Book Review: Agile PR by Marian Salzman

July 21, 2017

C08TpwXXcAADpN6Although a familiar term today, “metrosexual” was not heard of until a PR agency used it in an advertising campaign for its client, the Italian beer company Peroni. That agency was Havas PR North America, headed by Marian Salzman, author of a new book called Agile PR: Expert Messaging in a Hyper-Connected, Always-On World. As Salzman explains, when Havas “hijacked” the term coined by English writer Mark Simpson and introduced it into popular culture, Havas was engaging in what she calls “news-fluence.” News-fluence is the art of newscrafting in order to create influence. Newscrafting is what PR agencies have always done: crafting great stories that help their clients to create news. A key component of newscrafting is trendspotting, a term that’s self-explanatory.

Salzman doesn’t waste time. Newscrafting, news-fluence and trendspotting are introduced in the first two pages of this highly readable and comprehensive overview of public relations in the age of social media and the “prosumer” — Salzman’s term for today’s proactive consumers. Readers receive the first list of imperatives — which she summarizes as “grab attention, expect trouble, master the media, know your story and spot trends” — on the third page.

The pace of the book reflects the pace of the world as Salzman describes it in this eloquent overview: “Back before everywhere-all-the-time technology was the norm… communication strategy could be planned in advance. The campaign blueprint plotted out a timeline with a series of milestones to be activated and checked off… The whole thing could be set up and executed more or less as planned, give or take a few adjustments to accommodate occasional unexpected events.”

“But that world is gone,” she continues. “Technology has made the faster pace and increasing frequency of unexpected events a certainty. The raucous multichannel news cycle demands a constant supply of sensational news and either finds it or creates it.”

Public relations has never been a field for the timid, but even less so in the “raucous” 21st-century world that Salzman paints so effectively. The key to survival in such a world is to be agile.

Turbocharged Takeaways

Salzman and “the team at Havas PR,” which is credited as co-author of the book, have written a primer on PR agility. The whole panoply of public relations is found in these well-written pages, including storytelling, personalizing brands, doing well by doing good, how to be global and “hyperlocal,” crisis management and the aforementioned trendspotting. The advice comes fast and furious, but, as expected from PR professionals, it is structured to be easily read and understood. The takeaways at the end of each chapter, entitled “How We Now Turbocharge,” are crystal clear nuggets of advice that alone are worth the price of the book.

The turbocharged takeaways for the chapter “Blow Up the Internet” are a case in point: Here are just a few:

“Be Like Zuck.” Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg’s style and behaviors — from sharing successes and hardships to embracing your quirks — offer a model for the modern leader, she writes.

“Craft Creativity.” Today’s technology has enabled “creative democracy”: we can all be our own photographers, filmmakers and stylists. “As PR folks,” Salzman advises, “we need to monitor this new creative class and track their trajectories.”

“Snap to It.” There is an ever-changing variety of social-media channels vying for attention and users, but Snapchat “tops the watch list,” according to Salzman. “It offers authentic interaction and a VIP feel for its real-time glimpses into ‘everyday’ moments.”

Salzman is no bandwagon jumper. Back in 2009, she was already extolling the virtues of Twitter, long before anyone dreamed that many Americans would accept these 140-character spurts of conversation as a legitimate principal channel for the President of the United States. For PR professionals who want to join the ranks of the great trendspotters, Salzman’s latest is a must-have.