Tag Archives: Book Reviews

The Public Relations Writer’s Handbook

Pauline A. Howes, Ph.D.

The Public Relations Writer’s Handbook
Author: Whitney Lehmann, Ph.D., APR
Nova Southeastern University
Routledge, 2019 
ISBN: 978-1-3512-6192-0 
For access to instructor resources: Instructor Resources Download Hub.

Templates (ZIP 139.2KB) https://www.routledge.com/The-Public-Relations-Writers-Handbook/Lehmann/p/book/9780815365280?source=igodigital

The Public Relations Writer’s Handbook is an informative and practical guide on how to write the main types of materials used by PR practitioners. The book works well as a textbook for students, and as a resource for those new to the field. Lehmann and book contributors take a conversational approach that engages the reader by delivering detailed instruction while sharing real-world experiences. Thorough, yet concise, this book is packed with solid writing fundamentals and professional insights. Knowing what makes good PR writing and understanding the strategic use of different materials will continue to be essential in the emerging era of generative artificial intelligence tools, such as ChatGPT.

Structure and Organization 

The book is organized into six sections: What is Public Relations Writing, Media Relations, Storytelling, Writing for Digital Media, Business and Executive Communications, and Writing for Events. Chapters within the sections go into detail on writing related materials. The opening section, “What Is Public Relations Writing,” provides background and context by describing the role of and general guidelines for PR writing in an aptly titled chapter, “Purpose, Process, Style, Form and Tone.” Though definitions of public relations may be familiar to most PR students, the inclusion of different examples is a helpful reminder and sets the stage for discussing what PR writing is – and what it is not. Lehmann highlights how public relations and PR writing are different from marketing and advertising. This distinction is important for students to understand because it influences their overall approach and tone when writing PR materials. The section also lists the variety of documents PR people use, outlines the writing process, introduces the inverted pyramid concept and offers general tips for effective PR writing. 

What follows are five sections containing a total of 17 chapters, each focused on a particular document or aspect of PR writing. Chapters under the Media Relations section instruct on News Releases and Other Types of Releases, Media Pitches, Media Advisories/Alerts, Public Service Announcements and Media Kits. The Storytelling chapter covers Interviewing, Background Materials and Backgrounders, Fact Sheets, Bio Sketches, News Writing and Feature Writing. The Writing for Digital Media section has two chapters, “Email and Writing for the Web” and “Writing for Social Media.” Grouped under Business and Executive Communications are two chapters, “Letters and Memos” and “Speechwriting.” The section on Writing for Events includes two chapters, “Talking Points and Run of Show” and “Shot Lists and and Photo Captions.”

Chapters open with a brief explanation of the purpose of the document – how it is used and how it relates to other written tools in the practice of public relations. The authors then take a “hands on,” often step-by-step approach, to preparing and writing the respective PR tools. The use of examples (e.g., right and wrong punctuation for quotations) is an effective way to convey the details of PR writing.

Each chapter includes at least one exercise that can be used as a class assignment. Some exercises include taking information provided in the instructions (e.g., Exercise 2.1 – News Release). Others ask students to first gather and then use information from external sources (materials or interviews) to write the assigned piece (e.g., Exercise 8.1 – Crafting a Backgrounder). Several chapters also have an AP Style Skill Drill for students to identify and correct AP style errors in a sample document. Though AP style is covered in the first chapter, “Purpose, Process, Style, Form and Tone,” it’s always helpful to reinforce AP style points in various PR materials.

Throughout the text, public relations professionals offer insights that show how aspects of PR writing are applied in the “real world.” These brief essays, “Perspectives from the Pros,” are written in a personal, conversational style, often reflecting on the writer’s own experiences. Students, perhaps more than ever, want to know the “why” behind what they are asked to do. Discussing the use of PR materials in this way helps them see the bigger picture and understand why things are written the way they are.

Contributions to Public Relations Education

Presented as a handbook, as opposed to a traditional textbook, this book is designed and written to provide direct and detailed guidance on how to write a variety of materials used by PR practitioners. The book is ideal for use in PR classes taught with a sharp focus on the practical and professional aspects of writing for public relations. The content gets straight to the point of describing, giving instruction and offering examples of the different PR materials. Instructor resources, available on the publisher’s website (registration required), include digital versions of templates and answer keys for the AP style exercises. 

The author and contributors write in a conversational style that engages readers by talking “to them,” rather than “at them.” Their personal stories are relatable and add perspectives based on professional experience. Information and instructions are easy to follow through the use of both narrative and bullet-point formats. Subheads facilitate quick reference to specific details when working on an assignment. The provided examples and templates give students a framework for content and format.


A strength of this textbook is its sharp focus on the fundamentals of writing a wide range of PR materials, while still providing insights on the actual practice of public relations. The book also pays great attention to the details and nuances of good PR writing. Public relations professionals – and professors – may have personal preferences for writing and formatting; nonetheless, this book reflects commonly accepted practices for preparing PR documents. Most chapters open with a purpose section that concisely describes the specific PR document and explains how it is used in ways that are authentic to the practice of public relations. Detailed instructions and explanations are organized under headings, such as Format, Structure, Process and Template, that help guide the reader. Since much of PR writing is formulaic, the clear, straightforward examples and templates are helpful and adaptable to different applications.

One thing that stands out when reading this textbook is its highly personal tone and presentation of content. You get the sense that the authors are talking to students in a professional, yet approachable, way that keeps them engaged while teaching them about writing. Most chapters are written by Lehmann, but including other authors’ chapters and sidebar commentaries adds diversity in voice and allows for input by those with expertise in a particular type of writing.


Since 2019, when this book was published, digital communication and social media have evolved, expanded to new platforms and grown in usage by organizations. While the book content remains highly relevant, a future edition would benefit from updated guidance on writing for the web and social media. A separate chapter on general scriptwriting for video and audio could include public service announcements. Connecting similar types of writing that are used in different ways, such as writing photo captions and Instagram posts, may be an approach to consider. Though PR planning is discussed briefly in the opening section, a separate chapter on how to write a PR plan, including an example, is a possible addition. Finally, the overall layout of the book makes good use of headings, subheads, different fonts and design elements given the constraints of page size. However, a further enhancement, though likely a matter for the publisher not the author, would be using larger pages to better display the examples, templates and sidebars.

Lehmann and her contributors deftly combine their experiences as educators and PR professionals to create a practical guide for learning about writing for public relations. This book is a  “how to” in many respects; however, the informative chapters and by-lined sidebars broaden its usefulness. So much of learning to write well must come from practice, along with instruction. Effectively covering the essentials of writing a variety of PR materials in an informative, engaging way makes The Public Relations Writer’s Handbook a good option for PR writing classes.

© Copyright 2023 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Howes, Pauline A. (2023). The Public Relations Writer’s Handbook. [Review of the book The Public Relations Writer’s Handbook].  Journal of Public Relations Education, 9(1), 171-175. https://journalofpreducation.com/?p=3631

You Need PR: An Approachable Guide to Public Relations for Early-Stage Companies

Lois Boynton, Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

You Need PR: An Approachable Guide to Public Relations for Early-Stage Companies
Author: Jenna Guarneri
An Inc. Original, 2022
Routledge, 2019 
Print ISBN 978-1-63909-004-4 
eBook ISBN 978-1-63909-006-8 



According to the Census Bureau, more than 5 million new businesses filed for IRS tax IDs in 2021, the highest number in 20 years and a 53% increase from 2019 pre-pandemic applications (Newman & Fikri, 2022). Despite these large numbers, the vast majority of start-ups fail, typically in the first five years. Among the reasons for these failures are misjudging demand, insufficient funds, stronger-than-expected competition, and – as Jenna Guarneri’s book You Need PR argues – ineffective marketing (“106  Must-Know,” 2022).  

Guarneri’s easy-to-read book is part of An Inc. Original’s leadership book series, the same organization that publishes Inc. magazine. She adeptly brings her professional expertise into the pages of the book, interspersing her entrepreneurial experiences creating a start-up agency seven years ago. As CEO of JMG Public Relations in New York City, Guarneri identifies herself as a publicist, a position under the broader public relations umbrella and generally related to media relations and events. Her firm received several recognitions in the last five years, including the 2021 Most Outstanding Startup-Focused PR Firm, awarded by digital B2B magazine publisher Corporate Vision. She also shares her expertise as a member of the Forbes Business Council and a Forbes magazine contributor. 

Structure and Organization

Guarneri breaks the 12-chapter book into four sections that mirror a business start-up process: Establish (chapters 1-3), Build (chapters 4-6), Launch (chapters 7-9), and Deliver (chapters 10-12). The book includes a brief glossary of terms, from advertorial to wire service, and a six-page index. Each chapter begins with a poignant quote to set the stage. For example, “The Competitor Landscape” (chapter 6) starts with, “A horse never runs so fast as when he has other horses to catch up and outpace” (p. 95). My favorite quote starts chapter 10, “Follow Through,” attributed to realtor-turned-sales and leadership coach Michelle Moore: “Not following up … is the same as filling up your bathtub without first putting the stopper in the drain” (p. 167). The author wraps up each chapter with an “Innovation Station” to summarize the main points and pose questions for the reader to consider based on their organization’s publicity needs. 

Guarneri kicks off the book discussing the significance of perceptions, focusing on the company’s core values and delving into brand differentiation. She employs simple descriptions without technical terms. The “Competitor Landscape” chapter describes what constitutes environmental scanning and issues management, for example. The PR Pitching Cycle (p. 212) synthesizes an effective process involving essential research, outreach, and follow-up,  and media catching options available from resources such as Help A Reporter Out, ProfNet, and Qwoted (p. 164). 

You Need PR also advocates for an oft-used strategy of third-party endorsements gained by media coverage, despite recent evidence that trust in news media continues to drop. According to a July 2022 Gallup poll, only 16% of Americans have considerable trust in newspapers, with a mere 11% holding trusting views in television news (Brenan, 2022). But the text is not behind the times; it also points to the value of creating connections and sharing media coverage via social media channels. 

Strengths and Weaknesses

The book effectively backs recommendations with campaign examples from the likes of Patagonia, FedEx, T-Mobile, Warby Parker, TED Talks, and Oreo. The publication also reinforces the why and how of its suggestions by interlacing research findings from prominent organizations such as Gallup, Edison Research and Catalyst, Pew Research Center, and University of Chicago. 

Today’s public relations and publicity also must have grounding in diversity, inclusion, and equity, issues not featured in You Need PR. These elements do not necessarily require a separate chapter, but could be reinforced if woven throughout the text. For example, the subsection “Types of Media Outlets” (p. 108-110) might refer to the value of scanning a wide range of diverse publications to learn points of interest and the potential to pitch relevant story ideas. In addition to a notable branding success story such as Patagonia’s Don’t Buy this Coat campaign (p. 26), the book might also feature the Starbucks UK (2020) campaign, “Every Name’s a Story,” which showcased the significance of a trans person hearing a barista say their chosen name. There’s also value in sharing teachable moments, such as Barnes and Noble’s 2020 Black History Month debacle, in which it recovered classic books with “new covers that reimagined protagonists as characters of color” (Cornish, 2020). 

Publicists and public relations practitioners must have a strong grasp of inclusive language, as well.  A link – perhaps in the chapters on storytelling, content, or brand materials – to a resource such as the Conscious Style Guide [https://consciousstyleguide.com/] would provide readers guidance about how to refer to the breadth of diverse stakeholders – from race and ethnicity to age, disability, gender expression, religion, and socioeconomic status. These issues, plus reinforcing the profession’s ethical standards to eschew misinformation and potential conflicts of interest (Bortree, 2022), would provide essential context for students and novice practitioners. 

Contributions to Public Relations Education

Overall, You Need PR is an easy-to-read overview of the role publicists play in creating memorable, brand-focused media content, particularly, as the title reinforces, for start-up ventures. The book outlines the value of a number of tactics that professionals expect entry-level employees to have mastered (Edwards-Neff, 2020), such as media pitches, posts on popular social media platforms, news releases, blogs, and podcasts. The author also includes briefs about newsletters, press kits, fact sheets, bios, boilerplates, features, and media lists. As a result, a more-apt title might be You Need Publicity, to delineate media strategies from the additional keys to effective public relations when building relationships with other stakeholders: investors, employees, multicultural communities, and government organizations. 

Overall, some instructors may find this book useful for media relations classes or some public relations writing courses that focus primarily on writing for news media. Guarneri’s book also is a valid go-to resource to provide students, recent alumni, or other novices with a media relations primer or refresher, particularly when working with start-up organizations. 


106 must-know startup statistics for 2022. (2022, October 13). Embrokerhttps://www.embroker.com/blog/startup-statistics/

Bortree, D. (2022, June 6). Ethics committee spotlight report for Commission on Public Relations Education. http://www.commissionpred.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/CPRE-Ethics-Spotlight-Report-2022-10.29.pdf  

Brenan, M. (2022, July 18). Media confidence ratings at record lows. Gallup. https://news.gallup.com/poll/394817/media-confidence-ratings-record-lows.aspx

Cornish, A. (2020, February 6). Author L. L. McKinney: Barnes & Noble ‘diverse editions’ are ‘literary blackface.’ NPR. https://www.npr.org/2020/02/06/803473296/author-l-l-mckinney-barnes-noble-diverse-editions-are-literary-blackface 

Newman, D., & Fikri, K. (2022, January 19). New startups break record in 2021: Unpacking the numbers. Economic Innovation Group. https://eig.org/new-start-ups-break-record-in-2021-unpacking-the-numbers/ 

Starbucks UK. (2020, February 2). Starbucks LGBT+ Channel 4 Diversity Award 2019: Every name’s a story. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcSP1r9eCWw  

Edwards-Neff, D. (2020, October 18). Writing work group report: Undergraduate writing preparation and skills for entry-level public relations professionals. Commission on Public Relations Education. http://www.commissionpred.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Writing-Report-FINAL-D-Edwards-Neff-10182020.pdf 

© Copyright 2023 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Boynton, Lois. (2023). You Need PR: An Approachable Guide to Public Relations for Early-Stage Companies. [Review of the book You Need PR: An Approachable Guide to Public Relations for Early-Stage Companies].  Journal of Public Relations Education, 9(1), 166-170. https://journalofpreducation.com/?p=3636

Public Relations History: Theory, Practice, and Profession

Christopher McCollough, Ph.D., Jacksonville State University

Public Relations History: Theory, Practice, and Profession
Author: Cayce Myers
Routlege, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-138-49140-3 (hbk) 
ISBN: 978-1-138-49141-0 (pbk) 
ISBN: 978-1-351-03301-5 (ebk)
Number of pages: 184

As is common practice, before sitting down with Myer’s (2021) historical text on the development of modern public relations, I considered his stated goal for the work: 

In this book I set out to provide an overview of where public relations history is today, and, to a greater extent, provide a historiography of public relations While this book attempts to do all of that, it also serves as an overview of the origins of public relations as an action and as a practice (p. x). 

Myers also adds a comment all too familiar to many public relations practitioners, scholars, and educators alike, “In doing this, I found that public relations history, like the history of any profession and practice, is multi-layered and not nearly as compartmentalized as I had previously thought” (p. x). In this sentence, Myers sets the tone for a complex, comprehensive history of our field’s development and growth that is so rarely addressed in contemporary introductory texts, or effectively covered in undergraduate or graduate classrooms. 

Structure and Organization

To understand what makes the work different, one needs only examine the organization of the work. Myers begins by considering the diverse spectrum of definitions of public relations that we have in our discipline, and the issues related to those definitions: (1) whether PR should be defined by practice or by the act of doing public relations work, (2) how public relations definitions of professional practice affect the narrative of PR history, and (3) the impact of individuals on the field, and how PR history coalesces around the personal narratives of the so-called great men and women of PR. Made clear in recent studies on the community building actions of pioneer women on the Oregon Trail (Pompper, 2020), and a rich history on the early corporate communication and public relations actions of AT&T seeking to maintain its monopoly during the first half of the twentieth century (Russell, 2020), public relations educators need to strive to provide a more nuanced perspective on the historical development and evolution of public relations. For too long, it has been married to the early efforts of P.T. Barnum, Ivy Lee, and Edward Bernays and firmly anchored in the continental United States. Myers advances this call in his approach to articulate key industry pioneers and contributors that have often been absent in our foundational texts on the field. The same conscious, thoughtful consideration applies in reading his discussion of various definitions and their impact on our historical interpretation of the field.

Myers then walks the reader through the historical development of public relations theory, breaking down the four models as dominant forms of practice in different eras of the twentieth century (Grunig & Hunt, 1984). What sets his work apart in this process is how he moves from a thorough discussion of the historical eras to a consideration of some essential critiques that help the reader properly contextualize the strengths and weaknesses of the four models, setting up the call for a critical consideration that improves our historical understanding of the discipline as we move through the 21st century. 

Moving beyond the definitional and theoretical aspects of public relations, the rest of the text is organized into 10 easily digested chapters that cover the practice of public relations in key niche areas of practice. Included in the volume are political public relations (Chapter 3), propaganda, public relations, and public opinion (Chapter 4), public relations, propaganda, and conflict (Chapter 5), public relations in non-profits, education, and religion (Chapter 6), corporate public relations (Chapter 7), entertainment and the creation of the PR professional (Chapter 8), public relations ethics, organizations, and credentialing (Chapter 9), and the future of the history of public relations (Chapter 10). 

As the list of specific areas of practice indicates, Myers is committed to presenting a more thorough understanding of the discipline. For example, he is to be commended for taking on a more holistic exploration of propaganda, its rise and application in a variety of contexts, and how it has informed the practice and perception of public relations as a modern discipline. Further, while we have seen references to the entertainment industry as fundamental to the emergence of the public relations professional, Myers offers a much deeper consideration of press agentry and publicism as professions in the era and how the culture of the period informed the early development of public relations professionals. 

This deeper examination of public relations foundations sets up a thorough examination of the cultural influences and larger philosophical matters related to the practice of public relations in the text in the final chapters. An invaluable discussion is his consideration of how corporate public relations, the rise of government regulation in post-World War I America, and the law all played a critical role in how public relations cultivated various codes of ethics, professional organizations, and its modern systems for professional and academic accreditation. Myers closes the piece with a renewed call for historians in public relations to ensure they avoid narrow considerations of the historical origins and development of public relations, and instead develop a critical, thorough understanding of public relations development and relationship to other fields and industries that have shaped its practice. 

Contribution to Public Relations Education

The text offers educators and scholars alike a reconceptualization of our discipline that can enhance the study of public relations history moving forward. Readers should note the text is one that can be easily accessible to educators, scholars, and industry professionals interested in learning more about the discipline and setting a foundational understanding of the state or historical research in public relations. Pedagogically, this book is an invaluable tool for those preparing to teach the introductory public relations course, and a useful set of readings for a graduate level course in public relations foundations.

In summary, Myers offers the discipline an invaluable tool that will help aspiring professionals, educators, and scholars develop a firm grasp on the development of our discipline, and how we need to consider its study as we look for new areas of historical analysis. Educators should see this as a resource to make the history chapter and discussion a richer experience for their students, and those working on introductory texts should read Myers and use it to inform their approach to discussing the foundation of our field. Current and past students of the discipline should appreciate the volume for offering a complex, multi-layered consideration of public relations that is by no means as compartmentalized as Myers himself had initially assumed.


Grunig, J. & Hunt, T. (1984). Managing Public Relations. Holt, Rinehart & Winston. 

Pompper, D. (2020). Community building and arly public relations: Pioneer women’s role on and after the Oregon Trail (1st ed.). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429274718 

Russell, K. M. (2020). Promoting monopoly: AT&T and the politics of public relations, 1876-1941 (1st Ed.). Peter Lang. https://doi.org/10.3726/b16633

© Copyright 2022 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: McCollough, C. (2022). Public Relations History: Theory, Practice, and Profession. [Review of the book Public Relations History: Theory, Practice, and Profession].  Journal of Public Relations Education, 8(1), 187-191. https://aejmc.us/jpre/?p=2982

Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect (4th Ed.)

Adrienne A. Wallace, Ph.D., Grand Valley State University

Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect (4th Ed.)
Author: Regina (Gina) Luttrell, Ph.D.
Rowman & Littlefield
ISBN-13: 978-1442226111 
ISBN-10: 1442226110 
Number of pages: 264 

For those seeking a career in public relations and social media, Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect, by Regina Luttrell, makes the transition from classroom to boardroom, for students and instructors mentoring them, complete and somehow painless. The fourth edition is updated to reflect innovations, challenges, tools, and issues specific to today’s digital landscape for public relations practitioners. 

Structure and Organization

Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect is organized into three parts: 1) The Advancement of an Industry, 2) Strategic Planning: Public Relations and Social Media, and 3) Strategic Management: Public Relations and Social Media. These parts work to engage readers in 14 chapters ranging from theory to practice, ethics, and the future in a comprehensive manner to unearth the “why” behind social media strategy and not just all the “fun” things you can tactically imagine. The “why” or use of strategy is one of the key differentiators of this text in a crowded market of social media textbooks. As an educator and professional, I want students to understand why they are doing something in an effort to remain strategic, comfortable, platform agnostic and skillfully dangerous, in an ever-changing environment where social media platforms come and go–good-bye Facebook, hello Meta.

As a core text, this book is suitable for subjects or classes related to language arts, communication studies, advertising, public relations, business communications, marketing, social sciences, media studies, digital studies, political science (digital activism), and more. The work would also be an excellent partner to a main text if you would like to inject more social media into an introduction to public relations, digital media, social media, public relations or advertising campaigns class, or even a communication, marketing, advertising, or public relations capstone or internship course. 

Changes to Fourth Edition

This seminal text on social media is a public relations educator staple. This book is one of the few social media textbooks updated regularly, which eliminates the normal weakness of a social media text which is that as soon as it is published, it is outdated. Author Luttrell and publishers, Rowman & Littlefield, solved that issue for instructors with their proactive updates 

Features of the fourth edition include improved chapter objectives and learning outcomes, which easily align with a semester schedule; social media expert profiles and practice areas to help satisfy the “what do you do in a day” question popular among applied major program students; theory- into-practice boxes with exercises that connect back to the chapter material or updated case studies using the “diversity-first” approach–a staple in Luttrell’s books; a living Twitter community and boxes throughout the text that address “learn social media and public relations” with #LRNSMPR where students can connect with others even countries apart; a more comprehensive  glossary of terminology for students and faculty to examine together; a discussion of additional social media channels (Clubhouse and TikTok); and finally, a new appendix with ideas for social media strategy guidelines and templates that allow practice in the classroom (p. 219-239). 

I particularly like the digital assets in this edition which allow me to make practice handouts for quick and dirty in-class social media audits. The author uses resources from several case studies and infographics, including downloadable models on her website at www.ginaluttrellphd.com. Additional materials can be requested through Rowman & Littlefield publishing with an educator login.

Contributions to Public Relations Education

As in previous editions, this edition illustrates the author’s concern for both the history and future of social media as it applies to public relations and the business case for sound strategy supported by creative tactics. The textbook bridges social media theory and practice, which by nature includes both understanding of the medium and how to “do” social media. Strategic council occurs thoughtfully and deliberately through her signature “practitioner speaks” approach included in all of her textbooks. Additionally, the book is accessible for students, professionals, and educators who might need help keeping up on the barrage of new tools, strategies, and techniques within the social sphere. Keeping up with social media trends and policy can be arduous; however, this book mitigates that work for fellow educators. 

Of particular note are the modifications to Chapter 4, The Road Map to Success: Developing a Social Media Plan, which carries throughout the text. Luttrell introduces readers to the Diversity & Inclusion Wheel for PR Practitioners and explains how the “diversity-first” approach is central to social media and public relations planning (Luttrell, 2020).  This addition, partnered with the chapter on social media ethics (Chapter 11), unifies the deliberate thought around inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility principles in practice throughout the public relations curriculum, something often missing from other popular social media texts. The addition is a core differentiator of this textbook for use in the public relations classroom. 

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strength: Cost

Rowman & Littlefield get it: book price shouldn’t be a barrier to education for students or for instructors.  For some, the price point of this book won’t prove to be a barrier to adoption, given the $35 cost for paperback.  

Strength: Language

Luttrell is skilled at using plain language in most of her textbooks. The author understands the needs of students and strives for a favorable student experience through easy information which is neither oversimplified nor stilted. She writes in a way that is easy to read and understand, making classroom participation less of a barrier. I frequently heard students comment that they often read ahead because their interest was genuinely piqued. The text takes a complicated series of topics and makes them immediately executable to a generation that thinks they may already “know” social media. A “digital native” doesn’t equal digital expert, so this textbook improves perspectives among young professionals and makes barriers to entry in a technical field less panic-inducing. 

Strength: Application

If you have ever purchased a textbook written by Luttrell, you’ll know much of her strength lies in demonstrating practical application of theory. In this she creates a landing place for students to examine the fuzzy bits and really extrapolate perspective in order to activate or repair strategy. In this particular edition, her theory-into-practice boxes and the social media expert profiles elevate that form. 

Neutral: Influencers

The topic of influencers is more a neutral point than a weakness for this text. That said, as influencers faced a reckoning in the last year in a COVID-19 environment with trust and ethics routinely violated, I’d like to see the fifth edition improve coverage in the area of influencer relations. Sourcing Amanda Russell’s book, The Influencer Code: How to Unlock the Power of Influencer Marketing (2021), which has quickly established itself as the “influencer Bible” within the last year, along with Northwestern University Kellogg School’s (2021) adoption of the “Influencer U” curriculum for its Executive Management program would help. Doing so would be a perfect partnership, collaboration, or extension of the textbook. 

Weakness: Text Presentation

At no fault to the author–this is more a deficiency of the publisher– I feel compelled to address text presentation as a weakness. We NEED color in our textbooks. You can’t expect a student who is glued to a LED or OLED smartphone to engage fully with a text on social media when the photo examples of charts, graphs, and examples of social media (i.e., Instagram feed, tweets, Facebook [Meta] posts, etc,) are printed in the text in black and white. 


Dr. Luttrell is a prolific, trusted, and well-respected author in the area of social media and offers an unparalleled framework for understanding and practical use of social media in a public relations context. I’ve adopted every edition of Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect as both a partner text in introduction public relations courses, and in an introduction to advertising and public relations course at my institution. I have no qualms in encouraging others to do the same. 


Luttrell, R. (2020, September 14). How to prioritize diversity and inclusion in your communications. SpinSucks. https://spinsucks.com/communication/diversity-and-inclusion-communications/ 

Northwestern University. (2021). Influencer marketing strategy: Using social influence to build brands and drive growth. Northwestern University Executive Education. https://online.em.kellogg.northwestern.edu/influencer-marketing-strategy 

Russell, A. (2021). The influencer code: How to unlock the power of influencer marketing. Hatherleigh Press.

© Copyright 2022 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Wallace, A. (2022). Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect (4th Ed.). [Review of the book Social Media: How to Engage, Share, and Connect (4th Ed.)].  Journal of Public Relations Education, 8(1), 192-197. https://aejmc.us/jpre/?p=2988

Discovering Public Relations: An Introduction to Creative and Strategic Practices

Tiffany Gallicano, Ph.D., UNC Charlotte

Discovering Public Relations: An Introduction to Creative and Strategic Practices 
Author: Karen Freberg
Sage, 2020
ISBN: 9781544355375 (pbk) 
ISBN: 9781544355399 (ebk) 
Number of pages: 367

Karen Freberg (2021) wrote, “Ultimately, to make change happen in the field, you have to do it yourself. The time is now for the field to finally move forward in a new and innovative direction” (p. xxi). Freberg delivers on her promise for an invigorating PR textbook that prepares students for the industry now––and instructs them about how to be trailblazers in their own right as they carry the discipline into the future.  

Message from a Maverick
The preface would be more aptly titled “Message From a Maverick” as Karen Freberg takes the stage to denounce PR textbooks (as outdated); the chasm between the PR classroom and the industry; and the cannibalization of PR by disciplines that are quick to teach social media strategy and digital storytelling, such as English; and the PR industry for its stagnation. She rebukes bias based on academic pedigree and particular research agendas in public relations. (I’m interpreting the latter item refers to the former stigma against research in public relations education). 

A Textbook Unicorn
Freberg’s book is rich with coverage in areas that update the traditional textbook, such as a contemporary discussion of diversity and inclusion, a full chapter on business acumen, a chapter about client and personal branding, and a deep dive into creative content and content marketing. Freberg plays to her considerable strengths in these areas and fills the pages with eye-catching social media screenshots, diagrams, and industry examples. Each chapter is enhanced by an infographic, game changer highlight, case study, summary, relevance to the APR exam (via listed areas the chapter covers), and key terms.

Ancillary materials include sample syllabi, discussion questions, activities, slides, and test bank questions. Textbook adopters can also gain access to a private Facebook group, where instructors can ask questions and invite the author to chat with their classes. The Facebook group has helpful resources, including a guide to which areas of the book will help students review for portions of the Certificate in Principles of Public Relations exam. 

Small Shortcomings

Although the book has considerable strengths, there are areas for improvement in the next edition. This is not the only recent textbook in which I have noticed the types of problems I address here, which could be endemic of a larger issue in the review process of recent PR textbooks. 

Moral relativism. I paused when reading the glib treatment of global ethics: “What is considered unprofessional in one country may be perfectly okay in another” (p. 304). Missing from this point was the follow-up that just because a practice is permissible by members of another country does not mean that it is moral. The textbook seems to greenlight the “do as the Romans do” philosophy, which means that instructors using this textbook should add a unit on moral relativism to their lecture. Historic legends, such as Leon Sullivan, have demonstrated the ability to stand for human rights and make long-term gains not only for a single company and industry but also for humanity. To counterbalance the textbook, I simultaneously required my students to read the position papers from the PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (n.d.).

Strawman argument. In the opening chapter, Freberg creates what appears to be a strawman argument about outmoded academic definitions of public relations; however, the academic textbook definitions she uses are old. Cutlip and Center’s 1971 definition is used, rather than the most recent one: “Public relations is the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the publics on whom its success or failure depends” (Broom & Sha, 2013, p. 5). She juxtaposes the academic definition with PRSA’s definition, which explains that PR is “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics” (Public Relations Society of America, 2021). The positioning continues the rift between academe and the industry that Freberg sets up in the preface, which does not seem like a productive way to get students excited about the rest of their academic education in PR. If the author sticks with the agitative approach, however, the strawman argument can be avoided by using the most recent definition of Cutlip and Center, found in Broom and Sha (2013).

Inaccurate literature. Close attention is needed to how academic literature is represented. For example, the statement, “Grunig and Repper (1992) defined stakeholders as publics, implying they are a broader group comprised of anyone an organization needs to be aware of for its well-being” (Freberg, 2021, p. 5). J. E. Grunig distinguished between publics and stakeholders, “Often the terms stakeholder and public are used synonymously. There is a subtle difference, however, that helps to understand strategic planning of public relations. …Only stakeholders who are or become aware and active can be described as publics” (Grunig & Repper, 1992, p. 125). Students, of course, will not be disadvantaged by this lack of precision; however, it is a change that should be made to the next edition. 

Muddled PR models. The infographic of the PR models represented the distinction between asymmetrical and symmetrical communication in a muddled way. According to the infographic, “The two-way asymmetrical model is focused on two-way communication, allowing both parties to have a chance to have a conversation, though one has more power than the other. [Symmetrical communication] … is very similar, except that the symmetrical model focuses on equal power between the parties in conversation” (p. 40). Additionally, in the chapter, Freberg (2021) wrote, “Two-way asymmetrical communication focuses on providing a balanced conversation, but there is still one party that is overseeing the power within the conversation” (p. 23). By comparison, J. E. Grunig and L. A. Grunig (1992) wrote, “Asymmetrical communication is unbalanced. It leaves the organization as is and tries to change the public” (p. 289). The notion of “two-way” comes in through the use of research to persuade. J. E. Grunig and L. A. Grunig (1992) described symmetrical communication by stating, “Unlike the two-way asymmetrical model, however, it uses research to facilitate understanding and communication rather than to identify messages most likely to motivate or persuade publics” (p. 289).  

The infographic suggests that a conversation with unequal power is the distinction; however, asymmetrical communication does not require a conversation. Asymmetrical communication simply requires research, which undergraduates are unlikely to view as the same as a conversation. Furthermore, the symmetrical definition in the infographic should be centered on mutual understanding and benefit rather than how much power the parties have in the relationship.

Theoretical limitation. Although this is the most up-to-date textbook in PR I have read, more can be done to update the inclusion of theory, and additional precision would be useful in how theory is described. Freberg (2021) wrote, “Grunig’s situational theory of publics helps us figure out what will motivate our audiences to listen act and engage in a conversation with us and our clients” (p. 182). While technically true–we can make an educated guess about how clients might engage in a conversation based on the theory–the theory specifically predicts only information processing and information seeking. However, the updated extension of the theory, the situational theory of problem solving, can be used to predict conversation, among other valuable outcomes, and it would be a better theory to explain when making an argument for the prediction of conversations (see Kim & Grunig, 2011).

Nomenclature. The term controlling mutuality is used, which is the first time I’ve heard that form of the term, and the term is repeated in the test bank. The term is simply control mutuality but rewriting it as “mutual control” for ease of understanding would be a fine alternative (Hon & Grunig, 1999).

“Discovering Public Relations” represents a substantial advancement in public relations education, and I am grateful to Freberg (2021) and the people with whom she worked for producing such an engaging, useful book for the Principles of Public Relations course.


Broom, G. M., & Sha, B.-L. (2013). Cutlip and Center’s Effective Public Relations. Pearson.

Grunig, J. E., & Grunig, L. A. (1992). Strategic management, publics, and issues. In J. E. Grunig (Ed.), Excellence in public relations and communication management. (pp. 285-325). Erlbaum.

Grunig, J. E., & Repper, F. C. (1992). Strategic management, publics, and issues. In J. E. Grunig (Ed.), Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management (pp. 117-157). Erlbaum.

Hon, L. C., & Grunig, J. E., (with Anderson, F. W., . . .Overkamp, S.) (1999). Guidelines for Measuring Relationships in Public Relations. http://www.instituteforpr.com/measeval/ rel p1.htm

Kim, J.-N., & Grunig, J. E. (2011). Problem solving and communicative action: A situational theory of problem solving. Journal of Communication, 61, 120–149.

PRSA. (2021). About public relations. https://www.prsa.org/about/all-about-prPRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards (n.d.). Ethics for an evolving profession. https://www.prsa.org/about/ethics

© Copyright 2021 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Gallicano, T. (2021). Discovering Public Relations: An Introduction to Creative and Strategic Practices. [Review of the book Discovering Public Relations: An Introduction to Creative and Strategic Practices].  Journal of Public Relations Education, 7(3), 206-211. https://aejmc.us/jpre/2021/12/27/discovering-public-relations-an-introduction-to-creative-and-strategic-practices/

PR Women with Influence: Breaking Through the Ethical and Leadership Challenges

Katie Place, Ph.D., Quinnipiac University

PR Women With Influence: Breaking Through the Ethical and Leadership Challenges
Authors: Juan Meng, Ph.D.  and Marlene S. Neill, Ph.D.
Peter Lang, 2021 
ISBN: 978-1-4331-6510-8
DOI: 10.3726/b15025
Number of pages: 218

PR Women with Influence: Breaking Through the Ethical and Leadership Challenges addresses the dearth of research regarding leadership development and ethical leadership among women public relations professionals–and the challenges and opportunities surrounding such. Over four distinct sections, the book assesses the landscape of extant literature regarding women, public relations, leadership, and influence. The book also highlights findings from both quantitative and qualitative inquiry and maps out an ecosystem for supporting women leaders in public relations. The mixed method approach strengthens the book, which is well organized and easy to read. The scope of the book, which examines the intersections of leadership, gender, and ethics, is novel. 

In the first section, the authors review extant literature and acknowledge the longstanding power–and gender-based issues of the public relations profession. Despite majority status and strong leadership competencies, for example, women remain underrepresented in leadership positions across the profession. Moreover, women of color are especially absent from the public relations field and in leadership roles. To address the issues identified, the authors propose five research questions exploring: 1) women public relations professionals’ perceptions of attitudinal, structural, and social barriers to leadership advancement; 2) women public relations professionals’ perceptions of factors contributing to the underrepresentation of women in leadership; 3) women public relations professionals’ definitions regarding influence in their leadership paths; 4)women public relations professionals’ perceptions of professional and family responsibilities; and, 5) women public relations professionals’ perceptions regarding mentoring and leadership advancement. Additionally, the authors outline the research design and methods that guide the book. They substantially describe the two-phase approach to the research design, involving both a survey (n=512) and in-depth interviews with 51 women who identify as public relations professionals. The demographic profiles of participants are detailed well and the make-up of participants in the study reflects that of the public relations discipline. 

The second section presents the results of the authors’ national survey on women public relations professionals’ leadership and ethical challenges. The first of two chapters in this section addressed situational barriers to women’s leadership advancement. Of note, the authors found that workplace structures, double standards regarding domestic roles and professional demands, and societal attitudes regarding women professionals were the three most common barriers cited by respondents. Exploring situational barriers among women of color, results indicated that they faced additional race-based stereotypes, occupational stereotypes, and inhospitable organizational cultures. Looking to the next three years in the industry, respondents indicated that they hope for greater improvements to work-life balance, increased women as role models in high-level positions, and increased mentors advocating for their advancement. 

The second chapter in this section addressed perceptions of ethical leadership among survey respondents. Results indicated that women public relations professionals perceive influential leadership as being seen as a trusted advisor, having career advancement opportunities, and holding a voice to which colleagues listen. Strategies perceived to best garner influence and support ethical counsel among women public relations professionals included: 

  • inviting questions and dialogue 
  • using legitimacy appeals 
  • providing scenarios to illustrate potential consequences or alternatives to a situation 
  • utilizing research to support counsel  

Regarding ethical principles and leadership, survey respondents ranked communications leaders as most ethical when they conduct their life in an ethical manner, set an example for how to do things ethically, make fair and ethical decisions, and discuss ethics and values with employees, among other actions.

The final chapter synthesized the national survey results, which addressed women’s leadership development and participation opportunities in public relations. Respondents cited that on-the-job training programs to increase competencies, internal leadership and development programs, external leadership and development programs, working with a mentor, and engagement in formal leadership education were important resources necessary in organizations to support women’s leadership growth. The authors suggested that organizations help women’s leadership potential by encouraging their participation in professional organizations, cultivating more inclusive work environments, and fostering more diverse leadership teams. 

Complementing the findings from the national survey, the book’s third section details findings from in-depth conversations with 51 women leaders in public relations in mid–and senior–level positions. Findings suggest that women leaders in public relations defined influence as “being a trusted advisor, practicing thought leadership, being a subject matter expert, and exerting a voice that executives listen to, and gaining the respect of other leaders” (p. 129). Leadership challenges cited by women interviewees often differed from their male counterparts. For example, interview findings illustrated how women cited enduring stereotypical gendered expectations regarding their workplace behaviors and a lack of acknowledgement, visibility, or support in spaces dominated by men. Additionally, race posed a barrier to the advancement of African American, Latina, and Asian American professionals, as they faced forms of pigeonholing, discrimination, and invisibility.  Women leaders in public relations also defined ethical leadership with references to integrity, transparency, honesty, respect, moral courage, and fairness. To provide ethical counsel, participants discussed strategies such as utilizing research or case studies, providing scenarios, playing devil’s advocate, recruiting allies for support, taking part in dialogue, and sharing personal experiences. Women professionals found mentoring and support networks to be vital to ethical leadership. 

The book concludes with a fourth section that offers a summary of the research findings and proposes a path for future research. In particular, the authors suggest that additional research must be conducted: a) to address global perspectives regarding women and leadership in public relations, b) to strengthen intersectional approaches to researching leadership and women in public relations, c) to understand mentoring and its role in professional development, and d) to describe and expand notions of ethical leadership. 

Contribution to Public Relations Education
Through a detailed analysis of their survey and interview findings, Meng and Neill offer a glimpse into the gendered and raced realities of the public relations profession.  Their book contributes to public relations education by highlighting the need for ethics and leadership-based support, training, mentoring, and education for public relations students and professionals alike. From this book, public relations educators will gain an understanding of the ethical and leadership values that are important to seasoned professionals in public relations, but also gain an awareness of the various cultural and structural barriers that still disadvantage women professionals from achieving greater leadership potential. Educators may wish to integrate practices detailed in the book into their own teaching by offering mentoring opportunities, supplementary learning opportunities, and frank dialogue about ethical competencies and barriers to leadership still affecting women in public relations. 

I applaud the authors on this extensive research undertaking, which advances our understanding of the public relations profession at the intersections of gender, leadership, and ethics. However, in order to strengthen this study and future scholarship on the topic, I recommend more integration of insights from feminist theory, critical race theory, and queer theory and more attention to the vast, intersecting avowed and ascribed identities that factor into women’s leadership and advancement. This study and future scholarship exploring women, leadership, and ethics must acknowledge and explore sexual identity in public relations, for example. Inclusion of the lived experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) women are necessary for a richer, deeper understanding of public relations work and professional advancement. Extant literature has long acknowledged the bigotry, tokenism, discrimination, exclusion, and prevention of workplace advancement for LGBTQ individuals (e.g. Tindall, 2013; Tindall & Waters, 2012; Waters, 2013). How does heteronormativity embedded in public relations practices, structures, and discourses contribute to lack of advancement, mentoring, and leadership potential for the vast spectrum of women-identifying individuals in public relations? 

This book would appeal most to and contribute to U.S.-based public relations scholars and educators. The reading is also relevant for scholars in the adjacent fields of management, marketing, or integrated communications. Because this is a niche area of research and practice, it is most appropriate as reading for graduate-level or professional-level public relations courses, such as Public Relations Management or Gender in Communication. 

PR Women with Influence: Breaking Through the Ethical and Leadership Challenges complements Gaining Influence in Public Relations: The Role of Resistance in Practice by Berger & Reber (2006) and offers a necessary deeper dive into the leadership and influence experiences of women in public relations. Additionally, the book complements Fitzpatrick & Bronstein’s (2006) Ethics in Public Relations: Responsible Advocacy

In conclusion, Meng and Neill’s book offers a necessary and timely empirical snapshot of the intersection of women, leadership, and ethical counsel in public relations. The study was extensive and well structured. The flow of the book and presentation of the findings was well organized and clearly written. It makes a solid addition to the libraries of public relations scholars, professionals and students and serves as an important springboard for future debate and research. 

Berger, B. K., & Reber, B. H. (2006). Gaining influence in public relations: The role of resistance in practice. Routledge.

Fitzpatrick, K., & Bronstein, C. (Eds.). (2006). Ethics in public relations: Responsible advocacy. Sage Publications, Inc.

Tindall, N. T. J. (2013). Invisible in a visible profession: The social construction of workplace identity and roles among lesbian and bisexual public relations professionals. Coming out of the closet: Exploring LGBTQ issues in strategic communication with theory and research, 24-40. Peter Lang.

Tindall, N. T. J., & Waters, R. D. (2012). Coming out to tell our stories: Using queer theory to understand the career experiences of gay men in public relations. Journal of Public Relations Research24(5), 451-475.

Waters, R. D. (2013). Harassment in the workplace: Violence, ambivalence, and derision experienced by LGBTQ strategic communicators. In Coming out of the closet: Exploring LGBTQ issues in strategic communication with theory and research, 7-23.

© Copyright 2021 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Place, K. (2021). PR Women with Influence: Breaking Through the Ethical and Leadership Challenges. [Review of the book PR Women with Influence: Breaking Through the Ethical and Leadership Challenges].  Journal of Public Relations Education, 7(3), 212-218. https://aejmc.us/jpre/?p=2470

Public Relations: Competencies and Practice

David Remund, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA 

Public Relations: Competencies and Practice
Editor: Carolyn Kim, Ph.D., APR
Routledge, 2019
ISBN-13: 978-1138552340
Number of Pages: 338

As noted by scholar and editor Carolyn Kim, these are challenging times for society and those who work in public relations. Trust in organizations and the media has eroded. Exceptional and authentic leadership are increasingly needed to foster trusting and mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their stakeholders. Public Relations: Competencies and Practice is designed to help aspiring practitioners and emerging leaders better understand these skill sets and how they should be applied. The reader is invited to explore what it means to truly succeed in public relations today – and across a spectrum of specialized practice areas. 

Content and Scope
Public Relations: Competencies and Practice is really two books in one. The first half of the book explores the competencies necessary to make a real and meaningful impact in modern public relations practice. The second half of the book surveys a broad spectrum of specialization areas and industries supported by public relations practice. In other words, Public Relations: Competencies and Practice details what it takes to practice public relations effectively and the industries within which a strong and ethical practitioner can make an impact.   

Kim, as editor, presents a collection of 22 chapters, each written by a leading expert in the public relations field. She recruited a who’s who of contemporary scholars and thought leaders for this unique book, and that factor lends exceptional credibility and substance to this anthology. It would be difficult to find another book that covers so much ground and does so with such clarity and command; that is a credit not only to Kim, but to each of the exceptional scholars who contributed chapters. 

The chapters begin with clear definitions of key concepts and, as appropriate, more detailed explication. Each chapter concludes with a summary of intended learning outcomes as well as a thoughtful profile of an esteemed practitioner with specialized expertise. This easy-to-follow framework helps the reader absorb the rich substance of each chapter while conjuring parallels to real-world circumstances. 

Several chapters deserve special merit: Business Literacy (Ch. 6, Swanson), Content Creation (Ch. 7, Tenderich), and Stewardship (Ch. 11, Pressgrove and Harrison) are aspects of public relations practice too often overlooked or minimized. Yet, understanding how organizations stay financially strong, how they tell their stories effectively across platforms, and how they foster donor relations, if applicable, are areas of increasing importance for many sectors and practitioners. Additionally, the examination of Ethics (Ch. 5, Neill) is exceptionally well-written for the intended audience, including the moving charge to “start at your level of influence” and think about ethics before an ethical dilemma happens. As well, the section on Legal Considerations (Ch. 8, Gower) provides an easily-understandable survey of key concepts and concerns without piling on detailed cases and becoming too technically cumbersome. Finally, an unexpected unit about Work-Life Balance (Ch. 13, Shen) provides an honest examination of the heavy toll that working in public relations can take; impressively, this chapter provides practical and meaningful strategies for finding such balance.

Contribution to PR Education
Kim and collaborators have delivered a volume that effectively and strongly addresses the central argument of the collection: that trust is fading, relationships are paramount, and the public relations profession needs competent, authentic leaders who can step up and take charge. This book provides important insights and actionable ideas for the individual practitioner. Certainly, other books touch on many of these ideas, but this collection stands alone in both breadth and depth. 

Notably, Public Relations: Competencies and Practices is a true anthology. The diverse voices and perspectives of the chapter authors reflect well on the complexity of the profession. Rather than a single-note examination of such a dynamic industry, this book effectively employs multiple authors using a consistent framework to deliver a rich, thought-provoking and ultimately digestible survey of contemporary practice. It is easy to imagine undergraduate students and emerging professionals diving into the various sections of this book for insights and ideas. Instructors will certainly appreciate that this book includes examples of a syllabus, midterm and final project, as well as discussion questions. 

Weaknesses and Omissions
It is difficult to criticize such a comprehensive and commendable book. However, a few gaps should be noted. The chapter on International Communication (Ch. 4, Bardhan), while strong on its own merits, feels insufficient for these times. An accompanying chapter or chapters diving more deeply into global versus national considerations, as well as the many cultural factors and concerns transcending geographic boundaries, would have been helpful. The book also combines political communications and government communications into one chapter, and agency and corporate perspectives into another; in both instances, the double-up topics comprising the chapter could have been sub-divided to provide more in-depth examination.  

Notably, Public Relations: Competencies and Practice includes a chapter on measurement and evaluation, yet not one on research and planning. Likewise, there is not a standalone chapter on the integral discipline of issues management; a chapter on crisis communications makes several nods to the importance of risk evaluation yet the content is heavily balanced toward reactive response rather than proactive measures.

One of the most glaring oversights is military communication; this field of specialization is growing and becoming ever more sophisticated, and one that contributes greatly to national security. In fact, the Department of Defense collaborated with Public Relations Society of America and the University Accreditation Board to create a tailored credential for military communicators, the APR+M designation.

Level of Reader Expertise / Knowledge
Public Relations: Competencies and Practice seems thoughtfully written with the student and new professional in mind. As such, the book surveys a considerable number of key concepts and does so in a digestible tone and with relatable examples. At times, the book even feels conversational; imagine an engaging guest lecture or a meaningful one-on-one mentoring session. That is the spirit this book conveys, making this collection appealing to students and effective for instructors. 


There is likely not a single book that can explain the public relations profession in its entirety and complexity, and particularly so from the vantage point of a practitioner and the skills and qualities one needs to thrive in today’s challenging circumstances. Yet, Public Relations: Competencies and Practices comes close. The editor and authors are to be commended for covering so much vital ground and addressing so many important concerns, and helping convey what all of that knowledge means to the varied sectors of public relations practice. This book is a substantive and moving examination of the profession at a particularly important crossroads.  

© Copyright 2021 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Remund, D. (2021). Public Relations: Competencies and Practice. [Review of the book Public Relations: Competencies and Practice].  Journal of Public Relations Education, 7(3), 219-223.

Marilyn: A Woman In Charge

LaShonda L. Eaddy, Ph.D., APR, Penn State University

Marilyn: A Woman In Charge
Author: Dick Martin
PRMuseum Press, 2020
ISBN: 978-0999024584

Women represent more than 60% of the public relations workforce, but only hold 20% of leadership positions in the field (Shah, 2019).  Recent social movements such as #MeToo have forced the public relations industry, as well as others, to take a long hard look at gender inequities.  Part of the public relations’ reckoning has included chronicling the oft overlooked roles that women played in the history and evolution of the industry.  In Marilyn: A Woman in Charge, Dick Martin, former chief communications officer for AT&T, provides a riveting account of Marilyn Laurie’s rise from a volunteer grassroots organizer for Earth Day to being the first woman to join the executive committee of a Fortune 10 company as AT&T’s chief communications officer. The book follows Laurie’s journey from being a “little Jewish girl from the Bronx” to a trusted and respected advisor for one of America’s greatest companies.

Structure and Organization

Martin uses his own experience as Laurie’s colleague, archival data and interviews with family, friends and colleagues to provide a firsthand account of Laurie’s trailblazing career and a rare insider’s view of public relations’ role in a large corporation.  The book begins by describing Laurie’s childhood as a second-generation immigrant and a child determined to chart her own course.  The first chapter is dedicated to Laurie’s upbringing, education and young adulthood; while the remaining chapters highlight her career trajectory.

Laurie’s first public relations purview occurred when she volunteered to help plan and publicize a national day to promote conservation.  Laurie’s tenacity and intellect helped the grassroots organization launch the first Earth Day and successfully put conservation on the public agenda.  Little did she know that her involvement would afford her the opportunity to promote conservation for one of the country’s largest employers.  Laurie joined AT&T in its ninety-fourth year, when it still handled 90% of telephone calls in the U.S.  What began as a position to encourage employees to recycle, turned into a 25-year tenure.  Each proceeding chapter provides a third-person account of Laurie’s life and career intertwined with quotes from her office files, speeches, papers, and oral histories she recorded.

The story of Laurie’s rise from rank-and-file employee to executive provides a vivid image of public relations’ role in corporate America as well as the treacherous terrain of maintaining a corporate image and reputation.  Laurie’s unconventional path from a public relations technician to key decision maker highlights the various roles public relations professionals can play within organizations.  The book shares the good, bad, and ugly of Laurie’s experiences at AT&T.  The candid recounts are both interesting and insightful; and are presented in a way that appeals to aspiring public relations pros as well as those who are in the trenches now.

Contributions to Public Relations Education

Laurie’s story is one of triumph and defeat, thus providing a realistic depiction of life as a resilient professional and leader.  The book provides real world examples of public relations’ multi-faceted functions, including community relations, media relations, crisis management, investor relations, internal communication, development, change management, executive communication, strategic planning and succession planning to name a few.  It also shows the roles public relations professionals can play such as, advisor, boundary spanner and serving as companies’ “peripheral vision.”  According to Laurie, “The purpose of public relations is to bring the policies and practices of an institution into harmony with the needs and expectations of the public.  Sometimes that means persuading the public that the institution is doing the right thing; sometimes it means persuading the institution to change its behavior” (Martin, 2020; 304).

Laurie’s story also demonstrates higher-level insight into developing an organizational mission, vision and goals; differentiating the organization; interacting with the dominant coalition; knowing your organization’s business; demonstrating business acumen and professional expertise; obtaining a “seat at the table;” remaining vigilant and willing to challenge ideas and policy; facilitating organizational and crisis learning, and ensuring the organization is following the values it espouses.  Laurie’s story also has an underlying theme that demonstrates how being open to opportunities and being courageous enough to go into unchartered territory can greatly impact one’s career trajectory.

This book is a great resource for public relations students and pros alike.  The book can supplement an introductory public relations text by providing examples of public relations roles in various contexts.  It can also be used in a public relations administration or public relations management class to explore the nuances and intricacies of serving in leadership roles within a corporation.  The book also delves into the various stages of crisis management, which also would make it appropriate for a crisis management class.  The book could also be used in a seminar class to help students learn about the innerworkings of corporations and the public relations function. Novice and seasoned public relations professionals and public relations educators can also benefit from the account of the consummate public relations professional.

The book also provides an example of a leader exiting a role on their own terms, and finding new purpose after.  The book concludes with Laurie’s last months of life; and her introspection and reflection as she reconciled her own mortality.  While this recount was sad, it also serves as inspiration and sage advice for readers to ponder. Overall, I think Marilyn: A Woman in Charge, could greatly contribute to any public relations curriculum because of the insight it provides.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The major strength of this book is Laurie’s captivating story of rising through the ranks of a Fortune 10 company and defying the odds by becoming an executive.  Martin shares Laurie’s story in vivid detail; incorporating her thoughts, feelings, ideals and beliefs throughout.  These inclusions allow readers to get an insider’s view and connect with Laurie as if she was recounting her own story. While the book does a wonderful job chronicling Laurie’s career and her ascent to break many glass ceilings, the book does not discuss her life outside of work beyond mentioning her spouse and children seldomly.  As readers follow Laurie’s career, they likely would wonder if Laurie’s ambition took a toll on her personally, but this is not addressed until the book’s conclusion.  At first Martin seems remiss to omit this integral perspective; however he dedicates an entire chapter to discuss the implications of gender stereotypes and differing perceptions of women’s roles.  He also uses this opportunity to share Laurie’s own reflections regarding how her career impacted her roles as wife and mother.  By this point in the book, readers are also likely to realize that Martin is remaining true to Laurie’s character and outlook by addressing these issues separately from her career trajectory.  The chapter also provides a candid outlook on the challenges of working mothers and the current practices regarding support services for them.

I truly enjoyed reading this book and learning about one of public relations’ trailblazers.  I am confident that students would enjoy reading Laurie’s story and could make connections with the book, course content and their career aspirations.  I plan to use this book as a companion piece in my Principles of Public Relations course.  If you are interested in reading an excerpt from the book, visit the PRMuseum Press website. Martin also developed a discussion guide that provides questions and assignments for each book chapter. The guide is free and available for download on the PRMuseum Press website.


Martin, D. (2020). Marilyn: A woman in charge: Marilyn Laurie’s life in public relations. NY, NY: PRMuseum Press.

Shah, A. (2019, March 11). Women See Gains in PR Leadership, Yet Balance Remains Elusive. Retrieved January 02, 2021, from https://www.provokemedia.com/latest/article/women-see-gains-in-pr-leadership-yet-balance-remains-elusive

© Copyright 2021 AEJMC Public Relations Division

To cite this article: Eaddy, L.L. (2021). A Practical Guide to Ethics in Public Relations. [Review of the book Marilyn: A Woman In Charge, by Dick Martin].  Journal of Public Relations Education, 7(1), 210-214.https://aejmc.us/jpre/?p=2449