Ralph Tench and Liz Yeomans have drawn on their extensive experience of teaching public relations to devise a student-friendly text to "bridge the divide between theory and practice" and to compete with those in the US and Australian markets that do not "adequately reflect the development of public relations theory and practice in the UK".
It succeeds admirably in these aims, providing a much broader vision of public relations studies than other undergraduate textbooks of this scale. The authors are either staff at Leeds Metropolitan University or practitioners associated with LMU. Many of the authors have impressive CVs and combine or have combined public relations practice with teaching.
This means that even the more theoretically driven chapters are enlightened with examples and diagrams, which are always appreciated by students.
The book is most suitable for first or second-year undergraduate students or as a first source for those who are new to the field (those taking masters' conversion courses or on combined degrees). As with the earliest British public relations texts (written in the 1950s and 1960s) the editors have drawn on a wide range of expertise to ensure coverage of all the important basics of the discipline and the practice. There are predictable functional inclusions such as management, organisation, planning, research and evaluation and a range of specialist areas (employee communication, issues and crisis management, public affairs, consumer PR, financial PR); particular techniques (media relations, sponsorship) as well as more critically focused chapters on PR theory, propaganda and persuasion, history, PR and democracy, ethics and corporate responsibility.
Occasionally, I was puzzled by the ordering of chapters, for example corporate social responsibility, community relations and ethics could have worked well in sequence as could media context and media relations. Perhaps a more significant, if unavoidable, criticism, was some unevenness between chapters, doubtless reflecting the diverse experiences and backgrounds of authors.
The design incorporates a wide range of boxed out text for learning outcomes, definitions, case studies, mini case studies, activities, industry information, summaries and the rather inelegantly phrased "think about" boxes. One consequence of this is a rather busy look that, combined with many full-colour pictures, make the text less rather than more readable.
The book has a striking cover illustration of meerkats, which could connote the quality of curiosity, thought to be very important in public-relations work. Whether or not that was the editors' intention, this book should certainly satisfy anyone curious about how the discipline of public relations is progressing.
Jacquie L'Etang is director, MSc in public relations, Stirling University.
Exploring Public Relations. First Edition
Editor - Ralph Tench and Liz Yeomans
Publisher - Prentice Hall
Pages - 629
Price - £35.99
ISBN - 0 3 68889 8