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I’m writing this today from a hotel room in Park City, Utah. One year ago, I wrote this blog post from a hotel room in Los Angeles, California. It talked about how my little Facebook group, called “If I Can Help A Reporter Out, I Will,” blew through 1,200 members, and I had to move it to a web site of its own. With the help of Adam Boettiger, www.helpareporter.com launched with it’s first query from the Chicago Tribune on March 20th, 2008. I think I said something like “hey guys, a Chicago Tribune reporter needs some help.”
If I’d known what that one post was going to do, I probably would have wrote something a little more profound as my opening sentence.
Here we are, one year later. We’ve posted close to 25,000 queries, to almost 70,000 sources, from over 10,000 journalists around the world. HARO has been mentioned in over 500 blog posts or articles in newspapers, and magazines. We’ve been featured on Good Morning America. And most importantly by far, we’ve connected thousands and thousands of sources to journalists that otherwise would not have gotten the media attention they deserve, while making thousands of journalists’ lives easier.
It’s been a pretty insane year… A year ago, I was running a PR firm with clients all over the world, as I’d been doing for ten years. I’d just sold AirTroductions, and was working hard, but not too hard. I enjoyed the work, and HARO was a thought that popped up one day when I was trying to figure out how to help a reporter who called me on deadline. That’s how these things happen, you know. I never, ever imagined it would be this big. Ever. Ever.
A year later… 75% of my time is spent traveling, for speaking engagements, teaching companies about social media, and attending conferences. I’m consistently amazed to find myself mentioned alongside names like Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Pete Cashmore, who I met in the first photo below. Hey, when you’re both on a calendar it’s good to meet.
The people I’ve met and things I’ve been fortunate enough to do over the past year have all been so amazingly cool – Hearing people’s stories about how they use HARO, listening to them tell me how to improve it, racing with them, eating with them, and generally being goofy with them has been truly, truly amazing.
This past July, I realized I was in over my head, and I found Meagan. She proceeded to put my life in some sort of order, and things are much more logical now. Then in November, I brought Michael on board, to help edit the HARO. Meagan and Mike are the two best decisions I ever made for HARO.
It’s been an amazing ride. If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be where I am, or HARO would be where it is, today, I’d have thought you were crazy. That I’d be a “social media innovator?” That I’d be topping lists of lead sources in PR?” Come on! I was just a guy in NYC with two overweight cats!
Now I’m being invited to Park City, Utah, to the Olympic Stadium, to ride a Bobsled and experience 5.5 G’s? (Thanks, @olyparks!)
And being taken to NASA (who’s now a client) and interviewing astronauts in the Space Shuttle Mock-up?
And being given enough free Hardee’s coupons to guarantee I never have to be burgerless again.
But that’s how these things happen, I guess. And for what it’s worth, it hasn’t all been perfect. There have been problems, both personal and professional that have crept up along the way. But that’s what happens. You figure out how to fix them. Some require more fixing than others, some are unfixable. And you find that the best way to deal is to work the problem, find the solution, and learn something from the experience. If you can do that, then the problem or failure was worth it. I’ve said it before: Failure is great, because it forces you to examine what you’re doing.
In the end, I took a risk on something, and I’m thankful every day that I did. I’m very, very fortunate. But I think Abraham Lincoln said it best: “I believe in luck. And I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”
Keep in mind, HARO wouldn’t be at ALL what it is today without the help and loyalty of each and every HARO Advertiser. As of next week, there’ll be a massive HARO Advertiser List, so you can find exactly what HARO Advertiser you were thinking of! Cool, huh? Thank you each and every HARO Advertiser.
And of course, in the end, it comes down to you. Every day, you let me into your inboxes – three times a day, in fact! The trust that you place on me with that allowance is immeasurable – and for that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
So let’s look onward to the future! I’m bringing on brilliant people – I’m growing HARO. If where we are now vs. one year ago is any indication, where we’ll be one year from now isn’t even imaginable. Multiple lists? Geographic targeting? “Finished story banks?” To quote a random Navy Seal in “The Rock,” “This motha’s gonna blow big.” I’d add, even bigger than it has already.
So thanks for being here. And stick around.
-Peter ShankmanMarch 20th, 2009