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Stop Trying to Make Your Customers Smarter!

Waiting for a flight home from Bangkok the other week, I found myself leaving the lounge at the same time as a lovely elderly woman from Chicago. She was headed home, after being part of a two-week group tour around Thailand.

Zombie LoyalistsWe struck up a conversation (of course we did, dear reader, do you not know me? I talk to EVERYONE!) – Anyhow, as I offered to carry her bag to the gate, we compared seats – She was sitting two seats in front of me, and she showed me her ticket. I told her that mine was on my phone, and she commented about how until she got to the airport, she was afraid that her ticket would be digital, but she didn’t have a phone that worked in Thailand, and there was a part of her that didn’t think she’d be able to get on the flight.

Fortunately, when she got to the airport, she checked in, and by showing her passport, was given paper tickets that would get her all the way home. That there was a strapping young gentleman like myself available to carry her bags was a bonus. ?

So why do I bring this up? Because sometimes, in our rush to embrace the latest and greatest in technology, we occasionally forget about some of our core customers – or at the very least, leave them worried.

Fortunately, United didn’t do that, and when my new friend checked in, her fears were immediately put to rest. But can you say the same thing about every one of your customers?

At the end of the day, we’re beholden to our customers – Not the other way around. It might be nice to adopt the latest mobile technology – But hey – If you have a customer who paid like, $11,000 for a round-trip ticket on your airline, you damn well better offer her the options that she wants. United did that. Does your company?

Want customers who will do your PR for you? Customers who will tell the world how great you are, and bring you future customers? Don’t forget customers like my new friend Rita – Who despite being eighty-one years old and traveling on her own, still prefers the paper ticket.

Want to learn how to get customers like that? Well, my new book on customer service, aptly named Zombie Loyalists, drops on January 27th, 2015. But buy it now by going to zombieloyalists.com, and you can get a whole bunch of cool gifts. Because that’s what Zombie Loyalists deserve.

An author, entrepreneur, speaker, and connector, Peter Shankman is recognized worldwide for radically new ways of thinking about customer service, social media, PR, marketing and advertising. He blogs at Shankman.com & tweets random hilarity at @petershankman

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 Manitouboats.com, 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 http://www.youtube.com/ducttapemarketing

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.

Has Social Media Changed Customer Service?

Marketing podcast with Peter Shankman (Click to play or right click and “Save As” to download – Subscribe now via iTunes or subscribe via other RSS device (Google Listen)

Custom ServiceMy guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Peter Shankman. Many of you may know him for his great Help A Reporter Out, (HARO) tool, which he sold recently to Vocus.

In addition to HARO, Peter is the founder and CEO of The Geek Factory, Inc., a boutique Marketing and PR Strategy firm located in New York City, and author of several books, including Customer Service: New Rules for a Social Media World

The adoption of social media on every level of business has certainly changed how we serve customers and created opportunities for those that choose to take advantage.

In this session we talk about ways to:

  • Choose online media that make the most sense for you
  • Avoid wasting time with platforms that won’t help you
  • Earn your customer’s loyalty, trust, and credibility
  • Learn from other companies’ viral “disasters”
  • Rebuild your credibility after you’ve taken a public “hit” online

So, how has social media changed customer service as a customer and a business?

You can listen to the show by subscribing the feed in iTunes or a variety of other free services such as Google Listen (Use this RSS feed) or you can buy the Duct Tape Marketing iPhone app. (iTunes link – Cost is $2.99) or

Content as a Referral Source

(HARO)I wrote recently about a great new service called Help a Reporter Out (HARO) – this service, founded by PR Geek Peter Shankman, matches journalists on a story with expert sources. Anyone can sign up to get the three daily emails full of stories just waiting for you to contribute to.

Peter’s enthusiasm and New York pace shine through on this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. (Although admittedly I had a microphone issue on this recording and Peter’s voice is a bit muffled) This is a great free tool and every small business should subscribe.

And, here’s a killer referral and networking tip. Subscribe to and read the HARO emails with two hats on. One, look for stories you could add to and two, scan through the queries thinking about any of your customers, partners, suppliers or prospects that could be offered up as resources to a journalist. If you would take 5 minutes a day sending off appropriate story ideas to your network, the referral tap will open in your direction in a matter of a few short weeks.

Remember, referrals are about trust and relationship building and nothing does that faster than showing you are thinking of others and trying to find ways to help them get what they want to succeed.

AT&TThis episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast is brought to you by att.com/onwardsmallbiz. Resources for the small business owner.

Help a Reporter Out (HARO)

The title of this post is the name of a great free service. Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is the brain-child of East Coast PR pro Peter Shankman. (I did a podcast with Peter that I will publish shortly, but I wanted you to know about this resource right away.)

HARO started out as a Facebook group as a way to keep track of journalist’s looking for a particular expert for a story. The free service, that essentially hooks journalists up with credible sources to interview, grew rapidly and needed a home off Facebook to manage the size. As of this writing HARO is approaching 20,000 members. Hey, it’s free and its works, no surprise it grew.

Journalists go online fill out a form and their request gets added to the three time daily email distribution to members. As a member, If you see a story that you could contribute to, your simply reply directly to the query. A word to the wise, replying off topic may get you kicked off the list. Quality over quantity is what works here.

So, If your looking to promote your business sign up here. Get in the habit of scanning the daily emails quickly and see if any stories jump out at you. Keep your replies brief and to the point. Journalists love trends and ideas backed up with data, so add that as well as a pre-written paragraph of what makes you an exert.

If you’re a journalist and want to start putting your story ideas out for comment, experts or even research, sign up here. Keep in mind this includes podcasters looking for guests, bloggers doing research for a post, authors needing experts and case studies for a book, as well as journalists writing a story for a major daily.

Many people may be familiar with a similar service from industry giant PRNewswire called ProfNet. ProfNet offers a good service, but is simply too expensive for the typical small business to justify.

This may end up with a little David vs. Goliath story line as I’ve been told some folks at ProNet aren’t too happy with HARO.