A Partial Reading List for PR Students

Students in class

Image courtesy of Flickr user vasta

College students across the country are in the midst of moving back to college for the fall semester. In between partying, traveling, club activities, sports, Greek commitments, and jobs, some will also be attending classes. Those lucky enough to be taking a PR class should be looking forward to discussions about an industry that’s being turned upside down by technology. You’ll learn from brands who have made mistakes. You’ll learn from brands who have succeeded. You’ll learn about laws governing social media. You’ll learn how to use social media for yourself. You’ll learn how social media is being integrated into areas beyond just marketing and PR. And you’ll also probably learn plenty of tips, tricks, hacks, and shortcuts, all in the name of efficiency, scalability, or optimization.

Do me a favor this semester. If your PR professor starts sounding like a Buzzfeed article sharing all kinds of tips and tricks advocating how to get the most fans, followers, retweets, likes, or views, tell them that you want to stop taking the easy way out.

If the books and blogs you’re reading for your PR or marketing class start to sound too much like late night infomercials extolling get-rich quick schemes, here’s are some resources I’d recommend sharing with your professor and classmates this semester.

  • The Cluetrain Manifesto  – I’ve talked about this book a lot for a reason. It’s one of the first books I read when I first started in social media back in 2006. It’s as relevant now and it was then, and is a great foundation for any PR or marketing professional.
  • Humanize – Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter provide a fantastic how-to on making organizations not just seem more human, but actually function in a more human way. It tackles the hard people side of change that most organizations seem to think is taken care of with a memo or a training class.
  • Marketing in the Round – Marketing and PR are no longer the only organizational touchpoints with the public. Customer service, marketing, PR, operations, executive leadership – the public doesn’t care about your org chart. Successful marketing is integrated marketing.
  • Social Media Strategist – There’s a difference between being the millenial who is handed the keys to an organization’s social media accounts and being a business leader who uses social media to change an organization. FYI – the latter is who you want to be. Read this book and learn how to do that.
  • Spin Sucks – One of my favorite blogs for years – Gini and her team are whip-smart PR practitioners who understand there’s no technology replacement for good PR.
  • The BrandBuilder Blog – You’ll hear people whine and complain about the difficulty in measuring the ROI of social media ROI. Don’t be one of those people. Read Olivier’s blog and book.
  • Shel Holtz – I’ve been a fan for more than five years. Shel’s one of the smartest PR practitioners you’ll ever meet.
  • Shelly Kramer – I’ve just started reading Shelly’s blog over the last year or so, but I love her matter-of-fact approach to marketing and conversational tone.
  • Doug Haslam – I love Doug’s sense of humor and willingness to call BS on marketing “best practices” that have pervaded this industry.
  • Rick Rice – Rick and I share very similar views and frustrations with the PR industry – the PR practitioner as consultant and adviser, not as publicity hound.
  • Geoff Livingston – I’ve known for a long time too and have always admired his commitment to his beliefs and his broad knowledge of everything from marketing to branding to PR to social media.
  • Jeremiah Owyang – one of the smartest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting in this industry. His blog, presentations, and dozens of research studies have been immensely helpful to my career.

There are a lot of other great resources out there (please share them in the comments), but sadly, even more that will lead you down a path full of shortcuts and hacks.

This semester, avoid taking the easy way out and remember that establishing and maintaining relationships are supposed to be hard. As any college student will tell you, creating and maintaining any relationship isn’t easy. It’s not easy in our personal lives, and it’s certainly not easy in our professional lives. It takes time and commitment. There’s small talk, awkward silences, disagreements, reconciliations, and long conversations. This is the case whether it’s girlfriends, boyfriends, roommates, customers, reporters, or employees.

Through all the tips, tricks, hacks, and shortcuts, remember that at the end of the day, successful PR really comes down to basic interpersonal communications. Listen more than you talk. Empathize with the other person. Add more value than you take. Say please and thank you. Be honest. Apologize when you’re wrong. Keep the basics as your foundation and you’ll do just fine this year and into the future.

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About sradick

I'm an SVP, Senior Director at BCW in Pittsburgh. Find out more about me here (https://steveradick.com/about/).

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9 Responses to “A Partial Reading List for PR Students”

  1. Cision NA Says:

    Great list, Steve! I love that this list is a combination of books and blogs – it’s a great example of our reading habits these days. We will definitely take a look at Humanize and Brand Builder – the other blogs we read on a regular basis and we have the books in our collection 🙂 Thank you for sharing!


    • Steve Radick Says:

      Thanks Lisa – what other ones are on your list that I should add?

  2. Steve Radick Says:

    I also have to add Rick Rice’s blog (http://rtrviews.com/blog/) to this list! I’ve got him on my blogroll but totally missed him here. Rick provides a valuable senior-level, been there, done that view on PR. When you’re drowning in a sea of new-fangled tactics, Rick helps ensure you stay focused on the fundamentals.

  3. geofflivingston Says:

    Hey Steve, thanks for including me. Hope you are doing well in Chitown!

  4. Steve Radick Says:

    Great additions here Lisa – thanks for including them! I love that we have a lot of the same go-to resources.

  5. Steve Radick Says:

    Great advice about mixing in some courses on psych, finance, etc. I went to a liberal arts school so I had to take those courses as well as religion, art, sports management and many others. I can’t recommend the liberal arts approach enough to professional communicators. After all, we end up having to not only quickly dive in and learn our clients’ business, but to explain it to others too. That’s a skill I learned early on and use it every day.

  6. Alex Davis Says:

    Thank you for putting together this list Steve. It is much appreciated as a Syracuse University student majoring in public relations.

    My girlfriend recently got me “For Immediate Release” by Ronn. She saw it online and thought that I may like it. It was indeed a good book. Have you had a chance to read it?


    • sradick Says:

      I haven’t had a chance to read that one yet, although I’ve heard good things about it as well. I’ll have to check it out!


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