It’s not Web 2.0. It’s not Web 3.0. It’s Simply Life.

I had the opportunity this week to attend a presentation given by Peter Shankman, infamous in public relations circles for founding Help A Reporter Out (HARO), a service that in under a year became the de-facto standard for thousands of journalists looking for sources on deadline.

Investor’s Business Daily has called Shankman “crazy, but effective” – and after listening to him speak for an hour and a half, I have to agree.  I was quickly immersed in his rapid-fire, sometimes tangential, lecture on how HARO was built largely through social media, even before “social media” became “social media.”

When HARO launched in early 2008, it quickly became one of the most successful word-of-mouth programs ever, attracting more than 75,000 members without spending a penny on advertising.

Shankman credits HARO’s enormous success to four basic, yet powerful rules that I think are worth sharing:

1.     Complete and Utter Transparency

According to Shankman, the beauty of social and viral technology is that it allows us to reach thousands of people in nanoseconds. The danger of it? The exact same thing.

In today’s world of real-time Twitter and Facebook updates, blog posts and text messages, it has never been easier to ruin someone’s, or some company’s, day by talking about how they messed up or provided a bad service. Remember how Enron’s downfall began with one Forbes article? Just imagine if Enron happened today.

The bottom line is that you will never NOT mess up. To quote Shankman, “Transparency is the new black.” Just admit it and move on, Obama-style (hint: think Tom Daschle).

2.     Be Relevant

HARO’s average e-mail open rate is 85 percent. Anyone who has ever used a Constant Contact-type service for their company or for a client knows that this is impressive – and almost impossible. So what’s his secret?

I get a TON of e-mails every day – five or six of them being HARO updates. Yet I’ve never NOT opened one. Why? I regularly find media opportunities for my clients, my company, and on occasion, even my friends. His information is relevant to me. 

What a great reminder, as I engage with my clients, co-workers and media contacts, that relevance equals value, and ultimately, stronger, longer-lasting relationships.

3.     Never Underestimate the Power of Getting up Early

Shankman isn’t known for “redefining the art of networking” for nothing. Every morning, he wakes up at 5:00 a.m. and sends personalized messages to each of his HARO Facebook friends celebrating their birthday that particular day. And there are a lot of them.

Maybe advertising and public relations used to be about telling people how awesome you were. Today, it’s so not about that. It’s all about getting others to do it for you.

As a communicator, it’s my call. Am I genuinely engaging with my audience without always requiring something in return?  A phone call, an e-mail or even a hand-written note (crazy, I know), goes a long way.

4.     Keep it Short and Sweet

Unlike this blog post (oops), brevity is best. As a society, we’re embracing bite-sized messages. In fact, the average attention span of a person today is 2.7 seconds – or roughly 140 characters. So, how can I get an audience to pay attention to me? Simple. I must learn how to write for an A.D.D. world, be compelling and keep it short.

That being said, I’ve blown way past my 140-character limit. So thanks to those who’ve read to the end. I hope some of this sticks.  It did with me. Thanks for the reminder, Peter.

 — Posted by Jill Newberry

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3 Responses to “It’s not Web 2.0. It’s not Web 3.0. It’s Simply Life.”


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  3. 3 Bart May 2, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    That is a good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.
    Simple but very accurate info… Appreciate your sharing this one.

    A must read post!


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