I’m pretty biased, but I’ve always considered advertising, in the more traditional sense of the discipline, to be more honest than public relations. Advertising tends to present itself more nakedly — you know an ad when you see one because it has an identified sponsor. Public relations works in many not-so-obvious ways. It can be a manufactured piece of puffery disguised as “news,” or a backroom legislative lobbying effort. Mostly, it doesn’t shout its origins or intent right away. To me, PR is often subtler and more insidious.
Yet, public relations is a vital component of any company’s marketing and communications plans. And Robert L. Dilenschneider does an excellent job of laying out the fundamentals in The Public Relations Handbook.
Rather than using a simple narrative approach to writing, Dilenschneider acts as an editor, getting contributions from leading PR practitioners in each section of his book. For instance, notable pollster Frank “Death Tax” Luntz contributes a section on “Words That Work.” Other sections include investor communications, social media, crisis PR, government relations, and regional sections covering the way to tackle public relations in China, Canada, and Europe.
The lines between advertising and PR are blurred these days, of course. The notions of “brand storytelling” and “branded content” have opened the doors for people with journalism and public relations backgrounds to take the lead in shaping how a brand presents itself to the public even in the realm of paid media (i.e., advertising). And as news, information, and disinformation rocket around the world in seconds, it’s critical for companies of all sizes to know how to shape the narrative and maintain as much control as needed. It’s not easy. But The Public Relations Handbook does a fine job of putting the pieces together.
Special thanks to FSB Associates for providing me with a review copy.