The Gong

The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership.

Enshrining Gil in our own way

December 16, 2014 | by Josh Dare

In the summer of 2002, Jon Newman and I decided to tie our fortunes together by severing our umbilical cord to The Martin Agency and finding a place to hang a shingle of our own.

Our first question: what would we put on that shingle?

We bandied about some ideas, quickly determining that we didn’t want to name our inchoate agency after ourselves – thereby forestalling any discussion about top billing.  Nor were we inclined to come up with some catchy name that we might someday regret, pretty much like anyone who’s ever gotten a lower-back tattoo. No, what we needed was a name that reflected an intersection of our lives, something with meaning and relevance and resonance…

Jon and I both spent our “wonder years” in the shadow of the Big Apple – he among the future Springsteen groupies of New Jersey and me perhaps running into a boyhood Jerry Seinfeld, who grew up likely making wry observations one town over on Long Island. While we lived on either side of Queens, we both made regular summer pilgrimages to Flushing to watch our beloved Mets. I wanted to be Ron Swoboda while Jon did his best Art Shamsky imitation on schoolyard diamonds.

Our greatest reverence, however, was reserved for the manager of the 1969 Mets, the Dodger great Gil Hodges, who took a rag-tag group of mostly nobodies and taught them how to win – to win so much that the team he skippered so masterfully that summer won 100 games, eight more than the second-place Cubs and an “amazin’” 27 games more than the year before when the Mets took ninth place in the National League, just squeezing by the lowly Astros by a game. Counted out prior to the start of the Series, the Mets dispatched the Orioles in five games, and long-suffering fans poured onto the field to celebrate – a 45-year-old memory still embedded vividly in my mind.

Gil, of course, knew how to win from his own playing days in Brooklyn. He helped the Dodgers to seven National League pennants and two World Series titles. He won three Gold Gloves, was named to eight All Star games, drove in more than 100 runs in seven straight seasons and hit more than 20 homers for more than a decade straight. His 370 home runs are more than were hit by Hall of Famers Ralph Kiner, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Hank Greenberg, Johnny Mize and many others. How many more homers might he have hit had his professional career not been delayed by his service in the Marine Corps during World War II, for which his country honored him with the Bronze Star?

And yet, despite these heroics – on and off the field – Gil Hodges has never been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and given the vote just taken by the Golden Era Committee, it’s likely now he never will.

It’s disappointing, and the modest Gil shrine that we have built at our Shockoe Bottom offices – photos and baseball cards, Shea Stadium seats and even a 1962 Aqua-Velva point-of-purchase display – is a far cry from the honor that he deserves.

In the 1952 World Series, Gil endured an 0 for 21 hitless streak, a miserable slump that continued the following spring. One Brooklyn priest took to the pulpit to entreat his flock to “say a prayer for Gil Hodges.”

More than a half-century later, we still are.

1 commentPosted in: Agency Management

LinkedIn’s homepage refresh brings improved on-platform experience

December 15, 2014 | by Emily Shane

Have you noticed a change to your LinkedIn Homepage? During the month of December, LinkedIn is rolling out several updates that will bring people on-platform and make the overall experience more user friendly. This change comes after Facebook’s most recent update to its algorithm decreasing the frequency of brand posts in the user newsfeed. LinkedIn’s move is in line with its 2013 shift from resume depository to professional publishing site. 

Here’s two of the most noticeable changes on LinkedIn:

  1. The dashboard on the top of the homepage helps you understand which content your connections like, and which are less popular. 

  1. Pulse articles – LinkedIn’s publishing tool – on the user homepage have been grouped together and made more sharable. 

For more details on the updates, check out this blog post from LinkedIn.

(Photo: LinkedIn Office by Ben Scholzen, on Flickr)

0 commentsPosted in: Social Media

Double Up: HodgePodge for Dec. 12

December 12, 2014 | by Tony Scida

The garage is a lie?

Steve Wozniak disputes the Apple creation myth.

Brown chicken, brown cow

Here’s a seasonally appropriate listicle: 19 Secrets of UPS Drivers.

Say it again slowly

The New Yorker looks at the science behind misheard lyrics, like the classic “excuse me while I kiss this guy”.

Important science

Can the color of your coffee mug affect the taste of your coffee? Yes, says WaPo’s Wonkblog.

The movie doughnut hole

Whither the mid-sized movie?

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0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

Behind the NPR Story: ChildFund in Liberia

December 11, 2014 | by Cameron McPherson

We at Hodges, especially the team that has worked with ChildFund International over the past five years, already knew what the editors at Time magazine recently declared — that the folks working in Africa on the frontlines against Ebola are heroes. The medical staff and aid workers who are putting their own health at risk to care for those who have contracted the virus deserve every bit of the recognition and accolades they are receiving.

ChildFund’s focus has been on the children who have lost one or more parents to the outbreak. They’ve set up centers in Liberia and Sierra Leone where children can get the support they need, and just as importantly, find an environment where they can just be kids. ChildFund provides counseling but also games and activities to get them through the 21-day quarantine.

Reporters from major news outlets around the world have been reporting on Ebola, often courageously themselves. National Public Radio, for example, has had reporters and producers on the ground, providing regular stories on various aspects of the virus’s impact. We’ve sought to keep them apprised of ChildFund’s efforts and progress.

The shopping bag in question (names & numbers redacted).So it was not a surprise a few months back when I heard from an NPR producer wanting to speak to someone in Lofa, a county about four hours from the Liberian capital of Monrovia that has been devastated by Ebola. Problem was, I was traveling when I received the request, and in an era of digital devices, what I really needed was a piece of paper to write down the producer’s contact information. A folded-up grocery bag had to do.

As sometimes happens in our business, the producer ended up talking to someone else for the story, but we made a point of keeping our NPR contact up-to-date on ChildFund’s work. About a week ago, that diligence paid off. We connected an NPR producer with Anthony Klay, ChildFund’s program manager in Liberia. NPR subsequently visited the care center for a story on Ebola orphans, which you can listen to on NPR.com.

Beyond old paper bags, my newest best friend has been Skype. It’s by far the easiest way to conduct public relations internationally, and once you get past the time differences, the technology enables us to connect to people all over the world, in real time and face to face. Connecting reporters to real heroes — that’s the best part of all.

(Photo courtesy NPR.)

0 commentsPosted in: Media Relations

Blog content is often right in front of you

December 10, 2014 | by Josh Dare

A few years back, on a balmy summer evening, I looked out one of the small windows flanking our front door, and alit on the glass pane in front of me was a giant moth – bright green, an almost fluorescent creature, glowing in the August moonlight. It was probably the size of those bars of soap you get at a hotel, big enough for me to emit an audible gasp. Not that I was afraid or anything but I was glad it was on the OTHER side of the glass.

My first reaction was to wonder what Art Evans, that bug expert guy on WCVE would say about it, but immediately after, I called to my daughter, wanting to share my discovery with someone. She immediately (well, as immediately as 17-year-olds come when they are summoned by their father) joined me in the foyer.  She took one look at it, matter-of-factly uttered “oh, cool” and proceeded to capture the Lepitoptura (okay, I looked that up) with her iPhone, presumably to share with hundreds of her friends on Facebook. (This was during her pre-Twitter and pre-Instagram days.) Seconds later, she was back doing whatever it was she was doing.

I was reminded of this episode recently in talking to clients about the need to “socialize” their expertise and experiences with their online followers. I talk to clients regularly about their stories, and more often than not, they are too close to them to even realize they ARE stories.  Not seeing the forest for the trees kind of thing I suppose. So many marketers fail to take a step back and realize that what is right in front of them, what they are experiencing daily – the problems they are solving, the insights they are providing, the behind-the-scene images of their workplace – actually have marketing value to their target audiences.

It’s rare that we meet a client that we don’t think should have a blog. An ongoing blog gives marketers a chance to showcase their expertise, to put flesh around the bones of their brand, to amplify their key messages, to shape an identity that people like and can relate to. Blogs do all this and more. And they can be more than words, but include images, videos and links to someone else’s smart musings. Yeah, we love blogs.

But invariably, clients tell us that they are too busy to blog, and more to the point, that they don’t know what to blog about. (Insert another audible gasp here.) The maddening answer, of course, is that blog content is right in front of them – big and green and fluorescent – just waiting to be shared, quickly and efficiently, with everyone who should care.  So many Millennials go through their days socializing their everyday experiences with those they are digitally connected to.  It’s a mindset – actually, it’s moved beyond a mindset to become something instinctive.  They go through their days looking for experiences, links, images, videos, newscasts, embarrassing texts from parents – anything that they can share with others to let them into their world. 

Blogs don’t have to be some profound treatise on the state of the industry. They are the brief episodes of a business day that basically have readers saying, “oh, cool.”

Photo: "Male Luna Moth, Megan McCarty141" by Megan McCarty - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

0 commentsPosted in: Social Media

Mood Indigo: HodgePodge for Dec. 5

December 05, 2014 | by Tony Scida

Media relations

A coalition of restaurants in Dallas is refusing to charge the food critic from Dallas Morning News in an attempt to impede her ability to publish reviews about them

Harder they fall

Are Facebook’s days numbered? In The Atlantic, Alexis C. Madrigal takes a look at how its fall may come.

Shake it up

Just yesterday there have been big shake-ups at The New Republic, which is now owned by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes.

Good night and good likes

ABC News has launched a Facebook newscast in an attempt to… they didn’t really say. But it’s hosted by World News Tonight anchor David Muir.

Check the bark

Whether it’s a planet or not, it remains that we’ve never gotten a good up-close look at Pluto. Well, that’s about to change.

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What is daytime TV looking for? Tips to pitch Meredith Vieira and Rachael Ray

December 02, 2014 | by Stacey Brucia

When I first started in PR, no matter who the client, they wanted to be on Oprah. And many wished for the most-anticipated show of the year, the reveal of Oprah’s favorite things. 

Frankly, it’s a bit easier for us PR folks that there no longer is the “holy grail” that was Oprah. (By the way, until I googled a moment ago, I had no idea that there was still a “favorite things” list. Credit to you if you have the patience to click through a whopping 72 items, but I do like these colorful pens.)  

But for those of us with clients who still crave network or daytime talk shows, I recently heard from some of the bookers from The Meredith Vieira Show and The Rachael Ray Show. Here are some key takeaways to determine if your business, story or client is a good fit: 

Are you a celebrity? 

Unfortunately for most of us without access to celebrities, an A-list celebrity name within an email subject line is still going to catch the bookers’ attention the most. The week bookers were sharing their thoughts at a New York City PR event, Kim Catrall had been in town talking about menopause, an interesting juxtaposition with her history with “Sex and the City.” So, realistically understand that your chances to make a show are a lot smaller without a celebrity connection. I’m not at all saying don’t try, but instead, be realistic and then smart about your approach. 

Remember the guest you’re offering needs to be TV friendly

Bookers suggested that for non-celebrities, pitches should contain proof that a guest will succeed in an interview format. Link to prior television interviews and include a photo. Don’t make a booker Google to find these things on their own. (Social media play is also important for these shows. If your guest has a significant Twitter following, talk follower numbers.) 

Know what doesn’t work

The Meredith Vieira Show doesn’t want an ISIS pitch, nor does it want studies or surveys. And the folks at Rachael Ray have heard all they care to about how cucumbers are a beauty treatment for the eyes; you won’t be covering new ground there. The more important point is to watch each show for the kinds of segments that work for them. (No, this is not new advice, but maybe it will inspire fellow PR practitioners to set their DVRs for a few days.) One week in October, for example, I saw Meredith reunite a family with their military dad/husband and also learned that Meredith’s dad is a veteran. That’s a meaningful insight for The Olde Glory Coffee Company, a client of ours that donates 50 cents per pound of coffee sold to veterans and wounded warrior organizations.)  

What are your secrets to pitching network talk shows with success? Please share below. In the meantime, it’s a great time of year to DVR Rachael Ray just to catch holiday ideas – from decorations from HGTV’s “Property Brothers” to cocktails – for personal use. Enjoy!

0 commentsPosted in: Media Relations

The art of the opinion

November 25, 2014 | 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 back in April. 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.

  • 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!

(Image by Pete O'Shea on Flickr)

0 commentsPosted in: Public Relations

A Night at the Museum: HodgePodge for Nov. 21

November 21, 2014 | by Tony Scida

Bad guys

Here’s something you didn’t think you needed: The complete visual guide to the 37 villains of the Batman TV series.

On a different note

FastCo brings us the unauthorized biography of everyone’s favorite emoji.

Millennials, again

This article from NPR seems to do a good job of cutting through the popular narrative to provide some actual facts and figures about the current “it” generation. (There sure are a lot of them.)

The real challenge is to duplicate the results

From NTY Mag, a look behind, and beyond, the ice bucket challenge and what it means for fundraising in the 21st Century.

It wasn’t pretty

Do you remember Windows 1.0? Slate does.

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Seeing is believing: bad visuals will ruin your content marketing campaign

November 17, 2014 | by Greg Surber

Content marketing is bubbling up here at The Hodges Partnership. Jon heralded its arrival the other week. It’s been the running theme in most of my blog posts the past year. And other people feel the same way. According to one article, 93 percent of marketers employed content marketing to some degree in 2014.

But if you aren’t careful, you will sabotage your content marketing campaign by making this one common, but critical mistake—you aren’t willing to invest in visuals to enhance your written content. Professional photography, professionally designed graphics, professionally produced videos. Do you see what I’m getting at?

Yes, everyone agrees on the basics like including an image with a Facebook or blog post, but the quality (and usage rights in some cases) of the visual seems to be an afterthought. Why? Cost. Most people don’t have a proper understanding of how much time, skill and creativity goes into the work of professional photographers, graphic designers and videographers. And when we don’t understand something, we devalue it.

Here are some of the most common responses organizations give when pressed to properly invest in professional creatives—and what goes through my head when I hear them:

  1. It’s too expensive. (“Yes, but it’s worth it.”)
  2. Well my teenage daughter is into photography, she can take pictures for free. (“There’s a lot more to photography than having an entry-level DSLR.”)
  3. Don’t worry, some of our staff got some iPhone pictures. (Silently shaking my head…)

In my mind, here’s the disconnect—organizations aren’t thinking of themselves as content creators, similar to a magazine or a newspaper. Someone on your content staff needs to play the role of editor, who knows how to tell your company’s story as it relates to the broader industry and has a sense of how to tell that story visually.

Stepping off my soapbox, here are some helpful tips and resources to get you started:

High-resolution images

At a minimum, you need a core collection of high-res images: headshots of your thought leaders, products, recently completed projects—any tangible thing that you want to promote. It’s among the first thing any reporter will request, and believe me from experience, can be the determining factor for a reporter deciding to move forward with the story. Extra credit if you have an easily accessible vector copy of your company logo.

Stock photography subscriptions

Stock photography is a great way to get a lot of professional images for far less than you’d pay a photographer. Many like ShutterStock or iStock offer a flat monthly rate that allows you to download a certain number of images per month to use in blog posts, Facebook or LinkedIn updates, etc.

Know how to story board

You don’t need to have a picture, graphic or video for everything your company does, but at the very least, you do need to know how to visually communicate whatever story you’re trying to tell. It’ll not only help you determine what visual elements you need for your content, it’s essential when pitching media, especially broadcast.

Bottom line, if you aren’t willing to invest in visuals, even if it’s stock photography, your content marketing successes will be muted at best. The hard reality of content marketing is if you don’t take it seriously, your customers won’t either. 

(Image by Alex Proimos on Flickr)

0 commentsPosted in: Social Marketing  |  Social Media

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