The Gong

The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership.

Boo!: HodgePodge for Oct. 31

October 31, 2014 | by Tony Scida


The future of in-flight entertainment is in your hands. (See what I did there?)

Tell me something I don’t know

Here’s an interesting survey comparing perceptions versus reality in different countries on various controversial topics.

Possibly related

The NY Times says Facebook is changing journalism.

On the front line

Meet the invisible team keeping Facebook clean.

In your ears

The Atlantic rounds up binge-worthy podcasts. (If you aren’t already listening to Serial, you really should.)

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Content Marketing and the role of PR firms

October 28, 2014 | by Jon Newman

Continuing on my recent content marketing rant…

When the marketing trend du jour emerges, the sirens usually sound proclaiming that “(insert marketing trend du jour here) is the end or death of public relations.”

Having been around for a long time, we saw that during the dot-com bubble when online communications became the rage. We also saw similar headlines five years ago at the beginning of the social media era. Now, content marketing is about to kill PR.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan to die any time soon.

In fact, as George Costanza used to say, “The opposite, Jerry.”

A couple of years ago I wrote about how PR firms were better positioned to lead the social media charge than their ad agency cousins. At the end of the day, I was right and wrong. The development of digital-agency offshoots of both created a third type of agency. The truth is we all do social pretty well and somewhat different from one another. 

In the case of content marketing, I once again feel strongly that PR firms, especially ones with specific skill sets, are very well positioned to lead their clients down this new path. You can read about THP’s approach here. 

Here are some questions you need to ask your agency to see if they pass the content marketing acid test:

Can they write? 

Every PR/marketing firm should be able to write, right? You would think so, but some as a whole can write better than others. Ask to see writing samples for blogs and content the firm has written for other clients.

Do they truly understand social platforms? 

By now most firms have created and managed social media campaigns, but at what level? Have they managed them for both B2B and B2C clients? What results have they achieved?

Can they create, find and manage content? 

Do they understand that content curation is something you just don’t wake up in the morning and do? Do they have experience in creating “personas” to target? Do they use editorial calendars for management and content approval?

Do they understand social advertising? 

If your firm thinks that social ads are as simple as boosting Facebook posts, then you need to ask if they are the right fit. Today’s social platforms are really ad platforms used to amplify content and drive traffic to content, websites and lead-generation tools, so firms need to be versed in how those platforms are maximized through their ad tools.

Can all marketing firms (including ad agencies, digital agencies and SEO experts) bring this set of combined skills to the table? No. Can all PR firms? Well, no. But those who can have a leg up on the ever-changing world of B2B and B2C content.

The truth is PR firms who have spent the past few years paying attention to the intersection of PR, social, digital and content should have a leg up on putting checks next to most or all of these bullets. 

The challenge is how they communicate this new expertise while not totally throwing the traditional PR capabilities under the bus. They still are good at them, they still need them and they work well with this brave new world of content.

Communications is what PR firms are supposed to do. It’s time they embrace that challenge as they try to be the content marketing standard bearer.

0 commentsPosted in: Public Relations  |  Social Marketing  |  Social Media

EVERY conversation I’m having includes Content Marketing

October 20, 2014 | by Jon Newman

Let me apologize up front to everyone I “talked business” with at the annualish Newman Pig Pickin this past weekend. You know who you are. Thanks for telling me to relax.

That being said, every conversation I had over pork and brisket, every phone call I’m having with folks, every new business meeting I’ve taken recently includes the new buzz topic du jour: Content Marketing.

Aside from this thrilling me because THP has been focusing our efforts on this for the past year or so, I’m very excited since this moves the conversation away from social media as it has been. This new conversation includes the true, new combination of solid content, content planning, social media and platforms, creativity, and social advertising that makes up this new world of Content Marketing.

It also moves PR firms from those murky non-ROI days to being able to use a client’s content and expertise to not only do great things like helping to create a leadership position for clients, to the cool stuff like capturing leads.

But before I continue my happy dance here are the words of wisdom and warning that I’m finding coming out of my mouth in every conversation:

  • This takes time: Time to figure out your positioning, time to create the content, time to plan, time to post and target those posts. Time and lots of it. If you can’t devote the time or pay someone else to devote it for you, you’re just paying lip service to true content marketing.
  • This takes people: This means experts in your organization need to understand the importance of this because you’re leading with them, their brain power, their experience, their expertise. If they can’t spend at least an hour a week devoted to this, it won’t get you anywhere.
  • This takes experience: Not any 23-year-old can walk out of school anymore and be anointed as the “content czar” because they know how to take a photo on an iPhone and post it on Instagram (and sorry to all the 23-year-olds out there including those who work for us). This is where the experienced writers, creatives and PR pros regain the seat at the table. Because the content needs to be good, be on point, be of value.
  • This takes money: Money for writers, for social ad experts, for videos and photos, for time for agencies to work with your organizations, for social advertising to amplify the content to push it out to the right audiences, for offers to generate leads. And not a little money either. This is and should be a significant investment.
  • This takes social to another level: This is not your kid in college’s social media anymore. Posting for the sake of it is dead. Social channels are just the beginning. It is what you post and the quality of it AND how you use those channels to AMPLIFY the content to your targeted audiences that will win the day.

If any of those bullets scare you, then you’re not ready. The conversation should end right here.

You will see a lot more on this coming from me and from us in the coming days and months. As always, I’m biased and think that PR firms are best positioned to do this kind of content marketing and expertise positioning well.

It is not for the faint of heart. It is not for every client. It IS for those who understand the impact that solid, unfiltered, direct content that when published and amplified (catch the theme here?) to the right audience can have on their company or organization.

Care to join me in the conversation?

0 commentsPosted in: Marketing  |  Social Marketing  |  Social Media

Title Goes Here: HodgePodge for Oct. 17

October 17, 2014 | by Tony Scida

Pencil stuff

You’re so right, The Atlantic, erasers do suck at erasing. (They also tell you why.)

Dept. of crisis management

In 1989, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit the Bay area just as the A’s and Giants were set to play game 3 of the World Series. Fox Sports has an interesting profile of then-commissioner Fay Vincent.

Commas matter

Pricenomics takes a look at the most expensive typo in legislative history.

Dept. of I’m getting old

After a 4-day stunt where they played nothing but Beyonce, a Texas radio station has debuted a new format: Classic Hip-Hop

Who, who? Who, who?

According to big data, this is who you are.

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Media relations is dead, long live media relations

October 14, 2014 | by Jon Newman

Media relations is a core assignment and talent for most public relations pros. It’s what I cut my teeth at when I switched over from journalism 20+ years ago. It’s a lot of what we built The Hodges Partnership on when we started the firm 12 years ago.

But the practice of media relations has changed dramatically over those 12 years. What used to be an exercise in list creation and blast emailing is now a more targeted, research-driven approach to find the right reporter/editor/producer with the right information at the right time.

A MediaMap (remember MediaMap?), Cision or Vocus description used to be enough information for you to get by. Now you must dig deeper looking for Twitter profiles, LinkedIn descriptions and how many kids they have, to make the right connection.

And even when you think you have the right pitch for the right journalist, you are competing with those who haven’t done their research and are bombarding the reporter with literally hundreds of emails a day. This is best illustrated by Zach Schonfeld’s first-person story in Newsweek where he actually opened and responded to every PR email he received… for a week.

Zack, you’re a saint.

So in thinking of the latest in the series of Hodges Starters morning events, we thought the current-day practice of media relations, and how to do it the right way, would be valuable.

Steve Cummings and Sean Ryan, both of whom have been doing this for a long time and have seen the changes, will lead the conversation. They spend most of their time dealing with national media and are successful breaking through the PR clutter to get great coverage for clients.

Sign up by clicking here and seeing all the info and the stuff we need you to fill out.

And before you congratulate us for holding this event, I will share that our motives aren’t that pure. Every bad email we can stop you from sending makes it easier for reporters to see pitches from us.

0 commentsPosted in: Media Relations  |  The Hodges Partnership

Ten Ten: HodgePodge for Oct. 10

October 10, 2014 | by Tony Scida

Women etc.

Technology jobs weren’t always a male-dominated as it is at today’s major tech firms. From NPR, “The Forgotten Female Programmers who Created Modern Tech.”

Pooch news

Dog years aren’t really a thing, at least not in the 7:1 ratio you’re used to hearing about.

Ello again

If you’re trying to stand out in the job market, I guess you have to do whatever it takes. This recent grad decided a good way to do so would be to start ello accounts for media outlets he wanted to work for, like The Atlantic.

Not TV

Where do millennials go for news?

Sirius news

Voice activated “infotainment” may keep your eyes on the road, but that doesn’t mean you’re watching where you’re going.

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Using LinkedIn company pages like a pro

October 08, 2014 | by Caroline L. Platt

I recently taught a class on LinkedIn at the University of Richmond. The two-hour class was offered through the University of Richmond’s Institute on Philanthropy (IOP). Kathy Laing manages this program and we’d met through a local Gettysburg College booster (Kathy is a Gettysburg alum).

I wanted to write about the class for two reasons:

  1. IOP is a great program and Kathy is awesome. If you’re a non-profit seeking continuing education in communications, marketing or fundraising, I highly recommend you seek out this unique program at UR. (Full disclosure: UR is also a client of THP) 
  2. A couple of things stood out during the class discussion and I thought they’d be worth summarizing here for everyone’s benefit. If you want the complete presentation, you can find me on campus in January.

What follows are just a few of my favorite take-aways from class:

This Content Marketing Thing is Not Easy

There is no tool too simple and no template too obvious to make a marketers life just a little easier these days. Building consensus around copy for collateral is one thing…building consensus around the concept of a blog post can take years. And, yet, we know that producing original content is the best way for organizations to build awareness, credibility and, ultimately, customers.

During class we spent a lot of time talking about the strategic pieces THP uses to make content creation and deployment just a little easier. These relatively straight-forward templates and tips are things we use every day. They’re simple and they work. If we missed fancy and hit functional, that’s just how we roll.

Speaking of which, if you missed our first Hodges Starters event, you can read more about THP’s approach to content here. Because “feeding that content beast” is among the hardest jobs out there today. We know your pain and we are working hard to make it easier for you, step by step.

Look Back at LinkedIn from 2003

There’s a reason this content space has gotten so complex so quickly. Check out this LinkedIn profile page from 2003 – what a difference! Clearly, there’s a reason we thought of LinkedIn as an online Rolodex for so long. That was basically accurate until about 2012. Now, it’s a fully-engaged content publishing platform with robust advertising and sponsored content capabilities.

LinkedIn Higher Education Pages are Nifty

I’ve spent quite a lot of time on LinkedIn’s Higher Education pages recently and they’re awesome. As we discussed in class, there are a lot of things you can do with the data LinkedIn feeds into these pages, particularly if you’re a recruiter, in BizDev or in education. Note the navigation bar just under the page name. These sections take a deep dive into the school’s alumni networks.

As you can see below, alumni professions, employers,  and location are broken out. You can also scroll to the left to see more data and all the information is hyperlinked. This particular widget is really great for researching connections.

LinkedIn also serves up a summary of your network and where it overlaps with the school. This screen shot is from my alma mater, Davidson College’s, LinkedIn page and it shows the fellow alumni I’m connected to – pretty cool.

What this all adds up to for me is the conclusion that LinkedIn has great marketing benefits for all types of organizations – including non-profits and higher education institutions – but it’s always got to come back to strategy no matter what platform you’re tackling. That, and 2003 seems like a long, long time ago.

(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)


1 commentPosted in: Social Media

Shake it Off: HodgePodge for Oct. 3

October 03, 2014 | by Tony Scida

The weird running is the best part

The Library of Congress turned up some well-preserved old newsreel footage of the 1924 World Series. The footage, which shows the Senators beating the Giants and the fans storming the field, is way more exciting than TBS’s post-season baseball coverage.

Not the kind of jam I like

In The Physics of Gridlock, The Atlantic looks at what causes traffic jams. (Spoiler alert: it’s all your fault.)

A prediction’s worth 1,000 words

Despite repeated predictions throughout history, why haven’t we hit peak oil? (Or have we?)

Department of distraction

Clay Shirky stopped letting his students use computers during class. It seems that most of his reasons apply equally well outside of the classroom (like, say, in meetings).

Speaking of Medium

It’s been 50 years since McLuhan’s Understanding Media hit the scene. Pacific Standard takes a look at what we can still learn from it.

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Workplace happiness: Don’t forget about your internal clients

October 01, 2014 | by Kelsey Leavey

Working at an agency means that 90 percent of the time you work with external clients. A majority of my days are spent writing blog posts, pitching media, creating media lists and developing social content for our clients, but at an agency of our size it’s important to remember that to make the machine run smoothly (and pleasantly) there are many internal, behind-the-scenes tasks that require attention.

According to a survey by PwC, millennials place a “high priority on workplace culture and desire a work environment that emphasizes teamwork and a sense of community.” As a millennial I agree with that statement and I’m reminded of it whenever we interview internship candidates. Without fail, company culture is something that is always mentioned by candidates as something that is important to them as they start their careers. And employees of any age appreciate coming to work at a place where they enjoy spending their time.

Junior team members at Hodges are tasked with the bulk of the employee engagement elements that contribute to our company culture. There are 17 internal clients on the roster to satisfy.

To keep our company culture thriving we plan several events throughout the year. Some of the big events include baseball outings, birthday celebrations, holiday parties and pizza brainstorms, but it’s some of the smaller, impromptu events that bring us together for a laugh (or healthy debate) during the middle of a tough week which keep us all going.

So, you might be wondering, “What are some of the things to keep in mind when attending to your internal clients?” Similar to external clients, internal clients have preferences and the key is to recognize those preferences and to act on them. Here are some of the things that keep Hodgers happy:

  • Craft beer should be stocked at all times (read: don’t buy Bud Light for beer Friday)
  • Greek salads should come with tomatoes, but please hold the anchovies
  • Keep “donut-free days” under a month (I learned this one the hard way.)
  • Always have a secret stash of York Peppermint Patties

But keeping your internal client(s) happy isn’t just about the fun activities that are planned to keep the office going. It’s also imperative to do good work for clients and to get that work done on time. One piece of advice I received when I started at Hodges was to always do your part to make someone else’s life and day easier. If an account manager has placed a deadline on your piece of a project, then meet that goal and if, for some reason, you can’t, then communicate and follow up about the status of the project. Ultimately, this is what will keep your internal clients the happiest.

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When September Ends: HodgePodge for Sept. 26

September 26, 2014 | by Tony Scida

Sporting News

ESPN this week suspended Bill Simmons over comments he made about the NFL’s Roger Goodell on a podcast. The internet has opinions about it.

The other 99%

The Washington Post declares podcasts back in with this profile of Roman Mars, so get your ears ready.

What the Ello?

For those of you who like to keep up on the comings and goings of social networks, there’s a new one out there now, and you can only get in with an invite. Here’s two takes, one from ValleyWag and another from PCWorld.

Water can

How old is the water on Earth? At least some of it appears to be older than the Sun.

Surprise albums and stuff

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke is dropping a surprise album on Bittorrent. Maybe he just wants to be like Beyonce, whose own recent surprise album is now a Harvard Business case study.

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When something good happens, like a media hit for one of our clients, we bang a gong in our office.


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