COM 691, Communication Topics - Public Relations Theory and Planning
Spring 2009

Professor Tom Kelleher, Ph.D.
Meeting Place and Time

Webster 104
Wednesday, 3:00-5:30 p.m.

Office Crawford Hall 314, 956-9944
Office Hours

Monday, 3:00-5:00 p.m.
Thursday, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
By appointment.

Course Overview
In COM 691 we will explore established and emerging theories of public relations and work to apply those theories for a real-life client. The client is the School of Communications.

You might think of this course in three segments: 1) introduction to public relations theory, 2) introduction to public relations planning, and 3) a mini-practicum in applied theory and strategic planning.

In the first part of the class, we will read about major theories of public relations and discuss a broad array of approaches to understanding public relations. We also will build a class wiki for definitions of key concepts and for linking to related ideas and resources. Though face-to-face discussions and quizzes will require physical attendance each week, we will allow time for online work, making the course somewhat of a hybrid of face-to-face and online formats.

As the semester progresses, we will explore ways to apply theory to practical cases. You will write strategic public relations plans in small groups. Again, we will meet regularly for whole-class discussions, but class time also will be available for group work and group-professor discussion.

In the last part of the semester, you will meet the real client, and dig in to work on a real public relations proposal. Evidence of progress will be due in class each week and we will have plenty of time for in-class discussion. Your group also will have the option of working separately from the whole class. The time required for this final group project will exceed the amount of time we have in class each week, so groups should arrange to work together face-to-face and online to manage the project. As with the first part of the class, a hybrid model may work best for some groups.

Required Texts

  • Botan, C.H., & Hazleton, V. (2006). Public Relations Theory II. New York: Erlbaum.
  • Hagley, T. (2006). Writing Winning Proposals: PR Cases. Boston, MA: Pearson.
  • Online readings and research will be assigned throughout the semester. 

Objectives and Assignments

  1. Define public relations and related concepts
  2. Demonstrate understanding of key theories of public relations
  3. Apply public relations theory to practical cases
  4. Critique public relations theory
  5. Develop strategic public relations plans
  6. Produce public relations tactics
  7. Serve a real-world client with a theoretically sound and research-based public relations proposal
Primary Objectives Covered
Weekly participation, wiki writing and editing
Preparedness: Quizzes & deadlines
Case project
Client project
Team participation

Weekly participation, wiki writing and editing (30%)
Primary objectives covered: 1, 2, 4
The participation portion of your grade will reflect your contributions as an individual and as a member of the class as a whole. We will have traditional discussions in class. We also will build a class wiki as a means of identifying, defining, and synthesizing key theoretical concepts. Solid participation in class and online means reading/hearing what others have written/said, demonstrating critical thinking, and consistently offering resourceful responses to the professor and other students. Accuracy will be especially important on the wiki.

Here are some examples of participation grades. Of course, many combinations of factors are possible. These are only examples.
Participation Grade Example
30/30 recognized by classmates as top online contributor, regularly made resourceful and constructive comments in class discussions and online that reflected reading, preparation and a solid understanding of the material covered, helped other students turn good work into excellent work
26/30 recognized in class as a strong contributor, regularly made resourceful and constructive comments in class discussions and online that reflected reading and preparation, helped other students by sharing resources and peer editing of written work
24/30 this student made solid contributions online, but maybe not quite as involved in in-class discussions (or vice versa)
22/30 a polite student, but just-average contributions online and in class
20/30 didn't seem to take non-graded assignments and deadlines too seriously

Preparedness: Quizzes and Deadlines (20%)
Primary objectives covered: 1, 2
At the beginning of some class periods, you will have the opportunity to demonstrate your learning by taking a brief quiz on the required readings for that day. Although we won't have quizzes on every day with assigned reading, you'll want to be prepared each time. (The idea is to motivate you to keep up with the reading and on-time attendance.) Other weekly deadlines also may factor into your preparedness score.

Case Project (10%)
Primary objectives covered: 3, 4, 5, 6 (See rubric.)
The idea here is to apply theory to a practical case and to use a practical case to critique theory. In small groups, you will select one case from Chapter 6 of the Hagley text and one relevant chapter from Public Relations Theory II. The assignment will then include three parts:

  1. as a group, write a public relations plan for the "Team Assignment" part of a case in the Hagley text;
  2. each individual will produce one of the "Individual Team Member Assignments" to go with the plan
  3. as a group, develop and deliver a class presentation covering the following:
    • an overview of the theory covered in the Botan & Hazleton chapter that your group selected
    • an overview of your case
    • a discussion of how you attempted to apply that theory to your case
    • a critique of the theory based on your experience

Client Project (oral presentation = 10%, written proposal = 20%)
Primary objectives covered: 5, 6, 7 (See rubric.)
We will discuss expectations for the project in class. Of course, the expectations for a solid public relations proposal will be a big part of the class content. Papers will be due and presentations will be scheduled for the final weeks of the semester. See handouts for details.

Team Participation (10%)
Primary objectives covered: 4, 5, 6, 7 (See peer evaluation sheet.)
This portion of your grade will be based on in-class observation, peer evaluations for the team projects, and the content of team reports. See handouts for details.

Grading Weight
Weekly participation, wiki writing and editing 30%
Preparedness: Quizzes & deadlines 20%
Case project 10%
Final Written Proposal 20%
Final Oral Presentation 10%
Team participation 10%

Final Grade Requirements
A = 90-100% 
B = 80-89%
C = 70-79%
D = 60-69%
F = Below 60%

Special Accommodations
Students requiring special accommodations must notify the instructor and present appropriate supporting documentation by the end of the second week of class.

Seeking Help
The success of this course will depend largely on effective student-teacher interaction. Don't feel like you have to have a pressing problem to talk to me. I look forward to hearing your input. I'll be available during my office hours unless announced otherwise, and I'm also willing to set up an appointment if the office hours don't fit your schedule.

The phone number for the School of Communications is 956-8715. The school chair is Professor Dan Wedemeyer.

Academic Honesty
Academic dishonesty of any sort will not be tolerated. I take cheating issues very seriously. If you are at all unsure about what constitutes proper attribution to online sources or other sources and what is assumed to be your own work, PLEASE JUST ASK me before submitting your work. This will save us all much grief.

Preliminary Class Timeline 
Topics and readings are subject to change by the professor, especially to accommodate current events and client scheduling. Specific readings and assignments will be added as we go.
Class Days
General Topics Required Reading and Deadlines
Jan. 14 Introduction & syllabus Log in to wiki, post professional bio by end of week
Jan. 21 New age for public relations, Excellence theory Theory Chapters 1 & 2, possible quiz, wiki entries
Jan. 28 Rhetoric, Persuasion Theory Chapters 3 & 4, possible quiz, wiki entries
Feb. 4 Public relations roles, Org comm Theory Chapters 5 & 11, possible quiz, wiki entries
Feb. 11 Professional competence, Media relations Theory Chapters 7 & 10, possible quiz, wiki entries
Feb. 18 Grand strategy, strategy & tactics Theory Chapter 8, Hagley Chapters 1-4, possible quiz, wiki entries
Feb. 25 PR plan components Hagley Chapter 5, possible quiz
March 4 Other theories, cases, group work Read through remaining chapters of theory text and Hagley Chapter 6
March 11 Student group case presentations  
March 18 Client meeting  
March 23-27   NO CLASS
April 1 Project research Group call report #1
April 8 Project strategy Draft situation analysis due
April 15 Project tactics Group call report #2
April 22 Project assessment Outline of full plan
April 29 Presentation rehearsals, tactics Full rough draft with sample tactics
May 6 Presentations to client Final plan due (3 copies)
Peer evaluations due
Monday, May 11, 2:15 p.m. Final exam period Final exam period