The business book rant that went around the world

How my rant about PR (disguised as a how-to book) went around the world and ended up in Russian

Cover of How to Write Perfect Press ReleasesThe press release emailed to me was pitch perfect.

The subject line grabbed my attention by including the title of a book I’d written — How to Write Perfect Press Releases.

The first paragraph raced to the point: Synesis, a Belarusian IT company, had translated the book into Russian. This met the first rule of press releases: it was definitely news to me.

Being a perfect press release, the important parts of the story were all there. 100 million people worldwide use Synesis’s software, so there’s always plenty going on. However, the company’s three-person PR team can’t be everywhere. Just like journalists, they need story pitches to come to them. How could they make that happen?

Alexander Shatrov, the company’s founder, had the idea for team leaders and project managers to send internal press releases.

And Shatrov had found just the book to teach them…

Mine, it turned out.

23 Synesis employees had crowd-translated How to Write Perfect Press Releases from English into Russian. They were co-ordinated by a professional translator, Julia Taribo. The resulting translation became the basis for training employees to write press releases for their colleagues.

Now, said the press release in my inbox, Synesis would like to publish their translation with my permission.

Landing in Belarus was not bad for a book I wrote in Sydney in 2012 as a disguised rant about shoddy PR.

A business book born from a rant

The cover of Hot Silver - Riding the Indian Pacific

Hot Silver – Riding the Indian Pacific, a rant about the iconic but overrated rail trip from Sydney to Perth.

My motivations for writing books have generally fallen into two categories:

  1. Rants after a bad experience (like my book about riding the Indian Pacific)

  2. Teaching (various how-to books)

How to Write Perfect Press Releases falls into both categories. It teaches but it was born of frustration with how badly I’d seen public relations done — all at the cost of clients who didn’t know it was being done badly.

As a journalist, I’d seen innumerable people and businesses conned by bad PR agencies. The agencies I had in mind were the ones charging thousands for writing and “distributing” press releases that had no chance of sparking media interest.

So I wrote a book aimed at ordinary people and businesses who wanted a bit of coverage. My goal was saving them the thousands of dollars they might waste on shiny advice.

The book is called How to Write Perfect Press Releases, which is a stupid title because the book is about the whole process of getting in the media. (Writing a press release is one potential output of that process but it’s not essential to the process at all.)

If you’re interested, Taleist has an infographic on how to write a press release (or just get in the media).

I put the book on Amazon for $9.99 and didn’t think much more about it. The aim was to get it all off my chest and do my bit to cut down on the bullshit.

I wasn’t looking for anything more, but it happened anyway.

The PR book finds an audience

The book started to travel fairly quickly. I was contacted out of the blue by trade publications that thought their readers could benefit from knowing how to do their own public relations.

One interview I remember was with Professional Artist Magazine. Artists are exactly the sort of group that needs PR but doesn’t have the money to pay for expensive advice, especially if the money is going to be wasted. If my book could help some artists get a bit of attention for $9.99, I would be very happy.

The book goes to Sydney University

Not long after publication, I got a call from the University of Sydney. A lecturer wanted to include the book as compulsory reading for students in Sydney University’s masters in PR course. So it was that I found myself delivering boxes of this slim self-published book to the Co-op bookshop on the main campus.

Sadly, it lived in the backroom waiting for students to pick it up, so I never got to see myself sandwiched between any real authors, but finding myself on the Sydney University reading list was an incredible surprise. I’d only ever seen one PR textbook. It was on a coffee table in the reception area of the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA). My book will slip in your pocket; this textbook looked ready to flatten the coffee table.

From Sydney to Belarus

The Russian cover of How to Write Perfect Press Releases

The Russian cover of How to Write Perfect Press Releases

Through my emails with Julia in Belarus, I learned that team leads and project managers at Synesis now write internal press releases weekly thanks to the training from the book. This throws a wide net in which the PR team catches stories they can promote externally. In addition, the releases are posted on Club23, an internal blog available to all employees.

Julia tells me press releases have proven more fun for team leads and project managers to write than bureaucratic reports. The most enthusiastic give their releases witty titles and choose their own images to accompany them.

Even though I wrote a book notionally about press releases and I used to work in internal communications, the use of press releases for internal communications had never occurred to me.

The fun of writing a business book

New ideas — like that connection between press releases and internal communications — have been part of the fun of writing the book.

I’ve met interesting people; I’ve seen my ideas used for things that had never occurred to me, and now I have a book that can be read by 166 million Russian speakers. It probably won’t be read by many, but the last seven years have told me that something will happen and that I’ll be glad it did.

Help writing a business book

If you would like help writing your own business book and seeing where it takes you, we’d love to talk.