Tag Archives: GIFTs

Podcasting PR’s Role in Social Movements

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


Arien Rozelle, M.S., APR
St. John Fisher University
Assistant Professor
Department of Media and Communication
St. John Fisher University
New York
Email: arozelle@sjf.edu

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

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

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

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

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

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

Student Learning Goals:

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

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

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

Connection to Public Relations Practice/Theory:

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

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


Berger, B. K. (2005). Power over, power with, and power to relations: Critical reflections on public relations, the dominant coalition, and activism. Journal of Public Relations Research, 17(20), 5-28. https://doi.org/10.1207/s1532754xjprr1701_3 

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 

Dozier, D. and Lauzen, M. (2000). Liberating the intellectual domain from the practice: Public relations, activism, and the role of the scholar. Journal of Public Relations Research, 12(1), 3-12. https://doi.org/10.1207/s1532754xjprr1201_2 

Guertin, L. (2010). Creating and using podcasts across the disciplines. Currents in Teaching and Learning, 2(2), 4–13. https://www.worcester.edu/Currents-Archives/

Heilesen, S. B. (2010). What is the academic efficacy of podcasting? Computers & Education, 55(3), 1063–1068. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2010.05.002

Lee, M. J., McLoughlin, C., & Chan, A. (2008). Talk the talk: Learner-generated podcasts as catalysts for knowledge creation. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(3), 501–521. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8535.2007.00746.x

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

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

Singer, J. B. (2019). Podcasting as social scholarship: A tool to increase the public impact of scholarship and research. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, 10(4), 571–590. https://doi.org/10.1086/706600


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

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

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

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

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


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

Important Notes: 

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

Use the information in this link for help in crafting your podcast script: https://www.buzzsprout.com/blog/write-podcast-script-examples  

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

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

Helpful tips: 

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

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

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

    Using Canva’s free templates for different genres, create your podcast cover art: https://www.canva.com/podcast-covers/templates/ 

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

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

Podcast Poster (Group Assignment) 

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

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

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

Your poster must include the following:

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

© Copyright 2022 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Rozelle, A. (2022). Podcasting PR’s role in social movements. Journal of Public Relations Education, 8(3), 109-119. https://aejmc.us/jpre/?p=3245

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

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


Matthew P. Taylor, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
School of Journalism and Strategic Media
Middle Tennessee State University Tennessee
Email: matthew.taylor@mtsu.edu


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

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

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

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

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

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

Student Learning Goals

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

Connection to Public Relations Practice

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

Evidence of Student Learning Outcomes

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

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

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


Associated Press (2022, April 15). OHSU apologizes after phishing test draws complaints. https://apnews.com/article/covid-science-technology-health-email57ff826059b4920a9325793eeba051e4

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

Fischer, R. (1997). Using a real-life problem in an introductory public relations course. AEJMC Teaching Public Relations Monographs, 42, 1-4. https://aejmc.us/prd/wp-content/uploads/sites/23/2015/01/tpr42sp1997.pdf   

Hmelo-Silver, C.E. (2004). Problem-based learning: What and how do students learn? Educational Psychology Review, 16(3), 235-266. https://doi.org/10.1023/b:edpr.0000034022.16470.f3 

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

in assistance to those experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic….turns out [Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/nina_luong/status/1513997316134301698

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

Norman, G. R., & Schmidt, H. G. (1992). The psychology basis of problem-based learning: A review of the evidence. Academic Medicine 67(9), 557–565. https://doi.org/10.1097/00001888-199209000-00002 

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


Example of Activity

“PR in Real Time”: Fake Phishing Email


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public Response

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


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

Questions to Consider:

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

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


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

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

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

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

© Copyright 2022 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Taylor, M.P. (2022).PR in real time: A problem-based approach to generating engagement and learning. Journal of Public Relations Education, 8(3), .101-108. https://aejmc.us/jpre/?p=3238

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

Editorial Record: This article was originally submitted as an AEJMC Public Relations Division GIFTs paper, with a February 19, 2021 deadline. It was submitted to JPRE August 31, 2021, and accepted for publication at that time. Published March 2022.


Jennifer Glover Konfrst
Associate Professor, Public Relations
School of Journalism & Mass Communication
Drake University
Des Moines, IA
Email: jennifer.gloverkonfrst@drake.edu

Kelly Bruhn, Ph.D., APR
Professor, Public Relations, Associate Dean, School of Journalism & Mass Communication
Drake University
Des Moines, IA
Email: kelly.bruhn@drake.edu

Eric Kwame Adae, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Public Relations
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Drake University
Des Moines, IA
Email: eric.adae@drake.edu


At Drake University, Public Relations Writing is the second course required of all PR majors in a six-course sequence, and it provides an opportunity for students to develop the writing and editing skills necessary to succeed in a public relations career. Students learn to think critically about current events and how they relate to PR practice. Some coursework is completed on behalf of a community partner while much more is created on behalf of a dream employer of their choice. This allows students to customize their writing portfolios, while often feeling increased commitment to creating quality content. The best part? Each student’s final work is shared by their professor with their dream employer, providing an important professional connection that often leads to job shadows, internships and even future employment.

Student Learning Goals

Aligning with the college’s core values, this assignment is designed to help students “understand how to develop content across multiple channels in this age of media convergence, with sensitivity to multicultural audiences and an appreciation for global perspectives,” and “apply reasoning, critical thinking, persuasion and creativity through the writing and editing processes.” At the beginning of the semester, students take a pre-assessment to measure their self-identified comfort level with key facets of public relations. Throughout the semester, they peer edit one another’s work prior to each submission, and the instructor provides detailed feedback on every assignment during the grading process. Students are encouraged to incorporate edits into each piece as the semester unfolds, so they can learn from the feedback while also refining their work. In the final week of the class, students select their top pieces from the class to feature in their portfolios. Students also take a post-assessment to identify areas of growth since the beginning of the semester.

Connections to Public Relations Practice and/or Theory

Students create a variety of materials in the class, including issues briefs, annual report content, fact sheets, infographics, fundraising appeal letters, digital and social strategy, proposals for corporate expansion, PSAs, brochures, blogs or podcasts and traditional press releases. Each student must also create an original piece to add to the collection, in addition to a cover letter and resume prepared for their dream employer. This final portfolio – five professional pieces and their cover letter and resume – qualifies as their final exam in the course. Immediately after finals, the professor sends the portfolios to the dream employers. As part of their portfolio development, students are responsible for identifying a contact name, email, and physical address of their dream employer. Typically, the contact is the public relations principal at the organization, or someone within the department that is responsible for the work the student wants to do. The professor uses this information to send the portfolio file with the explanatory email. 

Evidence of Student Learning Outcomes/Assessment

In addition to evaluating the quality of student work, the external review of student portfolios often results in valuable feedback and ideas for future class assignments. Students’ self-reported confidence grows according to the class pre- and post-test assessments. Portfolio deliveries have sparked job shadow opportunities with companies as varied as the Los Angeles Angels, American Airlines, National Geographic and Nationwide Insurance. Students’ customized work has earned them internship positions in companies, government agencies and nonprofit organizations which have led to several full-time placements after graduation. A sample dream employer response is below, highlighting another important outcome—elevating the visibility of our small program.
Jenna –

Elise Eberwein shared your communications portfolio with me, and I am so glad she did. Terrific job putting together a wide variety of communications platforms, each with their own tone of voice. That’s something we try to do at American Airlines every day. We have millions of customers and more than 100,000 employees who all have a different perspective on how our business works, and each one of them expects us to speak with them in familiar terms and with a friendly voice.

We’re only a few months into our integration with US Airways, and it’s very clear that the world is watching everything we say and do. Communication is critical. Much like your portfolio, we have to use a variety of channels to hit each audience and make sure that the message is consistent across all of them. You’ve done a nice job pointing to the restoration of our fleet and our commitment to being the greatest airline in the world with top-notch customer service.

Please keep us up to date on your projects and where your degree might take you next, and let us know if we can help in any way.

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


The Assignment:

Final Individual “Dream Employer” Portfolio


In lieu of a final exam, you will compile an individual “dream employer” portfolio. Please read the instructions and be sure to include all portfolio components. 

  • The “dream employer” portfolio must include at least five individually prepared tactics, four of which may be revisions of work you submitted on behalf of your dream employer throughout the semester. That means at least one tactic will be original for your portfolio.
  • The original tactic can be anything we have discussed this semester that you haven’t prepared for your dream employer (e.g. fact sheet, social media content calendar and posts, blog/podcast concept, PSA, VNR, etc.) or other tactic of your choosing. However, the tactic should be appropriate for your dream employer and its public(s).
  • Additionally, your individual portfolio must include a cover letter and current resume. The cover letter for your dream employer should be addressed to an appropriate public relations contact within the organization. The letter should express your interest in working for the organization, and pitch the work contained within your portfolio. You must include the full name, title and mailing address of the PR contact on the letter, as I will mail these packets to those contacts.


  • The individual portfolio should include your cover letter and resume followed by your tactics as a single Word .docx or pdf.
  • All tactics should be thoughtfully created, well organized, properly formatted and of professional quality, reflecting your best work. Use proper grammar, spelling, punctuation and AP Style. Attribute outside sources, as appropriate.


  • Your individual “dream employer” portfolio will be worth 200 points. Standard evaluation criteria will apply.
  • Failing to submit your portfolio by deadline will result in a zero for the final exam grade.
  • While we encourage this outreach to future employers as a unique opportunity to showcase your abilities, you may request that your portfolio not be submitted to your dream employer. Please share any concerns with me. Note: Your project will still be due by the final exam deadline and evaluated as your final exam grade in the course.



PR Writing – Dream Employer Portfolio/Final Exam Rubric
In addition to the items noted in the rubric, accuracy will be evaluated throughout the portfolio. The writing should be based on facts that can be verified by a third party. Grammar, spelling, punctuation and AP Style should be used correctly. No spelling errors! In fact, one error will bring a deduction of 7 points to your final grade. Two errors will bring a deduction of 14 points, and more than three errors will result in 20 points automatically lost.



© Copyright 2022 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Konfrst, J.G., Bruhn, K., & Adae, E. (2022). Building Portfolios, Connections and Confidence: How Professors Can Leverage Student Writing Collections to Support Students’ Employment Opportunities. Journal of Public Relations Education, 8(1), 161-179. https://aejmc.us/jpre/?p=2952

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

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


Adrienne A. Wallace, Ph.D
Associate Professor
School of Communications
Grand Valley State University 
Allendale, MI
Email: wallacad@gvsu.edu 

Regina Luttrell, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Public Relations & Social Media
Syracuse University
Syracuse, NY
Email: rmluttre@syr.edu

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

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

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

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

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

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


Anderson, B. (2016). What is content intelligence? Ceralytics. https://www.ceralytics.com/content-intelligence/#:~:text=Content%20intelligence%20is%20the%20science,What%20content%20should%20I%20write%3F%E2%80%9D 

Dietrich, G. (2021, January 5). Why communicators must [finally] embrace the PESO model. SpinSucks. https://spinsucks.com/communication/pr-pros-must-embrace-the-peso-model/ 

Dietrich, G. (2020, September 8). What is the PESO Model? SpinSucks.  https://spinsucks.com/communication/peso-model-breakdown/ 

Fu, Y., Doan, K. N., & Quek, T. Q. (2020). On recommendation-aware content caching for 6G: An artificial intelligence and optimization empowered paradigm. Digital Communications and Networks, 6(3), 304-311. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcan.2020.06.005

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

Novak, J. D., & Musonda, D. (1991). A twelve-year longitudinal study of science concept learning. American Educational Research Journal, 28(1), 117-153. https://doi.org/10.3102%2F00028312028001117 

Shepard, C. (2020, June 19). Is Google E-A-T actually a ranking factor?-Whiteboard Friday. Moz. https://moz.com/blog/is-google-eat-actually-a-ranking-factor#:~:text=People%20in%20this%20camp%20say,they%20can%20directly%20impact%20rankings.&text=Now%2C%20in%20this%20case%2C%20we,There%20is%20no%20E%2DA%2DT%20score

Appendix A: Assignment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Content Idea 1

The Ultimate Guide to Free San Diego

Content Idea 2

The Ultimate Family Guide to Free San Diego

Content Idea 3

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

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

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



© Copyright 2021 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Wallace, A.A. & Luttrell, R. (2021). A human-centered SEO approach to creating higher ranking content for public relations using a content clustering method. Journal of Public Relations Education, 7(2), 213-220. https://aejmc.us/jpre/2021/08/31/a-human-centered-seo-approach-to-creating-higher-ranking-content-for-public-relations-using-a-content-clustering-method/

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

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


Julia R. Hathaway, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, NY
Email: Julia.hathaway@stonybrook.edu

Elizabeth Duesterhoeft
Undergraduate Student
Honors English Literature Program
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA
Email: eduester@gmu.edu

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

Karen L. Akerlof, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Environment Science and Policy
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA
Email: kakerlof@gmu.edu

Suzanne L. Mims
Adjunct Professor
Department of Communication
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA
Email: smims@gmu.edu

Katherine E. Rowan, Ph.D.
Professor Emerita
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA
Email: krowan@gmu.edu


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

Student learning goals

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

Connection to public relations theory and/or practice

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

Evidence of student learning

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

The assignment     

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


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

Brunner, B. R., Zarkin, K., & Yates, B. (2018).What do employers want? What should faculty teach? A content analysis of employment ads in public relations. Journal of Public Relations Education, 4(2), 21-50. https://aejmc.us/jpre/2018/08/17/what-do-employers-want-what-should-faculty-teach-a-content-analysis-of-entry-level-employment-ads-in-public-relations/

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

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

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


Qualitative Research Approach to Audience Analysis Worksheet

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

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

  1. Client Basics

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

  1. What and Why

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

3. Public/Audiences

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

4. Client and Stakeholders by the Numbers

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

5. Competitive Environment

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

6. Trends, Issues

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

7. Past, Present, Future

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

8. Humanize, Values

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

9. Communication/Media Audit

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

10. Summarize Conditions Prompting Client Interest in Strategic Communication

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

11. Summarize Client’s Communication Goal

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

12. Behaviors Client Wants to Influence

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

More Evidence of Student Learning Outcomes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Copyright 2021 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Hathaway, J.R., Duesterhoeft, E., Leavey, N.J., Akerlof, K.L., Mims, S.L., & Rowan, K.E. (2021). Teaching audience analysis through worksheets: Approaching audience analysis as qualitative research. Journal of Public Relations Education, 7(2), 221-228. https://aejmc.us/jpre/2021/08/31/teaching-audience-analysis-through-worksheets-approaching-audience-analysis-as-qualitative-research/