October 2, 2022

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Bill Gates’ Summer Reading List: PR takeaways from this year’s recommended books

Bill Gates’ Summer Reading List: PR takeaways from this year’s recommended books

Warmer weather and longer days mean BBQs, outings to the beach, and dips in the pool. With summer in the US fast approaching, it’s time to collect a stack of good books and enjoy them in a hammock, at the park, or wherever else the sunny days take you.

If you’re looking for recommendations, Bill Gates recently released his yearly reading list, comprised of five books spanning various genres and subjects.

The books on the list, as well as the theme that stretches throughout his recommendations, have useful takeaways that professionals should consider implementing to their campaigns and strategies.

The list 

Gates’ list includes:

  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  • The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal
  • Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
  • Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari
  • A Full Life by Jimmy Carter

Noah, Carter, and Vance’s books are memoirs that provide insight on growing up in apartheid South Africa, on a rural Georgian farm, and in poverty-stricken Appalachia respectively. The memoirs provide anecdotes about the experiences that brought them to become a comedian and Daily Show host, President of the US, and Yale Law graduate.

de Kerangal’s novel, the only fiction book on the list, chronicles a woman’s heart transplant. Gates describes it as closer to poetry than fiction, as the author artfully describes its characters and explores grief.

Harari’s Homo Deus explains that, for the first time in humanity’s history, we are on the cusp of solving some of the most fundamental problems facing our species. He believes humans will then move onto the next problem, leading to a small number of elites using biotechnology and genetic engineering to upgrade themselves, which would create a godlike species and abandon the rest of the population.

Why does reading matter to PR pros?

Last summer, a Media Bullseye article discussed how reading fiction can improve the writing of PR professionals. As noted in that post, reading fiction boosts empathy and creativity and makes the writing process more intuitive, as experiencing well-written work promotes better writing habits. The benefits outlined in that post will of course apply to the books on Gates’ reading list, even those that are not fiction.

Additionally, this reading list in particular has even more important lessons that PR professionals can apply to their tactics and campaigns. This year, Gates’ selections all related to a common theme, which he described by stating,

“The books on this year’s summer reading list pushed me out of my own experiences, and I learned some things that shed new light on how our experiences shape us and where humanity might be headed. Some of these books helped me better understand what it’s like to grow up outside the mainstream. I hope you’ll find that others make you think deeper about what it means to truly connect with other people and to have purpose in your life. And all of them will transport you somewhere else—whether you’re sitting on a beach towel or on your own couch.”

This theme of understanding another’s experience and broadening horizons is an important aspect to consider when drafting communication practices and campaigns, especially those that will be launched globally. In particular, practicing cultural awareness and sensitivity and including diverse stories from your brand’s consumers can make your organization more relatable and appealing to a broader audience.

Cultural awareness

In a Media Bullseye article last year, Jennifer Zingsheim Phillips discussed requirements for PR professionals in an increasingly global world. Among the main points made in the post was the need for awareness when working with clients who have different cultural values than yourself.

The example outlined in the post discussed the client relationship in Asia. Phillips described it by stating, “PR practitioners in parts of Asia run up against a cultural norm that prevents PR practitioners from challenging their clients on points of strategy, project execution, and more.”

Keeping cultural expectations such as this in mind when drafting PR programs is important. This awareness in an increasingly globalized world is necessary to ensure successful work that won’t offend clients or audiences.

Sharing diverse stories from your audience

One of the most successful PR tactics involves sharing stories from brand advocates and users of your products. This provides other consumers with first-hand stories about the value of your products.

Dove, for example, shared a series of photos and videos for their “Real Moms” campaign, which ran around Mother’s Day. They released a video that showed mothers from different backgrounds discussing their concept of motherhood. Including women from diverse experiences indicates an inclusiveness that is inviting to consumers of various backgrounds.

Bill Gates’ summer reading list provides useful guidance and inspiration to communicators and PR professionals. In addition to the improved writing skills that come from reading more, Gates’ promotion to understand other people’s experiences promotes cultural awareness and diverse storytelling, which can yield stronger, better received communication and PR programs.

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About The Author


Jordan Gosselin recently began her career in marketing and communication with CARMA. Her experience includes social and digital work, creative content production, and marketing operations.

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