COMSTRAT 383 Media Strategies and Techniques for Public Relations (Washington State University, The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication) is a writing course for undergraduate students poised to generate or improve expertise in writing for communication and promotional materials including public relations, advertising, digital media (blogs, web content, email, social media), print publications, company messaging and business papers.
COURSE LEARNING GOALS
- Understand principles in writing for public relations materials across multiple channels, industries, and cultures.
- Master the skill of resourcefulness – demonstrating the ability to critically think, research, draft and ultimately craft clear messages and finished product that is organized and uses correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, and AP Style standards.
- Develop professional skills valued in public relations industry through hands-on learning and application via work for the CCE client
- Practice, make mistakes, correct, and learn valuable, transferable skills
Students work independently, in pairs, and small teams throughout the semester. COMSTRAT 383 is a course in multi-channel public relations writing designed to create polished, capable writers who are skilled and efficient at diverse styles of writing. The curriculum capitalizes on foundational writing skills acquired in previous courses – taking the various pieces of a puzzle already formulated in order to create the full picture. In prerequisite courses, you learned how some communication writing basics. 383 will teach you why it matters, what your writing can do and how you should use the work so it is not only well-written and meets criteria – but that it actually accomplishes established goals. Students are expected to be accountable, show up to class, engage with their team and class activities, and embrace the excitement of learning new vocabulary, tools, and technology.
383 is rooted in professional preparedness – giving students the insight, tools, and confidence needed to be successful in an internship experience or junior-level position. In the spirit of teaching and training, professional conduct is required at all times. This means that students arrive to class on time and do not leave early unless otherwise arranged, demonstrate respect, candor and maturity when responding to peer students and interactive discussions, participate in group discussions and demonstrate their ability to be fully present throughout each class session. The classroom climate is designed to be relaxed yet organized, fun yet professional.
Rebecca L. Cooney, MS
“Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques”, 8th edition by Dennis L. Wilcox and Bryan H. Reber. ISBN #9780134010465. Order from The Bookie to get an access code. Additional access information will be provided by the instructor.
To be successful in 383, students need access to a computer with Internet access and a Google account for various purposes. All required software and tools used in the course are free and web-based. 383 is held in Goertzen 123 – a computer lab setting equipped with 20 work stations. Students are encouraged to bring materials to take notes and capture images of collaborative work completed in class. All lecture and resource material is posted on the course blog. Students use Blackboard solely for submitting assignments.
M-COURSE STATUS (Writing in the Major)
383 meets all criteria and expectations set forth by the Writing in the Major Program including volume, length, and types of writing assignments, evaluation criteria, student learning outcomes, and revision options. This course also supports efforts for the Junior Writing Portfolio with curriculum and assignments designed specifically to meet requirements. The Junior Writing Portfolio is a two-part, mid-career diagnostic to determine if your writing abilities are ready to handle the challenges of your Writing-in-the-Major (M) Courses and other upper-division courses that assign writing. Learn more.
Center for Civic Engagement
The Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) offers WSU students, faculty, campus departments, and community partners opportunities to share knowledge, skills, and resources for the benefit of student learning and the well-being of our communities. The CCE facilitates service learning experiences as part of academic curricula and will be working with this class to provide appropriate community-based and/or civic leadership experiences for students.
CCE Learning Outcomes:
- Civic Responsibility and Community Knowledge: Understanding of social, cultural, and/or environmental issues impacting community and willingness to engage with community to effect positive change
- Self-Awareness and Efficacy: Understanding and acceptance of self and others; empowerment to act; awareness of, and responsibility for, the impact of actions on others
- Academic and Career Development: Enhanced ability to apply academic concepts and/or identify career connections through community work and networks
Assignments & Grading
Updates due to class shift to online:
- I canceled the podcast assignment in Lesson 3 – “Triggered”
- CCE project scope and due dates will be dictated by CCE Leads so please work directly with your Lead should you have questions or need an extension. All CCE project work should be completed no later than May 4.
- To replace podcast assignments in Lesson 4 and 5, students will be asked to create blog posts instead.
READING & RETENTION (120pts / 23%)
The required e-Textbook in 383 – “Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques”, 8th edition by Dennis L. Wilcox and Bryan H. Reber. ISBN #9780134010465 is published by Pearson REVEL. You can get an access card from The Bookie. An email will be sent to you from the instructor with access instructions. You can view the e-textbook on all devices + have the option to access audio versions of each chapter. Students will complete quizzes at the end of each chapter as a way to test knowledge and retention. There are six multiple choice questions at the end of each chapter. Students have two chances to answer correctly.
MICROPROJECTS (125pts / 24%)
Each lesson students will work independently to demonstrate a level of mastery of skills on key lesson topics with the completion of a micro-project… a “suite” of activities and written work related to the subjects covered in a given lesson. Activities will require preliminary research, writing, and creativity.
ONLINE PORTFOLIO (100pts / 18%)
The online portfolio assignment is an opportunity for you to showcase your individual talents – be it professional work product, creative work, applicable coursework examples, writing samples, or highlights of special projects, volunteer work, or works in progress. It is your opportunity to feature professional and academic work, refine personal brand, and share evidence of core competencies. The development of the online portfolio is broken up into five parts with distinct tasks and deliverables at each stage.
PODCAST SEGMENTS/BLOG POSTS (60pts / 12%)
In fall 2019 we launched the “383 Podcast Experiment” using the Spotify-owned tool called Anchor. We created one podcast segment and it was a big hit with the students. This spring we are taking it a step further and students will work in pairs or small groups to create a total of five podcast segments throughout the semester. This is a safe place for students to experiment, play, learn, and grow in this popular medium.
XTRA CREDIT (optional)(10pts each)Students will be given the opportunity to earn extra credit throughout the semester by completing value-add tasks related to each lesson.
CCE PROJECTS (100pts / 18%)
The Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) projects you work on in 383 are designed to be transformative – a way for you to apply what you are learning in class directly to a nonprofit partner in the Pullman community. In 383 we have adopted a commitment to public health awareness issues including food insecurity, public health, and mental health. We are partnering with three organizations including Food Insecurity on Campus, Pullman Regional Hospital Palouse Resource Guide, and Latah Alliance on Mental Health. Students will be assigned to one of three teams that will be led by three past 383 students: Casie Lynch, Kate Thomas, and Sam Schmitke. Each group will be assigned various tasks in public relations, social media engagement, event promotions, grassroots outreach, and digital communication. Estimated service learning hours earned = 35 per student.
The online version of 383 will not mandate attendance during our normally scheduled class time. However, I will be available every Mon, Wed, Fri between 2-3p via Zoom should you want to join in for any discussion, questions, or coaching. Join via Zoom at https://wsu.zoom.us/j/994288020
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Student Learning Outcomes
The course is designed to teach writing techniques and best practices for both digital and print platforms and will encompass standards from both a PR and advertising perspective. In general, the work you create in this course is designed to prepare you for immediate application, as well as serve as featured pieces in your coursework portfolio. The course is broken into multiple lessons representing each week of class and covers a series of topics from writing for public relations to reputation management
COURSE LEARNING GOALS
Course Learning Goal 1: Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of principles in writing for public relations materials across multiple channels, industries, and cultures.
- Communication as a profession
- Becoming an influencer and value of writing
- Blogging tools, techniques, and resources
- Principles of storytelling
- Earned, owned, paid media
- Understanding the target audience
- Customer decision process
- Brand platform
- Core messaging
- PR writing overview
- Writing optimized content
- Preliminary research process
- Inverted pyramid and 5Ws
- Narrative platform
Course Learning Goal 2: Master the skill of resourcefulness – demonstrating the ability to critically think, research, draft and ultimately craft clear messages and finished product that is organized and uses correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, and AP Style standards.
- Overview of corporate communications
- Employee relations
- Internal messaging
- Corporate journalism and online newsrooms
- Presentation design and delivery
- Generating reports
- Pitching ideas
- Digital campaign design, implementation, monitoring, and metrics
- Awareness campaigns
Course Learning Goal 3: Develop professional skills valued in the public relations industry through hands-on learning and application
- Building a campaign – research, discovery, and planning
- Designing a campaign – creative process and meeting audience where they are
- Executing a campaign – content strategy
- Presenting campaign concepts to stakeholders
EVALUATION OF OUTCOMES
- In-class discussion topics that synthesize information students have been learning, apply information to different settings or populations, describe relevant examples of course information, and/or engage with various resources and respond.
- Student original contribution to essays connected to weekly readings
- Target audience persona and customer decision process task
- Completion of multi-faceted micro projects
- Creation of podcast segments
- Creation, contribution and management of an online portfolio
- Lesson-based reading assignments with end-of-chapter quizzes
- Organizational message and brand platform
- Task around writing 5W’s and generating search engine-optimized content
- Writing feature stories and disseminating it via web and social channels
- Task around pitching a specific idea
- Exercise in employee relations and corporate communication
- Exercise in social media engagement planning and message design
- Research, review, and reflection on top-performing integrated digital campaigns
- CCE projects
Key Policies & Procedures
I am on campus throughout the week. The best place to catch me will always be during class time but you can email or leave a voice message (voice messages are also sent to email). Office hours are slated for MW 11a-noon but so students have uninterrupted time, sending an email to schedule a meeting with the instructor is recommended.
Reasonable accommodations are available for students with a documented disability. If you have a disability and need accommodations to fully participate in this class, please either visit or call the Access Center at [address on your campus] to schedule an appointment with an Access Advisor. All accommodations MUST be approved through the Access Center. For more information, contact a Disability Specialist on your home campus.
Washington State University, a community dedicated to the advancement of knowledge, expects all students to behave in a manner consistent with its high standards of scholarship and conduct. Students are expected to uphold these standards both on and off-campus and acknowledge the university’s authority to take disciplinary action. Cheating is defined in the Standards for Student Conduct WAC 504-26-010(3). It is strongly recommended that you read and understand these definitions.
University instructors have the authority to intervene in all situations where students are suspected of academic dishonesty. In such instances, responsible instructors retain the authority to assign grades to students considering, from an academic standpoint, the nature of the student action. Violation of academic integrity on any assignment will involve (i) an academic penalty ranging from a minimum of both a zero on that assignment and the reduction of a full letter grade on your final grade to failure of the entire course, (ii) filing of case with the Office of Student Conduct, and per university regulations, (iii) inability to withdraw from the course.
If you have any questions about what is and is not allowed in this course, you should ask course instructors before proceeding.
This course requires students to maintain strong organizational skills. It is the responsibility of the individual student and teams to complete all assignments by the due date. Students/teams who miss a deadline for a graded task are subject to a 10% penalty for every day the task is late. If a graded task is not received within 72 hours of the deadline, students/teams are at risk of receiving a “0” zero for the graded task for failure to complete. Some consideration, however, might be given (at the discretion of the instructor) if there are extenuating circumstances such as prolonged hospitalization, family death, or extended individual sickness previously discussed. Unless otherwise previously arranged, please note that the instructor will not retroactively accept any graded task due after midterm grades are submitted.
As stated by WSU Academic Regulations 73, “Absences impede a student’s academic progress and should be avoided.” The following categories constitute “excused absences”: university-sponsored, military service, and other issues such as illness, personal crises, mandated court appearances, parental responsibilities, and the like. As long as such absences are not excessive, the instructor will likely accommodate and excuse the absence. The instructor reserves the right to require the student to submit a written explanation of the absence.
STUDENT CONDUCT STANDARDS
In 383 we are committed to respectful engagement practices. Personal attacks, use of harsh language or expletives, discriminatory or inflammatory statements will not be tolerated – in-person or via direct messaging (text, chats, email, etc.). Students who abuse or misuse this policy are subject to removal from the team, dismissal from the course, course failure, and referral to the Office of Student Conduct per Standards of Conduct for Students WAC 504-26-218, 504-26-220, and 504-26-222.
If you feel you have experienced or have witnessed discriminatory conduct, you can contact the WSU Office for Equal Opportunity (OEO) and/or the WSU Title IX Coordinator at 509-335-8288 to discuss resources, including confidential resources, and reporting options. (Visit oeo.wsu.edu for more information.
For a complete list of all course policies and procedures, please visit the course blog at https://comstrat383.com/policies-procedures/.