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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Self Promotion Peter Shankman Style - Did we learn it all in Kindergarten?

While it has a bit of reputation for delivering more on the party scene than on useful panel presentations, there are a few SXSW Interactive presentations that stand out from the crowd. I didn't attend the conference, but I did take some time to watch the video of Peter Shankman's presentation, "Why Self Promotion Will Save The World." Among the plethora of panelists and participants in the interactive space who tend to leave a bad taste in my mouth with all of their "self promotion," Shankman seems to have mastered the art.

If you are reading this blog, there's a good chance that you're familiar with Shankman, who in PR circles is widely appreciated (and well-known) for founding Help A Reporter Out - a service that connects PR professionals to sources looking for content. Throughout his career - from AOL online news editor to Marketing and PR firm CEO, Shankman has developed his personal brand through the simple craft of self-promotion done well.

"Good PR is getting people to do it for you," says Shankman. And, certainly, he has mastered this feat. (His panel idea for SXSW received enough votes in only two days to be added to the slate and was one of the top ranking suggestions among all of the interactive panels.)

Shankman's arsenal for self-promotion is guided by basic principles --

  • Be transparent. No one likes a person they can't trust or believe in. But if you can build these, people will feel good about talking about you or your brand.
  • Be relevant to the audience. Give them what they need, when they need it.
  • Be conversational. Talk to people. Build relationships. And don't "tag" those conversations with a self-promotional link or "buy my book" language. Just tell them to have a good day or wish them a happy birthday (when appropriate, of course.)
  • Be thankful. The words "thank you" go a long way to letting people know that they are appreciated and will naturally make them want to come back for more.
Seems simple, right? In fact, I can't help but think of the book, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten." Shankman doesn't deny for one moment that HARO is a self-promotional tool. Do the thousands of people who receive this self-promotional email three times per day complain? No. Why? Because it is relevant, helpful and transparent.

"When self promotion is done right, it's not self promotion ... It's helpful," Shaknman says. "Self promotion is getting what you want, by giving everyone else what they want."

And, Shankman walks the walk. Not just via HARO, but all of the time.

About a year ago, our firm was having some Photoshop issues and needed to transpose an image, and we tweeted about it. Shankman responded. Fixed the image, and sent it back. He didn't promote his business or another. He didn't send us a link to some blog post about how to do what we needed. He, quite simply, just did us a favor. It was helpful. Kind. Relevant.

In another instance, when a teleconference that he was conducting had technical issues that required him to postpone and reschedule, he fixed it with class. Didn't place blame. Didn't offer excuses. He then did something that's rare in business today -- he said, "I'm sorry." It doesn't get much more transparent than that.


Companies focused on the next sale will continue to struggle to develop this art of promotion. It's our job to help clients to understand that self promotion begins not with "I" but with "You," - not only in the messages we craft, but in practice. It's not rocket science. Like I said earlier, this is stuff we learned in Kindergarten, right?


Kary Delaria is vice president of PR and CLO (chief listening officer) at Kane Consulting, a social media marketing and PR firm that specializes in research, strategy and measurement/monitoring in addition to producing events and providing training in these areas.