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How To Succeed In Business: Peter Shankman’s Rules

By Molly on November 3rd, 2011

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We continue our live blogging from the Blog World & New Media Expo with a session lead by Peter Shankman, the found of Help A Reporter Out (HARO). We have been fans of Peter for years and were thrilled to have the opportunity to hear him speak.

Peter began his session by saying, “this is not a social media talk. You’ll get plenty of those this week. This is a rules for life talk.” With that introduction, we sat back and listened to the rules.

RULE: Generate Revenue

Peter talked about one of his earlier jobs at AOL and how the primary goal of his department was to keep people online and on their site as long as possible in order to generate the maximum amount of revenue. He then said, “nothing has changed, that is still the number one goal for every business – engage customers, make money.” He went on to say, “generating buzz is great, but if you’re not translating that into revenue, you’re doing something wrong.” The whole audience laughed when he said, “If you know a CEO who likes “cool” more than revenue, he/she should not be a CEO but instead the head of marketing somewhere.”

RULE: Have A Back Up Plan For When You Succeed

Peter told two stories about business ventures he started and when they became wildly popular, he wasn’t prepared. The first venture involved selling t-shirts in Times Square in New York City. People wanted to buy the t-shirts online and he had no way to make that happen. The second story he shared was about a video he created about participating in an Iron Man race (watch the hilarious video here). Lance Armstrong shared the video and only then did Peter realize he didn’t put his name, his website or his capabilities on the video. Lessons? Be prepared for consumer demand. Make a name for yourself.

RULE: Listen To Your Customers

Peter urged the audience to heed this warning, “you do not control the direction of your company, your customers do.” He went on to say that it’s critical to listen to your customers. He shared a story of a non-profit he is involved with that was mailing donors coffee table books as a thank you. He contacted them to ask how much money they spent to print and send him that book. He then advised they ask their donors how they like to receive their information. The survey revealed 94% preferred email/online to snail mail. That year the non-profit received a 35% increase in donations and saved $500,000 in printing and shipping costs. Wow!

RULE: Own Your Mistakes

Peter gave very simple advice about recovering from a mistake, error or crisis: “When you screw up, own it. Apologize to your customers, tell them how you are going to make it better and then fix it.” We know that is easier said than done, but transparency is the ultimate key.

RULE: Stay Relevant

Simply put, Peter said, “If you aren’t providing relevant, timely information to your customers, they will find it somewhere else.” Peter continued, “having an audience is a privilege, not a right, just like wearing Spandex.” Apparently that is a quote from the movie “Hackers.”

RULE: Be Brief

In the world of texting and Twitter we’re all learning the concept of brevity. If you can keep it that concise on those platforms, than you can in other forms of communication. Get right to the point.

RULE: Learn To Write

Peter spent a good deal of time talking about the importance of writing skills. If you can’t write, you can’t communicate.

RULE: Stay Top of Mind

During this section of his talk, Peter encouraged everyone in the audience to go back to their hotel tonight, log in to Facebook and contact ten people you haven’t spoken to in a while. Just say hello and ask what is going on with them. Don’t push your own agenda, just start a conversation. By staying “in the know” about what’s going on with your network, you may find great opportunities to collaborate.

RULE: Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Don’t be afraid to do things that terrify you. Peter joked, “fear has more calories than pizza.” Don’t let fear eat you, embrace it and power through it. Be daring. Be brave.

RULE: Create Brand Ambassadors

In Peter’s words, “Do stuff people will love so much they will do your PR for you.”

RULE: Acknowledge The Haters

Towards the end of the session Peter took a moment to acknowledge the haters. He said, “if you don’t have haters, you’re not shaking things up enough.” Peter went on to say that while it’s hard to have people trashing your brand, it means people are paying attention. He shared, “in the middle of the suffering and the strength is not giving up. If you’re having a bad day, email me (peter@shankman.com) and I’ll give you five reasons not to give up.”

RULE: Document Everything

Peter asked the audience how many people have a phone without a camera. Not a single hand went up. He then said, “that’s right, you all have cameras with you at all times. Document everything. You never know when your next big life moment is going to be, you’ll want to capture it.” Snap away, people!

RULE: Have Fun

In closing, Peter revisited his open comment about this being a “rules for life” talk and said, “Please don’t forget to have fun. Ideally, if you’re doing it right, there won’t be a difference between work and fun.”

Peter was a dynamic, hysterical, intelligent speaker and as we filed out of the room you could overhear countless people saying, “Wasn’t he fantastic? I feel so energized!” We’d have to agree.

Peter also offered the audience (and now you) a promotional code to receive two free months of HARO’s premium service. If you’d like to register, the code is: 2moadv56737.

Lastly, a big congratulations on Peter on his recent engagement and upcoming wedding! We’ll follow your rules any day.