Straight Talk About Public Relations

What You Think You Know is Wrong: Get the Scoop on Traditional PR, Social Media, Content Marketing, and PR Measurement

By Robert Wynne – Foreword by Dave Boone

Pub Date: June 13, 2017
Straight Talk About Public Relations
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-938548-78-9 / 174 pages / $24.95
ePub ISBN: 978-1-938548-79-6 / $17.99
Kindle ISBN: 978-1-938548-81-9 / $17.99
ePDF ISBN: 978-1-938548-80-2 / $17.99

• Author is a public relations columnist for Forbes magazine
• A compelling, easy-to-read introduction to public relations
• First book to show that much of social media is a waste of time while describing which social media strategies for PR really work
• Reporters reveal where they get their story ideas and share secrets about how they can be reached and influenced

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Public relations is the persuasion business. Anyone who wants to learn how to communicate their message and influence the media, clients, employees, their peers, or anyone else will benefit from this publication.

Shattering conventional wisdom, Straight Talk dispenses with easy answers, tired cliches and the myths of social media. With five billion pieces of content posted each day on Facebook alone, it’s difficult to make an impact. There are no easy solutions (in spite of what many authors say, most advertising and social media marketing doesn’t work). Persuading people to buy products or services or support causes is difficult. But there are tactics that work – and you’ll find them in this book.

Learn the essentials of public relations – how to find and engage your audience, successfully pitch the media, write an editorial that wows, create a persuasive social media campaign, create powerful content marketing, and measure PR success – in this witty, no-holds-barred introduction to the art of public relations.

The book is perfect for entrepreneurs, small business owners, students, those working in the PR business who want to update their skills, and any consumer of media who wants to understand the secrets of persuasion. With a forward by Emmy-award-winning writer Dave Boone (Academy Awards, Tony Awards), you’ll learn to master the skills of public relations and strategies to write well and deliver your messages in the right way, at the right time, to the right audience.

About the Author

Robert Wynne

Robert Wynne is president of the public relations and events agency Wynne Communications. He also writes a monthly column on public relations for Forbes. Wynne was formerly Director of Communications at University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, Director of Marketing at the major law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, and a reporter for Newsweek and the Los Angeles Times. He also wrote for CBS’s “Walker, Texas Ranger.” He has provided public relations counsel for Cornell University Johnson School, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, MIT Sloan School of Management, UCLA Law School, the law firm of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, and many others. Wynne hosts three public relations networking events each year for business, medical, and engineering PR professionals where they meet with the top media in the world. He holds a BS in Economics from Vanderbilt University and an MA in Communications from the University of Texas at Austin.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Dave Boone

1. Public Relations Defined
2. A Brief History of Public Relations
3. Why Public Relations Works While Advertising Doesn’t
4. Lessons in Persuasion: Writing and Placing Press Releases, Pitch Letters, and Editorials

5. Social Media Fallacies
6. Lessons in Social Media: Realistic Ways Publicity Works Using Digital Methods
7. Twitter is Best: How to Use It for PR
8. The Dark Side of Social Media

9. The Changing World of Public Relations
10. A Brief History of Content Marketing
11. Why Content Marketing Has Become Essential for Public Relations
12. Lessons in Content Marketing: What, How, and When to Publish

13. Basics in Measuring PR Efforts
14. The Barcelona Principles
15. Measuring Social Media Efforts
16. Lessons in PR Measurement: Using Advertising Value Equivalents (AVE) to Measure the Value of PR Efforts

Appendix: The Five Best PR Campaigns of All Time
About the Author



What is public relations?

It’s a concept that vexes most people in America. The vast majority confuse it with advertising.

There’s something sexy about advertising. It’s cool. A group of men and women sit around a mahogany boardroom table in Manhattan with the Empire State Building casting shadows on their chiseled faces. Sipping martinis and smoking cigarettes, they watch big screens with colorful images of perfect people enjoying perfect products.

They briefly debate catchy taglines, then someone, usually wearing a trendy outfit with a rakish tie or purple scarf, delivers a witty idea, and everyone smiles. After a few knowing nods where everyone congratulates themselves for being so insightful, the group breaks into applause. These are the pictures, stories, and films that will please consumers and fatten the wallets of clients. These are the concepts that everyone will love. 


Just one problem with this scene straight out of the TV show Mad Men or the hundreds of precursors and movie scenes just like it. As consumers, we’re conditioned to ignore advertising. Advertising, on its own, rarely works. 

Remember those “Got Milk” ads on TV and in print that ran for years? Most people do. They had a 90 percent familiarity rate with adults. Celebrities with the milk moustache appeared in every magazine and TV show. But the campaign, like most advertisements, failed. From 1995, when it debuted, to 2011, yearly milk consumption for adults declined from 23.9 gallons to 20. Oops!
Before anyone cries over all those gallons of spilled milk, the advertising industry doesn’t need to worry about failing. According to Fortune magazine, U.S. firms spend $150 billion a year on advertising vs. only $5 billion for public relations.

Why is that?

Part of it is habit. When General Motors went broke in 2009 they were one of the biggest advertisers on TV. When GM emerged from bankruptcy and reorganized a few months later, guess how they promoted their cars? Advertising. Auto manufacturing is an old business, with old habits. The other reason to continue advertising is control. With advertising, clients directly control the message.

Public relations is less direct and more subtle. There are filters. To get your messages into print media or on other media such as influential websites, TV, or radio, someone must be convinced, or persuaded, rather than purchased.

Contrast images in the media of public relations professionals and ad people. These portrayals are rarely accurate and hardly representative. Most PR characters are women like Samantha of Sex and the City, event planners more concerned with celebrities, the right shade of lipstick, martini recipes, and brand of high heels than in promoting their clients. Or Olivia Pope in Scandal, who magically snaps her fingers, walks through layers of security into closed TV studios and Congress, and instantly conjures talking points and strategy while pitting media outlets against each other to further her agenda. The stories she plants run within minutes, sometimes seconds. 

Shauna Roberts, the trash-talking celebrity publicist for Vince in Entourage, represents another media cliché, the aggressive bulldog and mothering character who saves her client from himself while battling the forces of the paparazzi.

Events, crisis management, and celebrity spin are part of the PR business. But it’s probably a fraction of what most professionals do every day. Public relations is the persuasion business. It’s not easy. It’s not instant. It’s seldom glamorous. Most people work for themselves or for corporations or small businesses, providing services or selling insurance, coffee, software, auto parts, or millions of other everyday products. The PR folks at these companies don’t plan trendy parties, hang out with rock stars, or waltz into the Senate.

For most of the world, public relations is convincing customers to visit a website or store, to buy a product, to support a local candidate, to agree with a position on the new factory or park. In simple terms, public relations is persuasion created to mobilize an audience to take a certain action.

This book separates fact from fiction, reality from fantasy. People who think they can learn “Five Magical Secrets for Tweeting to Make You a Millionaire in Five Minutes or Less” will be disappointed (although there are plenty of books and websites that promise these services).

There are five chapters in this book: (1) Public Relations, with lessons on how to perform the specific functions to help promote products and causes, anecdotes on successful PR campaigns, and knowledge about how the news is created and influenced; (2) Social Media, featuring practices, definitions, and strategies to understand the limitations and benefits of various platforms; (3) Content Marketing, so professionals can study the best practices of self-published posts, articles, videos, and other forms of communications and the best way to promote them; (4) Measurement, with standards and techniques to gauge the impact of PR efforts; and (5) Top Five PR Campaigns, featuring examples of amazing, successful PR campaigns.

Public relations isn’t easy. It can’t be learned at a party, on social media while sipping lattes at a trendy coffee bistro, or even in a classroom. Influencing audiences and leaders is hard work.

Let’s begin.

Praise for Straight Talk about Public Relations

“Whether you’re trying to write a compelling press release, pitching yourself or your product for media coverage, or creating a social media campaign that works, Robert Wynne’s Straight Talk about Public Relations tells you everything you need to know.
Dave Boone, from the Foreword

“There are too many books promising pie-in-the-sky magical social media solutions for individuals and businesses trying to conduct public relations. There are no magical apps. There is no instant gratification. Public relations is hard work. Even in the digital age, you need a great story, great connections, and a professional strategy to stand out from everyone else and break through the clutter. Robert Wynne’s new book explains how public relations is different from advertising, then guides the reader through traditional methods, social media communications, and content marketing to reach journalists and other important audiences. If you’re willing to work hard and want to promote yourself or your brand, read this book.”
Michael Levine, public relations expert, speaker, and author of nineteen books including the bestselling Guerrilla P.R.

“Straight Talk is one of the few PR books I feel comfortable recommending. It’s packed with actionable advice, great tips from a wealth of experts, and enough case studies to help professionals in a field that can use a dose of reality and a swift kick in the ass.”
B.J. Mendelson, author of Social Media is Bullshit

“If Robert Wynne can persuade the media to take an interest in books written by an economist (as he did many times for me), just imagine how successful his approach would be for those of you with something genuinely interesting to say.”
Robert H. Frank, PhD, H. J. Louis Professor of Management and Professor of Economics at the Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University, New York Times columnist, and bestselling author of Success and Luck

“An essential book for anyone who wants to understand and learn how to practice public relations.”
Burt Lauten, Director of Communications, Pittsburgh Steelers

“This book delivers what its title promises, giving you the real scoop on what works and what doesn’t in public relations. And – bonus! – it explains why PR is much more effective than advertising, at much less cost. Want to learn how PR really works? Start here.”
Steve Tally, Senior Strategist for STEM, Office of Public Affairs, Purdue University 

“Robert Wynne has written the most insightful, comprehensive, and engaging book on public relations. It’s a must read by all who call themselves a professional. I’ve led a PR agency for 21 years and Robert taught me quite a few things and reminded me of so many others. If you read it and remember just two insights it will be worthwhile, for our shop – it changes everything. It is now mandatory reading for our staff. And treasured along with the AP Stylebook.
Bob Gold, President, Bob Gold & Associates

“Robert Wynne is a valued guest speaker in my Public Relations and Events Management classes at Loyola Marymount University. He brings candor, authenticity, and transparency to the classroom which is refreshing and appreciated by my millennial students who get ‘straight talk’ from Robert.”
Alecia Molezion-Smith, Loyola Marymount University lecturer

“Robert Wynne’s latest take on PR is the perfect blend of practical and effective, something PR has ventured too far away from in recent years. His coverage of social media, content marketing, and the difficult but essential core of great PR (a compelling story) is presented with both evidence and a wit that shows a master at work. As a provider of media measurement services I appreciate Robert’s balanced take on the role of measurement and how social media has managed to co-opt too much of the metric conversation. We’re emerging from a social media marketing disillusionment period and Robert’s thoughtful take on how to best integrate social media tools and channels into a solid PR practice is both refreshing and spot-on!”
Paul Senatori, Chief Analytics Officer, mediaQuant