Contact: Ross Collins, Ph.D.
Tel: 231-7295. Office hours:
9:30-11 a.m. T and Th, or by appointment.

Collins presents COMM 310 Syllabus
Advanced media writing/public relations to be featured
FARGO, N.D--An associate professor of communication at North Dakota State University here says his fall semester public relations writing class “is designed to turn beginning students into excellent writers of promotional copy.” Here are course objectives, according to Ross Collins:

* To understand concepts of preparing messages for a variety of publics, through a variety of media;
* To implement these concepts through a wide variety of public-relations style writing assignments;
* To reach the high professional writing standard professionals expect of advanced-level communication student work, including attention to technical aspects of media writing, such as grammar, spelling and style.

Collins explained the course in greater detail, as summarized below.

Required text
Newsom and Carrell, Public Relations Writing. Form and Style. Sixth edition, 2001. Sorry about the price.

Students should expect a midterm and a final. Included may be essay questions and writing exercises, as well as multiple choice.

Because the class emphasizes writing, many in-class assignments will complement more extensive out-of-class projects. The in-class assignments will be due at the end of the class period, to give writers a feeling of deadline pressure public relations practitioners often face. Specific topics are listed in the weekly schedule below.
“I will not take attendance in this class,” said Collins. “I think students are adults who can decide for themselves whether or not they want to come to class. But I want to point out that my lectures won’t just repeat what you can read in the text.” Instead, Collins said he hopes to present added material, and cover some topics in greater detail. Collins also noted many writing assignments will be completed in class. “If you miss class, you miss the deadline aspect, so you can’t make up the work. You’ll have to take an F on that assignment.”
Collins agreed that sometimes a student must miss class for a good reason. “Okay, I’ll cut you a little slack,” he said. “If you happen to miss up to two in-class assignments, I’ll drop the Fs from your final grade computation. Think of it as your bank account for emergencies.” He emphasized, however, that the “skip account” doesn’t include out-of-class assignments. Collins also may occasionally offer the class extra-credit opportunities.

Grading will be based on a standard point-count. Tentative highest possible point totals for this course:
Midterm: 200 pts.
Final: 250 pts.
In-class assignments: 300 pts.
Other projects: 250 pts.
Total: 1,000 pts.
The total number of points may change slightly, depending on the eventual number of assignments completed during the semester.

Standard grade percentages:
Below 60=F
Letter grades will not be given during the semester, but students can calculate their grade anytime by finding their percentage as related to the total possible points. For instance, said Collins, a student has collected 427 points by midterm, out of a possible 500 so far. Divide 427 by 500 and the a result is .854, that is, about 85 percent. The grade so far is in the B range.

Official university notice
Work in this course must adhere to the NDSU Code of Academic Responsibility and Conduct. This addresses cheating, plagiarism, fabrication, or facilitating dishonesty. Instructors have the right to respond to a student’s dishonesty by failing the student for the particular assignment or test, or even the entire course, or recommending the student drop the course. Note: If you need special accommodations for learning, please let the instructor know as soon as possible.

Tentative schedule
Week One
Introduction to writing for public relations. Read chapters 1 and 3.
Week Two
Review of writing fundamentals. Writing news releases. Read chapters 5, 6, and 9.
Week Three
Writing releases, cont. A new approach to getting started: clustering. Read chapter 4.
Week Four
Writing public relations for broadcast: News releases and PSAs. Read chapter 10.
Week Five
Press conferences. Backgrounders and position papers. Read chapter 8.
Week Six
The media: how they work, how you work with them. Read chapter 2.
Week Seven
Writing for direct mail. Writing advertisements. Read chapter 13.
Week Eight
Writing for e-mail and the web. Read chapters 7 and 14. Midterm exam.
Week Nine
Writing features for public relations. Read chapter 11.
Week Ten
Writing for brochures and newsletters. Read chapters 17 and 18.
Week Eleven
Photography and design. Read chapter 12.
Week Twelve
Writing speeches and presentations. Read chapter 16.
Week Thirteen
Putting it together: media kits and campaigns. Read chapter 15.
Week Fourteen
Writing for magazines, catalogs, annual reports. Read chapter 19.
Week Fifteen
The law and PR, crisis communication. Read chapter 20.
Week Sixteen
Presentation of campaigns, wrap-up.
Final examination period.

For more information, check out the instructor’s favorite writing teachers:
William Zinsser, On Writing Well.
Barry Tarshis, How to Write Like a Pro.
Gabriele Lusser Rico, Writing the Natural Way.
William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style. (any edition).

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