5 must-reads for communications pros

From insights on writing fundamentals to guidance on standing out amid the online cacophony, these tomes deliver helpful advice for communicators.

There are more than 26,000 books on communication available for sale on Amazon.

Though it’s nice to know that there are plenty of resources on the subject, it’s also easy to see how someone wanting to become a better communicator could be overwhelmed by the choices.

No one could digest all that advice in a lifetime.

So, based on my reading thus far, here (in no particular order) are five of those 26,000 books that every communications professional must read.

1. “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

Carnegie actually should have titled this book “Using the Manners Your Momma Taught You.” I read it every fall with public relations students, and I get something from it every time. Carnegie’s advice is simple: Smile, be a good listener, and remember people’s names. It’s also a great reminder about how to treat others through the busyness of life and business.

2. “Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World” by Michael Hyatt

“Platform” is one of those books that I remember thinking, “This is a life changer” as I read it. The book is described as a “step-by-step guide to building your own (personal or business) presence.” The description fits. The book’s key concept is breaking through the online clutter or “noise” to make your brand different, relevant and noticeable. To help the reader accomplish this goal, Hyatt offers advice on everything from blogging to social media and preparing a media kit for your brand.

Hyatt’s credibility certainly legitimizes the book. He isn’t just another writer trying to sell you a book about things he purports to understand. He’s a former chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers and a best-selling author, and his blog has more than 600,000 subscribers.

3. “Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content” by Ann Handley

“Everybody Writes” is the writing book for this decade. I also read this book every fall with my media writing students. The premise of Handley’s book is simple: We might not all be journalists or novelists, but we’re all writers. Why? From social media updates to email messages, we’re all writing essentially all day, every day. Handley provides writing rules on everything from basic grammar to writing headlines for marketing content.

Handley’s witty personality shines through in her writing, and her journalism background and success with MarketingProfs give her credibility as an expert on writing.

“Everybody Writes” is a must-read for everyone who writes.

4. “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser

Zinsser wrote the book on the craft of nonfiction writing. I read this book every fall with my media writing students. We read it just before “Everybody Writes,” because Zinsser’s book is the older classic. My students love his chapter on the “bits and pieces” of writing, which reviews parts of speech and provides advice on grammar. I’m fonder of his timeless advice on the importance of reading and writing and that there are no shortcuts.

5. “Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know” by Jill Geisler

Geisler’s book on workplace behavior and management is essential for leaders, especially those in the newsroom, where Geisler got her start before becoming Poynter’s leadership and management guru. This is another book I re-read with my classes. The students never fail to love it, and I get something new out of it every time. Geisler gives specific, honest advice on managing various personalities and how to manage yourself. Following Geisler’s advice can help managers transform into workplace leaders.

With more than 26,000 books on the list, you can see how paring it down could be difficult, but these are books that I read repeatedly and learn from every time. Any professional communicator would be remiss not to read these books. I promise they’ll be worth your time.

A version of this article first appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.

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