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PBRL 3421 (formerly JOUR 3421) Syllabus

Course Syllabus

PBRL 3421 (formerly JOUR 3421) - Public Relations Writing

3 Credit Hours

Course Information

Course Description:

This writing-intensive course includes components of knowledge and skills. Students learn about organizations, publics, the media, and how to prepare public relations messages for print and electronic media

Course Outcomes:

You will learn how to adapt messages for various media (e.g., news releases, copy for employee publications, position papers, direct mail, video scripts, speeches, and Web sites).

You will consider your audience and associated motivational factors, as well as the technical requirements of the medium. You will also become familiar with and use commercial media lists.

Knowledge components. You will learn to:

  • Explain how writer’s purpose, intended public and requirements of the medium affect style and content.
  • Recognize potential problems and apply solutions in media relations.
  • Recognize legal and ethical problems associated with public relations writing.

Skill components. You will learn to:

  • Prepare news releases, with particular attention to the requirements of the sponsoring organization, the requirements of the medium, and journalistic standards.
  • Adapt written material for use in newsletters.
  • Develop questions and answers in anticipation of media interest.
  • Write and orally deliver a prepared statement and field questions from an aggressive media corps.
  • Research and write a speech for someone else.
  • Proofread and edit the work of others.
  • Apply the AP Stylebook guidelines and proper formatting and referencing to written materials. 
Prerequisites & Co-requisites:


Course Topics:
Specific Course Requirements:

Textbooks, Supplementary Materials, Hardware and Software Requirements

Required Textbooks:

Please visit the Virtual Bookstore to obtain textbook information for this course. Move your cursor over the "Books" link in the navigation bar and select "Textbooks & Course Materials." Select your Program, Term, Department, and Course; then select "Submit."

Supplementary Materials:
Hardware and Software Requirements:

Minimum hardware requirements can be found here.

Minimum software requirements can be found here.

Common applications you might need:

Web Resources:

Purdue OWL Online Writing Lab (for APA, MLA, or Chicago style)

The Writing Center Online Writer's Handbook

Student Resources:
  • Technical support information can be found on the TN eCampus Help Desk page.
  • Smarthinking virtual tutoring is available FREE of charge. to access Smarthinking, visit the course homepage and select Smarthinking under Course Resources. You also view sample sessions to see what Smarthinking offers and how it works.
  • Information on other student issues or concerns can be located on the TN eCampus Student Resources page.

Instructor Information

Please see "Instructor Information" in the Getting Started Module for instructor contact information, virtual office hours, and other communication information. You can expect to receive a response from the instructor within 24-48 hours unless notified of extenuating circumstances.

Participation, Assessments, & Grading

Testing Procedures:

Two timed quizzes (50 points each)

Grading Procedures:

Your success in this online course will depend on your willingness to read the textual material, successfully complete quizzes, and complete written assignments/discussion papers, as scheduled. Studying the notes and the exercises at the end of the chapters as well as chapter content can enhance success in taking quizzes and handling written assignments. [Note: Written assignments will be graded on the basis of grammar, spelling, and punctuation as well as content.]

No assignments or quizzes will be considered for late submission, unless there are verifiable circumstances out of your control. Late submission will be assessed a per-diem penalty. NO WORK WILL BE ACCEPTED following the last day of class.


ALL WRITTEN ASSIGNMENTS MUST BE SUBMITTED IN the appropriate area, and ON TIME. With respect to individual assignments, they must be posted in the assignments area following the guidelines provided in this area and by 11:59 PM on the DUE DATE. Late assignments will receive a 5-point deduction during the first 24 hours after the due date and a 10-point deduction after the first 24 hours and before 48 hours past the due date. No assignments will be accepted after two days past the deadline.

ALL WRITTEN ASSIGNMENTS MUST cite their references when they are needed.

All PAPERS SUBMITTED WILL BE CONSIDERED FINAL, as each student has unlimited access to the course to ask questions; there will be no re-submission of papers to increase the initial grade given. You are required to ask via e-mail, set up an appointment in the chat room, or call me with your questions as to the proper completion of the assignment. It is your responsibility to ensure clarification of instructions. NO REDO's OF WORK.


Your final grade will be computed in the following manner:

Quizzes: 100 points
Discussions: 25 points
Written Assignments: 1,075 points
TOTAL POINTS: 1,200 points 

Grading Scale:

Grading will be by letter grade. These are the levels of proficiency as understood by your instructor.

A = 90-100
Professional work. Clear thinking reflected in clear writing. Uses appropriate style for type media. Knows and uses preferred form. No errors in form, grammar or spelling. Adapted to intended audience (public).

B = 80-89
Near professional work. Lacks polish (style) of A work. Form is correct. No errors in form, grammar or spelling. Adapted for intended audience.

C = 70-79
Acceptable as a classroom assignment only. Not usable professionally without further editing/corrections. Up to 7 errors detected. [or] Not well adapted to intended audience or medium.

D = 60-69
Needs significant work in form and/or style. Up to 12 errors detected. [or] Little consideration of needs/interests of intended audience or of medium.

F = Below 60
Unacceptable in form and style, or fails to adapt to audience or medium. 

Assignments and Projects:

Reading and areas of concentration:

Please note: These units roughly equate to one per week. However, this is subject to change at the discretion of the instructor. 

Unit 1

Chapter 1 —Public Relations and the Writer.
Assignment: Identifying & Prioritizing Publics (100 points). 

Unit 2

Chapter 2 — Ethical and Legal Responsibilities of the PR Writer.
Chapter 3 — Persuasion.
Assignment: Analyzing an Ethical/Legal Situation (100 points). 

Unit 3

Chapter 4 — Research for the Public Relations Writer.
Chapter 5 — The Public Relations Planning Process.
Assignment: Putting Research into Action (75 points). 

Unit 4

Chapter 6 — Writing to Clarify and Simplify the Complex: Style and Content.
Chapter 7 — Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation.
Chapter 8 —Writing for Social Media and Converged Traditional Media. Associated Press style. Editing.
Assignment: Writing a News Release (100 points). 

Unit 5

Chapter 8 —Writing for Social Media and Converged Traditional Media. Social Media 
Assignment: Creating Social Media Content for a Blog and Twitter (100 points) 

Unit 6

Chapter 9 — Media Kits, Media Pitches, Backgrounders, and Position Papers. Assignment: Creating a Media Kit (100 points). 

Unit 7

Chapter 9 — Media Kits, Media Pitches, Backgrounders, and Position Papers. Chapter 10 — Message Design Concepts.
Assignment: Writing a Position Paper (100 points). 

Unit 8

Chapter 11 — Email, Memos and Letters.
Chapter 12 — Reports and Proposals.
Chapter 13 — Writing Advertising Copy.
Assignment: Preparing a Cover Letter and Proposal (100 points). 

Unit 9

Chapter 14 — Newsletters.
Chapter 15 — Brochures.
Chapter 16 — Magazines.
Assignment: Developing a Newsletter (100 points). 

Unit 10

Chapter 17 — Speeches, Presentations, and Other Orally Delivered Messages. Assignment: Writing a Speech (100 points). 

Unit 11

Chapter 18 — Crisis Communication.
Assignment: Preparing for a Crisis (100 points). 

Class Participation:

Students must communicate with other students in the chat room, communicate with the instructor as a learning resource, check the course bulletin board frequently for announcements, and actively participate in threaded discussion events. (25 points) 

Late Policy:

Course Ground Rules

The following two statements (1., 2.) were derived from the TBR System-wide Student Rules document, released January 2012:


Read the document in its entirety here.

1. Standards of Conduct:

  • Students are required to adhere to the same professional, legal and ethical standards of conduct online as on campus. In addition, students should conform to generally accepted standards of "netiquette" while sending e-mail, posting comments to the discussion board, and while participating in other means of communicating online. Specifically, students should refrain from inappropriate and/or offensive language, comments and actions.

2. Review the TN eCampus Academic Integrity/Academic Honesty Policy:

  • In their academic activities, students are expected to maintain high standards of honesty and integrity. Academic dishonesty is prohibited.

Such conduct includes, but is not limited to:

  • an attempt by one or more students to use unauthorized information in the taking of an exam
  • to submit as one's own work, themes, reports, drawings, laboratory notes, computer programs, or other products prepared by another person,
  • or to knowingly assist another student in obtaining or using unauthorized materials.

Plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty are prohibited.

Students guilty of academic misconduct, either directly or indirectly through participation or assistance, are subject to disciplinary action through the regular procedures of the student’s home institution.  Refer to the student handbook provided by your home institution to review the student conduct policy.

In addition to other possible disciplinary sanctions that may be imposed, the instructor has the authority to assign an "F" or zero for an activity or to assign an "F" for the course.

Other Course Rules:

Students are expected to:

  • Participate in all aspects of the course
  • Communicate with other students
  • Learn how to navigate in Brightspace
  • Keep abreast of course announcements
  • Use the assigned course management (Brightspace) email address rather than a personal email address
  • Address technical problems immediately:
  • Observe course netiquette at all times.

Guidelines for Communications


  • Always include a subject line.
  • Remember without facial expressions some comments may be taken the wrong way. Be careful in wording your emails. Use of emoticons might be helpful in some cases.
  • Use standard fonts.
  • Do not send large attachments without permission.
  • Special formatting such as centering, audio messages, tables, html, etc. should be avoided unless necessary to complete an assignment or other communication.
  • Respect the privacy of other class members


  • Review the discussion threads thoroughly before entering the discussion. Be a lurker then a discussant.
  • Try to maintain threads by using the "Reply" button rather starting a new topic.
  • Do not make insulting or inflammatory statements to other members of the discussion group. Be respectful of other’s ideas.
  • Be patient and read the comments of other group members thoroughly before entering your remarks.
  • Be cooperative with group leaders in completing assigned tasks.
  • Be positive and constructive in group discussions.
  • Respond in a thoughtful and timely manner.


The Tennessee Virtual Library is available to all students enrolled in TN eCampus programs and courses. Links to library materials (such as electronic journals, databases, interlibrary loans, digital reserves, dictionaries, encyclopedias, maps, and librarian support) and Internet resources needed by learners to complete online assignments and as background reading will be included within the course modules. To access the Virtual Library, go to the course homepage and select the Virtual Library link under Course Resources.

Students with Disabilities

Qualified students with disabilities will be provided reasonable and necessary academic accommodations if determined eligible by the appropriate disability services staff at their home institution. Prior to granting disability accommodations in this course, the instructor must receive written verification of a student's eligibility for specific accommodations from the disability services staff at the home institution. It is the student's responsibility to initiate contact with their home institution's disability services staff and to follow the established procedures for having the accommodation notice sent to the instructor.

Syllabus Changes

The instructor reserves the right to make changes as necessary to this syllabus. If changes are necessitated during the term of the course, the instructor will immediately notify students of such changes both by individual email communication and posting both notification and nature of change(s) on the course bulletin board.


The information contained in this syllabus is for general information purposes only. While we endeavor to keep this information up-to-date and accurate, there may be some discrepancies between this syllabus and the one found in your online course. The syllabus of record is the one found in your online course. Please make sure you read the syllabus in your course at the beginning of the semester. Questions regarding course content should be directed to your instructor.

Last Revised on May 19, 2017