Episode 58: Peter Shankman, "Hottest Male Blogger," on How To Help A Reporter, Outrageous PR Stunts and Adrenaline Addiction
Peter Shankman turned a Facebook group into the hottest PR service ever - HelpAReporter.com. This service connects reporters to sources via social media, easing the friction between the PR and journo world. It's free. And you should subscribe. Who doesn't want free press coverage opportunities in your email inbox every day?
Hear Peter's story about how he "invented" his Profnet killer. And hear how he channels his ADHD into creativity on behalf of his clients at GeekFactory, his NY PR firm. A clever man, Peter has shared his strategies for creating and implementing PR stunts, for which he's professionally famous. His book, "Can We Do That?! Outrageous PR Stunts That Work and Why Your Company Needs Them," is chock full of great examples and practice "how-t's." Peter's DishyMix advice comes in three easy bullet points. First, break out of the norm when you're brainstorming. Second, start with the outcome when planning a PR stunt. Finally, know part of the process is that you must befriend the "stoppers." Peter tells us how to effectively evoke great creative ideas and then get traction with a PR stunt that drives business strategically.
This food-loving, angst-ridden Jewish boy from NY embues his blog, Twitters and email messages with personality galore. He follows Rohit Bhargava's (author of "Personality Not Included) advice to get beyond authenticity to personality. Embue he does. All kinds of antics are a normal part of this triathalete, sky diver, stunt puller's life and he shares them freely. That's why he's engendered such a fan base. Because he is raucous, opinionated, self-deprecating and fun, fun, fun. From the moment this interview starts you'll be chuckling along as Suz and Peter make lots of fun of his newest moniker, "Hottest Male Blogger," awarded the day the episode was recorded.
You'll learn. You'll laugh. Oh, and call your mother.
Susan Bratton: Welcome to Dishy Mix. I am your host Susan Bratton and on today’s show you’re going to meet Peter Shankman.
Peter is an entrepreneur, an author, a speaker, and a self professed ingenious worldwide connector. Peter’s started a number of companies including the Geek Factory, which is a boutique marketing and PR strategy firm in New York. He is a big blogger, big Twitterer, and he is an author. He has written a book. We will talk about that. It’s about PR, of course. And he has a new company, HARO, that I think you’re going to be really glad to hear about if you haven’t heard about it already.
On today’s show we’re going to talk about outrageous PR stunts. We’re going to talk about destroying PR news blogger. We’re going to talk about live casting, Chumbawamba, and the hottest mail blogger. Yes, that is Peter Shankman.
You know, I have seen some of your triathlon photos and I think you’re winning them over with personality.
Peter Shankman: Oh, that hurt! Only I’m allowed to be self deprecating. That’s why it’s called self deprecating.
…the great service is, you know, the difference in advertising PR. You go into a bar and you tell a woman, “Hey, I am great in bed. You should come home with me.” and you get a drink thrown in your face. That’s advertising. But, if your best friend looks at me across the room and says, “Oh, that guy is great in bed.” your going to go home with me. That’s PR.
Oh my God! That was a really rude phone call. They threatened to sue me and all this. I am like, “Ew! Ok. Well, fine look I have all the time in the world. I just sold a company. My spring is pretty empty. Let’s have some fun. Plus what other chance am I going to get to use the term ‘ProfNet got up in my grill’?
And my whole thing is, look you’re not your not going to be right for every inquiry. You might be a rocket scientist who only knows about rocket science. You know what? Your wife or girlfriend who is a cosmetologist or a hairdresser is perfect for the query on glamour on ‘how to get your hair frosted’. Why wouldn’t you send that to her? Or to your client? Or to your friend? Or to your mom? I’d have my mom in Cosmo for God’s sake.
The greatest thing about a really great PR study is in the end it’s not about the buzz. If I have one more PR person come to me and he says “ I am going to do this great stunt and get buzz.”, I am going to start fire bombing. The key about a good PR stunt or about good PR in general is all about in the end selling something.
Susan Bratton: Peter welcome to the show. How does it feel to be the hottest male blogger?
Peter Shankman: Wow! That’s an intro I’ve never ever ever thought I would get in my life.
Susan Bratton: It just worked out perfectly that you won that blog contest today.
Peter Shankman: You know, I mentioned that I think that votes were tabulated by the same people that did Florida in 2000. I don’t know.
Susan Bratton: Why is your name Chad? Chad Shankman?
Peter Shankman: It’s just me winning a hot blogger contest is just so funny itself.
Susan Bratton: So I would like you to sing that ‘I’m too sexy for my’. Can you do that a little?
Peter Shankman: Oh God! We won’t be doing that.
Susan Bratton: Come on. You said y ou’re too sexy for your cat now.
Peter Shankman: I’m too sexy for my cat. Right. My cat when she should heard the word cat she looked up and rolled back over with that indignant cat look she gives me.
Susan Bratton: Well, that’s her job. And you have two cats, right?
Peter Shankman: I have two cats, yes.
Susan Bratton: And they’re both rescuers and they keep you company.
Peter Shankman: Yes, their mostly my sanity. You know, I have a crazy day. I have a crazy client call. I sort of look at them and their whole attitude is you just need to take a nap and you’ll be fine and their kind of right.
Susan Bratton: So you actually got voted hottest mail blogger on momgenerations.com blog. Jan put up a bunch of potential male bloggers. And it was what a right in kind of a thing? Her inbox was flooded with votes and veritable love letters to the nominees.
Who were some of your competitors? And who did you think was going to win?
Peter Shankman: I thought it was going to be Pete from Mashable.
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Peter Shankman: He’s kind of Mashable for God’s sake.
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Peter Shankman: And, you know, he’s kind of relatively cute.
Susan Bratton: That’s so funny. I saw Pete last night. There was a Mashable Summer Fest here in San Francisco and I want to it. It’s one of my favorite night clubs, “Mighty”. And, you know, Pete’s a young guy. He’s very handsome. He’s got that, kind of, rale thin body, tall, skinny, looks fabulous in his clothes. He always wears those vests with the ties and the shirt sleeves rolled up. He’s got the kind of – what we would have called- the Don Johnson stubble look.
Peter Shankman: Totally, yes.
Susan Bratton: I don’t know what they call that now. In my era, in my age, it was the Don Johnson look.
Peter Shankman: I remember, yep.
Susan Bratton: And Pete is a hot hot hottie. So, you know, I have seen some of your triathlon photos and I think your winning them over with personality.
Peter Shankman: Oh, that hurt! Only I’m allowed to be self deprecating. That’s why its called self deprecating. You know what I think it is. I think it’s really funny because whenever I talk to my legion of fans, which is totally not what they are, but when I am emailing friends or whatever I did. They said, “How was your race this weekend?” I said, “Oh, you know, I beat the guy with one leg and that was awesome.”
So I think it’s that whole humbleness thing that kind of got them. I don’t know.
Susan Bratton: It is.
Peter Shankman: It kind of shocked me though.
Susan Bratton: Well, and you share almost every aspect of your life. People really know you. So I think the difference is…and, you know, I just had on Rohit Bhargava and, as a matter of fact, I saw him at the book signing at the Mashable part last night. His book is called personality not included and its all about that your brand is really in desperate need of personality.
Peter Shankman your brand it just is replete and overflowing with personality. Because you share almost everything about your life in what you do people can really connect and identify with you. It’s that authenticity, but that thing that Rohit says goes beyond authenticity to personality. You know, your emails that you send out for help a reporter., which we’ll get to in a minute talking about that because that’s a really exciting new invention that you’ve come up with.
You know, you just share so much of who you are and your life and that’s why you won, because people like you. They can identify with you.
Peter Shankman: Oh, thank you. I mean, I have to be honest with you., part of me still thinks it’s my great ass, but who knows.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, well let’s get some pictures up on the Facebook pages and we’ll let you know.
Peter Shankman: Give me something Susan. Give me something there.
Susan Bratton: No, Peter you’re going to have to work for it. You’re going to have to woo me. You’re going to have to woo me.
Peter Shankman: I’ll come out to San Francisco. I’ll woo you next time.
Susan Bratton: Oh no, you’re going to have to do it right here. Let’s see what you’ve got. You’re a PR guy. Come on.
Peter Shankman: What’s that great story about the…You know, the difference in advertising and a PR. You do into a bar and you tell a woman, “Hey, I’m great in bed. You should come home with me.” and you get a drink thrown in your face. That’s advertising. But, if your best friend looks at me across the room and says to you,” Oh, that guys great in bed.” You’re going to go home with me. That’s PR.
Susan Bratton: Absolutely!
Peter Shankman: Yep.
Susan Bratton: Good referrals
Let’s go right to “Help a Reporter”, HARO, helpareporter.com. I am on your distribution list and I get an email from you at least every day, if not twice a day; emails that I welcome. First, of all because I get to know what your doing at that very moment because it’s all very like,” Here’s exactly what’s happening to me right this second. This is what’s on my mind and by the way here are 24 PR opportunities.”
Describe “Help a Reporter”. Everybody is going to want to go their and join as soon as they here about it.
You know, it’s the funniest thing. I never started this to be anything more than a way to help out my friends. And , I think, some of the best companies start like that. I should explain my ideas and tell why I started it. I know a lot of reporters. I have been doing PR now for 10 years. I know a lot of reporters and a lot of reporters are my friends. They’ll call me. “Peter, hey, it’s ten minutes to five and I’m doing a story on Nigerian farming and I need a soil expert. Do you know anyone?”
What it used to be is, you know, the beauty of ADD is there’s only two types of time. There’s now and there’s not now. So when someone called that becomes now. So I drop everything else I am doing. I go through my rolodex. I find someone who knows someone who knows someone. Ten minutes later I have them a Nigerian farming soil expert.
It just occurred to me one day that, maybe, there’s an easier way to do this. So in November of this year I started a Facebook group. I just invited some of my close friends who I trusted and when I got these queries from reporters I would just forward them to the Facebook group. If someone had an answer they could respond directly and because it was people I trusted, you know, it was just easy and it was simple.
I knew that Facebook capped the number of people that you could have in a group and still fit under it; twelve hundred. So I figured, you know what, I’ve got plenty of other stuff in my life that I’m doing I’ll build it to twelve hundred, maybe, if it ever fills up that far and I’ll just run it. It’s easy enough. And it filled up really really quick.
Then I got what I call ‘the day I got the phone call’. I was at a drug store buying some ibuprophen for my newly broken rib, which I managed to break in the amazingly hot and sex way of running into a subway door.
Susan Bratton: I didn’t know that’s how you did it.
Peter Shankman: Yes.
Susan Bratton: I’m so sorry.
Peter Shankman: I wish I could lie better and tell you I was wrestling a child from a speeding shark while skydiving, but, no, I ran into a subway door.
I was buying some ibuprofen in the drug store- by ibuprofen I mean Percocet- and the phone rings. I am already in a Percocet haze to begin with and the phone rings and I answer it. I am like, “Hello.” There like, “This is the head of ProfNet.
Susan Bratton: Yep.
Peter Shankman: We’re a PRNewswire company and you’re stealing our leads!
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Peter Shankman: Was how she introduced herself.
Susan Bratton: Wow!
Peter Shankman: Now mind you, I am normally…I can normally be a snarky bastard just for fun, but here I am high on Percocet so all my filters are out the window. So I am like, “Ok. And how am I doing that exactly?”
And she goes, “Well, you posted a query about Harry Potter that we posted on our list as well. And as you know your not allowed to repost.” and “People pay for our list.”
And I said, “Yeah, but the reporter sent me that query and asked me to post it. So if a reporter sends me a query and sends you the same query and we both post it, how am I stealing your lead?”
Susan Bratton: That’s right.
Peter Shankman: And then, of course, she goes… High on Percocet I added, “Wait, I think you’re stealing my leads.” She had no sense of humor what so ever.
Susan Bratton: Well, you can tell they have no sense of humor. They have the skankiest website. It’s a hunk of junk to use and I’ll tell you that I have used ProfNet a million times for all my show hosts, you know, getting people for their shows. We produce 25 shows a week and we’re always looking for people and so I feel the pain that the reporters feel. And ProfNet is…it’s just a turd and it was the only thing out there.
Now there is Help a Reporter and you have socialized and created a ProfNet for the masses.
Peter Shankman: I mean, that’s really the thing. Is that I had never planned on doing this and then when the Percocet haze lifted and I realized, “Oh my God, that was a really rude pone call.” They threatened to sue me and all this. I am like, “Ew! Ok. Well, fine. Look I have all the time in the world. I just sold a company. My spring is pretty empty. Let’s have some fun.”
Plus what other chance am I going to get to use the term ‘ProfNet got up in my grill’. You know, that in itself would have totally made it worth it.
So a good friend of mine who is actually a good fan of you as well, Adam Botinger.
Susan Bratton: Oh yes.
Peter Shankman: Adam came out and I am like Adam do me a favor build me a website. He is like, “Great. You know what I will do it for you.” “Just stop talking and do it.” He did it in like two days and it was killer. And I was like, “This is not rocket science. This is an email list. This is a piece of cake.”
So I launched it and, again, just told my friends and figured if they’re going to try and sue me they might as well have something to try and sue. So I launched it and told some friends. I sent an email to the 900 people I had on the Facebook list at that time. I said, “Hey guys, I am starting this website, if you want to come over here. And I sent out some emails.
I launched it on March 20th and within 2 days I had doubled the amount of people I have on Facebook. And between March 20th and now…On March 20th I launched it and as of today we just cleared 14,000 members.
Susan Bratton: And when you say members are they people like me who are getting your queries? How many reporters are there?
Peter Shankman: There are over twenty five hundred reporters that have used HARO.
Susan Bratton: Yes.
Peter Shankman: HARO reporter.
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Peter Shankman: But there are over 14,000 members who are sources who get my emails 3 times a day.
Susan Bratton: Yeah. So I just want to read. This is just today’s email from you.
Peter Shankman: Sure.
Susan Bratton: Here are…Let’s see how many are there? There are 12 in this email. So here are some things that, if you would get an email from Help A Reporter that you might have an answer, solution, or know someone who does.
- Getting to work in unusual ways- from a major weekly consumer magazine.
- What to do in Vegas
- Used car exports
- Financial concerns and stress
- People who new John McCain in his earlier years
- Trends in kitchen accessories
- What you can cut back to pay for your mortgage
- Are publicity agents worth the money
- Cost of home inspections
- Need CIOs to discuss Lenix
- Do it yourself tool and remodeling experts
- How to limit personal healthcare expenses
That one is for Glamour Magazine, as an example.
That’s a wide range of source material.
And one of the things that I noticed in my behavior is that I will get something from you, I will scan it quickly, I will look immediately for my own personal press opportunity, of course,
Peter Shankman: Naturally.
Susan Bratton: And then after that I start thinking this person, this person, this person. And I forward that email between two and eight times, almost every time I get it.
Peter Shankman: Susan that’s why I am madly in love with you because you get it. You get it.
Susan Bratton: That’s what’s happening. And so, then they’re joining.
Peter Shankman: ProfNet doesn’t let you do that. Their whole thing is if you forward this we’ll kill your subscription and we won’t refund your money.
Susan Bratton: Right.
Peter Shankman: And my whole thing is look your not going to be right for every query. You might be a rocket scientist who only knows about rocket science. But you know what? Your wife or girlfriend who is a cosmetologist…
Susan Bratton: Yes.
Peter Shankman: …you know, or a hair dresser is perfect for the query in Glamour on ‘how to get your hair frosted. Why wouldn’t you send that to her? Or to your client? Or to your friend? Or to your mom? I’d have my mom in Cosmo, for God’s sake.
Susan Bratton: Good for you.
Peter Shankman: So why the heck wouldn’t you do that. That’s the ultimate networking and social networking opportunity right there and it comes into your box about three times a day. Why wouldn’t you do that?
Susan Bratton: So there are a couple questions for me. I want to talk about how you’re going to monetize this so this is all you do. You are Timothy Ferris’s “4 Hour Work Week” poster child and the hottest male blogger because that’s my fantasy for you Peter.
But before we talk about that…I don’t understand the gift bag thing. So I notice that there’s all this gift bag stuff and that’s not my world because I am more of the tech geeky girl. Tell me what you’re doing with all that stuff.
Peter Shankman: Every Friday…What started happening is…A lot of PR people are also event productions people and a lot of these events had gift bags. Gift bags are a great way for you to promote whatever the heck your product is.
Susan Bratton: Of course, we all love our goody bags. Everybody listening has gotten goody bags.
Peter Shankman: Right. Exactly. Trial bags.
So the problem is though that sometimes there are some great gifts that would fit perfectly into the bag based on the type of event it is, but no one knows: where to find them; how to find them. And the people who make these products have no idea who to call about gift bagging. They think, “Oh, well there’s the Oscars.” Yeah, best of luck with that.
But there’s the policemen’s ball in Phoenix one a year that might have 500 people and the people with products in Phoenix, hey, your supposed to be there. So one of the things I am doing- I’m not doing it every day. I am only doing it on Fridays at the lunch time email.- is I send out gift bag queries. So people will say, “Hey, I am producing an event in wherever and its about this. I need 70 gift bags or 70 products for a gift bag and the event is supporting pediatric aid in LA. And there will be celebrities there.” Whatever.
Basically, if you have products you’d want to get them into those gift bags because you want the celebrities to use those products, possibly get photographed in Star or whatever.
Susan Bratton: In Style.
Peter Shankman: I can’t tell you how many products have launched that way.
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Peter Shankman: Juicy Couture launched that way, for God’s sake. The word Juicy was on every supermodels but.
Susan Bratton: Exactly.
Peter Shankman: Yeah, and I am only doing it once a week. I call it soft news. So every Friday at noon I will do the soft news stuff in addition to all the queries, but the rest of the week is for the hard news.
Susan Bratton: Ok. So before we go for the break last question: How are you going to turn this into your money maker? Because right now I don’t see that you’re making money from it.
Peter Shankman: Actually, no one does and to me the sign of a good company that already makes money is that no one knows it’s making money.
Susan Bratton: Ok. How you making money?
Peter Shankman: This morning’s email, the first one this morning that you might have seen, did you notice the first line? It was this email brought to you by Lion Public Relations.
Susan Bratton: Yes. Lion PR. As a matter of fact, -it’s so funny- I had to run to breakfast, but I was like, oh I want to click on that.
Peter Shankman: Yep.
Susan Bratton: I didn’t click on it, but I was interested.
So you’re selling sponsorships in the emails.
Peter Shankman: Again, I didn’t plan on it. These people have come to me. The first client we had was American Apparel.
Susan Bratton: Beautiful. I did see that.
Peter Shankman: And from that I have a nine week backlog of just more…I won’t do all three emails. I could. I won’t. My thing is it’s still personal. I don’t want it to become an add machine. It’s still about me talking. So only the morning email gets sponsored and it’s 75 characters. You blow through that. You read your email.
Susan Bratton: Alright, give us the url before we go to break.
Peter Shankman: www.helpareporter.com
Susan Bratton: Perfect.
We are with Peter Shankman. He is founder of the Geek Factory, founder of helpareporter.com. He has also launched a number of startups that we’re going to talk about including a new successfully sold startup. And we’re also going to talk about PR stunts and his book when we get back from out break.
You know I love my sponsors. Take a listen to their messages. See if you can do some business with them.
I am your host Susan Bratton.
We’ll be right back.
Susan Bratton: Alright, we’re back and I’m with Peter Shankman.
So Peter I want to talk a little bit about your book. You wrote it about three years ago, but it’s a great read. Can we do that? “Outrageous PR Stunts that Work and Why Your Company Needs Them”
So What I want to do is get into your brain about how you come up with PR stunts, but to do that I think we need to set a bit of a threshold here. Give us an example of a couple of your favorite PR stunts ever and why they were successful.
Peter Shankman: Well I think that in terms of favorite PR stunts we all have our own, but then I think the good people understand what companies are doing and the great stuff they’re doing.
Taco Bell has some of the most brilliant agencies working for them in the free world. Every time something happens in this global world of our Taco Bell is there with a promotion.
Remember when the Mir Space Station was going to crash back down to earth?
Susan Bratton: I don’t remember that one, but I know you’ve referenced that in your book.
Peter Shankman: Yeah, about three years ago the Mir Space station was crashing back down to earth and everyone was afraid that it was going to fall on Pittsburgh or something.
So the Taco Bell people took a piece of tarp, a piece of fabric a mile wide, and send it drifting in the Indian Ocean and said that if any part of Mir hits this Taco Bell target everyone in the country gets a free taco. It cost them, maybe, $25,000 in insurance and the resulting press from that was huge.
The great thing about a really great PR stunt, in the end, it’s not about the buzz. If I have one more PR person come to me and say,” Want to do this great stunt and get buzz.” I’m going to start fire bombing.
The key about a good PR stunt or about good PR in general in the end it is about selling something. I don’t care what you make. I don’t care what your product is. Something has to happen for there to be a currency exchange. Ok?
And if all your concerned about is getting great buzz and not about moving that cash needle then your doing it wrong and that’s hard callous. People say, “Oh we got this much buzz and this much coverage.” Well, great. Did it increase revenue? And it you can’t tell me that it did then I don’t’ consider your stunt a success.
Susan Bratton: So do you think that the Mir…?
Peter Shankman: It did. There were studies after that said that people went to Taco Bell and spent money on tacos.
Susan Bratton: Got it.
Peter Shankman: Yeah. That to me is a successful campaign.
Harris Hotels is a client. Harris Hotels is launching a brand new hotel in Atlantic Center called The New Waterfront Tower. And I took four models, had them body painted with Harris logos and put them on Wall Street. And we gave away the hotel.
Normally, that would be the stunt and people have done that in the past. That’s great. What made it different was that I used all sorts of social media two months prior. From the second I suggested the stunt to the client I started Twittering and blogging about it, so that when the stunt was approved I Harris already had a following about the stunt based on the stuff I was doing.
By the time the event happened- You know how when you do a stunt you have to go into the middle of the street wherever your doing the stunt and hope that people show up and watch.-
Susan Bratton: Oh yeah. I hate that part.
Peter Shankman: We had 500 people standing there waiting for the model half an hour before we even got there.
One of my Twitter partners worked in the stock market for the stock exchange and had put it on the ticker, had put a note on the ticker. So everywhere around the world was watching the stock market and sees ‘Come to Wall Street. Come to Water Street and Broadway in 20 minutes. Free hot naked girls giving out hotel rooms.’
Susan Bratton: That ought to do it.
Peter Shankman: We needed police for crowd control. And the story ran everywhere. All the media picked it up. It was the hottest… It was Yahoo’s photo of the day. And all this was done through prepromotion. By the time the models got there all we had to be concerned about was them not getting trampled to death from thousands of sexed up stock brokers.
Susan Bratton: Wow! Wait a minute. Sexed up stock brokers?
Peter Shankman: I know. What a shock, right?
Susan Bratton: Is that an oxymoron?
For all you hot stock brokers out there. I am just kidding.
Peter Shankman: Well, hey, you know I am also the hottest stock…No I’m not. I’m the hottest blogger.
Susan Bratton: You’re the hottest blogger, baby. Own it. Work it. Work it.
Peter Shankman: It’s those kind of things though. It’s thinking it through. Ok. So you’re going to do a stunt. How can you make it better? How can you make it draw revenue? You know, the amount of publicity that Harris got has helped to sell that hotel, after we did the giveaway.
A stunt that takes that much time shouldn’t just have legs for the time of the stunt. It should continue for days, weeks, months, for as long as you can.
Susan Bratton: So your book talks about… and I want to say the name of your book again, which is “Can We Do That? Outrageous PR Stunts That Work—And Why Your Company Needs Them” In your book what you really also try to do is to help people break through the personality barriers that keep you and your team from being truly original.
What is that? How do you think… when you approach the idea, Ok, we want to day a PR stunt. We have a stomach for doing this. The profile of the client…and I know you have said that in some cases it is the client that looks the least likely to have the profile for risk is often the one that has the chops to do it.
Peter Shankman: Oh yeah!
Susan Bratton: But let’s just say all that stuffs lined up. We’re doing something. Now we have to brain storm it. How do you go about the process of thinking it? Deconstruct in your mind your process and also what you recommend for a team of people to come up with something original.
Peter Shankman: There are a couple of things that are sort of requirements and staples in my life. Any success I have had I attribute to the following things.
Not doing the same thing every day. Taking the same route to work every day, doing the same thing that you did yesterday, because it is easy is the easiest way to fail.
Susan Bratton: Well, we know from creativity experts that changing your environment and changing your approach to anything that you do in your daily life is the single biggest catalyst to expanding your creative palette.
Peter Shankman: And it’s unbelievably easy.
I started running about ten years ago mostly because ten years ago I found that thinner people tended to have more sex. So I started running.
Susan Bratton: There you go. How is it working for you?
Peter Shankman: It’s working tremendously well.
Susan Bratton: Good.
Peter Shankman: Yeah, I love running. Running is my friend. But seriously you learn that there’s nothing greater than coming back from a six mile run with that endorphin high. Especially for someone like me who’s ADD. The endorphins are what we don’t produce enough of when you’re ADD. So actually to balance it out is awesome.
Susan Bratton: Now wait. Wait. I have to stop you there. You use that a lot. That’s kind of your shtick. Are you true… and it’s AD/HD.
Peter Shankman: Oh no, I truly am. I am diagnosed as AD/HD.
Susan Bratton: You are diagnosed AD/HD.
Peter Shankman: Yeah. Every year the doctors want to put me on Aderol or Ritalin. Every year I turn them down. While choosing to get the same chemical makeup in those drugs through natural means like running, sky diving, public speaking.
Basically, all ADD is- and I don’t want to go off on a tangent-
Susan Bratton: No, it’s interesting.
Peter Shankman: All ADD is is the brain not producing enough MAO inhibitors to make you as calm, rational, and as sedate as everyone else. So you are constantly looking around for something else to excite you.
So if you can create something. If you can create that same chemistry that normal people have when you need to by going for a run or skydiving, whatever, then the other times when your ADD is kicking in I don’t consider it a disease. I consider it a luxury because here I am being five times as creative as you because that’s how my brain is wired.
Susan Bratton: Got it.
Peter Shankman: I don’t think it’s a disease at all. I think it’s one of the best things in the world.
Susan Bratton: And by the way, just for listeners who want to follow Peter on Twitter. He’s twitter.com/ skydiver.
Peter Shankman: Yep.
Susan Bratton: Ok. So go back to this…
Peter Shankman: Ok. So back to creating these ideas.
Susan Bratton: Yes.
Peter Shankman: You know, if you are going to have a brain storm- and I have seen so many companies that say, “Ok. We are going to have a brainstorming day.” Everyone comes to the office and they all sit around the conference room just like they do every other day.
Susan Bratton: Yeah. So go have your brainstorm in the field.
Peter Shankman: Right. So the first thing is get the hell out of where ever you are.
Susan Bratton: Got it.
Peter Shankman: I’ve held brainstorms for clients at Great Adventure. I held for brainstorms for clients on a boat on a bass fishing trip. Places that are not traditional. Don’t hold one playing golf. Don’t hold them at places you normally do things. Break out of that norm. Just that alone will help you.
Susan Bratton: Ok.
Peter Shankman: Then work backwards. To many people say, “Ok. We want to do a great stunt because we want to do A, B and C.” My thing is we want to do A, B, and C. What kind of great stunt should we do? By working backwards you get a much much broader image of what you’re doing and why your doing it.
Anyone can come up with a stunt. The why is a lot harder. We want to throw chicken out of the window. Why? Because we’ll get feathers.
Susan Bratton: So start with the outcome.
Peter Shankman: Exactly. We want to increase sales 22%. Ok. To do that how many new people have to know about your product. This many. Ok. Where would you find this many people? Doing this. Ok. Great. What if we did this, this, this…? Boom! All of a sudden you have your stuff. It took you five seconds. You’re all heads up and it’s phenomenal.
Susan Bratton: Ok.
Peter Shankman: I think, that…We live in a society that…We created fast food, which I kind of get. You don’t want to cook every night. I totally understand that, but I guess where I have a problem is that it wasn’t enough that we created fast food. We were then to lazy to get off our buts to actually go inside and get the fast food so we created the drive through.
So you know you kind of look it like that. Susan we really don’t have that high to set the bar. So doing these sort of non traditional things or these different things, yeah, we really don’t have that far to go.
So all it takes is that 1% difference of being just a little non traditional and your going to encounter a lot of opposition because people are afraid of being nontraditional. They’re afraid of the…
You know, I joked that all the…I am having a phenomenal life. I’m having a blast doing everything I love and it’s all exactly the same crap that got me beaten up in junior high every fricken day.
Susan Bratton: So one of the things you say is that there are these people called stoppers.
Peter Shankman: Yeah.
Susan Bratton: When I interviewed Ori Brafman for his book “Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior”.
Peter Shankman: Irrational, yeah.
Susan Bratton: And he calls those same people blockers. He actually says that those people who have all the reasons why you shouldn’t do something like a PR stunt are vital to that actually moving forward.
Peter Shankman: Oh, no question about it.
Susan Bratton: Because they’re the ones that if you could overcome their objections then all of the other people who need to support the person with the big idea who is the initiator can do that with confidence and then you’ve, kind of, got all your ducks in a row.
Peter Shankman: Totally true. I mean, one of the things that I’ve always said is that I call my accountant and my lawyer my dopamine blockers. There job is to be my dopamine blockers.
When I came to my lawyer several years ago and said, “Hey, I want to do a stunt for my agency where I throw 150 CEOs out of an airplane” I mean, literally it was like I was looking at him and telling him, “Hey, you know what? I think I am going to bite the head off my cat.” I mean, he gave me that same sort of look.
But that’s his job. You know that’s why he doesn’t work in creativity. His job is to be a lawyer and to protect me. And when I convinced him, ‘no, the chances of us all dying are very very minimal’ he reneged and we got a waiver that he made us all sign.
You need these stoppers in your life.
What I talk about in the book is something called ROAR (responsibility, opportunities, awareness, results) , which are basically the four things that you need to provide the stopper to get the green light.
Susan Bratton: Yes.
Peter Shankman: If you explain to the stopper that, look I know what I am doing here. Here is the stuff that I have done in the past. Here is the scope that I have done for this project. Here is what it is going to get us. Here is how we’re going to do it and here’s what the results are going to be. You give them to them. You bombard them with this information.
Not only will they let you do it, but they’ll ask you to have lunch with them. They’ll become your good friend. The next time you want to do an event they’re just going to green light you right through. You’ve proven to them that the fear that their paid to have doesn’t need to be that big with you.
Susan Bratton: Yeah. It’s all part of the process and if you know going in that you’re going to have to overcome the stoppers then it’s just a [purrs]. Right? Instead of roar.
Peter Shankman: I tell everybody that a great stopper is Smithers to Mr.
Susan Bratton: I love Smithers.
Peter Shankman: [imitating Mr. Burns] It’s like taking candy from a baby. [imitating Smithers] No sir, we really shouldn’t do that.
He’s a great stopper.
Susan Bratton: So I want to switch gears a little bit. We just have a few minutes remaining.
The first thing I want to talk about is shankman.com, your blog. Of course, now that you are the world’s hottest blogger.
Peter Shankman: Yeah, I’ve got to change my title: Peter Shankman world’s hottest blogger.
Susan Bratton: [yells] Woo!
So now that you are that millions of people are going to come and check out your blog.
One of the things that I noticed that you do is this series called “Buy Peter a Sandwich”. It’s your video blogging. Tell us…I mean, we get it. You have a lunch meeting and you video tape it.
Peter Shankman: Well I love food. It all comes back to self loving and food. I mean, that’s pretty much it.
Susan Bratton: Yum. I’ll start with the food. The self love, well thank God I’m a goy. I don’t need any self loathing, right? I like loaves of sandwich, not self loathing.
So I want to talk about PR open mic and the live casting stuff. So go a little geeky. If you have a company called Geek Factory you can go there with me right now. Tell me about the equipment that you use and how you take the video. Do you edit it? How do you get it on your blog? How do you promote it from your blog?
Peter Shankman: Well, I mean…Look “Buy Peter a Sandwich” is very simple. I like eating and there are a lot of interesting people in town who are here for meeting or whatever and usually end up eating alone. I started finding them and saying, “Hey, let me ask you five questions about what you do. I’ll put them on my blog. You’ll get some exposure. We’ll have a sandwich together.” And it turned into this sort of series.
I’ve had people on there ranging from the president of The Public Relations Society of America to the CEO of Edleman Europe, David Blaine, to a random girl who works for WPDF doing their PR because she seemed fun and we had a sandwich.
It’s actually a really simple process.
By the way, I should back up. I’m not a self loathing Jew. I mean, I’m a self loathing Jew. Not personal loathing of the…Just I hate myself. That’s all.
So any way.
Susan Bratton: Well, that was like a little therapy moment right there. Are you feeling better? You go a little channel clearing going.
Peter Shankman: You know, you laugh, but when you work as hard as I do you’ve got pressures.
Susan Bratton: Like is so hard at the top, babe.
Peter Shankman: It really is. Oh God!
Susan Bratton: I know. But you’re fabulous! You’re fabulous!
Peter Shankman: Alright. So how do I…
Susan Bratton: Keep going.
Peter Shankman: How do I do the “Buy Peter a Sandwich” interviews? I’ve got something called a flip camera phone, a flip TV phone. No, its afliptv.com is what it is. It’s a little hand held camcorder called “The Flip TV”.
Susan Bratton: I though it was called “The Flip Video”.
Peter Shankman: Is it called “Flip Video”?
Susan Bratton: I think it’s called “Flip Video”.
Peter Shankman: I know the websites called fliptv.com.
Susan Bratton: Ok.
Peter Shankman: So what do I know.
I talked to one of the dumb using one at a conference. I am like, “That’s the coolest thing. I have to get one.” So I went out and, you know, because we all secretly feel dumb. So I bought this thing and, basically, I do the video for three minutes, I push a button, out pops the USB connection, it goes right into my lap top, I upload them in two seconds. I started uploading on PR Open Mic because PR Open mic is a PR …
Susan Bratton: Social network.
Peter Shankman: …social network part of Ning and because it’s part of NIng it’s not very crowded in terms of massive amounts of people uploading video. So it’s actually incredibly quick. I do it because. The longest drawn out part of this whole process is getting the video uploaded.
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Peter Shankman: And so when I do it on Ning with PR Open Mic the second it uploads it clears and repopulates in like ten seconds. So its perfect for me And very very easy to get out there.
I embed it in my blog and then the next time I send it. I help record it. I say, “By the way, there’s a new “Buy Peter a Sandwich” interview of so and so of so and so go check it out. And they’re interesting because we ask fun questions like: Do you have any pets? What are you doing for dinner?
But then we also ask really pertinent questions to the industry, which is: What can a PR person do to really piss you off?
Susan Bratton: Exist. The answer is exist.
Peter Shankman: But that’s the whole purpose behind Help a Reporter. I don’t believe that we have to hate each other.
Susan Bratton: Of course not.
Peter Shankman: I don’t believe that marketing people, or publicists and journalists have to hate each other. I think there’s a middle ground there.
Susan Bratton: Of course.
Peter Shankman: So I am able to ask these questions and when we are interviewing the guy that handles all the blogs for the Guardian in the UK or when we’re interviewing the gossip editor or Role Call in Washington D.C. people want to know these answers because these are people they have to pitch. So if they can listen to this in the end it’s just all about giving people a little content that they can use.
Susan Bratton: Ok. Before I go to my last question, which is kind of a silly one, I wanted to let all of our listeners know that you have given me tree autographed copies of “Can We Do That? Outrageous PR Stunts That Work—And Why Your Company Needs Them”. And I will, of course be giving those away to Dishy Mix FaceClub fans.
So all you have to do is go to FaceBook, search for DishyMix (all one word). You’ll find my fan club. Just fan me and then if you’d like to have an autographed copy from Peter- He’ll even write some pithy thing in there because he is going to know it’s you. So he can autograph it directly to you.- you can just post that you’d like a copy and the first people who post get Peter’s book personally autographed.
So thanks for that Peter. I appreciate it.
Peter Shankman: My pleasure.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, it’s really nice.
The last question is: You’re doing these work outs. I see these things on your email, brick, this brick workout. What are you…? I just think about you in my mind and I think that you’re in Gothom city, you’re in New York, and your on the street. You have on a workout outfit and you’ve got one of those tacky terry cloth headbands, you’re sweaty, and you’re holding two dirty bricks in your hand. You’re running and you’re pumping those bricks up and down. That’s the visual that I have when you write about your brick workout.
Peter Shankman: That’s really how I got the title of hottest blogger.
No. A brick workout: One of the things I do for fun is triathlons and a brick workout in triathlons stands for…the “b” in brick is for bike and the “r” in brick is for run. So it’s bike/run or brick. So a brick work out is anywhere from 10 to 75 to 100 miles on the bike and then you get off the bike and immediately run anywhere from 3 to 19 to 15 to 20 miles of running.
The problem with it and the reason you do them is to get your body adjusted to using totally and completely different muscles with absolutely not break.
So your biking, your biking, your biking then you get off the bike and you have to start running and you literally look bow legged for the first mile.
It is probably one of the most painful things in the world, but you do that so that when you are doing it in a triathlon actually it’s a lot easier to make that transition.
Susan Bratton: It makes perfect sense. So the “b” is for bike. The “r’ is for run. The “ick” is for ick this is horrible and painful. I can’t believe…
Peter Shankman: That’s it exactly.
Susan Bratton: I got it. Well God bless you. So I guess you’re not running down with two dirty old bricks in your hand.
Peter Shankman: Not this time. However, check out a website called copt.com, which is a military style boot camp taught by a former Navy Seal. I have taken the class, probably, a couple dozen times and, yeah, I have run down the street not only with bricks, but with other people and with those police barricades above our heads as we’re chanting. Yeah, from 4:30 to 7:00 every morning four times a year for two weeks in a row.
Susan Bratton: Well, that’s very macho and studley. No wonder you’re the hottest male blogger.
Peter Shankman: That’s my hot blogger body right there.
Susan Bratton: I like it.
Well, listen it’s been really fun to have you on the show. Thanks for sharing all the things your working on. Actually, we didn’t even get into all the things your doing. That’s the ADD part. We can’t cover everything you’re doing because…
Peter Shankman: Oh, gee! What’s this?
Susan Bratton: Oh! It’s shiny.
Peter Shankman: I joke, but that happens. I go skydiving and I’ll be right about to the point where I am supposed to land and they’ll be, “Ok, Peter bend your knees in three, two …Oh, flowers are blooming. Boom! I’m on the ground.
Susan Bratton: Well, I hope that doesn’t happen for our sake. I hope you’re getting enough MAO inhibitor action to actually keep yourself from hitting the ground. Good luck with that, my man.
Congratulations on the fun new moniker. Like you need another one, but God bless you.
Thanks for writing the book and keeping PR stunts on the top of mind. Thanks for your fun blog. And mostly thank you for finding a new way for all of to get some press coverage at helpareporter.com.
Peter Shankman: My pleasure Susan. Thanks for having me. It was a blast.
Susan Bratton: It was great Peter.
Alright, I’m your host Susan Bratton. Thanks so much for listening today. I hope you enjoyed the ride.
Take care and I’ll see you next week.
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