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As educators there are a lot of things we want to accomplish. We want to develop critical thinkers. We want to encourage students to go out and behave ethically and contribute to society. We want to create situations where students feel that what they are learning in the classroom directly relates to what they will be doing in the real world.

This semester I am teaching PR Writing at the Manship School of Mass Communication at LSU. As in previous semesters, I began with the fear that the writing course would become more of a “survey” of writing tactics used to get messages out to internal and external publics. I usually worry that having the students do a news release one week, a social media release the next week, and a feature release the following week is not providing them with enough of an opportunity to REALLY learn these important tactics.

So, this semester I have made some changes to the PR Writing course. Instead of having them write one of each tactic for the client I am having the students write their first news releases, media kits, pitch letters, etc. for the presidential candidate of their choice and then having them complete a “mini-campaign” built around a local nonprofit using SCVNGR (a geolocation-based gaming application) to engage its audience members. This way they get to practice (and receive feedback) in the classroom before they are expected to write for a client as well as get more practice using the tactics we go over in class.

Based on the SCVNGR partnership, for each Baton Rouge nonprofit client they are expected to create a minimum of eight from the following list:

    • Bio Sketch
    • Media Kit (with Fact Sheet & Backgrounder)
    • News Release
    • Feature Release
    • Social Media Release
    • Advertisement (television, radio or print)
    • PSA
    • Newsletter
    • Position Paper
    • Speech
    • Website Plan including Web Blog
    • Event Plan
    • Any other creative assignment the client might want (i.e., postcard, brochure, flyer).

It’s my hope that this combination (practice in class and then create for real-life) moves PR Writing past being a “survey” course. I also hope that it encourages students to develop the critical thinking skills, ethical and professional behaviors and skills they will need to be successful in the real world of public relations.

Follow us on this journey via Facebook (Discover Baton Rouge with SCVNGR) and Twitter (@discoverBTR).

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