Thriller or filler? Exploring Public Relations and The PR Masterclass

This month's book reviews feature an academic-style tome on PR and a comprehensive 'how to' guide to succeed in the industry.

By Ralph Tench and Liz Yeomans

Published by Pearson Education

What looks like a daunting 550-page academic tome on PR turns out to be quite a surprise: Exploring Public Relations is a fascinating and comprehensive study that strikes exactly the right balance between theory and practice about the public relations profession, although, as the reader soon finds out, it is questionable whether we can categorise it as such.

Littered with lesser-known case studies, occasional self-deprecating humour and references to current events, the book provides a refreshingly holistic, big picture view of the industry for readers caught up in the details of their day-to-day work. Interesting deep-dives are taken into topics that practitioners deal with every day, such as the ethics of public relations. For those less familiar with the industry, the authors succeed in showing how much more there is to PR than celebrity campaigns, media relations and lobbying.

Its clear structure as an academic textbook, with visual information interspersed throughout, helps readers navigate to relevant sections, depending on whether their interest lies in conceptual background reading or hands-on guidance for PR specialisms, from internal comms to sponsorship.

The only concern is the short-lived nature of the information. With references to media regulation in the UK and a case study on the Co-operative Bank already out of date, might the book seem old-fashioned in a few years? It is a safe bet that the authors decided to compile a topical book, rather than including timeless but dry information. As this is the third edition in eight years, I hope a fourth is on the horizon by the time the third starts gathering dust.

Fiona Funke, consultant, APCO Worldwide

By Alex Singleton

Published by John Wiley & Sons

Ex-journalist Alex Singleton's guide on how to succeed, and what to avoid, in the battlefield of public relations is comprehensive, clear and incredibly practical. Covering everything from writing effective letters, releases and pitches, to building and maintaining relationships with journalists and preparing for broadcast interviews, he tackles the scope of the job in a no-nonsense style.

At times, Singleton's belief that "so much PR is bad" can be hard to swallow, but there is so much pragmatism and experience bursting from the pages that it is impossible not to take something from this PR manual.

The PR Masterclass deals with the misconceptions and mistakes often made by untrained professionals. Beginning with the basics, Singleton logically steers the reader through the various methods and skills that publicists need.

Though he primarily deals with securing coverage in conventional media, Singleton insists that conventional media are not dead, rather that they have changed format.

This is the perfect book for a publicist starting out: theory-free and full of examples, it explains the smart and ethical ways in which practitioners can secure meaningful coverage for their clients.

It also serves as a useful refresher for more experienced operators and is a powerful reminder of how vital it is that we, as PR professionals, keep learning and exploring new techniques in order to ensure we stay valuable, creative and relevant.

Maura Brickell, campaigns director, Riot Communications

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