Book Reviews

Public Relations

On Deadline: Managing Media Relations

Author: Carole Howard, Wilma Mathews
Publisher Waveland Press
Publication Date: January 2006

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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We really enjoy books like On Deadline.  Despite our years in the industry and the volumes of articles and books we have read on management, marketing and communications; we always gain at lease a few new nuggets of information.    Their fourth edition of this work is no different.  Ms Howard and Mathews have seemingly refreshed every idea to deal with the always-on industry.

It is a terrific refresher for seasoned PR professionals.  It is an excellent text and reference book for students and new practitioners.


Yes there is a but and it is an important one.  

Management will probably never read it !!!

That sucks.

You know or quickly learn that time and accuracy is the coin of the realm in the industry.  One of the first things that is drilled into you in school is that journalists (print, radio, TV, web, blog) are always on deadline.  They need, they demand the information now…not when it is convenient.

Management needs and demands quality company, product, personality coverage.  They don't want, avoid responding to and handling the negative.  That's what the PR person is for from a management perspective…take the bullet.

After reading On Deadline, we offered the book to four client CEOs.  Only one accepted the challenge to read the book for us.

When he returned the book his response  half jokingly was…"boy you've got a tough job balancing our wants/needs as well as the media's don't you?"

The others?  They looked at the book's cover and gave the book back.  They declined in a nice way saying…"I've got enough on my plate running a successful company with all of the crazy engineers, manufacturing people, shareholders, channel partners, customers I have to deal with.  Media relations is your job.  You're good at it.  Handle it!"

Find yourself in the position of developing the strategy and carrying out the tactics of public relations (with or without management's complete support) you'll be glad you read On Deadline.

We'll skip the basics that the authors have covered quite well in this book because like most people who have been doing public relations for more than five years you tend to look at the discussions as too sophomorish.  Keep in mind that Howard and Mathews have done their work to appeal to both the student and the pro.  In addition, there is a little warning we have to give  don't bypass the basics, skim them.  

You might find you learn something.  Especially when dealing with the increasingly important blogging and use list groups.  We did.

Conversely the newest members of the agency understood the importance, the power, the innerworkings and the reach of blogs, podcasts and uselists far better than we did.  At the same time they found the discussions on crisis management, spokesperson and speaker training as well as global/local communications of considerable assistance.  

What both junior and seasoned pros will find helpful we feel is the way Howard and Mathews have liberally sprinkled the book with lists  dos, don'ts, checklists, guidelines and self-tests/examples.  There is an excellent selection of case studies to add emphasis to the points they make throughout the book.

Despite the fact that we increasingly work in a round-the-clock, round-the-calendar world, we found the chapters on ethics and crisis communications very interesting.  We found the chapters on media events and the need/guidelines to developing meaningful media relationships helpful guides for our younger staff members.  

PR people who have never worked on the journalist side have no understanding of them as real people who have their own set of guidelines, goals and ethics.  They learned quite a bit on how to work with journalists to speed the media coverage process and to produce the best possible results in almost every circumstance.

If you think you're already a success in media relations, On Deadline can be a book you'll want to read just to reassure yourself or dust off some of the media relations management points you've forgotten.  If you're studying in the field or just starting out in the field, On Deadline is going to give you a jumpstart on your career by doing the right thing 90+ percent of the time and avoiding the landmines of failed efforts.

This is the strategy book to help you carry out tactics in the best of times and the worst of times.