Category Archives: GIFTs

Looking Back, Stepping Forward: COVID-19 PR KSA Development and Adaptation Assessment for Post-traumatic Growth

Editorial Record: This article was originally submitted as an AEJMC Public Relations
Division GIFTs paper, with a February 25, 2022 deadline. Top papers were submitted to
JPRE June 2022, and accepted for publication at that time. Published November 2022.


Mary Beth Deline, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
School of Communication
Illinois State University
Norman, Illinois


Class tested assignments: a sequential series of assignments and an activity developed for senior PR students in a capstone PR management and research class.

Keywords: public relations; post-traumatic growth; knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs); diversity, equity and inclusion; career preparation; pandemic


The COVID-19 pandemic has been a worldwide trauma (Prideaux, 2021). Young people, who make up most of post-secondary student bodies, are experiencing these effects in many ways (Mental Health America, 2021). For example, the US Surgeon General recently announced a mental health crisis among America’s youth (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2021). This assignment helps PR senior students who have been learning in the pandemic access post-traumatic growth. Post-traumatic growth, both a process and outcome, occurs when traumatic experiences result in positive growth (Tedeschi et al., 2018). It is fostered by education, specifically reflexive meaning-building exercises and the development of narratives about what has happened and the opportunities that this provides (Tedeschi, 2020). While the pandemic is not yet over, seniors shed their student identities when graduating, marking an opportunity to reflect on the end of their roles as students during the pandemic and foster such post-traumatic growth. 


To facilitate this process, this series of assignments has senior students identify KSAs – Knowledge, Skills and Abilities –  that they’ve developed or adapted in their PR courses in response to the pandemic. This occurs through a KSA assessment via a handout and in-class activity with a list of KSAs culled from recent research and industry reports on topics ranging from entry-level PR hiring (DiStaso et al., 2019; Krishna et al., 2020; Meganck et al., 2020) to pandemic KSA development (Cukier et al., 2021; Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2021). (See Table 1 in Appendix A and Table 1 in Appendix D). They then analyze how these KSAs provide them with competitive advantages by developing an interview guide and undertaking information interviews with PR professionals on hiring and emergent pandemic PR trends using the list (see Appendices B and D). To facilitate these interviews students are invited to connect to the professor’s LinkedIn profile representative of the course’s alumni network, and in-class discussions detail how to research and network with potential interviewees in these networks. Finally students synthesize what they’ve learned from their KSA assessment and the interviews in a short report (see Appendix C). 


Such work enables two particular post-traumatic growth outcomes. The first, personal strength outcomes, occurs when students realize how strong they’ve been facing pandemic challenges (Tedeschi, 2020). The second, identifying new possibilities, occurs when students assess how their newly developed or adapted KSAs provide them with opportunities in the PR field (Tedeschi, 2020).

Student Learning Goals

  • Recognize the strength exemplified in developing or adapting knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) during the pandemic, as well as the opportunities afforded by those same KSAs.
  • Adopt a strategic framework to analyze and understand how challenging events provide strategic opportunities.
  • Gain actual experience developing, recruiting and undertaking interviews for strategic analytic purposes.
  • Ensure equal access to professionalization networks and networking knowledge.

Connection to PR Theory and Practice

This exercise was developed for my senior capstone in PR management and research for PR majors. The course requires students, working in agency teams, to develop a strategic PR plan (SPP) for a client. One of the challenges students typically face in the classroom is how to begin to think strategically. This often occurs when students are asked what opportunities their potential clients face during the client appraisal process as well as in their strength, weakness, opportunity and threat analyses (SWOTs). This exercise shows them how to assess contextual value and opportunities, and therefore provides scaffolding for how to develop those aspects of the SPP. It also prepares students for the primary research needs of the SPP, such as client briefing interviews or primary employee research, via actual interview development, experience and analysis. These experiences are similar to what one would encounter in professional strategic PR contexts. Additionally, the first activity in this series of assignments, the student KSA assessment, provides students with a researched handout with KSAs that they may have developed or adapted in response to the pandemic. Working with this handout expands students’ knowledge of their own pandemic KSA repertoires. Finally, research shows that a key barrier to professionalization for first generation and historically under-represented students involves lack of access to professional networks and networking education (Parks-Yancy, 2012; Stanislaus et al., 2021; Terry & Fobia, 2019). This assignment is one small step toward ensuring that such access and learning occurs, as called for by the most recent Public Relations Society of America report on diversity, equity and inclusion (Blow et al., 2021). 

Evidence of Student Learning Outcomes

The assignment’s reassessment process ensures students adopt a strategic framework to their pandemic induced KSAs. As one student noted in her final assignment: “Overall, this assignment forced me to reflect on me. It allowed me to see light in all the negative that has happened over the course of the past few years. Most of all it allowed me to take my past experiences and analyze how the pandemic made me even more prepared to enter the industry.” (The student has provided permission to have this portion of their work used publicly). 


Blow, F., Bonney, C., Tallapragada, M., & Brown, D. (2021). PRSA’s theoretical and data– driven approach to improving diversity & inclusion in Public Relations. Public Relations Journal, 14(3), 1-32. content/uploads/Blow_PRJ14.3.pdf.

Cukier, W., McCallum, K., Egbunonu, P., & Bates, K. (2021). The mother of invention: Skills for innovation in the post pandemic world. content/uploads/2021/10/MotherOfInvention_EN-1_LT.pdf

Cambridge University Press. (n.d.). Flexibility. In Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved September 14, 2022, from

Commission on Public Relations Education. (2018). Fast forward. Foundations + future state.

DiStaso, M. (2019). Undergraduate public relations in the United States: The 2017 Commission on Public Relations Education report. Journal of Public Relations Education5(3), 3-22. 2017-commission-on-public-relations-education-report/

Institute for Public Relations and Public Relations Society of America (2017). The 2017 IPR and PRSA Report: KSAs and characteristics of entry-level public relations professionals.

Krishna, A., Wright, D., & Kotcher, R. (2020). Curriculum rebuilding in Public Relations: Understanding what early career, mid-career, and senior PR/Communications professionals expect from PR graduates. Journal of Public Relations Education, 6(1), 33– 57. understanding-what-early-career-mid-career-and-senior-pr- communications- professionals-expect-from-pr-graduates/

Meganck, S., Smith, J., & Guidry, J. (2020). The skills required for entry-level public relations: An analysis of skills required in 1,000 PR job ads. Public Relations Review, 46(5), 1-7.

Mental Health America (2021). Trauma and COVID-19: Communities in need across the U.S.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2021). An assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on job and skills demand using online job vacancy data. covid-19-on-job-and-skills-demand-using-online-job-vacancy-data-20fff09e/

Oxford University Press. (n.d.a). Adaptive. In Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved September 14, 2022, from

Oxford University Press. (n.d.b). Collaborative. In Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved September 14, 2022 from

Oxford University Press. (n.d.c). Resilient. In Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved September 14, 2022, from

Parks-Yancy, R. (2012). Interactions into opportunities: Career management for low-income, first-generation African American college students. Journal of College Student Development, 53(4), 510–523.

Prideaux, E. (2021, February 3). How to heal the ‘mass trauma’ of COVID-19. BBC. heal

Public Relations Society of America. (2022a). Knowledge, skills and abilities tested.

Public Relations Society of America. (2022b). Detailed knowledge, skills and abilities tested on the computer-based examination for accreditation in PR.

Radford University. (2022). Problem solving, critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills sought by employers. analytics/analytics/career-prep/report-e.html

Stanislaus, E. P., Hodge, L., & Wilkerson, A. (2021). COVID-19: How will historically underrepresented groups fare in the job market? Journal of Underrepresented & Minority Progress, 5(SI), 1–12.

Tedeschi, R., Shakespeare-Finch, J., Taku, K., & Calhoun, L. (2018). Post-traumatic growth: Theory, research and applications. Routledge.

Tedeschi, R. (2020, July). Growth after trauma. Harvard Business Review.

Terry, R. L., & Fobia, A. C. (2019). Qualitative research on barriers to workplace inclusion for first generation professionals. U.S. Census Bureau.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2021, December 7). U.S. Surgeon General issues advisory on youth mental health crisis further exposed by COVID-19 pandemic. News. on-youth-mental-health-crisis-further-exposed-by-covid-19-pandemic.html

Appendix A

KSA Assessment Exercise for Student Completion

This assignment is done in class and submitted for participation credit. 

  1. Think back to when the pandemic started. What did you have to do to shift to learning online? Bullet points are fine.
  2. After you got online, what did you need to do to keep effectively learning online? Think about technical skills, communication with classmates/professors, and what you needed to do to take care of yourself during this period of change. Bullet points are fine.
  3. The next page contains a list of key PR knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs). Bolded items identify KSAs that research shows are important both for PR and pandemic purposes. Identify your level of experience with all the items in the list.
  4. Review these skills again. Are there any items on the list that you had to newly develop because of the pandemic?  Are there any items that you had to adapt because of the pandemic? Provide a short explanation next to each identified item. 
  5. List the skills you’ve identified using, developing or adapting during the pandemic here. Rank them in order of most to least important. Write a paragraph that details why your top three KSAs are most important to you now as a student. How have they helped you be a successful student during the pandemic? What advantages, if any, have they given you as a student during the pandemic?

Table 1

Sample of Table for Student KSA Assessment

Appendix B

Information Interview Assignment

When interviewing someone, whether it’s a PR professional or a client for a client assessment or a member of a key public, you’ll want to have an interview guide to help your interview flow. This handout is designed to help you develop an interview guide. 

Researchers use interviews to investigate how others see and understand the world. Doing interviews can help us:

  1. Ask questions that are important for our society or culture;
  2. Help leverage previous knowledge; and/or
  3. Help us learn something new or unexpected. 

Information interviews are designed to help you better understand what it’s like to work in a field in practice. For career planning purposes, they’re useful to assess which of your sets of knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) are needed; KSA deficiencies; which KSAs might be in demand in the near future; as well as identifying KSAs that will help you stand out from others in your field.

To find someone to undertake an information interview with, use your network – ask friends and family, search LinkedIn and any professional directory of which you’re a member       (for instance, PRSSA). When you contact them, tell them that you identified them as someone to potentially chat with based on your mutual connection “X” (name of your mutual connection here). Ask them for a twenty-thirty minute information interview about public relations. Let them know you’ll soon be a recent graduate of [your institution’s name here]’s PR program, and you’re undertaking an assessment of KSAs you’ve developed as a result of the pandemic. After they agree to participate, let them know that you’ve got a list of key PR KSAs that you’ll be using during the interview and will be sending to them in advance of the interview (see Appendix D). You’ll also need to ask your participant to let you record the interview so you can use the answers for a KSA value assessment assignment.

To develop your interview guide, take the following steps:

  1. Do some research. Generally for any interview you want to identify what is already known about a topic (in this case, KSAs in relation to early career jobs), and what is not known. For an information interview in general, you’ll want to:
    1. Have a general understanding of some of the practices of the person you’ll be interviewing. For instance, if you choose to interview someone who specializes in crisis communication, what are some of the key things that happen in crisis communication versus media relations? PRSA is a good resource for this; see
    2. Have a sense of some of the trends in the field. For instance, what’s been happening as a result of the pandemic that might have affected the person you’re talking with? To do this, scan through some industry publications such as PR News or PR Daily. 
  2. Based on this research, develop some research questions that you want answered by the information interview. For example, one research question might be “What KSAs do I need to start a position in the PR field?” For information interviews, research questions can cover a variety of topics; below is a list of common topics. Please choose which ones you’ll cover in your interview and develop at least one research question for each topic that you choose.
    Common information interview topics

Job fit – common KSAs needed for the job.

What are industry trends? Where is the industry heading?

What KSAs are regularly used? 

What KSAs aren’t needed?

What KSAs are rare and highly needed?

How are KSAs best gained?

Preconceptions about the everyday job that aren’t true.

The everyday job practice. 

  1. List your research questions here. You should have three minimum research questions.
  2. After developing a list of research questions, you’ll need to operationalize them into questions that make sense to your participant. For example, a research question that asks “What knowledge do I need to start a position in the PR field?” could generate the following participant questions:
    1. What do you do during an average day?
    2. Thinking about the average day you just described, what skills do you need to do the things you described doing?
    3. Of these skills you just identified, which ones do you think are the most important? Why?

List your interview questions here:

  1. Make sure your interview questions address research questions: list 6 interview questions and identify which research questions they address. For example, if the first interview question is: ‘Thinking about the average day you just described, what skills do you need to do the things you described doing?’, and the corresponding research question is ‘A: What knowledge skills do I need to start a position in the PR field?”, you would indicate
    1. Interview Question #1: Thinking about the average day you just described, what skills do you need to do the things you described doing?
    2. Which research question Interview Question #1 addresses: A
      1. Interview Question #1:

Which research question Interview Question #1 addresses:

  1. Interview Question #2:

Which research question Interview Question #2 addresses: 

  1. Interview Question #3:

Which research question Interview Question #3 addresses: 

  1. Interview Question #4:

Which research question Interview Question #4 addresses: 

  1. Interview Question #5:

Which research question Interview Question #5 addresses: 

  1. Interview Question #6:

Which research question Interview Question #6 addresses: 

  1. You’ll want to make sure your interview feels like a conversation, not just a Q & A session. Identify two interview questions from your list of interview questions that each represent introductory, transition, key and closing questions below. Identifying these will help ensure that you’re appropriately structuring your interview.
    1. Introductory Questions:
      1. Question 1
      2. Question 2
    2. Transition Questions:
      1. Question 1
      2. Question 2
    3. Key Questions:
      1. Question 1
      2. Question 2
    4. Closing Questions
      1. Question 1
      2. Question 2
  2. Your final task is to make sure your participants will understand your questions, and that they’ll get you good responses. Review your questions and make sure that they follow these guidelines:
    1. They ask one question at a time (i.e.: no double-barreled questions)
    2. They aren’t leading
    3. They are open-ended
    4. They provide opportunities for participants to provide detailed answers
    5. They’re written in plain language and are easy to understand (i.e., they do not use jargon or academic language)
  3. Attach your interview guide as a Word document to your submission. It should contain, in the following order:
    1. your research questions; 
    2. your interview questions, including:

introductory, transition, key and ending questions in the order in which you’d like to ask them.  

  1. After submitting your interview guide, you’ll need to add several key questions that are detailed below to your interview guide. These questions MUST BE ASKED during the interview. You may need to remove or adapt several questions from your interview guide to make room for these key questions. 
  1. Using the list of KSAs that I sent, what do you think are the top three KSAs that are needed for an early PR career? Why these three?
  2. What are some of the key trends that you see emerging in the PR field as a result of the pandemic?
  3. Using the same list of KSAs, what do you think are the top three KSAs that are needed to take advantage of these key trends? Why these three?

Appendix C

KSA Value Assessment

Congratulations! You’ve undertaken an assessment of KSAs that you’ve developed or adapted in relation to the pandemic. You’ve also developed an information interview guide and interviewed a PR practitioner to get information about key career issues and trends in the PR industry during COVID-19. This assignment has you merge this information together to identify which of your KSAs have the most value for your PR career moving forward during the pandemic. In other words, what KSAs should you highlight in career materials and processes like resumes, interviews and career plans? 

Learning Objectives

  • Synthesize information to assess the strategic value of pandemic-affected KSAs to your career. 
  • Strategically reflect on how events can function as opportunities.

Assignment Instructions

  1. Whom did you interview? List their name, position and company that they currently work for. 
  2. Using the list of KSAs, what did your PR practitioner think were the three major KSAs that would be needed for an early PR career? Bullet points are fine here. 
  3. Using the list of KSAs, what did your PR practitioner think were the three major KSAs that would be needed in the field in the near future, given industry trends and the pandemic? Bullet points are fine here. 
  4. Of the six KSAs that your PR practitioner identified as important for beginning your PR career or for the field’s future, list the top three KSAs that you have the most experience with from your KSA exercise sheet. Provide a paragraph on each KSA that describes what the KSA is and how you’ve used it during the pandemic. This writeup should detail how, if at all, you’ve had to adapt or learn the KSA as a result of the pandemic.
    1. Of these top three KSAs, how do you think you can emphasize them in your career search materials? Think specifically about products or processes that you’ll be undertaking as part of your career search, such as resumes, portfolios or interview preparation. Your answer should be a minimum of one paragraph and a maximum of three, and use examples. 
  5. Of the six KSAs that your interviewee identified as important to your early career or for the field’s future, which one was most challenging to develop or adapt during the pandemic? Why? What were some of the specific challenges? How did you successfully deal with those barriers to use or adapt the KSA? Your answer should represent a minimum of one paragraph and a maximum of three paragraphs.
  6. Go back to your list of ranked skills from your skill assessment exercise for being a student. Given what you’ve learned from your interview, re-rank them in order of most to least important for beginning your PR career. Write a paragraph that details why the top three KSAs in this list will be most important to you as you start your PR career. How will they help you succeed at the beginning of your career? What advantages, if any, will they give you as you begin your career during the pandemic?

Appendix D

Handout for PR Practitioners during Information Interview

The following is a list of knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) that have been identified in research and industry reports as important for PR careers, as well as for careers during the pandemic. KSAs that represent both PR and pandemic concerns have been bolded. 

© Copyright 2022 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Deline, M.B. (2022). Looking back, stepping forward: COVID-19 KSA development and adaptation assessment for post-traumatic growth. Journal of Public Relations Education, 8(3), 120-139.

Podcasting PR’s Role in Social Movements

Editorial Record: This article was originally submitted as an AEJMC Public Relations
Division GIFTs paper, with a February 25, 2022 deadline. Top papers were submitted to
JPRE June 2022, and accepted for publication at that time. Published November 2022.


Arien Rozelle, M.S., APR
St. John Fisher University
Assistant Professor
Department of Media and Communication
St. John Fisher University
New York

Overview: From the Suffrage Movement to #MeToo, and from the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter, public relations has played a major role advancing social movements throughout history. In this scaffolded assignment, students in an asynchronous online PR & Social Movements honors course created podcasts about the role of public relations in social movements. Through a series of group assignments, students research key communicators of the movement, craft a script, record a podcast, and design cover art. Once complete, they share their work more broadly by creating an abstract and poster to present with their podcast at student research day. 

Through independent research, students identify ways that strategic communication has been used to persuade, motivate, and change attitudes in an effort to advance social movements and activist causes. The Suffrage Movement was the primary movement used when this assignment was initially deployed; however, it can be used to cover a variety of social movements and is replicable across a variety of levels and types of public relations courses. 

As professors seek out ways to incorporate topics of diversity, equity and inclusion into their public relations courses, this assignment provides a way to add a range of diverse voices to the discussion. As The Commission on Public Relations Education’s Report on Undergraduate Education, Foundations + Future State. Educators + Practitioners (2018) notes, diversity and inclusion is a key area of emphasis and recommended that educators “commit to integrating D&I focused topics and discussions in the curriculum” (p. 139). 

Additionally, as many professors continue to teach online courses, and while “students in online courses can feel a strong sense of isolation and lack of inclusivity” (Guertin, 2010), this assignment attempts to combat that by providing an opportunity to connect with peers and build community. Lee (2008) and colleagues note      that collaborative development of podcasts enables “student conceptualisations of disciplinary content to be shared with peers,” and “is a powerful way of stimulating both individual and collective learning” (p. 501).

Given the rise of podcasting as a broadcast medium and its ability to engage broader audiences, it is a valuable tool for scholarship (Singer, 2019) as well as public relations practitioners. This assignment presents a more “creative” use of podcasting in the classroom, according to Heilesen (2010), who noted that “creative use generally means assigning students to communicate by means of podcasts their understanding of a particular topic” (p. 1066). This is in contrast to the professor creating podcasts to deliver course content to students. 

Finally, this assignment provides professors and students with an opportunity to share their work, and the stories of lesser-known activist communicators, outside of the classroom. Through participation in Student Research Day, students shared their research and findings via posters accompanied by iPads so participants can listen to the podcasts while reviewing the poster. There is also the possibility to partner with campus media outlets to further disseminate the student-created podcast content.

Student Learning Goals:

  • Understand the role of strategic communication in social movements.
  • Understand the importance of communicating for a specific audience with an objective in mind.
  • Identify examples of public relations strategies and tactics in social movements, politics, and/or corporate public relations campaigns.

Evidence of student learning outcomes: (A small sample of responses notably from non-majors as this was taught in an honors core course.)

  • I definitely learned a lot more about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and how she used PR tactics. My favorite part was doing the research about her.”
  • “I liked working with a group and this was an assignment unlike any that I’ve had so it was fun and different.”

Connection to Public Relations Practice/Theory:

In the early 2000s, scholars like Dozier and Lauzen (2000), Smith and Ferguson (2001), and Berger (2005) called for more scholarship related to social activism. In addition, Miller (2000) called on scholars to examine “civic, voluntary, and religious groups; labor unions, consumer groups, and trade associations; women’s and minority groups; small businesses, nonprofit organizations, and political groups” (p. 414).  

Twenty years later, as research and pedagogy related to the role of public relations, social activism and social movements have      grown, the emphasis in textbooks still often remains on public relations in a corporate context. Given the increased attention to social movements in the 21st century, as well as renewed student interest in participating in activism, this assignment provides a timely way to examine the role of public relations through a lens other than corporate PR. It also provides an opportunity to infuse topics and theories related to diversity, equity and inclusion into the public relations classroom. 


Berger, B. K. (2005). Power over, power with, and power to relations: Critical reflections on public relations, the dominant coalition, and activism. Journal of Public Relations Research, 17(20), 5-28. 

Commission on Public Relations Education. (2018). Fast Forward: Foundations + future state. Educators + practitioners: The Commission on Public Relations Education 2017 Report on undergraduate education. 

Dozier, D. and Lauzen, M. (2000). Liberating the intellectual domain from the practice: Public relations, activism, and the role of the scholar. Journal of Public Relations Research, 12(1), 3-12. 

Guertin, L. (2010). Creating and using podcasts across the disciplines. Currents in Teaching and Learning, 2(2), 4–13.

Heilesen, S. B. (2010). What is the academic efficacy of podcasting? Computers & Education, 55(3), 1063–1068.

Lee, M. J., McLoughlin, C., & Chan, A. (2008). Talk the talk: Learner-generated podcasts as catalysts for knowledge creation. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(3), 501–521.

Miller, K. S. (2000). U.S. public relations history: Knowledge and limitations.  Annals of the International Communication Association, 23(1), 381-420.     10.1080/23808985.2000.11678978 

Smith, M., & Ferguson, D.  (2001). Activism. In R. L. Health and G. Vasquez (Eds), The handbook of public relations (pp. 291-300). Sage.

Singer, J. B. (2019). Podcasting as social scholarship: A tool to increase the public impact of scholarship and research. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, 10(4), 571–590.


Podcast Assignment: Students are placed in groups of four to five, with each group assigned a social movement. Students first work individually and then collaboratively on five smaller assignments, as follows:

  1. Secondary research report (individual assignment): Directions: In order to begin what will eventually become a podcast, you’ll need to have identified and reviewed extensive research related to the movement and key communicator you’re investigating. This assignment asks you to identify at least 20 sources of secondary research. Your sources must include all of the following: 
  • Historical newspaper articles 
  • Historical research from government sources (ex: The Library of Congress) 
  • Scholarly research like peer reviewed journal articles 
  • An interview with a historian (can be print, audio or visual)
  1. Abstract draft (individual assignment): Now that you have conducted ample research, summarize your findings and prepare for the creation of your podcast. In no more than 300 words, write a preliminary abstract that summarizes your findings. Imagine that your podcast is complete and you’re writing the abstract to describe your podcast.

    Questions you might answer in your abstract: 
  • What is the podcast about? 
  • What are you trying to prove or disprove? 
  • What is the connection between this person, the movement and public relations? 
  • Why does this person matter? 
  • What is the long-term impact of this person’s communication work? 

You will revise your abstract. This is not the final version, but it’s a starting point for you. Once you finalize your podcast, you’ll develop the final abstract to reflect the final content in your podcast. 

  1. Podcast script: As a group, you will write the script for a 10-15 minute podcast (about 2,000+ words). 


  • All members of the group must speak in the podcast so they all must be written into the script. 
  • You must craft a sponsor message. Here is a simple sponsor message template: “[Your podcast name] is sponsored by [the name of your department] at [the name of your college or university]. For more information, visit [departmental website].”

Important Notes: 

  • Name your podcast! 
  • Consider what you want your podcast episode to convey. Think about the theme or the ideas that you most want to share. Craft your script with an objective in mind. What do you want people to learn or remember? 
  • Use storytelling in your podcast. Make it a good story! 
  • You may want to consider the “did you know” or “undiscovered” angles – what did you find out that you think many people may not know about? 
  • Write a script that you would want to listen to! What can you do to make it interesting, fun, unique or entertaining? Have fun with it. 
  • Bottom line: your podcast should not be dull, and you should not simply read the biographies of the people you’re highlighting. 
  • Remember that this podcast should cover public relations and the social movement you’ve chosen. Keep the focus on the ways that communication was used to achieve an objective in the movement, and the communication strategies and tactics utilized by the people you are highlighting in your podcast. 
  • Discuss topics like:
    • The communication strategies and tactics used to achieve a specific objective 
    • The intended audience of a message 
    • The ways that targeted audiences were communicated with, when and why 
    • Consider the role of the speaker 
    • Consider the channels used to distribute communication 
    • Consider the role of the media. How was media used to convey messages of the movement? What media? Where? When? Why? 
    • Consider the role of influence, public opinion and perception. How were attitudes or behaviors changed as a result of this person’s work? 
    • Did the communicator achieve her objective? How? Why/why not? 
    • What was the impact of the communication? 

Use the information in this link for help in crafting your podcast script:  

  1. Podcast recording: Now that you’ve crafted your podcast script, you will record your podcast! As a group, you will produce one 10-15-minute podcast that covers public relations and a social movement, keeping the focus on the ways that communication was used to achieve an objective in the movement, and the communication strategies and tactics utilized by the specific communicators of the movement.

  • As a group, you will produce one 10-15-minute podcast. 
  • Your podcast must have a name. 
  • All members of your group must be introduced and must speak in the podcast. 
  • Your podcast should cover public relations and your chosen social movement. Keep the focus on the ways that communication was used to achieve an objective in the movement, and the
    communication strategies and tactics utilized by the people you are highlighting in your

Helpful tips: 

Note: It’s ok if you deviate from your initial script a bit, especially after watching the video about writing for the ear, above. Focus on telling an accurate, interesting story in a way that will hold your listeners’ attention.

Assignment submission: Due to the size of your audio file, please upload the file to your Google Drive and then share the link to the file with me via our course site. 

  1. Podcast visuals – Cover Art (group assignment): Finally, now that your podcast is complete, you will make a podcast cover image to entice listeners. This is the visual preview of your podcast and it should capture the subject and tone of your podcast. You will make one cover image for your podcast.

    Using Canva’s free templates for different genres, create your podcast cover art: 

    Important Notes to consider when designing your cover art:
    What is the podcast about? 
  • What images will entice listeners? 
  • What fonts will convey your message appropriately? 
  • What colors are most appropriate? 

For additional information about creating podcast artwork, search for content from Apple music and/or Buzzsprout (a podcast hosting site).

Podcast Poster (Group Assignment) 

For this assignment, you will produce a poster for presentation at the upcoming Student Research Day that highlights the research and creation of your podcast. This is a group project to be completed with your podcast group, and only one poster is needed per group. You will create a physical, printed poster.

You will use your podcast as the basis of your poster, which means the person or people you researched becomes your primary “case” for analysis in the poster. When you present at the symposium, you will present your poster and bring along your iPads so that participants can listen to your podcast as well.

Best Practices for Design: I suggest using Canva to create your poster. Posters should be created in landscape format (imagine a PowerPoint slide). For additional information about best practices in creating academic posters, visit your library or office of undergraduate research. 

Your poster must include the following:

  • A title
  • An analysis of the ways that public relations strategies and tactics were used in your topic. Highlight topics and sub-topics that you think are noteworthy.
  • Your eventual podcast name and visual cover art that you created.
  • Key Takeaways. What did you learn about public relations and social movements? 
  • Use images, tables, graphs, charts, etc., to communicate as appropriate.

© Copyright 2022 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Rozelle, A. (2022). Podcasting PR’s role in social movements. Journal of Public Relations Education, 8(3), 109-119.

PR in Real Time: A Problem-Based Approach to Generating Engagement and Learning

Editorial Record: This article was originally submitted as an AEJMC Public Relations
Division GIFTs paper, with a February 25, 2022 deadline. Top papers were submitted to
JPRE June 2022, and accepted for publication at that time. Published November 2022.


Matthew P. Taylor, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
School of Journalism and Strategic Media
Middle Tennessee State University Tennessee


“PR in Real Time” is a weekly, problem-based learning activity that provides an opportunity for students to utilize critical thinking skills as they apply course concepts to real-world challenges throughout the semester. The activity promotes student engagement at the outset of class, fosters community in the classroom, draws attention to current events and reliable resources for industry news, and connects course material to tangible, everyday examples. It has been used successfully in an introductory Public Relations Principles course for both in-person instruction and synchronous online delivery.  

The activity draws upon AEJMC teaching monographs regarding the use of real-life problems in the PR classroom (Fischer, 1997) and problem-based learning research literature, which articulates a focus on teaching basic competencies of a subject within the framework of authentic scenarios (Hmelo-Silver, 2004; Norman & Schmidt, 2000). It also incorporates elements of the Think-Pair-Share instructional technique (Lyman, 1981).

“PR in Real Time” begins with the instructor presenting a current public relations issue taken from a news outlet or an industry blog. After providing background information on the issue, the instructor poses three to four strategic questions. Examples of potential questions include the following: Which stakeholders does this issue affect? Are there any ethical considerations that need to be considered in this situation? Which PR theories might apply in this scenario? Regardless of the issue, each activity includes a final question that asks students how they would manage the situation.

Students have a moment to consider the day’s discussion questions before exchanging their responses in small peer groups. This initial small-group environment offers a more comfortable discussion space, which has been shown to generate more and better discussion in a larger setting (Barkley et al., 2014). Students are asked to work with the students sitting around them. Typically, students tend to sit in the same seats throughout the semester even without formal seating assignments. Therefore, a natural byproduct of “PR in Real Time” is that it fosters relationships within the classroom. 

Following the small-group interactions, students report back on their conversations during a collective discussion of the day’s questions. Responses are cataloged on the white board in an effort to affirm student contributions and to provide a visual reminder of the many considerations and potential solutions PR practitioners navigate when addressing an issue. The discussion concludes with the instructor providing takeaways from industry sources, course materials, and their own expertise. There is often overlap between the class responses and these predetermined takeaways, which provides an added opportunity to highlight student success. 

Careful consideration is given to topic selection throughout the semester in order to incorporate a range of industries (nonprofit, corporate, agency), professional interest areas (crisis communication, employee communication, travel and tourism), and identities (among leaders, employees, and stakeholders). As students become accustomed to the types of subjects that work well for the activity, they are invited to submit their own topic ideas using a Google Form. This helps to further engage students in the learning process, to tap into their respective areas of interest, and to diversify course content. 

Student Learning Goals

  • Apply foundational public relations concepts to real-world situations
  • Identify the relevant stakeholders involved in everyday public relations issues
  • Evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of various responses to public relations issues 
  • Formulate strategic solutions to open-ended problems 
  • Articulate and support a chosen solution among peers using oral communication

Connection to Public Relations Practice

This activity centers on current events that have a substantial public relations focus. Weekly topic selection allows for consideration of a variety of applicable PR concepts throughout the course of a semester. Meanwhile, the questions asked of students during the exercise and the takeaways provided at the conclusion of the activity allow the instructor to highlight relevant subject matter being taught in the course. While crisis communication scenarios tend to be a reliable source of student engagement, it is important to provide students with exposure to a broad range of PR responsibilities. 

Evidence of Student Learning Outcomes

“PR in Real Time” provides perhaps the clearest evidence of student learning over the course of a semester. As the semester progresses, these weekly discussions become more nuanced and increasingly incorporate relevant public relations concepts. Meanwhile, students who have completed the course often mention “PR in Real Time” as their favorite activity and reference specific discussions they enjoyed.

Teaching observations have further supported the value of “PR in Real Time” for student learning. A senior colleague described the activity and its outcomes in the following manner during a peer evaluation of my teaching in a synchronous online course:

Using Zoom’s poll function, Dr. Taylor got the class involved in a discussion of how Gorilla Glue could use the PR principles they’d been learning to respond. Should they respond at all, he asked (45% said yes, 55% said no). Moving on to legal and moral implications, Dr. Taylor let students propose options, including philanthropy (helping her with medical bills and using that fact in their ads), updating the existing warning label, issuing a “holding statement,” using social media, and others. Given that it is still only the third week of the semester, the students’ knowledge, and their ability to apply what they’d learned, were impressive.     


Associated Press (2022, April 15). OHSU apologizes after phishing test draws complaints.

Barkley, E. F., Cross, K. P., & Major, C. H. (2014). Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty. John Wiley & Sons.

Fischer, R. (1997). Using a real-life problem in an introductory public relations course. AEJMC Teaching Public Relations Monographs, 42, 1-4.   

Hmelo-Silver, C.E. (2004). Problem-based learning: What and how do students learn? Educational Psychology Review, 16(3), 235-266. 

Luong, N. [@nina_luong]. (2022, April 12). my university sent an email about providing $7,500 

in assistance to those experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic….turns out [Tweet]. Twitter.

Lyman, F. (1981). The responsive classroom discussion. In A. S. Anderson (Ed.), Mainstreaming Digest. College Park, MD: University of Maryland, College of Education.

Norman, G. R., & Schmidt, H. G. (1992). The psychology basis of problem-based learning: A review of the evidence. Academic Medicine 67(9), 557–565. 

Page, J. T., & Parnell, L. J. (2017). Introduction to strategic public relations: Digital, global, and socially responsible communication. SAGE Publications.


Example of Activity

“PR in Real Time”: Fake Phishing Email


First, students are provided with background information about the story using an Associated Press news story. Screenshots of the story are shared in a Google Slides presentation that is projected at the front of the classroom. 

The Associated Press (Associated Press, 2022) reports the following:

“Officials at Oregon Health & Science University have apologized to employees after a fake phishing test drew complaints about raising false hopes.

The university sent the phishing test email to employees on April 12 offering up to $7,500 in financial assistance, Portland television station KGW (8) reported Thursday.

The email, from a ‘’ address, read in part: ‘In response to the current community hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Oregon Health & Science University has decided to assist all employees in getting through these difficult times.’ It included a link where respondents could ‘register’ for COVID-related benefits.

But the offer was not real — it was a test intended to measure employees’ cybersecurity awareness and OHSU’s own technology systems. The test was sent several days after the university sent a message to employees warning them about suspicious emails.

The phishing test was met with frustration from some employees.”

Public Response

Next, students are shown a rundown of national headlines the story generated and a selection of social media posts that illustrate the magnitude of the issue and the negative attention it attracted. Again, screenshots of these items are projected at the front of the classroom. An example of a Twitter response is as follows: “my university sent an email about providing $7,500 in assistance to those experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic….turns out it was a PHISHING exercise… is this a joke???” (Luong, 2022).


Having the necessary background context, students are now asked to consider a series of questions about this issue that are projected at the front of the classroom so they have them as a guide. Students are provided a moment for personal reflection before meeting in small groups to discuss their answers. 

Questions to Consider:

  • What is your emotional reaction to this situation? 
  • What would you want your employer to say or do in response to this? 
  • Which area(s) of public relations are most relevant to this situation? 
  • Which stakeholders should we consider as we plan our response? 

Following the small-group discussions, the class reviews each question collectively. Student responses are written on the white board by the instructor throughout this discussion. 


The activity concludes with the instructor providing outcomes and takeaways. These include the following:

  • The organization’s statement: “This week, as part of OHSU’s regular exercises to help members practice spotting suspicious emails, the language in the test email was taken verbatim from the actual phishing email to ensure no one else fell for the scam. That was a mistake. The real scam was insensitive and exploitative of OHSU members – and the attempt to educate members felt the same way, causing confusion and concern. We sincerely apologize to the OHSU community.”
  • Analysis from “The Daily Scoop” blog: “OHSU’s response includes a direct apology to the community affected by the exercise and validates the emotional response of many critics. However, the university did not address the issue on social media, where much of the backlash is still lingering. It’s a good reminder to meet your audience where they are, especially in times of comms crisis.” 
  • The professor’s takeaways:
    • The importance of internal communication
    • Internal communication can quickly become external communication
    • Integrated communication: work together with other departments in an organization
  • Takeaways from the textbook:
    • “Evaluating Employee Communication:

Measure and evaluate how communication reaches internal publics, as you would with any PR campaign. Consider your messaging outputs, outtakes, and outcomes. 

  • Was it well timed?
  • Was the content truthful and accurate?
  • Did it have relevance for the specific receivers?
  • Was it accessed and read or reviewed?
  • Did it result in its objectives (inform, shape opinion, or encourage behavior)?” (Page and Parnell, 2017, p. 258).

© Copyright 2022 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Taylor, M.P. (2022).PR in real time: A problem-based approach to generating engagement and learning. Journal of Public Relations Education, 8(3), .101-108.

Crisis Exchange Program

Editorial Record: This article was originally submitted as an AEJMC Public Relations
Division GIFTs paper, with a February 25, 2022 deadline. Top papers were submitted to
JPRE June 2022, and accepted for publication at that time. Published November 2022.


Kalah Kemp
Associate Professor
Communication Arts
College of the Ozarks
Point Lookout, Missouri.

Colleen Palmer
Assistant Professor Communications and Digital Media
Carthage College
Kenosha, Wisconsin


Crisis communication is a fast-growing field in industry and scholarship. This teaching brief incorporates Benoit’s image repair and Coombs’s Situational Crisis Communication Theory.  Two crisis case studies are presented to two different public relations classes by two different professors at two different institutions. The first case study is presented toward the beginning of the semester, and the second case study is presented at the end of the semester, after students have learned theory and strategy. Once the crisis is presented in each class, students have 45 minutes to develop a news release, a 60-90 second spokesperson video, and a social media post in response to the crisis, as a simulation of what would occur at an organization facing a crisis.  Then, the responses from the colleges are shared with one another, providing an opportunity for competition, critique, and objective feedback.

Keywords: Image repair theory, situational crisis communication theory, crisis communication

Brian Solis (2013) tweeted, “we live in a time where brands are people and people are brands.” Reputation management, including crisis management, is an ongoing process as crises are expected and often unpredictable (Coombs, 2014). Due to this, as educators it is our responsibility to prepare students to maintain brands with strategic, theory-grounded responses to crises of all types within various organizations. This simulation involves two crisis case studies that actually occurred being presented to two separate public relations classes by two different professors at two different institutions. The cases should represent differing crisis typologies and affect one nonprofit organization and one for-profit organization. This way, students gain experience responding to unique crises on behalf of various organizations.

Once the case study is presented, each class uses the remaining class time, about 45 minutes, to complete a news release, a 60-90 second spokesperson video, and a social media post in response to the crisis. Competing with another institution incentivizes students to present their best work and encourages peer feedback, which studies show enhances educational relationships, fosters deeper learning, and develops students’ critical thinking skills. The professors together decide which class’s response might be more effective for each crisis to declare a winning team.  Additionally, the Spider Web pedagogical method challenges students to collaborate with one another. This discussion method involves students sitting in a circle to problem solve within a group, while the instructor sits outside of the circle and records the discussion pattern, which often takes on the appearance of a spiderweb (Wiggins, 2010). Additionally, the instructor notes the nature and significance of students’ conversational contributions. Students become less concerned about interacting with the instructor to seek approval and more focused on working together to problem solve with this method. We also found that students are better able to criticize the work of their peers with whom they have no personal connection than peers in the same class. Therefore, this teaching brief explains the process of the crisis exchange program, student learning goals, theories foundational to this project, and ways in which to assess the student learning goals.

Step 1: Selecting the case studies

To ensure the crisis exchange program best meets the student learning goals, selecting appropriate crises for analysis is paramount. The first case study is presented to students toward the beginning of the semester, before they have learned the value of a crisis management plan, crisis communication theory, or strategy. As such, we select a simple, straight-forward case study involving a human error made by a nonprofit organization. We present this case study to each of our classes on the same day, so the sharing of responses and feedback is timely. Students  feel the pressure of time that would exist in such a scenario. They first discuss their possible responses amongst the class and then quickly divide into smaller teams—one to write a news release, one to write a social media post, and one to record a 60-90 second video response. Students must email the professor their responses so they may be shared with the other professor after class.

The second case study (Appendix A) is presented to students toward the end of the semester, after students have learned how to develop a crisis management plan, crisis communication theory and strategy. We select a challenging case study that is difficult to classify. This incident occurs at a for-profit organization, and students take their time to strategize before breaking into smaller teams to develop the response. Students are encouraged to serve on a different team (video, news release, or social media post) than they selected in the first case study so they may gain practice with a second response type. Toward the end of class, students compare their news release, video response, and social media post for accuracy and consistency. While the students discuss the crisis, we record the discussion using the Spider Web model. We use this record to provide detailed feedback on the contributions of each crisis communication team member (students).

Step 2: Critiquing the responses

Once the responses are collected and shared with the other professor, the next class meeting is used to critique the crisis responses. During the first crisis case study, students are often distracted by outfits worn by the other team or unique contextual features shown in the video. However, they also enjoy critiquing other students’ work and uncovering important conclusions. These conclusions are summarized and shared with each of the two classes. We then show students how the organization responded, which helps them to critique their own work.  

After the second case study, students are eager to show their best work to another class and professor, and eager to strategically critique the other team. Students apply theory, strategy, and textbook language to identify areas of concern from rhetoric to video details and even social media contextual factors. Similar to the first case study, students are then exposed to the way in which the organization responded to the crisis, which again helps them to critique their own work more thoroughly.

Step 3: Personal reflection

After these class meetings, students complete a self-evaluation form (Appendix C) questioning their individual contributions and teamwork throughout the crisis response and critique process.  Feedback is given to the students based on the record of spider web discussions. We record how students interacted and the nature of their contributions to the conversations. The self-evaluation form also challenges students to summarize what they learn through the crisis exchange program. This final step is especially important as they articulate the challenge of crisis response, the quality of their responses or critiques, or even lessons learned about teamwork.

Student Learning Goals

To best implement the crisis exchange program, student learning goals must be considered. This teaching brief is designed to meet four student learning goals. First, students will synthesize and evaluate a complex crisis scenario. Presenting students with two different crises at two types of organizations challenges them to incorporate textbook concepts with examples from the professional world.  

Secondly, students will exhibit an understanding of professional strategies used in crisis communication. Since students work to develop a crisis response, they demonstrate their writing, video, and social media prowess. Thirdly, students will apply crisis theories and strategies in a simulated activity. For the second case study, we provided students with a worksheet outlining Coombs’s Situational Crisis Communication Theory and Benoit’s Image Repair Theory. This way, they use the language of theory to best articulate the crisis and ensure the responses fit the crisis typology and attribution level.  

Finally, students will collaborate to develop a professional crisis response and provide critical feedback to students at another institution. Through the critique of their own work, work from another college, messages from the organization, and self-evaluation, students work together to critically analyze professional crisis responses.

Connection to public relations practice and theory

The crisis exchange program is underpinned by Benoit’s Image Repair (1997) and Coombs’s (2014) Situational Crisis Communication (SCCT) theories. Heider’s Attribution Theory is briefly discussed, but only within the context of SCCT. Regarding SCCT, Coombs asserts that to best respond to a crisis, the crisis type, history of the crisis, and the reputation of an organization must be considered. Once these elements of Coombs’s SCCT are discussed, the classes are required to consider Benoit’s Image Repair postures to develop their response content and tone. During the critique process, students are challenged to uncover the image repair strategy used by the other class and the organization. They also revisit their own crisis response to discern whether their posture is the best strategy for clear and effective crisis communication.

Evidence of learning assessment

At the core of designing the crisis exchange program is student learning goals and ways in which we may evidence their learning. The student learning assessment for this project is four-fold. First, pertaining to students evaluating a complex crisis, the professors employ the Spider Web discussion model, as described by Alexis Wiggins (2010), to document students’ contributions to discussions. Students may use the textbook and crisis response strategy worksheet (See Appendix B) to guide their conversational input.  

Next, students’ understanding of professional crisis strategies is assessed through students’ completing a reflective self-evaluation and nature of contributions made to the Spider Web discussion. Students’ abilities to apply crisis communication theories is assessed by evaluating the news release, social media post, and video response of the other class to analyze their response and provide feedback to those students. Feedback from the Spider Web discussion is also considered.  

Finally, students are required to develop a crisis response and provide a critique of a crisis response. This goal is assessed through the self-evaluation and level of critical analysis made about both college classes and the organization’s responses to the crises. Not only is this program engaging for students, but they learn and apply crisis communication theory to simulated crises.


Benoit, W. L. (1997). Image repair discourse and crisis communication. Public Relations Review, 23(2), 177-186.

Coombs, W. T. (2014). Ongoing crisis communication: Planning, managing and responding (4th ed). Sage Publications.

Solis, B. [@briansolis]. (2013, March 22). We live in a time where brands are people and people are brands [Tweet].  Twitter.  

Wiggins, A.  (2010). The best class you never taught. ASCD.

© Copyright 2022 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Kemp, K. and Palmer, C. (2022). Crisis exchange program. Journal of Public Relations Education, 8(3), 89-100.

Research-Evaluate-Create: Developing Multicultural Perspectives and Approaches for Strategic Visual Communication

Editorial Record: This article was originally submitted as an AEJMC Public Relations Division GIFTs paper, with a February 25, 2022 deadline. Top papers were submitted to JPRE June 2022, and accepted for publication at that time. Published November 2022.


Janis Teruggi Page, Ph.D.
Clinical Assistant Professor
Department of Communication University of Illinois at Chicago Chicago, Illinois

Overview of the assignment, including the rationale   

This project builds visual and multicultural communication proficiencies in students of public relations. It serves as a final project for a visual communication course that taught visual literacy, ethics, theory, and strategic communication practices including multicultural and global communication—guided by the textbook Visual Communication Insights and Strategies (Page & Duffy, 2022). This assignment’s main purpose is to inspire PR students to create purposeful and ethical visual communication. 

The assignment tasks students to select and research a developing country in order to strategize appropriate visual messaging. In many developing countries, poverty, literacy, environmental issues, and sanitation conditions impact what personal hygiene and health lifestyle products are needed and valued, and how their benefits can or should be communicated. Students also apply the principles of visual rhetoric, semiotics, metaphors, narratives, symbolic fantasies, and/or gestalt design principles (see key terms and definitions in Appendix B) through the creation of a design rough with elements that signify or refer to culturally meaningful ideas and symbols. For their chosen country, this final project activity challenges students to develop culturally relevant brand messaging for a personal hygiene or health lifestyle product that addresses social and environmental responsibility.  

Student learning goals 

1) Understand that cultural awareness and intelligence is needed for multicultural PR visual communication with global publics. 

2) Diagnose the strategy for appropriate visual communication by researching cultural dimensions and the societal, environmental, and economic profiles of developing countries. 

3) Gain insights on how to position and visually communicate socially responsible initiatives, services, and products within developing countries. 

4) Demonstrate knowledge of how visual theory can guide pictorial messaging.

4) Confidently simulate a client presentation.  

Connection to public relations practice and/or theory 

The global public relations markets expected to grow from $103 billion in 2022 to $149 billion by 2026 (BRC, 2022).      This expected growth is due to post-COVID-19 business recovery and adjustments to continued operational challenges. A rising need to gain competitive advantages is driving the PR market and bringing new challenges to PR professionals working for global agencies, MNCs, or NGOs. The strategic communicator must develop an understanding of a foreign market’s unique dynamics and cultural characteristics. It is critical for PR students to develop multicultural awareness, knowledge, and sensibilities to build their visual literacy and competencies in this important field. 

Research also suggests that MNCs will have a smoother road if they “stress the social role of the organization and . . . emphasize an active but intelligent involvement in changing and improving societal conditions” (de Brooks &      Waymer, 2009, p. 31). The Edelman Trust Barometer (2022), conducted with 36,000+ respondents in 28 countries, reports that societal leadership is now a core business function. The other institutions it tracks—government, media, and the nonprofit community—have steadily declined in public trust. It also finds the quality of information is the most powerful trust builder, with trust in business specifically increasing in many developing countries. 

The theory of cultural intelligence, defined as the ability to comprehend different beliefs, practices, attitudes, and behaviors in a country or market and apply that knowledge to attain one’s goals (Page &      Parnell, 2021     ), guides students, as future global PR practitioners, to learn and adapt to the cultural norms and expectations of the countries where their clients or organizations operate. 

Evidence of learning outcomes/assessment

This final project has been assigned to a 400-level class, Public Relations Visual Communications. Learning outcomes are evidenced through students’ initial workshopping their challenges with each other, presenting early stages of their projects to the class for brainstorming, and presenting their final projects for peer engagement, critique, and discussion. 

Students have researched the following countries: Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, Hungary, Albania, Croatia, Malaysia, Philippines, Fiji, India, Mozambique, Rwanda, Panama, Morocco, and Trinidad & Tobago, providing culturally relevant and socially responsible product ideas and visual messaging. For example, to help Malaysians take part in combating effects of climate change and reduce landfill waste, reusable paper towels carried four culturally relevant designs: star with moon (religion), top-spinners and kick ball (popular traditional games) and rainforests (land characteristics). To address period poverty in Hungary, eco-friendly reusable pads are introduced into a country where heavy taxes are imposed on feminine hygiene products. To combat plastic waste in Albania, a visual message uses pathos and moral appeals to encourage consumers to use biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes.  


BRC (Business Research Company) (2022). Public Relations Global Market Report 2022.

de Brooks, K. P., & Waymer, D. (2009). Public relations and strategic issues management challenges in Venezuela: A discourse analysis of Crystallex International Corporation in Las Cristinas. Public Relations Review, 35(1), 31-39. 

Page, J. T. & Duffy, M. (2022). Visual communication insights and strategies. Wiley. 

Page, J. T. & Parnell, L. J. (2021). Introduction to public relations: Strategic, digital, and socially responsible communications. Sage     .

Edelman. (2022). 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer     . 

Appendix A


Research-Evaluate-Create: Developing Multicultural Perspectives and Strategies for Public Relations Visual Communications

Instructions: You are on a researcher with a strategic communication      agency and your client is a hypothetical (not an existing) U.S.-based multinational corporation that manufactures personal hygiene and health products (shampoos, deodorants, lotions, fragrances, feminine products, tissues, drinking water solutions, healthier foods, etc.) that are socially and environmentally responsible. You must research and strategize a PR visual messaging campaign to introduce one of its new products (you must imagine one) to a developing nation. Don’t worry about your product being in competition with already existing products – that’s not the point. The point is to study a country’s culture and embed that culture into your product and the way you visually communicate it. 

There are 4 deliverables:

A. Memo to the Account Executive  

B. Creative Brief  

C. Rough Concept Design

D. Class Presentation with PowerPoint 


1. Search for the Wikipedia page “Developing Country” and scroll down  to find a list of developing countries. Choose a country.

2. Then search for the Hofstede Insights “Country Comparison” page and enter your country’s name to find its cultural dimension values. 

3. For further research, search for “The World Factbook-CIA.”  Once you select your country, explore the “People and Society” link in the lower left-hand contents bar.  Do further research as necessary.


Report your findings to the Account Executive in a Memo. Besides identifying the country and the product, the memo must specifically reference your research (Hofstede’s cultural dimensions and any additional research) to justify your recommendations for the product and visual messaging. As this is both a professional and academic document, it must include a minimum of 5 in-text citations and an end reference list. Required length: 350-400 words. (Instructors: if applicable, require students to also include X number of key terms, highlighted, from their study of visual theory/design concepts See list of Key Terms at end, drawn from the Page & Duffy textbook.) 

For your creative team, complete the following Creative Brief guided by the country’s cultural dimensions and any insights obtained from the World Factbook and any other sources. 

Creative Brief 

Country: ____________________________________________________________________

Summary of its cultural dimensions, noting the most significant: ________________________

Product: ____________________________________________________________________

The challenge: (Answer: What is the need?) ________________________________________ 

The solution: (Answer: How and why will you successfully meet the challenge?) ___________

The audience: (Answer: Who will your messaging target?) _____________________________

The intention: (Answer: What does the audience need to understand/feel?)_________________  

 The specifics: (Answer: How should the visual message look and function?)? ______________

Step Three: CREATE

To help guide the creative team, make a Rough Concept Design that follows your brief. It should be either a single frame or a short multiple-frame storyboard.   


 Build a PowerPoint presentation directed to your hypothetical client (to be delivered in the classroom or in a voice narrated PPT exported to video). In this presentation, you will summarize your findings, present your creative brief, and display and explain your design rough—noting the visual theory and design principles that guided it. The presentation must fall between (Instructors: determine online or in person and length parameters considering class size and any time constraints).

Appendix B

Key Visual Theory Terms (if required in Memo)

METAPHOR (Page & Duffy, 2022, pp. 125, 126)

Target – topic of the metaphor

Source – how the metaphor is framed 

   (Example: The wind (topic) is a lion (source) today.)

Analogies – similarities

Interactive theory of metaphor – metaphor as an aspect of language (The wind is a lion today) 

Conceptual metaphor theory – metaphor based on concepts/thoughts + not words alone (Politics is a game) 

Structural metaphor – abstract experience compared to simple experience (Life is a puzzle)

Orientational metaphors – metaphors organized in terms of spatial comparisons (Feeling up today)

Embodiment metaphors – metaphors using experiences of the body (That news is heavy)

Conduit metaphor – metaphors in which ideas are objects, expressions are containers for those objects, and communication is the sending of those containers (her feelings came through)

Synecdoche – use of a physical part of something to stand for the whole, or less commonly, the use of the whole to stand for a part.

Metonym – uses a close association with a concept—and not a physical part of it.

Personification – a physical object or entity is referred to or presented as a person, thereby suggesting human motivations, characteristics, and activities

Irony – a deliberate metaphorical expression that signifies an oppositional meaning—often implying sarcasm or seen as insulting. 2 types:  

Hyperbole – extreme exaggeration, often unrealistic or literally unbelievable, serving to emphasize an implied meaning

Litotes – uses diminishment and negativity to gain positive attention toward something

Adjacent images – both target and source are present in some proximity to each other 

Unified images – blends target and source into a single image

Implied images – compares two things that are not alike without showing one of those things

NARRATIVE  (Page & Duffy, 2022, p. 153) 

Narrative rationality — a capacity that humans inherently possess, allowing them to tell good from bad stories, moral from immoral stories, and acceptable from unacceptable stories

Narrative probability–the story’s logical coherence 

Narrative fidelity–the story’s truthfulness.

Formhow content is presented in spatial and temporal juxtapositions, and color and lighting.

Contentwhat a story says through characters, actions, and settings

Myths–recurring stories containing beliefs and values that are significant, long lasting, and widely accepted as being true within a culture

Idealistic/moralistic myth–one of brotherhood, valuing human equality, tolerance, charity, trustworthiness, community celebration, love, justice, and compassion

Materialistic myth–one of individual success, valuing entitlement, individualism, heroic achievement, persistence, initiative, self-reliance, pleasure, the entrepreneurial spirit, and success. 

Master analogue–a story’s deep structure myth, whether idealistic/moralistic or materialistic.

Archetype–original pattern; the basic building blocks of stories found in characters, situations, and symbols. 

Visual syntax—form (see definition of form)

Tropes–commonly recurring motifs in creative works

SEMIOTICS (Page & Duffy, 2022, p. 98) 

Ideology – body of beliefs and representations promote the values and interests of dominant groups within society

Gestalt –meaning suggested by grouping elements to make sense of the whole

Signifier – the visual image itself

Signified – the meaning suggested by the visual image

Denotation – direct, specific, literal meaning

Connotation – meaning that is subjective, depended on interpretation/cultural knowledge

Icon – sign that conveys similarities to the object.

Index – a sign that appears to have a factual connection with a missing object

Symbol – sign that associates with knowledge drawn from interpretation, and not through perceptions of similarity or factual connections.

SYMBOLIC CONVERGENCE THEORY (Page & Duffy, 2022, p.184)

Fantasies — imaginative ideas with symbolic meanings 

Fantasy Themes—shared imaginative ideas with symbolic meanings

Fantasy Type—a recurring fantasy theme

Convergence — sharing of the same emotions and embracing the same values

Rhetorical vision–a group consciousness; a collective, overall understanding; a worldview.  

Dramatis Personae–characters in real life, in a play, a movie, or any mediated product.  

Scene– physical or symbolic location (setting) of the action.

Plotline– underlying reason for the actions taken, or the conflicts faced, by the major 


Symbolic Cue– shorthand saying or image–recognized by participants–that stands for a more complete fantasy theme

Saga–oft-repeated telling of the achievements in the life of a person, group, community, organization, or nation.  

Chaining–when a story catches the attention of people in a group, they build on its meaning through their communication.  

Sanctioning Agent–bottom-line value that justifies the drama and legitimizes the rhetorical vision, or the course of action people take.

VISUAL RHETORIC (Page & Duffy, 2022, p.70)

Rhetoric – use of symbols in communication that’s crafted to modify the perspective of the receiver

Ethos – trustworthiness, credibility

Logos – use of reasoning

Pathos – force or feelings 

© Copyright 2022 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Page, J.T. (2022). Research-evaluate-create: Developing multicultural perspectives and strategies for public relations visual communications. Journal of Public Relations Education, 8(3), 79-88.

Special Issue Call for Papers | The GIFT Exchange

Special Issue – Volume 9(4), Journal of Public Relations Education

Special Issue Co-Editors:

Adrienne A. Wallace, Advertising & Public Relations, School of Communications Grand Valley State University,

Amanda J. Weed, Digital and Emerging Media, School of Communication & Media Kennesaw State University,


In 2018, the Commission on Public Relations Education (CPRE) released “Fast Forward: Foundations and Future State. Educators and Practitioners,” its most recent report on the state of public relations education. A key finding of this report noted that “there is still a gap between what educators believe they are teaching and what practitioners believe they find in new hires” (p. 45) when comparing “Fast Forward” to previous state of education reports published by CPRE. That insight points to a continuing need for educators to address the development of specific knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) in teaching that will prepare students to become successful entry-level practitioners in the field of public relations.

This special call seeks submissions of domestic or international Great Ideas for Teaching (GIFTs) that align with CPRE’s “Fast Forward” report to address specific knowledge (p. 47), skills (p. 49), abilities (p. 50), and traits (p. 51) that were rated by public relations practitioners as “most desired” for entry-level level practitioners in the field. Such KSAs include (but are not limited to):


  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Cultural Perspective
  • Business Acumen
  • PR Law & Regulation
  • Ethics
  • Social Issues


  • Writing
  • Communication
  • Social Media Management
  • Research & Analytics
  • Editing


  • Creative Thinking
  • Problem Solving
  • Critical Thinking


  • Curiosity
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Initiative
  • Time Management

Submissions to this special issue must be no more than 4,000 words including tables/figures, references, and follow APA (7th ed.) style guidelines. The GIFT submission should include:

  • Assignment Overview
    • Assignment rationale and how it addresses one or more of the most-desired KSA’s identified in “Fast Forward”
    • Assignment learning objectives
    • Connection to public relations practice and/or theory
    • How the assignment was class-tested
    • Empirical evidence of learning outcomes/assessment
  • Template Assignment Guide
  • Assignment Grading Criteria and/or Rubric
  • Teaching Note
    • Public relations classes for which the assignment is best suited
    • Best practices of implementing the assignment
    • Recommended resources related to the assignment
    • Limitations or challenges of implementing the assignment
  • References

Submission Guidelines:

Submissions should follow the Author Guidelines on the JPRE website. Authors should include the special call name in parentheses after their manuscript title to indicate the submission is for this particular special call. Authors should submit their manuscript through Scholastica, the online submission system for JPRE. All submissions will be anonymously reviewed, following the guidelines of JPRE. Authors must use APA style for citations, references, tables, and figures caption. All identifying information must be deleted before full paper submissions. Submissions will be double-blind reviewed by experts in PR pedagogy and practice.

Timeline with Key Dates:

  • Deadline for full manuscript submission to JPRE’s Scholastica submission portal:  June 9, 2023
  • Notification of review results, including invitations for revision and resubmission (R&R): August 15, 2023
  • Deadline for R&R submission: August 30, 2023
  • Scheduled Publication: Volume 9, Issue 4 (November/December 2023)

If you have any questions, please contact the guest editors for additional information:

Dr. Adrienne A. Wallace, Grand Valley State University –

Dr. Amanda J. Weed, Kennesaw State University –

Building Portfolios, Connections and Confidence: How Professors Can Leverage Student Writing Collections to Support Students’ Employment Opportunities

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
Drake University
Des Moines, IA

Kelly Bruhn, Ph.D., APR
Professor, Public Relations, Associate Dean, School of Journalism & Mass Communication
Drake University
Des Moines, IA

Eric Kwame Adae, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Public Relations
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Drake University
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.
Jenna –

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.

Casey Norton
Director, Corporate Communications
American Airlines
Office: 817-931-3051


The Assignment:

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.



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.

A Human-Centered SEO Approach to Creating Higher Ranking Content for Public Relations using a Content Clustering Method

Editorial Record: This article was originally submitted as an AEJMC Public Relations Division GIFTs paper, with a February 19, 2021 deadline. JPRE invited top GIFTs authors to submit to JPRE by June 18, 2021. First published in September 2021.


Adrienne A. Wallace, Ph.D
Associate Professor
School of Communications
Grand Valley State University 
Allendale, MI

Regina Luttrell, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Public Relations & Social Media
Syracuse University
Syracuse, NY

Rationale: The most successful PR practitioners know that writing is an essential skill that helps build relationships with various target audiences including reporters, influencers, and customers. As PR educators, it is our responsibility to prepare our students with the necessary writing skills to thrive in a digitally driven environment. To that end, it is critical we teach the importance of using search engine optimization (SEO) and artificial intelligence (AI) when developing content. This assignment teaches students how to optimize content for search engines using content clustering and the PESO Model.

One of the underlying principles of our work in content creation is to consider the idea of how SEO works in relation to what and why people are searching online. This is to understand the searcher’s intent and to make it easier for them to find what they are searching for. AI plays an important role in this process. We have seen AI find its way into customer service, online search and more recently the crafting of articles. These advances give rise to a new phenomenon for communicators: “content intelligence” (Fu et al., 2020). Brandon Andersen (2016), chief strategist at Ceralytics, defines content intelligence as “the science of identifying and predicting the content topics and themes that provide the most value to your audiences. It answers the question, ‘What content should I write?’” (para. 1). 

Content intelligence focuses on high-value content creation and the hyper-targeting of audiences. Current research would suggest one of the most challenging tasks of SEO experts and copywriters is creating or maintaining the balance between the creative element, search optimization, and connecting with a target audience (Fu et al., 2020). In today’s digitally expanding environment, we must teach our students how to develop content using SEO, keyword techniques and AI.

Student Learning Goals: 1) Develop a content creation strategy based on the importance of internet search, SEO, and AI; 2) Learn how to use and implement the content map.

Connection to PR Practice and/or Theory: With this in mind, we present the content cluster strategy and activity (Appendix A). Content clusters are a relatively new concept in SEO content strategy. A content cluster approach adopts topic modeling and internal linking to improve the human-centered user experience of content to boost search performance. Using Google’s website quality standards “E-A-T” (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) in addition to “YMYL” topics (Your Money, Your Life) this assignment uses search algorithms to develop a series of articles around the same topic or theme (Shepard, 2020). With audience search intents in mind, this GIFT is structured to teach students how to develop content using the content clustering model by implementing SEO and AI principles (Appendix B/C) (Dietrich, 2021). 

Evidence of learning outcomes/assessment: After completing this exercise together, the class engages in discussions to connect the premise behind search and AI, the incorporation of the PESO Model, and students’ own content development experiences. Students are excited to talk about their process. Overall, students felt this lesson helped them understand more clearly how to develop better content. They commented that the lesson put the course material into context. Beyond the theoretical and moving into the applicable, this assignment allows students to apply the material they learned to their own content creation by putting into practice the content cluster model.


Anderson, B. (2016). What is content intelligence? Ceralytics.,What%20content%20should%20I%20write%3F%E2%80%9D 

Dietrich, G. (2021, January 5). Why communicators must [finally] embrace the PESO model. SpinSucks. 

Dietrich, G. (2020, September 8). What is the PESO Model? SpinSucks. 

Fu, Y., Doan, K. N., & Quek, T. Q. (2020). On recommendation-aware content caching for 6G: An artificial intelligence and optimization empowered paradigm. Digital Communications and Networks, 6(3), 304-311.

Luttrell, R., & Masiclat, S. (2019, October 21). Asserting PR dominance: AI-driven strategy for digital communications [Conference session]. PRSA International Conference, San Diego, CA, United States.

Novak, J. D., & Musonda, D. (1991). A twelve-year longitudinal study of science concept learning. American Educational Research Journal, 28(1), 117-153. 

Shepard, C. (2020, June 19). Is Google E-A-T actually a ranking factor?-Whiteboard Friday. Moz.,they%20can%20directly%20impact%20rankings.&text=Now%2C%20in%20this%20case%2C%20we,There%20is%20no%20E%2DA%2DT%20score

Appendix A: Assignment

This lesson is taught as part of a unit on creating targeted messaging with key audiences in mind. Once the instructor has discussed the type of content students will be developing, it’s time to shift gears and discuss the content plan using content clustering driven by SEO and AI.

First, think of clusters as networks of related content. Like a mind map or a concept map (Novak & Musonda, 1991), both popular graphical tools for organizing and representing knowledge. In the center or at the top is your organization’s main topic. The main topic should be the most important keyword or phrase found in the content creation exercise. This could be narrow or broad in scope. From here, branch out to related subtopics and again into supportive topics. As the map begins to fill in, the final circles are “where the content lives.” This could be a blog, but it also could be an Instagram, Twitter feed, TikTok account, or website any form of media from the PESO Model (Dietrich, 2020). 

Teaching students the content cluster method helps them distinguish the relationship between ideas. Students should be able to differentiate how their ideas fit together, paying particular attention to where there is an abundance of ideas. Here is an example for the following goal: create a content cluster for visiting San Diego using the PESO Model Content Map.

Exercise/Activity: For this example, our main topic is places to go and things to do in San Diego.

Content creation always begins with building a comprehensive list of keywords. Content clusters are a series of behaviorally constructed rationales that are used to develop and deliver meaningful content based on keyword strategy (Luttrell & Masiclat, 2019). The parameters are established on Google’s search intents – I want to know, I want to go, I want to do, I want to buy. As an example, the professor offers this: if I’m a tourist and I’m planning a trip to San Diego I might search “Where should we go in San Diego?” or “What is there to do in San Diego?” 

First, instruct your students to develop a searchable list of keywords by conducting basic Google searches of core keywords surrounding the topic of San Diego. For each search, read the top five URLs to pull out related keywords and concepts. An important aspect to this exercise is to pay significant attention to the “related searches” keywords at the bottom of Google’s search engine results page (SERP). These related searchers give a glimpse into the minds of what others are searching. In the same way that Amazon provides customers with “frequently bought together” or “other customers purchased” help, students understand the related searches box is performing in the same way. By using algorithms and the science of AI, Google is essentially providing topics that are important and relevant to these search parameters. 

Using the example of the tourist visiting San Diego the instructor lists possible search questions: “Where should we go in San Diego?” and “What is there to do in San Diego?” 

In this example, the instructor has used both the “do” and “go” search parameters of Google. When one searches “San Diego + Things to Do” they get results that include La Jolla, at night, with kids, Old Town. By adding “October” to our search we’ve constricted our search further and then receive results that include “festivals,” “events” and “fall.” Asking where we should “go” provides results including “events,” “free,” “San Diego Zoo.” By digging deep, we can see people are searching for events related to parades, festivals, and even Legoland.

Here is a list of the three content clustering ideas based on this search:

Content Idea 1

The Ultimate Guide to Free San Diego

Content Idea 2

The Ultimate Family Guide to Free San Diego

Content Idea 3

Step-by-step planning guide to getting around Old Town

  • Where to shop
  • Where to eat
  • Old Town Trolly

Using the PESO Model Content map, in building out content idea 3, you can see that our activity branched out into the content topics of where to shop, where to eat, and the Old Town Trolly. The final bubbles in the content cluster map illustrate where content will be shared and promoted. This could include websites, videos, or social media channels. 



© Copyright 2021 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Wallace, A.A. & Luttrell, R. (2021). A human-centered SEO approach to creating higher ranking content for public relations using a content clustering method. Journal of Public Relations Education, 7(2), 213-220.

Pitch Perfect: Secrets of Media Relations

Editorial Record: This article was originally submitted as an AEJMC Public Relations Division GIFTs paper, with a February 19, 2021 deadline. JPRE invited top GIFTs authors to submit to JPRE by June 18, 2021. First published in September 2021.


Adrienne A. Wallace, Ph.D
Associate Professor
School of Communications
Grand Valley State University 
Allendale, MI

Jamie Ward, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Public Relations
Eastern Michigan University
Ypsilanti, MI

Regina Luttrell, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Public Relations & Social Media
Syracuse University
Syracuse, NY

Rationale: Public relations instruction is most effective when students are provided with opportunities to develop their capacities as practitioners. Educators often provide these applied experiences through academic service-learning partnerships, internships, and hands-on exercises. Media pitching is a unique, stylized process that requires a personalized approach gleaned through experience and persistence. Every pitch takes on a different feel based on the relationship with the blogger, editor, or reporter. Students commonly exhibit uncertainty constructing and delivering effective media pitches due to a lack of media experience and fear of rejection.

This activity (Appendix A) is appropriate for any course or student-run firm that would use media relations as a tactic. Following a firm theoretical foundation as described above, Meet the Media Speed Pitching uses Muck Rack’s Public Relations Pitching Guide (Muck Rack, n.d.-a) alongside their Public Relations Management (PRM) platform to work together as a class to research local media for our local client pitches. The Muck Rack PR Pitching Guide (Knollmeyer, n.d.) focuses on using the ‘core six’ combinations of news values most journalists and educators agree on (Timeliness, Impact, Prominence, Proximity, Conflict and Human Interest) as a rubric (Appendices B and C) for relevant pitching (Gatlung & Ruge, 1973; Shoemaker & Mayfield, 1987). Students then construct a pitch based on information gleaned from the State of Journalism Report (Muck Rack, 2020a) and the ‘core six’ criteria. There is a little bit of training of the target journalist selected who also evaluates the student pitch based on the ‘core six’ as well as their unique media type and audience in the feedback which leads to a meaningful dialog in a low-stakes environment for practice and reflection.

Connection to Public Relations Practice and/or Theory

By leveraging numerous mass communication theories, including gatekeeping theory (Lewin, 1947; Shoemaker & Vos, 2009; White, 1950), agenda setting theory (McCombs & Shaw, 1972); persuasion (Petty & Cacioppo, 1987; Miller, 1989), framing theory (Entman, 1993; Hallahan, 1999), and uses and gratifications theory (Blumler & Katz, 1974), the foundations of media messaging are explored, and students examine the benefits of creating audience focused messaging. This assignment has been developed as an introduction to the process of media pitching.  Recognizing that media pitching is a skill that requires creative thinking, persuasive communication, strategy, and media targeting, assessing best practices can be difficult and is often influenced by individual contexts. Possessing a firm understanding of mass media theory and a solid understanding of media pitch construction alleviates uncertainty and allows students to enter the field confident in their skill sets. 

Student Learning Goals

1) Draft pitches that are relevant and focus on use of the ‘core six’ combinations; 2) Deliver a pitch in a non-electronic high stakes environment; 3) Engage in meaningful dialogue on behalf of a client with a member of the media; 4) Networking with members of the media; 5) Practice researching, constructing, pitching and follow-up for a real client; 6) Real life/real time use of follow-up emails and phone calls with reporter post pitch; 7) Reflection on media relations process and experience.


The benefits to students are numerous, especially in relation to the PR industry where media relations is a core component. After completing this assignment, students recognize various mass communication and persuasive theories, identify the importance of strategy and targeting in PR, and analyze the role relationships play within the profession. This assignment is applicable to a variety of courses within the PR discipline including writing, social media, and case studies. This activity appeals to a wide range of students because it is interactive, allows for creative execution and community engagement. They are excited to learn how their creativity and personalized approaches play a role in their successes as future practitioners. Finally, higher levels of confidence regarding the ‘core six’ and lower levels of anxiety related to the process and prospect of pitching local media based on rubric feedback from professionals (Appendix B). 


Blumler, J. G., & Katz, E. (1974). The uses of mass communications: Current perspectives on gratifications research. Sage Publications.

Entman, R. (1993). Framing: Toward a clarification of a fractured paradigm. Journal of Communication, 43(4), 51–58. 

Galtung, J., & Ruge, M. (1973). Structuring and selecting news. The manufacture of news: Social problems, Deviance and the Mass Media, 1(62), 62-72.

Hallahan, K. (1999). Seven models of framing: Implications for public relations. Journal of Public Relations Research, 11(3), 205-242. 

Joffe, J. (2020, June 10). Nine media pitching tips directly from journalists. Spin Sucks.

Knollmeyer, S. (n.d.). An introduction to Pitches on Muck Rack. Muck Rack Blog.

Lewin, K. (1947). Frontiers in group dynamics II: Channels of group life; Social planning and action research. Human Relations, 1(2): 143–153. 

Miller, G. R. (1989). Persuasion and public relations: Two “Ps” in a pod. Public relations theory, 45-66. 

McCombs, M., & Shaw, D. (1972). The agenda-setting function of mass media. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 36(2), 176-187. 

Muck Rack’s Guide to Media Pitching. (n.d.-a). Muck Rack.

Muck Rack’s Guide to Media Databases. (n.d.-b). Muck Rack.

Muck Rack (2020a). The state of journalism report 2020.

Muck Rack (2020, May 28b). How to pitch in 2020, backed by statistics. Muck Rack Blog.

Petty R. E., & Cacioppo J. T. (1987). The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion. In R. E. Petty & J. T. Cacioppo, Communication and Persuasion Central and Peripheral Routes to Attitude Change (pp. 1-24). Springer-Verlag,. 

 Purdue Owl. (n.d.). Journalism and journalistic writing: Introduction. 

Shoemaker, P. J., & Mayfield, E. K. (1987). Building a theory of news content: A synthesis of current approaches. Journalism and Communication Monographs, 103, 1-36.

Shoemaker, P. J., & Vos, T. (2009). Gatekeeping Theory. Routledge.

Ward, J., Luttrell, R., & Wallace, A., (2020). PR ethics literacy: Identifying moral and ethical values through purposeful ethical education. Journal of Public Relations Education, 6(3), 66-80. 

White, D. M. (1950). The gatekeeper: A case study in the selection of news. Journalism Quarterly, 27(4): 383–390. 

 Appendix A: The Assignment: Meet the Media Speed Pitching 

This activity enables PR teams to work together to find the right journalists for their class or student run firm client stories, create customized pitches, build meaningful relationships with the local media, an incentive to monitor news and quantify their impact through the Muck Rack software for the client. 

Choose the style of your ‘media targets’ based on the level of course you have; for 200-level we tend toward low-medium pressure targets (see below for levels). For 300 to 400-level courses we go for the high-pressure target – the actual media. This gives us an opportunity to both network and practice by syncing up with some of our fave community mentors. 

For this activity you will need audiences for pitches, a large open space that you are able to cluster seating arrangements, or at minimum provide a 1:1 setting for an audience member and a student; or Zoom and breakout room access. PR students have three minutes with the audience targets selected to introduce themselves, share a bit about their organizations/clients and to pitch away for their in-class client. These three-minute meetings go fast – which means preparing students ahead of time with a plan becomes important to success and meaningful feedback.  

Before the speed pitching you should equip your students with: 

  1. A thorough understanding of theory as described in GIFT rationale
  2. A thorough understanding of media ethics and PR ethics (Ward et al., 2020)
  3. Students should be thoroughly briefed on the State of Journalism (Muck Rack, 2020a)
  4. Instruction on and practice of crafting a newsworthy press release using AP style (Purdue Owl, n.d.)
  5. Students should write up a client press release on something newsworthy
  6. Students should use Muck Rack or manually create a local media list based on client activity (Muck Rack, n.d.-a) – from this you should attempt to recruit your speed pitching media member line up
  7. Students should create an emailable pitch they will base this exercise on; pitching in person this newsworthy idea to local media (Muck Rack, 2020b)

After the ‘Meet the Media Speed Pitching’ activity: 

  1. Students should craft a follow up email for the media they engage with using the Nine Media Pitching Tips Directly from Journalists advice from Spin Sucks (Joffe, 2020). 
  2. Your class should also publicly thank your local media for their time and efforts as well as like, follow, share when possible their bylines to foster a longstanding relationship

Possible audiences for pitches:  

Low pressure Medium pressure

Pitch peers in class Pitch your PRSA chapter

Pitch peers on Zoom Pitch university student-led media

Pitch peers in a news writing class Pitch program alumni volunteers

High pressure

Pitch THE actual local media in person

Pitch THE actual local media on Zoom

Appendix B: Speed Pitching Rubric & Assignment

Appendix C Photos of Speed Pitch Event 2019

© Copyright 2021 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Wallace, A.A., Ward, J., & Luttrell, R. (2021). Pitch perfect: Secrets of media relations.  Journal of Public Relations Education, 7(2), 203-212.

Teaching Audience Analysis Through Worksheets: Approaching Audience Analysis as Qualitative Research

Editorial Record: This article was originally submitted as an AEJMC Public Relations Division GIFTs paper, with a February 19, 2021 deadline. JPRE invited top GIFTs authors to submit to JPRE by June 18, 2021. First published in September 2021.


Julia R. Hathaway, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, NY

Elizabeth Duesterhoeft
Undergraduate Student
Honors English Literature Program
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA

Nicole J. Leavey, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Practice
Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, NY

Karen L. Akerlof, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Environment Science and Policy
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA

Suzanne L. Mims
Adjunct Professor
Department of Communication
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA

Katherine E. Rowan, Ph.D.
Professor Emerita
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA


You are a new employee, and your boss has an important meeting soon. She requests a brief informing her on a new client, an environmentally friendly lawn care company. This brief is an “Audience Analysis,” a common task in strategic communication. Audience analysis involves researching an organization, its context, goals and challenges. While public relations faculty are familiar with audience analysis and its role in strategic planning, what may be less well understood is that students need the “how,” or procedures for systematic audience analysis. That is, students should learn audience analysis as qualitative research employers can review for thoroughness and accuracy. Unfortunately, these skills are under-taught.

Student learning goals

Science students may never study communication in their coursework, and fewer are taught to approach audience analysis in a disciplined manner. In addition, communication students learn about audience analysis, but may not be taught a systematic approach. To remedy this deficit, many universities are now offering courses in science communication as well as courses in communication strategy. These courses often involve projects helping real clients. Students enroll from a variety of backgrounds and know what they want to accomplish, but not how. One of the “how’s,” rarely taught in scientific contexts, is systematic audience analysis. Professionals skilled in systematic audience analysis are needed in government, nonprofits, and for-profits.

Connection to public relations theory and/or practice

Theory and practice show clients are most helped when practitioners understand and address their goals and challenges (Botan, 2018; Brunner, et al., 2018; Lutrell & Capizzo, 2019; Newsom, VanSlyke Turk, & Kruckeberg, 2013). Students can assist clients when they internalize “procedural knowledge” needed for thorough audience analysis. As Hillocks (1986) established, using experiments and meta-analysis, teaching students what we instructors want is inadequate. Focus should also be on procedural knowledge. Helping students understand what we want them to produce is useless without engaging them in how to do it (p. 240).

Evidence of student learning

We studied two strategic campaigns classes and two classes in communicating science to decision makers. In each, some students worked with environmentally engaged clients such as an environmentally friendly lawn care company or the U. S. National Park Service. In three of the four classes, students completed a systematic worksheet for audience analysis. In the fourth, they followed a detailed assignment that tapped social science theory to analyze the client’s request. Students received feedback on the thoroughness and accuracy of their analyses prior to meeting clients. Fifteen students were interviewed. Overall, they said disciplined audience analysis was enlightening and helpful. One science student said: “I just wouldn’t have thought to research my audience. . . I didn’t really think about . . what they value.” A communication student said: “Some . . . questions [on the worksheet] would not be things we would be thinking . . [and thinking] .  . about the audience . . can spark ideas.”

The assignment     

We append the Qualitative Research Approach to Audience Analysis Worksheet along with references. In the worksheet, students provide a concise sum of their findings following each set of questions. An environmentally friendly lawn care company is used as an example.


Botan, C. H. (2018). Strategic communication theory and practice: The cocreational view. Wiley-Blackwell.

Brunner, B. R., Zarkin, K., & Yates, B. (2018).What do employers want? What should faculty teach? A content analysis of employment ads in public relations. Journal of Public Relations Education, 4(2), 21-50.

Hillocks, G. (1986). Research on written composition: New directions for teaching. National Conference on Research in English and ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and Communication Skills.

Lutrell, R. M., & Capizzo, L. W. (2019). The PR agency handbook. Sage 
Publications, Inc.

Newsom, D., VanSlyke Turk, J., Kruckeberg, D. (2013). This is PR: The realities of public relations (11th ed.). Wadsworth


Qualitative Research Approach to Audience Analysis Worksheet

This assignment presents audience analysis as a procedure for qualitative research. It uses a planning worksheet. In this illustration, an environmental lawn care company is the client.

Students sum findings, and insert them after each question, which encourages conciseness. Instructors review completed worksheets for accuracy and thoroughness before students interview their client. These steps help students confirm their understanding of the client’s request and consider initial proposals.

  1. Client Basics

Students identify the standard and publicly available information about the environmental lawn care company. This baseline information includes, but is not limited to, organization name, address, contact information, or hours of operation. This information is summarized here.     

  1. What and Why

After compiling basic information, students learn the motivations or goal of the environmental lawn care company. What do they do and how do they function? How are they different from other lawn care companies? Brief examples or stories are helpful here.

3. Public/Audiences

Students identify the internal and external audiences for this company. Internal audiences might include employees. External audiences for the environmental lawn care company might include existing clients or investors, local environmental and gardening experts, extension agents, and governmental authorities monitoring drought, flooding, wetlands, or water quality.

4. Client and Stakeholders by the Numbers

Students find statistical ways of characterizing the audience. This may take the form of “likes” on social media, number of employees, or financial indicators, depending on what is most applicable for the environmental lawn care company. Other “numbers” could include years in business, annual sales, most requested services, and  types of customers (type of residence, business, size of lot, distance from company to customer sites).

5. Competitive Environment

Students identify competitors and other organizations that offer similar services to the environmental lawn care company, How does the company compare and why? What are the company’s strengths and weaknesses?

6. Trends, Issues

What are the trends impacting the environmental lawn care company? What issues affect how business is conducted? Are there tax incentives for certain uses of land? Regulations about wetlands, flood plains? Incentives for planting native trees and flowers? Incentives for reducing fertilizer?  Supporting pollinators? Discouraging deer, geese, or pests naturally? Replanting lawns with wild prairie grasses or flowers?  Xeriscaping?

7. Past, Present, Future

What’s the story of the environmental lawn care company? How did it get started? How has it developed? Why is it important that it is an environmental lawn care company, and what are the company’s future prospects, plans, goals, and interim objectives?

8. Humanize, Values

Humanize this company by learning its stories. Is the company socially responsible and how? Is the company trusted by customers and other publics? Do the owners and employees have community involvements?

9. Communication/Media Audit

Students seek publicly available data, or, if the client makes this possible, they seek data from private, paid sources. They should ask, what media have covered or could cover the company and why? When and how is the environmental lawn care company mentioned in news media? Is that coverage ad hoc or planned? What further media coverage — and by which outlets — would be most beneficial to the company’s goal? Does the company have a website?  What social media metrics are available? What are they?  Do customers and prospective customers use the same social media outlets or others? Is the business featured in news shared by gardening clubs, homeowners’ associations, retirees, schools, and universities?

10. Summarize Conditions Prompting Client Interest in Strategic Communication

Describe why the environmental lawn care company is seeking communication assistance at this time. Why is this important to them?

11. Summarize Client’s Communication Goal

Place a concise statement of what you think this client most wants here.

12. Behaviors Client Wants to Influence

What does the company most want?  Increased sales of expensive but environmentally beneficial services such as replanting wooded areas or xeriscaping?  Relationships with large clients such as local universities or large businesses?  What individual, social, political, and environmental factors affect the chances of creating enduring change among customers and the services they seek?  Consider tax incentives or political changes. What steps might incentivize short-term behavioral change such as discounts? 

More Evidence of Student Learning Outcomes

A number of interviewed students said completing the audience analysis worksheet was helpful.  Said one student about the value of disciplined audience analysis:

“[The class required] you . . . to be prepared before you start[ed] a task or project. If you’re not prepared, you’re going to be spending a lot of time to fill in those gaps.”

This student also said completing the worksheet assisted her in producing written products:

“It should be seamless. It should be, oh, the information’s right here, take that and transfer to the project at hand. Like if it’s a press release, who’s my intended audience? Let me look at the sheet so super useful tool to have.”

In addition, one instructor said the precision and detail of students’ responses to the worksheet was a good indicator of the effectiveness of their proposals for their clients:

“[A] detailed worksheet produces a better plan or proposal. And so, the weaker the worksheet, the weaker the proposal, because if this [the worksheet] is imprecise, . . . [the plan] isn’t going to have great ideas. Or it may have great ideas, but it may have nothing to do with what this [the problem] is.”

Looking back over several years of teaching, this instructor also reported that students who learned to complete audience analysis worksheets thoroughly, through repeated practice and feedback, have done well professionally:

“They’ve . . . been promoted . . .  they’re doing fantastic.”

© Copyright 2021 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Hathaway, J.R., Duesterhoeft, E., Leavey, N.J., Akerlof, K.L., Mims, S.L., & Rowan, K.E. (2021). Teaching audience analysis through worksheets: Approaching audience analysis as qualitative research. Journal of Public Relations Education, 7(2), 221-228.