A local broadcast journalist recently contacted me via social media and asked if I could recommend a book on PR because they were considering making the transition into the field.
OK, first of all, never ask a professor to recommend “a” book J But I have to say the instinct is good to do some research and not make assumptions about the field. I have written before on this blog that journalists do have some assets they can carry over into PR: http://gr-pr.blogspot.com/2012/01/assets-laid-off-journalists-can.html But there is also a lot to learn.
So to answer the question, here is a list of several books—and some other resources--by category and some other resources useful to potential and current PR practitioners. This is only partial (I just ordered another book today that is not on this list). So, anyone else who has suggestions feel free to note them in the comments. To be concise I list titles and last names of authors only, but they should be easy to find at any online book site.
Introductory PR Books
There are several introductory PR books used in college courses. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) also has a list of recommended texts for those thinking of studying to take the exam to become accredited in public relations (APR): http://www.praccreditation.org/resources/recommended-texts/index.html . Here are some intro texts that I recommend.
- THINK Public Relations. By Wilcox, Cameron, Reber and Shin.
- Today’s PR. By Health and Coombs.
- PR Strategies and Tactics. By Wilcox and Cameron.
- The Practice of PR. By Frasier Seitel.
- Strategic Public Relations: An Audience-Focused Approach. By Diggs and Brown
- PR: A Values-Driven Approach. By Guth and Marsh.
- Cultip and Center’s Effective Public Relations. By Broom and Sha. (an update of a classic)
- This is PR: The Realities of Public Relations. By Newsome, Turk, and Krukeberg.
Research is a fundamental skill of PR professionals. It has to be more than basic interviewing skills that a journalist has. There are several possible texts, but the one standard I would recommend is:
- Primer on PR Research. By Stacks.
Journalists know how to write, and how to write in AP style. But PR writing is varied, and includes persuasive as well as objective writing. There are several good books on PR writing.
- Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques. By Wilcox and Reber.
- Becoming a Public Relations Writer. By Smith.
Every day in the blogosphere I read some bloviating blowhard carry on about some “new” vision in PR. And I grin, shudder, and roll my eyes. If only they knew their history. Several books and resources can help a new practitioner—or a veteran one—understand PR’s past to make better sense of the present and future.
- The Unseen Power. By Cutlip
- Public Relations History. By Cutlip
- The Museum of Public Relations online. (http://www.prmuseum.org)
- The PR History Wiki (http://www.prhistorywiki.org/w/page/18401412/FrontPage )The International PR Research Conference Proceedings (https://microsites.bournemouth.ac.uk/historyofpr/proceedings/)
Journalists may have reported on a crisis or two, but that does not mean they know how to handle one as a PR person. Several good books on crisis communication offer practical and theoretical information:
- Lukaszewski on Crisis Communication. By Lukazsewski Ongoing Crisis Communication. By Coombs
- Crisis Communications. By Fearn-Banks
- Crisis Communication. By Zaremba
Measuring the results of PR efforts has long been advocated and taught, and more recently it has been asked for by clients and management. But it still is not done well or completely by many. There is one great book I would recommend on the subject, this one updated to included social media measurement.
- Measure What Matters. By Paine
Social platforms have been around a while, and lots of people assume they know how to use social media. But using them for personal communication or as a journalist is different than managing social media for a brand or organization. There are many books on social media use, but these are the ones to start with. I’ll also add some online links that are helpful.
- PR 2.0. By Breakenridge
- Groundswell. By Li and Bernoff
- Cluetrain Manifesto (the 10th anniversary). By Levine, Locke, Searls and Weinberger
- Twitterville. By Israel
- Facebook Era. By Shih
- Twitter for Business https://business.twitter.com
- Facebook for Business https://www.facebook.com/business
- LinkedIn Company Pages https://business.linkedin.com/marketing-solutions/company-pages/get-started
There are many areas of law that affect the practice of PR. You don’t need to be a lawyer, but you do need to be informed.
- Digital Media Law. By Packard
- Advertising and Public Relatons Law. By Moore, Maye and Collins
The PR profession gets a bad rap in the news and entertainment media, as I’ve written about countless times. Ironically, some of the big ethical blunders are made by former journalists. To be a “professional” PR practitioner means to practice ethically. PRSA offers a helpful Code of Ethics http://www.prsa.org/AboutPRSA/Ethics/#.VQIaTSkmXeM . There are also several good books on PR ethics.
- Ethics in Public Relations. By Fitzpatrick and Bernstein
- Legal and Ethical Constraints on Public Relations. By Gower
- It’s Not Just PR. By Coombs and Holladay (This is a good one to give friends who criticize PR as only "spin")
Consider searching major publishers for additional books on topics of interest or relevant to a specific area of practice. For example, here’s a shameless plug for a book I wrote a chapter in called Public Relations in the Nonpfofit Sector http://www.amazon.com/Public-Relations-Nonprofit-Sector-Routledge/dp/1138795089
You can also go directly to publishers and search for public relations books, such as Routledge, which has a special series on public relations: http://www.routledge.com/books/series/RNDPRCR/ ; or Sage http://www.sagepub.com/home.nav There are several other academic publishers as well.
In addition to books, several academic journals are available for free (vs through association membership or an academic library). These include:
- PRSA’s PR Journal http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/PRJournal/#.VQIbeykmXe
- Case Studies in Strategic Communications http://cssc.uscannenberg.org
- The Institute for Public Relations Research Journal http://www.instituteforpr.org/research-journal/?utm_source=IPR+Unveils+the+First+Issue+of+its+Research+Journal&utm_campaign=IPR+Unveils+the+First+Issue+of+its+Research+Journal&utm_medium=email
Finally, there are various trade publications and reports that are useful to practitioners (some content requires subscription or membership; but some email newsletters are free):
- The Arthur Page Society reports: http://www.awpagesociety.com/insights/
- PRSA’s blog and publications “Tactics” and “Strategist” http://www.prsa.org
- PRWeek http://www.prweek.com/us
- Advertising Age http://adage.com
Whew! That’s a lot. But there’s a lot to know.