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Wednesday, 18 April 2012 08:54

Q&A: Peter Shankman

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Many a journalist on deadline has turned to the online service Help A Reporter Out, which matches reporters with PR professionals for potential sources for their articles. They have Peter Shankman to thank for it. As an author, entrepreneur and communicator, Shankman is an expert source on social media, public relations, marketing and advertising. He will be in Grand Rapids April 25 to deliver a keynote address, “The next revolution will be in your pocket,” to the West Michigan Public Relations Society of America. Shankman has served as an adviser to many international companies, including Holland-based office furniture manufacturer Haworth. He spoke with MiBiz for a fast-paced interview.


Why will the next revolution be in your pocket, as the title of your talk suggests?

We’re at a point right now where everything is in immediate demand. When something happens, there can be an immediate revolution. Look at Google glasses: You can tap the glasses (take a picture) and say, ‘Tweet this.’

What will that immediate communication mean for companies?

Every customer is a journalist, so you need to look at how that affects what you do for a living. Now, more than ever, it’s about customer service.

Wait, I thought all the social media experts are saying it’s about updating your status and engaging with clients. What is the role of social media?

Social media is part of the issue. The big issue is marketing, which includes social media, advertising and PR. What’s more important is that your customer service is up to (par), that your customers are blown away by the value they’ve been given. They’ll do your PR for you. Your job is to give amazing customer service and your customers will do your PR job for you.

What does that mean for PR professionals?

Look at every person in the world with a camera phone. They all have the ability to say what they want. Let them do the kind of PR you can’t get from a PR person. (When a customer or a PR person) tells you how great you are, who will you believe?

What should companies know about so-called social media experts?

Less than 2 percent are effective.

In that case, how can businesses protect themselves, given 98 percent of the experts are a rip-off, using your math?

Sit them down and ask them: Can you tell me exactly what you’ve done to create additional revenue for the clients you have? That’s the easy way to get rid of social media experts. Tell me what you’ve done and the steps you’ve taken.

What’s your best advice to companies about social media?

Companies need to be smart about the industry. They can do most of it themselves. When you’re hiring someone, know exactly what you’re getting out of them. No one will be as passionate about your company as you are. When you’re hiring someone and you expect them to be as passionate as you are, it’s a mistake.

Business people used to join various professional organizations because the groups held events and gave people the opportunity to network with others who might need their product or service. You write a lot about reinventing the art of networking. Is that approach relevant anymore?

Networking is something you need to be doing 24 hours a day. If you’re only networking at an event, you’re wasting your time. Everyone you meet is a potential customer and client. The best way for you to network is to figure out how you can help everyone you meet.

You also talk about mixing creativity with adventure, but a lot of people in business seemed to have this flight to safety, especially in the recession. What’s your advice for them?

Nothing good ever comes from your comfort zone. You’ll never reach great things by staying in your comfort zone.

Tell me about one of your most effective projects?

I’m working with one of the major hotel chains in Vegas. I told them to look online and find out who is talking about the chain and reach out to them – to the upcoming visitors – and when they check in, give them VIP access or a food plate. Give them something. I got to see a spectacular email. It said, “Thank you for reaching out like that. I’m producing a conference and I need 300 rooms. I’m definitely coming back to you.” All it cost was $30 for a food plate. It’s always the little things.

Haworth brought you to West Michigan before, right?

I think they were the reason for the first time I came out there. But when you’re flying out there on a private jet, it’s a bit of a different experience. I love traveling, so I think every town has tremendous pluses. You just have to look and find the things you like.

What would you do differently?

I think I would have taken (time to understand) leaders. If you don’t have leaders, you can’t change the status quo.

Read 1726 times Last modified on Thursday, 09 August 2012 16:19

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