Tag Archives: GIFT

Shifting the Paradigm – Improving Student Awareness of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Efforts Through Public Relations Campaigns

Editorial Record: Submitted to the Educators Academy of the Public Relations Society of America, June 8, 2020. This top paper submission was selected by JPRE in collaboration with PRSA-EA September 17, 2020. First published online May 2021.


Regina M. Luttrell, Ph.D.
Associate Dean for Research and Creative Activity, Assistant Professor
Syracuse University
Syracuse, NY
Email: rmluttre@syr.edu

Adrienne Wallace, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Advertising & Public Relations 
Grand Valley State University
Allendale, MI
Email: wallacad@gvsu.edu


As PR professors it is our responsibility to make diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)  top of mind when teaching our students to develop comprehensive campaigns. It is our role to educate the next wave of practitioners to take the “diversity first” approach when working with clients or organizations. Through learning how to apply the researcher-developed Diversity & Inclusion Wheel for Public Relations Practitioners, this paper illustrates how students can operationalize this tool to build strategic campaigns that encompass DEI principles.

Keywords: Public Relations, Campaigns, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, cultural competency 

Rationale: Through this activity, we seek to shift the paradigm of student awareness of diversity, equity, and inclusion practices in and through public relations campaign courses. Through learning how to apply the researcher-developed Diversity & Inclusion Wheel for Public Relations Practitioners, students can then operationalize this tool to build strategic campaigns that encompass diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) principles. Facilitation of cultural competence through relevant curriculum, such as public relations campaigns, empowers students (Pelletier, 2019) and breaks barriers of cognitive and cultural dissonance (Smith, 2019), which in this case applies to creating a “diversity first” approach of examination into, and development of, comprehensive communications campaigns with students. 

Targeted Learning Outcomes: 1) students become more comfortable with many of the aspects surrounding DEI, 2) students can demonstrate a deliberate and effective way for addressing various audiences through empathy and consideration of diverse populations using a customized tool built for PR practitioners, 3) students reflect on the importance of application of DEI efforts to campaigns and the field.

Teaching Practice & Assignment: During the first week of class, to help students begin to think critically about DEI issues, we first define diversity, equity and inclusion to set the stage for the semester and open the discussion surrounding the role diversity plays within the field of PR. We propose the following: diversity is the “difference or variety of difference or variety of a particular identity”; equity addresses the “resources and the need to provide additional or alternative resources so that all groups can reach comparable, favorable outcomes;” and inclusion involves the “practices, policies, and processes that shape an organization’s culture” (Beavers, 2018, p. 3). Rather than making DEI add-on elements of strategic communication campaigns and messages, practitioners should make conscientious decisions to put DEI considerations at the forefront of their planning. This model can be introduced in introductory level courses, then students can carry the model forward throughout their program of study. 

Next, we introduce the Diversity & Inclusion Wheel for PR Practitioners (Appendix A). This wheel is based on previous research by Dr. Lee Gardenswartz and Dr. Anita Rowe (1994, 1998). In doing so we teach our students how to develop more inclusive campaigns from the beginning – the “diversity first” approach. Explaining the wheel: the center of the wheel has six core spokes that brands should consider when beginning to develop a campaign – national origin, age, physical qualities/abilities, gender, race and ethnicity. The outer layer of the wheel, beginning at the top and moving clockwise around the wheel includes seventeen additional attributes such as marital status, religious beliefs, mental health/well-being, language, communication styles, thinking styles, education or language. The idea is not to incorporate every spoke or external layer represented in the D&I Wheel, rather to consider deeply whether the same people are continually represented and create a campaign that includes two or three inner spokes and an array of external layers presented here.

Step 1

To begin, students are given a recent PR case study or campaign to read chosen by the instructor. Allow the learners to read the case completely. Instruct them to highlight and make notes that illustrate direct connections to DEI principles. Additionally, students should go online to assess the digital assets available for the campaign. In this step students begin to connect specific areas of DEI to actual campaigns.

Step 2

Hand out a sheet of paper that has an image of a circle in the center of the page with a smaller circle in the center of that or have students take out a piece of paper and draw a circle in the center (Appendix B). Prompt the students to use the D&I Wheel as a guide (Appendix A). In the smaller circle, ask the students to identify at least two aspects from the center of the wheel. In the larger circle ask students to identify at least four aspects from the external portion that they believe were implemented in this case study. In this step, students investigate and identify multiple aspects of diversity, equity and inclusion. Here students begin to understand the importance of multidimensional diversity.

Step 3

Ask students to look up the diversity and inclusion policy of the company featured in the case study. They should analyze the principles of DEI and compare them to the case study they just evaluated. Do the company’s mission and values align with the campaigns they are executing? By doing this, students think critically about the messages being sent publicly versus the actions taken internally by organizations. Sometimes the two are at odds with one another.

Step 4

Open the floor to discuss the student findings from the exercise. The learners should provide examples from their discovery to fuel the conversation. Have students explore why certain decisions were made and why (or why not) certain representations are present. This assignment provides a foundation for instructors to use and refer back to often when conducting research, developing content, identifying strategies or planning campaigns. An add-on assignment is to have students write their own DEI statements that they can post to their website portfolios using concepts learned.

          Assessment & Student Reactions: Having taught this approach over the past two years, students consistently respond positively. Some comment that this is the first time they have been introduced to the D&I Wheel. Students become more comfortable with aspects of DEI (LO1), a student commented, “This was all new to me. I’ve never thought about diversity from a communication perspective. Other classes don’t use this concept and I wish they would.” While another remarked on the importance of application of DEI efforts to campaigns and the field (LO3), “I don’t know why this isn’t a standard part of learning how to put together an integrated campaign.” Others noted that before learning how to incorporate a diversity first approach from the research process throughout, they simply would include photos of diverse people. As a result of this practice, students can demonstrate a deliberate and effective way for addressing various audiences through empathy and consideration of diverse populations using a customized tool built for PR practitioners (LO2), whereas one student commented, “I used to think diversity was just making sure that different color people were in the pics I used for my assignments. Now I know that to really understand diversity we must take what we understand about culture, communication, gender and so much more and apply it to building content.”  Additional assessment results available in Appendix C.

Appendix A    

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Appendix B

Appendix C

Note: The instructors collected the following pre- and post- test attitudes over two semesters in campaigns courses, below are the results with regard to Student Attitudes and Perceptions of DEI in the PR Classroom.

  1. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are important to consider while building effective public relations campaigns.
  1. Diversity, equity, and inclusion education should be included in all classes related to public relations.
  1. I feel prepared to learn and effectively apply new material from textbooks, journal articles, blogs, etc. without classroom review on matters related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in public relations.
  1. I have sufficient background knowledge on diversity, equity, and inclusion related to public relations in order to apply these matters to campaigns successfully.
  1. I am open to learning more about how diversity, equity, and inclusion are related to public relations.
  1. I wish there were more offered in my public relations curriculum that addressed diversity, equity, and inclusion issues.


Beavers, D. (2018). Diversity, equity and inclusion framework: Reclaiming diversity, equity and inclusion for racial justice. The Greenlining Institute. http://greenlining.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Racial-Equity-Framework.pdf

Gardenswartz, L., & Rowe, A. (1994). Diverse teams at work: Capitalizing on the power of diversity. Chicago: Irwin.

Gardenswartz, L., & Rowe, A. (1998). Managing diversity: A complete desk reference and planning guide. McGraw Hill Professional.             

Pelletier, K. (2019, April 29). DEI and Empowering Students. Educause. https://er.educause.edu/blogs/2019/4/dei-and-empowering-students

Smith, K. C. (2019). Developing a culturally relevant curriculum and breaking the barriers of cognitive and cultural dissonance [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Wayne State University.

© Copyright 2021 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Luttrell, R. & Wallace, A. (2021). Shifting the paradigm – Improving student awareness of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts through public relations campaigns. Journal of Public Relations Education, 7(1), 200-209. https://aejmc.us/jpre/?p=2445

Synthesizing Primary and Secondary Research to Drive Strategy: A Final Project for a Strategic Communication Research Course

Editorial Record: Submitted to AEJMC-PRD GIFT Competition by Feb. 21, 2020. A blind copy was peer reviewed by the PRD Teaching Committee, led by Chair Chris McCollough, and selected as a Top GIFT. Top GIFT winners were notified on April 1, 2020. First published online on August 15, 2020.


Danielle LaGree, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, strategic communications
Kansas State University
Email: danilagree@ksu.edu 


The ability to sort through data to find insight and opportunity, and determine what is meaningful and meaningless, is critical for PR graduates entering the profession (Lum, 2017). Additionally, conducting research and developing strategy informed by data is the bedrock of the PR process (Commision on Public Relations Education, 2018). Students’ success in PR is dependent on their ability to not only conduct primary and secondary research but also synthesize what this data means relevant to the organizational context, challenges, opportunities, and goals. 

A research white paper, the final project for a strategic communication research course, allows the opportunity for students to leverage what they have learned throughout the semester, synthesizing data from a broad perspective to drive strategy. Students are provided with a hypothetical scenario about a real organization, as well as a fictional data set. They must confidently convey their conclusions and recommendations in an easy-to-read, visually appealing report functional for busy executive decision-makers. This project helps students understand how research comes full circle, illustrating its role in PR planning and execution.

Student Learning Goals

  1. Demonstrate understanding of how research data benefits and informs PR strategy and tactics
  2. Demonstrate ability to interpret data as it relates to organizational context, challenges, opportunities, and goals
  3. Successfully utilize research from credible secondary sources to further synthesize primary data and support/justify recommendations
  4. Confidently communicate research conclusions and strategic recommendations using the written word and visuals, such as charts, graphs, and images

Connection to Public Relations Practice

This assignment connects to the PR process known as ROPES (Page & Parnell, 2018) because it emphasizes research as a necessary starting point for producing effective, strategic PR initiatives. It provides the experience today’s PR graduates need to confidently recommend sound strategy informed by data. 

Assessment of Student Learning

  • Since implementing this assignment as the final project (in addition to other course changes), students’ self-report of “confidence handling research and data” moved from the bottom four rankings of student learning outcomes to the top four.
  • “I liked that I could see how everything connects and how it would be presented to a client. There were no gaps, and I wasn’t left asking how it would actually work in the ‘real world.’ I appreciated the challenge of having primary and secondary research to synthesize into recommendations. It was difficult at first, but I realized it made our presentation so much more credible and interesting. Before this class, I could not confidently connect data back to suggestions I was making. This project was challenging because I was forced to do just that.” – senior female
  • “I never thought I would say this about a research class, but this final project has been one of my favorites… I feel like the white paper really does a great job of incorporating everything we’ve learned this semester. We had to come up with a creative way to communicate our insights so that anyone could understand them, whether they’re an expert in this topic or not.” – senior male


Commission on Public Relations Education (2018). Fast forward: Foundations + future state. Educators + practitioners: The Commission on Public Relations Education 2017 report on undergraduate education. http://www.commissionpred.org/commission-reports/fast-forward-foundations-future-state-educators-practitioners/

Lum, E. (2017). Bridging the talent disconnect: Charting the pathways to future growth. The ANA Educational Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.aef.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/talent-2017study-v2.pdf.

Page, J. T., & Parnell, L. J. (2018). Introduction to strategic public relations: Digital, global, and socially responsible communication. Sage.

Appendix: Final Research White Paper Assignment

Client: National Park Foundation*

*This is a real organization but a hypothetical scenario

Background and Situation

The National Park Foundation (NPF) has made significant strides developing modern communications that have increased awareness about the organization. However, its most recent campaign, “Find Your Park,” is underperforming. Although it boosted awareness, it did not significantly increase national park visits. Additionally, the communications team believes there is a lack of understanding of what NPF actually does.

Your team was hired to conduct a nationwide survey, analyze and communicate the results, and recommend three creative strategies for NPF’s next targeted campaign. NPF wants this campaign to increase understanding of what NPF does, ultimately cultivating long-term support for and appreciation of NPF’s efforts.  

Your results analysis should reveal insights about the following:

  1. Understanding and perceptions of the National Park Foundation
  2. Perceptions of national parks as a travel destination
  3. Media use behaviors related to the outdoors/travel

Assume you already distributed the survey and a statistician ran the data (see results in section titled “Survey Results”). You will interpret the data and communicate results in a visual and meaningful way to the client, meaning that you should clearly make the connection between insights, how the insights are relevant to the client’s situation, and how the insights inform your creative strategies. 

Deliverables: White Paper

“A white paper is a persuasive, authoritative, in-depth report on a specific topic that presents a problem and provides a solution” (HubSpot, 2018, para. 5). Click here for more information on white papers. 

There are a lot of free resources to make your white paper visually appealing. I recommend using Canva to design your white paper or Adobe InDesign if you are comfortable. 

Your white paper should be no more than 8 pages in length and consist of the following sections:

  • Cover Page: Title your white paper and include author information.
  • Executive Summary: An executive summary is a brief snapshot of the entire white paper. In two to three paragraphs, explain the purpose of the white paper; in three to four paragraphs, identify the most important findings and provide a brief overview of your creative strategies.
  • Survey Results: Use charts, graphs, icons, or other visuals. (as well as words to support the visuals) to visually communicate the survey results. This means that the client can skim the report and easily understand key information. Additional commentary should support the “hard data” to explain what it means/how it is relevant to the client’s situation.
  • Supporting Insights: Use secondary research from at least three different sources to provide additional information you think would be valuable for the client, given the survey results. This section should include three to five key insights.
  • Creative Strategies: In this section, you will recommend three creative strategies that are informed by your survey data and secondary insights. These are strategies (not tactics), which means they should be broad ideas that align with what the client wants to accomplish.


10 pts. Executive Summary | Provides a snapshot of the entire white paper and includes the following information: purpose of the report, three to four of the most important findings, and a discussion of how the client can move forward. Persuasive argumentation is evident.

25 pts. Survey Results | Visuals clearly and appropriately illustrate all survey results; attention to question type and standard deviation is demonstrated; results are communicated in a way that reflects what the client wanted to learn from the research and why the data is relevant/meaningful.

25 pts. Secondary Insights | Insights come from established, credible sources; relevant and meaningful in light of client’s situation and goals; necessary details are included (e.g., survey population); sources are cited appropriately.

25 pts. Creative Strategies | Three clear strategies are provided that align with the client’s situation and challenge. Strategies are appropriate given primary and secondary data.

10 pts. Design and Formatting | Visually appealing, creative, reflects the brand’s look and feel. Entire white paper flows well from start to finish; is no more than 8 pages in length (excluding cover page); different sections are easily recognizable; cover page is professional yet creative.5 pts. Writing Technicalities and Tone | No spelling/grammatical errors; professional and confident tone.

National Park Foundation Survey Results (note: fictitious data)

SURVEY DATA (N = 1,500)

I understand that the National Park Foundation serves all national parks by protecting them for generations to come.  (yes/no) AGE21-30: Yes = 72%; No = 28%31-40: Yes: 37%; No = 63%41-50: Yes = 44%; No = 56%51+: Yes = 87%; No = 13%  
Which of the following efforts do you most associate with NPF? (check all that apply)
__ Protecting the wilderness__ Connecting children to the outdoors__ Supporting local communities__ Inspiring the next generation of park stewards and enthusiasts
(41%) Protecting the wilderness(17%) Connecting children to the outdoors(5%) Supporting local communities(8%) Inspiring the next generation of park stewards and enthusiasts
The National Park Foundation:*is an apolitical organization (i.e., not affiliated with any particular political group)is essential for protecting public landshelps me understand how I can contribute to protecting public landsis successful in advocating for all national parksis a good resource for planning trips to national parks(*Likert scale 1 = strongly disagree; 7 = strongly agree)is an apolitical organization
(M = 2.3; SD = 0.5)is essential for protecting public lands
(M = 6.2; SD = 0.7)helps me understand how I can contribute to protecting public lands
(M = 4.5; SD = 1.4)is successful in advocating for all national parks
(M = 3; SD = 1.8)is a good resource for planning trips to national parks
(M = 1.5; SD = 0.5)
To me, visiting national parks as a travel destination with family and friends is**:Easy – – – – – – ComplicatedAppealing – – – – – – Not appealingTime consuming – – – -Not time consumingAffordable – – – – – – Expensive
(**Semantic differential scale 1-7)
Easy-Complicated (M = 6.1; SD = 0.3)Appealing-Not appealing (M = 2; SD = 0.6)Time consuming-Not (M = 1.4; SD = 1.8)Affordable-Expensive (M = 1; SD = 0.5)
I would like to learn about the following regarding travel planning to national parks (check all that apply):__Places to stay in/near national parks__Community events/festivals in/near national parks__Live entertainment in/near national parks__Immersive outdoor experiences in/near national parks
Places to stay in/near national parks (80%)Community events/festivals in/near national parks (22%)Live entertainment in/near national parks (15%)Immersive outdoor experiences in/near national parks (95%)
Which of the following forms of communication/media do you prefer to learn about outdoor travel destinations? (check all that apply)FacebookInstagramPromotional emailsRecommendations from friends and/or familyOther (please specify)________DATA BY AGE GROUP21-30:Facebook (40%)Instagram (89%)Promotional emails (50%)Recommendations from friends and/or family (70%)Other (please specify)________
Google search; travel bloggers; Insta stories

31-40:Facebook (51%)Instagram (78%)Promotional emails (62%)Recommendations from friends and/or family (80%)Other (please specify)________
Netflix documentaries/features; Google search; mom bloggers on Instagram

41-50:Facebook (67%)Instagram (54%)Promotional emails (75%)Recommendations from friends and/or family (91%)Other (please specify)__
Tripadvisor; Google search; magazines (Family Circle, Parents)

51+:Facebook (85%)Instagram (15%)Promotional emails (27%)Recommendations from friends and/or family (78%)Other (please specify)__
Tripadvisor, Yelp, Google search

© Copyright 2020 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: LaGree, D. (2020). Synthesizing primary and secondary research to drive strategy: A final project for a strategic communication research course.  Journal of Public Relations Education, 6(2), 142-149. http://aejmc.us/jpre/2020/08/13/synthesizing-primary-and-secondary-research-to-drive-strategy-a-final-project-for-a-strategic-communication-research-course/

From Acronym to Application: PESO Comes to Life

Editorial Record: Submitted to AEJMC-PRD GIFT Competition by Feb. 21, 2020. A blind copy was peer reviewed by the PRD Teaching Committee, led by Chair Chris McCollough, and selected as a Top GIFT. Top GIFT winners were notified on April 1, 2020. First published online on August 15, 2020.


Arien Rozelle
Assistant Professor, media and communication
St. John Fisher College
Email: arozelle@sjfc.edu

Students in PR Research and Planning are given a semester-long assignment that asks them to develop an integrated campaign for a real client. Throughout the course, students are introduced to a variety of PR models and theories, including the PESO model. This model, created in 2014 by Gini Dietrich, author of Spin Sucks and creator of the PESO model certification, is a typology of the four types of media: paid, earned, shared, and owned. 

This in-class PESO activity–which simulates a strategy session that would take place in an agency setting–is conducted following an introductory lecture on the PESO model. This activity helps students identify different paid, earned, shared, and owned tactics, as well as conceptualize campaigns from an integrated perspective, moving PESO from acronym to application.

This PESO activity was inspired by Frederik Vincx, a designer and entrepreneur, who created a “PESO Kit” based off of Dietrich’s model.

Student Learning Goals

  • Enable students to understand and effectively apply strategic communication planning processes, problem-solving strategies, and operational techniques. 
  • Give students hands-on experience preparing real public relations campaigns for actual clients.
  • Enhance students’ ability to design, carry out, and analyze professional-quality projects using current communication and media technologies to address client needs related to public relations and/or reputation management. 

Connection to Public Relations Practice
The PESO model was created for the purpose of communication planning. Since it was introduced in 2014, it has become widely adopted in practice. This activity helps students apply a model that is commonly used by practitioners. 

Evidence of Student Learning Outcomes

Below are selected testimonials from students, used with their permission:

“The PESO activity was a useful way to learn more about the PESO model. For me, learning visually is really important and helpful. Instead of just hearing about the PESO model, doing an interactive activity where I could physically organize types of coverage into a real PESO model helped me remember the differences and work through the specifics of the tool itself. It was also interesting to talk through the differences between the categories and how they all compare and contrast.” – Lizzy B.

“The PESO activity helped me recognize what kind of tactics fit it to the different areas of media. It also helped me realize the importance of using a combination of paid, earned, shared, and owned media when running an integrated public relations campaign. It was helpful to have a visual of all the different tactics to give us ideas of what to use in our campaign.” – Colleen S.

“The activity was a great way to put all aspects of media down and be able to truly define what they all stood for. It allowed us to decipher which ones would be most beneficial to implement into our campaign based on our strategies and target audience. [It] was a great way of collaborating with our groups and brainstorming how each medium would fit into our campaign.” – Kyle A. 


Dietrich, G. (2014). Spin sucks: Communication and reputation management in the Digital Age. Que Publishing.


From Acronym to Application: PESO Comes to Life Assignment
After students are given an introductory lecture about the development and details of the PESO model, they are then given the PESO Activity directions. Each agency (groups of 3-4 students) is provided with a poster size Venn diagram of the PESO model (image below), along with a PESO menu (below), and corresponding physical PESO cards. They are asked to fill out the cards, identifying the tactics by media channel (paid, earned, shared, owned). They write the tactic on the card, then place the card on the Venn diagram. Additional directions below.

Used with permission from Gini Dietrich

PESO Activity Directions

Step 1: Using the PESO menu, identify the tactics by media channel (paid, earned, shared, owned). Write the tactic on the corresponding PESO card until you have a card for every tactic.

Step 2: Arrange the PESO cards on the PESO Venn Diagram poster according to media type.

Step 3: Take a photo for your files!

Step 4: Review your results and discuss any new ideas with your agency. What tactics would make sense to use for your campaign? 

Step 5: Remove the tactics you don’t want to use for your campaign. What’s left should be a visual representation of your campaign. 

Step 6: Take a photo for your files!

Step 7: Agency discussion: is this an integrated campaign? How will this help you achieve your objective? Have you conducted sufficient research? How will you measure success? What did you learn?

Have fun! 


Sponsored Facebook postsPrint adCustomer storiesInfluencer outreachThought leadership contentEmployee storiesCurated event
Media pitchingWebinarSponsored TweetsEmail newsletterMedia tourNative advertisingBrand ambassador
Blog postPodcastInstagram postsSlideShare or PPT presentationVideo (YouTube, Vimeo)User generated contentBlogger event
InfographicBrochureE-bookGuest blog postsSponsored LinkedIn “InMail”Brand journalismCharity tie-in

PESO menu. These examples of paid, earned, shared and owned media give students a starting point for the assignment.
PESO cards, not to scale. They are about the size of a traditional business card. The cards are laminated and can be written on with dry erase marker. Students write each tactic from the PESO menu onto a corresponding PESO card. They then place the cards on the PESO Venn diagram poster.

© Copyright 2020 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Rozelle, A. (2020). From acronym to application: PESO comes to life.  Journal of Public Relations Education, 6(2), 168-173. http://aejmc.us/jpre/2020/08/13/from-acronym-to-application-peso-comes-to-life/

Who’s Out There? Using Google Analytics and Social Media Data to Research Online Publics

Editorial Record: Submitted to AEJMC-PRD GIFT Competition by Feb. 21, 2020. A blind copy was peer reviewed by the PRD Teaching Committee, led by Chair Chris McCollough, and selected as a Top GIFT. Top GIFT winners were notified on April 1, 2020. First published online on August 15, 2020.


Melissa Adams, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, public relations
Appalachian State University
Email: adamsmb2@appstate.edu


This assignment was designed as an in-class workshop for public relations students, working in “agency teams,” as part of their senior capstone campaigns course. For the first stage of their campaign proposal (also referred to as “book”) development, students are required to research the online publics of the client organization. This work builds upon the information shared during the client briefing and helps students prepare for doing primary research of their own prior to campaign development. This assignment illustrates the value of digital research methods to understand who is already following the organization online and how they are engaging with them and their content. Finally, this assignment provides students with the opportunity to dig into analytic data and work as a team to analyze findings and develop profiles of key publics––much in the way one would in a professional agency setting.

To do this assignment, students work individually to complete the worksheet but sit together to discuss it as part of their previously formed agency teams. This arrangement allows students who may have had some exposure to online audience research or Google Analytics to assist teammates who do not, and it provides the instructor more freedom to move around the room to help each team or answer questions as needed. Each student must have access to WiFi and a device with internet access capability to complete the assignment. 

Student Learning Goals

This assignment will help students gain knowledge and cultivate skills in the following areas:

  • Build research skills through the use of secondary data analysis (Google Analytics and social media accounts). 
  • Develop analytic acumen through the synthesis of multiple data points to develop profiles of organizational publics.
  • Understand how to perform a basic social media audit for a client.
  • Gain experience working with actual client organization data to develop a campaign addressing current business/organizational goals.

Connection to Public Relations Practice and Theory

Understanding how to access, analyze, and synthesize digital data to provide insights into client publics as part of campaign planning and evaluation is a necessary skill in digital public relations. This assignment mimics basic research activities I performed in the industry as part of campaign planning, which involved analyzing new client social outreach and messaging issues. The assignment may be used in any public relations or social media course focused on strategy and campaign planning. However, the client must provide access to its analytics account to the instructor, which is a minor process requiring less than a minute of their time. As Google Analytics is a free service for all but the very largest organizations, it is commonly used by nonprofits as well as small to medium-sized businesses to track their online engagements and campaigns. Therefore, most instructors should be able to identify clients who use the platform. If for some reason instructor access is not possible, the assignment may easily be adapted to rely on Google Demo Account data. 

In preparation for this assignment, students take part in an instructor-led tour of the client’s Google Analytics account and data to familiarize themselves with the platform and standard reports. Special emphasis is placed on the overview reports for demographics and social media traffic. This tour takes place just after client discovery at the start of the course as we discuss the research stage of campaign planning and students read the “Formative Research” section of the assigned text (Smith, 2017). 

The reading complements a short lesson on public relations research and supporting theory, including the situational theory of publics and the four levels of activation publics (Grunig & Hunt, 1984; Grunig, 1997). The lesson notes that campaigns may target non-active publics and that through analysis of social media and analytics data, we can start to identify these levels of activity in the client’s online audiences. This theoretical connection is extended by asking students “Who is missing?” in relation to the client’s online publics. Thinking about inactive or latent publics as simply “missing” from the online data helps students understand that it is often just as important for practitioners to know who they are not reaching online, as it is to know about who they are, as those publics may be key to the organization (Hallahan, 2020). This critical consideration is incorporated into the assignment as a search for missing publics. Following this lesson and discussion, students are then ready to start their research, and the assignment serves as the official “kickoff” for their campaign project. Students access client analytics via a generic Gmail account set up by the instructor for this purpose and conduct searches to identify client social media accounts for observational analysis.

Evidence of Learning Outcomes

 Learning outcomes for this assignment are evidenced during the in-class workshop and in the students’ written research chapter of their client campaign proposals. Additionally, students are asked to prepare and present a short research report to their classmates following data collection and analysis for the research phase of the project. The research presentations allow students an opportunity to observe, critique, ask questions, and provide peer feedback and ideas for improvements. Finally, evidence for the efficacy of this assignment has been indicated in course evaluations as students noted they appreciated the opportunity to develop “real world” experience to understand how Google Analytics and social media auditing may be used in public relations research. Evidence of both positive learning outcomes and the value of the assignment have been provided by former client organizations through anecdotal feedback at the end of the semester following student presentations and review of final campaign proposals. According to one former class client, student research produced as part of this exercise included some “eye-openers” that helped them move beyond assumptions about their online audiences. 


Grunig, J. E., & Hunt, T. (1984). Managing public relations. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Grunig, J. E. (1997). A situational theory of publics: Conceptual history, recent challenges and new research. In D. Moss, T. MacManus, & D. Vercic (Eds.), Public relations research: An international perspective (pp. 3–48). International Thomson Business Press.

Hallahan, K. (2000). Inactive publics: The forgotten publics in public relations. Public Relations Review, 26(4), 499–515. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0363-8111(00)00061-8

Smith, R. D. (2017). Strategic planning for public relations (5th ed.). Routledge.


Double-Sided Assignment Instructions & Worksheet 

Assignment: Audience Analysis (Identifying online publics)

Research Objective: Develop basic descriptions of the organization’s publics using Google Analytics and the client’s social media accounts to research. 

Time to complete: 45 minutes to 1 hour. 

This assignment helps provide the foundation for the Publics Analysis in the Research section of your campaign proposal. 

Assignment: For this assignment, you will analyze the client’s publics who are visible on owned social media accounts. You will also use Google Analytics to look at traffic visiting their website. Note the demographics represented and try to identify (by predominance) the primary public and secondary public currently engaged with their online efforts. Be sure to answer all the questions noted in the instructions!

  • Give each public a distinctive name that describes them demographically or by their interests (example: “Local enviro-loving millennials”). Record these on your worksheet. Also make notes of any observations about the behavior(s) of these publics that might inform your campaign (example: most engagement on the weekends). We will discuss our analysis during our next class. Be sure to turn in your worksheet when finished. (You may use the reverse of this worksheet or attach an additional sheet of paper if needed.)
  • Note any “missing” publics (example: ages, genders, locations the client serves that are not represented in current followers and traffic reports. (By “missing” publics, I’m referring to any groups not represented in the data we can access––but could be a target public that the organization desires to reach out to. Remember our discussion of active vs. inactive or unaware publics?) 

Social Media Analysis Instructions:

  1. Using the client website or Google search, identify ALL of the client’s social media accounts. (In addition, once these are found, go ahead and follow them (put yourself in the stream of the client’s social media communication!)
  2. Record the metrics from their platforms (example: 22,002 Facebook followers).
  3. Look at their social followers (user profiles)––who are they? Click on user profiles to see what you can see. Are they students? Employees? Where do they live? Try to discern some basic demos from these profiles, as well as where they live, interests, etc. Make notes on the back of this page.
  4. Then, try to find the most popular topics and/or posts. What is the conversation about? What content has generated the most comments or interactions (shares, etc.)?
  5. Examine at least two months of social media data. If possible, examine more (six months) to gain even more insight into their social audiences.

GA Analysis Instructions: 

  1. Log into Google Analytics (Gmail account – ____________ @gmail.com /password = _______.) BE SURE TO LOG OUT OF YOUR GMAIL & ALL GOOGLE ACCOUNTS (including Drive) FIRST!
  2.  Look at one year of data. Also look at demographics and simple data like time of day the website receives the most traffic. (To change dates, click on the dates in the top right and a box will open.)
  3. Where does most of their web traffic come from? (Go to “Acquisition” – then “Source/medium.”)
  4. How much of their traffic comes from social media and which platform drives the most visits? (“Social”– then “Networks.”)

REMEMBER – the goal of this assignment is to gather information for your publics research. The more detail, the better! Let me know if you need help with Google Analytics or anything else.

WORKSHEET – Please record your metrics and audience description notes below.

Platform Metrics

Facebook: Instagram:   Twitter: YouTube:

Other (list below):

Primary (Online) Public Name: ____________________________________

Description (include demographics, interests, etc.)

Secondary (Online) Public Name: ____________________________________

Description (include demographics, etc.)

Missing publics?

Name: ____________________________________

Description (include demographics, etc.)

Name: ____________________________________

Description (include demographics, etc.)

General observations: 

© Copyright 2020 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Adams, M. (2020). Who’s out there? Using Google Analytics and social media data to research online publics.  Journal of Public Relations Education, 6(2), 174-181. http://aejmc.us/jpre/2020/08/13/whos-out-there-using-google-analytics-and-social-media-data-to-research-online-publics/

Diverse Voices in the History of Public Relations

Editorial Record: Submitted to AEJMC-PRD GIFT Competition by Feb. 21, 2020. A blind copy was peer reviewed by the PRD Teaching Committee, led by Chair Chris McCollough, and selected as a Top GIFT. Top GIFT winners were notified on April 1, 2020. First published online on August 15, 2020.


Arien Rozelle
Assistant Professor, media and communication
St. John Fisher College
Email: arozelle@sjfc.edu


In 2018, the Commission on Public Relations Education released the Report on Undergraduate Education, Foundations + Future State. Educators + Practitioners, in which diversity and inclusion was noted as being a key area of emphasis. In the section “Diversity: An Imperative Commitment for Educators and Practitioners,” the report states:

Efforts to improve D&I knowledge must start at the academic level. We recommend educators place focus on how diversity and multicultural perspectives are taught in the classroom, and commit to integrating D&I focused topics and discussions in the curriculum. (p. 139) 

This assignment, “Diverse Voices in the History of Public Relations,” takes a historical approach to this directive, allowing students to discover important and diverse figures in the history of public relations.

In October 2018, the PRSA Foundation, in partnership with the Museum of Public Relations, published the book Diverse Voices: Profiles in Leadership (Spector & Spector, 2018), featuring profiles of more than 40 multicultural leaders in the field of public relations. Diverse Voices served as the inspiration for this assignment, which was given to students in Introduction to Public Relations during a unit about the history of public relations. In this assignment, students are asked to research a lesser-known figure in the history and evolution of the field, and produce a two-page paper about their life, work, and lasting contribution to the field of public relations. 

Student Learning Goals

  • Learn about the history and development of public relations.
  • Identify a relatively “unknown” public relations practitioner, their contributions to the field of public relations, and their long-term impact on the field. 
  • Emphasize the importance of diversity in the field of public relations.
  • Apply information learned from research sources and course content. 
  • Familiarize students with the Museum of Public Relations and the Journal of Public Relations Research.

Connection to Public Relations Practice
The Public Relations Society of America (n.d.) has identified Diversity & Inclusion as an area of emphasis, stating: 

While the practice of public relations in the United States has undergone dramatic changes, a lack of diversity in the communications profession persists. Many studies indicate that the industry still struggles to attract young black, Asian and Hispanic professionals to pursue public relations as their career of choice. (para. 1)

As the public relations industry makes a push toward greater diversity and inclusion, it’s important that we educate future public relations practitioners about the diverse voices in the history and evolution of modern public relations. While many public relations textbooks still refer to the “founding fathers” of public relations, this assignment asks students to go beyond the stories and lives of P.T. Barnum, Ivy Lee, Edward Bernays, and Arthur W. Page.

Evidence of Student Learning Outcomes 

Most students were excited to explore diverse figures in public relations and appreciated working on an assignment related to diversity. Many students reported they were surprised by what they found and appreciated the social justice connections to this assignment. Here is a sampling of student responses to the assignment (shared with their permission):

“It surprised me just how much our textbooks do not tell us about the beginnings of public relations. I found the assignment very beneficial to my understanding of PR, as it completed the goals you listed, and I would recommend it to future classes you teach.” – Justin L.

“The assignment allowed me to research and become aware of important figures within the PR field that have historically been left out of the conversation or have not received recognition for their work. The research done to complete this assignment showed that the PR industry has plenty of room for growth and improvement in hopes of becoming a more inclusive field, so all groups can be represented and heard effectively. This assignment was one of my favorites.” – Madison B.

“This assignment helped me understand the importance of diversity because with just reading the textbook I would have never known that there were diverse people in public relations. With this assignment I was allowed to research and learn about so many different people and see what they contributed to public relations.” – Emma A.

“I enjoyed this assignment because I was able to research public relations practitioners who have made great contributions to the field but don’t get the recognition that they necessarily deserve. I also thought it was helpful because we were able to explore diversity in the field.” – Gabriella G.


Commission on Public Relations Education. (2018). Fast Forward: Foundations + future state. Educators + practitioners: The Commission on Public Relations Education 2017 Report on undergraduate education. http://www.commissionpred.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/report6-full.pdf

Public Relations Society of America (n.d.). Diversity & Inclusion. Retrieved Feb 8, 2020, from https://www.prsa.org/about/diversity-inclusion

Spector, S., & Spector, B. (Eds.). (2018). Diverse voices: Profiles in leadership. PRMuseum Press.


Diverse Voices in the History of Public Relations Assignment

Students are asked to research a lesser-known figure in the history and evolution of the field and produce a two-page paper about their life, work, and lasting contribution to the field of public relations. 

After students have read “The History of Modern Public Relations” (Chapter 2), from Introduction to Strategic Public Relations (Page & Parnell, 2018), they are given a starting point—a list of historical figures in public—and are asked to choose one person they would like to learn about. The responsibility of further, in-depth research is then in the hands of the student. This student-centered approach to learning shifts the responsibility from the professor as storyteller to the student as historical investigator and storyteller. This independence and ability to choose gives students a bit of autonomy over their work, relieves added research pressure, and allows them to focus on developing curiosity and critical thinking through this assignment.

Through their research, students take an inquiry-based approach, acquiring new knowledge by investigation. They build on their existing knowledge of the history of public relations through this assignment and begin to take a more critical approach to the way that the history of public relations has been presented in many textbooks. In doing so, this assignment empowers students to learn about diverse voices in the history of the field and to understand some of the critical issues of diversity and inclusion that still persist today. 


In order to discover diverse voices in the historical development of public relations, this assignment asks students to conduct research and to tell the story of one of the following public relations practitioners:

  • Joseph V. Baker
  • Ofield Dukes
  • Doris Fleischman
  • Muriel Fox 
  • Barbara W. Hunter
  • Inez Kaiser
  • Moss Kendrix 
  • Betsy Plank

Students are asked to consider the following:

  • Who is the person, where are they from, where did they work?
  • Why are they important to the field of public relations? What were their major contributions to the field of public relations?
  • What is the long-term impact of their work on the field of public relations?
  • How did/does their legacy continue to shape the field of public relations today, specifically with respect to the need for greater diversity and inclusion in the industry?

Required Readings/Research

  • “The History of Modern Public Relations” (Chapter 2), from Introduction to Strategic Public Relations (Page & Parnell, 2018) 
  • http://www.prmuseum.org
  • The Journal of Public Relations Research or another academic journal from the library
  • A news article from a credible source such as The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal

A two-page research paper about the life, work, and lasting contribution of a diverse voice in the history of public relations.

Points (100)Elements of Review
(10)Opening/IntroThe opening paragraph states what the paper is about and gets the reader’s attention.
(55)Middle ParagraphsMiddle paragraphs apply information learned from research sources and course content by answering the following questions:
Who is the person, where are they from, where did they work? (10 points)
Why are they important to the field of public relations? What were their major contributions to the field of public relations? (15 points)
What is the long-term impact of their work on the field of public relations? (15 points)
How did/does their legacy continue to shape the field of public relations today, specifically with respect to the need for greater diversity and inclusion in the industry? (15 points)
(10)Closing ParagraphThe closing paragraph summarizes the paper and draws conclusions related to course content. 
(10)ReferencesCites required sources listed in assignment instructions.
(5)FormattingAssignment follows formatting instructions.
(10)Grammar and punctuationSentences are fluent and effective. Very few errors in mechanics, punctuation and word usage.

© Copyright 2020 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Rozelle, A. (2020). Diverse voices in the history of public relations. Journal of Public Relations Education, 6(2), 150-157. http://aejmc.us/jpre/2020/08/13/diverse-voices-in-the-history-of-public-relations/

Evaluating Organizational Culture and Courageous Communication

Editorial Record: Submitted to AEJMC-PRD GIFT Competition by Feb. 21, 2020. A blind copy was peer reviewed by the PRD Teaching Committee, led by Chair Chris McCollough, and selected as a Top GIFT. Top GIFT winners were notified on April 1, 2020. First published online on August 15, 2020.


Melanie Formentin, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Public Relations
Towson University
Email: mformentin@towson.edu


Corporate Communication Management is a capstone-style course designed to introduce students to practical theories that inform best corporate communication practices. This course serves seniors and advanced juniors who have already taken courses in research methods and public relations writing. As such, this final project is designed to give students an opportunity to apply theory in a multi-layered experience related to understanding the importance and influence of organizational culture. Students follow Lyon’s (2017) framework for courageous communication to evaluate the culture in organizations of their choice. 

The goal of this project is to scaffold a learning experience that allows students to build skills related to networking, researching, interviewing, and presenting. A key component also involves applying theory in practice. Students work in pairs to complete this project—encouraging collaboration—and practice networking skills to gain permission to research an organization of their choice. Then, students interview employees to understand perceptions of organizational culture. The project encourages students to act as consultants, analyzing employee perceptions within a theoretical context, then offering recommendations regarding the quality of the organization’s communication culture. Ultimately, students present the results in a short presentation. This consultancy-style approach gives students an opportunity to work directly with client organizations to concisely evaluate and communicate theory-based findings. Ideally, projects may be shared with organizations, and students can reflect gained skills in the job application process.

Student Learning Goals

Because this is a final project that students begin in the first third of the semester, there are multiple student learning goals. Ideally, the project serves as a summative assessment (Taras, 2005) of skills developed and theories learned during the semester. Upon completing this project, students should be able to accomplish the following goals:

  • Apply networking and professional communication skills to gain organizational access.
  • Build practical research skills by conducting and transcribing interviews and completing qualitative analysis.
  • Apply theory (courageous communication) to understand qualities of organizational culture (Lyon, 2017).
  • Refine presentation skills and develop professional presentation tactics.
  • Gain consultant-style experience by combining secondary and primary research to evaluate and provide recommendations regarding strengths and weaknesses in an organization’s culture.

Connection to Public Relations Theory and Practice

This project is designed to give students a variety of practical experiences while teaching them to identify and define theoretical concepts in practice. Using Argenti’s (2016) Corporate Communication, students learn the importance and influence of organizational missions and values and identity, image, and reputation. Students are challenged to combine an understanding of corporate functions (e.g., leadership, internal v. external communication) with a theoretical framework of courageous communication (Lyon, 2017). Specifically, courageous communication proposes that the strength of an organization’s communication culture can be evaluated based on four dimensions including: controlling and collaborative; top-down and upward; secretive and transparent; and impersonal and engaging communication.

Overall, each step of the project gives students practice with commonly used corporate communication practices that are introduced through individual lessons built into the course. For example, students apply networking and professional communication practices to secure their organization and recruit employee participants. Because networking is considered “an essential skill for the PR communicator’s tool kit” (Brownell, 2014, para. 1), a guest speaker from the university career center is invited to guide a lesson about LinkedIn and networking skills, which are then applied by students as they begin the project. While some students are comfortable with networking, others are more closely coached through the process. For example, they are encouraged to connect with organizations they are familiar with (such as through work or family members) or organizations they are interested in learning more about. Support is provided through the review and editing of pitch emails, development of interview schedules, and guidance related to follow-up calls and shifting gears if a client relationship falls through.

Next, students learn common tactical skills by conducting interviews. The process of talking with employees and transcribing interviews gives students experience that supports traditional expectations for creating content while also strengthening opportunities to make content more accessible (Miller, 2019). Next, by interpreting the interviews and pulling exemplar quotes, students apply research methods and strategic decision-making skills. Finally, the short presentation format is designed to provide practice with concise business presentations (Brandon, 2015). During the semester, assignments have limited word counts and presentation times to help students practice clarity and conciseness. Ultimately, the final presentation encourages students to focus on creating engaging presentations that highlight key takeaways most appropriate for corporate settings.

Evidence of Student Learning Outcomes

Although initially skeptical of this final project, students ultimately express a true appreciation for having completed this assignment. Many students use their internship or job sites to complete this research. Not only do they find the results of their study illuminating, but also in some cases students share findings with managers and supervisors. Ultimately, they appreciate the new perspectives the assignment brings to their understanding of organizational culture and its impact on both external and internal relationship-building and relationship-management practices. Students also acknowledge that the presentation structure is challenging, but it helps them think strategically about communicating key findings. 

A review of student work shows that through feedback and editing, students produce projects that pack a lot of information into concise packages. They clearly differentiate between dimensions of courageous communication, even using theoretical language when contributing to class discussions. More practically, although some students initially question the usefulness of conducting and transcribing interviews, they generally find the process beneficial. One former student sent an email to “apologize” for thinking the transcriptions weren’t “worth the effort.” Having to transcribe multiple interviews at work to create accessible multimedia content, the student expressed: “I appreciate that you push your students to learn what’s common/expected in the industry.”


Argenti, P. A. (2016). Corporate communication (7th ed.). McGraw Hill.

Brandon, J. (2015, August 10). The 7-minute rule that will save your business presentation. Inc. https://www.inc.com/john-brandon/this-7-minute-rule-will-save-your-business-presentation.html

Brownell, R. (2014, July 31). 5 tips for effective PR networking. PR News. https://www.prnewsonline.com/5-tips-for-effective-pr-networking/

Lyon, A. (2017). Case studies in courageous organizational communication: Research and practice for effective workplaces. Peter Lang Publishing.

Miller, L. (2019, September 20). Why website accessibility is crucial for a client’s digital reputation. PR Daily. https://www.prdaily.com/why-website-accessibility-is-crucial-for-a-clients-digital-reputation-2/

Taras, M. (2005). Assessment – summative and formative – some theoretical reflections. British Journal of Educational Studies, 53(4), 466-478. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8527.2005.00307.x


Corporate Communication Management

Guidelines: Final Project, Organizational Culture

Project Proposal: Due XXXX

Final Project and Presentation: Due before final exam period XXXXX


This semester you are expected to understand and apply practical corporate communication theories to contemporary practices. This includes analyzing the role of communication in corporate culture; understanding organizational channels of communication; assessing group and individual behaviors and their impact on communication strategies; and evaluating the role of organizational leadership. 

Working in pairs, you will use background research and interviews to examine the organizational culture of a company of your choice. To do this, you will conduct interviews with members of your organization to evaluate the quality and characteristics of that organization’s culture. Placing your findings in the context of courageous communication strategies, you will produce a comprehensive report aimed at evaluating the degree to which your organization practices courageous communication. Your evaluation and recommendations will be based on a combination of primary and secondary research. This project will include a final presentation of your findings and evaluations. This project is designed to give you an opportunity to critically evaluate an existing organization’s corporate culture.  

Organizational Proposal

The first step of your project includes the organizational proposal. In this proposal you should outline which organization you would like to examine, providing a thorough organizational background and information confirming your ability to use this organization as an example. You should also provide drafts of the data collection tools needed to conduct your research.

How you choose and find an organization is up to you! You might evaluate an organization you’re familiar with or you might choose to reach out to an organization you’re interested in learning more about. Regardless of how you choose your organization, you will need to build a project proposal before you can begin conducting primary research. This proposal should include the following components:

  1. A thorough background about the organization. You should highlight information including a historical overview of the organization and what it does. This should include presenting and evaluating information about the organization such as its mission and values. To the best of your ability, you should begin evaluating the organization’s identity, image, and reputation.
  2. To the best of your ability, identify and describe the corporate communication structure that appears to be in place (e.g., is there a Chief Communications Officer, specific communication departments, etc.). Explain if this information is not available at this point of the project; however, you should have this information before the project is complete.
  3. Provide information about your primary point of contact. Begin by establishing how you connected with this person. Next, include contact information (email and phone number) for this individual, then provide a brief bio about their experience and what they do for the organization.
  4. Finally, provide the initial draft of your recruitment email and interview schedule. You should compose a professional email that explains the scope of the project for potential interviewees. Include information such as how long the interview will take and that it will be recorded and transcribed, but information will remain confidential. For the interview schedule, provide an overview of the script you will use to open and conclude the interview. Also include the list of open-ended questions you plan to ask interviewees.


The core findings of your project will be based on interviews with at least 10 employees at the organization. Through these interviews, you will learn about the perceptions of the organization’s corporate culture. 

Interviews should be designed to learn about what the company does and the company’s communication structure. You should also ask questions about how communication occurs. Tapping into your knowledge about the four dimensions of corporate communication, you will want to explore the degree to which the organization exhibits the four dimensions presented by Lyon. Remember, however, that questions should broadly reflect the topics of interest—you can’t presume that interviewees will use the same jargon presented in our textbook. Make sure the instructor has reviewed your interview schedules prior to conducting any interviews.

Ideally, interviews should take place in person and be recorded:

  • If additional arrangements need to be made, you should be able to explain why. 
  • Remember that prior to starting the interview you must confirm that you have permission to record.

After interviews are completed, you will need to transcribe and analyze them to better build your evaluation of the company. 

Note: Each person must conduct and record five interviews. Part of being a professional means learning how to connect (network!) with people you may not know. Additionally, you might be surprised with the number of corporate communication practices that rely on the ability to interview people. This often involves recording and transcribing interviews and identifying the most impactful comments made by interviewees. Interview recordings should be uploaded to your group’s file share on the course site to confirm that each team member participated in the interviewing process. Failure to participate in the interview process will result in a minimum of a letter grade deduction on the final project.

Final Organizational Culture Project

Your organizational culture project should be a comprehensive report that describes the quality and characteristics of the culture at the organization of your choice. For this project, you should emphasize the four dimensions of courageous organizational communication outlined in the Lyon text (aka: all the stuff you and your classmates presented this semester). This includes evaluating how the dimensions of controlling and collaborative; top-down and upward; secretive and transparent; and impersonal and engaging communication emerge in your chosen organization.

To complete this project, you should build out your organizational background (edit what you presented in the proposal), adding information you have learned through additional secondary research and interviews with organizational employees. Then, using outside academic and professional resources, you should make a case for the degree to which your organization exhibits courageous communication strategies. You should critically evaluate the organization’s culture, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses you’ve identified. If the organization is doing work that is particularly courageous, explain why and how. If there appear to be weaknesses in the organization’s communication culture, identify solutions that could help strengthen their communication function.


The final submission of this paper should use 12-point, Times New Roman font. The paper must be double-spaced and should use APA format guidelines for headings, tables, in-text citations, references, etc. 

  • This paper should include a title page and reference list. No abstract is required. Appendices containing data collection materials should be included.
  • Separately, in your group’s File Exchange, you should upload all recorded interviews and the accompanying transcripts. 
  • Note: Only one submission of the final project is needed per group. Please upload ONLY Word document files.

Final Presentation

A major component of the final project will be your team presentation. During the final exam period, your team will present a brief overview of your project’s findings. Presentations should highlight the degree to which your organization exhibits courageous communication. However, this will be a very short presentation—for this, you will be challenged to provide a high-level overview of your findings in a clear, concise manner. Think of this as a brief presentation to a busy member of the C-Suite. A few notes about the presentation:

  1. Presentations should be between 5-7 minutes long.
  2. The presentation should cover the following material:
    • Give a brief overview of the organization.
    • Evaluate how your organization performs on each dimension of courageous communication.
    • Provide a concise evaluation of whether your organization uses good, courageous communication practices. You should either illustrate how your organization serves as an example of good corporate communication practices or discuss solutions to strengthen its existing practices.
    • Share a brief conclusion, wrapping up the presentation.
  3. Presenters should have equal speaking time. The presentation should appear practiced.
  4. Upload your presentation deck to the course website prior to our final exam meeting time. For this presentation, you should use PowerPoint or similar presentation software to supplement your presentation.

© Copyright 2020 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Formentin, M. (2020). Evaluating organizational culture and courageous communication. Journal of Public Relations Education, 6(2), 182-192. http://aejmc.us/jpre/2020/08/13/evaluating-organizational-culture-and-courageous-communication/

Graph Interpretation Exercises for the Public Relations Classroom: An Environmental Scan

Editorial Record: Submitted to AEJMC-PRD GIFT Competition by Feb. 21, 2020. A blind copy was peer reviewed by the PRD Teaching Committee, led by Chair Chris McCollough, and selected as a Top GIFT. Top GIFT winners were notified on April 1, 2020. First published online on August 15, 2020.


Lauren Bayliss, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Arts
Georgia Southern University
Email: lbayliss@georgiasouthern.edu


The activities in this exercise allow public relations students to practice using data for environmental scanning (see Appendix A for the assignment description). Graphs make data accessible to students even if they have never studied statistics or quantitative methods. Students take part in a series of short, in-class exercises using graphs derived from The New York Times’ “What’s Going on in this Graph?” series (The Learning Network, 2019). A few questions suggested by The New York Times are used to warm up, and then the instructor introduces a think-pair-share activity (Kaddoura, 2013) created specifically for the public relations classroom. Students brainstorm different ways the data in each graph could influence strategic decision-making for different organizations, discuss ideas with a partner, and then share with the rest of the class. 

Students engage in these short activities during several consecutive classes. In a second, related exercise, students complete a similar out-of-class assignment for which they find their own graphs that could be used as part of environmental scanning. The exercises teach students to use commonly available data for strategic thinking as part of the environmental scanning process.

Student Learning Goals

These exercises have the following goals:

  • To promote students’ ability to interpret graphs as part of environmental scanning.
  • To promote students’ ability to brainstorm strategies based on quantitative data.

The Connection to Public Relations Theory and Practice

The practice of environmental scanning requires practitioners to seek information “about publics, about reactions of publics toward the organization, and about public opinion toward issues important to the organization” (Dozier, 1986, p. 4). Both formal and informal environmental scanning practices have long been considered important for public relations managers (Dozier, 1986), as well as for entry-level practitioners (Manley & Valin, 2017). Using graphs for environmental scanning practice is additionally helpful because public relations students need to be able to use quantitative data for strategic decision making (Commission on Public Relations Education, 2018). By using graphs, students can become comfortable with this format for gathering information as a part of environmental scanning.

Evidence of Student Learning Outcomes

In anonymous surveys distributed online after the fourth day of the in-class activity, students were asked to describe recent interactions with quantitative data. Although the students were not specifically asked about the environmental scanning activities, eight out of 23 students alluded to these activities. Of these mentions, five were positive, two were somewhat negative in that they mentioned students’ perceptions that such activities were challenging, and one was neutral (see Appendix B). Finally, outcomes for the learning goals were assessed using the second out-of-class assignment; see Appendix C for examples of student work from the out-of-class activity used for assessment.


Commission on Public Relations Education (2018). Fast forward: Foundations + future state. Educators + practitioners: The Commission on Public Relations Education 2017 report on undergraduate education. http://www.commissionpred.org/commission-reports/fast-forward-foundations-future-state-educators-practitioners/

Dozier, D. M. (1986, August 3-6). The environmental scanning function of public relations practitioners and participation in management decision making. [Paper presentation]. Annual Conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Norman, OK, United States.  https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED274978

Kaddoura, M. (2013). Think pair share: A teaching learning strategy to enhance students’ critical thinking. Educational Research Quarterly36(4), 3-24.

Manley, D., & Valin, J. (2017). Laying the foundation for a global body of knowledge in public relations and communications management. Public Relations Review, 43(1), 56-70. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pubrev.2016.10.018

The Learning Network. (2019, August 27). Looking for graphs to use in the classroom? Here are 34. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/27/learning/looking-for-graphs-to-use-in-the-classroom-here-are-34.html

Appendix A

Assignment Instructions

For these assignments, all graphs were drawn from The New York Times’ educational series “What’s Going on in this Graph?” (The Learning Network, 2019). However, any graphs that can be used for environmental scanning may be appropriate.

For each in-class assignment, four slides were used. The text for the first three slides was adapted from the “What’s Going on in this Graph?” original exercises. The text for the fourth slide was created by the instructor to adapt this exercise to the practice of public relations and prepare students to use data in periodicals for environmental scanning.

Part I: In-Class Exercise Slides

General format for lecture slides for the exercise (for each slide, the graph appears on the right and the text appears on the left):

Slide 1: What do you notice?* 

Slide 2: What do you wonder?*

Slide 3: What’s going on in this graph?* 

Slide 4: Think – Pair – Share**

  • What sort of businesses or organizations could make strategic decisions based on this information?
  • What sorts of strategic decisions could they make based on this information?

* This text is taken from “What’s Going on in this Graph?” exercises created by The New York Times (The Learning Network, 2019).

** Original content

Graphs and Graphics Used for Part I

Class 1

  • A graph plotting the percentage of nutritionists versus the percentage of all Americans who think that various foods are healthy.
  • A map of the United States demonstrating social connectedness via the likelihood of Facebook friendship between different counties. 

Class 2

Class 3

Class 4

Part II: Out-of-Class Activity

(For examples of student work, see Appendix C)

Instructions: Find a graph in a newspaper, magazine, or reputable blog. In one sentence, explain the main takeaway of the graph. Then, explain how the graph could be used for environmental scanning:

  1. Identify one specific organization not mentioned in the article that could use this information.
  2. Describe the strategic decision(s) the information could influence.
  3. Include a link to the article that contains the graph.

Appendix B

Anonymous Survey Student Comments


“The last time that I was involved with data interpretation was in class when we talking [sic] about what is going on in each graph. I feel confident in interpreting the basic ideas from graphs. For instance, I can usually tell what is going on and what the graph is measuring. However, I do not feel confident in interpreting statistics of graphs. Although I can determine what type of correlation the graph has based on the picture, I cannot give anyone information regarding the t-value or correlation coefficient. I am feeling a little behind in class for the statistics chapter. However, I am excited to learn more about interpreting numbers and graphs.”

“I have gained more experience in interpreting graphs in PR Research. I feel like it has helped my understanding of different types of data. I also monthly go over social media numbers for [name of university] Athletics’ social media account and I try to place why we did well in social media or not so well. For example, if we have bad social numbers, it’s typically because we aren’t winning as much. I also try to distinguish trends in that data. I’ve noticed that people tend to comment/reply more if there is a bad game or the team isn’t doing well, but more likely to retweet or like things if the team is doing well and winning.”

“I have taken STATS 2000, which is my most recent use/knowledge of data interpretation. I also have learned a good bit so far in my Research class.”

“In my PR Research class we analyze and discuss graphs. I enjoy it because it helps me get a better understanding of all the components needed to make a good graph.”

“I have recently in class identified graphs and explained what the graphs mean. I feel confident when using numbers-based information and graphs. Numbers are easy to interpret and when they are displayed on a graph, it is easy to visualize.”

Somewhat Negative:

“In class, we had to interpret a scatter plot without a title and that was a little difficult personally because I just felt like more information was needed.”

“My most recent experience[s] with data interpretation have been in PR Research where we look at various different kinds of graphs and interpret what exactly is happening within the graph. We try to draw correlations and causations from each graph and understand how the experimenters got to their date [sic] conclusions. I am still working on interpreting graphs, some are easier to understand than others. It is often times hard to draw correlations and figure out how the graph data came to be. I do not like using numbers-based information because I personally have never been good at interpreting numbers.”

“In class, besides that, I do not remember the last time I had to interpret data on a graph.”

Appendix C

Examples of Student Work for Second Student Activity 

(All Examples are Used with Permission)

Name: Graham Cooper

Short paragraph identifying organization and decision:

The graph I have chosen breaks down the turn out [sic] of elections based on ethnicity and age between 2016 and 2018. This graph can be used by polling offices to try and figure out how to get more people to come out and vote, seeing as people always complain of low turn out [sic]. The polling centers could try and make choices of what groups of people they would want to target to come out or how to get younger people to come out, seeing as they are the lowest on this graph. 

Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-apps/imrs.php?src=https://arc-anglerfish-washpost-prod-washpost.s3.amazonaws.com/public/WOIC6QJEFBFFNKKBFKISD6GA34.jpg&w=1023  

Name: Removed at student’s request

Short paragraph identifying organization and decision:

The graph I used shows the trend of the 2019-2020 flu occurrences in the United States compared to that of recent years. The graph can be used by school systems as they prepare for the absences as well as spread awareness to their respective communities about preventative measures against the flu. Teachers can use this information for their self awareness, but also so that they can work days into their schedules to help students keep up. 

Link: https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/07/health/northeast-flu/index.html 

Name: Removed at student’s request

Short paragraph identifying organization and decision:

This graph shows how the sales for a new app differ between Apple iOS and Android. The Apple app was released first and had 443 downloads within the first week. After a high demand for an Android version, the new adaption only had 150 downloads during the first week. It was clear that the Apple app was more successful in sales than the Android app. The article discusses how developers could use this information to figure out who they want their target public to be. If Apple is more successful with sales, then they should target Apple users. One organization that could use this information would be Apple and Android. Android can use this information to figure out why Apple is more successful in this area and change its marketing strategy. Apple can use this information and conduct further research to find what makes its iOS so successful and continue on that path. 

Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ewanspence/2014/04/29/this-graph-is-the-reason-developers-should-target-ios-over-android/#664452724b8b

© Copyright 2020 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Bayliss, L. (2020). Graph interpretation exercises for the public relations classroom: An environmental scan. Journal of Public Relations Education, 6(2), 158-167. http://aejmc.us/jpre/2020/08/13/graph-interpretation-exercises-for-the-public-relations-classroom-an-environmental-scan/

Math, Message Design and Assessment Data: A Strategic Approach to the Facebook Assignment


Tiffany Derville Gallicano, UNC Charlotte

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Math, Message Design and Assessment Data: A Strategic Approach to the Facebook Assignment

Math, Message Design and Assessment Data: A Strategic Approach to the Facebook Assignment

The purpose of this assignment is to adopt a strategic planning approach to the task of creating engaging social media content in a real-world context. For this assignment, students work as a class to set a weekly research-based objective and work in teams to plan the communication department’s Facebook fan page content for every day of a work week (Monday-Friday) during the semester. Other fan page account administrators can post important departmental content throughout the semester without disrupting the week-by-week student takeovers of the fan page. This assignment has been popular in social media and public relations strategy classes. This assignment provides an experiential way for students to apply basic statistical concepts, assessment data, and message design theories. In addition, it has the benefit of serving as a potential resume item and portfolio sample.

Application of the Assignment to ACEJMC Professional Values and Competencies

The fan page assignment contributes to the fulfillment of several professional values and competencies described by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (n.d.). It contributes to the professional value and competency about applying theories in how content and images are presented (ACEJMC, n.d.) because students are asked to apply message design concepts from Heath and Heath (2007), which include simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotional content, and stories. When reviewing initial drafts, the instructor commonly points to one or two message features that a team needs to improve upon for their final product.

In addition, the assignment contributes to ACEJMC’s (n.d.) professional value and competency about conducting research using appropriate methods adopted in the workplace because students use prior fan page performance data to set a weekly performance objective and determine qualities of successful and unsuccessful posts. Students also review the fan pages of comparison communication departments as part of their research (in accordance with the recommendation by Paine, 2011, about examining competitors’ performance). In addition, students review the metrics for the most popular and least popular posts from the prior semester and apply message design theory (i.e., Heath & Heath, 2007) and inductive logic to discuss best practices for engaging their key publics.

This assignment also contributes to three other communication-related professional values and competencies established by ACEJMC. Students gain practice in writing correctly and clearly in a format commonly used in the workplace through the text that accompanies their fan page posts (ACEJMC, n.d.). They are assigned a team grade, so they must critically assess their work and their teammates’ work “for accuracy and fairness,” as well as clear, grammatically correct writing (ACEJMC, n.d., para. 13). Another communication-related competency that is relevant to this assignment is the call for students to use current technologies used by professionals to understand the digital world (ACEJMC, n.d.). Students learn best practices for the digital world through their research about successful Facebook posts and draft their own digital content. Also, to earn an A, students must use their own images/videos for all posts and are encouraged to use resources such as Canva for images.

Finally, this assignment contributes to the ACEJMC (n.d.) competency about applying basic math and statistics. Students apply the mean, mode, median and standard deviation based on data from the prior semester to set the weekly performance objective that will apply to all teams. They use basic percentage calculations to determine how many interactions would be needed to achieve particular percentage increases. Students are encouraged to also report the percentage by which they surpassed the weekly class objective on their resumes/LinkedIn profiles if relevant.

Connection to Best Measurement Practices

To contextualize the strengths and limitations of the assignment as they apply to the professional practice of public relations, students are taught the Barcelona Principles 2.0 in conjunction with the assignment (see the Institute for Public Relations, 2015). Students are told that the best objectives are tied to business results, and the number of interactions to a post is merely an output measure about whether a campaign is on the right track (in conjunction with an analysis of comments, which is another mid-campaign output measure). Questions about measuring social media and the Barcelona Principles also appear on the class study guide and exam to ensure that students are not confused about using an interaction count as an ultimate measure of a campaign’s success. The instructor explains to students that the assignment is designed in a truncated way to focus the class efforts on the course objectives. Additional survey and qualitative research could be added for a research methods class to tie the social media performance to business results. In conjunction with the assignment, students also share experiences with how they measure the success of their social media in their internships and compare these measures (or lack of any measure) to the Barcelona Principles. Students are shown an award-winning video about a Facebook campaign received from a PR agency, which is paused periodically to identify key terms (output, outcome), recognize message design strategies summarized by Heath and Heath (2007), and apply the Barcelona Principles to the campaign measurement.

Assignment Details

In addition to teaching the Barcelona Principles, additional best practices for measurement, and message design theory, the assignment introduction also involves a discussion about what makes public relations strategic. Ultimately, the assignment addresses the importance of goals, objectives, research about key publics, research-tested message design strategies, tactics that are appropriate to key publics, and assessment, which should occur during the campaign and at the end of the campaign.

Goals and Objectives

The class discusses the goal and sets the objective for weekly performance. The following goal is shared with them as the assignment: “Enhance the sense of community surrounding the UNC Charlotte Department of Communication Studies.” Next, the class is led through basic statistics to set an objective. Students examine the total number of weekly interactions for each week of the prior semester, which are included on the assignment handout. Students calculate the median, mode, and mean on their assignment handout. Next, they use a standard deviation website to automatically calculate this number to determine whether their distribution of weekly fan page interactions is normal (see EasyCalculation.com, n.d.). Kernler’s (2014) visual helps students understand the concept of standard deviation. Once students have figured out whether the weekly distribution of fan page interactions is normal based on the data’s standard deviation (extensive instructions are in the handout, which is walked through together), they decide whether they can use the previous semester’s mean as an anchor for setting their objective or whether the median or mode might be better choices. Once they have made their decision, as a class, they complete the following framework for the class objective: “To increase interaction on the fan page for the week (i.e., defined as the combined total of reactions, comments and shares) among members of any of our key publics by ________________, as compared with _________________________.” They calculate what a 10% increase would be from their anchoring metric and decide whether they think the increase is both meaningful and attainable. If the increase is not meaningful, they calculate what a 20% increase would be and so forth. The class also acknowledges that with social media, a major limitation is that we do not necessarily know if the people interacting with the content represent the class’ key publics, which were defined as prospective, current, and graduated majors and the parents of all three groups; department faculty, staff, and administrators; and university administrators.

Due to the modest size of the department’s fan page subscribers, a second goal for the class was built into the assignment: “Increase awareness of the UNC Charlotte Department of Communication Studies fan page.” The predetermined objective for the class was “to increase page likes among members of any of our key publics by five people per team member.” Students recorded the names of the people they recruited and organized the list by key public. They were not allowed to recruit each other for the assignment. Fan page recruitment stretched some students in terms of their comfort zones with promoting fan page content and might have played an important role in most students’ ability to reach their objective for the number of weekly fan page interactions.

Student Privacy, Assignment Timeline, Content, Rubric, and Teamwork

Each team’s Monday post includes an introduction of the team with a group picture and a quote for #MotivationMonday. To be in compliance with FERPA, students are informed that they need to tell the instructor prior to the deadline of their initial draft if they have any privacy preferences regarding the use of their name or picture. Drafts are due on Tuesday prior to the team’s week, feedback is provided within 24 hours, and students’ final submission for a revised grade is due via email Friday afternoon of the same week. The timeline is feasible because only one Facebook assignment is graded each week. Content is posted a week in advance, and the instructor emails the team to remind them to promote the fan page during the week and email anyone they featured on the day the relevant content appears if tagging was not possible. Students often share the Monday post on their feeds, which helps them exceed the weekly objective. Other themes for posts include Teach It Tuesday, Working Wednesday, Thursday Thoughts, and Forty-Niner Friday (named for the university mascot). The instructor maintains a list of content covered in the prior semester and restricts students from focusing on it (with some exceptions). The rubric for the assignment can be found in the Appendix. The complete handout exceeds the page limit of this article and can be requested via email (tgallica@uncc.edu).


Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications [ACEJMC]. (n.d.). Nine accrediting standards. Retrieved from http://www.acejmc.org/policies-process/nine-standards

EasyCalculation.com. (n.d.). Standard deviation calculator. Retrieved from https://www.easycalculation.com/statistics/standard-deviation.php

Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2007). Made to stick: Why some ideas survive and other die. New York: Random House.

Institute for Public Relations. (2015). Barcelona Principles 2.0 – updated 2015. Retrieved from http://www.instituteforpr.org/barcelona-principles-2-0-updated-2015

Kernler, D. (2014, October 30). A visual representation of the empirical (68-95-99.7) rule based on the normal distribution. Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Empirical_Rule.PNG

Paine, K. D. (2011). Measure what matters: Online tools for understanding customers, social media, engagement, and key relationships. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.



Assignment Rubric

In nearly all cases, you and your team will share the same grade. Thus, you need to work together to brainstorm good content ideas and proof each other’s posts, which will help to ensure a consistently high quality.

An exception to sharing the same grade is if a team member is not making internal deadlines that the team sets. If a member of your team is not keeping up with your internal timeline after at least one reminder and is not responsive to you within 24 hours, please email me or meet with me. Possible options I might take include lowering the teammate’s individual score or removing the individual from the team. Individuals who are removed from a team have the option of completing an alternate assignment (such as anonymously creating content for May 1-5 and will earn an assignment grade no higher than a C). Also, if I see that a team member did not author any of the posts, I will drop this person from the group.

5 points: Engaging, inviting, professional, human tone, including word choice. Use of up to one exclamation point per post to avoid sounding giddy.

10 points: Interesting content that is strategic with regard to the information covered in this worksheet and in our class discussion.

10 points: Quality of pictures or videos (aesthetic quality, lighting, sharpness, sound, if relevant) and how interesting they are (candid pictures and videos taken by you are preferred).

  • Any picture taken from the Internet that is not free to use (or that is free to use with attribution but is lacking the attribution) will result in a 0 from the individual author’s score and a maximum of 7/10 on the other team members’ score. I will also file a plagiarism report with the university, even if I do not press charges.
  • For a score of 8-10, the Monday post picture must be taken of your group all together with sharp resolution and good lighting. The picture should enhance your professional footprint.
  • For a score of 9-10, high-quality original photos and videos must be included for every post. See me if you want to appeal for an exception. Remember that you can use Canva online to create free images for quotes.

10 points: Writing mechanics, factual accuracy, spelling (including the saved name of the document), AP style and brevity.

  • 10/10: Flawless
  • 9/10: 1-2 errors
  • 8/10: 3-4 errors
  • 7/10 5-6 errors
  • 6/10 7-8 errors

(and so forth)


How Do Social Media Managers “Manage” Social Media? A Social Media Policy Assignment


Melissa Adams

Melissa Adams, North Carolina State University

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How Do Social Media Managers “Manage” Social Media?: A Social Media Policy Assignment

How Do Social Media Managers “Manage” Social Media?: A Social Media Policy Assignment

As numerous public relations research studies have noted, social media communication by employees and other stakeholders often impacts public perceptions of their associated organizations, whether or not that communication is sanctioned by the enterprise or is a personal expression. Employees have been known to use social media to purposefully express anger or attempt to harm the reputation of organizations through “venting” or negative “flaming” messages meant to be seen by potential clients or hires, thus presenting new challenges for public relations (Jennings, Blount, & Weatherly, 2014; Krishna & Kim, 2014).

As the resident social media “expert,” commonly charged with monitoring and responding to such communication, as well as day-to-day management, public relations professionals are usually the primary resource for the development of social media policies (Lee, Sha, Dozier, & Sargent, 2015; Messner, 2014). Even though organizations may not have a policy in place when they become active on social media, they often realize the necessity of one after gaining some experience (Messner, 2014).

This assignment was developed to address the task of policy development with practical training that foregrounds professional ethical communication guidance, legal precedent, and collaboration with organizational stakeholders. Researching and crafting the policy also prepares students for the emergent public relations role of social media policy maker and manager (Neill & Moody, 2015).

Assignment Rationale

The social media policy assignment was designed to integrate knowledge gained from recent course material and discussion of ethical social media practice, a unit on the current legal environment (copyright, etc.), and a workshop on the basics of campaign planning. It challenges students to apply what they have learned to the development of a comprehensive policy addressing organizational needs and includes all the appropriate information (i.e., they must think it through just as they would in an agency or professional project). This unit begins with the question “How do social media managers really ‘manage’ social media?” Then, moving through the ethics and legal units as a class, this question continues to promote discussion of the challenges that digital public relations practitioners must take into account as resident technical experts, planners, and policy advisors managing social media and organization-public relationships (Lee, Sha, Dozier, & Sargent, 2015; Neill & Moody, 2015). Legal case precedent and issues of copyright, fair use, and freedom of speech as expressed on social media (e.g., the Hispanics United versus National Labor Relations Board case) are the focus of class discussion leading up to the social media policy assignment (Lipschultz, 2014; Myers, 2014).

In addition, this assignment requires students to identify and work with a client organization, learn about the organization’s potential risks from inappropriate social media use, and then make analytical decisions to construct an ethical, comprehensive policy to address them. Finally, the completed social media policy provides students with a professional quality portfolio piece, and if the client chooses to adopt it, an impressive resume-builder.

Student Learning Goals

This assignment develops several communications practice competencies noted by public relations educators and practitioners as desired skills for young professionals. Through its blend of research and knowledge application, the social media policy assignment teaches students to think like a practitioner following best practices and the value of collaboratively developed policies (Freberg, Remund, & Keltner-Previs, 2013; Messner, 2014). Working through this assignment, students build practical research skills by conducting discovery interviews with organization practitioners or administrators, while simultaneously gaining experience working with a client, managing logistics and communication. The assignment also helps students develop analytic acumen through performing an audit of client social media assets in regard to organizational risk.

By conducting a working review of existing organizational social media and example documents, students learn and understand common objectives and components of social media policies. They are then challenged to apply their recently gained legal knowledge to the development of an ethical and compliant written social media policy document.

Finally, as advanced writing and presentation skills are core competencies for public relations practice, the social media policy assignment provides an opportunity to refine presentation skills and gain experience producing professional quality documents. For the last stage of the assignment, students are required to formally meet and present their final policies to their client organizations, who in turn complete a satisfaction form for assessment.

Connections to Public Relations Theory and Practice

 This assignment comes from a course developed for seniors and advanced juniors enrolled in the public relations concentration. It connects to recent scholarship and research on the ethical practice of social media in public relations. As communications professionals, students will likely be required to either update existing social media policies or develop new ones for clients or employer organizations. To do this, these young professionals will need to work across the organizations to collaborate with other stakeholders in human resources, legal and marketing to develop, implement, promote, and police them across the enterprise as noted in recent research (Neill & Moody, 2015). Crucially, they must be able to craft policies that both recognize the free speech rights of employees and provide a comprehensive guidelines document addressing all areas of possible use (Lipschultz, 2014; Myers, 2014).

In preparation for the social media policy assignment, students read and discuss a textbook chapter on the legal issues of social media practice (Lipschultz, 2014) and review National Public Radio’s Ethics Handbook (n.d.), which addresses the general ethical journalism practice concepts of fairness, transparency, and accuracy. They also review the Public Relations Society of America’s Member Code of Ethics (n.d.), which reinforces the journalistic principles covered by NPR’s Ethics Handbook, yet extends them to the role of ethical digital public relations practice by addressing practitioner duties such as the preservation of accurate information flow and safeguarding privacy (PRSA, n.d.). In addition to professional ethical guidance, these resources offer a framework for the students to refer back to as they work through the assignment and interact with their clients about the specific needs of their organizations.

Assignment Introduction and Execution

 To introduce the assignment, two examples of actual (anonymized) social media policies of varying scope and audience (university and small business or student organization) are presented. Students form small groups to work through examples of the policies, comparing the components and noting differences. They make a list of all the similarities and differences of each policy element as a group. Afterward, the class discusses the elements of each policy to determine their primary function and necessity. Then the social media policy assignment is introduced with an in-depth handout (a brief version of the handout is provided in the Appendix) and a walk-through of the numerous questions students should ask to determine the needs and goals of their client organization, including resources required for implementation and adoption.

Students are then charged with identifying a client organization to work with on this assignment—a nonprofit organization, student organization, or a small business they are affiliated with that needs such a policy. If needed, students receive help connecting with a potential client organization for the project.

From this point, students use the assignment instructions to work on their individual policy documents on their own time. After completion and grading, the policies are returned to the students for finalization for their clients, and they email them to the instructor for a final proofread before the documents are delivered. This final step allows a review of presentation points and the assessment form with the students.

Evidence of Learning Outcomes

Several of the client organizations have implemented their student’s policy document following completion of this assignment. These included student organizations, two nonprofits, and two small businesses where students were employed or interning at the time. One small business, a massage studio and beauty spa, adopted the social media policy across its small chain of retail locations in the Southeastern US.

Additionally, students have noted in instructor feedback forms that this assignment was very useful as it gave them an opportunity to develop “real world” experience and a document they could use as both a portfolio piece and a professional writing sample.


Freberg, K., Remund, D., & Keltner-Previs, K. (2013). Integrating evidence based practices into public relations education. Public Relations Review, 39(3), 235-237. doi: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2013.03.005

Jennings, S. E., Blount, J. R., & Weatherly, M. G. (2014). Social media—A virtual Pandora’s box: Prevalence, possible legal liabilities, and policies. Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, 77(1), 96-113. doi: 10.1177/2329490613517132

Krishna, A., & Kim, S. (2015). Confessions of an angry employee: The dark side of de-identified “confessions” on Facebook. Public Relations Review, 41(3), 404-410. doi: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2015.03.001

Lee, N., Sha, B. L., Dozier, D., & Sargent, P. (2015). The role of new public relations practitioners as social media experts. Public Relations Review, 41(3), 411-413. doi: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2015.05.002

Lipschultz, J. H. (2014). Social media communication: Concepts, practices, data, law and ethics. New York, New York: Routledge.

Messner, M. (2014). To tweet or not: Analysis of ethical guidelines for social media engagement of nonprofit organizations. In DiStaso, M. W., & Bortree, D. S. (Eds.), Ethical practice of social media in public relations (pp. 82-95). New York, NY: Routledge.

Myers, C. (2014). The new water cooler: Implications for practitioners concerning the NLRB’s stance on social media and workers’ rights. Public Relations Review, 40(3), 547-555. doi: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2014.03.006

National Public Radio (n.d.). NPR Ethics Handbook. Retrieved from http://ethics.npr.org/

Neill, M. S., & Moody, M. (2015). Who is responsible for what? Examining strategic roles in social media management. Public Relations Review, 41(1), 109-118. doi: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2014.10.014

Public Relations Society of America (n.d.). PRSA Member Code of Ethics. Retrieved from http://apps.prsa.org/AboutPRSA/Ethics/CodeEnglish/index.html


 Assignment Worksheet

For this assignment you will create a formal, professional social media policy for an organization of your choice. If you need help identifying an organization, I will help you connect with a local nonprofit or student organization.

Sohow do you go about this?   Just follow these steps.

Research the social media footprint and assets of the organization and create a list of all their platforms and note any apparent campaigns, strategies and tactics used.

  1. Identify, contact and talk to the person in charge of social media and brand administration for the organization (who will likely be in a communications function). If this individual can’t meet with you in person, you can connect with them via email or phone. Note that in smaller organizations, this contact might be someone in human resources or customer service.
    • Ask them if they have an existing social media policy, if so, does it fit their needs? If not, can you do one for them?
    • Then ask—what are the main concerns regarding social media for their organization? Also find out if there are any special regulations or legal issues you should be aware of when preparing your policy.
  2. Ask yourself (and your client organization when applicable) the following questions as you think through this assignment.
    • What is the “big picture” purpose of this policy? How will the policy meet certain organizational needs and align with business objectives?
    • What types of social media activities need to be addressed in the policy document? What platforms? What types of content?
    • Are there any special considerations (based on your organization) that you should consider and address in the policy?
    • Who is the audience for this policy?
    • What are the specific risks your organization hopes to mitigate with this policy and where might they come from? Employees? Other stakeholders?
    • Who will be in charge of policy administration? Who will monitor and report infractions? What will happen to violators? Who should be contacted with questions about the policy?
    • What resources might readers need to comply with this policy? (Example: A link to an organizational brand standards guide.)
    • How will your organization implement this policy? Who needs to review and approve it before dissemination?


Sections to include in your policy document:

Policy Overview – provide a rationale for the policy. Explain in clear terms why it is needed, how it will be implemented, etc. Explain its goal in positive terms (to maintain xxx, to promote xxx, etc.), and be sure to include a list of applicable social media assets. Explicitly state what is covered by the policy (and what isn’t).

Allowed Use – provide examples of approved use. This should include actual or example tweets/posts as well as brand elements. Use screenshots to illustrate as needed.

Disallowed Use – provide examples of what NOT to do! Use screenshots and descriptive language.

Legal – address any legal issues including copyright. (Example: the FERPA section in the university social media policy example.)

General Best Practices – create a short list based on the organization’s current social media assets. Follow the examples provided as well as those posted online by reputable and ethical organizations (such as the examples shared in class).

Resources – this section is for links or directions to internal resources such as legal documents or other policies, and for reference links to external sources.

Contact Information – for the administrator of the policy, legal, etc. as you see fit. Provide full information including email and phone number.


Assignment Rubric – 100 pts possible

  1. Research – 20 pts
  2. Planning/Organization – 25 pts
  3. Content (each section is addressed completely) – 35 pts
  4. Clarity (is it easy to follow?) – 10 pts
  5. Professional Presentation – 10 pts



Who Will Get Chopped?: Mystery Basket PR Challenge


         Emily Kinsky

• Mary E. Brooks, West Texas A&M University

• Emily S. Kinsky, West Texas A&M University

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Who Will Get Chopped?: Mystery Basket PR Challenge

Who Will Get Chopped?: Mystery Basket PR Challenge

Based off Food Network’s Chopped challenge, the Mystery Basket PR Challenge is a competition that focuses on creativity, speed, and skill in which students are given a box of mystery “ingredients” (e.g., brand, crisis, strategy, channel, speaker, audience) they have to use to complete an assigned task (e.g., a tweet, an official statement, a headline). For example, a box might have a brand name, a particular crisis, a group of people affected and a celebrity, and the task would be to write a headline for a news release, keeping in mind which crisis response strategy from Benoit (1997) or Coombs (2007) might be most appropriate. Students open the box and have a limited time in their groups to complete the task, which they then pitch to the judges (faculty and local professionals). This requires teamwork and application of lessons learned in class as the student groups compete against each other.

The purpose of the Mystery Basket PR Challenge is for students to apply PR strategies to handle unexpected situations and solve problems collaboratively under a deadline. This challenge can also help prepare students to clearly and quickly articulate ideas.

Per Kolb’s (1984) experiential learning theory, learning through experience focuses on the process at hand and not necessarily the outcome of the project. By formatting the classroom into a simulated work environment, students will have greater success in their future careers when faced with similar challenges (Ambrose, Bridges, DePietro, Lovett & Norman, 2010; Svinicki & McKeachie, 2014). The challenge covers the five elements that are crucial to an experiential learning activity: the use of real-world situations; complexity (more than one answer may suffice); industry-specific concepts; student-led activity; and finally, feedback and reflection (Svinicki & McKeachie, 2014). The benefits to students are numerous, especially in relation to the PR industry where strategy, creativity, spontaneous thinking, collaboration, and articulate wording are all pivotal to being successful.

This pedagogical teaching tool is applicable to a variety of courses within the PR discipline (e.g., writing, campaigns, cases, ethics, social media) or other strategic communication classes.

During fall 2016, a version of this challenge was successfully implemented in an advertising writing class as a final project. Student feedback was positive. For example, one student said, “the ‘Chopped’ final was also very intriguing! Having an interactive final that brings in industry professionals to critique our work will greatly help” students continuing in the field.

Assignment Instructions

The Mystery Basket PR Challenge includes three rounds. Each round consists of four mystery public relations components that groups of students must incorporate to produce a public relations solution for a specific organization. Students will work in small groups to produce the solution in a short amount of time for a variety of situations, organizations and media platforms. Student groups will compete against each other. Working in a collaborative environment is essential in PR. Learning to meet deadlines is also pertinent, especially in the public relations industry where clients expect work at a pre-set time. Further, PR practitioners must learn to handle unexpected crises in a timely situation.


The rules for each round include using all of the mystery basket components, creating the designated assignment within the time allotted, and making a persuasive pitch to the judges. In addition, students will have a public relations pantry they can turn to for help. The pantry would consist of their textbooks, Internet access, cell phones and laptops/tablets. This is similar to Chopped where contestants have access to a modified grocery store in order to enhance a dish. Students are given one class period to practice prior to the real competition class period with different ingredients than what will be used in the competition.


Each group has a basket of mystery components during each round. The round assignments can change based on the class topic (see Appendix A for examples). For an introductory course, Round 1 could be the event planning round; Round 2 could be the social media round; and Round 3 could be the news release round. Just like Chopped, the time for each round will increase as each round increases in difficulty. During Round 1 for a social media class, the students will have 10 minutes to create a calendar-related promotion; during Round 2, students will have 20 minutes to create a hashtag campaign; and during Round 3, the students will have 30 minutes to write a blog post.

Professional Feedback

The student groups will be given live feedback on their work from industry professionals (see Appendix B for a sample judging rubric). The benefits of including public relations industry professionals in this challenge are many. Students have a chance to demonstrate their creative and innovative ideas, their presentation abilities, and their quick thinking skills to the professionals. In addition, students and professionals will begin to formulate relationships. This is important for potential future employment and/or mentorship.

When the time for each round expires, one person from each group must present the team’s final idea to the judges for one minute (or longer, depending on the challenge). The judges will deliberate and deliver their individual comments to each group. The judges will also choose a winner for every round. The class enrollment size and the division of groups will determine how many winning groups per round. The winners from each round will be named the Mystery Basket PR Challenge champions.

Appendix A

Assignment Examples

The Mystery Basket PR Challenge can be modified for different PR courses (e.g., crisis, campaigns, writing, social media). Like Chopped, each round allows students more time (e.g., 10, 20 and 30 minutes). Some “ingredients,” like the brands, will be assigned, while others can be selected strategically by the students (e.g., which channel makes the most sense in this situation?).

Crisis Communication 

  • Round 1: Official statement
  • Component #1: Brand/Organization (this would be assigned to the group)
  • Component #2: An image restoration strategy from Benoit or Coombs
  • Component #3: Crisis (a type of crisis would be assigned to the group)
  • Component #4: Speaker (choose the title of the person who would share the statement)
  • Round 2: Social media post
  • Component #1: Brand/Organization
  • Component #2: An image restoration strategy
  • Component #3: Crisis
  • Component #4: Channel (assign or let them choose)
  • Round 3: News release
  • Component #1: Brand/Organization
  • Component #2: Crisis
  • Component #3: Audience
  • Component #4: A quote to include

Social Media

  • Round 1: Calendar promotion
  • Component #1: National ____ Day (choose a day that fits the brand/org; for example, if the students were given Bayer Aspirin as the brand, they might choose July 9 Rock ‘n’ Roll Day as the specific national day for a tied-in promotional post)
  • Component #2: Brand (company/organization assigned to the group)
  • Component #3: Social media site (choose the most appropriate site)
  • Component #4: Post (write copy, decide when it would be posted, sketch image)
  • Round 2: Hashtag campaign
  • Component #1: Organization
  • Component #2: Event
  • Component #3: Goal
  • Component #4: Social media platform
  • Round 3: Blog post
  • Component #1: Organization
  • Component #2: Audience
  • Component #3: Keywords
  • Component #4: Links

Appendix B

Judging Rubric Example 

Division A Judge Name:

Round 2: Social Media Post


Please circle which group in Division A is being judged:

Group 1                                           Group 2                                           Group 3



Please rate from 1-10 (with 10 being the best) the creativity of the social media post based on the components provided in the basket.       1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10



Please rate from 1-10 (with 10 being the best) the overall idea of the social media post based on the components provided in the basket.      1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10



Please rate the quality of presentation from 1-10 (with 10 being the best).

1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10



Please provide comments concerning the overall social media post results, the presentation, and/or anything regarding how the challenge was managed (both positive feedback and suggestions for improvement).


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

Coombs, W. T. (2007). Protecting organization reputations during a crisis: The development and application of situational crisis communication theory. Corporate Reputation Review, 10(3), 163–176.

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