ENGCMP 1103 Public Relations Writing

“It is a common misconception that in order to be a public relations professional, you must first and foremost be a people person. Most people outside the industry think PR is mainly a speech-oriented profession or that we are ‘spin doctors’ for our clients. Yes, we must be able to work well with people and speak comfortably in a public setting, but in order to be able to communicate effectively, the most fundamental tool a public relations professional should have is the ability to write, and write well.”
– Memorie Bailey, Platform Magazine

Course Description/Overview

This course focuses on how nonprofits, governments, associations and companies build good will and develop relationships with their various publics, both in and outside of the organization. Students explore a variety of methods including media releases, public service announcements, event planning, house ads, brochures, newsletters, corporate image pieces, displays, web pages and other forms of online communication. The course also discusses public opinion, social responsibility and crisis management. The major project for the term is a public communications campaign. This course is offered during Fall and Spring term. 

PR Writing is all about audiences that an organization has and how to present that organization to those audiences in the best possible light. We focus on how nonprofits, governments, organizations, and companies build and develop relationships with their various publics using a variety of methods such as fact sheets, media kits, press releases, web pages, social media, newsletters, social responsibility reports, corporate image pieces, and brochures.

This course satisfies the Writing-intensive requirement.

Sample Student Projects

  • For their final project, a group of communications majors created a PR campaign for Starbucks. Called Keep It Green, the plan was designed to reinforce the company’s brand by encouraging customers, particularly college students, to choose reusable mugs instead of plastic cups.
  • A junior studying media and professional communications wrote his press release about Space X’s plan to build a hyperloop between New York City and Washington D.C. and then presented the class with his pitch targeting travel writers.
  • Past Media kit projects were developed to promote Tesla Motors, Honest Tea, Walt Disney World, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the National Aviary, Pittsburgh Earth Day, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and more.

Recent Course Faculty

Megan Kappel: "I approach the subject of public relations like the ripples in a pond flowing outward. Each student starts with a company that piques their professional or personal interest and, week by week, a different PR document is explored and created, both in theory and in practice. When do we see this type of document in the real world? What event happened this week that proves the need for this type of PR? How do we as PR students approach writing such a document? The final result is a dynamic, multi-faceted portfolio of work that students then transform into a media kit ready to share with potential employers and hiring managers."

Barbara Klein: “Certainly the tools of PR have changed and continue to change. However, the importance of understanding brand and target audience remain constant. In this class, every assignment—from press releases to social media overviews—starts with these two components.”

Pam O'Brien: “When I teach PR, I add a three-week event-planning team project. It typically involves something going on at Pitt and the team makes a pitch to me and the rest of the class as if we were the Chancellor and his staff. The rest of the projects in my version of the course allow each student to choose an organization he/she would like to work for and to create PR pieces for that organization.”

Recent Student Testimonials

“This class was one that I took to fulfill a requirement. I chose it because it sounded like it may benefit me as I have not had a public relations course in the past. I learned so many practical lessons that will be applicable much further than the classroom. The feedback was also incredibly helpful and constructive. Expectations were clearly outlined and I had all of the materials I needed to succeed. I cannot praise this course or this professor enough.”

“I really enjoyed the whole idea of the course. It is one of the few PR related courses that Pitt offers which is really useful for communication majors/anyone that wants to be in PR. I thought we learned a lot, like press releases and social media plans, that can be taken with me into the PR related job.”

“I loved that it was a hands-on experience. Our textbook went in-depth on various PR writings and then we made them on our own. I feel like I am walking away from a class with new skills for the first time ever. I felt welcomed when I went to office hours and I always received helpful information.”

“The small lecture setting where everyone in the class knows everyone else made such an impact on me in this class.”

“More than most classes, I feel like this class prepared me for an actual job.”