The Gong

The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership.

Facebook’s New Lead-Gen Cards: Good or Bad for Online Marketers?

July 07, 2015 | by Emily Shane

Lead generation and mobile are two of the biggest trends in online marketing. So it’s no surprise Facebook is examining how it can change its ad platform to better marry the two and mirror capabilities already offered by Twitter. Recently Facebook announced it has developed its own version of lead-gen cards—native ads that allow users to download offers directly from the platform without filling out a form or leaving the site.

So what does this mean for those of us interested in lead generation?

The Good

SEO and lead-generation best-practices both say to remove as many hurdles as possible to help ensure a customer follows through with the desired conversion (e.g., download an offer or sign up for a newsletter). Leaving one site to go to another to fill out a form is a big step in this process. It’s a step that’s also riddled with potential IT malfunction—poor loading time, page load error—that could negatively impact the number of people who complete your intended action. The ability to tap a single button on Facebook is about as simple as you can get.

The Bad

Facebook is a leased platform, meaning that it controls how it works, what data it collects, and most importantly, what data it shares with marketers. More and more, companies are using marketing automation platforms such as HubSpot to better understand how customers are interacting with their content and move them toward making a purchase. As it stands now, Facebook’s new lead-gen cards bypass these programs because they do not take the user to the website. So while your conversions might increase with the simplicity of Facebook’s new tool, you could be sacrificing important data that could facilitate interim conversations—before that contact is ready to make a purchase—and ultimately convert that lead into a customer.  

Facebook’s lead-gen cards currently are only offered to a select group of brands. Once they’re rolled out to the masses, they undoubtedly will be a huge success for some companies looking to simplify their lead generation campaigns. But again, for those using platforms like HubSpot and who are interested in gathering specific information about their customers to better qualify leads and segment audiences, this might be a tool to let pass by.

Stay tuned to our blog for further updates on this new tool and how it impacts online marketers.

0 commentsPosted in: Social Marketing  |  Social Media

Why I Got My APR

June 30, 2015 | by Greg Surber

If you’ve received an email from Lindsay, Cam or me in the last few months, you might have noticed a new addition to our email signature, specifically three letters—APR. For those familiar with PRSA parlance, you know exactly what I’m talking about. For all others, let me elaborate.

APR stands for Accreditation in Public Relations, which is a distinction the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) developed “as a way to recognize practitioners who have mastered the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to develop and deliver strategic communications.” More simply, it shows you understand that PR is more than just tactics and “press agentry,” to use a word learned in our studies.

How do you get it?

It’s been a professional goal for each of us the past few years, but it wasn’t until our local PRSA chapter held an APR Boot Camp that we decided to do more than just fill out the first page of the application—something we’d all done more times than we care to admit. See, the process isn’t easy or short.

The APR exam consists of two parts:

  1. A 60 to 90-minute panel interview where you present a public relations campaign you worked on that followed the four-step process (research, planning, implementation and evaluation)
  2. A 3.5-hour multiple-choice computer exam that covers everything from communication theory to the history of public relations

The whole thing took approximately two months, which is actually considered short for most APR candidates, who can take up to a full year to complete the process.

Why did we do it?

Anyone who has more than a day’s worth of experience knows there’s a big difference between how we should ideally practice public relations and how it’s done in the real world. Rarely do we have the budget and time to do all the research we should do, for example. Still, the APR reminds us, regardless of budget or scope, we need to approach all of our work strategically, with not only our clients’ best interests at hand, but also their customers.

As Jon explained in his last blog post, PR is changing. This isn’t the first time our industry has gone through a sea change and it won’t be the last. But as we were reminded in our APR studies, the fundamentals of our profession are more deeply rooted than any technology or trend, and so long as we continue to rely on those we—and our clients—will be fine.

0 commentsPosted in: Public Relations  |  The Hodges Partnership

We Do: HodgePodge for Jun. 26

June 26, 2015 | by Tony Scida

It’s pretty unusual that really big news breaks while I’m putting together this post. But, in observance of the Supreme Court’s ruling this morning on same sex marriage, here’s a round up of interesting related stories.

The ruling

The New York Times gives an overview of the decision, reviewing the arguments in the case and the path to the ruling.

The opinion

You can read the opinion for yourself straight from the Court.

The dissent

NPR has a look at the dissenting opinions from the dissenting justices, including Chief Justice Roberts

The reaction

The Washington Post (among other publications) has a live blog of the ruling and reactions from the scene.

The satire

No truly big piece of news is complete until the Onion weighs in.

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0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

What are we doing? What in the world happened to #PR?

June 24, 2015 | by Jon Newman

So where did the first half of 2015 go? You blink and six months are gone.

We’ve been busy on many levels—not only in workload but in making some fundamental changes to our agency: what we do and how we do it. These changes mirror what’s going on in the PR industry and marketing in general. Our clients count on us to stay abreast of the latest tools and technology of the trade.

While we still do work that you’d expect a traditional PR firm would do, we also are now focused on the world of content marketing. Our new world at Hodges is best explained by three words: earned, owned and paid.


We still do and are very good at traditional public relations work like media relations. In the first six months of the year, we’ve gained news coverage for our clients in The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, ABC News, etc. This is the traditional third-party coverage that we earn for folks. We’re also providing strategic counsel, managing events, etc. Everything a traditional PR firm does.


We are now creating full-blown content marketing strategies and plans for clients designed to create content that they own, usually housed on a website. We then drive people to that owned content using social platforms to amplify that content to the right people at the right place at the right time. Here are some highlights of work so far:

  • For one client that means curated content on their website so they can explain better to customers what they do every day and why it is important.
  • For another it means marrying high-level, expertise-laden content with calls to action and downloadable offers. In order to get those offers, readers must provide personal information. The client then has a way to continue to communicate directly to that reader and determine whether that reader qualifies as a lead they can then hand over to the sales department.
  • And for a third client, it means creating, writing and managing a digital magazine designed to celebrate a lifestyle and culture. The content is not product specific but celebrates the food, travel and style of this target audience. It is our first foray into true brand journalism, a move we’re very excited about.


We also have become experts and consultants in the area of “amplification.” We are now using social platforms primarily as advertising platforms to not only post all the content but to marry that content with the ad tools that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others provide. This helps us make sure that we’re targeting the right people with the right content and driving them to the right places for our clients. It also allows us to better measure success since we’re not “posting and praying” anymore. We are able to track success through analytics and in some cases, where appropriate, leads and sales.

Some of this is old hat for us. Some of this is very new, and we’ve committed ongoing resources to ensure we’re learning all we need to know. In some ways it is a bit of a leap of faith. But we can see the future and it is working for our clients and for us.

My guess is we’re not the only ones going through these changes, so for my colleagues out there, here are some thoughts and advice as you’re navigating through this brave new world.

  • Trust your people: You hired them and they are likely smarter than you. You need to give them the freedom to help you see where things are going and trust them to help you do the same.
  • Change is tough: You may have to lose some people along the way who either don’t fit or are resistant. Change also doesn’t happen overnight so things will be messy for a while and that’s fine.
  • Keep learning: Look for tools to help you. We have recently become a HubSpot partner to help us and our clients manage the content and lead generation process. They have become a valued partner and have some great educational tools.
  • Find some help: We’ve brought in two consultants to help us validate this newer model and identify new prospects who will be interested in our new suite of services.
  • Keep communicating: Both internally and externally. You might assume that just because you are making changes that your associates understand them and that your clients and prospects will recognize them. It takes more than one meeting or lunch to explain these new capabilities and how they work well with the old ones.


So as I look forward to my week in the mountains, there is one question that we’ve still been struggling with as we try to easily explain this new approach: Is it still PR?

My short answer is yes, it is not only public relations but the new public relations. As I’ve said on many occasions to folks here, we are best positioned to create content that drives this new approach since we’ve been telling our clients’ stories since day one.

The only difference in this approach is that we’re not only telling the stories in a pitch to reporters, but we’re telling them directly to customers, readers and leads using the new tools that technology and the Zuckerbergs of the world have created for us.

Yes it is still PR, it’s just the new PR.

What do you think?

3 commentsPosted in: Agency Management  |  Marketing  |  Public Relations  |  Social Media

Substitution: HodgePodge for June 19

June 19, 2015 | by Greg Surber

Tony’s on vacation this week, so I’m filling in on the HodgePodge.

Cover up

Speaking of vacation, do you know what kind of sunscreen you should buy?

Help wanted

Giving its increasing popularity and rising shipping costs, it’s no surprise that Amazon is getting creative with its courier options.

In the groove

Whether or not you think vinyl records sound better (they do, by the way), this is how such a tiny needle makes such a big sound.

Move over Hamilton

The U.S. Treasury announced it will feature a woman on the $10 bill starting in 2020. Congrats, ladies! Now if only we paid them equally.

Coming soon

Parents, go ahead and prepare yourself to the fact that you’ll see this movie 20 times next summer. IT’S ABOUT WHAT PETS DO WHEN WE LEAVE, PEOPLE. (And no, I don’t care that it’s the exact same premise as Toy Story.)


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0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

Video and B2B Marketing

June 17, 2015 | by Caroline L. Platt

You’ve likely heard the buzz: video is increasingly important for B2B marketers. Check out these findings from Forbes:

  • More than 80% of senior executives said they are watching more online video today than they were a year ago.
  • Three-quarters (75%) of executives surveyed said they watch work-related videos on business-related websites at least weekly; more than half (52%) watch work-related videos on YouTube at least weekly.
  • Work-related video can drive senior executives to take action. Overall, 65% have visited a vendor’s website after watching a video.

It might surprise you to know that those statistics are from 2010. But it appears that B2B marketers have been paying attention. In a more recent benchmark study by the Content Marketing Institute, 76 percent of B2B marketers said they are using video as a tactic in 2015.

With these numbers in mind, we asked three of our video partners to offer their ideas and suggestions for creating a successful company video or series of videos. If you’re considering using video as part of your marketing plan (or if you’ve already started), take some advice from these veteran video production pros.


Dave Park, Dave Park DP/Video Services

Video is everywhere. YouTube and Vimeo make anyone a broadcast producer. When creating a video, know the audience. Folks are well informed as to the quality of video production, whether they realize it or not.  If your video lacks direction and a strategy, people will see that.  

  1. People on camera and ideas are the stars. Make sure folks look good. Learn lighting techniques or better yet, hire a professional.  There are many levels of production one can apply to creating a video.
  2. Ask around, get quotes, find out who shoots great interviews or great product shots, or whatever you need. Not every production company does everything well. 
  3. Everyone likes to say they are storytellers. Sometimes you don't need drama to explain the upcoming benefits of a software upgrade.  Again, know your audience. 

Remember, you are about to add to the millions of hours of streaming videos. Plan it out, organize ideas, prep interviewees, learn what “script-to-screen” means.  You can't escape it, video is everywhere.


Jerry Williams,

Just like any business decision, if you're going to invest in a video you want to ensure that there's a realistic return on investment. You must have a strategy. Here are the three vital questions that must be clearly answered.

1. Determine an actionable objective. It shouldn't be "to inform the public about our company." After viewing, you want the viewer to take action that can be measured.

2. Know your audience. How much do they already know about your product/service? What is their demographic? This will help you fashion a message that doesn't waste time and targets the right viewer.

3. Determine how it will be used. Will the video be presented on a big screen at a meeting, mailed on a DVD or posted on a website? The video's utilization will determine the length, the approach, even the size of the text.

Beware the ugly baby syndrome! No matter how hideous your own child may be, you're going to love it. The same thing is true of a badly produced video. Because you had part in the creative process, it's your baby. Even if it's dull, you'll love it. To avoid this, ask to see examples of work (and the budgets) from any video producer you're considering. If their work impresses you and you like the questions they ask, book 'em!


Patrick Bedall, Sprocket Media Works

Look around you, everyone’s online one way or another. People have got their heads down checking their email, scrolling through Facebook on their phones, opening links to webpages for three different sites at once. There’s no avoiding it, staying current means being active online but here’s the catch: it’s not enough. Tweeting updates about your company’s latest sale just doesn’t cut it anymore. Video is crucial to your online presence.

  1. Internet users are busy people, they don’t have time to waste. How do you captivate your audience’s attention? A video is the perfect way to firmly direct audience attention and hold focus.
  1. Personality and tone are important, you can’t leave it up to chance. Video production puts the power in your hands so there’s no room for error – you’re 100% in control of your message.
  1. People want products they can trust. Videos foster trust with your customers and clients. People like to connect with their products and the people making them. Showing off your company’s personality through a video instantly creates a connection that your audience can relate to. The more customers feel connected to their products, the more loyal they are – simple as that!


Thanks so much to Dave, Jerry and Patrick for sharing their expertise.

Let us know what you think in the comments. Thanks!

0 commentsPosted in: Hodges Digital Strategies  |  Marketing

See You Later: HodgePodge for Jun. 12

June 12, 2015 | by Tony Scida

So long

Goodbye hipster, hello yuccie?

Next time on Big Bang Theory…

According to this NYT Op/Ed, there’s some conflict in physics circles about the importance of evidence.

Before the listicle

The New Yorker looks at how New York Post headlines like “HEADLESS BODY IN A TOPLESS BAR” foreshadowed today’s clickbait.

See no evil

Ad blocking software is getting more pervasive

Are we there yet?

Have you noticed the trip home always seems to go faster?

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0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

The glamour, the glitz…it’s the P-R-S-A awards!

June 12, 2015 | by Cameron McPherson

It’s been three weeks and I finally feel ready to look back and express how it felt to both coordinate and celebrate the 2015 Virginia Public Relations Awards.

Any good event comes with at least one “oh no!” moment. For me it was when I thought we had lost 12 awards.

I kept calm.

I took deep breaths.

And then I rejoiced when a lone box was located amongst the rubble of awards packaged. Found!

As PRSA Richmond’s 2nd vice president of awards, I had the pleasure of coordinating the 2015 Virginia Public Relations Awards. Hodges has been a huge supporter of PRSA Richmond, and I was very grateful the agency allowed me to orchestrate the ceremony.

I had visions of creating an opening number like the Oscars or Grammy’s. I had a jingle in my head: “The glamour, the glitz, the media relations hits … it’s the P-R-S-A Awards!” All I needed was good lighting and tap shoes.

Then I remembered that I have a full-time job. My dreams of opening numbers, were soon replaced by meetings, phone calls, writing, pitches, the kind of work that gets you…well, a PRSA award!

But we didn’t have to abandon all the ideas. Hodges was generous enough to donate selfie sticks for each table’s entertainment during the ceremony. (Weren’t they fun?!)

After any event, it always amazes me how much planning and preparation goes into such a short time frame. It’s a lot like Christmas. Shop, shop, shop and it’s over in 15 minutes. I wish I had the awards committee around for my Christmas shopping. It would go a lot smoother. I enjoyed watching my colleagues and peers receive awards for their good work. Many times, I think we move on so quickly to new projects and campaigns that we don’t get to celebrate our successes. The Virginia Public Relations Awards is not only a time to celebrate, but an opportunity for reflection.

A highlight of the evening was watching the legendary Suzanne Hall receive the 2015 Thomas Jefferson Award. She has served as a mentor to so many (including me!) during her 30 years at the VMFA. It was a thrill to see her accept this well-deserved honor.

Countless people helped with the planning of the awards: from writing and editing the script to volunteers that helped assembly 40 selfie sticks right before the show. A special hat tip to the talented Pryor Green, communications specialist at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, who flawlessly assisted me with executing the event.

Thanks to everyone who submitted awards, sponsored and attended the ceremony. I hope to see you again next year when I’ll be (happily) cheering you on from my seat in the audience. 

0 commentsPosted in: Public Relations  |  The Hodges Partnership

Jump: HodgePodge for Jun. 5

June 05, 2015 | by Tony Scida


From Jay-Z’s high-definition streaming service Tidal to Neil Young’s Pono music player and service, musicians are trying to get us to pay more for higher-quality digital music. But can you even tell the difference?

Speaking of hearing

When we miss-hear a word or phrase, our brains are quick to come up with a plausible substitute, and thus the eggcorn was born

Design thinking

Take some time to watch this TED Talk from Tony Fadell, creator of the iPod and the Nest smart thermostat.


We’re all ending our emails wrong.

Performance anxiety

Apparently being competent isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our blog to make sure you don’t miss the next edition.

0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

Instagram ads: The next content marketing opportunity

June 04, 2015 | by Jon Newman

It’s was only a matter of time.

In fact I had three conversations this week about it before it happened telling folks it would be here before the end of the year. And it’s not like I’m that smart—it was just inevitable.

Instagram is about to open up the floodgates. As reported in outlets like The New York Times and explained in more detail in places like TechCrunch, the marriage of Instagram and Facebook is leading to what will likely become a very profitable offspring.

By the end of the year, marketers will be able to advertise their products and services to Instagram users in the same direct and targeted way they do on Facebook…and Twitter and LinkedIn for that matter. They will also be able to push “call-to-action” buttons to “learn more” and yes “buy here,” which of course is the Holy Grail for business-to-consumer marketers.

Here are a couple of thoughts on what this will mean to content marketers moving forward…

  • Instagram will become the fourth leg on the amplification stool: Until now Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn were the social ad platforms of course. Now add another (and maybe another when Pinterest gets serious).
  • This will be the way to reach Millennials, teens and…: Facebook is for the masses, Twitter is for a slightly younger demo, LinkedIn is for professionals but we were all waiting for Instagram to allow us to amplify content to THE younger generations.
  • Photos and videos will become even more important: Quality is now crucial. Just because you will now be able target people who don’t follow you doesn’t mean they will follow you back, go to your content or buy. The quality of content (photos and video) is even more important as Instagram was built with visuals at its core.
  • Don’t forget B-to-B: The ability to target your audience allows for business-to-business folks to use Instagram to not only reach younger audiences but specialty audiences with visual offers. Technology and education are just a couple of industries that can immediately take advantage of the new ad offers.

There will be the usual backlash and fallout from Instagrammers who don’t want to be marketing targets but as has been proven on social platforms across the board, the ads will eventually rule the day.

Marketers should learn as much as they can now to seize this opportunity when the floodgates open later this year.

0 commentsPosted in: Social Marketing  |  Social Media

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