Between You & Me: Book Review

As public relations pros, we often forget to refine our grammar in communication, and instead focus on mastering new pitching techniques or simply creating content.

Between You & Me: Book ReviewStrong writing starts with grammar though, and reading “Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen,” by Mary Norris, is a painless, enjoyable way to review grammatical rules.

In her book, Norris–a former copy editor at the New Yorker–writes about her many years editing, while sprinkling in in actual grammar lessons and tying in short memoirs of her life. After reading the book, I was surprised to realize that I hadn’t reviewed some of the rules of grammar since learning them in junior high English!

Below are five of my favorite fun facts and rule reminders from the book:

  • Danglers: the dangling participle. Everyone has written a sentence with a dangler, which can be fixed by changing the subject of the sentence to match the participle or giving the participle its own phrase
  • “Who” does not change to “whom” just because it’s in the middle of a sentence
  • Serial comma: the one before “and” in a series of three or more things
  • The editors of Webster’s Third dictionary saved 80 pages by cutting down on commas
  • Copy editors will never be replaced, unless spell-check learns to recognize context

Each chapter is as cleverly named like the book title, such as “Comma Comma Comma Chameleon” and “A Dash, a Semicolon, and a Colon Walk into a Bar.”

For not being a history-buff myself, I found myself interested in learning how the different pieces of language came to be.

As the New York Times book review says, copy editors’ “obsessions, typographical and otherwise, make hilarious reading.” I would have to agree! Part linguistics, part grammar, part history and part memoir, Norris will captivate you with her book.

Hanna PorterfieldHanna Porterfield is the Newsletter Co-Chair of PRSA’s New Professionals section and an Assistant Account Executive at Development Counsellors International. She graduated from Michigan State University in 2014 and is actively involved in the alumni club’s New York chapter. Connect with Hanna on LinkedIn and Twitter (@citygirlhanna).

Book Review: Everyone Communicates, Few Connect

This post is part of The Edge monthly series of book reviews on books relevant to new PR professionals.

As young communicators, we can learn a valuable lesson from John C. Maxwell: communicating isn’t the same as connecting.

The famed leadership expert, and author of over 70 books, uses this publication to teach us the difference.

“Connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them,” says Maxwell.

As PR/communications professionals, connecting is an important aspect of our job, but are we being as effective as we can be? That’s what Maxwell challenges us to examine with Everyone Communicates, Few Connect.

These lessons are critical for professionals across all industries. Writing, speaking, presenting, pitching, and selling are critical skills in any job, regardless of industry or field.

Your head will spin from the number of times you read the word “connect” – mine did – but when you begin to grasp the importance of making connections not just for yourself, but for the sake of your customers/clients, you will thank Maxwell for driving the point home. Improving the customer experience should always be priority number one.

Where this book provides exceptional value – particularly for young professionals – isn’t in practical advice or knowledge, but in the confidence readers can gain from the material. Confidence can be a fragile thing, especially for young professionals. But it can also help young pros excel beyond their entry-level expectations.

The book is also a ‘must read’ for the challenge it presents to its readers to audit their own communications processes. In this regard, you can take as much from this book as your attitude and openness allow.

As a resource, the text also aggregates some of the best principles from respected communication and leadership experts and philosophers. Maxwell also shares his Five Principles and Five Practices, which include:

  • Finding common ground
  • Keeping your communications simple
  • Capturing people’s interest
  • Inspiring people
  • Staying authentic in all your relationships

Maxwell posted chapters of Everyone Communicates on his website, and used the commenter feedback to add anecdotes, quotes and advice – each commenter was rewarded with their photo on the inside cover of the book. This helps to make material relatable to every level of professional.

Maxwell may rely a little too heavily on his on triumphs as examples within the book, but the positive attributes of Everyone Communicates can be helpful as you begin mapping a path to leadership positions within your company.

HeadshotRobert Martin is a Corporate Relations Intern at Allstate and the 2014 Co-Editor of the PRSA New Professionals Newsletter. He resides in Farmington Hills, MI.

Book Review: e pluribus unum: The Making of Burson-Marsteller

51Zaudq1WhLThis post is part of The Edge monthly series of book reviews on books relevant to new PR professionals.

While I may be partially biased as a Burson-Marsteller employee, e pluribus unum provides an accurate and inspiring perspective of the public relations industry, client service, agency life and entrepreneurship to all current and aspiring PR professionals.

Recently described by PR Week as the godfather of modern PR – Harold Burson, author and founder of Burson-Marsteller, candidly speaks to his start in the public relations field and practices that apply to how many of us do our jobs today. The book chronicles Harold Burson’s start as a campus reporter in Tennessee, his coverage of the Nuremberg Trials, his start of Burson Public Relations in New York and joining with Bill Marsteller to create one of the largest public relations companies in the world.

While the book is a memoir focused on Harold Burson’s life and the creation of Burson-Marsteller, the practices and way that he gets into public relations is inspiring for any PR professional. The book gives PR professionals an opportunity to step back and think about the way we approach client service from an agency standpoint and public relations from an industry standpoint.

Bio_PhotoJessica Noonan currently works within Burson-Marsteller’s Corporate practice in the New York office, providing strategic communication support to numerous key clients. She is Blog Co-Chair on the New Professionals committee. Jessica holds a Bachelor of Arts in Public Communication and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, specializing in marketing from American University. You can connect with her on Twitter @jess_noons.

Summer Book Club: June Selection–Putting the Public Back in Public Relations

Just because summer will officially begin this month and vacations take center stage doesn’t mean we should all take a break from learning. June starts our annual Summer Book Club on the PRSA New Professionals Section blog, and the first book selection has been made!

When you’re on your way to the beach or sitting in the car or plane, make sure you grab or download a copy of “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations” by Deirdre Breakenridge and Brian Solis. At the end of the month, we’ll have a recap of the book along with discussion around the key takeaways. You may even see these topics appear in our monthly #NPPRSA Twitter chat!

See how describes “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations”:

Forget the “pitch”: Yesterday’s PR techniques just don’t work anymore. That’s the bad news. Here’s the great news: Social Media and Web 2.0 offer you an unprecedented opportunity to make PR work better than ever before. This book shows how to reinvent PR around two-way conversations, bring the “public” back into public relations and get results that traditional PR people can only dream about. Drawing on their unparalleled experience making Social Media work for business, PR’s Brian Solis and industry leader Deirdre Breakenridge show how to transform the way you think, plan, prioritize, and deliver PR services. You’ll learn powerful new ways to build the relationships that matter, and reach a new generation of influencers…leverage platforms ranging from Twitter to Facebook…truly embed yourself in the communities that are shaping the future. Best of all, you won’t just learn how to add value in the Web 2.0 world: You’ll learn how to prove how new, intelligent, and socially rooted PR will transform your organization into a proactive, participatory communication powerhouse that is in touch and informed with its community of stakeholders.

I’ll be reading on my Kindle with you. We hope you join us for another lively discussion on the New Pros blog this summer!


Heather SliwinskiHeather Sliwinski is an account executive at KemperLesnik, a Chicago-based public relations agency, providing media relations and social media services to a variety of B2B clients. She has held positions in marketing and event planning for corporations, nonprofits and higher education. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications with an emphasis in strategic communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Sliwinski is the blog co-chair and chair-elect for the PRSA New Professionals Section. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.