PR Week Magazine has described him as “redefining the art of networking”, and Investor’s Business Daily has called him “crazy, but effective”. He is a spectacular example of what happens when you merge the power of pure creativity with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and a dose of adventure, and make it work to your advantage. He is an author, entrepreneur, speaker, and worldwide connector.
Today's blog is my interview with Peter Shankman. Peter is recognized worldwide for radically new ways of thinking about Customer Service, Social Media, PR, marketing and advertising. He is best known for founding Help A Reporter Out, (HARO) which in under a year became the de-facto standard for thousands of journalists looking for sources on deadline, offering them more than 200,000 sources around the world looking to be quoted in the media. HARO is currently the largest free source repository in the world, sending out over 1,500 queries from worldwide media each week.
Brandon Steiner: Your new book Nice Companies Finish First (As a side note: I don’t like this book… I LOVE this book!) touches on need to eliminate cutthroat tactics - what's one thing any company can implement tomorrow to be nicer?
Peter Shankman: It’s incredibly simple, actually. Don’t take off your “customer” hat when you walk in the door of your business. Let’s face it - We leave work to go out to lunch and we love when we’re treated well. It’s why we go back to the same restaurant time after time. Why do we then go back to work and forget this, and not treat the customers the same way we like to be treated? It has to be universal. Customers EXPECT to be treated like crap. We all do. We go to a fast food restaurant and expect them to screw up our order. We go to the airport and expect our flight to be late. All we have to do is treat our customers one level above crap and they’ll love us forever. Treat them WELL, and they’ll go out of their way to tell the world how great we are.
BS: Help A Reporter Out (HARO) has become one of, if not THE, most important online resource for journalists. When you started HARO as a group on Facebook, how did you envision social media as a platform for this service?
PS: I started it as a way to help people. I never expected it to blow up like it did, but as soon as it did, I realized that I had to treat it like a real business, treat my members the way they wanted, because that’s how I would have liked to be treated. So I answered every email that came in personally, and I met people whenever they came into town. I still do that. It made my subscribers feel like they were truly a part of something, and I love that. It also helped grow the company. If a company treats you well, you’re invested in that company. If you’re invested in that company, you’re going to go out of your way to tell the world how great that company is. In other words, you’re going to do that company’s PR for them. What’s the secret, then? Be AMAZING to the customers you HAVE, to get the customers you WANT.
BS: Speaking of social media, what did you think of Derek Jeter announcing his retirement on Facebook?
PS: Very smart move. You go where your audience is. It’s actually the opposite of what Casey Stengel said when asked how to win games - He said “You hit ‘em where they ain’t.” The opposite is true in social - You hit ‘em where they are. That’s what Jeter did, and it worked for him.
BS: The famed steakhouse Morton’s brought a t-bone steak directly to you at Newark International after making a request via Twitter – were you more surprised about the steak or the tweet being one of the top 10 tweets of the year?
PS: I was beyond surprised that they brought me a steak - but the best part was how the media went crazy, and how it totally validated great customer service as a PR tool. Morton’s can’t bring a steak to everyone, but they CAN make sure that everyone who goes to Morton’s has an amazing time. That’s what it’s all about.
BS: Oklahoma State’s star player Marcus Smart was recently in the headlines for retaliating against a harassing “super fan” and was subsequently suspended from the team. Since then, Smart has turned to Twitter in defense of a blogger’s critique. What advice can you offer to a young athlete bombarded 24/7 by the media and the “new” media?
PS: I do believe that new “celebrities” as it were, need a crash course in how to act online. 1) It’s never personal. 2) Don’t tweet angry, EVER. 3) If you don’t have haters, you’re not doing enough to change the status quo, so enjoy it.
BS: You and your family are based out of New York, but looking at your Instagram account, it appears as though you are not in the same city for more than 2 days at a time. What is one tip you can give to the newly indoctrinated “frequent flyer club” member?
PS: Be loyal to one airline, you’ll build status and get the upgrades. Join that airline’s lounge, it comes in very handy. Finally, a smile works SO much better than a nasty word. Smile to the gate agent, smile to the ticket agent, smile to the flight attendant. Life becomes incredibly easy if you do that.
BS: From watching you on Twitter and Instagram are you a budding photographer? Can we count on you this year for a sports photos?
PS: I actually did my studies at BU as a Photojournalism major. Crazy how that works. I’ll make you a deal - get me into the photo box at a Mets game this year, and I’ll take all the photos you want. :)
BS: It is unfortunate we have to stop at eight questions. I have to ask…was there a man on the moon?
PS: Me too. This is fun, and. I’d love to answer more! And as someone who is on the NASA civilian advisory council, I can say with some basic authority, that yes, we did put several people on the moon. :)
BS: Thank you, Peter.