Public Relations Books

My recommendations.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

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I recom­mend these pub­lic rela­tions books.

Please note that I only recom­mend PR books based on these criteria:

  • Reading. I must have read the book, which is per­haps obvi­ous, but it also explains why all great PR books aren’t on this list. I haven’t read them all!
  • Learning. I must have har­ves­ted at least one great insight from the book, an insight that pro­foundly impacted my PR career in some way. 
  • Writing. I must have had a reas­on to write about the PR book on this blog. More books deserve to be on this list — I just haven’t got­ten around to writ­ing about them yet!

The books are added in alpha­bet­ic­al order based on titles.

Here we go:

Contagious” by Jonah Berger

Jonah Berger - Contagious
Contagious by Jonah Berger.

Contagious” by Jonah Berger

Jonah Berger, a mar­ket­ing pro­fess­or at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, pro­posed six key con­cepts in his book “Contagious: How to Build Word of Mouth in the Digital Age” (also known as “Contagious: Why Things Catch On”) that make ideas or products go vir­al or “stick.” 1Berger, J. (2014). Contagious: How to build word of mouth in the digit­al age. Simon & Schuster.

These con­cepts are:

  • Social cur­rency. People share things that make them look good or help them com­pare favour­ably to oth­ers. It has social cur­rency if a product or idea can make someone appear bright­er, more relaxed, or more in the know.
  • Triggers. Ideas that are top of mind spread. Things eas­ily mem­or­able and reg­u­larly triggered in every­day envir­on­ments are more likely to be discussed.
  • Emotion. When we care, we share. Messages that evoke strong emo­tions (pos­it­ive or neg­at­ive) are more likely to be shared.
  • Public. If some­thing is built to show, it grows. The more pub­lic some­thing is, the more likely people will imit­ate it.
  • Practical value. People share inform­a­tion to help oth­ers. Useful inform­a­tion gets shared because the sharer wants to assist others.
  • Stories. People do not just share inform­a­tion; they tell stor­ies. Stories are the ves­sel through which inform­a­tion travels. If people are engaged in the nar­rat­ive, they’re more likely to share.

These con­cepts can be used to craft mes­sages and cam­paigns that are more likely to be shared and spread, lead­ing to more effect­ive com­mu­nic­a­tion and mar­ket­ing efforts.

Learn more: Public Relations Books

Good Strategy, Bad Strategy” by Richard Rumelt

Good Strategy, Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt.
“Good Strategy, Bad Strategy” by Richard Rumelt.
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Good Strategy, Bad Strategy” by Richard Rumelt

Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters” by Richard Rumelt is a sig­ni­fic­ant work in stra­tegic plan­ning and man­age­ment. The book, pub­lished in 2011, clearly dis­tin­guishes between what con­sti­tutes a good strategy and what falls into the cat­egory of a bad strategy. 2Rumelt, R. P. (2011). Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters. Crown Business.

Here’s a sum­mary of its key concepts:

  • Defining strategy. Rumelt defines strategy as a coher­ent set of ana­lyses, con­cepts, policies, argu­ments, and actions that respond to a high-stakes chal­lenge. He emphas­izes that a good strategy is not just ambi­tious goals or vis­ion­ary plan­ning; it focuses energy and resources on how to win.
  • The ker­nel of good strategy. According to Rumelt, a good strategy has a simple struc­ture he calls the “ker­nel,” con­sist­ing of three parts: a dia­gnos­is that defines the nature of the chal­lenge, a guid­ing policy for deal­ing with the chal­lenge, and a set of coher­ent actions designed to carry out the guid­ing policy.
  • Identifying bad strategy. Rumelt iden­ti­fies the hall­marks of bad strategy, which include plat­it­udes and cor­por­ate cringe (jar­gon and buzzwords), fail­ure to face the chal­lenge of how to win, mis­tak­ing goals for strategy, and bad stra­tegic object­ives. He argues that bad strategy is not simply the absence of a good strategy but a series of mis­guided approaches.
  • The role of lead­er­ship: The author stresses the import­ance of lead­er­ship in strategy for­mu­la­tion. A good strategist must identi­fy and focus on crit­ic­al issues, make tough choices, and engage the entire organ­isa­tion in a strategy that works in the real world.
  • Implementing strategy. The book provides insights into craft­ing and imple­ment­ing a strategy, emphas­iz­ing the need for clear think­ing, insight­ful dia­gnos­is, and decis­ive actions.

A good strategy hon­estly acknow­ledges the chal­lenges being faced and provides an approach to over­com­ing them.”
Source: Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters 3Rumelt, R. P. (2011). Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters. Crown Business.

Learn more: Public Relations Books

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Hug Your Haters” by Jay Baer

Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer.
“Hug Your Haters” by Jay Baer.
Spin Academy | Online PR Courses

Hug Your Haters” by Jay Baer

In “Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers,” Jay Baer provides a com­pre­hens­ive guide on how busi­nesses can turn neg­at­ive feed­back into an oppor­tun­ity for growth and improvement.

Baer argues that com­pan­ies should act­ively engage with unhappy cus­tom­ers instead of ignor­ing or dis­miss­ing them, address­ing their con­cerns and learn­ing from their feed­back. By embra­cing com­plaints and “hug­ging” their crit­ics, busi­nesses can strengthen their rela­tion­ships with cus­tom­ers and gain valu­able insights that can drive pos­it­ive change with­in the organisation.

Baer offers prac­tic­al strategies for enga­ging dis­sat­is­fied cus­tom­ers across vari­ous chan­nels, includ­ing social media, review web­sites, and cus­tom­er sup­port inter­ac­tions. He emphas­ises the import­ance of timely, empath­et­ic, and per­son­al­ised responses, under­scor­ing these factors’ role in dif­fus­ing neg­at­ive situ­ations and win­ning back cus­tom­er trust.

Drawing on real-world-examples, Baer demon­strates how busi­nesses that adopt a cus­tom­er-cent­ric approach to hand­ling com­plaints can enhance their repu­ta­tion, improve cus­tom­er loy­alty, and ulti­mately drive long-term success.

Learn more: Public Relations Books

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Influence” by Robert B. Cialdini

Influence-New-and-Cialdini-Expanded-The-Psychology-of-Persuasion
“Influence” by Robert B. Cialdini.

Influence” by Robert B. Cialdini

Robert B. Cialdini pub­lished “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” in 1984, and his prin­ciples of influ­ence are widely cited. They provide a frame­work for under­stand­ing how people are per­suaded, and pub­lic rela­tions, advert­ising, and sales pro­fes­sion­als often use them. 4Cialdini, R. B. (2009). Influence: The psy­cho­logy of per­sua­sion (Rev. ed.). HarperCollins.

Here are Cialdini’s six principles:

  • Reciprocity. This prin­ciple is based on the idea that people feel oblig­ated to give back when they receive it. If a com­pany gives some­thing to its cus­tom­ers (like a free sample or a dis­count), those cus­tom­ers may feel com­pelled to pur­chase in return.
  • Scarcity. People tend to want things that are lim­ited or hard to get. Marketers often use this prin­ciple by cre­at­ing a sense of urgency around a product or ser­vice, such as a lim­ited-time offer or a lim­ited-edi­tion product.
  • Authority. People tend to fol­low the lead of cred­ible experts. In PR and mar­ket­ing, this can be achieved by hav­ing an expert endorse a product or demon­strate expert­ise and cred­ib­il­ity in the field.
  • Consistency (or Commitment). People like to be con­sist­ent with the things they have pre­vi­ously said or done. This prin­ciple is often used in mar­ket­ing by get­ting a small ini­tial com­mit­ment from a cus­tom­er, which increases the like­li­hood that they will make a more sig­ni­fic­ant com­mit­ment later.
  • Liking. People are more likely to be per­suaded by people they like. Physical attract­ive­ness, sim­il­ar­ity, com­pli­ments, and coöper­a­tion can influ­ence this.
  • Consensus (or Social Proof). People often look to the actions and beha­viours of oth­ers to determ­ine their own. If a product or ser­vice is pop­u­lar or endorsed by oth­ers, people are like­li­er to deem it good or trustworthy.

These prin­ciples are power­ful tools for per­sua­sion and can be used indi­vidu­ally or in com­bin­a­tion to influ­ence per­cep­tions and behaviours.

Learn more: Public Relations Books

Pre-Suasion” by Robert B. Cialdini

Pre-Suasion - Robert Cialdini
Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini.
Spin Academy | Online PR Courses

Pre-Suasion” by Robert B. Cialdini

In his book “Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade,” Cialdini explains that suc­cess­ful per­suaders change people’s “state of mind” before try­ing to change their “minds.”

Here are some of the core con­cepts and prin­ciples from the book:

  • Frontloading atten­tion. This prin­ciple emphas­izes the import­ance of what people are pay­ing atten­tion to before a per­suas­ive mes­sage is delivered. By dir­ect­ing atten­tion to cer­tain ele­ments before­hand, you can prime your audi­ence to be more recept­ive to your message.
  • Priming. Priming involves subtly influ­en­cing people’s thoughts and beha­viours by expos­ing them to cer­tain stim­uli before­hand. For example, show­ing images of money can make people more likely to act competitively.
  • Channeling the focus. Cialdini dis­cusses how dir­ect­ing an audi­ence’s focus on spe­cif­ic aspects can enhance per­sua­sion. By high­light­ing par­tic­u­lar fea­tures or bene­fits, you can steer their thoughts and per­cep­tions in a desired direction.
  • Anchoring. The concept of anchor­ing involves set­ting a ref­er­ence point (anchor) that will influ­ence how sub­sequent inform­a­tion is per­ceived. For instance, present­ing a high ini­tial price can make a dis­count seem more attractive.
  • Unity. Unity is the sense of shared iden­tity and con­nec­tion. When people feel they are part of the same group, they are more likely to be influ­enced by those they per­ceive as part of their “in-group.”
  • Association. Cialdini explains how asso­ci­at­ing your mes­sage with pos­it­ive con­cepts or exper­i­ences can enhance its effect­ive­ness. This can be achieved by link­ing your product or idea with pos­it­ive emo­tions or desir­able outcomes.
  • Reciprocity. Although this prin­ciple is also dis­cussed in his earli­er work, it is reit­er­ated in “Pre-Suasion.” The idea is that people feel obliged to return favours, so offer­ing some­thing of value upfront can cre­ate a sense of indebtedness.
  • Authority. The prin­ciple of author­ity high­lights the influ­ence of experts or author­it­at­ive fig­ures. Demonstrating expert­ise or cred­ib­il­ity before deliv­er­ing your mes­sage can sig­ni­fic­antly boost persuasion.
  • Consistency. Getting people to com­mit to a small, ini­tial action can increase the like­li­hood that they will agree to lar­ger requests later. This is due to their desire to appear con­sist­ent in their beha­viours and decisions.
  • Liking. People are more eas­ily per­suaded by those they like. Building rap­port and estab­lish­ing a pos­it­ive con­nec­tion can enhance the effect­ive­ness of your message.
  • Social proof. Showing that oth­ers, espe­cially sim­il­ar oth­ers, have already com­plied with a request can sig­ni­fic­antly increase com­pli­ance. This prin­ciple lever­ages the influ­ence of group beha­viour and norms.
  • Scarcity. Highlighting the lim­ited avail­ab­il­ity of a product or oppor­tun­ity can cre­ate a sense of urgency and increase its per­ceived value, mak­ing people more likely to act quickly.
  • Timing. Cialdini dis­cusses how the tim­ing of when inform­a­tion is presen­ted can sig­ni­fic­antly impact its per­suas­ive power. Understanding and lever­aging the right moment can enhance the like­li­hood of a favour­able response.

By under­stand­ing and imple­ment­ing these prin­ciples, indi­vidu­als can effect­ively “pre-suade” their audi­ence, mak­ing them more recept­ive to the sub­sequent per­suas­ive message.

The best per­suaders become the best through pre-sua­sion — the pro­cess of arran­ging for recip­i­ents to be recept­ive to a mes­sage before they encounter it.”
— Robert Cialdini (author of Pre-Suasion) 5Cialdini, R. (2017, April 20). Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade. Amazon​.co​.uk. https://​www​.amazon​.co​.uk/​P​r​e​-​S​u​a​s​i​o​n​-​R​e​v​o​l​u​t​i​o​n​a​r​y​-​W​a​y​-​I​n​f​l​u​e​n​c​e​-​P​e​r​s​u​a​d​e​/​d​p​/​1​8​4​7​9​4​1​4​35/

Learn more: Public Relations Books

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Zombie Loyalists” by Peter Shankman

Zombie Loyalists by Peter Shankman.
Zombie Loyalists by Peter Shankman.
Spin Academy | Online PR Courses

Zombie Loyalists” by Peter Shankman

In “Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans,” Peter Shankman argues that the key to build­ing a suc­cess­ful busi­ness is to cre­ate a legion of loy­al cus­tom­ers who are so pas­sion­ate about your brand that they act as “zom­bie” advoc­ates, spread­ing the word about your busi­ness to their friends, fam­ily, and social networks.

Despite chal­lenges and com­pet­i­tion, these loy­al cus­tom­ers can help your busi­ness grow and thrive.

To cre­ate these “zom­bie loy­al­ists,” Shankman recom­mends focus­ing on excep­tion­al cus­tom­er ser­vice, going above and bey­ond to ensure every cus­tom­er has a pos­it­ive exper­i­ence with your brand. He provides real-world examples of com­pan­ies that have suc­ceeded through excep­tion­al cus­tom­er ser­vices, such as Zappos, Amazon, and Ritz-Carlton.

In addi­tion to provid­ing strategies for build­ing “zom­bie loy­al­ists,” Shankman also offers advice for enga­ging with cus­tom­ers on social media, hand­ling neg­at­ive feed­back and cri­ti­cism, and cre­at­ing a cus­tom­er ser­vice cul­ture with­in your organisation. 

Overall, “Zombie Loyalists” is a prac­tic­al guide to build­ing a busi­ness that thrives on cus­tom­er loy­alty and passion.

Learn more: Public Relations Books

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Thanks for read­ing. Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing art­icles with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tions and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als. You might also con­sider my PR ser­vices or speak­ing engage­ments.

ANNOTATIONS
ANNOTATIONS
1 Berger, J. (2014). Contagious: How to build word of mouth in the digit­al age. Simon & Schuster.
2, 3 Rumelt, R. P. (2011). Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters. Crown Business.
4 Cialdini, R. B. (2009). Influence: The psy­cho­logy of per­sua­sion (Rev. ed.). HarperCollins.
5 Cialdini, R. (2017, April 20). Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade. Amazon​.co​.uk. https://​www​.amazon​.co​.uk/​P​r​e​-​S​u​a​s​i​o​n​-​R​e​v​o​l​u​t​i​o​n​a​r​y​-​W​a​y​-​I​n​f​l​u​e​n​c​e​-​P​e​r​s​u​a​d​e​/​d​p​/​1​8​4​7​9​4​1​4​35/
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.
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The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations obviously; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that it's good to have hobbies outside work.

The cover photo has

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