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Course overview:

PRE 375 Principles of Public Relations

Course concept
and content

Principles of Public Relations offers an overview of basic public relations concepts and tactics used by business, government, and non-profit organizations. It is intended to begin preparing students who aspire to careers in public relations for handling public relations situations in ways that reflect appropriate professional and ethical standards.

Students will read about and discuss various theories, strategies, and techniques of public relations including, but are not limited to, issues management, image management, employee communication, community relations, media relations, financial relations, and crisis communication. They will also experiment with such public relations and communication skills as planning selectively targeted messages, writing speeches and news releases, dealing with reporters, staging special events, and building virtual bridges.

The course is highly interactive, requires frequent use of the Internet, and places heavy emphasis on clear and effective writing. Although some assignments emphasize individual productivity, many more require students to interact with one another and/or local public relations professionals.

Many of the class exercises and the tests will simulate conditions encountered in public relations work and require fast but thoughtful analysis, careful attention to details, and a willingness to face public challenges. Prospective students should be aware that group activities are a major part of the course and may require them to critically and comparatively evaluate their own and their classmates' work.

Course objectives

By grappling with simulated public relations situations and interacting using a variety of face-to-face, written, and electronic techniques, students should learn to:

  • identify key publics and evaluate organizations' abilities and effectiveness in positioning themselves in the eyes of those publics;

  • analyze problems and opportunities in terms of organizational needs and priorities as well as public opinion about them;

  • develop public relations plans to help move organizations toward their goals;

  • assess public relations techniques in terms of their strengths, weaknesses, impact, aesthetics, cost, and suitability for various situations;

  • write and speak in ways consistent with current public relations practices;

  • establish professional contacts with local public relations professionals.

Required texts

Essentials of Public Relations
by Dennis Wilcox, Phillip Ault, Warren Agee & Glen Cameron
Addison Wesley Longman: New York: 2001.

Supplemental readings are posted at Online readings in public relations [www.nku.edu/~turney/prclass/readings/read_master.html]


The two tests, a mid-term and a final, will be conducted as "in-basket" exercises in which students assume the role of public relations practitioners and confront hypothetical situations they have to resolve through written or spoken messages. The situations they'll face range from routine requests for publicity or planning an open house to responding to an emergency product recall or other organizational crisis. Each test will involve several situations and combine the excitement of simulation-gaming with the intellectual challenge and rigor of an essay exam. The two tests combined account for just over one-fourth of students' final grades.


Feedback assignments are the interactive heart of the course and reflect its hands-on, learn-by-doing approach that requires students to interact with one another at least as much as they interact with the instructor. There is at least one feedback assignment each week and as many as four or five some weeks. Most are announced in class, but some may be assigned via email or the class Web site. Most require short, written responses, but some involve oral or performance responses. Some only take 10-20 minutes. Others are more demanding. Some are written by individual students and seen only by the instructor, but many of them are written to classmates or involve group activities. Feedback assignments in the aggregate are the single most important component of the course and account for 40 percent of each student's final course grade.

Public relations

Public relations plans for hypothetical organizations will be prepared by small groups of students as their capstone assignment at the end of the semester. These plans will incorporate and expand upon many of the feedback assignments completed earlier in the semester, but will polish, more fully develop, and link these earlier independent assignments into a broad strategy that could guide their organization's public relations efforts. In addition to submitting a written plan, each group will do an oral presentation to the rest of the class. This group exercise accounts for 10 percent of each student's final grade.

Source reports

Three source reports will be written by each student and distributed to other members of class for subsequent roundtable discussions in which they will present their reports and relate their findings to previous lectures and assigned readings. Each source report deals with a single source which can be a journal or magazine article, a book chapter, a Web site, or an interview with a public relations practitioner. The three source reports combined account for just under one-fourth of the final grade.

(Aug. 2003)
Practicing Public Relations
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