A Handbook for Staff and Faculty
Public Relations Department
UNC Charlotte Public Relations contacts
Director of Public Relations
John D. Bland, APR
Communications background: Newspaper reporter, magazine editor, corporate
communications director, PR agency counselor and account supervisor.
Education background: MBA, McColl Graduate School of Business, Queens University
of Charlotte; BS in Communications/Journalism, University of Tennessee; Institute for
Crisis Management; Accredited in Public Relations
Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee
At UNC Charlotte since: November 2005
Internal Communications Manager
Search in progress
Media Relations Manager
Communications background: Associated Press newsman, business writer,
correspondent; daily newspaper reporter.
Education background: MA in Journalism, The University of Missouri; BA in English,
Hometown: Ramsey, New Jersey
At UNC Charlotte since: September 2006
UNC Charlotte Public Relations contacts
Media Relations Coordinator
Denise “Buffie” Stephens
Communications background: Doggett/Lippi Advertising; Powell & Jones Advertising;
Education background: BA in English, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
At UNC Charlotte since: May 2006
Communications background: UNC Charlotte Public Relations Department
Hometown: Rutland, Vermont
At UNC Charlotte since: July 2002
Note: Some of UNC Charlotte’s colleges and organizations have their own managers of
communications and marketing who handle various communications-related projects.
They are another resource to consider, especially regarding tasks that may be better
handled at the college or department level. If you are unsure whether your organization
has a communications manager, we encourage you to ask your co-workers or supervisor.
Welcome to the Inaugural edition of the UNC Charlotte PR Guidebook! Please take a
look inside and keep this for future reference – we think it will prove useful.
The UNC Charlotte Public Relations Team
Anyone who has spent any time around UNC Charlotte would agree there are so many
stories to tell. It’s the job of the Public Relations Department to gather newsworthy
information from faculty, administrators and staff and disseminate it to the media and
ultimately to the general public.
At first glance, it appears to be a straightforward process, but it can be complex and in
some cases frustrating. Reporters and editors are bombarded by daily phone calls,
e-mails and faxes pushing successes, new ventures, and other news tips; getting their
attention is always challenging.
We want to make the process of getting stories about UNC Charlotte in print and on the
air less cumbersome and more understandable. Charlotte is a growing city, with a wide
variety of media, including newspapers, TV stations, radio stations and magazines and
other publications. The challenge is finding the appropriate outlets for compelling news.
We’re here to work with you to do that.
What We Do
The responsibilities of the Public Relations Department focus on three primary areas:
• Media Relations
• Internal Communications
• Public Relations and Marketing Communications counsel
This work includes frequent collaboration with colleagues throughout the university,
especially in supporting special events or activities of the Chancellor’s Office and the
University Relations and Community Affairs Division. Our services are available to all
Colleges, Departments, Offices, etc. However, our priority is representing the University
and helping advance its strategic goals. In effect, we function as a corporate
What is News?
We all agree it’s important for the word to get out about the great things happening at the
University. The challenge is to find out what sets your stories apart from an everyday
So how can you tell if your story is news?
Evaluating a Story Idea
Reporters are drawn to news that fits into one or more of these categories:
Proximity – Nearness to your audience / Are they directly affected?
Timeliness – Is this something new?
Prominence – Are those involved of importance to the audience?
Novelty – Is this something unusual, first, largest etc.?
Conflict – Are there competing sides, big or small?
Wide Appeal – In many cases local media appeals to an eighth-grade reading
level and topics that appeal to mass audiences. Does your story have wide appeal
or can you describe why it should?
The Six Ws
It is also important to frame a story with the five Ws:
• Who is doing it?
• What is happening?
• Where is it happening?
• When will it or did it happen?
• Why (and how) is it being done?
A sixth W that is important to the media is:
• Why should anyone care? This is, perhaps, the most important – as every editor
will ask it before a story sees the light of day.
Be sure you can answer all these questions so that your story is solid.
Which Medium? Which Method?
Once a story has proven to be newsworthy, it’s time to find the right avenue for it. In
order to ensure we are choosing the correct path, here are some things we need from you:
1. Time – Please give us ample time to publicize your story. This will make it more
likely for your news story to get adequate coverage. When we have to rush, we
can miss deeper news value that often hides within a seemingly superficial story.
Providing us with several days notice gives us time to look for an interesting
angle or a news tidbit that might encourage a newspaper or broadcaster to do the
2. Contacts – We need to be able to present accurate contact information for on-
campus sources who are both knowledgeable about the subject and willing to talk
to reporters. Do you know of any “experts” outside the University who would
validate your story? Please provide names, phone number and e-mail addresses.
3. Context – What’s the “big picture” surrounding your story. Can it be tied to a
major strategic priority of the University? Has this topic been covered before by
the local press?
Different stories are handled in different ways based on the nature of the story and the
audience to whom it is targeted. You must be willing to put your trust in the PR team’s
experience. Allow us to counsel you and please respect our right to decide how to
communicate the news.
Here are some of the ways we disseminate the news:
Campus News – Our internal weekly news outlet to faculty and staff. It is
managed by the Internal Communications Manager.
Media pitches – The Media Relations Manager, Media Relations Coordinator and
Director of Public Relations work directly with reporters and editors to place
specific UNC Charlotte stories and higher education trend stories in newspapers,
magazines, online and on TV or radio.
News releases – The Public Relations Department cultivates relationships with
reporters by providing well-written, accurate news releases and other written
materials delivered in a timely manner. Such releases provide sufficient facts to
permit the media to use them with few changes or enough information so that
reporters and editors can evaluate the story, and then follow up.
Tip Sheet – The Media Relations Coordinator sends a weekly round-up of current
news and events occurring at UNC Charlotte to various news media outlets every
Wednesday. The Tip Sheet serves as a digest of news briefs that are prepared
concisely and may be compelling - especially to television news assignment
editors. The Tip Sheet is not a catch-all for marginal stories – submissions are
judged on news appeal.
Media advisories – Advisories are brief outlines of information providing only the
Six Ws. Advisories are used to alert reporters and editor about events that are
likely to provide good material for photographers or video.
UNC Charlotte – The quarterly magazine for alumni and friends. This publication
is targeted to alumni and various V.I.P.s who are associated with or interested in
the University’s activities.
Web site promotions – Promos refer to the four “buttons” that appear on the right-
hand side of the uncc.edu home page. Typically, one of these promos is
designated as “non-rotating,” or static. This space is reserved for special use by
the Public Relations Department and the Chancellor’s Office. The remaining
promos are designated as “rotating,” or changing. All promos link to information
stored somewhere on the uncc.edu web site. Usually one promo remains visible at
all times (the non-rotating promo) while up to six additional promos rotate every
time you refresh your screen. Members of the campus community may submit
requests for one of the rotating-promo spots; for details, see Page 10.
The Public Relations team is committed to telling true stories that burnish the reputation
of the entire University. Like many of you, we have very limited resources at our
disposal. That requires us to make tough choices on how and where to apply our time.
Nonetheless, we provide a variety of services and seek to help you as much as we can.
Here are some of the other services we offer:
• Advising you on how to respond to media inquiries.
• Supporting your crisis communications needs.
• Brainstorming tactical ideas.
• Helping you devise a communication plan or strategy.
• Directing you to outside resources for PR, marketing and advertising
We observe well-established standards of practice, including confidentiality when
sensitive situations warrant; we will not lie and we seek not to mislead. We want all our
work to be credible, as credibility, accessibility and responsiveness are the currency of
effective public relations. We are the University’s advocates whose primary mission is to
reach out to the media to communicate favorable stories.
How it Works
Always feel free to call us when you have questions about any of the information in this
Guidebook. But for your convenience, here are some procedures that should guide you.
We try to balance flexibility with timeliness, so don’t be afraid to ask if you have a
question or problem.
Requesting News Releases and Pitches
The Public Relations office cultivates relationships with reporters by distributing
provocative and accurate news releases in a timely manner. The intent is to allow the
media to use the material with few changes, or give them enough information to do their
The stories we tell in the news release come from you – the university community. But
there are certain things we need before we can take your ideas and transform them into a
The main thing we require is your trust. The PR staff is a group of dedicated
professionals who have handled everything from human-interest stories to major
disasters, including cases of life and death.
It is vital for you to understand that the PR staff has the authority to make the final
determination about the use of any submission. We have the experience and the skills to
decide if an item warrants a news release or whether it is better suited for something else,
such as Campus News and the Tip Sheet. Some submissions are not suited for any action
on our part.
Here are a few tips for putting together an effective news release:
1. Be certain the story is newsworthy and accurate. Spend time to write a headline
that is succinct and catchy.
2. Start off with a brief description of the news or event, and then specify who
announced it: not the other way around.
3. Ask yourself if this is relevant to the public and what they will need to know. Get
right to the point; don’t assume the reader will make it past the first paragraph.
4. Keep the release’s length to one page. It’s a means to the end, not the end-all. One
PR expert once said to think of a news release as a job resume. It does not include
every bit of information you have, but it should serve to entice the reporter to pick
up the phone.
5. Avoid excessive use of jargon or adjectives. Deal with facts. Check and re-check
spellings, titles and statistics.
6. Provide contact information, such as the individual to contact, address, phone,
fax, email and web site address.
7. Confirm your information before you send it to us.
8. Try to make is as easy as possible for a reporter to use the release.
Providing news for the Tip Sheet
The Tip Sheet includes a headliner, news and business items, community related topics
and arts and entertainment events. Colleges and departments are encouraged to send news
items or events that have appeal to the public at-large for consideration. The PR team
uses its editorial judgment in choosing items to include.
The Tip Sheet is in production Tuesday and Wednesday and usually distributed to the
media by email at noon on Wednesday. Deadline for tips is noon on Tuesday. The
format is very popular and well-read. We welcome your submissions.
Submit items to Buffie Stephens at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributing to Campus News
All submissions to Campus News are via e-mail to the address email@example.com
Members of the UNC Charlotte community must submit articles by 5 p.m. the
Wednesday prior to publication for inclusion in Campus News.
Between 5 p.m. on Wednesday and noon on Monday, the editor edits and formats
Campus News text using the Associated Press Stylebook guidelines.
• Include the desired date of publication and article title in the subject line of your
e-mail. If you are requesting more than one publishing date, please submit
separately each week.
• Include the text of your submission in the body of the e-mail; attach individual
files of applicable photographs.
• Campus News is published according to the Associated Press stylebook, which
differs from the more academic MLA or APA styles.
• While we make every attempt to include your newsworthy submissions, Campus
News reserves the right to make editorial decisions; if we have questions about
your submission, we will contact you by e-mail and/or phone.
Requesting a web page promo
On the University’s homepage (www.uncc.edu), promotions are posted as images in the
right column. There are two kinds of promotions in that area: “Non-Rotating” promos
(reserved for Chancellor’s Office and Public Relations) and “Rotating” promos, which
change on browser refresh.
It is important to note that the homepage itself has a majority of its hits from off-campus
constituents. Promotions on the home page should be toward this large community of
people and not be focused on local University events intended for internal constituents
(for example, only students, only faculty and staff).
If you would like to have an image placed within the “Rotating Promo” area on the
homepage, e-mail the following information to firstname.lastname@example.org for approval:
1. Brief description of the event to promote.
2. Justification for homepage promotion.
3. Desired start date and end date of the promotion.
4. A visually engaging image or graphic to serve as the promo.
5. A URL/Web hyperlink to which the promo will direct users.
Please note that we receive many requests for promos and must consider all very
We hope this document will be useful for you. As you can understand, one of our
challenges is making the most valuable use of our limited resources, for the University.
Inevitably, our decisions are often subjective. Our goal is to do our best based on our
experience, and we promise that we will provide you with honest and professional
counsel. Don’t be a stranger.
The PR team seeks to fulfill the following mandate from Chancellor Philip L. Dubois.
Internal Administrative Operating Principles and Values
• Decisions must be in the best long-term interest of the University as a whole (i.e., turf-
based concerns need look elsewhere for support).
• Values to value include integrity, honesty, openness, candor, and absolute respect for
• Esse Quam Videri (NC State Motto)—“to be rather than to seem.” (i.e., substance
comes before spin.)
• Consult with affected constituencies and administrators before decisions are made.
• Use Chancellor individually and Executive Staff collectively as sounding boards for
difficult decisions or issues.
• Open and vigorous debate and discussion prior to decisions; faithful implementation
• Communicate and explain decisions made to constituent groups and affected
• Respond promptly and openly to inquiries from the Board of Governors, Office of the
President, Trustees, elected representatives, and the media (but keep Dubois and other
affected administrators informed).
• Listen positively; avoid defense responses to criticism from on- or off-campus
• “Walk the Talk”—words must be backed by actions and behaviors.
POLICY STATEMENT #29
DISSEMINATION OF NEWS
The University encourages effective communications within the campus community and
with the institution's many off-campus publics.
The Office of Public Relations is the University's agent for communicating with the
campus community and with off-campus publics through the mass media.
Members of the University community are encouraged to seek the assistance of the
Office of Public Relations in all communications endeavors.
Procedures and Regulations
1. Members of the University community may respond to representatives of the mass
media when approached for information; however, members of the University
community are cautioned against representing themselves as speaking for the institution.
Assistance from the Office of Public Relations is available when responding to queries
from the mass media.
2. Approaches by members of the University community to the mass media concerning
University affairs should be made through the Office of Public Relations.
3. The Office of Public Relations publishes a newsletter of broad general interest to the
campus community. This is the only University office authorized to publish such a
newsletter. Offices or departments wishing to inform the campus community may submit
information for consideration for the newsletter. This does not preclude the dissemination
of user information, such as that prepared by the Computer Center, by newsletter.
Suggestions for improvement of the campus newsletter are welcomed by the Office of