There are various books about PR on the market. Some are timeless classics such as ‘Exploring Public Relations’ by Tench and Yeomans. Others provide a more up-to-date approach such as ‘Public Relations’ by Averill Gorden (a past lecturer of mine). Then there are a multitude of books written by authors who have mindlessly bashed together an eBook who claim to be PR pros but boast no relevant qualifications or links to professional bodies (such as the CIPR or PRCA).
‘The PR Masterclass’ by Alex Singleton (Amazon link) is the best sort of book. Released in January 2014, the book serves as refreshing practical guide for how to work in PR. If you’re starting out in the industry for the first time then make this book the first on your reading list. Even if you’re an old hat in the industry, the book serves as a useful reminder for going back to the basics. As the Director General of the Public Relations Consultants Association, Francis Ingham, states in the foreword talking about the more theoretical books in our industry,
“It all has a place, and I do genuinely respect that place. But it is far from being the entirety — or indeed the mainstay — of our industry. And sometimes when people seek so very, very hard to create an artificial intellectual construct with which they can frame our industry’s work, they serve only to obscure what it does, and to confuse us all. The glory of this book is that it doesn’t make any of those mistakes”
Alex Singleton’s background as a journalist at the The Daily Telegraph, writing for The Guardian, The Daily Express and Mail Online, along with being interviewed on countless news programmes, really shines through the pages. He is a journalist turned PR pro and each page of The PR Masterclass just oozes insight into our industry.
Undeniably a large focus of the book is about how to recognise and craft a newsworthy story. Looking at how press releases should be structured, what makes a good headline and what are the best angles to approach stories. It’s a gentle reminder that often the stories that clients expect to hit the newspaper, often doesn’t focus on the best angle. Sit on the side of your audience, not your client.
The book even covers the practicalities of maintaining media lists, advice for how to communicate with journalists and dealing with incoming media enquiries. At first glance, everyday practitioners may find these subjects a little too simple but personally I found chapters to be littered with words of wisdom. Such as,
“There is no shame in resisting a request [from a journalist] for an interview [with a PR’s client] until the editorial line being produced is revealed”
“As a result of the lazy use of these databases [media databases] by bad PR people, journalists are endlessly harassed by press releases that they have no interest in”
On the whole, I am personally against the use of media databases unless they serve the purpose of providing you the contact details of a journalist and publication you are already aware of. As a discovery tool they cannot be trusted. I’ve worked for agencies where colleagues have attempted to phone journalists who have long since departed from this mortal realm. It makes for awkward conversation with their colleagues…
“Journalists have a particular dislike of excessively bubbly copy, which they always add to their mental list of bad things the PR industry is responsible for.”
You can quite simply flick through Alex Singleton’s book and find insights around every corner. It’s a book that’s a must read before running a media campaign or if you want to find ways to improve your existing pitch. Next time I need to pitch to the media, I’ll be reaching for The PR Masterclass.
This is media relations, not social media
This book is certainly a practical guide to traditional PR but lacks digital focus. As a Digital Consultant working for Keene my focus is not traditional PR but to support the teams within the agency by providing a digital backbone to activities. It would be unfair for me to pick this out as a real downside to the book because from the very start The PR Masterclass states, “This book focuses on media relations. Public relations is undoubtedly broader than just trying to generate media coverage…” with a list of other things PR is, including board-level advice to blue chip companies.
Yet I did squirm when I read, “Some people — especially, I’m afraid to say, those who are unskilled at securing press coverage — assert that the conventional media no longer matters. What is important, they claim, is social media… an important part of public relations… these people are wrong if they believe conventional media is dead.” Is this a fair assessment? The format of news is moving online (trade press is slow to progress) but I’m skeptical to say that online campaigns have to still utilise traditional news sources. In my experience, if the client is right, then campaigns can reap spectacular results without a PR pro having to ring a single journalist.
Whether you are new to PR or just want to brush up on your skills then I highly recommend you buy this book. Alex Singleton urges for professionalism in the industry, delivers solid advice packed full of personal insight that could help change your campaigns for the better. If you want to build your understanding of digital then find another book, but before you do read The PR Masterclass.
I received a free copy of The PR Masterclass straight from Alex Singleton at my work address. It was a delightful surprise, coupled with a kind message (photographed below) but with no expectations of the book to be reviewed. It was the perfect desk drop and it’s been a pleasure reading it.