Confession: we’re biased.
It might be because one of the coauthors of this new book, ‘Be Your Own Best Publicist,’ Jessica Kleiman of Hearst, offered to send this book as a review copy back in 2010. (The other co-author is Meryl Weinsaft Cooper, managing director of the home and lifestyle division at DeVries Public Relations.) Since the book was about how the average working stiff can use PR techniques to improve his career, we were intrigued.
That copy never arrived.
Follow-up e-mails months later (“Hey, still interested in reviewing your book….um…hello???”) received no reply.*
Finally we were contacted by another mediabistro.com blogger who had a copy she didn’t want. Did we want it? By this time, perhaps not, but whatever, we’ll take a look at it.
So that is why we’re a little biased here. Perhaps a publicist that doesn’t actually send review copies when requested is not really the best publicist. (On the other hand, we’re also feeling like we owe this book something after trying so hard to get it, so we’re biased both against and for it.)
WITH THAT SAID:
The book is a breezy easy read that contains little new information (there are chapters on dressing for interviews–make sure your shoes are polished and you’re not wearing distracting jewelry–yawn!) yet is a nice pocket-sized (almost) summary of the same stuff bigger career guides will tell you in more words.
In most cases, the link between PR and getting a job is a pretty tenuous one: the authors devote two pages to the importance of PR people pitching reporters on the phone rather than via e-mail, then tell jobseekers they should also consider using the phone. For what, we’re never told. (We assume the authors meant for networking, rather than specifically following up on a job application via phone–which most hiring managers hate.) In another section, the authors attempt to link the PR practice of sending written statements to reporters to make sure there’s no ambiguity, to the career-boosting practice of taking notes in meetings, which makes you look more engaged and focused. Maybe because both these things involve writing? We don’t know. It doesn’t quite make sense.
In a chapter about networking, though, the connection finally becomes clear: the authors remind jobseekers to position themselves as knowledgeable resources. Just like PR people must put together press kits containing everything the media might need, jobseekers should always be ready with helpful material, new ideas, or whatever needed by the people you’re trying to impress.
The chapter on media training as it relates to job interview performance is also good, though the chapter could just as easily have been found in a public speaking book–there’s no PR-specific material here. (In fact, just FYI, Jack Valenti’s Speak Up with Confidence is a pretty good resource if you struggle with presenting yourself effectively in interviews.)
The chapter on dressing for success, as previously mentioned, doesn’t present any new information but does give a shoutout to mediabistro.com founder Laurel Touby who says she loves wearing “conversation pieces.” The feather boa is not mentioned.
Last, we’re inclined to blame Kleiman and Weinsaft Cooper’s publisher for this, as Career Press puts out just 15 books a year, but the typesetting is really awful. But since they say not to judge a book by its cover (or internal pages apparently) we’re throwing this factoid out there just for the design freaks who will be bothered by bad kerning and inconsistent fontage.
CONCLUSION: If you don’t have any other career books, this one might be great for you. If you are drowning in career advice, however, skip this book.
*Important Addendum: Jessica Kleiman wrote us and apologized for not getting our e-mails. “Believe me, had I known you hadn’t received a copy as requested, I would have hand-delivered it from my personal stash,” she says. She wanted us to note that (and indeed, we hadn’t even noticed until she pointed it out) an external PR firm, not Kleiman herself, was to blame for not sending the original copy as requested. The follow-up messages probably just went to spam so that mystery is solved.