Public Sector Communication Syllabus

Course Description
This course will assess the role of communication in the public sector. Communication requirements, challenges, and opportunities professionals in this field face will be examined. Additionally, students will investigate and apply the specific skills and abilities necessary to effectively communicate in the public sector.

 

Learning Objectives
Understand the unique environment in which public organizations operate and what that means for public sector communication professionals.

Identify and analyze obstacles to effective communication in the public sector and discuss strategies and practices for overcoming them.

Establish how political and social forces affect public policy and impact communication efforts.

Examine the dual responsibility public organizations face in representing their respective organizations while simultaneously serving and informing the public.

Describe the roles and functions of the various types of public sector communication professionals.

Describe the role of social media and other new forms of communications and examine the potential positives and negatives of using these platforms.

Identify and apply crucial communication tools, such as writing and oral presentation skills specific to the public sector.

 

Required Reading
 “Communicating for Results in Government: A Strategic Approach for Public Managers” by James L. Garnett           
Chapter 1: Why Communication is So Crucial to Government Success
Chapter 2: Recognizing and Overcoming Barriers to Effective Communication
Chapter 3: Applying a Strategic Model to Government Communication
Chapter 7: Communicating with Government’s Publics

“Comparing Public and Private Organizations” by H.G. Rainey and B. Bozeman, B. from the Journal of Public Administration, Research & Theory, Vol. 10(2), 447-469.

“Foundations of Public Service” 2nd Edition by Douglas F Morgan, Richard T Green, Craig W Shinn, and Robert K Robinson
Chapter 2: The Challenges and Opportunities of Public Service
            Chapter 7: Organization Structure and Behavior

“Effective Writing in the Public Sector” by John W. Swain and Kathleen Dolan Swain                     Chapter 7. Media Releases and Public Service Announcements
Chapter 8. Newsletters

“Beginner’s Guide to Writing Powerful Press Releases” by Mickie Kennedy
Chapter 4: Press Release Style and Formatting

“The Effective Public Manager: Achieving Success in Government Organizations” by Steven Cohen and William Eimicke
Chapter 11: Communicating with the Media, Stakeholders, and the Public

 

Schedule

Week 1 Explanation of the purpose of the class
Introductions
Syllabus Review
Discussion – What is the public sector?
What is a public organization?
What is public service?Read:
“Communicating for Results in Government: A Strategic Approach for Public Managers” by James L. Garnett
Chapter 1: Why Communication is So Crucial to Government Successand

“Comparing Public and Private Organizations” by H.G. Rainey and B. Bozeman, B. from the Journal of Public Administration, Research & Theory, Vol. 10(2), 447-469.

Week 2 Discussion – How is a public organization different than a private organization, nonprofit or other NGO’s?
Motivations of public versus private?
Fundamentally different goals.
Public organizations can’t always choose their goals.Read:
“Communicating for Results in Government: A Strategic Approach for Public Managers” by James L. Garnett
Chapter 2: Recognizing and Overcoming Barriers to Effective Communicationand

“Foundations of Public Service” 2nd Edition by Douglas F Morgan, Richard T Green, Craig W Shinn, and Robert K Robinson
Chapter 2: The Challenges and Opportunities of Public Service

Week 3 Discussion – Public vs private continued.
Understanding the “public good”.
The importance and requirements of transparency in a public organization.
Freedom of Information Act and other open government laws.
What is “publicness”?
Public organizations face unique accountability.
Understanding a public organization’s dual responsibility to itself and to serving and informing the public.
Why the answers to all these questions matter to how public sector communication professionals operate.Read:
“Foundations of Public Service” 2nd Edition by Douglas F Morgan, Richard T Green, Craig W Shinn, and Robert K Robinson
Chapter 7: Organization Structure and BehaviorAssignment #1: Write a 750-word essay on the unique problems, challenges, and opportunities facing communication in the public sector.

Due by the beginning of Week 4.

Week 4 Discussion – The structure of public sector management and public service employment.
The role of bureaucracy.
Examination of the different roles and functions of public sector communication professionals.
Example: What is a PIO? What does a PIO do? How is it different or similar to a Public Affairs Specialist?What are the responsibilities and limitations of a Communications Director? The considerations of the effect of changing laws, agendas and politics on messaging.Read:
“Communicating for Results in Government: A Strategic Approach for Public Managers” by James L. Garnett
Chapter 3: Applying a Strategic Model to Government Communicationand

“The Effective Public Manager: Achieving Success in Government Organizations” by Steven Cohen and William Eimicke
Chapter 11: Communicating with the Media, Stakeholders, and the Public

Week 5 Discussion – What is a press release?
What is the purpose of a press release?
History and evolution of the press release.
Determining the audience.
Why are they still necessary?Read:
“Beginner’s Guide to Writing Powerful Press Releases” by Mickie Kennedy
Chapter 4: Press Release Style and Formatting“Effective Writing in the Public Sector” by John W. Swain and Kathleen Dolan Swain
Chapter 7. Media Releases and Public Service Announcements
Week 6 Discussion – Writing a press release: the headline, dateline, opening paragraph, body paragraph, boilerplate and contact information.
Reviewing the 5 W’s and 1 H.
Review inverted pyramid style.
Examining calls to action.In-class Assignment #1: Practice writing attention grabbing headlines.Assignment #2: Part I -Write a press release for a new product of your choice or imagination.

Part II – Write a press release for Governor Ducey’s proposal for teacher pay increases.

Specific information on Gov. Ducey’s proposal can be viewed at  https://azgovernor.gov/sites/default/files/2018-04-16_executive_revenue_revision_justification_.pdf

and https://azgovernor.gov/sites/default/files/20percentplan.pdf

Both press releases are due by Week 7.

Week 7 Discussion – Was it easier, harder or the same to write each type of press release? Why?

In-class Assignment #2: Practice writing opening paragraphs.

Read:
“Beginner’s Guide to Writing Powerful Press Releases” by Mickie Kennedy
Chapter 11: What Happens After You Distribute A Press Release

Week 8 Guest Speaker – Johnny Diloné, Media/Community Relations Manager for Maricopa County Environmental Services Department and former journalist and television news anchor.

Second half of week is Fall Break.

Week 9 Discussion – Public Service Announcements
What are they and how are they different than press releases?
Why are they necessary for public sector communication?
Examination of whether a press release or a PSA is more appropriate or recommended for a given situation.
Examination of the different types of PSA’s – print, radio, video, internet.Assignment #3: Write a script for and produce a 30 second PSA radio spot for the Arizona Department of Transportation advising drivers what to do when faced with a dust storm. Must be exactly 30 seconds in length with narration, music and other audio elements that will make it compelling.Specific information about what to do is provided by the Arizona Emergency Information Network at this link – https://ein.az.gov/hazards/dust-storms

Due by Week 10. (The scripts will be read aloud by the student and critiqued by the instructor and other students in-class.)

Week 10 Review and critique of PSA radio spots.

Quiz #1 (Covering material from weeks 1-9)

Explanation of the Assignment in Week 15 – a mock press conference.

Each student will present a planned statement about a service, policy or event for his organization. Statement should be two to three minutes in length. Student will then answer at least three to four questions posed by other students or the instructor acting as reporters.

Agency and/or topics will need to be different for each student so as to not to favor a student who goes last rather than first.

Student and instructor may collaborate on topics and will need to be established by week 14.

Week 11 Discussion – Newsletters
Types of newsletters.
Print versus online editions.
Design layout (CRAP acronym)
Selecting topics appropriate for newsletters versus other types of communication platforms.
Targeting your audience.Assignment #4: Develop and produce a two-page newsletter for a public agency or organization consisting of information about the agency’s history, mission, leadership, organizational chart, services, current events and happenings.Due by Week 13.

Read:
“Effective Writing in the Public Sector” by John W. Swain and Kathleen Dolan Swain
Chapter 8. Newsletters

and

“Communicating for Results in Government: A Strategic Approach for Public Managers” by James L. Garnett
Chapter 7: Communicating with Government’s Publics

Week 12 Discussion – Social Media and the public sector.
How is it different when a public organization uses social media compared to a private organization? Why?
Understanding that all interactions are public record and subject to FOIA and similar types of laws at the state and local level.
Citizen engagement is no longer a one- way communication.Read:
“Beginner’s Guide to Writing Powerful Press Releases” by Mickie Kennedy
Chapter 10: Publicity Through Web 2.0, Social Media, and SEO Press Releases
Week 13 Discussion – Social Media continued.
Search Engine Optimization
Keyword optimization
Keyword competition
Audience research
Using infographics and data visualization to convey messages for social media audiences.Assignment #5: Write a 500-word essay about why the use of social media is different for a public versus a private organization. Due by Week 14.
Week 14 Guest Speaker- Fields Mosely Communications Director for Maricopa County and former journalist and television news anchor.

Quiz #2 (Covering material from weeks 11-13)

Week 15 Mock press conference – Each student will present a planned statement about a service, policy or event for his organization. Statement should be two to three minutes in length. Student will then answer at least three to four questions posed by other students or the instructor acting as reporters.
Week 16 Reflection Paper: Write a 500 to 750-word paper answering the following questions: 1) What did you learn from the class or find most useful? 2) How has this course changed your understanding of the role of communication in the public sector? Due by the end of Week 16.

 

Assignments
Assignment #1: Write a 750-word essay on the unique problems, challenges, and opportunities facing communication in the public sector. Due by the beginning of Week 4.

Assignment #2: Part I -Write a press release for a new product of your choice or imagination.
Part II – Write a press release for Governor Ducey’s proposal for teacher pay increases. Both due by Week 7.

Assignment #3: Write a script for and produce a 30 second PSA radio spot for the Arizona Department of Transportation advising drivers what to do when faced with a dust storm. Must be exactly 30 seconds in length with narration, music and other audio elements that will make it compelling. Due by Week 10.

Assignment #4: Develop and produce a two-page newsletter for a public agency or organization consisting of information about the agency’s history, mission, leadership, organizational chart, services, current events and happenings. Due by Week 13.

Assignment #5: Write a 500-word essay about why the use of social media is different for a public versus a private organization. Due by Week 14.

In-class Assignment #1: Practice writing attention grabbing headlines.

In-class Assignment #2: Practice writing opening paragraphs.

Quiz #1 (Covering material from weeks 1-9)

Quiz #2 (Covering material from weeks 11-13)
Quizzes are meant to ensure you are understanding the concepts of the readings and in-class discussions. Quizzes will be a mix of multiple choice, true/false, and short essay questions.

Mock press conference – Each student will present a planned statement about a service, policy or event for his organization. Statement should be two to three minutes in length. Student will then answer at least three to four questions posed by other students or the instructor acting as reporters.

Reflection Paper: Write a 500 to 750-word paper answering the following questions: 1) What did you learn from the class or find most useful? 2) How has this course changed your understanding of the role of communication in the public sector? Due by the end of Week 16.

Participation: You will be graded on your participation in the class discussions. You are expected to have completed the assigned readings before class and come prepared to meaningfully contribute to the discussion and advance the conversation. Participation counts toward 10% of your total grade.

 

Grading

Assignment #1 100
Assignment #2 100
Assignment #3 100
Assignment #4 125
Assignment #5 100
In-class Assignment #1 25
In-class Assignment #2 25
Quiz #1 50
Quiz #2 50
Mock Press Conference 125
Reflection Paper 100
Participation 100
Total Points 1000

 

Survey of comparable course offerings at other universities in Arizona and at top-ranked schools for journalism in the United States

University of Arizona – No equivalent

University of California – Berkeley
PUB AFF 225 Policy Communications – Description: The Goldman School equips students to speak truth to power. In this course, the goal is to focus on the art and science of persuasive oral communication in policy. This course equips students with the best practices of oral communication and provides them with a safe space to find their voice. We focus primarily on persuasion.

University of Central Florida – No equivalent

Columbia University – No equivalent

Emerson
CC315 – Introduction to Nonprofit Communication Management – Description: Nonprofits rely on a solid strategic plan for success in following their missions; board structure, branding, funding, effective communication, and a commitment to serve their constituencies must be deployed strategically. This course provides a foundation in nonprofit communication management and social media communication strategies.

CC608 – Public Affairs – Description: Students gain the knowledge and skills necessary to identify, analyze, and communicate with internal and external stakeholder groups for the purpose of persuasion. Rhetorical strategies are developed for ethical, effective issue advocacy campaigns and campaigns to build identity, and enhance and protect reputation of individuals and organizations. New media developments, diverse and global stakeholder groups, and the 24/7 media environment will be addressed.

University of Florida – No equivalent

University of Missouri – No equivalent

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
PLCY 305 Communicating in Public Policy – Students will learn and practice the use of a range of tools and techniques for communicating information about complex public policy issues to diverse audiences. Emphasis on written communication and visualization techniques to explore and explain patterns in large data sets.

MEJO 435 Public Information Strategies – Description: This course provides a comprehensive assessment and understanding of the role of public relations professionals throughout government and the nonprofit sector as well. The course examines the unique requirements placed on communicators who are simultaneously responsible for representing their respective organizations while keeping the public informed.

Northern Arizona University
PADM 302W – Public Sector Communication – Description: This course examines the role of communication in the public sector and explores strategies to help public managers communicate and write effectively.

PR 371 – Public Relations Case Studies and Research – Description: Case-study method of analysis of contemporary public relations problems for industry, nonprofit organizations, and governmental agencies. Research emphasized.

Northwestern – No equivalent

University of Southern California
PR 455 Public Relations for Non-Profit Organizations – Description: Introduction to the specialized field of public relations for non-profit and non-governmental organizations; emphasis on case studies, strategic and critical thinking, and campaign development.

PUBD 500 Introduction to the Advanced Study of Public Diplomacy – Description: Introduction to the advanced academic study of public diplomacy from multidisciplinary perspectives: including media and communication, international relations and history.

PPD 693 Communicating Public Policy – Description: Exploring the complex relationships that exist among policies, policymakers, and the media; analyzing the role of journalists and policy analysts in the public policy process.

 

Analysis

As the survey of top ranked journalism universities demonstrates, there are only a few select programs that address this specialized area of study. Some of the courses that address communication in the public sector are not in fact part of a journalism or mass communication program and are instead part of a public administration or public policy program.

Each of the universities listed with their associated courses attempt to address, in some way, the need for formal communication education in the public sector. However, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, through its MEJO 435 Public Information Strategies course, is the only major university that specifically addresses the same topics and skills as the ones outlined in this syllabus and in a similarly comprehensive way. This creates a unique opportunity for Arizona State University which does not currently offer this type of course at its school of journalism and mass communication or its school of public affairs.

It is my opinion that Public Sector Communication should be recognized as a subcategory of mass communication in much the same way that sports journalism or business journalism are now recognized as a subcategory of journalism.

Establishing a course in public sector communication will allow the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication to demonstrate true innovation and further distinguish itself as a leader in the diverse field of mass communication.

 

Advertisements