Comments on Peter Shankman’s Comments

October 8, 2009

Peter Shankman is a “rockstar” in the social media world. By that I mean he is one of the few celebrity speakers to emerge (and I’m tweaking him because he begged not to be called a rockstar anymore). I’m in Houston speaking at the PRSA Houston conference and this is the second time in a year my presentation has immediately followed Mr. Shankman’s. The first was in Las Vegas last March at the Ragan/PRSA Social Media conference.

First, I want to say that he was a keynoter on both of these and I was a lowly breakout speaker–so I don’t want anyone to interpret my comments as bitterness, not one little bit, well, maybe. Fact is, Peter is a very entertaining, highly energetic speaker with some serious social media pioneering chops (one of first to work for AOL for example) and he says some important and intriguing things about social media and where things are going.

(By the way, I’m a fan of HARO and think he did a brilliant and good thing for reporters and PR people alike.)

The fundamental things he talks about (I think, since he talks so fast that a lot of older people like me have a hard time following even though in this case I was only a few feet away from him) I agree with when it comes to analysis of social media and where it is going. But on almost everything else of importance I disagree.

For example, social media is not mostly about getting dates, nor is life mostly about searching for your next girlfriend. It’s hard not to come to the conclusion listening to him (and I’ve heard him twice now give essentially the same presentation) that his life revolves around sitting on airplanes (320,000 air miles this year? Yikes, I agree with your then girlfriend Peter who said get a life!) and finding his next conquest. And its hard not to conclude that for him that’s where social media is largely focused–the examples he provided whether defining advertising vs, public relations or how the emerging “one network” idea all lend credence to this focus.

I also fundamentally and strongly disagree with him that if you are not tweeting a thousand times during his presentation you obviously don’t give a crap about building your brand, or if you don’t have 15,000 fans on your facebook page and you’re not spending the early hours of every morning sending happy birthday messages to everyone you know, you have no clue what social media is all about. Peter, not everyone is a worldclass connector like you are, not everyone has time for this kind of activity and some of us treasure quality time with a few longtime friends rather than trying to build connections with strangers all over the planet.

And I most clearly disagree with him about David Letterman and Governor Sanford. His view, and he professes to speak for all of New York on this, is that no one will think ill of Mr. Letterman’s or Mr. Sanford’s behavior and since Letterman did such an admirable job of honestly and transparently dealing with his creepiness (Letterman’s words, not mine) that the world will rush to forgive him. Also that the entire public relations community should look at this as a wonderful example of crisis communication.

I blogged on this on and I couldn’t disagree more. There are some like Peter whose moral values include the view that it is not only not wrong to sleep with anyone who consents, that there is something honorable about it. And that includes those who have made promises to their spouses in an ancient and clearly outdated institution called marriage. As I recall, the wedding vows still state that faithfulness and commitment are a pretty normal part of this arrangement. It also appears in New York or in Shankman’s view of it, that it perfectly appropriate for a superior in an organization to use that position to influence the “consent.” Even if you take a different view of morality than me, it is hard in this age where sexual harassment is illegal and broadly defined, that Mr. Letterman is going to escape some very reasonable accusations here. But to Shankman, all this is normal, reasonable, expected and I sense even honorable.

I asked the group I presented to right after Mr. Shankman finished what they thought of his presentation. They were enthralled–such is his attraction as a presenter (and why he gets the keynote invitations). But when I mentioned that I didn’t see eye to eye with him on the issues I just raised and mentioned that I have been gratefully married to the same beautiful woman for 36 years and hope to continue on the rest of my life, I received warm applause.

So I suspect there are more than a few fuddy duddies like me who think that Letterman is a very funny and talented creep. And that social media has more to offer society than the fast hookup.

Note–after posting this I noted the pingback on my earlier blog about Letterman’s future. I agree and wish I could have said it so creatively.


3 Responses to “Comments on Peter Shankman’s Comments”

  1. Peter Says:

    A few points:

    I’ll definitely speak slower in the future – It would seem that at the speed I’m speaking, you’re missing several points I tried to make. Gonna go through them really fast. (Actually, I suppose I’ll go through them really slow – to make sure you get them.) 🙂

    I never said “tweet a thousand times,” (I said the opposite, to make sure you tweet interesting and valuable-to-your-audience information) nor did I say “you have to have 15,000 friends,” (I said the opposite, be relevant to your audience, no matter what the size) nor did I suggest that I believe Governor Sanford did the right thing (I said the opposite, he had several opportunities to STOP talking and didn’t take any of them) nor did I say that if you don’t do what I do you have no clue as to what social media is about (I chose to tell you how I created a million dollar business using certain tools and how I chose to use them.) In fact, you seem to take everything I said, and post exactly the opposite of the point I was trying to make. My favorite part is how you feel the need to confirm that you’re not bitter. (The lady doth protests too much?)

    I said that if you post interesting comments when you hear them from a speaker, perhaps your audience will think them interesting as well, and choose to pay attention to you.

    I also suggested that we have a network, the majority of which that we, for whatever reason, almost always choose to ignore. I choose to pay attention to them by wishing them a happy birthday on their special day, or emailing them when I find interesting bits of information, or something else relevant to them. Quite frankly, I believe that concept to be beneficial to them, as opposed to your belief of what, simply ignoring them? Perhaps you’re not a “world-class connector” for that very reason? (Additionally, I don’t recall calling myself that – the term was “world-wide” connector. Means I have colleagues in lots of places on the planet.)

    Next: I’m not sure where you got the premise that I supported Governor Sanford: In fact, the comments I made said this: “Governor Sanford was incredibly stupid not to be quiet – he was given an opportunity to get the heat taken off him by the death of a celebrity musician, yet he still chose to talk. In his situation, he needed to shut up, he chose not to and it hurt him.” If you got that I supported him out of that, there’s definitely a disconnect there.

    Re: David Letterman: I said that through honesty and transparency, the audience and advertisers will forgive him: And I was right:

    My analysis of social media and where I think it’s going was 99% of my entire talk – So it would seem that the parts with which you disagree revolve around my examples of how we’re getting there – essentially, you’re saying that you don’t find me funny. And hey, that’s totally cool – not everyone does. Fortunately, more than enough people do so as to continue inviting me to keynote their conferences, and countless people followed-up with me after my Houston presentation saying that my talk was spot-on.

    Perhaps we simply have to make sure you get to give your presentation before my keynote next time, huh?

    All the best, Gerald,


  2. Coder78 Says:

    Just because they are poor should not even bring up the question as to where or not the poor need to be educated. ,

  3. […] Undeterred, Shankman fired back that Barron basically misunderstood everything he said. Since it’s Barron’s blog, he then commented on Shankman’s comments about his comments on Shankman’s comments. Makes for fun reading: […]

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