The best books to make a difference in public relations and strategic communication

Anne Gregory and Paul Willis Author Of Strategic Public Relations Leadership
By Anne Gregory and Paul Willis

Who are we?

We’ve had the privilege to be part of a profession that has developed beyond all recognition. Both of us worked in senior public relations roles and know how difficult leadership can be in this context. A desire to combine what we’d learned with the best research resulted in us becoming professors in a university business school. Our aim is to provide a bridge between practice and academia, an ambition that has led us to work with inspiring practitioners and researchers around the world. We’ve had a great time and as you’ll see from our ‘book picks’ we draw on many perspectives to inform our work as authors, educators, and researchers. 

We wrote...

Strategic Public Relations Leadership

By Anne Gregory, Paul Willis,

Book cover of Strategic Public Relations Leadership

What is our book about?

This fully updated edition furthers the authors’ pioneering approach to integrating thinking around public relations, leadership, and strategy. It addresses contemporary developments such as AI and global ‘grand challenges’ and introduces fresh perspectives from Chief Executives on what they expect from strategic communicators at the top of their game. Concise and practical, this book ‘moves the dial’ on leadership thinking and action for current and aspiring senior professionals. 

Public relations professionals operate in an increasingly challenging and complex environment. Pressures from outside organisations: new accountabilities, empowered stakeholders, increased public cynicism, and a fractured communication landscape. Internally, there are loud demands for a strategic contribution and a clear need to coach and counsel senior managers who find themselves constantly scrutinised. This book charts the way.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books we picked & why

Book cover of Understanding Public Relations: Theory, Culture and Society

Why did I love this book?

What is public relations actually all about: the good, the bad, and the ugly? I found this book by Lee Edwards to be one of the most thoughtful texts ever written about an increasingly important profession. Taking the stance that public relations is not only used by organisations, but is deeply embedded in our society and culture, this book provides a comprehensive overview of how it shapes our lives and societies in all kinds of ways. It’s a powerful and challenging read.

By Lee Edwards,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Understanding Public Relations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book argues that public relations is not merely an organizational tool, but a powerful influence on social and political life. From carefully considered communication by multinational corporations, to government campaigns that manage public opinion, to the self-promotion of celebrities via social media, public relations is central to our individual and collective lives.

Understanding Public Relations introduces a socio-cultural approach to public relations as a way of analysing the growing importance of public relations in its social, cultural and political contexts. Encouraging a deeper and more critical understanding of its influence on society, Lee Edwards:

Explores public relations in relation…

Book cover of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Why did I love this book?

One of the most important of the last two decades, this book set a movement going. Starting With Why is really about purpose and I found it brought the topic alive. It’s not just about how great leaders inspire others by having a clear sense of why, but it can be seen as one of the main sparks for igniting the same question in whole organisations. The purpose movement is now irresistible: investors demand that organisations are clear about it and so do customers and other stakeholders. As a guide to asking the same question personally, I think this book is first class.

By Simon Sinek,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Start With Why as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



'It's amazing how a book can change the course of your life, and this book did that' Reader Review

'Imagine the Ted Talk expanded to 2 hours long, with more depth, intrigue and examples' Reader Review

'What he does brilliantly is demonstrate his own why - to inspire others - throughout' Reader Review

'Wow. Wow. Wow. I cannot rate this book highly enough to take a different, positive approach to life and work' Reader Review

Discover your purpose with one simple…

Book cover of Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals

Why did I love this book?

How do you fit in everything you need to do at work and in your home life? The answer is you can’t. Difficult choices must be made, and Oliver Burkeman’s latest book helps you do that. The usual time management advice focusses on people becoming more efficient, but this isn’t enough. Burkeman offers a more realistic appraisal and a set of insights that range from the practical to the profound. Your first test is to make sure you find the time to read it!  

By Oliver Burkeman,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Four Thousand Weeks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


"Provocative and appealing . . . well worth your extremely limited time." ―Barbara Spindel, The Wall Street Journal

The average human lifespan is absurdly, insultingly brief. Assuming you live to be eighty, you have just over four thousand weeks.

Nobody needs telling there isn’t enough time. We’re obsessed with our lengthening to-do lists, our overfilled inboxes, work-life balance, and the ceaseless battle against distraction; and we’re deluged with advice on becoming more productive and efficient, and “life hacks” to optimize our days. But such techniques often end up making things worse. The sense of…

Book cover of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Why did I love this book?

Sapiens has become a modern classic and it is easy to see why. Ambitious, lucid, and fascinating, it is a wonderful piece of communication and scholarship. While nuggets of historical knowledge and analysis appear on page after page, what left the biggest impression on me was this is a book which beautifully illustrates the importance of keeping an eye on the bigger picture. It is too easy to get stuck in the minutiae of life and events. Harari teaches us the importance of lifting out and keeping a sense of perspective. In addition to helping us better understand what it is to be human, he ends up providing a series of life lessons to help us navigate this wonderful but complex world. 

By Yuval Noah Harari,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked Sapiens as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?

In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the…

Book cover of Strategic Communication and AI: Public Relations with Intelligent User Interfaces

Why did I love this book?

Here we are in the world of the metaverse. So many public relations books are about what the practice looks like now. This one is different. It’s inviting us to look at what the world will look like when just about everything is infused with AI and total sensory immersion is commonplace. It invites us to look at how public relations can harness these technologies and the power they will give us to develop incredible knowledge about people, build deep relationships and emotional connections. If so inclined, we could manipulate people without them even knowing it. For me this was a wake-up call to the profession. We can’t just be seduced by the shiny tools of technology, but need to step back and reflect on their ethical implications.

By Simon Moore, Roland Hübscher,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Strategic Communication and AI as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This concise text provides an accessible introduction to artificial intelligence and intelligent user interfaces (IUIs) and how they are at the heart of a communication revolution for strategic communications and public relations.

IUIs are where users and technology meet - via computers, phones, robots, public displays, etc. They use AI and machine learning methods to control how those systems interact, exchange data, learn from, and develop relations with users. The authors explore research and developments that are already changing human/machine engagement in a wide range of areas from consumer goods, healthcare, and entertainment to community relations, crisis management, and activism.…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in evolution, artificial intelligence, and time management?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about evolution, artificial intelligence, and time management.

Evolution Explore 119 books about evolution
Artificial Intelligence Explore 253 books about artificial intelligence
Time Management Explore 28 books about time management