Monday, April 13, 2009

Experts in the Industry: Peter Shankman (70 of 45)

Oh where to start with Mr. Peter Shankman aka @SkyDiver... Well for one, I am a true admirer of the brilliant work he's done with his Help a Reporter Out (HARO) service. If you're not familiar with it, Peter puts out an e-mail three times a day that plays matchmaker between reporters looking for sources/experts for articles and blogs and volunteers that are willing to act as the aforementioned sources/experts. Last I checked, I think Peter said that he had over 75,000 people signed up (Wow!)

I'm also indebted to Peter for sending hundreds of new followers my way after mentioning me as someone to follow on one of his daily HARO reports. For that reason, I was particularly pleased to have the opportunity to meet Peter face to face at the recent SXSW/Mashable party my company, Powered, sponsored (thank you for the introduction Susan Bratton).

With that as a backdrop, here are Peter's answers to the five Experts in the Industry questions:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
When you find that you've really good at talking to simply EVERYONE, you find a way to help people and make money by doing it.

How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
I've had a blog for years, and ran a PR firm for years prior that catered almost exclusively to web and online companies. Hell, I was one of the first editors of the AOL Newsroom - I was in online and social back in 1995.

If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
I would invest in a company that took all the current networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) and aggregated them into ONE useful network that could tell me what all my friends/colleagues were doing in one place. Barring that, I'd invest in a company called Social Studies, which helps schoolkids learn that posting something online means it's public forever. (Company doesn't exist, but it should.)

Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
Richard Branson continues to do his thing, do it well, and not give a damn what other people think. I envy that.

Would you join a toothpaste community? Why? 
I'm a lifelong member of - I already have. When you're passionate about something, it's worth the join. We live as a society built on passion.

Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
We could be such a smarter and better society if we counted to three before doing 99% of the things we do.


  1. Love HARO, I need to actually spend more time going through it everyday in fact. Peter has found a painless way to allow reporters and pr people to help each other out and be mutually beneficial. Not an easy task to say the least :).

  2. Stuart - I know, I'm in the same boat. And regarding the balance Peter has found between PR and reporters is nothing short of miraculous. Truly brilliant!

  3. If Peter is watching these comments, I'm curious if he has any sort of metrics on what percentage of those 75,000 opt-in subscribers actually *use* the service, whether asking questions or answering.

  4. Well, our average open-rate is approximately 85%. That's unheard of for a Mass email, Ari, as you know. So if nothing else, it means they're reading the queries. Are they answering reporters? I believe they are, based on reporters' emails to me saying "Got all I need! Thanks! Stop them! Turn them off!" and similar. So I think it's happening. Considering the average open rate on a mass email in the industry is around .75 to 1.2 on the high side, I'd say we're doing well. :)

  5. Sounds good. You must be having a fairly free Monday if you can reply inside of 11 minutes. Thanks, Peter.

  6. Or... I thought it was an important question to have answered so I forwarded it on to Peter (not that he wouldn't have caught it himself). LOL