Book Reviews

Public Relations

The Publicity Handbook, New Edition

Author: David R. Yale, Andrew J. Carothers
Publisher McGraw-Hill Companies, The
Publication Date: May 2001

Reviewer:Andy Marken
In his nearly 25 years in the advertising/public relations field, Andy has been involved with a broad range of corporate and marketing activities. Prior to forming Marken Communications in mid-1977, Andy was vice president of Bozell & Jacobs and its predecessor agencies. During his 12 years with these agencies, he developed and coordinated a wide variety of highly visible and successful promotional campaigns and activities for clients. A graduate of Iowa State University, Andy received his Bachelor's Degree with majors in Radio & Television and Journalism. Widely published in the industry and trade press, he is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

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Interested in getting a good grounding of practical basics or brush up on them? Interested in seeing how rapidly the weight of the industry has shifted in just three years?

Pick up The Publicity Handbook and read it either thoroughly cover to cover or as a reference guide. Then go out and get either Michael Levine’s Guerilla PR Wired or Shel Holtz’s Public Relations on the Net (reviewed earlier).

Yale and Carothers have gathered a lot of excellent data and insights on how to carry out a practical public relations campaign using print, radio/TV and events. But their coverage of on-line public relations efforts and activities is very superficial. So it will be impossible to only have one reference book in your library. Two will be required.

We started out with the NSFNet (National Science Foundation Network) which evolved into today’s Internet so we understand there was life before on-line. While instant Internet communications are important in the communications mix we also understand it has its limitations and its shortcomings.

First of all, the world is not totally connected. In the US less than 50 percent of the homes have computers and less than 60 percent of those are on-line. In the rest of the world connection is even lower.

So while we enjoy the instant reach of the internet for thousands of members of the media here and abroad as well as the ability to reach directly to specific message targets, they are only a percentage of the total market or world population. The remainder still receives the majority of its information, education and news from print, radio and TV.

Reaching these information gatekeepers and their audiences requires a different structure and discipline than an email or web site campaign.

This is a great primer for young men and women who have just entered the workforce as well as seasoned professionals who have gotten into a rut doing things a certain way just because they have always worked. Looking at challenges and opportunities from a new or different angle is always worth the extra effort.

The authors have compiled a lot of inside information from senior people who both prepare public relations/publicity efforts as well as those who are the initial effort targets the journalists. The Publicity Handbook covers all of the bases very well. In addition, the author gives you a behind-the-scenes look at successful and failed efforts so you can analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the efforts. In addition, Yale gives you important insights from editors and reporters so you understand the important dos and don’ts of your media relations activities.

While The Publicity Handbook does an excellent job of covering the budget busting ideas, it also does a very good job of making you think how you can use some of the ideas and activities for the more frugal (cheap) organizations. After all the more you know about what works and doesn’t work the better equipped you are to develop your own strategies and plans.

The book covers the basics starting out with what makes a good PR person. Then it explains the processes you need to go through to convince others to cover you organizations, products and/or services. If you’re concerned about the media showing up at your door or what to do to ensure they show up for all the right reasons the authors will help you get prepared. If you want to prepare for controversies or problems/disasters, Yale and Carothers provide you with the guidelines to overcome the challenges.

Every chapter includes a very thorough and well-thought out checklist to ensure the well-written information and messages got through to you. The checklists on the basics of good media relations, keys to newsworthy publicity, writing for the press, getting on the air, getting pictures published and more are worth the investment in the book.

In addition, Yale and Carothers have assembled an excellent source directory for the complete range of publicity services you’ll need during your career. Granted you could go to Google and do a search for the sources and services. However even though we have grown up with the Internet, we find we tend to get sidetracked when we do web searches unless we stay extremely focused. Trouble is with tens of thousands of web sites around the world and new ones coming on-line every day…getting distracted is easier than staying focused.

The Publicity Handbook is a well organized, well written primer and reference book. It’s a great guidebook for recent graduates and those who have only been in the field for a year or two. It will shed practical application light on the theories you studied in school. For the seasoned professional, it’s a great book for refreshing the idea bank and getting rid of old (bad) habits.

Having a firm grip on the non-Internet-connected world will help you reach the millions of people who sit in front of a TV rather than a computer and who read newspapers and magazines rather than web pages.