Public Relations [CRN 81250]

Discipline: Journalism and Media Communication
Instructor: Berkowitz
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1400
End: 1520
Field Work: Day 6 | November 29, 2018 | China
Prerequisites: None Download Syllabus

Public relations is an often-misunderstood aspect of an organization’s communication with its stakeholders – most commonly equated with publicity, promotion, and communicating solely for an organization’s gain. Regarding practice, public relations tends to be thought of mainly as the realm of creativity, events and media relations. Although these misperceptions are partially correct in terms of actions and accomplishments, many people overlook what goes on “under the hood” of public relations – which ideally involves a goal-oriented process that leads to strategic solutions for managing an organization’s relationships with groups of stakeholders.

The course therefore begins by exploring the early roots and foundations of public relations. It then moves to an overview of the role that communication plays in shaping public opinion and how public relations interacts with society. With these elements in place, the course introduces a strategic planning process and then applies it to public relations case study solutions. An important aspect of this course within the Semester At Sea experience is to consider how public relations practitioners adapt an essentially Western practice to become more resonant with their cultures. Course requirements include exams, student-led overviews of readings, student discussions of key topics, and team-oriented case solution projects.

Field Work

Country: China
Day: 6
Date: November 29, 2018

Public Relations is largely an American creation that has been transplanted to other locations and cultures. Often, public relations takes place within a multinational corporation that employs a hybrid of local and US staff members. The situation becomes challenging when the cultures of the two employee groups join together to create public relations programs for local audiences. There is a similar situation for public relations agencies in China. In any case, public relations practice needs to pay attention to China’s unique cultural elements, rather than imposing what tends to work in other settings. We begin our Field Class with a visit to the JW Marriott Hotel to meet with the Director of Communications. After a discussion of some of the challenges and sensitivities facing practitioners, we will have lunch and then go on a tour. The emphasis will be on integrated marketing, including PR, marketing, social media and digital communication. The session will address how the hotel communicates with consumers during their entire stay, such as pre-stay, the actual stay, and post-stay follow up. There will also be discussion of practices for hotel PR and marketing events, as well as media trends in China. Students will take notes during the day on what they are learning about public relations practice in China, contrasting their observations with practice in Western settings. Notes will be typed into a two-page report, using a bullet-point format. Students will be evaluated based on a paper that identifies dimensions that moderate Chinese public relations with its Western practice. More information will be provided separately. The paper and notes are due by December 7.
Learning Objectives:

  1. To build an understanding of contemporary PR practice beyond a US setting
  2. To learn about how local PR workers do their job in a multinational corporation outside its home country.
  3. To grapple with differing understandings in the focus and scope of PR practice