Book Reviews


Power Networking: 59 Secrets for Personal and Professional Success

Author: Donna Fisher, Sandy Vilas, Foreword by Marilyn Hermance
Publisher Bard Press TX
Publication Date: September 2000

Reviewer:Andy Marken
In his nearly 25 years in the advertising/public relations field, Andy has been involved with a broad range of corporate and marketing activities. Prior to forming Marken Communications in mid-1977, Andy was vice president of Bozell & Jacobs and its predecessor agencies. During his 12 years with these agencies, he developed and coordinated a wide variety of highly visible and successful promotional campaigns and activities for clients. A graduate of Iowa State University, Andy received his Bachelor's Degree with majors in Radio & Television and Journalism. Widely published in the industry and trade press, he is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

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Because of the recent articles on the inability, reluctance and/or fear of public relations people to honestly build relationships with members of the fourth estate; we wanted to see if Donna Fisher’s and Sandy Vilas’ second edition of Power Networking might not be useful new and seasoned professionals. Next to good writing skills one of the strengths of almost every good PR person has or develops is his or her ability to exchange business cards and phone numbers and even “work the room” at business and social events.

But a funny thing happened as we read the first half of the book we found out how inefficient we were with these seemingly basic skills. The first thing the authors did was give us a healthy dose of healthy networking reality by pointing out that networking isn’t about leveraging relationships to your own good but rather helping others. It sounds a little corny but as you read and study the Fisher and Vilas words you slowly begin to realize that by giving power away you actually gain both personally and professionally.

Unfortunately we began reading the book one of our last evenings in our hotel room at a trade show. Thinking back over the previous three days of hectic activity we realized how we could have maximized more of our meetings. For example, since several of our clients are Japanese firms we’re accustomed to the courtesy of exchanging business cards with both hands and looking at the cards carefully before beginning a conversation. We realized that the exchange had become so automatic that we were no longer really studying the business card so we could really identify with the person.

Then there was our habit of writing a cryptic note on the business card so we could remember what we had promised the individual. Usually by the time we got back to our office and went through the cards to follow through for the individual we found the shorthand we had used was so bad we didn’t really remember all of the details of our discussions. How much easier and more complete it would be to take the authors’ advice and write the notes in more detail after the conversation rather than right at the moment.

In today’s internet-enabled world it’s too easy to dash off a note and shoot it across town, across the country or half way around the world. But they reminded us how much more impact a quick, handwritten note has on the recipient. During our first 15 years in the business we always used special notepads to write out a quick thank you note to someone. Sometimes we’d clip them to an article we had found we thought they would find of interest or we’d drop a note to an editor or analyst thanking them for the meeting or a recent article.

After our first reading of Power Networking, we sent off five such notes. We won’t say the recipients fell all over us but we have to say the act made us feel better about ourselves and our relationship with the editor or analyst.

But the Internet is an integral part of our personal and professional lives and the authors have done an excellent job of discussing how we can leverage email in our networking activities. We sometimes forget that everything we do electronically conveys an image of who we are and what we stand for. Even though email is very impersonal, what you say and how you say it electronically also spreads your reputation across the country and around the globe.

Power Networking is not a one-time read book. Actually, we’re now on our third time through the book and have found something new or been reminded of activities we have to follow through on each time. The book does an excellent job of showing you how to surf the Internet to gather information, find opportunities, make connections and be a resource to others nationally and internationally.

The book made us realize that power networking is something you have to consciously do all of the time, not just at conferences, meetings or conventions. Fisher and Vilas help you break down the roadblocks to successful networking. The book gives you step-by-step guidance on how to meet anyone you really want to meet once you realize that you know someone who knows someone who knows the individual and that people really will help you…if they are asked properly.

A rut that we know we have fallen into and we are pretty confident you have gotten into as well is your introduction of yourself and what you do as a public relations professional. Fisher and Vilas give you a fresh view of how you introduce yourself and how that introduction is received and interpreted by others. Frankly just understanding and practicing how you can improve your introduction is worth the price of the entire book…it really does open your eyes

After your first reading of Power Networking and start putting their ideas and recommendations into practice, you realize that by helping others you really can generate a continuous flow of business referrals as well as improved relations with members of the press. You come to realize that by helping editors and reporters even when your company won’t immediately benefit you find that your name is favorably passed to other journalists. You quickly find that developing relationships with editors and reporters becomes easier and more natural.

As we noted earlier after three readings we’ve found a number of ways to help our personal and professional relationships. We’ll probably read Power Networking at least two more times in a month or two just to reinforce many of the concepts in our mind. Then we’ll probably put the book aside and not touch it for six months.

After all, power networking takes a lot of reinforcement before it becomes a way of life. Keep in mind that power networking is all about giving and we have to say that Fisher and Vilas have packed a lot of guidance into this insightful and easy to read book.