Media-relations advice from a savvy insider.
Henderson draws upon his experience as a public-relations executive and a correspondent for CBS News in a how-to book for PR professionals. The text, suited for the classroom, aims at helping PR reps shape the news and control their message through the news media. Yet the author knows that the desire to manipulate news potentially conflicts with journalistic ethics, illustrating his point by quoting Jean Cochran of NPR: â€œ â€˜The PR business is anathema to me.’ ” The second chapter, â€œJournalism Driven by Profits and Fear,” succinctly diagnoses contemporary American journalism’s sorry state. The author bemoans television’s reliance on flashy graphics and numerous â€œswoosh and swish noises” instead of substantive stories and analyses, even quoting Jon Stewart’s dismissal of television news as a â€œ â€˜nonsensical gong show.’ ” But then Henderson accepts the current state of affairs, ending the chapter by seemingly encouraging others to play along: â€œSo let’s get in the ring and work to make news.” To be fair, the author consistently stresses the importance of accuracy in representing a cause to the news media. His practical advice throughout the text can apply equally to other fields of communication: Tell the truth; avoid fluff, jargon and excess verbiage, he insists, quoting Mark Twain: â€˜ â€œWhen you catch an adjective, kill it.’ ” The numerous quotations, especially from personalities familiar to television viewers, may be construed as name-dropping, but they contribute to the text’s lively tone. Although the stated audience is anyone working in media relations, Henderson’s discussions of contemporary phenomena such as blogging and podcasting serve as introductions for any reader, as do his digressions on media campaigns such as the Swift Boat Veterans, who so effectively capsized John Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid.
Animated, knowledgeable and informative, even for those to whom PR is anathema.