Are you familiar with these must-read public relations books?
Despite the amazing variety of materials now available on the Internet, books remain the primary medium for educating professionals in most fields, and public relations is no exception. The challenge is to find and read the really good books without having to wade through the countless weak and mediocre books that are also on the market. That's one reason why "must-read" book lists remain a staple of professional journals and, more recently, popular blogs.
Here are links to just a few of the must-read book lists that were published during 2009.
- Top 5 Books for PR Pros posted on about.com,
- 6 Must-Read Books for Public Relations People from the prchannel.com
- Top 10 Must-Reads for the PR Professional!, a blog by the staff of RedEgg Solutions, Inc., and
- Flack Jackets, a Wall Street Journal column by Michael Klempner that claimed to list "the five best ... ultimate books on public relations."
After reading several such lists, -- and posting responses to a couple of them -- I began thinking about my own list of must-read books and how it would differ. It wasn't an entirely new idea for me. In fact, for a number of years when I was actively teaching, I distributed a class handout titled Public Relations Bookshelf that I urged students to consider when they began building their own professional reference libraries.
But, creating this must-read list entailed a bit more than putting a new heading on an old class handout.
First, there were a lot of recently published public relations books that needed to be considered as possibilities. -- Ironically, however, my must-read list ended up with only a few of the most recent public relations books because I found that most of the recent best-selling PR books are so narrowly focused on specialized how-to-do-it skills that I don't think they'll have much longevity. I suspect that most of them will have faded into obscurity or will be wiped away by the "next big development in communication technology" long before they have a chance to become "classics."
I also had to do a lot of winnowing down. My class handout usually included 30-40 books while must-read lists are usually much shorter and more selective. For instance, some of those cited above include only five or six books. After due consideration, I settled on ten books for my must-read list.
Please understand that this must-read list is not meant to take the place of classroom education. I am not suggesting that these books can or should be used as a do-it-yourself substitute for public relations coursework. Quite the contrary. They should build upon and enhance the foundation established by your coursework, not replace it.
The books listed here are not meant to be the first or the only books about public relations a practitioner reads.
- Practitioners should have thoroughly digested at least one, and preferably several, basic public relations texts and how-to-do-it guides before reading the must-reads.
- These books are not good at teaching basic skills and concepts, but they will help those who already practice public relations be more thoughtful, more effective, and more well-rounded.
The listing is not arranged in order of importance or preference, but there is a logical conceptual flow to the order in which they are listed. If your goal is to eventually read all of them, you may enhance your understanding by reading them in this order, but it certainly isn't necessary.
My choices for the ten most meaningful books for public relations practioners are:
- Crystallizing Public Opinion
by Edward L. Bernays
- The Image; A Guide to Pseudo-events in America
by Daniel J. Boorstin
- The IABC Handbook of Organizational Communication
edited by Tamara L. Gillis
- Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management
edited by James E. Grunig
- Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies
by Noam Chomsky
- Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide
by Henry Jenkins
- Communicating when Your Company Is under Siege: Surviving Public Crisis (3rd edition)
by Marion K. Pinsdorf
- On Deadline: Managing Media Relations (4th edition)
by Carol Howard & Wilma Mathews
- On Business Communications: How to Say What You Mean in Plain English
by Rudolf Flesch
- Public Relations on the Net (2nd edition)
by Shel Holtz
Click here or on the individual book titles listed above for the annotated version of this list. It provides a complete bibliographic citation for each book and a brief explanation of why it's included in this list.
Note: One other book deserves to be mentioned as an adjunct to this list, although it fits in a somewhat different category than the ten must-reads cited above. It's a reference that may be useful while you're reading the other books. Five or ten years ago, it would have been a must-have resource, but the growth of the Internet has changed that. Information you once needed books to find is readily available -- and more up-to-date -- online, so references like this are no longer as necessary as they once were.
Webster's New World Dictionary of Media and Communications (Revised edition)
by Richard Weiner
This isnít a book you'll sit down and read cover to cover, but it's invaluable when you encounter unfamiliar professional jargon or technical terms. Whether it's AAA rates, Zulu time, ISBNs, or running a double-truck, this handy reference will clue you in about the specialized language that printers, producers, videographers, and countless other communication specialists spout. It's great. But, given the current speed of cyberspace and of communications developments, no printed reference book can possibly keep up with all the new terms and technologies that are popping up every day and, regrettably, this book is no exception. It really isn't even trying to keep up any more; it hasn't been updated in years.