Authors Alison Theaker and Heather Yaxley describe The Public Relations Strategic Toolkit as "a 'how-to' book with brains," and after reading it, I'd agree.
The book is organized in four parts: the profession (definitions, activities, careers, professionalism), planning (situation analysis, objectives, budgeting, etc.), corporate communications (branding, media relations, crisis, digital, etc.), and stakeholder engagement (political, financial, B2B, etc.). Each chapter clearly lays out not just what PR people do, but also research and theory that attempt to explain it all. Because the authors both work in England, the examples are refreshingly different from the overworked cases we tend to find in U.S. textbooks. I also particularly appreciated the use of lots of visual representations of concepts and processes -- charts and graphics that illustrate ideas for visual learners. Although they're all in grayscale, I do think they aid understanding: my favorite was the PRISM (Public Relations Information System Management), which manages to boil down a complex process to a half-page graphic (p. 61).
Other thoughts: I was more than a bit disappointed that the history chapter starts with Grunig and Hunt's four models; scholarship (disclosure: including my own) has shown that the progressive aspects of the four models as originally presented in 1984 are inaccurate, so perpetuating the models in a historical context cannot benefit the practice, even though the authors point out that the models have "created much debate." On the other hand, I loved the fact that they included a number of critical voices thoughout the text (for instance, Naomi Klein and Al and Laura Ries appear in the chapter on branding) and draw cases and examples from beyond the United States and United Kingdom to illustrate the lack of a "one size fits all" practice of public relations. And I'm thrilled to see a chapter on business-to-business, surely one of the most overlooked aspects in PR education.
Lastly, I'd like to point to p. 69, where Yaxley introduces the PESTEL analysis -- Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural, Technological, Environmental and Legal issues -- along with pp. 335-37, which offers a checklist for auditing the environment of an organization at the macro level or an issue at the micro level. Although I've always asked my campaigns students to include analysis of these elements, I've never seen it so systematically outlined. It's a great resource for students, and for me.
In sum, The Public Relations Strategic Toolkit provides a clear overview of the field, useful for introductory PR courses or for anyone new to the field. It goes beyond the basics of PR practice by including theory and research that can be used to inform decision-making, and it does so without ever speaking down to readers.
My thanks to the publisher, Routledge, for a review copy of the book.