The Gong

The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership.

A preppy miss for Target

April 19, 2015 | by Jon Newman

My daughter and I knew we were in trouble when we saw a filled Target parking lot just before eight on a Sunday morning.

Then we saw the line of (mostly) women wind around the side of the store.

It was then we knew of plans of scoring some of the coveted Target-Lilly Pulitzer merchandise that both companies had been promoting for months was slowly fading into the pastel-colored horizon.

We actually knew about an hour earlier when I tried only to find the entire Lilly collection already sold out and the first reports of issues had overnight began to surface.

Now the great debate starts. Is this a PR and marketing success for both brands because of the instant sellout? Or is it a failure because of the building anger coming from core audience for both brands, women and their daughters?

Target for one seems to be spinning, almost out of control. Recently I had mentioned to my wife that the store seemed much emptier during prime weekend shopping times. My guess to myself is the company still was recovering from 2013’s security breach and the horrific way it handled the aftermath.

Based on the immediate quotes coming from Target spokespeople on Sunday, they still are putting the consumer last. Here are just some examples While never crashed the company obviously wasn’t prepared for the “extreme traffic” to the site and had to intentionally make the site inaccessible for 15 minutes so it could catch up.

After past IT issues you’d think there’d be now why for Target to underestimate the site traffic. But it did.

Underestimating the aftermarket: I witnessed people with overflowing shopping carts leave two stores and I imagine that scene being played out across the country. I’m sure they didn’t check the size of each item they bought. I’m also sure they won’t have any of those items in their closet in a week.

Within minutes Target-Lilly items were up for sale on eBay for five times more than they were selling for in stores. But the Target company line while saying “that’s really disappointing to us” also doesn’t shed a tear for the consumer saying Target is “not the first retailer that’s experienced its products being sold” in the aftermarket. The spokesman actually added that limited product lines “become like collector’s items.”

That’s all folks: And finally while online rumors of restocking started to spread around the internet, Target is quick to point out that there will be no new items available in stores or online. That’s all folks.

That’s a heck of a way to rebuild faith in a brand and get people to come back after you make their credit card information for all the world to see, isn’t it.

And for Lilly Pulitzer, it won’t escape the wrath of its core either. As you can see on its Facebook page, its attempt to make good with a mystery gift with a new purchase is being met by the wrath of the consumer.

But Target is the one with the bullseye on its back here. I know there will be many who will say this is no different than other designer sales the retailer has based its recent strategy on. I also know that the company recently beat expected earnings as it recovers from the security breach. But you have to wonder how many times consumers will excuse deaf ear the company seems to be turning in their direction.

I know this dad who had to pay on eBay more than twice what he expected to pay for a pastel-colored Shift dress will be taking his expendable income elsewhere for a while.

Would love to hear what you think. Please comment below.

0 commentsPosted in: Crisis Communications

Friday Night Likes: HodgePodge for Apr. 17

April 17, 2015 | by Tony Scida

I know why the clicked link sings

Where did the mis-attributed quote on the new Maya Angelou stamp come from? Apparently Wikipedia.

Buying the forest for the trees

Apple just bought a forest where it will grow trees for its packaging.

Agree to disagree

No, Yes, Definitely: On The Rise Of ‘No, Totally’ As Linguistic Quirk

Running north

Via the indispensable Next Draft newsletter: A story from the starting line of the Pyongyang Marathon

There’ll be a quiz later

The typical American reads more than 100,000 words a day and remembers none of them.

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0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

Making the case for targeted social advertising

April 15, 2015 | by Kelsey Leavey

If you’ve been reading our blog lately you’ve probably seen these four words together: owned, earned, paid and shared, as it relates to the future of public relations. Not only is it important for organizations to have a media relations strategy (earned), create original content such as blog posts or microsites (owned) and a social media strategy (shared), but it is now imperative for organizations to have a social advertising strategy (paid).

Next week, Emily Shane and I will be giving a presentation on the importance of social advertising and how you can take your organization’s strategy to the next level. (There are a few seats left, and you can still register here.) We’ve both witnessed the changes that have happened in social advertising over the last couple of years and know that it can be difficult for marketing and PR professionals to keep up. We also know that it can be difficult to make the case for a paid social media strategy, when most of the platforms started off as a “free” way to reach your audiences.

We’re hoping that through this presentation you’ll leave with two things:

  1. A better idea of how your organization can reach its target audiences on social media without breaking the bank
  2. The ammunition you need to make the case for a social advertising budget

We hope you’ll join us on April 21, at 8 a.m. for our Hodges Starters: Beyond Boosting workshop. We promise to feed and caffeinate you, and to keep our presentation to under an hour so you can be on your way. Hope to see you there!

Register for Beyond Boosting

0 commentsPosted in: Social Marketing

Periscope and Meerkat: Live from your Twitter, it’s…

April 14, 2015 | by Jon Newman

Remember the beginnings of Twitter when everyone told everyone what they were doing at that moment whether everyone else really cared or not.

Oops, that’s still Twitter…

Imagine that but doing it using live video and you’ve got the current state of Periscope and Meerkat. Those are the new live video apps that allow folks to live broadcast whatever they are doing wherever they are doing it and promote viewership through Twitter.

This post will not debate the merits of one versus the other (Periscope was acquired by Twitter pre-release so it is more embedded while Meerkat might be more easy to use and it was first), this post will explore what this means for marketers and brands.

As referenced above, most people are using the apps to play. This means live shows featuring their pets, what they’re eating or cooking, where they are driving, etc. This will get old very quickly (and has) but for marketers and brands the possibilities are much greater than that.

  • Sports Marketing: NBC broadcast the weigh-ins for its widely popular Saturday Night boxing series on Periscope and actually broke some news when one of the boxers failed to make weight thereby changing the terms of the fight. At the Final Four, athletic departments broadcast practice sessions as a way of keeping fans engaged. Overall the ability to provide additional and complimentary live content for fans is a great opportunity for all sports platforms.
  • Scheduled live shows: Brands can share their expertise by scheduling live demonstrations, shows, interviews featuring their experts. Periscope allows viewers to ask questions on the screen for experts to answers. Viewers can also “like” responses by tapping the screen generating floating hearts and providing instant feedback.
  • Breaking news: Yet another way for reporters or citizen journalists to “broadcast” live from the scene of events or news stories. Twitter is already know as the “breaking news” social platform, so this takes it to another level.
  • Personal branding: People have created personal brands on social platforms for the last six or so years without a great deal of video content, now they can easily add live video to their arsenal as they schedule shows or have impromptu sessions.

These are just some of the ways to seriously incorporate these new platforms.

Hey, I like watching people cook or drive as much as anyone but…

What other ideas do you have to use Periscope and Meerkat in “big boy” integrated public relations?

Would love to hear them. 

1 commentPosted in: Social Media

Detecting the Watches: HodgePodge for Apr. 10

April 10, 2015 | by Tony Scida

Hot stuff

What, exactly, is comforting about comfort food (aside from the, uh, eating)?

On the news

The Vanity Fair goes long on what’s wrong at NBC News. Presumably we’ll soon get an NBC segment on what’s wrong with Vanity Fair.

Debbie Downer

Can’t wait to see the SNL sketch on this: The Atlantic looked at FCC complaints to find the most offensive recent Saturday Night Live segments.

Economy of one

If, like me, you’ve wondered how a “living wage” is calculated, it seems like there’d be worse places to get an explanation than The Economist.

But what’s with Roger’s mustache?

From NPRMusic, A (Nearly) Comprehensive Guide To The Music Of ‘Mad Men’.

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0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

I’ve seen the future of PR and it’s…

April 07, 2015 | by Jon Newman

Earned, owned, shared, paid.

They are the four words that make up the cornerstone of public relations in 2015.

Native advertising and sponsored content are the phrases that are thrown around interchangeably to describe buying your (content’s) way onto a third-party website.

But the Holy Grail is brand journalism. It gives you the ability to truly control your content in a way that both exemplifies your brand and reaches your target audience.

Until recently I thought it was nothing more than a pipedream.

That is until I saw Marriott Traveler.

Marriott’s entry in the brand journalism space is quickly what we in PR should all strive for, both for our clients and for ourselves.

In its first “issue” Marriott celebrates its core brand of travel and focuses on one city, New Orleans. Readers can explore their options in the areas of food, family, culture, zen and travelcraft. The articles are well written with good images. The content is added to daily, giving readers a reason to come back.

It is the flight magazine of yesteryear, for those of us who remember flight magazines. But it is available online for those planning trips, for those interested in traveling, which is Marriott’s core brand.

What makes this brand of brand journalism stand out?

  • It provides value: This is really good stuff. This is actionable travel information that regular people can use.
  • It doesn’t rely on third-party endorsement: This is not travel journalism about New Orleans that Marriott’s hopes will mention its properties. It is travel journalism by Marriott that positions it as a travel expert about New Orleans.
  • It doesn’t hard sell: As a matter of fact is it the softest of all sells. Across the top of the home page there is a very unbranded callout to find a hotel. Then all the way at the bottom there’s a large picture that promotes the hotels with the word “sponsored” across the top. Yes, they even tell you that they are advertising on their own site.
  • They promote it on existing social platforms: It pays to have built up those fans and followers so now you have this great unbranded content to promote through posts and social advertising.

This is brand journalism 101, 201 and graduate course level. This is why journalists are leaving their jobs to go work for brands.

This is the standard for those in PR who pay lip service to all the buzzwords should strive to meet and exceed. This is what we at THP think of as we talk about brand journalism to our clients.

Congrats Marriott for showing us the way.

2 commentsPosted in: Public Relations  |  Social Media

OK Friday: HodgePodge for Apr. 3

April 03, 2015 | by Tony Scida


You’re not as smart as Google makes you feel.


In the Back to the Future II version of 2015, Max Headroom was everywhere. But, who was he?


11 points about Tidal, Apple, Beyonce, and the future of streaming music

Also from Quartz

More live-action versions of Disney movies are coming. Maybe this SNL skit isn’t so far off?


There was a time when “open office” just meant a terrible Microsoft Word rip-off, not a terrible working situation.

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Creating content that converts

April 02, 2015 | by Paulyn Roman

Lately at Hodges there’s been a lot of talk about content. Creating it, boosting it, managing it, curating it, amplifying it. All of this discussion points to the fact that it’s not enough to just come up with good content anymore. For your PR, marketing and communications strategies to be effective, you have to make sure that each piece of content you produce has a purpose, and ideally, that its purpose ties back to your business goals.

Some of us at Hodges, including me, have been working through Hubspot’s inbound methodology and taking steps to become inbound certified. Part of the certification process includes taking some online training classes and I found the most recent lesson on creating a content strategy particularly useful. While nothing in the lesson was groundbreaking, or anything we haven’t been discussing internally already, it was helpful to see all of the pieces of a strategy that we often think are intuitive laid out in a formal process.

Currently, only about 44% of B2B marketers have a content strategy, 39% for B2C marketers. For those of you in the remaining percentage working through a content strategy, here are some tips for creating an effective one.


The three main questions to consider here are what are the content’s purpose, format and topic? If the purpose is to generate leads, then you probably want an offer, or gated piece of content. The format of the offer could be a whitepaper, case study or template. In determining the topic of the content, you’ll want to focus on who you’re trying to reach, and what content will be the most helpful for them.


When producing content, always focus on mapping your content to your personas and where they are in the buyer’s journey. Your customers are busy people, so make it easy for them to consume your content by keeping it short. Lastly, the majority of your content should be educational versus promotional. At Hodges, we like to follow the 80/20 rule of keeping 80% of the content educational and 20% promotional. 


Often we spend so much time producing a piece of content that when it’s finally ready we rush to get it up and out. Really, we should spend as much time on content promotion as we did with creating the piece of content. The idea is to maximize the shelf life of the content and leverage it via distribution whether that’s through social media, marketing emails or your blog. 


What you analyze will depend on the format of the content and your business goals. Some metrics to consider when analyzing the efficacy of your content are number of visits, leads generated, social proof, shareability and inbound links. You could also look at things like content performance by topic or by format.


Then it starts all over. It’s important to keep up with planning your content to make sure you’re always feeding the content machine.

It can be daunting at first, trying to map out a strategy and process for your content but taking these steps will hopefully get you to the point where every piece of content you send out will have a purpose—whether that’s clicking through to your website, downloading a whitepaper or filling out a lead gen form—that’s tied to your bottom line.

(By the way: if you liked this post and want to know more about how to make your PR, social and content programs work better for you, sign up to recieve our blog posts by email with the form below.)

0 commentsPosted in: Marketing  |  Social Media

Are your viral news platforms giving you all the news you need?

March 31, 2015 | by Josh Dare

On November 28, 1972, I scored two baskets in a hard-fought varsity basketball game against the Key School. I know this because the next morning, my picture was in the paper making one of them, my Pete Maravich-like hair flopping in black and white. (Admittedly, my haircut was pretty much the only part of my game that resembled Pistol Pete’s.) 

My mom cut that sophomore-year photo and the accompanying article out of the paper. And so did some of my neighbors. And some parents of classmates. And a local insurance agent. By week’s end, I think there were about a dozen clippings of that photo in the basket on our kitchen counter where my family kept important stuff that we didn’t know what to do with.

Forty years ago, that’s how news went viral. If someone saw something they thought you’d be interested in—that article with tips for stopping the hiccups, that Dear Abby column about the weird aunt that sounded eerily like your own, that J.C. Penney advertisement about the sale on bellbottoms—they’d stick it in an envelope and send it your way. Grand-mothers were especially good at it.

Today, of course, there’s much greater efficiency. Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter give us the capacity to share news with our network of connections (and beyond, if we want) even before we’ve read to the bottom.

On top of the links that my friends suggest that I see, I also partake of a regular dose of Daily Show and Ellen clips, the best of NPR and The Atlantic and some self-indulgent Buzz Feed quizzes that give me critical insight into things like what kind of dog my personality most resembles or what Disney princess I am (answers: Golden Retriever and Cinderella). 

I’ve also signed up for news alerts from The Washington Post and The Richmond Times-Dispatch and subscribe to regular e-news services from Virginia Business magazine, and Fairfax County EDA’s thrice-weekly e-Bird. And if you’re not yet subscribing to Next Draft, do yourself a favor and sign up today.  It’s free and the best (and most creative) aggregator of the most talked-about news stories of the day.

Through it all, I feel reasonably well-informed. And yet, all this digital news acquisition is not enough.

Whenever I interview someone for a job or internship at The Hodges Partnership, I toss a lot of softballs the way of the applicant, questions that sound more like we’re shooting the breeze than anything else. But the question I’m most interested in I slip in when they least expect it: how do you get your news?

What I hope to hear—but rarely, if ever, do—is that they read the morning newspaper. Ideally, and I know this sounds old-fashioned to Millennials, they will tell me that they subscribe to the paper and physically pick it up off their front steps every morning and that by the time they’ve finished their morning coffee, they’ve caught up with what has happened around the world and around the block. And only then, if there’s something they’ve read they want to share, they will pull it up online before posting it elsewhere.

I worry that if we rely too heavily on viral news sharing as the sole source of our news—as many people do today—we run the risk of being too self-selective, in other words, that we will consume only the news that others have decided we should see. The value of the daily newspaper is that a team of smart and largely truthful and objective journalists have put together a fairly comprehensive rundown of the news that an informed, engaged citizen should know. You may be cynical about the news media, but no one does it better than daily newspapers.

Your grand-mothers are actually onto something.

(Image via

0 commentsPosted in: Media Relations  |  Public Relations

All the K’s: HodgePodge for Mar. 27

March 27, 2015 | by Tony Scida

Art of the menu

In this video on The Atlantic, “the young doctor” James Hamblin looks at the psychology of restaurant menus and how we’re manipulated by the language used. I promise it’s funnier than that sounds.

Apropos of nothing

Here’s 15 subway-style maps of, uh, non-subways.

And on that bombshell

It may be “just a car show,” but Top Gear brings in millions for the BBC every year, so it’s a pretty big deal that co-host Jeremy Clarkson went and got himself fired.

All the world’s a stream

While you’re picking sides in the big Meerkat-Periscope debate, the big live streaming trend in Korea is called mukbang. From NPR: Koreans Have An Insatiable Appetite For Watching Strangers Binge Eat

Definitely Merida

Do curveball interview questions really work?

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0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

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