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Hi My Name Is: Hal - Maximize

Bob Garfield offers this exchange in his book, Can't Buy Me Like:

"Honey, don't you want to hit the snooze button?"

"Nah. I have to go maximize shareholder value."

It's a conversation that has never taken place. It's absurd.

My friend Ben Goldberg creates restaurants. He's successful. He has investors. Ben's success is due, in large part, to his approach to people. 

"I always default to the customer experience." Ben says.

Using this model, maximizing shareholder value is a byproduct. 


Hi My Name Is: Hal - Public Speaking


We've been on the road a lot this year. The Pursuit Road Show traveled to North Carolina, South Carolina, Chicago, Texas, Nashville, Memphis, Wilmington, and Myrtle Beach all in the past few months. 

Why? To share stories. 

Here's what people are saying:

"As the Director of a state association, it is sometimes difficult to find speakers on a national level without having an advanced opportunity to listen to their presentation – therefore, you don’t always know what you are getting.  Hal condensed what could have been a two or three hour presentation into one hour and used his working knowledge of the craft to give a thought provoking and sometimes humorous presentation.  He provided professional content and used the graphics and visual aids of his presentation to his advantage which engaged the private investigators in attendance.  Thanks Hal."

Ken Walter - SC Association of Legal Investigators (SCALI)

"Our group was so impressed with his topics and his presentation that we have asked him to do a repeat performance at our next conference.  Hal has a personality that transcends many different levels.  He is witty, entertaining and uses that to drive home his message.  I personally feel that I made a friend and a new colleague in Hal Humphreys."

Sandy Russell - NC Association of Private Investigators (NCAPI)

The Pursuit Road show may be in your area soon.  


Hi My Name Is: Hal - Gaming the system

Keyword rich landing page. Keyword rich posts. Keyword rich ...

The following construct may get you some traffic. 

"If you're looking for an Anytown, Anystate private investigator, PBJ Investigations in Anytown, Anystate offers detective services in the Anytown, Anystate area."

But ... I would argue that anyone who reads the above sentence will bounce in the two seconds it takes to read the first line. Try this instead: Tell good stories that are relevant to your audience. 

Tell real stories. Share useful information. Be real

Yeah, it takes more time, but in the long term you'll gain more.


Encouraging the Spy Curious

curious spyglass

Why Mentoring Up-And-Coming Investigators Is Good for the Industry


A young man messaged me through LinkedIn a few weeks ago seeking advice about his career. He’d been a researcher at a national investigative firm for 10 years and had the notion that he’d scrambled his way as far up the corporate ladder as he was ever going to. “I would love to pick your brain about the business,” he said.

We chatted via email several times, then caught up on the telephone last week. It wasn’t a long conversation, but it was productive. We plan to grab a cocktail next week and discuss the state of the industry.

This exchange is not unique. I get a call like this at least once a month. If you run an investigative company, I’m sure you get them all the time.

The caliber and experience of the people who reach out is impressive: a woman transitioning out of the public defender’s office in Washington State; an older gent from Texas about to retire from a career in law enforcement; a Fulbright Scholar, fresh out of university, ready to tackle the world—all interested in becoming professional investigators.

I enjoy helping others figure out their strengths and weaknesses and am happy to offer whatever insight I can. I also steer folks toward Pursuit Magazine—a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the business of investigations—and PIEducation.com, which offers courses on various topics that an investigative hopeful would find useful and interesting.

Currently, we’re working on a new product for people who want to become private eyes. It’ll be a few months in the making, but we’re excited about offering a series of courses, e-books, and guides for the aspiring gumshoe.

In the meantime, we’ll keep answering the phone and returning emails from the spy curious out there, people who have an interest in transitioning to this fascinating and rewarding business. I encourage you to do the same. Offer advice. Share experience. Cultivate and encourage young, smart, and talented people to join our ranks. Hire them. Train them. Learn from them. They’re not our competitors. They’re our colleagues.

And besides, a successful person never forgets his or her first mentor. It never hurts to have powerful allies rising in the ranks of your profession.  

The more savvy, educated, and energetic people we encourage, the more our industry gains credibility. And the more cachet you’ll have when you call yourself a professional investigator.—THH

this post appeared in Pursuit Magazine


The Truth About Deception

This month in Pursuit: lies and deception, and a confession.

In December, we’re looking into lies, malfeasance, fraud, and deceit. Leading off the month is an excellent and well-researched piece by new Pursuit contributor Kevin Goodman about the latest behavioral research on deception detection. Later in December, look for more deception-related stories, including a Q&A with Diana Henriques, the NYTimes financial writer whose new Bernie Madoff biography delves into the psychology of the biggest Ponzi schemer in history.

As we explore fraud and malfeasance in the virtual pages of Pursuit, we’re also doing a little soul searching. We try to be forthright and transparent, and in that spirit, we offer the following confession.

Last month, we celebrated our one-year anniversary as Pursuit Magazine’s new owners and editors. Frankly, we’re still learning how to manage an online publication.

We are professional investigators, writers, journalists, and businesspeople. We are not SEO masterminds. We are not savvy to the myriad ways the interwebs for computers are manipulated to generate traffic, for the sake of traffic. Clicks gained through outrageous headlines, keyword-rich content, and click farms are clicks. They drive up stats.

But we believe that clicks like that are inherently misleading and, thus, deceptive. Fraudulent, even. And if you’ve been following the news of Google’s recent Panda updates, you’ll no doubt conclude that the search engine king agrees with our assessment.

We get submissions, to the tune of three or four a day, from “content providers”…black-hat SEO practicioners with an unfirm grasp of English.

We get submissions, to the tune of three or four a day, from “content providers.” Some are clearly from overseas black-hat SEO practicioners with an unfirm grasp of English. Others come from “real people” who address us by name. If we ask for editorial changes, they usually comply.

We’ve been on the other side of the editorial fence. We’re willing to give new writers a chance to hone their chops.

But the majority of these submissions aren’t by new writers looking for a chance to hone their chops. They’re by link farmers, and their submissions are riddled with hyperlinks and awkward phrases, crafted specifically to include as many keywords as possible. Even when competently written, they are generic in tone and offer no real insight into the investigative industry. Some of the articles have been “spun”—run through a software tool that changes a few words and phrases, and tricks Google into indexing the content as “original.”

We’ve fallen for a few of them, put them in our pages.

We’ve fallen for the occasional infograph of suspect click-bank origin. I love a good infograph, the way information is conveyed visually and succinctly, but many of them are problematic. Ruben Roel, our talented and trusted webmaster, pointed out that the last infograph we posted was from a dubious source. We investigated, followed the links, and deleted the post.

The Pursuit editorial team will no longer post material from guest bloggers we do not know. We will entertain content from experts in the investigative business. We will continue to encourage professional investigators to write for us. We will welcome submissions from real writers and industry leaders who have good stories and wisdom to share.

We will not, however, post click-bait from people who ” … plan to write a unique article just for your site about a subject of your choosing which will not be published anywhere else.” We’re been burned, lesson learned.

At Pursuit, we don’t believe in short cuts. We’re in this for the long haul, and we don’t see deceptive SEO practices and spammy, low-quality link-bait as a long-term strategy. We will never post paid links, nor will we publish paid content or advertisement that is not clearly labeled as such.

Deception takes many forms. There are outright lies, and then there are the more subtle forms: feints  omissions, and misdirection — the tools of magicians, politicians, and fashion magazines. (Think Photoshop.) To our minds, selling something under the guise of offering information is a form of deception. It is a lie. And it undermines the trust we seek to build.

We believe that becoming an industry thought leader is a long, arduous process. It’s not about “generating content.” It’s about relationships — gaining the trust of our small community of investigators by providing useful, interesting articles about the investigations field.

Real fans can’t be stolen or bought; they must be earned. And the only way to earn them is to offer something of quality, day after day, for as long as it takes. That’s what we signed on for, and that’s what we plan to do. —THH