Friday, March 26, 2021

March 26, 2021 Paper Presentation: What about the Client in the Public Relations Campaigns Course? A Look at What the Literature Tells Us

This morning, at the International Academy of Business Disciplines (IABD) Annual Conference, I presented a paper entitled "What About the Client in the Public Relations Campaigns Course? A Look at What the Literature Tells Us." It's based on my review of scholarship on the public relations campaigns course, which I've been teaching most recently for University of San Francisco's MA in Professional Communication program. An abstract of the paper follows. I intend to submit it for publication in the near future. 

The public relations campaigns course serves as the “capstone,” or culminating, experience in undergraduate degree programs. It bears the weight of expectations in terms of preparing students for professional practice by providing them with opportunities to complete projects for real organizations (“clients”) (Aldoory & Wrigley, 2000; Benigni & Cameron, 1999). The needs of educators and students dominate the extensive literature on the course (see for example Farmer, Perry, & Ha, 2016; Harrison & Bak, 2017; McCollough, 2018; Muturi, An, & Mwangi, 2013). What is far less developed is the profile and motivation of clients, which are often community-based nonprofit organizations as the campaigns course has become a model for incorporating service learning into the public relations curriculum (Allison, 2008).  

Rogers and Andrews (2016) argue that the relationship between faculty, students, and clients calls for further analysis. To that end, they explore nonprofit organization communication needs and expectations of working with public relations students.  Elsewhere, Rogers and Andrews (2013) consider organization recruitment, selection, and retention, subjects also addressed in more broadly framed research on the public relations campaigns class (see for example Benigni, Cheng, & Cameron, 2004; Benigni, Wood, & Cameron, 2007/2008). This paper will review what the literature tells us about the client in the public relations campaigns class, and in the process will suggest issues and/or variables that might merit further inquiry in support of the work of faculty teaching the class. 


Aldoory, L., & Wrigley, B. (2000). Exploring the use of real clients in the PR campaigns course. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 54(4), 47-58.

Allison, A. W. (2008). A Best Practices Service Learning Framework for the Public Relations Campaigns Course. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 8(3), 50-60.

Benigni, V. L., & Cameron, G. T. (1999). Teaching PR campaigns: The current state of the art. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 54(2), 50-60. 

Benigni, V., Cheng, I. H., & Cameron, G. T. (2004). The role of clients in the public relations campaigns course. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 59(3), 259-277.

Benigni, V.L., Wood, J.C. & Cameron, G.T. (2007/8). A sense of agency: Utilising firms in the public relations campaigns course. Prism, 5 (1&2):

Farmer, B. A., Perry, L. G., & Ha, I.S. (2016). University-Community Engagement and Public Relations Education: A Replication and Extension of Service-Learning Assessment in the Public Relations Campaigns Course. The International Journal of Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement, 4(1), 235-254.

Harrison, G. B., & Bak, E. N. (2017). Service-Learning in a Public Relations Campaign Class: How Contingency Management Supports Positive Outcomes. Partnerships: A Journal of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement, 8(2), 79-91.

McCollough, C. J. (2018). Competition and public relations campaigns: Assessing the impact of competition on quality of projects, partners, and students. Journal of Public Relations Education, 4(1), 25-48.

Muturi, N., An, S., & Mwangi, S. (2013). Students’ expectations and motivation for service-learning in public relations. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 68(4), 387-408.

Rogers, C., & Andrews, V. (2013). Coorientation theory and assessment of the RFP solution to client/service learner matchmaking. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 68(3), 242-254.

Rogers, C., & Andrews, V. (2016). Nonprofits’ expectations in PR service–learning partnerships. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 71(1), 95-106.

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