Peter Shankman Leaves Vocus and HARO Behind

Consultant/speaker/PR expert Peter Shankman has announced that he will no longer be associated with journalist-to-source matching service HARO (Help a Reporter Out), which he created less than five years ago. He will leave Vocus (NASDAQ: VOCS)–the company that acquired HARO in 2010–at the end of March.

According to an email to PRNewser, Shankman will continue his speaking schedule–he will be “doing some high-level consulting on some major brands in the customer service/marketing arena” as he awaits the birth of his first child and prepares for the coming launch of his third book, Nice Companies Finish First.

To review: like all good publicists who understand relationship equity, Shankman often helped journalists find sources even when he had no dog in the fight. As Facebook attained liftoff in 2008, Shankman created a group to help journalists crowdsource their needs by submitting queries for PR pros to refer them to experts on given topics. It was similar to the older, staid Profnet, but it was free–and Shankman employed his Karmic rules to keep the desperate, spammy flacks away from his media subscribers.

HARO quickly outgrew Facebook’s ceiling at the time, and Shankman adjusted, moving the membership to a sign-up site and ostensibly turning his network into a business.

The current service is very similar to what it was then: periodic email blasts with queries grouped in areas like High Tech, Education, Business and Finance, and Biotech and Healthcare. Each blast includes a paid, refreshingly image-free ad on top and reaches north of 200,000 users.

Though this is mostly a good thing, we still think there are questions about the journalist-to-source matching game unless it sticks to the most innocuous lifestyle subjects. Serious topics need to be left undercover from those 200,000 extremely chatty social networkers, even if the sources behind the queries are cloaked. To wit, Ryan Holiday’s gaming of HARO didn’t so much call HARO in to question as it did expose cracks in the 4th estate’s wall. The flap last summer was probably to the betterment of HARO, despite Shankman’s overcooked response.

Shankman’s deals, brawls & spats (1, 2, 3, etc.) and stunts have been a mainstay at this blog for almost its entire lifespan, and I’m sure will continue to be in the future. We look forward to them. Good luck to you, Peter.

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