Small-business Expert Interview: Peter Shankman, Founder of Help A Reporter Out

DollarDays Blog is pleased to share the expertise of Peter Shankman, founder of Help A Reporter Out (HARO).

DollarDays Blog (DDB): Please tell us a little about yourself and HARO.

Peter Shankman: Since I founded HARO in 2008, it has become one of the fastest-growing social media companies in North America. Every day, HARO brings nearly 30,000 bloggers, reporters and journalists—over 80,000 news sources and thousands of small businesses—together to tell their stories, promote their brands, and sell their products and services.

Since its inception, HARO has published more than 60,000 journalist queries, facilitated nearly 7,000,000 media pitches, and marketed and promoted over 2,500 brands to the media, small businesses and consumers.

HARO is entirely free to sources and journalists. Unlike a majority of social media companies, HARO is independently owned and funded and has been profitable since day one. HARO’s tagline, “Everyone is an Expert at Something,” proves over and over again to be true, as thousands of new members join at each week.

Beyond HARO, I would describe myself as an entrepreneur, author, speaker and worldwide connector. In addition to HARO, I am founder and CEO of The Geek Factory, Inc., a boutique marketing and PR strategy firm located in New York City with clients worldwide.

DDB: It sounds like HARO is meant mainly for reporters. What are the advantages for small-business owners?

Shankman: HARO provides small- to midsized businesses with 75% to 80% open rates on the ads that headline each of its thrice-daily email digests containing reporter queries. HARO also helps many small businesses directly market to their key audiences and make money. Everyone who receives the HARO newsletter must opt in, meaning they choose to receive the e-mail. The advertising messages are custom written either by [myself] or by a HARO family member and present the product or service in a fun and positive light that highlights its importance and utility. Furthermore, since HARO is a digital newsletter, hyperlinks are directly embedded within the message.

DDB:How can media exposure help a small business? Do you have any success story examples from your clients?

Shankman: Media exposure pushes a product or service into the spotlight, instantly gaining consumer focus and attention. The best way to demonstrate HARO’s success is […] by citing the successes of our users.

For example, Michael Jordan, owner of, called the response to his ad “overwhelming” and noted that he received about a 2,000% increase in website hits the afternoon his ad appeared and into the next day. Not only was HARO the most successful advertising venue Mr. Jordan had tried, he’s also used HARO to achieve additional visibility by getting quoted in a book and major publications simply by responding to HARO queries.

Another HARO user, Jason Sadler, has called his HARO ad the “tipping point” for his website, Sadler said his first ad helped him sell two- to three-months’ worth of shirts in days, moving $8,000 worth of merchandise and generating “a ton” of press exposure.

DDB:Since HARO is itself a small business, what are some of the decisions you’ve made that enable HARO to compete with larger players?

Shankman: HARO was originally conceived as a Facebook group. Since Facebook caps group emails at 1,200 people, an e-mail newsletter was started. As HARO’s readership grew, HARO realized that there was great potential to include a simple, subtle and creative ad at the top of each message. As a small business of its own (HARO has only six full-time staff members), HARO has generated $1.4 million in revenue in 14 months. By utilizing technology and automatic distribution services, HARO is able to keep its overhead low while, at the same time, continually offering high yield ROI on its ads.

DDB: What are some of the best decisions you’ve made as a small-business owner?

Shankman: Hired people whose skills complement my own, listened to people I trust [and] ignored the naysayers I didn’t, believed in my idea, [and] listened to my customers and audience—[c]onstantly.

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