Lack of good PR books by PR pros is tough to fathom for a business built on creativity
I was working up my list of the best books for PR people a couple of weeks ago and was struck by the fact that none of the candidates was actually written by a PR person.
I've been making up these lists on a regular basis ever since I launched The Holmes Report, so I went back over the past five years to see how many of the best books for PR people are actually by PR people, and the answer is not many.
As I said, none of the books I selected for 2005; one in 2004 (former AT&T executive Dick Martin's insider's view of the telecommunications company); four in 2003 (a bumper crop that included Leslie Gaines-Ross' CEO Capital, Al Golin's Trust or Consequences, James Haggerty's In the Court of Public Opinion, and Aaron Cushman's memoir A Passion for Winning); none in 2002 (although I did give the revised edition of Michael Morley's How to Manage Your Global Reputation an honorable mention); and two in 2001 (Larry Weber's The Provocateur and Don Middleberg's Winning PR in the Wired World).
So I selected 50 books over a five-year span, and just seven of them were written by PR pros. Perhaps there were a handful of good books I missed, but not enough to invalidate the conclusion that the best books about PR are not written by the people who actually work in the business. Some are written by academics - Ian Mitroff at USC, for example, who writes brilliantly about crisis management. Some are penned by marketers - Seth Godin and Al Ries have both written books that belong on every PR person's reading list. Others are written by consultants - David Maister's books on managing professional service firms come to mind. Still others are brought to the world by journalists - for example, The 18 Immutable Laws of Corporate Reputation by Ronald Alsop. And some are written by people who don't even seem to know that their books are about PR - Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, who wrote Built to Last, or the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto.
PR is a business of ideas - it's why I write about it rather than widgets. It's a business populated by thinkers and writers, by people who love to express themselves and offer up opinions. So where are all the authors?
PR is also business in which differentiation is difficult. But name a top PR firm that stands out among its competitors because it has a distinctive point of view. Name a senior PR executive who has articulated a compelling vision of the future of this business or offered an idea that made you think differently about what you do, even if it was not in a book or an article or a speech.
Where are PR's thought leaders hiding?
Paul Holmes has spent the past 18 years writing about the PR business for publications including PRWeek, Inside PR, and Reputation Management. He is currently president of The Holmes Group and editor of www.holmesreport.com.