Pulitzer Prize Winners (RGM JOUR 4250)

By Sarah Copeland

I recently attended an event held at my university to recognize Pulitzer prize winners who are alumnae of the university. There were ten participants who came to sit on panels during the event and answer questions about their experiences. The event was divided into two segments. The first half featured the first panel of five Pulitzer finalists. The second half featured five alumni Pulitzer prize winners: Leana Allen, Kerry Gunnels, Dan Malone, Gayle Reaves and David Klement.

Pulitzer Winners Dan Malone, David Klement, Gayle Reaves, Kerry Gunnels and Leona Allen (from left to right)

All ten of these journalists had incredible experiences to share. They dealt with stories that center around the main issues within our culture as well as cultures around the world. One of the alumni described their role as an “act of bearing witness.” This description really resonated with me personally. The role of a journalist is indeed to witness and retell to the public, and these specific journalists have had the job of retelling very difficult stories. Some of the main topics centered around the Black Lives Matter movement, sex trafficking in Thailand and other racist or sexist topics.

“Everyone is different and has a different story,” Finalist Melissa Boughton said. “Never go into a story with a preconceived notion.” This piece of advice means so much more coming from this journalist. She, like several other alumni present at the event, have worked on stories centered on the current racial issues occurring in America. Her job is to get both sides of the story and report the truth told by her source.

Why do these journalists take up such difficult beats? Why do they follow such controversial, emotional topics? Because they have a responsibility to public service. They report the truth and tell these stories in order to get the response the stories deserve. These journalists hope to get responses like, “That’s just wrong!” or, “That’s not right.” If they induce those types of responses then they have done their job well.

These journalists won the Pulitzer prize because they publicized issues that need attention. They didn’t shy away from difficult subjects but fully embraced them in order to retell the difficult stories to others. These journalists call attention to the bad things going on in the world, not to highlight negativity, but to encourage change. Because of these journalists, wrongs that occur in society don’t go unnoticed.




PReventable Errors

By: Sarah Copeland

Here’s a fact: PR is always changing. Just like all the apps on your phone, PR is always updating and, hopefully, becoming more useful. As a PR professional, there are several things to be aware of so that you continue to be successful. There are plenty of mistakes to be made. Luckily, those mistakes have already, and are constantly being made so that you can learn from them without having to actually experience them.

PR FailImage Source

After reading through different errors past professionals had made I have come up with the top 5 mistakes for PR pros to be aware of. I’m not saying knowing these will keep you from making the same mistake, but they might.

Here are my PR preventable errors:

  1. Bad Timing– It is very important in the field of PR not to procrastinate. Many of your tasks involve heavy amounts of research and then additional time consuming work. Time is also important to consider when working with the media. Journalists have deadlines. No matter how important your press release is, journalists can’t accept a story with limited time for its completion. However, stories can be equally bad if given too early when the story has no timeliness for the journalist. Time is a tricky matter, be aware of the limits.
  1. Bad Press Releases Press releases have a lot of room for error. First the press release must have a purpose. The information presented must have worth or it will be marked unimportant. Also, if the release is poorly written or is written with too much hype, the media is not going to use it. A press release needs to grab the journalist’s attention quickly and it has to get to the point fast.
  1. Bad Follow-ups As for follow-ups, journalists don’t want calls asking if they received your press release. You must have additional information so that your call is useful to them as well. PR is a two-way communicative field and both sides must benefit.
  1. No Research- PR professionals should always know about what they are pitching. This is a research heavy profession, especially when it comes to media relations. One big mistake is sending out press releases to journalists with a beat that has nothing in common with the subject of the release. Research so you know who is best to pitch to.
  1. Bad Planning– Hopefully you, or at least I, will never make this mistake. PR professionals should always have a plan formed. There is no way to be successful in PR by improvising or doing it as you go along. Have a plan and a backup plan to be successful.

Of course there are plenty more mistakes to review. I’m not sure it is possible to never make mistakes. I actually think that mistakes are what keeps PR relevant. Remember that it is okay to make mistakes. I’m just hoping that this will help you stay free from making these common ones.



AllBusiness. (n.d.). Top 10 Public Relations Mistakes. Retrieved March 25, 2016, from http://www.allbusiness.com/top-10-public-relations-mistakes-3988-1.html

New Harbor Group. (2015). 10 Common PR Mistakes. Retrieved March 25, 2016, from http://www.nharbor.com/why-public-relations/10-common-pr-mistakes/

Wood, A. (2015, December 16). The Top 10 PR Mistakes Journalists Hate Most. Retrieved March 25, 2016, from http://www.adweek.com/prnewser/the-top-10-pr-mistakes-journalists-hate-most-2/120064






Never a Break Even During Spring Break

By: Sarah Copeland


Spring Break is finally here! If you are like me you would usually go somewhere awesome to get away from school and just relax. However, this year, my hometown is the only place I’ll be for the majority of my break. But I’ll be making the most of my time.

As a public relations student, there is hardly ever a point in time where you can be ignorant of the things going on around you, even during a break from school. For anyone who is staying home like me, we will have the time to become even more prepared for our career. And, for those who get to have more fun this break, there are still some things you can do to make sure you don’t lose too much touch with the PR world.

For the vacationers: First, always be the wonderful PR person you are. These traits make you extremely valuable, especially when you are out of town. Who knows, maybe you’ll even make some useful connections by meeting new people. An opportunity that comes with traveling over spring break is networking.

networking pic 1Image Source

To make this opportunity even better try traveling to a place that you may eventually want to work. What better place to build connections? And don’t forget to keep an eye on the news. It’s important to keep in the know.

For those stuck at home: Well, it looks like you’ll have a lot of time on your hands so may as well get a jump on improving your PR game. Of course, there are still networking opportunities at home. You can also spend this time updating all your social media pages like LinkedIn.

sPRing Break pic 1Image Source

You can also use this time to hone your writing skills by making a blog or posting to your existing blog. And, since you know you will have to do it sooner or later, try looking for internships that you may be really interested in. Finally, work on creating good PR habits. Read all you can, write well, communicate with people and listen.

No matter where you are this spring break there are still ways to stay connected and maintain your PR influence. Don’t forget about your responsibilities but still have fun.


Mills, E. (2015, February 26). How to Up Your PR game Over Spring Break. Retrieved March 11, 2016, from http://ouimpressions.com/2015/02/26/how-to-up-your-pr-game-over-spring-break/

PR Buzz: Nine Habits of Highly Effective PR People » Zapwater. (2014). Retrieved March 11, 2016, from http://www.zapwater.com/pr-buzz-nine-habits-of-highly-effective-pr-people/

Sen-Gupta, G. (2014, March 06). Expert Advice: 6 Tips for Networking over Spring Break – NerdWallet. Retrieved March 11, 2016, from http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/loans/student-loans/expert-advice-network-spring-break/

Internships-Enough Said

By: Sarah Copeland
Intern pic 1Image Source

Last week I had my very first interview for an internship. One of my connections through LinkedIn messaged me about the opportunity and I decided to apply. I have to say, the main reason I applied was because of that connection. Honestly, if I could get through college without having to do an internship I probably would have. I was nervous is because I’ve never done an internship before and I don’t know what to expect. But, completing and internship, especially as a PR student, is 100 percent necessary.

I feel lucky, though. The internship would be a great opportunity and it is a paid position. The most important part is my boss. During the interview, he answered all my questions and gave all the signs that he would be a good mentor.

Here are a couple things to look for when applying and interviewing for an internship:

One-on-one Mentoring Experience: There is so much to learn before entering the field as a professional. And you can’t be expected to do tons of work without help, at least at first. Internships are intended to help you grow.

Real Responsibilities: Good internships give interns the opportunity to build new skills by doing things like hands-on projects.

A Professional Environment: This is an experience that leads you one step closer to your real-life career. It is important that this internship is a serious program preparing you for your future.

Paid: PR interns are responsible for so many things and offers significant value to the company and, therefore, deserve compensation.

All PR students know what is expected of them in their future careers. In fact, we are gaining valuable skills during our education. If anything we are learning how to multitask several important assignments all at once, keep up with deadlines and handle the stress of our workloads. College is a key training ground for the professional world, at least for public relations.

Since I was so nervous I decided to look up some important things that I can look forward to during an internship. These are the skills anyone might need but PR interns should definitely have.

  1. Good Writing
  2. Multitasking abilitiesIntern pic 2
  3. Public Speaking
  4. Researching
  5. Questioning


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Like I said, college has already prepared me for a majority of those skills. And one thing I already learned from my interview is that skills can always be improved upon. That’s what is nice about an internship, the opportunity to have one-on-one training to help hone those skills. I’m still nervous, but at least after the interview I’m a little more excited also.


Finn, L. (n.d.). Job Description of a PR Intern. Retrieved March 04, 2016, from http://work.chron.com/job-description-pr-intern-13304.html

Huhman, H. (2013, September 27). Why PR interns should never be unpaid. Retrieved March 04, 2016, from http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/Why_PR_interns_should_never_be_unpaid_15166.aspx

Wood, S. P. (2014, October 17). 5 Important Skills PR Interns Should Possess Before They Get the Gig. Retrieved March 04, 2016, from http://www.adweek.com/prnewser/5-important-skills-pr-interns-should-possess-before-they-get-the-gig/102511

PR and Journalism: It’s A Long-term Relationship

By: Sarah Copeland

I have to admit, when I decided on public relations I came into the major rather clueless. What I mean is I had no prior knowledge of this field and still made the choice. I had turned down every other major listed in the UNT course options. I came across public relations, read the description, said, “yeah, that sounds like something I could do” and basically decided my future with that thought. Since then I have constantly been amazed with how many different areas of PR exist.

One subset of PR that I’ve talked about often this week is Media Relations. This career isn’t really my intended PR focus and it’s not what I am most interested in, but I will admit that I hadn’t viewed in very seriously until this semester. The perception of media relations is far from accurate. Many difficulties occur between PR specialists and the journalists they communicate with. Without trust and respect for each other’s work, communicating isn’t easy.

Probably the number one thing media relations is NOT is constantly writing press releases and emailing them to journalists with the expectation that it will get media coverage. Communicating with journalists takes much more than sending out press releases or media kits. It’s called media RELATIONS for a reason. Building relationships takes time and effort and even more to be on good terms with journalists.

Blog 5 pic 2Image Source

What stands out to me is that, at the college level, both public relations students and journalism students start out taking the same courses. I had to take news writing courses and other journalism courses because both majors are considered journalism courses, at least at my college. Here’s what is incredible to me: even though we both have the same start line, journalists don’t trust PR people and PR people don’t trust journalists. PR specialists fear what the journalists will chose to report and journalists fear that the PR specialists will either hide information or be dishonest.

I can’t say how journalists can help make this necessary relationship easier, but I can give a few tips for the other future PR pros out there. First, don’t waste their time. In media relations you should always be aware that journalists have deadlines and those time limits should be respected. This is also relevant to emails or phone calls. Make the point and then follow up with them later, they have other news sources as well. Next, don’t become frustrated if they write a negative story about something you pitched to them, even if the information is false. Finally, be honest and available. As PR practitioners we should always be honest and we should also be able to get in contact with.

Blog 5 pic 1

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All of these tips can be taken as ways to maintain good relationships with the media and they are best practices for PR anyways so take note.



Dougherty, J. (2015, February 23). 7 Ways to Build Better Relationships With Journalists | Cision. Retrieved February 19, 2016, from http://www.cision.com/us/2015/02/7-ways-to-build-better-relationships-with-journalists/

Himler, P. (2013, March 14). The Journalist And The PR Pro: A Broken Marriage? Retrieved February 19, 2016, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterhimler/2013/03/14/the-journalist-the-pr-pro-a-broken-marriage/#762b8134e42e

Media Relations – SHIFT Communications PR Agency – Boston | New York | San Francisco | Austin. (2015). Retrieved February 19, 2016, from http://www.shiftcomm.com/what-we-do/services/media-relations/

Obrien, A. (2014, September 19). Public Relations Vs. Media Relations – What’s the Difference? Retrieved February 19, 2016, from http://everything-pr.com/public-relations-media-relations/52598/

Reed, V. M. (2014, June 6). 5 Media Relations Challenges PR Pros Face. Retrieved February 19, 2016, from http://mavenagency.com/blog/2014/06/media-relations-challenges/

Transparency and Truth, Not Spin

JOUR 4460 Blog #3

By: Sarah Copeland


As a college student, meeting new people comes with rather repetitious small talk. The conversation that contains that one question everyone always asks: What’s your major?

My answer for the past two years has been public relations. The slightly surprising part is that a majority of people don’t know what PR is all about. Several encounters have ended with me trying to explain, to the best of my ability, all the things PR includes. Other people, about five actually, have interrupted my explanations to say something along the lines of, “oh, you mean the people who defend bad things by spinning the information” or “so you must be really good at lying and getting out of trouble.”


First let me say that I was always a good kid. I followed the rules and I honestly don’t think I ever rebelled against my parents. There was one time I accidentally burned a hole in the carpet. I was playing around with a candle lighter and I was being stupid. But I was a kid and I made a mistake, it happens. I didn’t try and talk my way out of it. I didn’t make a big fuss or say someone else was to blame. I ended up telling my dad exactly what happened, apologized for it and said I would never use the lighter again for anything but lighting candles.  I was terrified that my dad would be super angry, but he wasn’t.

This is a good analogy for what PR should be like. If something goes wrong, be honest, apologize and clear the air. But, people don’t realize this. For the amount of people I’ve met who have known nothing about PR, there seem to be many clichés about what PR professionals do. The idea of studying a skill in order to lie and cheat your way out of trouble, along with some other things, is exactly what I hope PR isn’t and the complete opposite of what I’m being taught.

Two of my classes this semester, more than the others, are teaching me how to prepare for my future career in the best way possible. Crisis communication is one of the courses, PR communications is the other. Both teach respectable values: know what needs to be done to reach your goals, and, if something goes wrong, be honest and solve the problem to repair the damage.

My goal as a PR professional is to maintain respectable and long-lasting relationships. I am passionate about my career choice because I will have the ability to influence publics in a positive way through discussion and engagement, not lies and spin. If there is anything I’ve learned from my studies it’s that transparency and honesty are vital to maintaining a good reputation and loyal supporters.

I hope someday everyone will stop associating PR with spin and instead recognize PR as an honest industry. At least it should be.


Barrett, S. (2014, October 24). How to persuade The New York Times that PR is not about spin. Retrieved February 06, 2016, from http://www.prweek.com/article/1318959/persuade-new-york-times-pr-not-spin

To Spin Or Not To Spin | PRWeb. (n.d.). Retrieved February 06, 2016, from http://service.prweb.com/resources/article/to-spin-or-not-to-spin-a-pr-and-social-media-question/

Wightman, J. (2011, April). 20 things PR is NOT. Retrieved February 06, 2016, from http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/20_things_PR_is_NOT_12327.aspx