Connecting with Bill Sobel

You have to wonder what it feels like to be described as the guy who "redefined the art of networking" … " "a public relations all-star who knows everything about new media and then some" … or, better yet, "crazy but effective."

But Peter Shankman has earned all those descriptions and more — a not so surprising feat, given the way he describes himself. How's that? Try "a spectacular example of what happens when you merge the power of pure creativity with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) along with a dose of adventure, and make it work to your advantage."

An author, entrepreneur and public speaker, Shankman has been recognized for his thoughts on marketing, customer service, advertising, public relations and social media.

Reporters Need All the Help They Can Get


He's the co-founder of Shankman | Honig, a global consultancy designed to help companies increase revenues and decrease marketing costs through better customer service.

But he is probably best known for founding Help A Reporter Out (HARO), an email service that enables reporters to get comments and expertise from subject matter experts quickly and easily. In essence, it puts social media and crowdsourcing into the hands of reporters who need experts as sources for stories.

HARO started as a Facebook group and grew to a three-times-a-day email used by both online and traditional journalists seeking sources for stories ranging from parenting issues to tech advice. In 2010, Vocus acquired the then three-year-old company.

Today it is the largest free source repository in the world, sending out over 1,500 queries to more than 300,000 sources each week

As CMSWire noted a few years ago, "HARO shows how the PR cycle is changing, allowing reporters to be in control of how they source stories and allowing a new world of experts (bloggers, podcasters and others) to get quoted and referenced in the mainstream media."

This week, it’s Shankman's turn to be quoted.

Sobel: Following your graduation from Boston University in 1994, you joined a little company called AOL as one of the founding editors at AOL News. You helped create the first digital 24-hour newsroom, covering major events including the 1996 Presidential Conventions and the Olympic Park Bombing. Can you tell us a bit about the early days at AOL and your eventual leap to HARO in 2008?

Shankman: Back in the day at AOL, we made up the rules as we went along. This was great, since it taught us to constantly be on our feet, constantly be hustling and to always be willing to pivot on a dime. Incredibly handy for later in life, when I was launching startups. Also (former AOL CEO) Steve Case and (AOL senior executive) Ted Leonsis taught me that everything was always about the customer —always.

Sobel:  Vocus acquired HARO in 2010 with the aim of furthering both companies' missions of shifting control in the public relations cycle back to journalists. For years you had no interest in selling HARO. What changed your mind and can you talk a bit about that milestone? And can you share thoughts on your new company ShankMinds as well as “The Mistake Podcast” as well as your other projects?