By: John Bitter
Reviewed by: Philip Shirley
Outskirts Press, 2008
John Bitter reveals the point of this fifty-two-page book in his foreword, saying the purpose of a public relations practitioner is to achieve “action of some sort on the part of the recipient.” Through a series of personal anecdotes and observations, Bitter attempts to put the entry-level PR person or the volunteer publicity director drafted by a not-for-profit at ease as they attempt to tell the story of their organization. He correctly leads them to understand that their mission is not merely to convey information, but to persuade.
Bitter correctly explains how the news media has changed recently, with fewer reporters on the scene and more focus on national news. The advice of this book can be helpful for the beginner, as it demystifies various traditional communications channels, such as radio and local newspaper. The emphasis is clearly on local communications.
My greatest wish for Mr. Bitter is that he had dealt with the tremendous opportunities for the modern PR pro, beginner or not, to use modern technology. Perhaps a clue is given in the references page, where two references are from the 1950s, five from the 1960s, two from the 1970s, and nothing from the past thirty-two years. There is nothing about Twitter, Facebook, blogging, or other social media that now create a dialogue with eighty percent of Americans on a regular basis. Nothing about reaching out through Internet radio, a category in which some national PR firms have focused almost their entire effort. Nothing, in fact, is said about the Internet, or the tremendous resource that an organization’s e-mail list can become for the PR practitioner. There is no recommendation for streaming video, no Podcasts.
That said, this book does provide certain time-tested basics, such as warning the communicator not to dwell on negative press or to try to win the argument when a reporter misses what you think is the central element of a story.
PR Made Easy consistently follows what the title suggests throughout each chapter, providing the fledgling PR person with reassurance that they “can be a part of the process” of providing their organization’s point of view. He helps the PR person understand the editorial process, stating an important truth: “News is what the city editor says it is.”
He warns the reader to avoid creating news and explains the results when you do. Bitter advices us not to “create news when there is no news.” He says it will “weaken your credibility” and “seriously lessen your chances of receiving coverage when you do have something significant to report.”
If you want to learn some of the basics, this quick read provides a fair introduction. March 2009
Philip Shirley’s latest book, co-authored with David Magee, is a cultural history of baseball and its iconic brand Louisville Slugger, titled Sweet Spot: 125 Years of Baseball and the Louisville Slugger, for release in May 2009.