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Below are full details of our Diploma syllabus.

2.1 Public relations principles

Suggested teaching time: approximately 50%.

Learning outcome

At the end of unit 2.1 learners will be able to:

  • Critically evaluate a wide range of public relations theories, concepts and practice
  • Locate public relations theory and practice in wider academic and social contexts
  • Evaluate the impact of public relations on their own organisation/clients and wider contexts
  • Apply a range of public relations concepts to their workplace and the sectors they operate in

Indicative content

Theory and practice (approximately 10% of unit). Definitions of public relations, applying theory and reflective practice:

  • The role of theory in developing best practice
  • Using theory to secure professional recognition
  • Personal learning approaches/reflective practice
  • Appropriate writing styles and study skills

Public relations in context (approximately 30% of unit). Public relations and the organisation:

  • Mission, vision and values
  • Open systems to anticipate, adapt and respond
  • Marketing public relations, corporate communications, integrated communications

Public relations and communication theory:

  • Opinions, attitude and belief
  • Models of attitude formation and message reception (including semiotics)
  • Communication process: source through to effect

International perspectives and diversity:

  • Public relations and globalisation
  • Gender and multi-cultural perspectives
  • Stockholm accords and future developments

Strategic public relations (approximately 30% of unit). Dialogue and persuasion models:

  • Persuasion as an ethical means to obtain agreement and support
  • Dialogue as consensus building and conflict resolution
  • Different theoretical perspectives including excellence, critical theory, feminism and most modernism

Reputation and relationship management:

  • Reputation relatively stable and enduring
  • Reputation among strangers and relationship with friends
  • Exchange and communal relationships

Challenge of the online environment:

  • Conversations in the public domain
  • Publics become active rather than passive
  • Direct rather than mediated information flows

Professional practice (approximately 30% of unit). Ethics and professionalism:

  • Ethical traditions such as consequentialist and non-consequentialist
  • Applying ethics to public relations: ethical decision making and codes of conduct
  • Characteristics of a profession

Corporate social responsibility/community relations/sustainability and stakeholder theory:

  • Economic, social and environmental triple bottom line
  • CSR as enlightened self interest
  • Stakeholder theory

Professional roles:

  • Managerial and technician roles
  • Relationship with other managers
  • The client/consultancy relationship

Strategic media management:

- Publicity model v relationship model

- Digital media and channels

- Website metrics and digital media KPIs


Critical reasoning test (2 2500-word essays).

2.2 Planning and programme management

Suggested teaching time: approximately 40%.

Learning outcome

At the end of unit 2.2 learners will be able to:

  • Apply a range of planning concepts to different public relations contexts and their own workplace
  • Analyse and prioritise the situation, environmental issues, and stakeholders/publics
  • Develop strategic objectives aligned with corporate goals
  • Design effective communications and select appropriate research and evaluation tools

Indicative content

Strategic planning and communications management (33% of unit). Risk issues and crisis management:

  • Boundary scanning and monitoring
  • Contingency and risk planning
  • Crisis communications

Stakeholders and publics:

  • Distinguishing stakeholders and publics
  • Situational theories and categorising by linkages and issues
  • Stakeholder mapping

The corporate context:

  • Corporate and integrated communications
  • Corporate image and identity
  • Working with pressure groups and campaigning organisations

Planning research and evaluation (33% of unit). Research to assess the situation:

  • Analysing the environment
  • Analysing the organisation
  • Analysing publics/stakeholders

Research to monitor progress:

  • Outputs
  • Out-takes and outflows
  • Formative (progress) evaluation

Research to assess impact:

  • Outcomes
  • Summative (impact) evaluation
  • Barcelona principles

Campaign planning (33% of unit). Planning models (examples):

  • Gregory
  • Cutlip et al
  • Smith

Objective setting:

  • Aims, goals and objectives
  • SMART objectives
  • Hierarchy of objectives


  • Thinking creatively/generating ideas
  • Combining novelty and effectiveness
  • Creative roles, e.g. Belbin


  • Deciding on content
  • Crafting the message
  • Presenting the message

Strategy and tactics:

  • Choosing the right strategy
  • Linking strategy and tactics
  • Appropriate tactics that are deliverable

Budgeting, timescales and resource:

  • Approaches to budgeting
  • Gannt charts and PERT diagrams
  • Gathering resources


Strategic public relations plan (3,000 words) plus supporting rationale to illustrate the theoretical and conceptual underpinnings that have informed the plan (2,500 words).

2.3 Personal Skills and Development (reflective practice)

Suggested teaching time: approximately 10%.

Learning outcome

At the end of unit 2.3 learners will be able to:

  • Define their own project parameters and produce a realistic research plan
  • Produce a literature review of current thinking in the field, including critical evaluation
  • Conduct primary and secondary research, as appropriate, using suitable research tools
  • Produce an in-depth reflective investigation of a selected area of public relations practice or theory, drawing on material introduced in previous modules

Indicative content

  • Project design
  • Research tools
  • Personal reflection


Research Project (6,000 words) on a topic agreed with tutor/teaching centre.

Assessment Details

Assessments are directly related to each study unit, i.e. 1 assignment per unit. These assess professional and theoretical knowledge, vocational skills and personal development. Progression and links between the CIPR Advanced Certificate and Diploma qualifications is also evident.

Unit 2.1 – Public relations principles

The Critical Reasoning Test (CRT) examines your knowledge, understanding and cognitive skills. It is completed during a fixed time period and structured to allow you to take responsibility for preparing and submitting well-developed answers to a series of questions that present varied, specific or complex scenarios relevant to the appropriate level.

You are assessed on your comprehension and ability to critique and apply theoretical principles demonstrating that you have developed an expert framework for making judgements about the theory and practice of public relations.

Unit 2.2 – Planning and programme management

Subject specific vocational skills for the Diploma are assessed through a planning assignment. The plan is based on a particular case scenario necessitating all work to be produced specifically for the course. You are required to submit a strategic public relations plan aimed at senior management, and a supporting rationale demonstrating how theory has informed your practical decisions.

You must apply diagnostic skills and originality in producing a high standard of written work. This is against a background of a strategic plan that demonstrates your analytical ability, confirms your understanding of public relations and planning processes, and your ability to communicate that understanding.

Unit 2.3 – Personal skills and development

You are required to undertake self-directed research, using an appropriate range of research methods, to produce an in-depth reflective investigation into a selected area of public relations practice and theory on a topic that is to be agreed with your teaching centre's guidance.