and-take process of copy editing, as well as the frequent use of peer editing to improve compositions. The pace of the class will be intense, as there will be constant writing both in and out of class. The expectation on the graduate level is that each major work will be of publishable quality, and at least one will must be published in an accredited newspaper, journal, or website during the course of the semester. The class will create and manage a blog. Students will be expected to contribute two posts a week for the blog. There will also be discussions about using social media to enhance writing in mass media.

Student learning outcomes

After completing this course, students should be able to …

  1. Write a basic press release, using standard Associated Press style
  2. Understand the differences in writing for print, broadcast, and web-based media
  3. Use appropriate styles when writing for print, broadcast, and web-based media
  4. Interview a person and write an accurate story based on that interview
  5. Edit written material based on Associated Press style guidelines
  6. Analyze news trends and emerging issues with an eye toward potential public relations news
  7. Use research to find reliable sources of information
  8. Develop key messages and tailor them to specific audiences and organizational objectives
  9. Demonstrate an understanding of the role of public relations writing in the strategic planning
  10. Effectively tailor content for multimedia platforms using different communications methods and media
  11. Apply reasoning, critical thinking, persuasion and creativity in the writing process
  12. Use AP Style, grammar, spelling, and punctuation correctly
  13. Provide constructive feedback to your peers and embrace feedback from them
  14. Develop a portfolio of writing suitable for a professional job interview
  15. Demonstrate the ability to transfer knowledge from one class to other classes (you won’t actually be able to do this in this class, but I wanted to include it so you’ll know that the professors you take next will have certain expectations of you once they know you’ve completed this class. So, while this isn’t a student learning outcome for this specific class, it is a student learning outcome for the communication program, and you need to remember that. And the content of this course, because you’ll be expected to demonstrate what you learned in this class in later classes).

Essential course content:

Mass communication

Internal communication

Communication strategy


Theories: Framing, agenda setting, persuasion theory

Interview, observe, research

G-O-A-L-S method





Simple and complex series



Compound sentences

Complex sentences

Compound-complex sentences


Compound modifiers

Every day, everyday



Essential v. Nonessential

Introductory adverbial phrases/clauses

Subject-verb agreement

Press release

News analysis




“Soft” v. “hard” approaches


Blog post; portal; aggregation


Copyediting v. Proofreading

Social media




Teaching methods

The primary method of instruction is class discussion. The instructor will also lead class discussion and elaborate on material from the required text through use of contemporary examples in the news and other materials.

I expect students to do the following:

  • Attend all class meetings.
  • Manage their attendance, behavior, and course assignments professionally. The nature of mass media and communications work requires attention to deadlines; students taking mass media and communications courses must learn to work within and meet deadlines.

Students can expect the professor to do the following:

  • Follow the Student Handbook in regard to the number of absences that lead to failure and being dropped from the course and also for class behavior. This is an excellent opportunity for you to become familiar with your handbook. Not being able to find a place to park is also an unacceptable excuse; everyone knows parking is at a premium, so allow time in your schedule for that. Repeated late arrivals will result in an initial warning; after that time, points will be deducted from your overall class grade. The instructor reserves the right to alter this policy as necessary to assure timely attendance.

Grading rubric

Writing well is something you either learn early by reading and writing a lot or you struggle with. Even if you are a pretty good writing, becoming an excellent writer takes practice. Expect your skills to improve over the semester.

Remember, too, that the measure of the value of this class is not your grade but how much you have learned. Grades are not awarded; they are earned. By you. You are completely responsible for whatever grade you get.

Participation also counts in this class. Put in the necessary time and effort (3 hours outside of class for every hour in is the minimum expected.). Pay attention to details and deadlines. Prove to me that you are committed to delivering professional quality work so that I’ll be willing to write a recommendation for you when you graduate. Remember, too, that spellcheck doesn’t catch everything. It also doesn’t check for appropriate word choice, clarity or precision.

Your work will be evaluated on the above criteria as well as content, format, appropriateness, grammar, syntax, spelling, and AP Style. These will be the criteria used on all assignments.

Misuse of commas, semicolons, colons, etc. = -5

Use of contractions = -5

Spelling errors = -10

AP Style errors = -10

Using anything but third person without justification = -10

Fact errors = -20 (Please note there should be no fact errors, particularly no misspelled names, incorrect identification of sources, or having the wrong time or place for upcoming events. Please note, too, that it is possible to receive a negative score if you do not master these skills).

No attribution = -10 (Please note that completion of any writing assignment for this class must include proper attribution or citation format, and you cannot copy anything word-for-word from any source without putting quotes around it.”

Your work will be evaluated and graded according to the following criteria:

A= Excellent work that demonstrates a comprehensive and solid understanding of the material. Your work incudes thoughtful and original insights and interpretations, is well focused, and demonstrates well-reasoned commentary and analysis (i.e., you supported your arguments with strong, appropriate evidence). An A signified mastery.

B=Good work that is where most student work falls. It’s complete and shows an accurate understanding of course material. There is a reasonable degree of insight and a broad level of analysis. The work is competent but predictable and shows a general level of understanding. Sources are used properly and writing is clear. B work is reasonable, clear, appropriate, and complete. It demonstrates proficiency with the material.

C=Adequate/fair work that covers most of the basics but is incomplete or superficial. There are fact or other errors and weaknesses. Source material isn’t used appropriately or adequately. There is a lack of concrete examples, illustrations and/or appropriate anecdotes. The work may be vague or hard to follow. C work shows basic proficiency

D=Unsatisfactory work that is sort of in the ballpark, so to speak, but demonstrates a serious lack of understanding. It is work that fails to address the rudimentary elements of the course assignment. Sources are used inappropriately or not at all. Writing is poor enough to be hard to read. A D is the result of a conscientious lack of proficiency.

F=The work fails to demonstrate any proficiency at all. It shows flagrant disregard for the course material and the assignment.

F in the class for any plagiarized work, followed by a filing with the department chair and the dean.

0= is assigned to work not turned in.

30 percent penalty on work turned in late (i.e., after class but before 5 p.m. on due date).

How to figure your grade: Add up all the possible points. Then add up all your points. Divide your points by the possible points then multiply by 10.


This class will make you a better professional and a more interesting human being. Further, I’ve worked hard to put together a sound educational experience for you, so I expect you to attend each class. So do the school rules. I do take roll at the beginning of class. If you are not present when I call roll, you will be marked absent, and that won’t change, even if you tell me after class that you came in late. In other words, I don’t have a tardy policy. You’re either here when I call the role or you aren’t. And that doesn’t change, regardless of your alarm clock going off, there not being a parking place available, or the fight you had with your roommate. Get up earlier if you have to. School policy allows you to miss 10 percent of classes without penalty (for a 2x weekly class, that’s four classes). Please note that if you miss a class where work is due, you must email me the work prior to class. If you’re not quite finished by the time class meets, you have until 5 p.m. that day to get the work to me, but there will be a 30 percent penalty.

Mobile devices

            Laptops and other electronic devices can be great learning aides, but they can also be distractions. Consequently, my policy tries to walk a line between the two. You may use a laptop in class to take notes. You may not misuse the laptop for things like checking Facebook, emailing, chatting, registering for classes, etc. If you do, you will be banned from bringing the laptop to class again. You will sit in the front row of class if you use a laptop for note taking, and you will submit your notes to me after every class.

You may not use a laptop in this class because it’s in a computer lab. Please note that you are only to be working on a computer when class requires you to. Students who are caught using a computer for any other reason will be publicly shamed and have 10 points deducted from their final grade in the course. Per infraction.

Cell phone use is completely and entirely prohibited in all class meetings. You should turn your phone off and stow it out of your sight and everyone else’s. You should not check your phone for any reason during class. Yes, I love my phone, too, but we can survive a class period without accessing it. However, I will have my phone on and out so that we don’t miss any security alerts and also to use as a classroom clock. Oh, and if your phone rings, beeps, twings, or makes any noise in class, it’ll be banned, too. If I see your phone once class begins, you will be publicly shamed and have 10 points deducted from your final grade. Per infraction. If you have an emergency that requires you to have access to your phone, discuss it with me before class.

Plagiarism and academic dishonesty

Plagiarism is not only an academic offense in this class, it is a professional one. You are here to learn how to be a professional communicator. Professional communicators create their own work. They do not steal from others. Consequently, plagiarism in any form will not be tolerated. I will prosecute any instance of plagiarism to the fullest extent possible. Plagiarism includes:


  1. Use of materials from others without proper citation and format.
  2. Non-attribution of information.
  3. Extensive use of verbatim materials from another author even with citation and/or attribution.
  4. Having someone else do your work for you.
  5. Copying a classmate’s work.
  6. Using writing from other classes or experiences in this class.

Other policies

  1. Quizzes and homework cannot be made up.
  2. Exams can only be made up by prior arrangement.
  3. Any form of cheating of plagiarism will result in a grade of F for the assignment, and if it is sufficient egregious, an F for the course. Any second instance of cheating or plagiarism will result in an F for the class, and I will also seek the most severe penalties allowed under the Student Handbook (up to and including expulsion from the university).
  4. Participation is expected, including participation in distribution. That includes both speaking up when you have something relevant to say and listening when others are speaking. It does not include playing on the computer during class.
  5. Deadlines are sacrosanct (and if you don’t know what that word means, look it up – it’ll help you build your writer’s vocabulary! 😉 ) If something is due on a Monday, it’s due at the beginning of class. If you don’t have it at when I call for it, you will immediately lose half a letter grade in points, even if you bring it to me when class is over. If it comes in by 5 p.m. on the day it’s due, you’ll receive a 10 percent deduction. If it comes in any later, it will receive a 30 percent deduction.
  6. If you’re having trouble in the class, come see me so we can figure out what you need help with and get you the help you need.
  7. Never, ever use anything but third person for formal writing unless there’s a good reason. At this point, you’re probably not an experienced enough writer to judge whether you have a good reason, so discuss this with the professor before you do it.
  8. Never, ever use contractions in formal writing unless they’re in a direct quotation.
  9. Always cite or attribute information in anything you write unless it is common knowledge (as in, the sun rises in the east).
  10. All written work should be typed, double spaced with your name in the upper left-hand corner and the date on the line below your name. The only exception is a paper that requires a title page (i.e., a formal essay or research paper).
  11. Don’t disrupt the class by whispering, texting, surfing the web, passing notes, etc. …
  12. Don’t pack to leave until I dismiss the class.
  13. Stay awake.
  14. Email inquiries should be limited to questions not answered elsewhere (e.g., the syllabus). This is a writing class, so formal composition and clear, concise writing are expected.
  15. Laptops may ONLY be used for taking notes during class and when I give you an in-class assignment.
  16. All work will be typed and double-spaced.

Make-up and late work

Reputations are made on the ability to meet deadlines. Dates for assignments have been announced in this syllabus so you can plan other activities around these deadlines. If must use your first two absences, you will lose the ability to have any late work accepted for any reason.

Disability services

If you have a disability for which you need accommodations, I must be informed of this by the Office of Disabilities and Testing.

Course assignments

All course assignments are subject to change, as needed. Please note that the instructor reserves the right to administer unannounced quizzes whenever she believes they are necessary to encourage student participation. Specific information regarding all assignments will be provided separately.


Assignment 1: News brief using the inverted pyramid (100 points).

Assignment 2: Company fact sheet exercise (100 points).

Assignment 3: Writing a press release (100 points).

Assignment 4: Writing a press release for a local event. (100 points)

Assignment 5: Using surveys in a health news release. (100 points)

Assignment 6: Writing an email news release. (100 points)

Assignment 7: Writing memorandum. (100 points)

Assignment 8: Writing a business profile or profile of a CEO. (100 points)

Assignment 9: Cover an event and write a new story for The Bell Ringer. (100 points)

Assignment 10: Write a PSA. (100 points)

Assignment 11: Critique an organization’s website. (100 points)

Assignment 12: Brochure Assignment. (100 points)

Assignment 13: Create a brochure. (100 points)

Assignment 14/15: Create a newsletter (200 points).

Assignment 16: Write an op-ed for The Bell Ringer. (100 points)

Other grades:

Homework (100 points)

Quizzes (100 points)

“Beat” assignments (200 points)

Total points: 2,000.

Tentative Schedule Spring 2018


Class M W Topic Assignment/Reading/Due Date
Week 1: 1/8 1/10 The basic news story  Assignments are always due on Thursdays unless otherwise directed in class. Assignment #1: Writing the basic news story using the inverted pyramid. Reading: Read pp. 161-162 and pp. 103-111 in Newsom and Haynes.
Week 2: 1/15 (NO


1/17 Fact sheet Assignment 2:
It is important for public relations writers to know everything about a company or an organization to determine story angles that may be of interest to the news media.  Find out the following things about your favorite for-profit company:
a. Who runs it?
b. Where is it located?
c. Number of employees
d. Does it have competition?
e. Key publics
f. Trends affecting the industryA variety of library sources as well as literature from the company can be of help.
Once this material is assembled, what timely story angles about the company you researched can you compile? Now write a fact sheet about the company. Reading: pp. 3-12 in Newsom-Haynes; also pp. 182-189 in Newsom-Haynes.
Week 3: 1/22 1/24 Press release format Assignment 3:


Writing the press release. We will write a press release for an upcoming event in Augusta. Reading: pp. 155-161 in Newsom-Haynes.

Week 4: 1/29 1/31 Press release for an event; legal issues in public relations writing Assignment 4:


Choose an organization on campus or in Augusta and write a press release for its next event.

Do some research in the library or online. Find three examples of recent lawsuits stemming from copyright or trademark infringement.   In what ways do the cases deal with the production and distribution of public   relations and promotional materials?

Reading: pp. 26-32 and 163-164 in Newsom-Haynes.

Week 5: 2/5 2/7 Using surveys Assignment 5:
Surveys indicate that the topic of health
generates a lot of media interest. How could a manufacturer of vacuum cleaners use this topic to generate some publicity for the company?    Reading: pp. 131-142 in Newsom-Haynes.
Week 6: 2/12 2/14 Email/memos Assignment 6: Electronic (email) news release with artwork (due Feb. 14). Reading: pp. 150-154 and 230-234 in Newsom-Haynes.

Assignment 7: Writing a memorandum. Reading: pp. 235-241-164 in Newsom-Haynes.

Week 7: 2/19 2/21 Feature and persuasive writing Assignment 8: Business/CEO profile (due Feb. 28). Reading: Handout.
Week 8 2/26 2/28 Feature writing Continue working on the business/CEO profile.
Week 9: 3/5 3/7 Event coverage Assignment 9: Cover an event and write a news story.
Week 10 3/12 3/14 Public Service Announcement  





Assignment 10: Create a 15-second PSA for a local non-profit’s chief fund-raiser. Reading: pp. 268-281 in Newsom-Haynes.

Week 11 3/19 3/21 Writing for radio and TV
Week 12 3/26 3/28 User-friendly content; persuasion (op-ed) Assignment 11: Do some browsing on the World Wide Web. Select several Web sites (home pages) for organizations and write a critique of how user-friendly they would be to a journalist who was seeking information   about the company. Does the Web site have a “newsroom”? Are current and past news releases available? What about a list of media contact people?


April 2 and 4: Masters Week (spring break; no class).


Assignment 16: Write an op-ed for The Bell Ringer. Due: April 9.

Week 13: 4/9 4/11 Brochures Assignment 12: Collect some brochures produced by various organizations—either nonprofit groups or businesses. Based on the suggestions and guidelines in the chapter, write a critique of these sample materials from the  standpoint of (a) the purpose of the printed piece, (b) its intended audience, (c)  writing style, (d) selection of type, (e) selection of artwork and other visual aids,  and (f) selection of paper stock. At the end of your critique, provide an overall evaluation of the item’s effectiveness.   Reading: pp. 314-329 in Newsom-Haynes.
Week 14: 4/16 4/18 Newsletters, Brochures.


Assignment 13: Create a brochure for your organization.





Week 15: 4/23 4/25 Design, editing and proofreading.


Assignment 14-15: Create a newsletter for your organization.   Reading: pp. 294-312 in Newsom-Haynes.


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