By Dave Yonkman
Thousands of job applicants will begin angling for their first position in media relations. University taught them all of the textbook basics, but that only offers a very limited experience in a vacuum unaffected by daily changes in our world. The critical factor to success is lifelong learning, and now is as good of a time as any to start your informal professional studies. Industry veterans recommend the following 10 books to read before your first interview. Best wishes to your success!
#1-The CEO’s Guide to Marketing
“‘The CEO’s Guide to Marketing’ is a book that all marketing professionals should read before their boss does. It asks: Does your marketing team really know what it's doing? The author is Lonny Kocina, the CEO of Media Relations Agency. He says that most people in marketing roles know a lot less about marketing than they let on. Imagine if a business owner asked their accounting department for a balance sheet, and they had no idea what that was. It's the same for your marketing department -- if your team doesn't know the basics, you're going to waste a lot of money and miss sales." Thanks to Krista Wignall with Media Relations Agency!
#2-Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook
"‘Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World’ by Gary Vaynerchuck is an incredible look into how social media should be used by companies and individuals to tell a story, to sell a product, and everything in between. It has full color photos of good and bad examples on the subjects Gary writes to teach the overall concept of how social media needs to be truly be used. To learn that from Gary is learning from the true master!” Thanks to Nick Glassett with Origin Leadership Group!
“Anyone serious about a career in public relations MUST read ‘Propaganda’ by Edward Bernays. Although it was written in 1928, its core teachings are as relevant today as they were 90 years ago - perhaps even more so with the rise of social media. The tools we use to influence and persuade may have changed but the principles remain true. Bernays makes it clear that the strategies and tactics PR professionals use are powerful and can be used for good or ill…” Thanks to Alistair Clay with Class:PR!
#4-Trust Me, I'm Lying
“In ‘Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator,’ author Ryan Holiday -- who worked with clients like American Apparel, Robert Greene, and Tucker Max -- mentions how he used fake sensationalist stories, fake personas and much more to get publicity from click-obsessed media outlets likes Gawker, Jezebel and Business Insider. The first part of the book is about how he did it, and in the second part, Ryan explains why one shouldn't do it. While the book is pretty controversial, I think an entry-level media relations professional can learn a lot from it, such as understanding how a lot of the media outlets in today's world work, and what one can do to stand out from those who may be using Ryan's tactics or worse.” Thanks to Syed Irfan Ajmal with GigWorker.
#5-Made to Stick
“I recommend ‘Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die’ by Dan and Chip Heath for new PR pros, as well as seasoned pros who have never read it. It’s an interesting review of why some ideas stick in your brain, and others don’t. The case studies and lessons can help as recent grads are beginning to identify what is newsworthy and work on campaigns. I like to re-read it every few years!” Thanks to Rachel Lewis with Shout It Out Design!
#6-Girl, Wash Your Face
“‘Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be’ by Rachel Hollis is an incredible book packed with tons of uplifting, motivating life advice that I wish had been around when I was first starting my PR career 10 years ago. By telling real, first-hand stories of how she dealt with being a workaholic, feeling like she wasn't achieving success as fast as she wanted to, being a young mom, being told no, etc., she ends up being a sort of mentor everyone should have in their 20s.” Thanks to Ashley Davidson with Fish Consulting!
“To become successful in the world of PR, media relations professionals need to start thinking more like reporters and try to find the right story to tell about their company/clients. How? The book ‘Storynomics,’ authored by CEO Tom Gerace and globally recognized story expert Robert McKee, guides communication professionals through a storytelling approach to help increase brand loyalty, increase revenue, and inevitably win a reporter's heart.” Thanks to Lauren Cranston with Skyword!
“‘Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer’ by the venerable Roy Peter Clark is a must-read and must-internalize book for every PR pro. If you can’t write well, you’ll have a very hard time standing out amid the deluge of email pitches reporters and influencers receive in a world in which they’re outnumbered by PR people five to one. The ability to articulate a story well, and distill it into a concise package, is surprisingly underrated in PR. This book is the most consumable and useful resource I’ve found on becoming a better writer. I’m 15 years into my career and still use it as a reference.” Thanks to Brad Plothow with Womply!
#9-Thanks for the Feedback
“‘Thanks for the Feedback: The Science & Art of Receiving Feedback Well’ is a game changer for entry level folks who are dealing with agency, management and client feedback for the first time. It helps you explore your own personality, and how to best handle tough situations. It is a book my boss recommended to me when I first started working in our agency, and it has helped me remain calm and level-headed even when I hear news or feedback I don't like off the bat. As PR practitioners, it can be our first instinct to defend our work or campaigns, because we have put so much time, effort and energy into them, but this book helps explain that we can learn even from feedback that is incorrect or unfair. As you move into a management position, it also helps you navigate the best ways to give feedback to your reports.” Thanks to Frances Blount with Marbaloo Marketing!
Finally, #10-How to Write Short
“‘How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times’ by Roy Peter Clark is a must read for entry-level PR professionals. It's not easy to teach a 20-something year old how to write again, especially since our writing styles are so developed. However, this book gave me a different perspective on how I can write shorter content that's somehow more effective. You can read this book over and over again -- it's always helpful. Any entry-level PR professional knows that writing short is especially helpful for pitches and writing commentary.” Thanks to Amanda Vassall with Walker Sands Communications!
Dave Yonkman is the President of DYS Media, LLC, former Washington Correspondent for Newsmax Media and Capitol Hill Communications Director.
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