Peter Shankman’s HERO revives connecting journalists, sources

After the sunset of HARO, Shankman started a new venture with a familiar premise.

HERO stands for Help Every Reporter Out

When Peter Shankman founded Help a Reporter Out (HARO) in 2007, he had a simple concept: connect reporters on deadlines with sources who could, well, help them out.

It quickly grew into a thriving, ad-supported email that helped countless reporters and PR pros collaborate on stories.

“Back in the day, there was a bakery two seconds from bankruptcy in the Midwest somewhere,” Shankman recalled. “And they answered a query that went up in the Wall Street Journal, and it saved their company.”

Shankman sold HARO to Vocus in 2010, which in turn was acquired by Cision. Earlier this year, Cision folded the classic HARO into Connectively, a web-based tool. Cision did not respond to a request for comment about changes to the product.

After the last HARO email went out, Shankman sent his own email list.

“It’s a bummer, raise a glass and say goodbye to what it was,” he said of the email.



He never anticipated receiving more than 2,000 replies, many of them urging him to bring back HARO in his own style.

Then his fate was sealed when his girlfriend came up with the perfect name: HERO, or Help Every Reporter Out.

“I’ll never forgive her for this,” he joked.

Shankman wants you to know that he never wanted to revive HARO. “On the premise that you can’t go home again,” he said wistfully.

But he has indeed gone home. He’s relaunched his daily emails under the HERO banner. In just one week, he’s gained 16,000 subscribers.

He attributes that success to both the simplicity of the idea — “email is the killer app and always has been” — and the trust that his audience has in him.

“People know me well enough or trust me to know that I’m not going to start charging,” Shankman said.  “I’m not going to start calling you 10 times a day and ask you to buy other services. I’m not. I’m just sending an email. And that’s all I’ve ever done.”

If people feel inclined to help, he does request donations to Best Friends Animal Society or The NYC Mayor’s Alliance for Animals. But for all practical intents and purposes, HERO is free.

But Shankman said he has already received several sponsorship offers. And he’ll probably take them.

When asked if he’d ever sell HERO, as he did HARO before, he jokes: “possibly, yes. This will be a cycle for next 30 years.”

But growing more serious, he said he’s learned a lot in the 14 years since he sold HARO.

“At this point, the attraction of selling a company for the sake of selling a company making a few bucks isn’t as strong,” he said. But if the right buyer does come along, he wants it to be one that has a place for him to join and grow.

But he does have plans for the future. He’s currently working on tools to limit people who might exploit HERO to get free products while preserving access to journalists of all stripes, including bloggers. But mostly, he wants to keep it simple.

“It’s great to create new stuff, but not at the expense of the basics.”

Talking to Shankman, it’s clear that this is a labor of love for him, who still speaks optimistically about trying to go home again.

“I look at it as, if I come back and I can help make journalism and public relations a more symbiotic and beneficial relationship for both, I call it a win.”

Learn more about today’s media landscape during PR Daily’s Media Relations Conference, June 5-6 in Washington, D.C.

Allison Carter is editor-in-chief of PR Daily. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.


PR Daily News Feed

Sign up to receive the latest articles from PR Daily directly in your inbox.