The 15 best PR books (according to the experts)

The 15 best PR books (according to the experts)

We asked some seasoned comms professionals which books they'd recommend on the industry, and here are the results

The public relations industry is changing all the time and maintaining an ongoing education is crucial to staying relevant in the industry. These books come highly recommended for beginners and the old guard alike.

So whether you're brand new to the field or just want to brush up on a skill or two, these PR books are the best of the best.

Table of contents


The Pursuit of Reputation: Unlocking the Power of Public Relations by Amith Prabhu and Sujit Patil

Summary

PR is changing around the world. Individual and brand reputation has become more important than ever as our lives move increasingly online, and The Pursuit of Reputation is your guidebook to understanding and navigating the shift. Authors Amith Prabhu and Sujit Patil interviewed 75 experts in PR and comms and distilled their insights into this newly published book.

 

Recommended by:

Who it’s for: Those who want to learn more about managing their online reputation.

Buy the book here. Follow authors Amith Prabhu and Sujit Patil on X (née Twitter).

The 20+ best PR & comms thought leaders to follow in 2024https://www.prezly.com/academy/the-best-pr-thought-leaders-to-follow

Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark

Summary

This collection of essays focuses on the essentials needed to tell a good story based on the author’s 30+ years of journalism experience. 

 

Insightful quotes

  • “All of us possess a reading vocabulary as big as a lake but draw from a writing vocabulary as small as a pond. The good news is that the acts of searching and gathering always expand the number of usable words.”
  • “If the writer wants to create suspense, or build tension, or make the reader wait and wonder, or join a journey of discovery, or hold on for dear life, he can save subject and verb of the main clause until later. As I just did.”

Recommended by: Henry, Managing Director, Novus Business Connections

For public relations, I highly recommend this classic, written by a man with over 30 years of experience in journalism, professional writing, and teaching, is comprised of a series of short essays on various aspects of the writing process.

Writing Tools, which was originally published in 2008 and is not specifically a PR book, has become a classic among writers in all fields. Pick up a copy of the updated 2018 version, which features five brand-new resources.

Henry Waddilove, Managing DirectorNovus Business Connections

Who it’s for: PR professionals who plan to do a hefty amount of writing (so, all of them). 

Buy the book here. Follow Roy Peter Clark on X (née Twitter) or his website.

 

Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice by Dave Chaffey & Fiona Ellis-Chadwick

Summary

Unfortunately, in this modern PR landscape, the average PR person will need to know at least the basics of digital marketing. While most people know that digital marketing and PR have different skill sets, now more than ever, the average PR professional is expected to understand and utilize digital media.

Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation & Practice is a crash course in digital marketing, from social media to influencer marketing to online reputation management and more.

 

Recommended by:

I love this book because the authors use interviews, practical business examples, and contextual analyses to explain digital marketing in reality. It delves into all parts of digital marketing, illustrating the basics and how to keep up with recent trends.

This book showed me how to stay ahead of the competition and offered practical direction on how to get the most out of digital branding. Both authors being marketing lecturers contributed to how well the book is structured.

Dan Kahuria, Marketing Director3DQuoter

Who it’s for: The PR pro that wants to stay relevant in the digital age.

Buy the book here. Follow Dave Chaffey on LinkedIn or learn more on his website.

Trust Me, I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday

Summary

Holiday takes you behind the scenes and exposes the dark side of public relations in the rapidly changing world of “new media.” He reveals the manipulative, morally questionable, and downright unethical tactics employed by the comms industry. While some accused this book of being somewhat dated, the main principles about how manufactured outrage and “ragebait” influence our emotions are as true today as ever. 

This is not a public relations how-to kind of book. It’s a sober reminder that “The economics of the Internet created a twisted set of incentives that make traffic more important—and more profitable—than the truth.”

 

Insightful quotes

  • “You cannot have your news instantly and have it done well. You cannot have your news reduced to 140 characters or less without losing large parts of it. You cannot manipulate the news but not expect it to be manipulated against you. You cannot have your news for free; you can only obscure the costs. If as a culture we can learn this lesson, and if we can learn to love the hard work, we will save ourselves much trouble and collateral damage. We must remember: There is no easy way.”
  • “The most powerful predictor of what spreads online is anger.”
  • “How can anyone maintain their sanity when everything you read, see, and hear is designed to make you stop whatever you're doing and consume because the world is supposedly ending?”

 

Recommended by: This article’s author (Katelynn, who may not be a PR expert but she is a huge fan of the industry)

Who it’s for: Anyone who needs a little disillusionment.

Buy the book here. Follow Ryan Holiday on X (née Twitter).

Momentum: How to Propel Your Marketing and Transform Your Brand in the Digital Age by Shama Hyder

Summary

Leveraging technology to be a successful public relations professional is an ongoing conversation within the PR world. While most would argue that PR is… fairly slow to adapt, others would make the point that it has to in order to survive.

Momentum is all about adapting to new media and staying quick to adapt, data-informed, and customer-first in your approach to connecting with audiences in the digital world.

 

Insightful quotes

  • “This is not your mother’s internet. It’s not just a matter of websites and email anymore. Social media is a huge and vital but constantly changing force in pull marketing—and like your audience, it’s just about as segmented as you can get.”
  • “The sheer volume of data available in real time about every aspect of consumers’ interactions with your emails, social media posts, blog posts, website, and paid ads means that shaping and refining strategies and campaigns based on that information is a never-ending process. And that process is the single most essential element in capitalizing on and building momentum from your marketing successes.” 

 

Recommended by:

The reason I love this book is because it understands that marketing and PR are not silos, they are a complicated web of interconnectivity that is constantly evolving, especially as our digital age launches new platforms and media opportunities daily.

Momentum makes this ecosystem of marketing opportunities digestible and breaks through the fluff to get down to what is really important when it comes to helping businesses develop a successful marketing plan with meaningful results.

Emmi Buck, Public Relations Associate DirectorZen Media

Who it’s for: Those who want to increase their digital media awareness

Buy the book here. Follow Shama Hyder on LinkedIn.

Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

Summary

Having a story or campaign go “viral” is the white whale for the public relations professional. Everybody chases that moment, but few capture it successfully or consistently. Berger discusses what captures the hearts and minds of audiences and how to create content that moves people to action. 

 

Insightful quotes

  • “People don't think in terms of information. They think in terms of narratives. But while people focus on the story itself, information comes along for the ride.”
  • “Word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20 percent to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions.”
  • “It has been said that when people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate one another. We look to others for information about what is right or good to do in a given situation, and this social proof shapes everything from the products we buy to the candidates we vote for.

 

Recommended by:

Jonah Berger's Contagious: Why Things Catch On is the best PR book I've read. This best-seller from the New York Times tries to break down the factors that cause certain items or concepts to explode in popularity. Author and Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger claims that, contrary to common belief, the secret science behind word-of-mouth and social transmission of ideas is what truly makes something popular.

If you're a public relations professional hoping your story will go viral, this book will give you the tools you need to make it happen. 

Ryan Steinolfson, Business OwnerAccelerate Marketing

Who it’s for: Those who want to learn how to create pitches and campaigns that catch on.

Buy the book here. Follow Jonah Berger on X (née Twitter).

On Brand: Shape Your Narrative. Share Your Vision. Shift Their Perception. by Aliza Licht

Summary

A huge part of PR is personal branding (for you and your clients). On Brand discusses the importance of consciously identifying your professional brand and then using that brand to build your network and career.

 

Recommended by:

Aliza Licht's On Brand is a superb book for people working in PR, communications or marketing because so much of what we are doing to generate media exposure and awareness for clients, employers, or even ourselves is tied to a brand — it's what defines everything.

Aliza's content is spot-on in helping readers understand how they [or their employers, clients etc.] are perceived. The book shows how to apply her experience-backed tips and strategies to develop narratives that establish and reinforce the way readers want to be seen.

Katie WaldronPR Consultant

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants to overhaul their brand identity (or build one from scratch).

Buy the book here. Follow Aliza Licht on X (née Twitter) or check out her website.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath

Summary

New ideas are being blasted to the universe every moment, but most of them just fall to the annals of the internet without gaining traction or momentum. Why do some ideas resonate, influence behaviors, and change minds while others fall flat? Chip and Dan Heath explore what works, what doesn’t, and why throughout the course of Made to Stick. 

 

Insightful quotes

  • “To make our communications more effective, we need to shift our thinking from "What information do I need to convey?" to "What questions do I want my audience to ask?”
  • “If I already intuitively "get" what you're trying to tell me, why should I obsess about remembering it? The danger, of course, is that what sounds like common sense often isn't.... It's your job, as a communicator, to expose the parts of your message that are uncommon sense.”

 

Recommended by:

Why this book stands out? It's not about formulas. It's about stories. The book lays out six principles for making your ideas sticky, or memorable. It's a field guide to telling tales that resonate, which is the lifeblood of what we do in marketing and communications. It has refined our narratives and made our campaigns not just impactful but memorable.

Amanda Sexton, FounderFocusWorks Marketing

Who it’s for: Those who want to send meaningful campaigns and tell important stories that resonate.

Buy the book here. Follow Chip Heath and Dan Heath on LinkedIn or learn more at their website.

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Summary

Phil Night, founder of the world-famous shoe brand Nike, shares his business and life insights as arguably one of the most successful businessmen of all time. 

 

Insightful quotes

  • “I’d tell men and women in their mid-twenties not to settle for a job or a profession or even a career. Seek a calling. Even if you don’t know what that means, seek it. If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt.”
  • “When you see only problems, you’re not seeing clearly.”
  • “Starting my own business was the only thing that made life’s other risks—marriage, Vegas, alligator wrestling—seem like sure things. But my hope was that when I failed, if I failed, I’d fail quickly, so I’d have enough time, enough years, to implement all the hard-won lessons. I wasn’t much for setting goals, but this goal kept flashing through my mind every day, until it became my internal chant: Fail fast.”

 

Recommended by:

This is a fun read, and not really a “marketing” book per se, but something everyone entrepreneur or business professional can learn from. It really gets the wheels spinning when you learn about how the greatest shoe empire was created and get an closer look at its humble roots – which is something every beginner can relate to, regardless of the field. Tons of nuggets in here if you are starting out in the business world.

Kevin Ansems, Co-founder, CROUnion.Dev

Who it’s for: Solo PRs or anyone working in the business world who wants to glean knowledge from a “successful” entrepreneur. 

Buy the book here.

This is Marketing by Seth Godin

Summary

Godin is a legend in the marketing world. His writing is easy, accessible, and perfect for the comms beginner. This is Marketing discusses positioning, audience-building, and connecting with potential customers in new ways. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but he is essentially required reading for anyone interested in PR in the modern digital world. 

 

Insightful quotes

  • “The relentless pursuit of mass will make you boring, because mass means average, it means the center of the curve, it requires you to offend no one and satisfy everyone.”
  • “The most important lesson I can share about brand marketing is this: you definitely, certainly, and surely don’t have enough time and money to build a brand for everyone. You can’t. Don’t try. Be specific. Be very specific.”
  • “Marketing is the generous act of helping others become who they seek to become. It involves creating honest stories—stories that resonate and spread.”

 

Recommended by:

Anything by Seth Godin but one of his latest is This is Marketing, you can’t be seen until you learn to see, he is a master who really understands what drives people to purchase from a practitioner’s perspective using his first-hand experience and simple language.

Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEOMavens & Moguls

Who it’s for: Comms professionals who appreciate a plain-speak, jargon-free approach.

Buy the book here. Follow Seth Godin on Twitter or read his blog.

Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne

Summary

Blue Ocean Strategy is a classic in the business world, but it still remains relevant today through its evergreen advice. The book discusses the importance of looking at communications through the lens of solving new problems and discovering new markets (not simply fighting for space in existing markets). 

 

Insightful quotes

  • “Commitment, trust, and voluntary cooperation are not merely attitudes or behaviors. They are intangible capital. They allow companies to stand apart in the speed, quality, and consistency of their execution and to implement strategic shifts fast at low cost.”
  • “Experiences that don’t involve touching, seeing, or feeling actual results, such as being presented with an abstract sheet of numbers, are shown to be non-impactful and easily forgotten.”
  • “A company should never outsource its eyes. There is simply no substitute for seeing for yourself. Great artists don’t paint from other people’s descriptions or even from photographs; they like to see the subject for themselves. The same is true for great strategists.”

 

Recommended by:

At the beginning of my marketing career, this book had a profound impact on me. It teaches you the importance of differentiating your business – or even yourself in the case of personal branding – from the competition. This differentiation doesn’t necessarily mean inventing an entirely new product, as it’s challenging to come up with something truly novel in today's world. However, it could be an unexpected yet essential service you offer to your clients, targeting a new market, or presenting a unique concept. These strategies will enable you to reach the so-called "blue ocean," where there is no competition and no sharks.

I appreciate this book because its insights can be applied not only to various businesses, companies, and scenarios today but also to different spheres including PR, communications, and marketing. The core message is profound, much like the deep blue waters of an ocean.

Marina Dedolko, Senior Growth ManagerSENLA

Who it’s for: Pros trying to break away from the norm.

Buy the book here.


Books for comms beginners

Everybody has to start somewhere, and public relations is no exception. Whether you just graduated from college or are undergoing a hefty career overhaul, starting as a beginner can be intimidating. We’ve compiled some beloved public relations and communications books, as suggested by industry experts in PR, comms, marketing, and all the spaces in between. 

Some of these books are PR-specific, some are a little bit of marketing, and some are great for building the skills and traits that help people excel in the world of public relations. 

Forget The Funnel by Georgiana Laudi and Claire Suellentrop

Summary

Authors Laudi and Suellentrop have over 20 years' worth of experience in helping SaaS companies grow. They distilled their knowledge into Forget the Funnel, where they teach readers the importance of what they call the “Customer-Led Growth Framework.” This framework helps product marketers understand their customers’ needs (and how to communicate solutions effectively).

The book is highly actionable and a real how-to for understanding your customers so you can connect with future potential buyers.

 

Insightful quotes

  • “The information you actually need to fix inconsistent, unpredictable growth is found in one place: inside your best customers’ heads.”
  • “Once you know what your customer values, you can start measuring your success based on customers taking actions that show you they received that value.”

 

Recommended by:

For someone starting their career in marketing, Forget The Funnel by Georgiana Laudi and Claire Suellentrop should be required reading.

Instead of focusing on trends that change with the wind, this book teaches a customer-led growth framework. In other words, it teaches you how to discover the real reasons behind why your customers buy and how to maximize those insights in your marketing. The more intimately you know your customers, the more successful you'll be.

Seems obvious, but you'd be surprised how many marketers don't actually talk to customers. This book gives you the framework, the questions to ask, why it matters, and what to do about it.

Shanna Morgan, PR StrategistNightSky PR

Who it’s suitable for: Those who plan to work in SaaS or related tech industries

Buy the book here. Follow Georgiana Laudi on LinkedIn and Claire Suellentrop on X (née Twitter).

The Practice of Public Relations by Fraser P. Seitel

Summary

Not everyone who works in PR will have a bona fide bachelor’s degree in public relations or communications, but that doesn’t mean we can’t read the materials. The Practice of Public Relations is often required reading for university courses, and it breaks down complicated topics such as ethics, crisis comms, paid/earned/owned media, the history of PR, and more. Thoughtful discussion questions and case studies are included for self-reflection or group learning. 

 

Recommended by:

Although this is a textbook, it contains many important theories on how messaging is communicated to the public. Combined with standard PR plan and media kit templates, this textbook is an all-in-one resource for PR professionals needing a reliable reference guide for their industry.

Michael Saad, Communications ProfessorPeak Presenter

Who it’s suitable for: Anyone who wants the blueprints for a PR career. Buy the book here

PR for Dummies by Eric Yaverbaum and Robert Bly

Summary

If you need a crash course in all things public relations, look no further than this book. As part of the popular “For Dummies” series, Bly and Yaverbaum break down the most complicated topics in PR into digestible, accessible pieces.

 

Recommended by:

I read this book on the train back and forth from work when I started my business and learned so much to which I credit my long-term success. One of the various principles I learned was "Go to where the cameras are".  I had only worked for a PR agency for two years and had a lot to learn. Back then the internet did not have a lot of information on this topic, so I relied on research. This book was the best even though this edition lacked knowledge of the emerging internet world.

Sometimes you need to shut down all the commotion and return to the fundamental principle, and this book does just that. 

Ken Kilpatrick, PresidentSylvia Marketing & Public Relations

Who it’s suitable for: Those who need the basics.

Buy the book here. Follow Eric Yaverbaum on LinkedIn and Robert Bly on Twitter.

Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller

Summary

Brand messaging is tricky. You’re vying for the limited attention of an audience that is being relentlessly hounded by a million ads, ideas, and pitches all day, every day. Standing out among the noise has never been more important, nor more challenging.

Miller explains why so many comms teams fall short and how to get back to actually connecting with people. This includes writing from a place of empathy, showing rather than telling, and using social proof to engage potential customers.

 

Insightful quotes

  • “Imagine your customer is a hitchhiker. You pull over to give him a ride, and the one burning question on his mind is simply, 'Where are you going?' But as he approaches, you roll down the window and start talking about your mission statement, or how your grandfather built this car with his bare hands, or how your road-trip playlist is all 1980s alternative. This person doesn’t care.”
  • “Simply put, we must show people the cost of not doing business with us.”
  • “One of the best ways we can illustrate how we help our customers transform is through customer testimonials.”

 

Recommended by:

Building a Storybrand is a must-read for a new marketing professional. It is time-tested, easily applicable, and fits virtually any advertising niche. Using the Storybrand framework would also benefit PR and communications professionals.

Alan Hughes, Lead CopywriterSimple Social

Who it’s suitable for: Those who want to learn how to tell a story, not just recite rote facts

Buy it here. Follow Donald Miller on X (née Twitter).

The power of storytelling in business & PR (or, How to make people fall in love)
The power of storytelling in business & PR (or, How to make people fall in love)

With your business, not with each other. That would be creepy.

Special mentions

Conclusion

Congratulations on starting your public relations journey! Hopefully, these books are a helpful crash course to launching a successful and meaningful career in communications. And, in the immortal words of that dog from Adventure Time:

Did we miss any essential books for PR? ​ Would you like us to add your favorite? Give us a shout on X-Twitter or email us, and we will take a gander. 

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