Peter Shankman and HARO Have a PR Problem 9


By Kyle Austin

Peter Shankman, the creator of the much talked about HARO (Help A Reporter Out) service has been a feel good media story. Guy starts a free service to help reporters find sources. Guy sends the list to PR folks for free so they can get their clients mentioned as sources. Guy grows the list on his own to over 23,000 to compete with paid service from Profnet. Guy signs on advertisers to keep it free for users and gets “way over $100 CPM’s,” as advertisers reach a very targeted group. Everybody wins. What’s not to love about this story? Capitalism at its very best.

Unfortunately, fairy tales don’t usually last forever.

This morning while scanning some Twitter updates my colleague stumbled across this:

and then this:

My first thought – Maybe Hamilton Nolan is right and this is some sort of cult. Folks what are we thinking? I realize Peter does use shock value, he did agree to get tasered after all. But his use of the word “lynching” and all the connotations that come with the word is totally uncalled for and wrong. Now I obviously don’t know the race of the PR person that he is referring to and despite our name, we don’t usually get into racial discussions on our blog. If the PR person happens to be white – then perhaps it’s nothing more then an egregious error in judgement. If the PR person happens to black his use of the word is unconscionable. Either way, the use of the word that brings back images of one of the most despicable acts in our Nation’s history is wrong.

There’s obviously some comparisons that can be made here to the recent incident involving Golf Channel host Kelly Tilghman and her use of the word “lynch” in referring to Tiger Woods. Her use of the word in context was “young players who wanted to challenge Tiger Woods should lynch him in a back alley.” Tiger’s race, being an issue on the tour since he first set foot on it, made the remark a punishable offense and the network rightly suspended her for two weeks.

Since I started this post Shankman has updated his Twitter feed and let everyone know that the PR person has sent him a heartfelt apology:

At the very least Shankman owes everyone a heartfelt apology of his own for the consistent use of the word.


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9 thoughts on “Peter Shankman and HARO Have a PR Problem

  • peter shankman

    If you were in any way offended by the use of the term “lynchingl in what anyone can see was a humorous context, then I apologize for offending you. It is worth noting that out of the thousands of followers I have on Twitter, many of whom replied both publicly and privately, you were the only one who seemed to read more into my comment for anything other than the humorous comment that it was.

  • HARO Subscriber

    1. Perhaps Peter was using “lynching” as short for “lynchpin,” which is “a basic element that is crucial to a complex structure.” The key to HARO’s success is the trust that media and PR folks develop with one another. Therefore, if people betray that trust, they are attempting to dismantle HARO. The only solution is disclose the person’s name and call attention to that fragile support, or to “lynchpin” them.

    2. How dare you assume that anyone would KNOW the race of the person emailing reporters? Unless that person included a photo, it would be incredibly stereotypical — and RACIST — for this website to presume the ethnic background of the writer based solely on the person’s name or writing style.

    3. Perhaps — and this is most important — you might look at the not-so-subtle constructs of your OWN offensive language.

    a. Paragraph 2: “fairy tales.” In this day and age, casting aspersion on gays and lesbians is no longer trendy. Perhaps you should reconsider your choice to label something fictional as something related to a “fairy.”

    b. Paragraph 4: “some sort of cult.” Considering the hundreds of people who died in Waco or at the hands of Jim Jones’ “Kool-Aid cult,” you might want to have a little more sensitivity than to make a joke at the expense of the deaths of these innocent people.

    c. Paragraph 4: “an egregrious error.” The etymology of the word “egregious” is from the Latin, meaning “to rise above the herd or flock.” Are you calling your readers nothing but sheep or animals, without any consciousness of their own?

    d. Paragraph 4: “PR person happens to be black.” I believe the proper term is “African-American,” so as to not reduce a person’s identity to the color of his/her skin.

    e. Paragraph 5: “the network rightly suspended her.” Surely you meant to write “correctly,” instead of “rightly.” This nation currently is torn apart as never before, with people falling into polarized “red” vs. “blue” lines, Democrats vs. Republicans, etc. Are you trying to indoctrinate your readers with right-wing politics through the use of this phrase? Why “rightly” instead of “justly?” The proselytizing of a right-wing agenda clearly has no place in this context, so why include it?

  • Lynn - HARO subscriber

    I don’t know what Peter Shankman’s problem is but he is defaming, libeling and trying to destroy people’s businesses. Just today he did it with is newsletters …Peter watch out for karma…

    I took out the name of the person Peter named:

    “So… Here’s my thinking. Tell me if I’m crazy or not. Y’all know that HARO puts together reporters searching for sources. And y’all know that occasionally, some people will try to take advantage of the list, and use it for evil purposes, right?

    So it makes sense that when they try that, they’re sort of “gambling,” right? So if I catch them, like I did with Scott at (website deleted) and then I tell everyone that his “media outlet” is nothing more than him trying to scam and make money, and isn’t really a media outlet at all, then the “he’s evil, don’t do business with him” is what he gets for the gamble, right? Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Nature of the beast, right? Looks like Scott lost. Stay away from anything having to do with Scott or his lame attempt to get people to give him information for free.”

    This is really low. If Peter had any scruples, he would discuss the matter with Scott rather than trying to destroy him and his business and i still don’t know what this guy Scott did. Shame on you Peter.

  • Lisa

    Who wrote the second comment saying “lynching is short for lynchpin”? Was that Shankman in disguise? Everyone that speaks English knows that lynching isn’t short for lynchpin; shankman said it twice above in the snapshots of twitter – “we are going to have a lynching tonite” – “lynching avoided” and he used them to say we are goign to hurt & punish these people – that’s not the same as sayign the “lynchpin of the argument is blah blah blah” . Haro people are like groupies who suck up to Shankman in the hope of getting more free press from him and refuse to admit that “lynching’ is a racial term, a racially charged term that refers to takign blacks out and hanging them publicly. get real “haro subscriber’ and stop suckin up to shankman, unless you are him…

    and doesn’t matter how you cut it “haro subscriber” with your pseudo intellectual and grammatical or style arguments, Shankman was wrong. how much did he pay you to write that trash above or maybe you gave him a gift so that he could mention you on his daily newsletter…

  • Kyle Austin Post author

    @ Lisa – I never took the time to respond to “HARO Subscriber,” becuase I figured it must be some sort of HARO joke that was way-over-my-head.

  • Jim Stevens

    Finally, someone calling out Shankman’s backroom antics.

    Criticize him and he’ll ban you from his service

    Criticize him and he’ll send you scathing e-mails (although he talks about “Karma” all the time).

    Start a competing service and he’ll send you scathing e-mails to you and everyone he knows with veiled and completely unveiled threats.

    Criticize him and he’ll have his “henchman” post all over your blog (including people on his payroll)

    He is a jerk, a top-shelf jerk not only from my personal accounts but from MANY others.

    People in the industry are scared to speak bad about him for the above reasons, but there have been a “brave few” and I commend them.

    He hit a BIG winner in HARO and kudos on that, but now that he has gained power, he abuses it (like the above calling out).

    His karma is going to come (and the funny part is he thinks he has “good” karma).

  • Marjorie

    i totally agree with comment #8. The only thing Shankman excels at is being a hot-headed fool.Let Karma take charge.