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CMST 2PR3 Public Relations:Princ&Prac

Academic Year: Fall 2016

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: E

Instructor: Dr. Terry Flynn

Email: tflynn@mcmaster.ca

Office: Togo Salmon Hall 329

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 26977


Office Hours: Monday & Thursday 4:00pm-6:00pm, or by appointment.

Course Objectives:

Upon completion of this course, students should have attained knowledge and understanding of the following central concepts:

  • The role and functions of public relations in a contemporary society.
  • The historical evolution of public relations, career opportunities in the field, and
  • professional/ethical/legal responsibilities.
  • The basic process of public relation -- research, planning, communication, evaluation – and the use of communications strategies and tactics to achieve organizational goals and objectives.
  • The persuasion of public opinion and audience analyses and how to reach diverse audiences.
  • An understanding of how public relations is a global phenomenon.
  • How the Internet and social media are changing the way public relations professionals build and sustain relationships between an organization and its constituents.
  • An understanding of public relations activities in business, sports, tourism, entertainment, nonprofit, education and governmental organizations.
  • The social and ethical imperatives related to the profession and the practice.


Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Students should purchase the following texts from the Campus Bookstore:

  • Public Relations. (Averill Elizabeth Gordon). 2011.                                  (Oxford University Press: ISBN 978-0-19-956574-0).
  • Other readings as assigned and posted on A2L





Additional Course Materials and Readings:


Additional required reading material will be posted on our class A2L site. 


Furthermore, students interested in pursuing a career in public relations should be regular consumers of traditional and social media news sites including but not limited to: The Spectator, The Globe & Mail, CBC, CTV, Global, PR Week, PR Tactics, Communication World, Journal of Professional Communication, Public Relations Review, Journal of Public Relations Research. All of which are available online through the McMaster University Library.


Canadian Public Relations Society (Hamilton Chapter) – Full and part-time students can become student members of the Canadian Public Relations Hamilton Chapter. Here is a link to the membership form. http://cprs-hamilton.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Student_NewGraduate_or_NewProfessional_Application.pdf


During the year, a number of professional development events are offered that would be beneficial for those interested in pursuing a career in public relations.


Method of Assessment:

Method of Teaching:


Typically, each class/tutorial will involve a mixture of lecture, and discussion concerning the scheduled topic. As the syllabus indicates, guest speakers are an important component of this course, exposing students to professionals sharing real-world experiences and advice. Some sessions will include videos and/or brief video clips illustrating applied principles of public relations. Assigned readings, lectures, guest speaker remarks and videos are all testable.




Learning in this course results primarily from in-class and tutorial discussions. The balance of the learning results from the lectures on public relations concepts, from related readings, and from researching your presentations, cases, assignments, and projects. All work will be evaluated on an individual basis except in certain cases where group work is required. In these cases, group members will share the same grade adjusted by peer evaluation. Your final grade will be calculated as follows:


Required Assignments:



Value (% of overall grade)

Due Date

Assignment 1: What is Public Relations News Release


Week 3 in Tutorial

Tutorial Participation



Assignment 2: Spin Cycles



Assignment 3: Media/Information Kit


Week 12 in Tutorial

Mid Term Examination


Week 7

Final Examination


December Exam Period



All assignments must be submitted to the appropriate digital dropbox on A2L and, in person, to your TA. All assignments will be automatically verified by A2L’s plagiarism detection software service -- http://mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity/turnitin/students/index.html

All written work will be marked on grammar, clarity of writing, and organization, as well as content and analysis.

All assignments must be personally submitted at the beginning of the tutorial on the date it is due.  Do not drop off assignments in any of the CMST or Instructor/TA offices (it will be considered late unless handed in to the TA in Tutorial).

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late Work

Any work handed in late will result in a grade of zero. Your assignments are due in the digital dropbox on A2L before you also hand it in to your TA in your assigned tutorial. You must post each assignment in the A2L dropbox and hand it in to the TA. If you have made an arrangement with your TA to drop your assignment off at an alternative time and place, then you may do so without penalty. If you have not made such an arrangement, assignments not submitted to the digital dropbox on A2L and submitted to your TA will be considered late. Handing in late assignments will not be penalized for legitimate certifiable reasons such as illness or the death of a close family member. You must provide evidence for your reason (doctor's note, death certificate).

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Course Schedule







September 8

Introduction to the course

Discuss: The purpose of the class

Discuss: The syllabus and the assignments


No Tutorials This Week


September 15

Read: Chapter 1: The evolution of public relations

Read: Chapter 2: Public opinion and communication models

Tutorials Start


September 22


Read: Chapter 3: Media theory and news

Read: Chapter 4: Intelligence gathering

DUE: Assignment #1 – hand in to TA and post to A2L


September 29


Read: Chapter 5: Publics

Read: Chapter 6: Goals, objectives, and strategy


Listen:  Episode #1 of Spin Cycles: A Century of Spin

Due:  Critical review of Episode #1 (TA/A2L)

Due: Submit Assignment #3 Group name and members


October 6

Read: Chapter 7: Implementation and budgeting

Read: Chapter 8: Evaluation

Listen: Episode #2 of Spin Cycles: The Spindustrial Revolution

Due: Critical review of Episode #2 (TA/A2L)



October 13

FALL BREAK – no class










October 20

Read: Chapter 9: PR Communications for business

Listen: Episode #3 of Spin Cycles: Calling Dr. Spin

Due: Critical review of Episode #3 (TA/A2L)

Panel of Industry Experts:

Andrea Price, MCM (c), ABC – Director of Corporate Communication, Dynacare



October 27

Mid-Term Exam

Time: 7:00-9:00pm

Location: In-class



November 3

Read: Chapter 11: Ethics, Legalities, and Corporate Responsibility

Listen: Episode #4 of Spin Cycles: The Spin Doctor is In.

Due: Critical review of Episode #4 (TA/A2L)



November 10

Read: Chapter 12: Online PR




November 17

Topics: Writing for Public Relations and Employee Communications

Listen: Episode #5 of Spin Cycles: Spinning War

Due: Critical review of Episode #5 (TA/A2L)

Guest lecturer: Professor Heather Pullen, MCM, APR


November 24

Read: Chapter 10: Issues and Crisis Management

Listen: Episode #6 of Spin Cycles: Spinning into the 21st Century

Due: Critical review of Episode #6 (TA/A2L)

Guest lecturer: Professor Heather Pullen, MCM, APR


December 1

Guest Lecture: Iran Basen – Producer of Spin Cycles

Read: Chapter 13: Public Relations Trends

Exam Review

Due:   Assignment #3 in Tutorial


Final Exam

As scheduled by the University



Other Course Information:

Mid-Term & Final Examinations. The mid-term examination will take place during Week 7 and the final examination will take place during the examination period in December. Students are expected to answer all of the questions using key concepts learned from course readings and lecture material over the course of the semester. The mid-term and final examinations will be composed of multiple-choice questions.


Participation. Please see the assignment description for tutorial participation for a detailed grading rubric. This grade will be distributed on the final day of tutorial.


Class Attendance. Attendance at both the lectures and the tutorials is simply in your best interest. The lectures will cover a great deal of material, much of which is very technical. Missing even one class will set you back.  If ill, please contact your Teaching Assistant (TA) for further assistance on missed material.