Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Sky's The Limit: Lunch with a PR & Entrepreneurial Legend

One of my most heartfelt mantras is one which I inherited from my beloved late mom. Have all the fun you possibly can, she once said, it’s all we take with us when we go.

My mother exemplified what it means to have a never-ending zest for life. Today, my job acquainted me with someone of a similar mindset -- legendary public relations and marketing guru, certified skydiver and all-around mensch Peter Shankman.

Peter stopped by Quinn & Co. for lunch, delighting me and my colleagues with his passion for PR, skydiving and thinking outside the box. He’s made a career out of the latter. In addition to founding the in-flight social networking site and creating a T-shirt that put the “Titanic” movie phenomenon in perspective (“It sank…get over it”), Peter has launched Help A Reporter Out (HARO).

HARO ( is an online resource connecting reporters with publicists. In a matter of months, HARO membership has grown from 600 to 23,000. Not surprisingly, HARO is crushing its competitors because of Peter’s fresh approach to the world of information, one that starts with serving the greater good.

As he spoke of this intention, his words struck a chord. Having worked both sides of the media fence -- starting out as a TV journalist before moving into PR -- I’ve come to disagree with the popular notion that the relationship between publicists and members of the media has to be an adversarial one. It was refreshing to hear an industry veteran go one step further by saying that whenever you help someone, everyone benefits.

Peter spoke a lot about dreaming big and the only limitations being the ones we place on ourselves. As an example, he shared his creative approach to job hunting after getting laid off from America Online years ago.

Dressed in a suit on a bitterly cold winter day, Peter wore a sandwich board with his resume and handed out hundreds of copies. The stunt landed him more than just a cold -- he received 479 phone calls and 30 job offers.

“Don’t be afraid to different,” he said, “It’s so much more fun.”

I couldn’t agree more - though I’m still not sure about skydiving.

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