The Gong

The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership.

The art of the opinion

May 21, 2015 | by Sean Ryan

So, you have an opinion. 

Placing that opinion, often called an Op/Ed (which originally meant opposite to the editorial page in a newspaper), is easier said than done, as I wrote a while back. Consider that the New York Times receives about 2,000 submissions per week. That’s right, several hundred a day. My guess is that the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post are about the same. 

Here are five steps to consider to improve the chances of your opinion seeing the light of day (you can also download a PDF of these tips to print or share).

  • Pieces should be 750-800 words, not including your headline, byline or “about” line at end of piece. It may vary a little by publication. Editors shouldn’t be expected to edit 1,500 words down to fit space…they’ll likely spike it.
  • Grab the reader in the first two or three paragraphs. Make your main point quickly, and support that takeaway the rest of the piece.
  • Be concise. Short paragraphs are encouraged. Avoid overly-long and comma-filled sentences. Don’t forget to mix in a few transitions.
  • Be knowledgeable and understandable. Avoid jargon and making the average reader (think of your parents or friends of your parents reading the piece) go to the dictionary/thesaurus every sentence (a couple times is OK!). 
  • The KISS principle, no, not Gene Simmons. One of my dad’s favorites, “Keep It Simple Stupid.” Establish your point of view, and guide your reader through a clear start, middle and finish. Then, “Stay on target” (another of Dad’s favorites).

Opinions can be a valuable way to demonstrate expertise while controlling your message at the same time. But they take time and a little bit of practice to do them well.

Happy writing!

Download the Op-Ed Quick Start Guide

(Image by Pete O'Shea on Flickr)

0 commentsPosted in: Public Relations

New THP Client: Connexions Loyalty

May 18, 2015 | by Jon Newman

We are very proud to announce a new assignment from one of Richmond’s premier companies, Connexions Loyalty.

With a large workforce in Richmond and 800 associates worldwide, Connexions Loyalty manages some of the world’s largest customer-loyalty programs, delivering more than $2 billion in rewards and incentives annually.

The integrated public relations assignment will focus primarily on business-to-business content marketing. We will be working with Connexions Loyalty to help tell its story to customers and prospects around the world.

“At its core, content marketing is about targeted storytelling. The Hodges Partnership has been telling companies’ stories for years and it understands how to match a message with an audience,” said Mark Cipolletti, senior director, brand communications. “And unlike many of the agencies that I considered, Hodges is a prolific user of content marketing to promote its own business. It has first-hand experience with every tactic we might consider.”  

Connections Loyalty joins THP’s growing client list which includes Alexandria Renew, Monmouth University (in my home state of New Jersey), Hilldrup, ChildFund International and Richmond 2015.

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Quince de Mayo: HodgePodge for May 15

May 15, 2015 | by Tony Scida

For the office leg-shakers

From NPR, in defense of fidgeters: “When I tell a kid, ‘Sit down, don’t move, stop tapping, stop bouncing,’ the kids are spending all their mental energy concentrating on that rule. And that doesn’t allow them to concentrate on what we’re asking them to do, which is their homework.”

Or maybe they had too much coffee

Although, coffee’s bad reputation is perhaps undeserved.

What is he’s smarter that me?

Here’s why you’ll never beat Ken Jennings’s Jeopardy! streak.


I’ve read lots of reviews of the Apple Watch, but Craig Mod’s take after a week with the watch is smart and short.


The world said goodbye this week to two giants: B.B. King and William Zinsser.

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Lessons learned from #PRfails in pitching

May 13, 2015 | by Stacey Brucia

Ten percent of social media users complain daily via a status update, tweet or other public communication, according to a study from My guess is that number would be a lot higher if we posted a status update every time we considered complaining; sometimes discretion wins, and mumbling to ourselves must suffice.

As media relations professionals, we can learn a lot about better ways to pitch our targets if we take note of journalists’ gripes that do make it to public status. I’ve been keeping track for a few months to see what frustrations with PR folks push journalists over the edge. Below are a few real tweets from journalists along with my lessons learned. These are just some of the ways PR pitches can go sideways–for more advice on avoiding #PRFails, download our free guide 5 Reasons Your Media Relations Strategy is Failing.

Do make spokespeople and key executives available for actual interviews (unless there are extreme circumstances.) And I know Scott Mayerowitz, who is an Associated Press airline reporter, would likely disagree with my words in parenthesis.

Get the person’s name right, including the spelling. I’d be a hypocrite if I said I’ve never messed this up — at a certain point, you’re going to type the wrong name or spell one incorrectly. But, as a “Stacey” with an “e” that my mom tells me was unintended (long story), I know we should always do our best.

If you’re going to be off target, at least be entertaining. Well, I’m being a bit sarcastic, but yes, try to avoid ridiculous and off-target pitches.

Explain the company, briefly. We all aren’t representing Google or Apple.

Exclamation points and attachments are equally unwelcome.

Good luck with your pitches today. May they bring you a successful contact leading to a potential story versus a tweet with a #PRfail.

Free download: 5 reasons your media relations strategy is failing

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

LMNOP: HodgePodge for May 8

May 08, 2015 | by Tony Scida

New tricks

Casinos are custom engineered to target your brains reward mechanisms. Now tech companies are trying to learn from them.

AMCing you

Don’t look now, but Mad Men is almost over. The Atlantic looks at the real products and wonders what it’s really showing.

A word from our sponsor

If you listen to more than one podcast, there’s a good chance you’ve heard a lot of ads from a few companies—MailChimp and SquareSpace among them. FiveThirtyEight and Marketplace listened to the top 100 podcasts (according to iTunes) and examined the ads.

News about news

Mobile is eating the desktop’s lunch in news as in all things.

Email you later

We love to complain about checking our work email in off hours, but we also love to do it.

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Behind the Hit: CCT in NAELA News

April 30, 2015 | by Greg Surber

THP recently wrapped up a year-long project with Commonwealth Community Trust (CCT), a local non-profit organization that specializes in pooled special needs trusts for individuals with disabilities. Special needs trusts allow these individuals to have more than $2,000 in personal assets without jeopardizing their eligibility for benefits like Medicaid. Despite this obvious benefit, special needs trusts, particularly pooled special needs trusts that CCT offers, are largely misunderstood by the legal community.

We wanted to fix that.

Of all the different types of law, elder law attorneys are among the most common to use special needs trusts. (A well-intentioned inheritance can have severe consequences if not placed in a special needs trust.) And the top news source for these professionals is NAELA (or rather, the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys).

NAELA offers several news publications, primarily NAELA News. After researching past issues and finding no previous coverage on special needs trusts, we pitched the editor on having CCT’s executive director, Joanne Marcus, write a feature article on pooled special needs trusts, as it relates to elder law attorneys. After getting the go-ahead from the NAELA News editorial board, we worked with CCT to draft the article, which was published in the April/May issue. It also was the lead article in NAELA’s weekly e-newsletter. 

0 commentsPosted in: Media Relations

Lead-generating content starts with buyer personas

April 27, 2015 | by Laura Elizabeth Mann

When was the last time you had a problem and took to Google to find the answer? Given that every minute Google recieves more than 4,000,000 search queries, I bet it was fairly recent. Well, that’s what your potential customers are doing too.  They’ve got a problem and they need a solution. So, give the people what they want.

That’s the idea behind inbound marketing: providing informative, helpful content – blog posts, ebooks, checklists – that draws customers to your website. The first step in creating that content is developing buyer personas.

What are buyer personas?

Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on general demographic and biographic information, behaviors, motivations, goals and pain points.

Why are buyer personas so important?

Understanding buyer personas will focus your marketing efforts and help create more effective content. The right content not only brings people to your website, but also converts them to leads and customers. After all, isn’t reaching your ideal customer the goal of your online marketing efforts?

Buyer personas & content creation

Your buyer personas should always guide the content you create – from website copy and blog posts to ebooks and videos. Ask yourself: What content is most helpful, informative and useful to them? How can I help them solve a problem? What are my buyer personas searching for online and how can I provide that information on my website or blog?

How do I figure out who my buyer personas are?

Research to develop your buyer personas can include interviewing and surveying current customers, talking to your co-workers, and even getting feedback from your sales team on their experiences talking with potential customers.

Note: You can have multiple buyer personas, but focus on one primary persona to start. Remember, this primary persona represents not just any current or past customers, but your ideal customer.

Basic questions when developing buyer personas:

This is by no means a complete list, but here are a few basic questions to get started. Download our buyer persona checklist below for a more comprehensive list of questions to help create buyer personas.

  1. What is their job title and demographic information?
  2. What are their typical job responsibilities and roles?
  3. What does a day in their life look like?
  4. What are their challenges/pain points, and what can you do to help solve them?
  5. Who do they answer and report to and what does success look like?
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Out the Inbox: HodgePodge for Apr. 24

April 24, 2015 | by Tony Scida

Worry about it later

Chances are you’re well familiar with this conundrum: The procrastination loop and how to break it

Looking back

A compelling argument from Smithsonian for teaching music history backwards. For that matter, maybe we should teach all history that way?


Streaming TV has overtaken live TV in this consumer preferences study.

Speaking of streaming

After making a big initial splash, Jay-Z’s music streaming service Tidal seems to be struggling to gain traction.

Maybe Jay should take up the tuba

If you’re having trouble sleeping, may I suggest taking up a wind instrument?

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The Zuck was clearly listening to Hodges Starters

April 23, 2015 | by Emily Shane

Just hours after our most recent Hodges Starters event (where we discussed the importance of supporting your content with ad dollars), Facebook announced its latest tweak to the newsfeed algorithm—part of which was yet another blow to organic reach for brands. Ok, so maybe the timing was sheer coincidence, but the gist of the announcement is that the social network is listening to its user base (read: trying to stay relevant) and will begin prioritizing friend content, which users say they want to see more of, over brand content in the newsfeed. So, what’s the big deal? It means that brands will have greater competition for audience eyes and therefore likely see further decreases to organic reach, which is currently at 2-3% of a page’s total fan base.  

With organic reach that low, does that mean business should abandon the platform all together? Here at Hodges, we say no. If anything, this is further argument for social advertising and sending targeted content to people who are most likely to engage with you—whether or not they’re part of your existing community. And speaking of social advertising, just a day after this announcement, the company announced its Q1 revenue—$3.54 billion, 73% of which came from mobile advertising. It’s a decrease from the Q4 holiday period ($3.85 billion), but still, a very clear illustration of just how much money is in this game. 

The bottom line—if you want your content to be seen, you’ve got to put ad dollars behind it. It doesn’t take a huge investment—just invest in the content that will drive your business goals. 

If you’d like to learn more about the announcement directly from Facebook, click here

(Photo by Brian Solis)

0 commentsPosted in: Social Media

New THP client: Alexandria Renew Enterprises

April 22, 2015 | by Jon Newman

We’re very happy to announce the signing of Alexandria Renew Enterprises as a new THP client.

Our work for Alexandria Renew will focus on the “owned media” practice of content strategy and creation.

It also continues to expand the THP client footprint into Northern Virginia, part of our goal to work with great clients through the Commonwealth.

AlexRenew operates one of the most advanced wastewater reclamation facilities in the United States, serving the City of Alexandria and redefining what it means to be an environmental steward in this industry. It will be our honor to help it reach its audiences through the creation of content that helps educate and inform.

“To effectively reach the Alexandria community with messages about what Alexandria Renew does and why it’s important, essential, and innovative, content is key,” said Lisa Van Riper, Chief, Enterprise Communications, Alexandria Renew Enterprises. “Hodges is creating a content strategy for us in partnership with our new content manager. They are taking a strategic, segmented look at the audiences we want to reach in Alexandria, and the content types and online delivery vehicles that will get us the results we are looking for.”

Our team, led by Greg Surber, is working on our first deliverable, a content management plan, as we speak. We’re pleased to be working with Lisa’s broader team and consultants and will report back on our progress.

Alexandria Renew joins THP’s current client list that includes Kroger, Tridium, the University of Richmond, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority and Chesapeake Bank to name just a few.

0 commentsPosted in: Gongs  |  The Hodges Partnership

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