"Trust Me, I'm Lying" by Ryan Holiday [BOOK HIGHLIGHTS]

How to hack PR and get journalists to cover you

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“I cheat, bribe, and connive for bestselling authors and billion-dollar brands and abuse my understanding of the internet to do it.”

That’s the opening phrase of Ryan Holiday’s book Trust Me, I’m Lying.

Yup Ryan Holiday, the same dude who made millions writing The Daily Stoic, Ego is the Enemy, and The Obstacle is The Way about Stoicism.

Hmmmm it’s almost like the whole Stoicism thing is a marketing stunt… I won’t go so far as to suggest that, but what I do know is Ryan Holiday is an evil genius at marketing.

Here’s my highlights from Trust Me, I’m Lying:

The first big concept to understand is the filter-up system of content.

"Content filters up as much as it filters down, and often the smaller sites, with their ability to dig deeper into the internet and be more nimble, act as farm teams for the larger ones. […] According to a study at George Washington University, 89 percent of journalists reported using blogs for their research for stories.”

Ryan Holiday

Journalists frequently rip ideas off Twitter and blogs.

How do I know this?

Because I’ve been both the journalist ripping ideas off Twitter AND the guy getting interviewed by journalists because of a viral tweet.

2021: When I was a journalist at The Defiant, I’d find whatever news was popping that day on Twitter and then pitch ideas to my editor. Then I’d reach out to “experts” on Twitter and interview them. (Fun fact: I once interviewed Pamela Anderson’s son because he was working on a crypto project.)

2024: 3 years later and the script was flipped. I wrote a viral tweet about the Vision Pro’s marketing tactics and a Business Insider reporter DMed me, interviewed me, and posted the article within an hour. Boom, I was in Business Insider and got some good SEO.

This is how 99% of journalism works nowadays. It’s just ripping off of tweets and smaller blogs. The 1% who are real investigative journalists are a rare breed. Most journalists are broke English majors in a rush to hit deadlines and pay rent in Brooklyn.

We saw this recently with a few stories. Here’s links to the YouTube clips of the people in the stories talking about it — because I’m not linking to those Forbes or Business Insider fuckers.

How is this all possible?

Isn’t journalism a noble profession?

“There’s no time for investigative reporting,” explains Holiday. Journalists are in a rush to hit deadlines and get clicks!  

“Remember: Every person in the media ecosystem (with the exception of a few at the top layer) is under immense pressure to produce content under the tightest of deadlines. Yes, you have something to sell. But more than ever they desperately, desperately need to buy. The flimsiest of excuses is all it takes.”

Ryan Holiday

Again, I saw this when I was a journalist.

We needed stories done in 4-6 hours or else you’re getting yelled at.

Juicier. More clicks. More clicks.  More clicks. More juice!

We literally went over who had the most views of the week every Friday like that determined good writing. And again I saw this when I was interviewed by Business Insider. The dude literally said “I’ve got 1 hour”. Bro this ain’t the journalism that our grandparents grew up on.

What does this all mean for you?

Blogs and tweets control the news.

“I used blogs to control the news […] We’re a country governed by public opinion, and public opinion is largely governed by the press, so isn’t it critical to understand what governs the press? What rules over the media, he concluded, rules over the country.”

Ryan Holiday

Want to be in the news?

You don’t need a PR agency. You just need Twitter.

Master Twitter and you can make journalists your bitch.

P.S. 6 weeks before I got that nice fluff piece in Business Insider, I wrote a thread about why Business Insider sucks so fucking much. Great research team over there. Top-notch 😂. Always remember:

More notable quotes from Trust Me, I’m Lying:


I run a community called The Strategists for creators and founders who are working their asses off to win the great online game.

This is a community for true hustlers and marketing nerds who are putting their all into making some internet money. If you live, breathe, and eat making content, this is the place for you. No half-assing allowed.

We have a private Slack channel and meet 2x/week to ideate on social media strategies and marketing tactics.

  • Starting a newsletter and need growth hacks? Ask The Strategists.

  • Launching a startup on Product Hunt? Ask The Strategists.

  • Need to get press coverage? Ask The Strategists.

We’re for creative maniacs only.

Thanks for reading, nerds.

Let’s blow up the internet together.

Jason Levin