BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Anachronistic advice?

This was another Dollar Store find, and it's probably a good thing, or I would have been having “buyers' remorse” otherwise. Although the book did redeem itself to a certain extent by the time it was over, it was a long strange trip (and not in a good way) through a lot of very anachronistic advice!

As regular readers of this space know, I read quite a lot of social media, web, and other “digital space” material. Being that much of this is “bleeding cutting edge” at the time of composition, it frequently has a less than stellar shelf-life, and I've frequently commented that “a book that's seven years old, might as well be seventy years old”. Well, Bette Daoust's Networking: 150 Ways to Promote Yourself hails from 2005, and, for most of it, reads like it might as well have been written in the 1940's!

Now, I've been in a seemingly unending job search, and make a point of getting out to 2-4 networking events per week, so the subject of this book is certainly of interest to me. However, the tone here is more “your grandfather's networking” than anything that I'm familiar with. Of course, I live in downtown Chicago, and much of the advice here seems targeted to Mayberry … and certainly appears aimed more at insurance salesmen or aluminum-siding reps than the job seeker, or tech start-up partner.

Frankly, as I was reading through this, I kept trying to imagine who the audience was for the book, or why it read the way it did. Stylistically, it has the pontificating tone of Napoleon Hill's books back in the early parts of the last century … lots of “you must do this” or “you should never do that” sorts of instruction … all reflecting a business world that I've not seen a trace of since the 70's, unless you count the stories of my father-in-law!

As one might guess from the subtitle, this has 150 entries, each just under a page in length, assembled into ten subject sections: Event Marketing, What to Join, Strategic Alliances, Announcements, Speaking Engagements, Relationships, Power Pad {note: this is not some tech item, but a note-taking system the author concocted}, Business Card Marketing, Web Relationships, and Printed Networking … each with fifteen individual “chapters”. I wasn't exactly keeping score, but I think she mentioned the web, or the internet, or even e-mail only 2-3 times before she got to the ninth section there … this in a book that was written a full decade after I'd launched my first e-commerce web site ... as I noted above, this was a bit like reading a book from the 1940's that had been re-written with a few updates in 2005 to give a nod to that “new fangled” stuff!

Even outside of the section on business cards, she spends a lot of time fixated on the subject, and is very proud of her own (as she frequently reminds the reader: “Some people have even said it is the most professional and great looking card they have ever come across.”), and quite dismissive of others that she doesn't consider being up to snuff. Given her attention to micro-managing instructions for the subject, she'd evidently never heard of VistaPrint, which had already been around for ten years when she wrote this!

Again, the focus here seems to be on the guy out there trying to move a few extra pallets of widgets, or sell a few more insurance plans than it is for “networking” per se., and the setting is certainly in a small town or suburb (this is especially evident when she talks about doing out-reach to the press). That somebody, even seven years ago, could write:
Whether you understand it or not, the Web is likely here to stay; those businesses that do not yet have a web presence, or at least e-mail addresses, are likely to get left in the dust.
with a straight face is pretty amazing! Sure, that statement is true, but by 2005 who didn't have e-mail??? She elsewhere declares: “a website is like an electronic brochure”, putting the sensibilities of that aspect of the book squarely in the mid-90's.

I'm not saying that Networking: 150 Ways to Promote Yourself was a useless read (there were several points that made me think, or led to considering a couple of new approaches), but it was bizarre in the context of the chronology of its composition. I suppose if you have a small business-service operation in small-town America, this might be your business-building bible, but in other settings it's a bit like trying to take a WW2-era business book for your template … good luck with that!

Incredibly, this appears to still be in print (although Amazon has it at nearly 2/3rds off the cover price), but, as I said, it's currently showing up in the dollar stores. Needless to say, unless you fit the profile I'm suggesting is the plausible target audience for this, I'm not exactly recommending it, but if you do stumble across it for a buck, you might consider picking it up.

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Tags: book review
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