When choosing top summer books with public relations interest, our first “KPI” (key performance indicator) is anything that is well-written. Writing is the backbone of all good PR, and the best way to become a better writer is to read great stuff. After that, the criteria looks like this: books that touch on PR and marketing; books that reflect something in the current zeitgeist – politics, media, pop culture, e.g. and finally, just great reads. It’s nearly summer, after all. With that in mind, here’s an informal list of books to keep you current, smart and capable of small talk with just about anyone.
Let’s start with this hot-off-the-presses treatise on the state of news media since the election written by co-host of NPR’s “On the Media,” Brooke Gladstone. The book provides intelligent, insightful reflections on current political and media culture. It focuses on how and why we got to such a paradoxical and divided place in our great American democracy and press. Seen through a lens that includes cultural icons, from Jonathan Swift to Jefferson to Seinfeld, it may help readers process the election and the current administration and help PR pros better understand how the media processes these phenomena and more.
Anyone in PR today knows that the odds of their company becoming embroiled in a crisis, large or small, have increased. Whether it’s your brand ambassador spouting off offensively on social media or your airline behaving very, very badly to customers, knowing how to mitigate and repair has never been more important. This serious tome by attorney, writer and consultant James Haggerty, Chief Crisis Officer: Running Point in the Face of Unexpected Events explains why every company and organization needs to identify a Chief Crisis Officer, who will take the lead in preparing the organization for crisis communications response, and responding effectively when the inevitable crisis hits.
Summer in public relations is a great time up your content game. Content Inc., while not brand new is a terrific resource for how to successfully build and leverage content. Instructional without being preachy, the book encourages entrepreneurs and all businesspeople to identify the intersection of skill and passion (your “sweet spot”), target a narrowly defined audience that will find your content indispensable, and then hit on a”tilt”–that content hole that no one else online is filling.
OK, you’ve worked hard enough, take a break for some pleasure reading with the master of quirky autobiographical tales, David Sedaris. His latest adventures span 25 years of diary entries that are full of grace, hilarity and pointed observations about everything from soap opera addictions, odd jobs, food, spider feeding, family kookiness and language lessons. You know you are reading great, bouyant writing when an essay on eating at the same Bob’s Big Boy as David Lynch qualifies as a page-turner. And through it all, Sedaris retains a prickly Southern wit that sparkles. And, don’t we all want someone to comment on our witty writing at some point?
This anthology of music criticism sub-titled Great American Writing on Rock and Pop From Elvis to Jay Z, is more than its cover blurb: a collection of 50 pieces by 50 writers covering, more or less, the first 50 years of American rock and pop writing. It offers solid examples of how to compose some of culture’s most difficult and demanding writing – literary criticism. A writing teacher of mine used to say if you could write a great review you could write anything. The genre demands creative language and of course, critical thinking to propel a simple review beyond superlatives, to constructive and compelling prose. Read the works in Shake it Up first for pleasure and then for instruction.
If your blood boils every time you think about “too big to fail” bankers who went unpunished or criminally inclined CEOs who walk away with wristslaps and bonuses, this is the book for you. Inspired by a James Comey quote, the book looks at the failings of today’s Justice Department. Beginning in the 1970s it chronicles the department from the inside. It touches on how, in Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Jesse Eisenger’s opinion, the organization has grown soft and fearful of taking on corporate greed and malfeasance in the modern era. Couldn’t be more timely.
Finally, a spooky thriller that you, the reader can turn into the [inevitable] movie in your head. But enjoy it on its own merit as a dark, Hitchcockian whodunit that combines sex, sleep and murder in an utterly contemporary story that will hold its own against thrillers of summers past. With all the current obsession on the importance of a good night’s sleep, there is even some fascinating up-to-date sleep science thrown in. But don’t worry, it takes nothing away from the good, twisty ending and satisfying, though creepy plot and characters.
And, because these books have already been adapted for the screen, or soon will be, and you don’t want to be left out of any scintillating conversation – see what all the fuss is about: The Handmaid’s Tale sure it’s fiction, set in some future dystopian USA, but is it? Author Margaret Atwood claims that all of the atrocities in both the book and excellent streaming series, have occurred somewhere at some time, making it more of a horror story than any Stephen King. But King has a book about to be a film that is noteworthy as well. The Dark Tower series is a fantasy set in an amazing creative universe which is billed as King’s opus. And finally, consider reading or rereading the terrific classic, My Cousin Rachel, about to be a film. It incorporates romance, mystery and complex relationships in typical Daphne DuMaurier style.