AMA: Peter Shankman

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March 6, 2017
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March 21, 2017

The Peter Shankman AMA is happening on Wednesday 17th of May at 10AM PST (1PM EST)

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Peter Shankman is an entrepreneur, CEO, runner, skydiver, podcaster, Ironman Triathlete, and most importantly, a dad. He’s the founder of ShankMinds: Breakthrough, a private, online entrepreneur community with hundreds of members around the world. He’s perhaps best known for founding Help a Reporter Out, the world’s largest source repository in the world, which fundamentally changed how journalists source their stories. His customer service and social media clients have included American Express, NBC, Universal, E Entertainment, Sprint, the US Department of Defense, Royal Bank of Canada, Saudi Aramco, Snapple, Walt Disney World, and many others. Peter is the author of five books, including his most recent best seller, Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans, and the upcoming Faster Than Normal: Peter also hosts the top-rated Faster Than Normal Podcast, helping people understand that ADD and ADHD is a gift, not a curse. He’s based in NYC.

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Peter Shankman – HARO founder – Transcript

Hi guys. Think I’m in the right place. I’m Peter Shankman. I founded (and sold) Help a Reporter Out, changing how journalists find sources. I’ve started and sold three companies in total, written five books (three bestsellers), sit on the advisory board of NASA, and fly about 250k miles a year around the world for speaking gigs.

How do you feel about the term “entrepreneur?” Do you feel it’s become too “attractive?” I feel like it’s the sexy thing to do right now and causing a lot of people to steer toward it, although their personality traits simply don’t fit, and they’d probably be much more successful (and happy) just continuing their 9-5.

I think if you’re doing anything that’s different and trying to change the world, then by all means, call yourself whatever you want. Entrepreneur, go-getter, whatever. The labels are irrelevant – At the end of the day, you’re doing your thing to change the world. That’s all that matters.

But… not everyone is meant to change the world I guess is my point, lol. Going after a dream that big almost sets you up for failure immediately. I feel like not enough people talk about that, so the average person only hears the success stories and ends up quitting their day job under false pretenses.

Same concept with NBA players. It takes a certain type, and yes, very few people will make it. But it’s not as bad as not trying out of fear.

What are a few tactics to pitch reporters? Btw thanks for doing this.

1) Know your audience. Do your homework on each reporter, and pitch specifically. 2) Pitch trends – reporters prefer trends, vs. individual stories.

When you founded HARO, what was your expectation as far as max growth? Is it bigger than you ever envisioned, or do you still have a way to go?

I expected it to be something to help my friends who were reporters – Never expected it to grow. Insofar as where it is now, I dunno – I sold it back in 2010. 😉

What was the feeling when your book hit the best sellers?

Was kind of cool – I didn’t notice it – My mom actually did. She mentioned it to me the first time. 😉

What about sky diving do you enjoy?

For me, it’s a complete brain reset. I have massive ADHD, so skydiving reboots me and restores the chemicals to normal levels. (Dopamine, serotonin, etc.)For more on my ADHD/Skydiving, check out my podcast, www.fasterthannormal.com

To submit questions on HARO you have to have an Alexa rank of 1MM – what are the driving forces behind this decision? Seems like an odd method for qualifying businesses…

I think they did it as a way to stop people from creating “new blogs” just to get sources – i.e., college kids looking for interviews for their paper – If you’re the CEO of ABC Corp., and you set aside an hour for a “media interview,” then found out it was a college kid or some random blog with no followers, you’d be pissed…

How was the process of figuring out the selling point for Haro?

For me, the company who bought me was my largest advertiser. I had two choices: Hold onto it, continue to grow it, and hire people and become a manager, all the things I hated, or take a REALLY nice amount of money and walk. I chose option two. 😉

I had a lot of success with HARO back in the day. I was featured and interviewed quite a bit and it led to my dummies book deal in ’07. What do you consider to be the best self-promo tool today?

For me, it’s still about creating excellent content. You create amazing content, people will come to you – regard you as an expert. The platforms to distribute that content are totally up to you.

Do you think ADHD/ADD is helpful or hurtful as an entrepreneur?

TOTALLY helpful, if you follow the right rules. For me, I very much have to make sure I’m doing the right things – I quit drinking because I can’t moderate. I have two speeds: Namaste, or “I’ll cut a bitch.” So for me, it’s about being true to the things that work best for me.

How did you get reporters into your site at the time? Was it word of mouth or…

I talk to everyone. I’d email reporters and say “Hey, I’m not pitching you, I just know a ton of people. If I can help you, feel free to reach out.”

HARO is a double sided marketplace – journalists and sources. Which audience was more difficult to gain the trust of? Which ones were more valuable when you started out?

The journalists were harder. Once they trusted me, everything else was easy. 😉

Do you think CEOs should be more involved in marketing, and if so, how? Often they’re so focused on what to say to their stakeholders and how to word their annual reports – meanwhile the average customer sees straight through and senses the stock market matters more to them than the end user… Do you agree? And what would you recommend CEOs do differently to support their CMO?

Best advice is that yes, the CEOs need to be a part of marketing. But that implies that they care about more than just stock prices and next quarter. That’s what needs to happen. As to whether it does all the time, who knows. But yes – CEOs should be involved MORE, REGARDLESS.

Great, so you agree. But how??

That’s the $50,000,000 question, isn’t it?

OK you win. If you figure it out, promise you’ll come back to OGs and spill the secret sauce.

Deal 😉

How do you unwind/destress from a bad week? Do you really skydive every week?

I skydive as much as possible. My four year old got a little too comfy last night as I was repacking my parachute, in fact.

Any suggestions on what to do for your first skydive?

Make sure you pay for video. Totally worth it… you don’t remember your first jump, due to being so hyped up on adrenaline. That’s why I usually advise it.

What’s the most absurd startup that tried to get you to invest?

A company that actually had a good product, but did NO homework on me whatsoever, and was completely clueless.

Do you think that we really are in another tech bubble like Mark Cuban says or is that just the hype now?

It’s some kind of tech bubble, yeah. Probably not as bad as Cuban says, he’s a bit dramatic, but yes – Something.

What’s next for HARO? Here’s why I ask: Whirlpool just bought Yummly. Amazon bought the Washington Post. These are enterprises scooping up media companies, and it’s happening all over the place. Brands like Pepsi are building in-house studios. There’s rumors of Apple buying Disney. Do you see a trend? So let’s say this is where “content creation” is headed. As in, branded content marketing is the future (and interrupt advertising dies). My question is – if all this happens, how does HARO adapt, if at all?

No clue- I sold it seven years ago. Hell, I’d buy it back now if I could. 😉

How do you think social media and the advancement micro-influencers have changed the traditional PR landscape? And what are traditional PR companies jeopardizing not moving into a “micro” approach?

Good question – Can tell you that PR companies are scared shitless. “Let’s get into the NY Times” sounds nowhere near as cool when one hit on an entertainment blog can blow the hell up out of your brand. So the key is PR firms need to understand that they’re creating content – building the brand. It’s not just one thing. It’s not just “PR” anymore. It has to be more.

Who have you met celebrity/famous wise that made you go wow, I made it?

Go watch this: That was one moment that made me say, “Damn, I’ve done some shit, here.”

https://vimeo.com/18967562

It was from my time on the NASA Civilian Advisory Council. Was a pretty cool moment for me. 😉

How do you recommend parents talk to their kids about classmates who are gifted with ADHD? I get it (finally) as an adult, but explaining to my kids can be tricky. They wonder what their hyperactive classmates are going through and how to help.

OOH! I can answer that one! 😉 Head over to www.fasterthannormal.com – Almost half the podcasts are all about that. Also – the one we released today with Dr. Jennifer Hartstein – RIGHT up that alley.


Great!! Thanks!!

OK, guys – Thanks for having me – Off to the gym. Anything else, just reach out – peter@shankman.com. Cheers!