7 Crucial e-books for Young Communicators

As this is mainly a blog for younger, entry-level communicators, I often want to post resources that will aid in navigating the PR, Marketing and Journalism landscapes and provide powerful and effective tips, tools and techniques to those in search of them.

Because communications, sales and specifically public relations and web marketing now revolve around creating and building useful and valuable content for niche audiences (the Long Tail), and establishing thought leadership and brands, free industry e-books from companies and individuals have become quite prevalent and very important (for both the companies themselves and their customers). As David Meerman Scott says, we must all “think like a publisher.”

Therefore, I scoured the Internet and came up with a list of 7 valuable e-books for young communicators from today’s thought leaders. I realize that this has been done many times before, but I’m attempting to zero in on e-books that specifically provide value to us as young professionals. Enjoy!

  • Brink: SHIFT’s Todd Defren wrote this e-book on social media, consisting of his best thinking over the past five years and offered it for free on his blog PR Squared. Defren explains the book best: “Let’s face it: most of this blog’s readers already ‘get it.’ You understand that we are poised on the ‘brink’ of amazing change. You can already see how social media is irresistibly changing the face of marketing. But, I’ll bet you have a ton of friends who either ‘don’t get it’ or only ‘kinda-sorta do.'” What I find handy here is that Defren illustrates, using real situations faced by real companies and through a familiar human voice, how we as communicators can/should create interactive channels through which we share, learn and directly participate within the appropriate markets that define our business.
  • Social Media Marketing GPS: “Interviews with 40 Marketing Leaders” by Toby Bloomberg. Shel Israel writes in the forward that “SMGPS will tell you the why & how using social media, 1 tweet at a time. You’ll learn essentials in digestible little spoonfuls.” This e-book focuses on conversational methods of marketing and succinctly explains why old broadcast practices are becoming obsolete. I found useful and engaging the format of this resource with the short, but concise interviews and answers from practitioners (thankfully “digestible,” considering the info overload we face today), with each of their Twitter handles easily accessible for following. Especially worthwhile is the section on metrics – what to measure in social media marketing and why – as well as the section on the esoteric but meaningful topic “social media ethics.”
  • The New Rules of PR: “How to create a press release strategy for reaching buyers directly.”  e-book from author, keynote speaker and marketing strategist David Meerman Scott. Although the e-book is from 2006 I include it here because crafting releases is something new hires are usually tasked with and because it lays a solid foundation for current industry practice today – PR and web 2.0. He writes, “It is time to step it up and consider the promise Web 2.0 public relations holds.” I also put this on the list because the implications of a proper, effective press release strategy are far-reaching and integral to PR best practices. Meerman makes plain the utility and power of utilizing the press release as a direct consumer-communication channel. Take heed!
  • Geeks Guide to Promoting Yourself with Twitter: “Promote yourself or your business in 140 characters or less on Twitter.” This e-book is produced by GeekPreneur and it explains why you need to be on the service, the ins-and-outs of promoting yourself on Twitter once there and how to brand your business on Twitter, among other nuggets. This is basically just a refresher for most but I believe it is relevant to us young communicators because it explains how to take hold of the service, its various “Twitter Tools,” and how to then utilize it to create a more interactive experience, which results in getting your name out there as someone who is adept in social media and has something valuable to offer. It also helps sow the seeds of a community that you can learn from and rely on in your burgeoning career.
  • The Social Web Analytics e-book: This highly detailed and informative e-book is from Philip Sheldrake , a partner at Influence Crowd LLC. The author writes “I review [in the book] how all organisations can try and make the most of the unprecedented wealth of information afforded by the Social Web, the incredible facility to ‘listen in’ on conversations close to their heart, and to initiate and engage in this dialogue.” The really insightful part of this book, which also touches on the semantic web, is that Sheldrake explores “text mining technologies,” the disadvantages of traditional market research and the advantages of continuous engagement instead. He also covers the controversial but increasingly important terrain of measuring and evaluating PR and marketing campaigns. This adds context to the metrics section of SMGPS found above – Really important aspects of any strategy or campaign in today’s business environment.
  • Marketing in 2009: “12 marketing professionals reveal their execution imperatives.” e-book from Valeria Maltoni and offered on her blog Conversation Agent. I included this book because it explores traditional marketing quite well and from different angles, as well as what social media means to it. Why some organizations won’t adopt social media in their business strategies and the necessity of building internal social media evangelists is discussed. I think its important for millennials to understand the big picture (not just social media), and where we have been.
  • Johnson & Johnson Does New Media: case study e-book by Ron Ploof. This e-book is solid because it is a case study, and as such, it provides (although somewhat specific to 1 company) a detailed picture and an opportunity for the reader to sharpen their analytical and problem solving skills. It chronicles J&J’s journey into the world of New and Social Media and it includes some links to their various social and multimedia efforts. The lessons contained within could possibly be used to illustrate to management the utility and advantages of an online communications campaign.

Bonus
Here are some bonuses –  Ragan.com offers a great list of PR, Marketing and Media podcasts.

  • The Essential Guide to Social Media: e-book by Thought Leader Brian Solis. An outline of social media tools and resources needed to listen and participate, guiding PR, customer service, product development, and marketing. This e-book is essential because it covers a wide array of PR 2.0 topics as it explains the vital role social science plays in social media – blazing a trail to success for us in a very clear and conversational tone. And what would a social media list be without Brian Solis?

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Photo credit: Daniel Lobo

Public Relations Ain’t no Journalism

I’ve been in a pensive but inspired mood lately. This particular frame of mind could be attributed to the fact that I’m all set to finish up at graduate school in a few months and setting upon a new path always monopolizes space, good or bad, in a person’s thoughts. During this time I’ve begun to think quite pragmatically about the choices I’ve made academically, and more specifically, about my decision to go on to post-graduate work in public relations after receiving a B.A. in Journalism.

What I’ve been batting around lately is the old power struggle and ingrained belief that journalism and public relations are on opposite sides of the professional and even the societal spectrum. One is credible and respected and the other, supposedly, is not. Is this even true? And if so, how can I and other young professionals trained in both fields reconcile these two backgrounds and passions in our personal lives and careers? PR and journalism do not complement each other in practice or in theory and they certainly do not share the same skill sets. Or do they?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2010, “Journalism graduates have the background for work in closely related fields such as advertising and public relations or communications, and many take jobs in these fields.” So, considering this assertion, the long-held discrepancy between the two professions and my belief and experience that other young communicators are indeed in the same boat as I am, I thought this a worthy topic to explore.

Some context:

In 1961 L. Feldman conducted a study, that back then, was the first of its kind and was subsequently built upon by other researchers. His study included 746 city editors of newspapers and 88 officers of local Public Relations Society of America chapters across the country, with the ultimate goal of comparing how journalists and public relations practitioners assessed each other. This study, as well as later ones in the same vein, found discrepancies in the attitudes of the two groups on dimensions such as credibility, professionalism and occupational status. For example, journalists generally held negative attitudes toward public relations practitioners, their values and professional status, while practitioners actually looked upon journalists as credible purveyors of high news values, and to themselves as attributing to its production.

Studying journalism in school, reading the works of and looking up to iconoclast journalists I.F. Stone and H.L. Mencken, muckrakers like Lincoln Steffens and Ida Tarbell, and especially reading such anti-PR texts and blogs as “Toxic Sludge is Good for You,” and PR Watch, in the realm of public communications and especially media relations I found, as did Feldman, that there does exist some stigma of public relations as the evil sibling, communicating messages solely with an eye toward gaining something, and journalism, the saintly one, out to serve and inform.

This has contributed greatly to the friction in my thinking mainly because I do in fact believe this description of journalism is definitively true. But is this a zero sum, either-or argument, with the negative description of PR practice inherently true if you believe journalism is the altruistic, above crass-commercialism, credible profession its practitioners, students and society believe it to be? I do not believe so.

Journalism and news are irrefutably oriented toward a public agenda and a general audience. It performs the vital functions of keeping the republic and its citizens informed, unruly and immoral corporations and governments are kept in check by accountability journalism and through adept and trained analysis, good journalism verifies and explains in understandable terms complicated events, issues and processes.

Journalists also contribute mightily to the marketplace of ideas, flooding it with worthy illustration of “how the other half lives,” disseminating and stirring up community knowledge and supplying multiple view points in their articles, all leading to much-needed choice and information for us citizens. And as the authors of the 2009 CJR report on reconstructing American Journalism write, independent journalism makes accessible “issues of race, social and economic conditions and the role of government in people’s lives.”

But is PR really the evil sibling possessing no intrinsic value and offering little worth toward our society and the marketplace of ideas? And again, can these two passions and background of mine mesh together to form an effective and ethical PR pro with an eye toward increasing exposure and access to different ideas and content, while at the same time driving action for clients? Without a doubt.

Although the PR profession is not perfect, and pro’s have sometimes hidden behind the brands they represent, pushing out impersonal messages without genuinely engaging the community they are attempting to reach, I believe that through the web, the evolution has already begun and we who are trained in the craft of journalism can make the public relations profession more effective, more cognizant of and better targeted toward the real needs and interests of myriad publics – which translates into successful and worthy PR. Good PR leads to effective communication, between practitioners and consumers, and even between practitioners and bloggers, analysts and journalists. The journalistic skills of knowing how to produce and package compelling and newsworthy content, for both traditional and digital media, along with the recognition of the special obligation we have as communications professionals toward transparency, ensures efficacious and powerful communication – both for organizations, clients and society.

Something interesting that also came out of those studies I talked about earlier on the practitioner-reporter relationship was that researchers found in their data that “For journalists, familiarity with PR practitioners apparently breeds respect.”

On a relative note, the Director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, Dan Gilmor recently said that “If we understand that journalism education is a valuable step into any number of professions, we should not just celebrate the graduates who’ve gone on to fame (if not fortune) in journalism, but also those who’ve made marks in other fields.”

Well said Mr. Gilmor.

(Please join in on the conversation by commenting and letting me know if you agree that journalism training and its skills do indeed provide a worthy background for PR, and more controversially, is crossing over into a PR career a negative thing for journalists? Those who have completed this career switch, how do you deal with the stigma discussed above? Just Curious!)

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