Bookshelf: Heather Yaxley

Educator and PR consultant Heather Yaxley FCIPR lists the ten books she most often cites.

Managing Public Relations1. Grunig & Hunt, Managing Public Relations, 1984

The majority of other books say what was said in this classic text, but there’s no substitute for reading it yourself.  Almost 25 years on, there is so much solid advice in the text too, away from the four model approach which is primarily remembered.

Handbook of Public Relations2. Robert L Heath, Handbook of Public Relations, 2001

A goldmine of interesting and useful texts by a wide variety of authors.  From Grunig’s own defence against his critics in the first chapter, through Heath’s consideration of rhetoric, to Hutton’s reflection on PR and marketing and Pieczka and L’Etang questioning professionalism, everytime I dip into this text, I find a reason to reference its content.

Exploring Public Relations3. Tench & Yeomans, Exploring Public Relations, 2006

Yes, the one with the meerkats on the cover!  Sadly, many undergraduates fail to appreciate the value of tackling textbooks and this one is accessible and engages even the most reluctant reader.  It is a great starting point and should encourage wider reading of the main sources that are referenced.

Public Relations4. Anything by Jacquie L’Etang, but if forced, I’d say I’m currently referencing, Public Relations: Concepts, Practice and Critique, 2007 most often.

What I love about Jacquie’s work is that it challenges you to question everything else you read.  Taking a different, critical or reflective approach to your work is the best way to improve and this book helps you do that in a wide range of aspects that are key to PR practice and theory.

Exploring Corporate Strategy5. Johnson, Scholes & Whittington, Exploring Corporate Strategy, 2007 – or any earlier edition

I believe it is vital that PR practitioners read from management literature and this text is a solid consideration of many aspects that are relevant to our discipline.  Whether it is corporate culture, strategy or stakeholder theory, there is a sound review from a management perspective here.

Public Relations: Principles and Practice6. Kitchen, Public Relations: Principles and Practice, 1997

There are several really relevant chapters, notably those by Danny Moss and colleagues (chapters 2 and 4) and Kitchen’s own chapter on marketing PR.  On the topic of marketing, I recommend all PR practitioners should read Kotler (eg Principles of Marketing) – if only to understand how his predominance in the syllabus of marketing courses has affected the views of PR in organisations.

Persuasive Communication7. Betttinghaus & Cody, Persuasive Communication, 1994 

There are many great books on public opinion and persuasion that give great insight into PR practice (good and bad) that we should reference.  I also refer to Lippman’s Public Opinion, Larson’s Persuasion: Reception and Responsibility, Perloff’s Dynamics of Persuasion, Price’s Public Opinion, Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, even Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, among others.  Overall, I think B&C would be my choice, especially for the topic of source credibility.

Mass Communication Theory8. Baran & Davis, Mass Communication Theory, 2003

I don’t refer to this in class as much as I should, but I find myself returning to it in my bookcase a lot.  It covers numerous perspectives on mass communications and critiques these as well as giving very clear explanations.  It also reminds me of the limitations of mass communications and the need to go onto look at bodies of work on interpersonal communications.

The Cluetrain Manifesto9. Levine, Locke, Searls, Weinberger, The Cluetrain Manifesto, 2000

Again, lots of books on the topic of new media, but I like Cluetrain because it involves a new way of thinking.  It is also available online free of charge to read – which is an interesting trend where many authors are making their views open to as wide an audience as possible.  We’re not seeing this approach with too many academic books, but Google books does offer access to many, even if only in the form of selected chapters or pages.

Dilbert 2.010. Scott Adams, Dilbert 2.0, 2008

It is hard to stop at ten books as my house is stuffed with textbooks, novels, journal articles and so on, most of which I find myself referencing during teaching.  I believe we can learn from almost everything we read and many of the great conversations arise from discussing literature other than academic books.  So my final suggestion is a book of Dilbert cartoons.  I often use cartoons and other humorous images as a shortcut to topics to be discussed.  Scott Adams is one of the best for giving insight into the organisational psyche that affects a lot of PR work – and there’s nothing quite like being able to laugh at yourself after reading more serious academic texts.


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