What’s a “handbook”? According to Merriam-Webster, it’s a “book capable of being conveniently carried as a ready reference” or a “manual: a concise reference book covering a particular subject.”

The AMA Handbook of Public Relations by Robert L. Dilenschneider fits the definition in only one sense: It’s concise. Actually, the book is almost embarrassingly brief—it barely reaches 200 pages thanks to wide margins and an overabundance of divider pages.

As a reference, however, The AMA Handbook of Public Relations misses the mark. Mr. Dilenschneider’s book is long on bombastic opinion, short on how-to instruction. Even a careful reader couldn’t take action on any of the topics covered in the book. There’s simply not enough substance.

Take, for example, the chapter on “composing presentations” which promises to provide “the ingredients of effective presentations and the pitfalls that lead too many presenters to fail.” What follows doesn’t deliver: There are seven brief pages with platitudes about audience, message, unique positioning, integrity, mirroring, simplification and entertainment. But the advice is mundane. For example: “The focus in a presentation is on the audience.” Or: “Build trust before, during and after presentations.”

Yawn! Even worse are Mr. Dilenschneider’s annoying writing habits. Although the book jacket claims the book is “informed by hundreds of interviews,” Mr. Dilenschneider mostly quotes colleagues at his firm, The Dilenschneider Group. And his prose is clunky and awkward. For instance: “Like the internet itself, employee or organizational communications (OC) can be made to do whatever needs to get done. As tools, they are completely open-ended.” Huh?

This is Mr. Dilenschneider’s 12th book, and he’s been in the PR business for a very long time, so he’s old enough to know better. It would have been nice if he had worked a bit harder and given the reader information of value.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Save your $35 (that’s really the cover price!) and your time; The AMA Handbook of Public Relations is not worth wasting either.

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