So who is this Peter Shankman guy…

Last Saturday’s PRSA event in New York City featured Peter Shankman as a keynote speaker. I’d heard of Shankman before (he’s the author of Can We Do That?! Outrageous PR Stunts That Work–And Why Your Company Needs Them), but never had the pleasure of hearing him speak.

Investor’s Business Daily has described Shankman as “crazy, but effective.” Shankman defines himself as “a spectacular example of what happens when you harness the power of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and make it work to your advantage.”

Long story short, Shankman won’t everyone’s cup of tea, but his speech touched me and challenged me to redefine how I think about PR in a business setting and how I use PR tactics to develop my personal “brand” (he told us, “All [employers and clients] will know until they meet you is your personal brand”).

Shankman described effective public relations rather simply: If it works, do it again. It it doesn’t change it.

In his work, he’s been willing to try just about everything. One of the hilarious highlights of his speech was describing what he will NOT do. A tactic is considered off-limits if the news reports of the stunt contain one of the following sentences:

“Bail set at…”
“Time of death recorded at…”

and my personal favorite…
“An international incident occurred when…”

So long as that criteria is met, the idea is fair game.

Peter Shankman, public relations and social media genius
Peter Shankman, public relations and social media guru

Shankman encouraged the crowd to be different and to stand out. To paraphrase from my notes, “you need to be less than 1% better than everyone else, because everyone else is an idiot. We have been raised in a culture where the bare minimum has become acceptable.”

I don’t know how much I buy that we only need to be 1% better, but I am definitely sold on the idea of being different.

I encourage you to check out Peter Shankman’s multiple presences on the web:
The Home of Peter Shankman / Help a Reporter Out / What’s Hot on HARO / Geek Factory / Twitter


Not too long ago, Kent State University Public Relations Professor and fellow WordPress blogger Bill Sledzik also had the opportunity to see Peter Shankman speak. As you can read in his comments to this post, he doesn’t necessarily endorse Shankman’s vision. Or rather, does not find it to be revolutionary. I recommend checking out his blog entry entitled:  Are social media changing the DNA of public relations? Not one bit!

2 thoughts on “So who is this Peter Shankman guy…

  1. Hi, Melissa. And thanks for the link. Like you, I enjoyed the heck out of Peter’s presentation when I saw him. But the quote you extracted from my blog may lead readers to believe I endorse his message. I do not.

    Peter, a recognized social media leader, said nothing while in Cleveland that any enlightened PR person hasn’t been saying long before there was a World Wide Web. Peter was acknowledging (in Cleveland, at least) that relationships and credibility are the building blocks of PR. This is hardly new to those of use who’ve worked in the biz, yet he presented it as some sort of revelation in the form of “credibility is the new currency.” For PR pros, that’s a long-established axiom.

    While I do consider Peter creative and energetic — and yeah, even a little crazy — I don’t consider him to be on the cutting edge of PR practice. In fact, some of the “outrageous PR stunts” (from his book of the same name) threaten to set the serious practice of PR back 100 years. They are marketing hype, not public realtions.

    Peter is creative, and highly effective as a publicist and promoter. But the jury is out as to whether he’s a PR professional. His talk in Cleveland, at least, tells me that maybe he’s coming around.

    • Thanks for your feedback! I really enjoyed your blog on his speech, I’ll look through again and see if I can find a quote that better conveys your opinions. I think as a young professional, it’s easy to get caught up in what a fun, energetic speaker has to say. It’s easy to make the assumption that because you laugh and because you have a good time that what is said must be true (and going through tweets and blogs of those who were at the PRSA event, it seems most really latched on to Shankman’s ideas).

      I admit–I drank the kool-aid. I came across your blog after I had finished most of mine, which may account for a change of pace. I thought your entry provided excellent expert insight onto how what was being said may not be as revolutionary as Shankman says.

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