The Gong

The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership.

To Boldly Go…

April 10, 2013 | by Jon Newman

It should come as no surprise to anyone that we throw around a lot of baseball terms and phrases at The Hodges Partnership. What you may not know is that a couple of us are closet Trekkies, so on occasion the random Star Trek reference is tossed about. When that happens in a meeting about three or four of us get the meaning. Sort of like our inside version of The Big Bang Theory.

The title of this post is a reference to taking the next step into uncharted territory (or The Undiscovered Country, sorry…I’ll stop).

So it is with great personal excitement that I introduce Mike Broggie as the COO of Hodges Digital Strategies and VP, Business Development of The Hodges Partnership. This is uncharted territory since this is the first time in the history of both companies that we are dedicating a person primarily to business development.

Mike has a long history of “biz dev” success, working for a number of technology and marketing companies on the west coast. In each case, Mike’s new business approach translated to substantial growth for those companies. Some of you in Richmond may already know Mike as he’s spent the last year or so networking in town as he plans to move his family from California to Richmond later in the year.

I’m never shy about bragging on our folks. They are world class. They get results for clients. On the THP side, we stand toe-to-toe with the national media relations shops. Ditto in our writing skills and without question on content creation and social media management. We owe it to them to take THP to the next step. Mike will help us expand our network and connections, not only in Virginia, but around the country and the world.

For HDS, our partner and CEO Sonali Shetty is a brilliant technology mind. She and Mike have already refocused Hodges Digital. Our new website reflects our focus on larger and more complex Web projects for institutional and corporate clients as well as mobile apps and mobilization projects. Again, we will rely on Mike and his network to expand HDS’s geographic reach while Sonali and her team perform their digital magic.

This doesn’t mean we will forsake our hometown. In fact, as we look at our history we’ve done our best work taking entrepreneurial clients like Snagajob, Ledbury, Reginald’s Homemade, Collared Greens and countless others and help put them on the national map. We will continue to look for the “next Snagajob” to help it craft its message and shoot for the stars. In coming weeks, we’ll be promoting a Work It, Richmond special section of entrepreneurs and we’ll begin working with 804RVA and Lighthouse Labs to help new companies take their first steps.

As with any new voyage, whether it’s to new worlds in space or into a new world of business, there is that “pit in the bottom of your stomach” feeling that I’m sure Kirk or Picard felt often.

But as we have done on many occasions in 11 years and the creation of two companies, we look forward with great excitement and great anticipation.

With a final nod to Star Trek (TNG to be specific), there’s only one word that seems appropriate as we shift into warp speed.


(OK, I’m done now).

1 commentPosted in: Agency Management  |  Hodges Digital Strategies  |  The Hodges Partnership

AND not OR*: How Mobile, Social and Web are converging

November 01, 2012 | by Sonali Shetty

*For a refresher on Boolean algebra go here.

Are mobile, social and web three separate entities anymore? Not when you consider the following:

  • The number of smart-phone users, world-wide just crossed the 1 billion mark.  In the U.S., approximately 87 percent use their phones to access the web and other apps (25 percent of whom, primarily use their mobile devices to access the web).
  • More than half of Facebook’s 1 billion users access the platform through their mobile devices, while 18 percent of whom don’t even visit the website.

So, it’s no longer an option to pick a platform, businesses must be on all of them. At Hodges Digital Strategies, our most interesting challenges are design and development at these three intersections: mobile + web, mobile + social and web + social.

Mobile + Web

Side-by-side example of website on mobile (left) and mobile-optimized website (right)

  • Mobile friendly sites (Sites that function on mobile devices. These sites have no flash and small image sizes for relatively fast loading. Users may need to zoom in order to use the site. Newer design and development capabilities are phasing out these kinds of sites in favor of mobile optimized and responsive sites.)
  • Mobile optimized sites (Sites designed to cater to mobile devices. Pared down functionality and navigation elements, large, touch friendly buttons and minimal data entry allow for mobile optimization. Most mobile optimized sites give users the option to view the desktop version of their website.)
  • Responsive design (Sites that utilize responsive methodologies for web development. A full website that renders seamlessly on devices with various form-factors. Meaning, a separate mobile site is not required - a large three column site on your large screen monitor, with rich visuals and extensive menus, can step down to a single column in a series of steps, responding to various device sizes.)

As more people interact with the web, primarily through their mobile devices, mobile capabilities for your website are no longer optional. While there is no right answer on whether to choose mobile optimized or responsive, we are biased towards responsive design and are incorporating these techniques in pretty much every new site we build.

Mobile + Social

Of the main social platforms, Twitter and YouTube were the most mobile-centric from the beginning, however, the switch to Timeline impacted apps, as they’re not visible via Facebook’s mobile app. To mitigate this (and to aid in app discovery), Facebook announced App Center. Mobile friendly apps that are registered in App Center are now discoverable through Facebook’s search bar. From a development perspective, it does mean that each app needs to also include a mobile version (using any of the above methods). There is slightly more work on the backend, however, with more and more users coming in from mobile, this is the only way for the users to access apps on their devices.

Web + Social

Back in 2010, Facebook introduced Open Graph API (yes, that ubiquitous “Like” button is just a toddler). Social sharing by liking or sharing content on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google +, has been deployed on millions of websites. Sharing also happens in the reverse direction by embedding activity streams from social media onto the web.  Single sign-on (signing up for a web-app via your Facebook or Twitter account) saves us from having to remember yet another user ID and password. However, balance that with the risk of allowing the 3rd party site access to your information and sometimes publish on your behalf. You can control third-party app access via privacy settings on your Facebook account.

This digital convergence is only going to accelerate further and include future platforms. Just think: Google Glass, the Nike+ FuelBand, your car’s dashboard…the fun has only just begun.

0 commentsPosted in: Hodges Digital Strategies  |  Public Relations  |  Social Media  |  The Hodges Partnership

The next great expression of “brand love”

May 30, 2012 | by Sonali Shetty

The ultimate expression of "brand love" is an icon on the Home screen of mobile devices.  Our devices are so personal and ubiquitous, that any apps we download and keep, are an extension of our identity.  True enough that many of our devices are a junkyard for apps - long forgotten and seldom used.  But others are so addictive, we wonder how we lived "pre app."

Checklist from Hilldrup's Move Pro app At HDS we just launched an app that I hope will be an incredibly handy resource for many people.  Hilldrup Move Pro (iPhone/iPad), for our friends at Hilldrup Companies, is a full-featured moving platform.  The app is a must-have for anyone contemplating a move.  But, we wanted to make the app relevant to a wider audience.  When creating a strategy for app functionality, we faced a unique conundrum.  How do you extend the life of an app that is built around a discrete event?  You want an app to be a valuable branded tool that people want to access again and again on their mobile device, right?

In looking into consumers’ moving patterns, we noticed that most people don’t unpack their boxes right away.  (True confessions: I still have unopened boxes in my attic six years after stashing them up there.)  So we created the ability for users to visually add items to their virtual box and even take pictures of their items, in order to document box contents.  High value items can be immediately identified.  Finally, users are able to create QR code labels to slap on their boxes.  When a user wants to identify the contents of a box, all they have to do is to scan the label on the box and read the contents. Pretty Cool!  Oh, and as an added security feature, to prevent just anyone from being able to read the QR code, only the Move Pro app on the original device that “packed” the box is able to read its contents.

Some other features and their long-range applications include:

  • Ability to notify friends when you've moved - applies down the road if your phone number or e-mail address change.
  • Currency converter.  For people moving to other countries, this is super useful.  And just as handy for people simply taking a trip abroad.
  • Assign a task to a friend - "Honey-do lists" are finally mobile-ized!

Reverse search will be available in the next release. Here's how it will work - suppose I’m looking for that pair of red shoes I wear over the holidays.  A quick search within the app tells me immediately which box those little babies are in.  That means no more rooting through boxes to find what you’re looking for.  This feature alone transcends moving – it puts a handy organizing tool at your disposal.

We’re pretty excited at what the Hilldrup Move Pro can and will do.  Download it and let us know what you think.  We’re hoping that MovePro will make it to your Home screen.

0 commentsPosted in: Hodges Digital Strategies  |  Mobile  |  The Hodges Partnership

I Killed My Blog and Why

March 28, 2012 | by Jon Newman

Jon's 1.5 is dead. It was time. It's not like I was running out of things to say but the original reason for the blog and the number of voices needed to tell that continuing story has evolved.

Kirk or Picard? Ok, I'm really done now.A lot has happened in the world of PR, social and digital in the three years of Jon's 1.5 and a lot has happened at Hodges during that time.  The initial journal that the blog was started to chronicle is over.  Think of the difference as the original Star Trek and TNG.  You might debate Kirk over Picard but the voyage continues and the characters change but the Federation's prime directive is the same.  Okay, I've really pushed the geek envelope here.

So Jon's 1.5 (the next generation, okay I promise to stop now) is now the Hodges Blog. You likely noticed the changes in recent posts.

We not only have a new look and feel, also soon be seen in a slight tweak to our agency identity and a major redo of our website, but also in the number of post authors.  Don't worry (for those who were really losing sleep over this), you'll still be hearing from me on a regular basis.  But you will also be hearing from all the Hodgers.  The subjects of the posts will range from our culture (Tony's recent post on our coffee issues) to our work (Elisabeth's post on our growing luxury practice) and share our expertise (like Sonali and Casey's collaboration, a  social media cheat sheet for Facebook Timeline for Brands).

We will continue to feature our work like today's media relations successes for CarLotz in Fast Company and Snagajob in Time, or social media campaigns or mobile app development.  But we will also feature the people behind the work and what they do (and how they do it) to be successful for our clients.

A mentor of mine taught me a long time ago a simple lesson about our business that I try to practice and repeat:  The key to business success is to hire people who are a lot smarter than you and let them do what they do best.  The Hodges Blog will showcase them and by extension show how smart Josh and I were to bring them on board in the first place.

It is now their time to shine.

So please enjoy the Hodges Blog and try to keep your emotions in check about Jon 1.5.  I hope it served you well.  I know it did me.

0 commentsPosted in: Agency Management  |  Hodges Digital Strategies  |  Social Media  |  The Hodges Partnership

Facebook Timeline for Brands: It’s Crunch Time

March 21, 2012 | by Jon Newman

Don't be nervous. Change is good.

That should be the Facebook brand statement.

Just when you get used to things, the mother of all social media platforms changes things up.  No change in recent history has given more marketing folks heartburn as the coming change of Facebook Brands Pages to the Facebook Timeline format.

Timeline for famed soccer club Manchester United.The change is official in just a few days (March 30) and Jim Belosic does a great job of helping marketing folks face this reality in this blog post on PR Daily.

We at THP and HDS have been spending lots of time getting clients ready for this change as well.  In addition, I've been asked to speak to a PRSARVA group about those changes in April (don't worry I'll cover Pinterest too).   For some reason I hear seats are going fast so you may want to register here.

I agree with all of Jim's points but folks really need to focus on:

  • The use of the cover photo as a means to show your brand without being too "promotional."
  • The increasing importance of custom apps and what they can do to improve the virality of your page.
  • The need to use timeline to tell a creative story and move the conversation forward.
  • The importance of pinning your posts and milestones.

Later this week in this space, we'll be making a Timeline for Brands "cheat sheet" of sorts available, so look for that by Friday.

Don't want to give away too many spoilers on my talk but the bottom line is you have about a week....are you ready?

1 commentPosted in: Hodges Digital Strategies  |  Social Marketing  |  Social Media

#Rutgers app: Labor of love

August 24, 2011 | by Jon Newman

Those who know me, even those who have just met me once or twice, know I bleed Scarlet.

It seems I was born a Rutgers Scarlet Knight with most of my family members having attended the State University of New Jersey.

My first memory of attending a sporting event is as a five-year-old jamming into my dad's green Chrysler New Yorker (the world's largest car) and riding to West Point to see the Knights face off against Army.  He must have had to stop at least three times for me to puke because of car sickness.

Rutgers sports was one of my paternal bonds.  I remember trying to watch basketball on New Jersey Network and trying to adjust the old VHS antenna to try to stabilize the picture and the snowy reception.  Living in North Jersey back in the day, it was tough to get WCTC-AM, at the time the only radio station carrying Rutgers sports.  So we'd stick the big transistor radio outside the window and contort our bodies in weird directions to get the best signal trying to listen to broadcasts in the Final Four year of 1976.

In later years (late '70s and '80s) my dad would do the same as he tried to listen to me as an undergrad, broadcasting football and basketball games on WRSU-FM, the student radio station.  As I grew older, technology advanced, and I moved to Virginia and Tennessee.   We'd be able to watch games on satellite and then listen to them online while sharing our commentary with each other on the phone.

When Tim Pernetti became Rutgers Athletic Director a few years ago, one of the first things he articulated was a vision for a broadband network where Rutgers fans could go online and watch games live, get taped interviews, etc.  He also envisioned it as a training ground for student broadcasters.  That was about the same time my dad's health began to decline and within the year he passed away.

As I have mentioned in this space before, it was only natural that we would honor dad by supporting KnightVision financially, helping its growth.  As a result I was about to get to know Tim, Jason Baum, Colin Osbourne and others in Rutgers athletics who are passionate about expanding the reach of all Scarlet Knights sports through new technologies.

Rutgers iPad app magazine-style pageAt the same time, we at Hodges were starting our new venture Hodges Digital Strategies, a social media and digital design and development company.  Our main products beside social media consulting are Facebook landing pages and apps and mobile apps, particularly for iPhones and iPads.

For me it was a no-brainer and a labor of love to collaborate with Tim and his team on an app designed from the fans point of view.  The main goal was to include the ability to embed the live streaming video from KnightVision (now renamed RVision) into the app so that fans could watch games and events on their phones and tablets.

After a year or so of fits and starts, today Rutgers Athletics announced the launch of the apps (they will be in the App store in about a week).  This post is my way of thanking Tim, Jason, Colin and all the folks at Rutgers for the hard work, and thanking my partners and folks at Hodges Digital Strategies (especially Sonali and Pradeep) who willingly made the countless changes I request.

The app accomplishes two things, it make Rutgers sports accessible to its fans anywhere in the world and it shows the great capabilities of our new company.  I'm thrilled on both counts.

For Rutgers fans, I hope you enjoy the app and its features.  Please give us your feedback so we can make it better over time.

It's been a long time since I've had to stick the out transistor radio out the window, this app makes sure we'll never have to do that again.

1 commentPosted in: Hodges Digital Strategies  |  Mobile

Two great upcoming #RVA events

May 03, 2011 | by Jon Newman

It's been awhile since the last post but things have been busy at work and with spring break  (Hogwarts was very fun). I welcome you all back with news of two fun events on the horizon.

Amber NaslundThe first is an honor to be a part of, as we're sponsoring the event.  She may not know this but there are few people who have influenced me and in turn the direction of our business, than Amber Naslund (@ambernaslund).  Almost three years ago when I dove into the world of social media, Amber was there.  With her blog Altitude Branding, now Brass Tack Thinking, her availability and advice on Twitter, and her welcoming friendship when we met face to face at Blog Potomac, Amber was and is a teacher and mentor on the topics of social media, social business, online civility and fun in general.   In her position at Radian 6, she is a nationally recognized voice in social business.

She is speaking in Richmond at this Thursday's Social Media Club meeting promoting "The Now Revolution," the book she co-authored with another personal fav of mine, Jay Baer.  If there is one event to go to this year, it is this Social Media Club event.  Period.

Second, for those who didn't receive a Facebook or email invite, consider yourselves invited to "Opening Day" at The Hodges Partnership and Hodges Digital Strategies next Tuesday, May 10 at our Shockoe Bottom HQ from 12noon-5pm.  This open house celebrates the renovation and expansion of our physical space.

We will celebrate in true baseball style with hot dogs, popcorn, giveaways and a "first pitch" for clients at 1:05pm.  BTW, we're still looking for someone to sing the National Anthem so if you can sing it and sing it well, please comment below.

Please RSVP on this Facebook event page or leave a comment below, as we need to know how many hot dogs to order. :)

Looking forward to seeing all of you at both events.

2 commentsPosted in: Branding  |  Hodges Digital Strategies  |  Social Media  |  The Hodges Partnership

Embracing change.

April 13, 2011 | by Jon Newman

WARNING:  This is one of a recurring series of posts on the topic of change.  If this topic bothers you and/or makes you unconfortable, please stay right where you are.  Literally.

Lots of change in my life recently.  Turned fifty, check.  Moved into new office space, check.  Started a new company that's doing well, check.

We've been spending a great deal with friends and clients talking about change as well.  Our bud, John Sarvay is doing some great things at his business, Floricane, and we spent some time over coffee and diet coke comparing notes.  While we discussed his future plans, I've since spent time reflecting on our future.  Not sure where I've landed yet but I'll likely burn some brain cells on spring break mulling it over.

Right now we seem to be in a good place.  We've made some great hires.  They and our long-time Hodgers have bonded amazingly and afford Josh and I the time to actually spend some planning, thinking, etc.

We're noticing that Shockoe Bottom and Richmond are changing as well, for the better.  For those who haven't been to our neighborhood, the number of apartments being built here is staggering.  It's not Ballpark development mind you but still the area is changing for the better.

We've also been fortunate to be included in some "fly-on-the-wall" discussions on the future of our community and I think I might want to spend a little time on that coming up.  I've been having some conversations and I'd like to have some more.  My goal will be to try to connect many of the smart people I know with each other.  I've already started a little.  I'm having fun.  I'd like to do more.

As is usual with change, you never know exactly where you're going until your there.  When you get there it's time to find somewhere else to go.

We've never really had a road map.  We like it that way.  It hasn't hurt us so far.

Are you changing?

0 commentsPosted in: Agency Management  |  Hodges Digital Strategies  |  Richmond  |  The Hodges Partnership

Two years, and the wild ride continues.

December 10, 2010 | by Jon Newman

First, apologies for not writing as much lately.  Frankly, I've been busy both personal and professional and I just haven't had a great deal of value to say.

It is humbling to have conversations with many folks and have them tell me they are regular readers of this blog.  We're approaching the blog's second birthday and when it began I didn't know where it would take us all.  I'm also spending a great deal of time thinking about where things are going.  The topic is coming up in client meetings and will also be the topic of a talk that my Hodges Digital partner-in-crime Sonali Shetty and I will be giving next month at the PRSA Richmond luncheon.

Some here are some reflections and musings in no particular order.

  • Two years ago, we were pulling our clients into the world of social media, now if you don't bring it up in a meeting or presentation they will.  People aren't thinking in the terms of social media any more, they are thinking in terms of communications.
  • I am more convinced than ever that the marriage of social and mobile is the future.  Brands need to make an impact on social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube and that presence needs to be carried through onto smartphones and tablets.  New stat that I saw yesterday, the number of tablet sales are expected to quadruple in 2011.
  • The ability to "share" using social and mobile is critical and a tipping point for success.  It is why people love Groupon, where they can share and save socially.  (Interesting Andrew Mason interview with Matt Lauer today, btw).
  • Geolocation is a 50/50 proposition with a split between the folks that believe and the folks that respect their privacy.  The jury is still out in my mind on the long-term business benefits.  Facebook Places will be the ultimate bell weather of success.  Best new geolocation tool I've seen is where Untappd, people can connect over the beers they drink.
  • Content and engagement is still king and they run hand in hand.  Branding through custom landing pages and tabs are now engagement points.  Clients that incorporate those elements see their Facebook engagement numbers increase dramatically.  If not all they have is a wall between them and their fans.  Literally.
  • Twitter is losing on my personal "attention scale" as I find myself forcing it rather than enjoying it.  I'm not adding to my personal community as much as I used to, but I do communicate with my existing friends and folks that share similar likes and dislikes.
  • I'm willing to revisit LinkedIn given some recent conversations, but the recent changes to Facebook Profiles is a warning shot across the bow as it marries LinkedIn's profile information and Facebook's search and marketing capabilities.

Generally, we as a group are finding that our decision to marry our public relations experience, social media and mobile/digital is paying off.  Clients now expect to have all those conversations at the same time and in a perfect world with the same people.  They also value a strategic partner that can work across this spectrum.  We are also seeing clients and prospects who are less inclined to "silo" specific aspects of communications and work with fewer partners who can bring all these services to the table at one time.  They just have less time to manage multiple partners and value smart thinking, speed and the ability to deliver.

If you told me two years ago that two years into a blog about my journey as a traditional PR guy into the world of social media that I'd actually be a partner in a digital agency I would have told you that you were "smoking crack."

The communications world has come a long way in two years and for us at THP and now HDS it has and continues to be a wild ride. This blog will continue to chronicle that ride.  I thank all the readers, clients and friends who help me make it happen.

I promise to try to be more "regular" in the new year.  If you have suggestions on topics and direction please send it along.

For now, the ride continues.

2 commentsPosted in: Hodges Digital Strategies  |  Marketing  |  Social Marketing  |  Social Media  |  The Hodges Partnership

A great cause: Our first official Facebook landing page

October 20, 2010 | by Jon Newman

WARNING:  This post is highly promotional both for HDS and our client.  But once you read it you'll understand why I posted and why you should at least take a look.

It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Hodges Digital Strategies' first "official" Facebook custom landing page, executed for ChildFund International's "100 Days of Yes" campaign.

While we have already completed a number of similar clients with our new partner Sonali Shetty, this is the first one launched under the new HDS banner and we can't be more excited and proud.

ChildFund International is a tremendous Richmond-based organization through which you can sponsor a child in some of the poorest regions in the world, providing food and materials to help make life easier for them and their families.

The "100 Days of Yes" campaign is a drive to focus sponsorship activities and get as many new sponsors as we can over the 100 day period.

The new landing page is designed not only to highlight the campaign, but provides a way for existing sponsors to share pictures of their sponsored children and post some thoughts about that experience.  Folks can page through the photo album to see the pictures and the posts, and of course they can become a fan of ChildFund's Facebook page to receive future updates, etc.

We're proud to be working with ChildFund on this campaign with PR provided by THP and social media by HDS and it's a great example of the combined services these two companies offer under the Hodges umbrella.   We invite you to become a sponsor of a child and a fan of the page and to return back often to look at the picture gallery.

We're also proud to offer other cost-effective services for non-profits and small businesses who are looking to expand their reach on Facebook.  Here's a link to learn more.

We'll be back later to report back on the success of the campaign.  Thanks for indulging this promotional post.

0 commentsPosted in: Hodges Digital Strategies  |  Social Media

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


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