March 21, 2008

PR Interview: How to 'Help a Reporter Out' & Get Some Fame

SUMMARY: Are you an expert in something … anything really? Or are you a PR professional looking to get a client’s name out there? If you are, Peter Shankman needs your help with his Facebook group and a new site he has started called “If I Can Help a Reporter Out, I Will.” Through these, Shankman links reporters to sources on a variety of topics. Find out what specific areas he’s looking for.
Contact Information
Peter Shankman
601 W. 57th St.
New York, NY 10019

Shankman founded The Geek Factory Inc., a boutique marketing agency, about 10 years ago. His clients have included Yoo-hoo, Napster, The Walt Disney Co. and Web-based media and technology companies. Before starting Geek Factory, Shankman was one of the editors who helped launch AOL’s newsroom from 1992 to 1996.

It was at AOL where he learned of the annoyances that reporters face when they’re on deadline, including finding proper sources for a story. So, three months ago, he began using Facebook to create the “If I Can Help a Reporter Out, I Will” group, which links reporters to sources. Now, he is launching the Help A Reporter website with the same mission. Shankman is urging his Facebook group members to switch over to the website because once the group reaches 1,200 members, the site won’t allow him to send mass messages to them.

Shankman graduated from Boston University with a degree in journalism.

The “If I Can Help a Reporter Out” Facebook group had 1,077 members in mid-March. More than 300 journalists, some from international media outlets, have used the site to query sources for stories. Among them: writers for Glamour, Cosmo, BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal … “you name it,” Shankman says.

Examples of Queries
Reporters come to the group or website to find information and sources for just about anything. They post messages like: “I'm currently working on a story about the costs of job vacancy, i.e., the costs of leaving a job open indefinitely.” Then they ask if anyone knows someone to talk to on the topic. Some leave their email addresses to be contacted directly.

Shankman will send query emails from reporters on various topics. He asks that you promise not to waste reporters’ time. The only condition is you have to give your word that you will not email a reporter with an answer or source that doesn’t match what they’re looking for. “The only thing worse to a reporter than getting no sources is getting 300 sources, none of whom fits.”

NOTE: Shankman expects to add a form for reporters to post queries directly to the website, much like they do now in the Facebook group. Reporters who choose to send anonymous queries generally send them to Shankman via email, and he forwards the request to his subscriber list. He then forwards responses to the reporter.

Benefits for You
Your benefit? It’s free exposure. “Everyone’s really knowledgeable about at least one thing,” Shankman says. “And there’s always someone looking for that one thing about which you’re knowledgeable.”

How to Meet Shankman
Email is probably the best way to contact him. Ask for a meeting. He also attends media industry conferences and events.

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