5 Books Every Public Relations Professional Should Read In 2020

While we do have endless undergraduate, graduate, and online short courses on public relations, I have found that the best way to grow in the industry is through experience and self-education. Throughout the years, I’ve encountered many books that have informed how I practice in the field, including one book that was instrumental in my decision to join the public relations industry. 

Here are 5 books that every public relations professional should read in 2020…

Propaganda –  by Edward Bernays

It’s been more than 80 years since Edward Barneys Widely considered the ‘father of spin’ and the ‘father of public relations’, wrote this widely acclaimed book but it’s still as relevant today as it was back in the 1920s when it was released. Propaganda explores the psychology behind engineering the consent of the masses to influence social change. It covers politics, corporate communications, and many others. 

So thrilling was propaganda, it was the book that got me to join public relations and it’s had a special place on my nightstand since I first got it in 2016. Definitely worth the read.

Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics- By Nanjala Nyabola

Arguably one of the most talked-about books in 2019, Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics is a book by political analyst, activist, and respected Kenyan scholar Nanjala Nyabola. The book looks at the role of social media in Kenya and the effect on the political landscape. It explores how Kenyans have used social media as a tool to challenge the status quo in political movements such as My dress my choice and call out political leaders for alleged injustices. It also highlights the efforts made by the elite to control and contain online activism as well as how the internet was used against the Kenyan people through the recruitment of Cambridge Analytica to create tension in the lead up to the 2017 Presidential elections. 

As a loyal KOT member and a PR practitioner, this book ranked high on my best books of 2019. It’s a must-read for anyone curious about digital democracy from the African perspective, which is a perspective we honestly, rarely get to see when discussing the internet, social media and it’s the intersection with politics. 

The Tipping Point-  by Malcolm Gladwell 

The tipping point published in 2000 is one of the most relevant books in today’s PR and advertising pursuit for the consumer dollar. Often included as a course text in many public relations and advertising classes, The Tipping Point as defined by Gladwell is “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point,” after which a product or idea spreads like wildfire. In his book, Gladwell explores the three rules: the law of the few, the stickiness factor and the power of context. 

Contagious, Why Things Catch On –  by Jonah Berger 

Have you ever wondered why cat and dog memes go viral? Why that baby tasting Ice cream for the first time garnered over a million views, then this book is for you. This book uses research by Jonah Berger (Professor of Marketing at The Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania) that helps us understand why certain ads, products, and campaigns go viral while others don’t.

As Jonah Berger puts it, “regardless of how plain or boring a product or idea may seem, there are ways to make it contagious…” Get a copy and find out! 

The business of Persuasion – By Harold Burson

Considered by many as the Godfather of Public relations, Harold Burson, founder of global Integrated marketing Agency Burston- Masteller is a Memoir that narrates Harrold’s experience as CEO of one of the world’s largest agencies and the many lessons he has learned along the way. Under his leadership, Burson-Marsteller became the largest public relations firm in the world. He takes us behind the scenes of the most prominent communications events of his career and the ways he handled them.  It is a must-read for any public relations practitioner.

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