National Capital Chapter

Books for Communication Professionals to Read During Quarantine

By Karen Naumann, APR

Communications is a rapidly evolving profession that demands a commitment from practitioners to be continual learners.  Simply reading books is an excellent way to embark on individual learning exploration and the current quarantine is an ideal time to do so.  Below are three books to consider for your exploration.

Intercultural Public Relations: Theories for Managing Relationships and Conflicts with Strategic Publics

A pure public relations book that would interest the strategist working with stakeholders on the international level is “International Public Relations: Theories for Managing Relationships and Conflicts with Strategic Publics by Lan Ni, Qi Wong, and Bey-Ling Sha. The textbook develops a coherent framework to unify the theories of public relations and intercultural communication. This book provides a theory-driven, empirically supported framework that will inform and guide the research and practices of intercultural public relations. The book examines theories and issues in three integrated processes:

  • identification of publics
  • relationship management
  • conflict resolution

It addresses common functions that public relations practitioners utilize, such as scanning the environment, identifying strategic publics, and building long-term relationships with intercultural publics. his book can serve as an essential reference for practitioners operating in a global public relations environment.

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Wicked Solutions: A Systems Approach to Complex Problems

While not a communication book, the workbook does offer a paradigm useful to managers, consultants, and policy professionals. “Wicked Solutions: A Systems Approach to Complex Problems” by Bob Williams and Sjon van’t Hof details how a system design approach can effectively address systematic problems that are characterized by multiple stakeholders involved in complex and unpredictable interactions. The workbook-format book considers complex inter-relationships and divergent perspectives of key stakeholders and uses the information to design an effective intervention by deliberating critical issues. These issues are related to the:

  • purpose,
  • resources,
  • knowledge, and
  • legitimacy of the intervention.

The critique goes deeper into an area many communicators will be familiar – stakeholding development, which is used to explore the practical design limits from several points of view. This technique is followed by a method that combines points of view to create a realistic intervention. Because the book is formatted as a workbook, an individual or team can work through a complex, wicked problem as progressing through the workbook.

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Bullspotting: Finding Facts in the Age of Misinformation

Misinformation has become an unfortunate reality that more and more public relations practitioners have to face. Loren Collins in “Bullspotting: Finding Facts in the Age of MisInformation” dissects various aspects of misinformation from a matter of fact style. Key themes deeply explored are:

  • conspiracy theories (event conspiracy theories, systematic conspiracy theories, and super conspiracies)
  • rumors
  • misquotes
  • hoaxes
  • pseudoscience, pseudolaw, and pseudohistory

Many communicators are familiar with cognitive biases, including that of confirmation bias. In other words, “once we believe something, it is not our nature to equally seek out all evidence as it comes along and evaluate it neutrally, When we look for new information, we but our best efforts toward finding information that supports the things that we already believe.” This is a stark contract to scientific method.  Public relation practitioners know this from Information Seeking Theory.

Other concepts are also introduced, such as Galileo Gambit as what is encountered when engaging conspiracy theorists. Galileo Gambit means the critique or ridicule of a conspiracy theorist is proof that their claim must be true if it is being attacked. Tactics used by “denialists” and cited in the book include:

  • cherry picking facts
  • producing fake experts
  • impossible expectations or moving the goalpost
  • general fallacies of logic (attribution error, just-world hypothesis, hindsight bias)

So, if you want to debate a person who believes the moon landing was faked by NASA, there is a deep state, vaccinations cause autism, Sept. 11 was caused by Israelis or Muslims, JFK was not killed by a lone shooter…, then read this book first.

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About the Author

Karen Naumann, APR is a Senior Public Affairs Instructor at the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense  Information School. She is also a Vice President for the PRSA-NCC. You can find her online at