Editorial Record: This article was originally submitted as an AEJMC Public Relations Division GIFTs paper, with a February 19, 2021 deadline. It was submitted to JPRE August 31, 2021, and accepted for publication at that time. Published March 2022.
Jennifer Glover Konfrst
Associate Professor, Public Relations
School of Journalism & Mass Communication
Des Moines, IA
Kelly Bruhn, Ph.D., APR
Professor, Public Relations, Associate Dean, School of Journalism & Mass Communication
Des Moines, IA
Eric Kwame Adae, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Public Relations
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Des Moines, IA
At Drake University, Public Relations Writing is the second course required of all PR majors in a six-course sequence, and it provides an opportunity for students to develop the writing and editing skills necessary to succeed in a public relations career. Students learn to think critically about current events and how they relate to PR practice. Some coursework is completed on behalf of a community partner while much more is created on behalf of a dream employer of their choice. This allows students to customize their writing portfolios, while often feeling increased commitment to creating quality content. The best part? Each student’s final work is shared by their professor with their dream employer, providing an important professional connection that often leads to job shadows, internships and even future employment.
Student Learning Goals
Aligning with the college’s core values, this assignment is designed to help students “understand how to develop content across multiple channels in this age of media convergence, with sensitivity to multicultural audiences and an appreciation for global perspectives,” and “apply reasoning, critical thinking, persuasion and creativity through the writing and editing processes.” At the beginning of the semester, students take a pre-assessment to measure their self-identified comfort level with key facets of public relations. Throughout the semester, they peer edit one another’s work prior to each submission, and the instructor provides detailed feedback on every assignment during the grading process. Students are encouraged to incorporate edits into each piece as the semester unfolds, so they can learn from the feedback while also refining their work. In the final week of the class, students select their top pieces from the class to feature in their portfolios. Students also take a post-assessment to identify areas of growth since the beginning of the semester.
Connections to Public Relations Practice and/or Theory
Students create a variety of materials in the class, including issues briefs, annual report content, fact sheets, infographics, fundraising appeal letters, digital and social strategy, proposals for corporate expansion, PSAs, brochures, blogs or podcasts and traditional press releases. Each student must also create an original piece to add to the collection, in addition to a cover letter and resume prepared for their dream employer. This final portfolio – five professional pieces and their cover letter and resume – qualifies as their final exam in the course. Immediately after finals, the professor sends the portfolios to the dream employers. As part of their portfolio development, students are responsible for identifying a contact name, email, and physical address of their dream employer. Typically, the contact is the public relations principal at the organization, or someone within the department that is responsible for the work the student wants to do. The professor uses this information to send the portfolio file with the explanatory email.
Evidence of Student Learning Outcomes/Assessment
In addition to evaluating the quality of student work, the external review of student portfolios often results in valuable feedback and ideas for future class assignments. Students’ self-reported confidence grows according to the class pre- and post-test assessments. Portfolio deliveries have sparked job shadow opportunities with companies as varied as the Los Angeles Angels, American Airlines, National Geographic and Nationwide Insurance. Students’ customized work has earned them internship positions in companies, government agencies and nonprofit organizations which have led to several full-time placements after graduation. A sample dream employer response is below, highlighting another important outcome—elevating the visibility of our small program.
Elise Eberwein shared your communications portfolio with me, and I am so glad she did. Terrific job putting together a wide variety of communications platforms, each with their own tone of voice. That’s something we try to do at American Airlines every day. We have millions of customers and more than 100,000 employees who all have a different perspective on how our business works, and each one of them expects us to speak with them in familiar terms and with a friendly voice.
We’re only a few months into our integration with US Airways, and it’s very clear that the world is watching everything we say and do. Communication is critical. Much like your portfolio, we have to use a variety of channels to hit each audience and make sure that the message is consistent across all of them. You’ve done a nice job pointing to the restoration of our fleet and our commitment to being the greatest airline in the world with top-notch customer service.
Please keep us up to date on your projects and where your degree might take you next, and let us know if we can help in any way.
Director, Corporate Communications
Final Individual “Dream Employer” Portfolio
In lieu of a final exam, you will compile an individual “dream employer” portfolio. Please read the instructions and be sure to include all portfolio components.
- The “dream employer” portfolio must include at least five individually prepared tactics, four of which may be revisions of work you submitted on behalf of your dream employer throughout the semester. That means at least one tactic will be original for your portfolio.
- The original tactic can be anything we have discussed this semester that you haven’t prepared for your dream employer (e.g. fact sheet, social media content calendar and posts, blog/podcast concept, PSA, VNR, etc.) or other tactic of your choosing. However, the tactic should be appropriate for your dream employer and its public(s).
- Additionally, your individual portfolio must include a cover letter and current resume. The cover letter for your dream employer should be addressed to an appropriate public relations contact within the organization. The letter should express your interest in working for the organization, and pitch the work contained within your portfolio. You must include the full name, title and mailing address of the PR contact on the letter, as I will mail these packets to those contacts.
- The individual portfolio should include your cover letter and resume followed by your tactics as a single Word .docx or pdf.
- All tactics should be thoughtfully created, well organized, properly formatted and of professional quality, reflecting your best work. Use proper grammar, spelling, punctuation and AP Style. Attribute outside sources, as appropriate.
- Your individual “dream employer” portfolio will be worth 200 points. Standard evaluation criteria will apply.
- Failing to submit your portfolio by deadline will result in a zero for the final exam grade.
- While we encourage this outreach to future employers as a unique opportunity to showcase your abilities, you may request that your portfolio not be submitted to your dream employer. Please share any concerns with me. Note: Your project will still be due by the final exam deadline and evaluated as your final exam grade in the course.
TABLE 1: RUBRIC
PR Writing – Dream Employer Portfolio/Final Exam Rubric
In addition to the items noted in the rubric, accuracy will be evaluated throughout the portfolio. The writing should be based on facts that can be verified by a third party. Grammar, spelling, punctuation and AP Style should be used correctly. No spelling errors! In fact, one error will bring a deduction of 7 points to your final grade. Two errors will bring a deduction of 14 points, and more than three errors will result in 20 points automatically lost.
© Copyright 2022 AEJMC Public Relations Division
To cite this article: Konfrst, J.G., Bruhn, K., & Adae, E. (2022). Building Portfolios, Connections and Confidence: How Professors Can Leverage Student Writing Collections to Support Students’ Employment Opportunities. Journal of Public Relations Education, 8(1), 161-179. https://aejmc.us/jpre/?p=2952