Read any good books on Public Relations 2.0?

booksMRBack in July, I sent this message asking my Twitter community for advice. Here’s one of several re-tweets pleading for input.

The response? Not much. But I want to share what I learned.

The Twitterati suggested just 4 books, and only 2 of those books relate to media relations. One tweep suggested I assign Cluetrain — the first book on “business 2.0.” Cluetrain certainly alludes to the topic of media relations (“Public relations does not relate to the public,” and “Markets do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters,”) but it’s not the right fit for a class focused on strategies and tactics. It’s also a bit insulting to the kind of PR professionals we nurture here at Kent State, as they are neither hucksters nor flacks.

Cluetrain is a work of philosophy, and a pretty good one given its topic. But it’s not the right fit for a class trying to learn a specific skill at a professional level.

ClayShirkeyAnother tweep suggested Clay Shirkey’s “Here Comes Everybody,” a book that offers substantial insight on 2.0 community-building. But like Cluetrain, it offers no insights on the topic of media relations. That wasn’t Shirkey’s mission.

Clay is a great storyteller who’s created an engaging and readable book. It’s well researched, although the absence of endnotes often had me scrambling to a bibliography for answers that weren’t always there. Why not just insert numbers to the text so I can find the citation easily? It’s a disturbing trend I also see among the pop historians and others. Wonder what’s behind it.

“Here Comes Everybody” is a work of sociology supported by interesting data and anecdotal evidence. Clay’s observations on who does the heavy lifting in online communities somewhat calls into question the book’s title. It’s really a minority of group members who contribute the bulk of the input and content, Clay’s data tell us. It’s far from “everybody.”

If you found value in Tapscott’s “Wikinomics,” you’ll find additional value in “Here Comes Everybody.” I’m glad I read it, as it triggered more than a few “I-did-not-know-that” moments.

Back to media relations. Maybe it’s too early in the evolution of 2.0 to expect the kind of nuts-n-bolts public relations books I seek. Or maybe, just maybe, those texts are only now being written. (Not by me.)

The other 2 books my tweeps suggested are, indeed, germane to media relations.

In the next 10 days or so, I’ll publish my take on the second edition of “The New Rules of Marketing and PR,” by David Meerman Scott and “Putting the Public Back Into Public Relations,” by Brian Solis & Dierdre Breakenridge.

Why not now? I haven’t written them. This post creates a sense of urgency. I’m not good without a deadline.


9 Responses to Read any good books on Public Relations 2.0?

  1. Brian Solis says:

    Thank you. Looking forward to it!

  2. Bill, I’m staring up at my copy of The New Rules of Marketing & PR that’s on my office shelf. I thought it was geared at biz pros without a PR specialization since it was pretty basic…but certainly could be an appropriate text for students learning the biz.

  3. Bill Sledzik says:

    Won’t disagree with you, but then our students are only beginning to develop the specialization, so they will benefit from some of it. Both “New Rules” and the Solis/Breakenridge book seem geared to novices, not to PR “professionals.” New Rules does offer some useful tactics in the marketing side — mostly SEO-related stuff designed to drive website traffic. The focus is primarily marketing, not PR.

    But I’m getting ahead of myself. The reviews are yet to come.

    You and me — we should write the definitive book! How bout you take the first draft 🙂

  4. Bill Sledzik says:

    Gotta add this: I’ve seen two tweets this morning from folks pointing to this post and SM books I have “recommended.” Clearly, neither of those tweeps has read my post or they’d know I haven’t recommended any of these books. I did say some good things about “Here Comes Everybody.”

    Please read before you tweet. This is why so many folks are pointing to social media as a world of very shallow conversation. There’s damned little substance in 140c.

  5. As the guy who suggested Cluetrain I cannot disagree more with your assessment. I read it when I was a media person and I use it now as a corporate communicator. It speaks directly to the issue of media relations. And while you may not be teaching your students to be flaks or hucksters, that is what too many of the companies they will work for are hiring them to be. So they need to be prepared to counter that mindset. What I find amazing is how little the corporate and corporate communications world has learned from the Cluetrain. It was dead on when it was written and only more so today. Corporate communications is still trying to control the message. It cannot be done. Young PR professionals need to know how to deal with corporate bosses who still believe in the command and control model. The Cluetrain helps a lot.

  6. Bill Sledzik says:

    Thanks for the comment, Chris. I agree there is much to be learned from Cluetrain, which is why it’s required reading for my graduate students in PR. It set the tone for the use of social media in business, and there’s much to recommend it. As for it being “dead on” in 1999 or today, we’ll have to agree to disagree on that point. Some if it has happened, some of it has not.

    I will add that Cluetrain paints public relations as some sort of evil business practice, something I still find insulting. Along with several other PR-bashing social media books, Cluetrain defines marketing flackery, hype and distortion as “public relations.” It is not.

    The authors of these books come from a world in which PR’s primary role is to hound editors for coverage and to otherwise push messages into space. The PR world I worked in, and the model I teach in, doesn’t remotely resemble that. In fact, we regularly condemn those practice, and have for more than a quarter century.

    “Marketing is a conversation,” perhaps the key tenet of Cluetrain, is a concept that’s been front-and-center in the PR literature and much of its practice for 25+ years. And as I said in an early comment to this thread, the idea that social media has somehow led us to this revelation that “PR is about relationships” simply illustrates that many of the SMers who claim to be in PR have not studied the literature of their field.

    I know that’s a bit of a rant, Chris. And it’s not directed at you. I still consider Cluetrain the seminal work of philosophy relating to Business 2.0. But I also think everyone should read along with it Keen’s “Cult of the Amateur,” just to keep things in perspective.

  7. Shari Weiss says:

    Hi Bill,
    I’ll be interested to hear your review of DSM’s book, which I used this summer in a 5-week [2 4-hour classes a week]PR course.

    I found the first half was a great intro to social media for novices — which all of my students were.

    The elaboration on use of the tools in the second half was probably a bit too much for them to digest ESPECIALLY, as you have stated there is so much more to PR than publicity.

    What text are you using for your beginning students these days? I’d love to share syllabi, if you don’t mind.

    Shari Weiss

    • Bill Sledzik says:

      You remind me, and oh-so subtly, that my 10 days are up and I should have this review done. Soon. Very soon. We don’t use a book in our Online Tactics class right now, but we draw from DMS’s “New Rules,” Shel Holtz’s “Blogging for Business,” and “Cluetrain.” But I haven’t taught the course in 2 years, so I’ll need to get an update from the instructor. We just added a substantial video component. I am using DMS’s book in my Media Relations class this semester. I’ll explain why.

  8. Shari Weiss says:

    I definitely was teaching PR in the wrong college. 😦 My Principles of PR was the ONLY Public Relations course in the university.

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