Is Media Manipulation the New Media Relations

Media Manipulation – fact or fiction – a frank conversation with Ryan Holiday (@ryanholiday), author of Trust Me I’m Lying – Confessions of a Media Manipulator and Peter Shankman (@petershankman), VP, Small Business Evangelist at Vocus.

But, now the rest of the story.

Trust MeEarlier this month a relatively unknown media strategist by the name of Ryan Holiday released a book titled Trust Me I’m Lying – Confessions of a Media Manipulator.

The book has received a tremendous amount of coverage due in part to the provocative title and due largely to Holiday’s own perfectly timed manipulation stunt.

Here’s just a bit of the coverage if you want a dive deep into this topic:

In an effort to bring attention to the topic of the book Holiday abused the media service Help A Reporter Out (HARO) by pretending to be a credible source for a number of journalists looking to write stories on specific topics.

Holiday responded to hundreds of queries and lied about who he was and what he knew in an effort to get press to prove his point about the state of online journalism.

Holiday said of his tricks in an interview with Forbes:

“I knew that bloggers would print anything, so I thought, what if, as an experiment, I tried to prove that they will literally print anything? Instead of trying to get press to benefit myself, I just wanted to get any press for any reason as a joke.”

Holiday successfully duped journalists at some of the highest profile publications over a series of several months.

On Reuters, he became the poster child for “Generation Yikes.” On ABC News, he was one of a new breed of long-suffering insomniacs. At CBS, he made up an embarrassing office story, at MSNBC he pretended someone sneezed on him while working at Burger King. At, he offered helpful tips for winterizing your boat. The capstone came in the form of a New York Times piece on vinyl records.

So, was this merely a stunt put together by someone pretty good at media manipulation or does it really prove anything about otherwise ethical PR professionals and smart journalists?

“From a reporter’s perspective, it’s not hard to see how it happens,” wrote Thier. “I used HARO once, for this story. Tools like this streamline the hectic process that is blogging — were the situation different, I could see easily myself swindled by someone like Holiday.”

The predictable firestorm that ensued between Holiday and HARO founder Peter Shankman erupted in somewhat spectacular fashion with Holiday going as far as claiming that services such as HARO should be shut down, while Shankman defended the valuable service HARO provides for journalists, PR professionals and small businesses.

Holiday – Peter Shankman seems a little defensive doesn’t he? (Especially the part where he threatens to punch me in the face.) I suppose I can’t blame him. This week, I exposed HARO, the service he founded, for what it is: a cesspool of media manipulation and enabler of bad journalism.

Shankman – Let’s be clear: This idiot (Ryan Holiday, the liar,) did this for one reason, and it wasn’t anywhere NEAR as altruistic as “an experiment.” He wrote a book on how to lie and get in the media, and he was promoting it. End of story. Want more proof? You know what this guy did before he wrote this book? HE WORKED FOR TUCKER MAX, the man who’s written multiple books on how to lie to get laid. Enough said.

Okay so maybe not enough said!

Join me live today at 1:30pm ET as I moderate the first face to face discussion between Peter Shankman and Ryan Holiday since this controversy erupted.

Media Manipulation – fact or fiction – a frank conversation with Ryan Holiday (@ryanholiday), author of Trust Me I’m Lying – Confessions of a Media Manipulator and Peter Shankman (@petershankman), VP, Small Business Evangelist at Vocus.

The live Google+Hangout will also feature guest commentary from David Meerman Scott (@dmscott), author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR, Amy Cosper (@EntMagazineAmy), Editor-in-Chief, Entrepreneur magazine and Shel Holtz (@shelholtz), Principal, Holtz Communication + Technology – Live – August 1st, 1:30pm ET (GMT-4)

The event moderator is John Jantsch (@ducttape) of Duct Tape Marketing. The event will be available live on YouTube at

The Google+Hangout Live to YouTube is still pretty shaky technology so let’s hope we pull it off. The YouTube stream will also be recorded for later viewing.

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • Jonathan Trent

    Ryan’s book exposed what I think anyone that spends some time online these days should know. There are so many media outlets these days just looking for a story that they’ll accept anything you give them.

    • ducttape

      I agree Jonathan – I think he has some tremendously valid points to go with naivety.

    • Yolanda Solo

      This is true… but many ´journalists´ from established media sources are also to blame. If you find a random blog on the internet, you should take what they say with a pinch of salt and do your own research to confirm the truth of the story. What frightens me more, is that established major media distributors are also distorting news, and refusing to accept corrections in the face of evidence – something that a writers group in Spain h as faced several times, when trying to counter news stories about the country.

      Cynical power internet users will know not to believe everything you read, but I would be willing to bet that if a regular user reads something from a major news channel, they almost take it as gospel.

  • Nate Long

    Best and most entertaining panel discussion I’ve seen in a while! Great points made by each of the panelists.

    • ducttape

      Hey Thanks Nate, it helps where there’s a bit of heat and gas to start with :)

  • David Meerman Scott

    Thanks for putting the discussion together John. It was fascinating.

    • ducttape

      Really loved the thoughtful balance you brought to the conversation. It’s pretty easy to pick Ryan’s approach apart and like you I think we can learn a bunch from anything that we do.

  • Adrijus Guscia

    Wow..Peter Shankman ..not nice.. no responsibility, constant attacks on Ryan. As he mentioned Google, it does vet it’s source – that’s why they have their search engine algorithm. And it gets updated constantly to fight manipulators! HARO hides it’s head into sand.

    It’s not only Haros fault, these days anyone can start a blog and become an ‘expert’. Big sites should take care of their content not pageviews too..

    • Frank Strong

      Ardrijus, I’d point out the barb trading was pretty equal on all sides. That aside, speaking strictly from a tech and process stand point, HARO does several things:

      1. Strict rules. There are 5, break them and the user is banned.
      2. Abuse. If a reporter notifies of abuse, we take quick action.
      3. Rating system. There is an existing system in place for reporters to rate respondents. Get a good response from someone you trust? Give them a good rating and their future responses will come in higher in the console.

      • Adrijus Guscia

        I’d say Ryan Holiday was on the defensive side answering back most of the time.. HARO should have come out and said, yeah, we messed up we will fix it and do this and that. How about it only allows users with real accounts on Facebook to make sure there is no fake accounts (you can fake those too but it might be easier to spot a fake FB account).

        I can understand Shankman protecting his ‘baby’ but not running from responsibility when you can do something about it.

        • Ryan Holiday

          Frank Strong didn’t bother to disclose that he works for Vocus in his comment (which is ironic, considering their complaints about me).

  • Will Geiger

    Kudos to you Ryan for your poise and articulate discussion. The same cannot be said for Mr. Shankman–just some advice, getting defensive/ ad hominem attacks don’t help your cause.

  • Pamela Atherton

    I loved hearing D M Scott and Shel Holtz on the panel! I do think, however, that the conversation got a little too sidetracked on HARO, and missing a greater concern… the fact that there are so many outlets (professional and amateur) who do not factcheck. This is a concern that Andrew Keen has expressed for years (whether you agree with him or not, it’s an important point). We also have to be careful not to call everyone who has a blog or writes a post a journalist.

    Additionally… there are many so-called PR gurus who are encouraging every Tom, Dick and Harry to put themselves out there as an expert, but don’t explain that there are guidelines. (maybe they, themselves, don’t realize it). It’s the wild west out there right now. It takes people to point out that there are problems for things to get better. IMHO.

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  • Jeff Korhan

    I would not be surprised if this controversy helps HARO. Any PR is good PR if it sparks productive change, and this has – awareness.

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  • Michael Greeby

    +John Jantsch I am so sorry to post this, however the quality of this fascinating interview was regrettably severely overshadowed by the poor quality of the recording this week. You sounded away from your studio and Mr. Holiday sounded like he was calling from inside a coffin. Having listened to your podcasts for a while now, I know that you are pulling this all together with google hangouts, skype calls and a little duct tape. I really respect your goal and messages, but as a loyal listener, it is literally getting more and more difficult to hear your podcasts. Content is king, but the clarity of the delivery of your message is an important factor not to be overlooked.

    From what I could hear of the interview, I really liked. Please bring more, better. Thanks.

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