Veteran PR expert Peter Shankman successfully monetized his good-deed-doing by founding HARO in March of 2008. HARO is a community site that links journalists with the expert sources they need for their stories. There are 30,000 journalists who have used HARO, sending out more than 3,000 queries per month to over 80,000 members.
While the service is free for subscribers and journalists, HARO makes money from ads placed in the daily emails it sends out to subscribers. In the past 12 months, the email ads have generated approximately a million dollars in revenue. Managing editor Daria Meoli spoke with New York City–based Shankman about how small businesses can get press, and misconceptions about social media.
Daria Meoli: How did you come up with the concept for HARO?
Peter Shankman: I had been helping reporters for years. Over time, more and more reporters learned that I was doing this and would call me. It got to the point where there were too many reporters asking about subjects that I didn’t know anything about. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the reporter who said, “Hey, I’m doing a story on Nigerian farming, I understand you’ve got African soil experts.”
Five hours later, I connected him with someone at USC, but it took way too much time. I thought, “There’s got to be a better way to do this.” So, I simply built a Facebook group, which was the basis for what is now HARO. Now we have 85,000 members. It’s really exciting, and it’s also very profitable.
DM: From your observations, what are some of the most common mistakes business owners make when trying to stir up this audience?
PS: I think the biggest mistake people make is they use social media as a broadcast platform, but they don’t use it to listen. Some people just post on Facebook or post on Twitter, without paying attention to what their audience is posting. The best way to use social media is to listen to what your audience is saying, and make reactions and changes based on what your audience wants.
DM: How can small businesses get more press if they cannot afford to hire a PR agency?
PS: The way to guarantee that you won’t get press is by sitting down with a reporter and saying, “Hey, you’ve got to write a story about me.” That won’t help. Call a reporter and tell them that you’ve got something that you’re knowledgeable about, or tell them if you see a trend in your industry. No one really cares what you’re doing, but a trend story that’s affecting the industry as a whole might be something interesting. I think the best advice I can give is, don’t make it about you.
For more of NY Report’s interview with Peter Shankman, read 5 More Minutes With... Peter Shankman.
Daria Meoli is the Executive Editor at The New York Enterprise Report. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org