Keynote: Peter Shankman #pubcon


Good morning, party people! Welcome to Day 1 of Pubcon here in Las Vegas. It may only be the first official day of the show but I’ve already lost my voice and shared my cold with a few hundred people. You’re welcome!

We have a busy liveblogging schedule this week so check that so you know what you can expect and when.


Pubcon’s Joe Larato is up on stage to talk about the Pubcon story. This crazy ride all started in a pub in London. Since then, it has expanded into the longest-running search conference. There have been 31 Pubcons, with this being the 14th Vegas Pubcon (woah!). They’ve had legendary keynotes. Joe says to take the time to approach all speakers. Talk to people. The speakers here are not hiding in the speaker room, they’re in the sessions. Spend time with them. Go to the networking events. Joe shares that Pubcon turns 20 in 2020 and they’re going back to London! Look for more details on that.

And with that, we hand things over to the always-entertaining Peter Shankman.

Peter says he’s thrilled to be here. He loves this conference. It’s a great event. His name is Peter Shanman and he doesn’t do PowerPoint. He think its for the weak. Well, good morning. We’re starting out throwing punches over here in the keynote area.

Peter says the common expectation of the customer experience is crap. He asks how many of us flew here…and then how many of us had a great flight. A few people respond and share why it was so great – it was a direct flight, the pilot was nice, etc. Peter says none of these people had a great flight. Your flight was great because it left on time, you arrived on time, and you weren’t dragged off by your nostrils. You didn’t have a great flight. You got what you paid for. You didn’t get to fly the plane. You didn’t get a person to date. You got what you paid for. But you think it’s “great.” That’s where the bar is. You don’t have to be great, you have to not suck. 

Peter talks about the Melrose Place chatrooms he used to hang out on AOL. He stops to ask who in the room is younger than 30. Some folks raise their hands. He then spends a long time talking about modems, slow download speeds and the hell that was trying to use the Internet back then. Cute. Peter used to work in the newsroom of AOL, responsible for the content in AOL News. They would come up with great content, images and videos and throw it all on the homepage. It looked great… from their office because they had super fast connection speeds. But their customers did not. Their experience sucked. They lost members left and right because Peter and his team were building things for themselves, not for their audience.


So they shifted course. They started building for their customers. You don’t control the direction of your company or what you do for your customers — your customers control what they want and the direction of your company. The people who pay you control what you do. And that was in the 90s. Fastfoward to today and that’s even more true.

Peter says he talks to everyone. Reporters would call him and say, “hey, who do you know who does X?” And he would connect them to his friends. Then, more reporters started calling him. It took his entire day to help them and create connections. To make it easier, he launched a FB page if called “I can help a reporter out, I will.” We blew out the extend of that FB group within 3 weeks. That became a mailing list – HARO, which he sold to PR Newswire. His email open rate at the time was 79%.

Why did HARO sell for as much as it did? He discovered it was four things. He shares them below.


No one believes how awesome you are if you are the one who has to tell them. If someone tells their best friend you are awesome, you are getting a trusted recommendation which is worth “6 katrillion percent more” than you tell someone you’re awesome.


We live in an age where everyone expects to be lied to. We expect fake news and that what you say will not really be the final product. In the 50s there were two ways to complain – write a letter to a company or to your local paper. Both would go ignored.

77% of people who tweet don’t want their problem fixed, they just want to be heard. When he’s sitting on a plane complaining that it’s delayed, he already knows that shit happens. If there’s a storm, United Airlines can’t fix the storm. He just needs them to come on the PA and be honest about what’s going on. Tell people what’s up. Respond.

If you’re ON Facebook and not responding to your customers, why are you on the Internet at all?

When you are being transparent with a customer you fix a relationship with that customer, but you’re also building someone who is going to tell their story for you. You turn a hater into a lover.

Sidenote: Brand Everything You Do – If you create something, you don’t know if it’s going to blow up. If you don’t have a way to tie it back to you, you wasted your time.


Back in the 50s, people go ttheir news from the newspaper in the morning and the television at night. That’s how they got their news. The average age of the nightly news viewer back then was 35 years old. Today, the average age of the nightly news viewer is “dead.” Yikes.

News has become fractured. Peter gets his news at 4am.

Peter asks – are you giving your audience information the way they want it, and do you know how your audience likes to get their information? How do you find out? Ask them. It sounds crazy, but we don’t do it. Maybe they like to get information through text, email, fax, etc. Ask them how they like to get it and then give them information the way they want it. Your audience becomes 2.5x more invested in your company when you ask them what they want and then you do what they told you. Everyone is now invested.

What little things can you do to show your customers that they matter? Because they DO matter. It’s not long about one happy customer. It’s about who else they can bring to you.


We are all doing three things at once. A study came out of Stanford that the avg attention span of someone you’re tryng to reach for the first time is 2.7 second. That’s roughly one sentence. It’s 140 characters.

Peter says he’s not a fan of Twitter, but he’ll still use it. Stop thinking about it as a tweet. Think of it as a mobile message. Two events in our country taught us that our phones can do more than make phone calls – 9/11 and American Idol. Mobile is the future, Twitter is a pipe.

Embrace the concept, not the brand. The brand doesn’t usually survive, the concept does.

90% of the info you have to give your audience, they won’t understand. If they did, they wouldn’t need you. Become better at communicating. Understand what you’re great at and become better at the stuff you’re not. 1 out of 2 every corproate homepage in America has a spelling or grammatical error on the homepage.

Top of Mind

Barry Diller was the CEO of Paramount Pictures. Everyone said it was a bad idea. He got into the office an hour earlier than everyone else and called 10 new people every morning to say hello. He didn’t ask them for anything, he just said hello. Barry was top of mind. Barry reached out when he didn’t want shit from you. So when you need something, he remembered him and you called him.

Reach out to your customers when you don’t need anything. Offer to help 10 times before you ask for one thing back. When you give people information under the guise of help, they come to think of you as a resource. They remember you.

And we’re done. Some good advice from Peter. And a whole lot of snark. 😉