12 Must-Read Books for Every Public Relations and Advertising Professional

The following is a guest post from Gretchen Murphy, a public relations professional interested in the intersection of technology and life sciences. Gretchen is a 2011 graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University's PR master's program and can be found on Twitter at @gretchenclare.

It’s no secret that advertising and PR professionals need to adapt to change. Thanks to new communications platforms and evolving demographics, it’s important for students and professionals alike to continue educating themselves about the communications field. Whether you prefer to turn the physical pages of a book or swipe the screen of an iPad or Kindle, check out these top-rated books to stay ahead of the curve. 

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  1. The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Online Video, Mobile Applications, Blogs, News Releases, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly by David Meerman Scott

    Now in its fifth edition, The New Rules of Marketing and PR provides communications professionals with a step-by-step guide to connect with consumers using the latest communications tools. The book is broken into three parts: how the web has changed the rules of marketing and PR; an introduction to new media channels; and an action plan to put these tools to work. Even if you don’t have time to read the full 400-page book, it’s a great resource to have at your disposal. Scott includes hundreds of URLs and Twitter handles in the footnotes, encouraging readers to explore new resources.
  1. Social Media: Marketing Strategies for Rapid Growth Using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube by John Williams

    Given changes in technology and the widespread growth of social media channels, many books written on the topic of social media are outdated even before they go to print. However, John Williams found success by focusing on one key principle: Social media is about connecting directly with the consumer. The bulk of this book focuses on demographics and audience engagement tactics for six major social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest (sorry, no Snapchat).
  1. The Art of Crisis Leadership: Save Time, Money, Customers and Ultimately, Your Career by Rob Weinhold

    Businessman and billionaire Warren Buffett once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Few people understand this better than crisis communications professionals, who are responsible for providing smart, strategic responses to any situation that comes their way. In The Art of Crisis Leadership, Rob Weinhold details how to prepare for, navigate through and recover from crises using real-life examples of people and companies that lived through them.
  1. Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday

    While PR practitioners are responsible for many elements of communications, including shareholder communications, crisis management and social media, they are often best known for pitching the media. In this book, author and “media manipulator” Ryan Holiday explores how to use blogs to make the most of the media, based on his experience working for major brands like American Apparel. Split into two parts, the first half of the book explores the current media landscape and how it can be influenced, while the second half delves into the consequences. This book is a must read for anyone that works with, for or consumes the media.
  1. Dear Chairman: Boardroom Battles and the Rise of Shareholder Activism by Jeff Gramm

    In this best-selling book, Jeff Gramm looks at one of the most important communications stakeholders: shareholders. While shareholder activism is not a recent phenomenon, new communications tools and technologies are changing the rules of engagement. By analyzing eight shareholder letters written between 1927 and 2005, Gramm provides readers with a comprehensive view of how shareholders influence public companies.
  1. Multimedia Storytelling for Digital Communicators in a Multiplatform World by Seth Gitner

    As new media platforms and communications channels emerge, it’s increasingly important for PR and journalism professionals to deliver a clear and compelling message. In Multimedia Storytelling, Newhouse professor Seth Gitner arms readers with the tools they need to deliver the best story, regardless of the platform. Whether you’re an experienced video editor or an iPhone photographer, you will be better prepared to create a successful multimedia story after reading this book.




  1. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

    Frequently included in course syllabi for advertising, PR and management classes, The Tipping Point has gained widespread popularity in the corporate world. Malcolm Gladwell defines the tipping point as, “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point,” after which a product or idea spreads like wildfire. In the book, Gladwell explores three rules of epidemics: the law of the few, the stickiness factor, and the power of context.
  1. Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

    If you’ve ever wondered why a YouTube video of a cat playing a keyboard or a family video of two British brothers could garner more than 43 million and 839 million views, respectively, Contagious is for you. In this book, Jonah Berger uses six basic principles to explore how and why certain products and stories become popular. While quality, price and advertising are important, Berger argues that social transmission, or word of mouth, has a bigger impact on whether or not products, ideas and behaviors catch on.
  1. Propaganda by Edward Bernays

    Written more than 85 years ago, Propaganda is still a must-read book for advertising and communications professionals. Author Edward Bernays pioneered the “scientific technique” of altering public opinion, and went on to be called “the father of public relations.” His work for the Committee for Public Information during World War I played an influential role in his belief that the general public had to be “guided from above.” “Propaganda” explores the psychology behind manipulating the masses to influence everything from politics to social change.
  1. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

    First published during the Great Depression, Think and Grow Rich is a powerful personal development book offering 13 steps to greater income. Author Napoleon Hill studied hundreds of the wealthiest men in America, including Andrew Carnegie, George Eastman and Woodrow Wilson, to develop a philosophy that can “help people succeed in any line of work, to do and be anything they can imagine.” Despite the foreword’s caution that it “was not written to entertain,” the book continues to appear on bestseller lists more than 70 years after it was written.
  1. Fascinate, Revised and Updated: How to Make Your Brand Impossible to Resist by Sally Hogshead

    Between TV, billboards, email ads, Facebook and Twitter, consumers are bombarded with thousands of advertisements every day. So how can brands catch the attention of and connect with their consumers? Sally Hogshead tackles this question and takes it one step further, providing readers with a seven-step framework to make their brands impossible to resist.
  1. Loveworks: How the World's Top Marketers Make Emotional Connections to Win in the Marketplace by Brian Sheehan

    In 2004, Kevin Roberts published Lovemarks, an innovative yet controversial book, asserting that consumers make decisions based on emotion, rather than reason. He went on to explore how brands could create “loyalty beyond reason” by gaining consumer love. In this book, Newhouse professor Brian Sheehan provides “tangible proof” that Lovemarks works. Check out Loveworks to explore 20 real-word examples of successful brands that have accomplished this feat, including Cheerios, Nike and Trident.