Public Relations

This article was written and originally posted on the home page of this website in January 2010.
It was moved here so other articles could be featured on the home page.

-- Michael Turney, Ph.D., ABC     

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.

When I first wrote this article in 2009, I found five different must-read lists of public relations books on line. Only two of them still seemed to be on the Web when I updated the article in 2015, but plenty of others had been added. Here are just a few links to some of those must-read public relations book lists.

Reading several such lists (and posting comments about a couple of them) spurred me to begin thinking about my own list of must-read books and how it might differ from those others had already developed. Admittedly, this wasn't the first time I had thought about such a list. In fact, for a number of years when I taught public relations, 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 became more than a matter of just 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. Some of those cited above, for instance, 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.

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:

Click here for an annotated version of this list that includes a complete bibliographic citation for each book and a brief explanation of why it's included in this list.

One other book warrants mention as an adjunct to this list. It's a reference that may be useful when you're reading the other books. Once upon a time it would have been a must-have resource, but the Internet changed that, offering information that is more readily available and more up-to-date than any printed book can be.

Webster's New World Dictionary of Media and Communications (Revised edition)
by Richard Weiner

This isnít a book to sit down and read cover to cover, but it's invaluable if you encounter unfamiliar professional jargon or technical terms. Whether it's AAA rates, Zulu time, or "running a double-truck," this reference will demystify the specialized languages of printers, producers, videographers, and countless other communication specialists. It's great, but it just can't keep up with the Internet.

Click here for a related article on introductory PR textbooks.

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