Business thinking between the covers. Compliled by FRANK DILLION

Dark Art
by Tim Burt Elliott and Thompson€19.99

The old push system of PR distribution in which clients and their advisers decided what to release and when has been replaced by a pull mechanism in which global audiences including consumers, the media, investors, politicians and others are in the driving seat. Management of information is far harder in the new fast-paced digital world. On top of that, Burt notes, the PR industry is engaging with a blogsphere that is doubling in size every 200 days.

One of Burt’s key themes is that greater transparency is good for consumers, the PR industry and clients and the move towards more honest and open dialogue signals a return to the high-minded founding principles of public relations.

The book is enlivened by juicy stories of sharp practice such as the time when a PR executive posed as a sub-editor to infiltrate a Fleet Street newsroom and steal compromising pictures of a client the tabloid was about to publish.

Management – A Practical Guide

by Alison Price and David Price Icon Books€9.99

The authors of this pocket-sized work have spent much of their careers designing, delivering and evaluating management training and say that what is taught in the classroom or covered in typical business texts can sound great in theory but doesn’t always translate to the real world.

Here they have attempted to condense many of the key ideas of management into an easily accessible volume, organised in the form of an A-Z compendium. There are chapters on familiar areas such as communication, empowerment, goal-setting, hiring and managing change. Less obvious areas such as justice, kindness, values and respect also get a fair airing too.

The authors present multiple scenarios based on examples of managerial responses to various events and show how employees can be affected long-term by the response of managers to different situations. The need for fairness, empathy and a reasonable degree of flexibility is emphasised.

There is a good chapter, for example, on ways to handle poorly performing team members. The suggestions include giving regular feedback, choosing your language carefully when delivering difficult messages, agreeing stretching yet achievable targets and providing training and development to help the under-achiever to improve their skills and performance.

Build, Borrow or Buy

by Laurence Capron Harvard Business Review Press€24.99

This book looks at the question of how to grow your organisation with the options of either innovating internally (build), entering into contracts and alliances (borrow) or merging and acquiring (buy).

The authors, both of whom are management academics who have spent two decades studying the issue and interviewing senior global executives, present a framework to help managers assess the potential risks and benefits of the three growth options.

According to Capron and Mitchell, firms using a robust “build-borrow-buy framework” to gain new resources have a significantly greater five-year survival rate than those using only one of the approaches.

The book is liberally laced with case studies of companies that have either got these strategies right or have got them wrong. Those who got it seriously wrong include Schering-Plough, Toys ’R’ Us and BP while there are plaudits for Johnson Johnson, Coca-Cola, Danone and Tata.

The core message is that those who learn to select the right pathways to growth gain competitive advantage. The authors say selection capability is a discipline that needs to be nurtured over time and the lack of a strong selection capability creates critical problems for any firm.