13 books every PR pro should read

PAN Media

This article is courtesy of Brad Phillips and originally appeared on PR Daily.

I’ve read dozens of books that focus on media training, crisis management, body language, and public speaking. Many are quite good; a few have become favorites.
Below are some of my all-time favorites. This isn’t a comprehensive list, as there are surely great books I haven’t gotten around to reading yet. So if you have favorites that are not on this list, please leave them in the comments section below.
Public speaking
You Are The Message” by Roger Ailes: A true classic chock full of smart thinking and “ah-ha!” moments. Before Roger Ailes was hired to run Fox News Channel, he was a high-profile communications consultant. (He coached Ronald Reagan in 1984 before the second presidential debate that cemented his re-election.) If you want to learn how to be a more effective public speaker, this is a perfect place to begin. This book was originally released in 1989, but it’s still as fresh and relevant as anything being published today (with the exception of a few pages that offer a rather outdated view of women in the workplace).
Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery” by Garr Reynolds: Many communications consultants advise their clients not to use PowerPoint. I disagree with that absolutist stance, because the problem isn’t the tool, but the use of that tool. Garr Reynolds gets that, and strikes the perfect balance by offering a visually stunning guide that helps presenters design minimalistic PowerPoint slides that enhance presentations and reinforce verbal points. It’s no exaggeration to say that this book changed the definition of “best practices” for presentations that use PowerPoint.
Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story” by Jerry Weissman: This classic offers a detailed, almost technical, guide to public speaking. This is the type of book you’ll want to highlight and come back to before every speech you deliver. Although you should read it cover to cover, you’ll eventually get more out of it as a must-have reference title. Mr. Weissman’s examples come almost exclusively from the world of high-tech IPO road shows, but anyone in any sector can learn just as much as his tech clients.
Confessions of a Public Speaker” by Scott Berkun: This book isn’t a public speaking book, at least not in the traditional sense. It’s not particularly granular or tactical—you won’t find much here about proper posture, slide design, or ways to begin a speech, for example. Instead, this book focuses on some of the bigger issues speakers get wrong, such as failing to maintain the audience’s attention, work a tough room, or manage their own fear. Oh, and it’s the funniest book about public speaking I’ve ever read. (Read my full review here.)
Body language
What Every BODY Is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People” by Joe Navarro: Reading body language is notoriously difficult. Sure, some “tells” are more certain than others, but even rather obvious tells usually require other, complementary tells—known as clusters—in order to accurately assess their meaning. That’s why I so thoroughly enjoyed this book, which is filled with all of the responsible caveats but is still an easy read full of fascinating tidbits. Navarro rests his conclusions on the most recent science, but impressively avoids the pitfall of weighing down the book with dense prose. (Read my full review here, and five body language tips from Navarro’s book here.)
The Definitive Book of Body Language” by Barbara and Allan Pease: A terrific starter’s guide to body language that covers all of the basics—gestures, eye contact, and deceit signals—and some unexpected material, including the hidden meaning of certain seating arrangements, physical space, and courtship displays. An easy-to-read and highly accessible book.

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