Peter Shankman's Media Revolution

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peter shankman from help a reporter out

From the Jewish Business Magazine



It is not very easy for one person to take a simple idea, and completely revolutionize an entire industry. But that is what Peter Shankman has done with his service, Help a Reporter Out. If you are not in the public relations or media industry, you probably do not know about Help a Reporter Out, but if you are in any business, you’ll wish you knew about Peter and HARO sooner. Peter Shankman is a nice Jewish boy living in New York inflicted with what he describes as “A.D.O.S.S or Attention Deficit…ooh something shiny”.  But despite that short coming Peter has indeed revolutionized the way journalist find sources and sources find journalist, and has forever changed both Public Relations and the Media.

What is Help a Reporter Out or HARO, as its thousands of raving fans call it? HARO is simply a newsletter that is distributed three times a day to approximately 130,000 subscribers, filled with summaries of articles that journalist and authors are working on, and requests for sources to quoted and interviewed. Peter has been very excited that it has taken off so well, and  he says, “it’s exciting to see people really using it.”

For example, the Jewish Business Magazine features many very interesting Jewish professionals, Jewish business owners and Jewish leaders. How does the Jewish Business Magazine find all of these great business leaders throughout the world? JBM is located in Miami, and has a very little budget and hardly any staff. However, I submitted a query to HARO with the following summary:

“The Jewish Business Magazine is looking for Jewish Business Leaders to interview and publish a small biographical profile on that individual and their business. Any industry and any size company may apply. The business leader must have at least 5 years of business experience and be involved with at least one Jewish organization or charity or synagogue. Jewish Business Magazine does not discriminate by race, religion, ethnicity or creed. We encourage any business or professional involved with Jewish organizations to apply.”

I received over one hundred pitches from businesses and public relations professionals representing businesses throughout the country, the majority of which have been or will be featured in the Jewish Business Magazine.

HARO is an amazing idea, and Peter Shankman is an amazing individual, whom I had the good fortune of being able to interview for the Jewish Business Magazine and pick his brain a little bit about a variety of topics including how he got started, public relations ideas and what he has coming up.

Peter Shankman was one of the founders of the AOL newsroom, which was really one of the first online media companies of its kind and was the first online news organization to cover a major political event, when in 1996 they reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

Although Peter was very successful, AOL Newsroom had very little money at the time, so living in New York, he was strapped for cash. Luckily for him, this is right when the movie, The Titanic came out. Peter got the bright idea to use his rent money to purchase a few t-shirts that said, “It Sank. Get Over It.”, and sell them in time square. With a little publicity from USA Today and the Howard Stern show, Peter quickly sold all of the shirts, paid his rent and had a lot more to spare.

“It Sank. Get over it.” Very simple, but extremely effective, that’s the basic gist of Peter Shankman’s businesses. Peter provides HARO for free to 130,000 engaged readers. Every email from Peter starts with one advertisement, which is written in the first person, in which Peter explains the product or service and pitches it to his readers. Peter warns smaller business advertising prior to their ad to contact their hosting service because they probably will go down.

In addition to Help a Reporter out, Peter has also written the book, Can We Do That!? Outrageous PR Stunts; he runs The Geek Factory, a boutique marketing and public relations firm in New York; Peter sits on the advisory board of ScotteVest, a company that makes travel clothing for the tech savvy, and has been chosen to sit on the NASA Civilian Advisory Council.

In Can We Do That!? Outrageous PR Stunts, Peter advises on creating effective public relations for your businesses.  Peter says, “The goal of any public relations stunt, is stunt not just for the sake of stunt, do something that general creates interest and has Help A Reporter Out Logolegs and keeps it going. You want it to be able to mean something.” And that really goes for everything you do in business. Don’t send out a newsletter to send out a newsletter; don’t tweet to tweet; don’t sponsor an event to sponsor an event; you need to have a goal in mind that is measurable and actionable.

Peter Shankman is a Jewish business owner and is active in his Jewish community.  Although he says growing up he tried BBYO and NFTY, but he wasn’t one of the “cool kids” so he didn’t go back. However, now Peter is a little more active, he related a story to me that he started going to morning services after his grandmother past away so that he could say kaddish for her. Now he has a new group of friends that he didn’t know before who utilize HARO.

Peter loves everything about his business. He complimented his hard working staff many times in our interview and he loves that he created a company that they are happy to work for every day. For future Jewish professionals, Peter says that the key to success is, “Have a blast. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, do something else.

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