Book Reviews

Public Relations

Value-Added Public Relations: The Secret Weapon of Integrated Marketing

Author: Thomas L. Harris
Publisher NTC Publishing Group
Publication Date: December 1999

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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While Mr. Harris has been retired from active public relations practice more than 20 years, he has continued to make contributions to the industry by teaching and writing. Value-Added Public Relations appears to be a retrospect of his work in the field and his years with Golin-Harris Communications. Taken in that vein, it's a solid case study workbook.

If you're studying public relations (or a recent graduate), the book can be a good resource. But for people who have been in the field for a number of years the aspects of marketing public relations aren't really that new. To his credit though, Harris does make an overpowering case for public relations being an integral part of the overall marketing communications effort.

Harris has done a very good job of exploring a number of yesterday's award-winning campaigns (whatever value awards are compared to putting dollars on the bottomline for the company). But a shortcoming in today's environment is that you have to interpret the case studies in terms of how the Internet has changed business and public relations.

In the midst of his work, Harris injects some good experience he has gained over the years in the field. He synthesizes his key components into the unlikely acronym "SWOT" (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). His position - which is quite valid - is that if you can articulate the problems and the opportunities then you can develop the public relations strategies and tactics that will deliver results for the company.

Harris' book needs to be viewed more as a retrospective for people new to the industry to understand some of the things that have worked in the past but they need to be viewed in terms of today's instant news and information environment. It would be impossible to duplicate the programs he cites in the book today and expect to achieve the same results but the case studies do give people an idea of the thinking that goes into good - and bad - programs.

The one point Harris does make in writing the book is that marketing activities can no longer be viewed as separate items - advertising, sales promotion, trade shows, public relations, etc - but as an integrated activity. The work also explains and reinforces for marketing management the importance - in fact necessity - of public relations in the mix.

Value-Added Public Relations is a good case study book for people who are working to become professionals. But for seasoned pros there are several other strategic and management level books you'll find more helpful in your professional activities.