Here's a very personal pick of the top five newly-published books on public relations in 2011.
Two books were published by Wiley earlier this year on the important topic of measurement and evaluation. Philip Sheldrake's is in many ways the more ambitious (it also makes it onto my list), but Katie Paine's is a book for the intelligent practitioner and deserves to be widely known and used. For its appeal to the general reader, it takes first place on my list.
The author tells us: 'the notion that a PR person is someone who has to deal only with the press is just .. antiquated. A good PR person is focused on his or her relationships - be they local media, national bloggers, employees, or community organizers.' So how do you measure they quality of these key relationships? This book offers practical insights into measuring events and into measuring key relationships with influencers, employees, local communities etc.
2. Public Relations: A Managerial Perspective by Danny Moss and Barbara DeSanto (Sage).
I'd been looking forward to this book ever since last year's round-up, but in the event it only arrived late in the year and with a 2012 publication date.
It's worth the wait: this is the heir to Grunig and Hunt's widely-cited Managing Public Relations in that it addresses the same issues and concerns: Is public relations a distinctive activity? How does it contribute to organisational effectiveness? I expect to return frequently to the chapters written by Danny Moss in particular.
The collection is rather repetitive, however, as each author has been instructed to refer to the editors' 'C-MACIE model'. It also has a glaring omission: no chapter on measurement and evaluation (Professor Tom Watson should have been asked to contribute this). Since measurement and evaluation is one of my themes this year, this explains why Moss and DeSanto miss out on first place in my list.
3. The Public Relations Handbook (Fourth Edition) by Alison Theaker (Routledge)
Over a ten year period, Alison Theaker has produced four editions of this useful standard text and this new edition is a substantial reworking of what went before. It's now almost 500 pages, and contains new chapters by Philip Young, Liam FitzPatrick, Mark Phillimore, Heather Yaxley and Simon Wakeman among others. Johanna Fawkes has reworked her useful chapters on 'What is public relations?' and 'Public relations and communications' and they are now essential reading for any student of the subject.
I applaud the author and the publishers for having resisted the pressure to present this as a glossy, colourful text. They let the words and ideas do the communicating instead. Others will disagree with me, and I was sorry not to have found space here for one such colourful textbook: Averill Gordon's wide-ranging Public Relations, published by Oxford University Press.
4. PR Today: The Authoritative Guide to Public Relations by Trevor Morris and Simon Goldsworthy, Palgrave Macmillan.
If what has gone before seems a bit too earnest for you, then this could be the one book you should read. Though the authors teach public relations at university, this is an anti-academic text: 'The Unauthorised Guide to Public Relations' might be a better subtitle.
The themes will be familar to those who know the same authors' previous work, PR: A Persuasive Industry? which was among my favourites in 2008. This book extends beyond anlaysis of the industry into a section on PR planning and strategy and another section on PR practice.
One example will give a flavour of the authors' approach. They introduce their chapter on PR Ethics with: 'Some textbooks treat PR as though it is a branch of moral philosophy. Such an approach leaves most PR practitioners bemused and is of little practical use.' You will have to look elsewhere for Kant (and will probably find much more cant too).
5. The Business of Influence: Reframing Marketing and PR for the Digital Age by Phlip Sheldrake (Wiley).
Though written by a practitioner, this is the most ambitious and challenging book of the year. Its analysis of the problems facing public relations is brilliant (the author is an engineer, a manager and a marketer, giving him a broad perspective). His reframing of public relations as the activity that manages influence is intriguing. He hopes to see people appointed to the post of Chief Influence Officer: 'Ideally, the Chief Influence Officer will have a varied background covering marketing, PR, customer service, HR, product development and operations.'
What is less successful is his attempt to turn the balanced scorecard concept into the Influence Scorecard. At this point, the book feels like a first draft, and already it's been superceded by further work by AMEC. Sheldrake's book is the most interesting of 2011 - but Katie Paine's is in my opinion the more useful, hence their relative positions on my list.