Book Reviews

Web Marketing

Connecting Online: Creating a Successful Image on the Internet

Author: Gregory R. Sherwin, Emily N. Avila
Publisher Entrepreneur Press
Publication Date: January 1998

Reviewer:Joel Klebanoff
Joel Klebanoff, is a copywriter and marketing communications consultant specializing in the information technology industry. He is president of Klebanoff Associates, Inc.

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Should you buy Connecting Online? Here's a quick quiz to help you answer that question:

  1. Are "Web" and "Internet" synonyms?
  2. What are the differences among the Internet, intranets, extranets, LANs and WANs?
  3. What is an Apache server?
  4. What are: Telnet, Gopher, WAIS, FTP, and IRC?
  5. What is the client/server model?
  6. Do you care about the answers to questions 1 - 5?
  7. How can you employ all of the elements of the Internet to effectively develop an advantageous business image?
How to Score the Quiz
If your answer to any of questions one through five is, "I don't know," then you might find Connecting Online valuable. That is, of course, unless you answered "no" to question six, in which case you will have to wade through a lot of material that does not interest you.

If your answer to the last question is, "I don't know," then you will probably find the book useful, subject to the comments above.

About the Book
The premise underlying Connecting Online seems to be that to conduct effective public relations on the Internet, you must first know about public relations and about the Internet. In response, it tells you a little bit about the former and a lot about the latter.

When I started reading the book, my initial reaction was to not review it for MarcommWise. With the exception of a brief discussion of public relations, the early chapters are filled with minutiae on the history and technology of the Internet. While the information may be interesting to people curious about the Internet, it does little to address MarcommWise's primary focus on marketing communications.

I did, however, persevere and continue reading. (The publisher sent a free review copy at my request, so I felt an obligation to continue.) I'm glad I did. Once you get past the Internet lecture, there are many useful suggestions and even some gems that will help you use the Internet to, as the book's subtitle suggests, "create a successful image on the internet."

About those Internet discussions: If you are interested, by all means read them. You don't need a technical degree to understand them. Nor do you need to worry about spontaneously sprouting a propellor on your head or a pocket protector in your shirt or blouse. The book won't turn you into an engineer or computer guru, but you will end up with a comprehensive layman's understanding of the Internet.

Are  you looking for some hints on "how to get rich quick?" Look elsewhere. As stated in the book's introduction, "This book is not about selling products or services through the Internet. It is about community, customer, and media relations, external and internal communications, developing an online presence, and understanding what all of the hype is about."

You will learn about how to use newsgroups, Web sites, e-mail, discussion lists, and chat areas to conduct on-line public relations. You will find not just advice on how to employ each of the Internet elements effectively, but also some warnings about serious pitfalls to avoid. The book also provides a good overview - with tips on what to do and what not to do - of Web site design, testing, maintenance, renewal, marketing and copyright issues.

[Reviewer's market research question: What percentage of the Internet generation have heard of the performer "Charo?" Read the chapter on Web Site Design to find out why I ask.]

There is also a chapter providing a high level overview of crisis management that is not exclusively related to the Internet. (It's not a detailed guide because, as the authors say, there are other excellent books about crisis communications.)

Given the rate of change, a "book about the Internet" comes close to being an oxymoron. By the time the book gets to print, at least some of it is out of date. Connecting Online was written in 1997 and this review in January of 2000. You, however, may be reading the review considerably later and will have to judge whether the book is still timely. (Before you dismiss Connecting Online as out of date, click on the book link to see if there is a new edition.)

When this review was written the book was still very relevant. Most of the statistics are hopelessly out of date and you will have to research current costs because they have changed considerably, but almost all of the concepts that the authors discuss still apply. Despite all of the changes that have occurred on the Internet, you will likely be surprised at how little change there has been to the principles underlying the effective use of the Internet for public relations.

I do have one pet peeve about the book, which I admit is out of proportion to its importance. As someone who earns part of his living from writing and has let the occasional typo slip through, I am usually tolerant of them. However there is one (actually there are a few, but one in particular) in this book that is a real word, just the wrong one. While I think I know what the authors were trying to say, as printed it was a rather bigoted statement. (Sorry, there are no prizes for finding the typo. The publisher told me it would be fixed in future printings.)