The Gong

The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership.

When September Ends: HodgePodge for Sept. 26

September 26, 2014 | by Tony Scida

Sporting News

ESPN this week suspended Bill Simmons over comments he made about the NFL’s Roger Goodell on a podcast. The internet has opinions about it.

The other 99%

The Washington Post declares podcasts back in with this profile of Roman Mars, so get your ears ready.

What the Ello?

For those of you who like to keep up on the comings and goings of social networks, there’s a new one out there now, and you can only get in with an invite. Here’s two takes, one from ValleyWag and another from PCWorld.

Water can

How old is the water on Earth? At least some of it appears to be older than the Sun.

Surprise albums and stuff

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke is dropping a surprise album on Bittorrent. Maybe he just wants to be like Beyonce, whose own recent surprise album is now a Harvard Business case study.

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Richmond Comes Out: 3 Ways Your Brand Can Too

September 24, 2014 | by Cameron McPherson

Have you heard the news? Richmond is out.

As a member of Richmond Region Tourism’s LGBT advisory committee, I’m so excited to see the OutRVA campaign launch – and thrive.

For the past four years, we’ve promoted Virginia’s capital city to LGBT travelers through a campaign called Rainbow Over Richmond. We ran advertisements in nearby states, organized press trips and created online content to educate prospective travelers.

I loved visiting journalists’ reactions a few hours into the press tours. “Whoa, I never expected this. Richmond is COOL,” was a common response. Yeah, we know!

But for year five, we wanted a refresh. In came the incredibly creative students from VCU’s Brandcenter. The result? OutRVA.

Are you interested in connecting with LGBT consumers, too? Here are three tips to get you started:

Look internally

Do your LGBT employees have a seat at the table? If not, pull up a few chairs, their insights are valuable. Examine the possibility of creating an LGBT affinity group or employee network.

"Having an LGBT employee resource or affinity group sends a very clear signal that the company values and respects all its employees. This means that employees or potential employees understand they can bring their whole self to work and be valued, respected and supported," said Beck Baliley, deputy director of employee engagement at the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights advocacy group and creator of the Corporate Equality Index.

"Having an LGBT resource group helps attract top talent and retain the employees you have. Externally, ERGs [employee resource groups] can help a company understand its relationship to the LGBT market and collaborate to establish or improve brand presence in that market," Bailey added.

In addition to their experience, creating an LGBT network makes financial sense. According to a 2006 report by Harris Interactive and Witeck-Combs Communications, 55 percent of LGBT consumers choose to do business with companies that have a commitment to diversity and equal treatment of employees.

Diversify your vendors and suppliers

Make sure you’re working with diverse suppliers – from SWAM-certified businesses to companies with NGLCC certification, meaning they’re majority owned by LGBT individuals. These groups not only help prove you’re committed to supporting minority markets, but bring diverse, well-rounded insights and solutions.

“Our team works every day to identify diverse suppliers that can compete for business at Capital One.    We believe it’s important that our suppliers represent backgrounds as diverse as our customers and associates,” explained Stacey Lawson, program lead in Supplier Diversity at Capital One. “The diverse perspective that these suppliers bring to the table helps us continue to innovate, which is a critical success factor for Capital One. They work hard and deliver effectively, and together we are making a positive impact on the communities where we live and work.”

Choose your sponsorships wisely

According to the same report by Harris Interactive and Witeck-Combs, with quality and value being equal, four out of 10 gay consumers prefer to purchase products from companies that advertise in LGBT media.

Luckily, you don’t have to be a huge brand when an even bigger advertising budget to accomplish this. Connecting with your city’s annual Pride event or advertising in local LGBT publication are great options to show your support.

What are some of your favorite LGBT marketing campaigns? Please share in the comments below.

(Photo by jeff horne)

0 commentsPosted in: Media Relations  |  Public Relations  |  Richmond

Choose Your Own Adventure: HodgePodge for Sept. 19

September 19, 2014 | by Tony Scida

Re: can of worms

A follow up to last week’s Newsweek article by the journalist who read an responded to every pitch: Dear PR People Everywhere: I Am Not Your Savior.

Job stuff

This career advice from W+K executive creative director Mark Fritzloff might be useful to you.

Purple state

I, um… uh… really like language maps like this one.

Positively negative

There’s a fine line between being a pessimist and a jerk, but according to The Atlantic, it may be a line worth toeing.

This’ll make me happy and sad at all times

iOS 8 brings with it Android-like predictive text features, allowing you to compose whole sentences, of a sort, just from the OS’s suggestions.

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How to Get a Job in Public Relations

September 15, 2014 | by Josh Dare

So, you want to work in PR. I can’t blame you. I’ve got more than 30 years and 200 pounds of communications experience under my belt, and as I look back on it, it’s been an interesting and sometimes exhilarating ride. If you are a quick study, pay attention and can write your way out of a paper bag, you’ll learn a ton about a lot of different professions and products, and you’ll likely never be at a loss for cocktail party conversation. (Ask me about the JOBS Act, child labor issues in Bolivia, Milliennial work trends among Big Four accountants or how sediment runoff is impacting the health of the James River.)

There’s good news on the hiring front. The Labor Department predicts that PR jobs will grow by 12 percent over the decade ahead, this after a period of already robust job growth, particularly on the digital side. PR also gets high marks from a qualitative point of view. USA News puts public relations as among its “100 Best Jobs” and ranks it as the “#1 Creative Job.” And among the majors that employers love, Yahoo! lists Bachelor of Communications as #2.

None of that comes as a surprise. The regular stream of resumes and employment inquiries we receive here is a tangible testament that we’re in a buyer’s market when it comes to talent. Lots of smart young people want to get into public relations, which is a healthy sign that our profession will remain vibrant and stay on the cutting edge of new technologies.

That said, not all the young people I meet with seem to have a clear sense as to how to get that first job in public relations, and if you press them further, some even have trouble articulating what it is about the PR profession that interests them in the first place. With that the case, here are some musings to guide you in the choices that lie ahead.


There are certain characteristics that I think all good PR people should have, and at the top I would put curiosity. The best practitioners have an abiding curiosity about things, and that starts with closely following the news around them. Want to get into PR? Read a newspaper. Go online and delve into stories on various other outlets. Pay attention to which publications are covering which issues. Read commentaries. Watch The Daily Show. Like The Onion on Facebook. Our profession is changing by leaps and bounds, but what will not likely change anytime soon is our focus on helping clients tell their stories through the news media. And to effectively do that, you need to be a consumer of news so that when your client suggests that his inventory software tool is ideal for a story in The Atlantic, you’ll be able to disabuse him of the idea—gently of course.


Public relations needs good writers—check that, we need great writers. We need professionals who can express themselves articulately—even eloquently—within a diversity of formats: articles and op-eds, news releases and letters to the editor. Yes, we need bloggers and Facebook posters and folks who can condense the essence of a message into 140 characters, but we also need writers who can craft insightful white papers, annual report copy and speeches. If you’re still in school, walk into the campus newspaper tomorrow and tell them you want to write, and if you’ve graduated already, start your own blog or Tumbler account or offer to freelance for a local weekly. Get a byline. Prove that you understand that this is a prerequisite to starting down this career path.


Everyone has their “dream” job in public relations, and chances are scores of your fellow graduates have the same dream. And so you need to be flexible—in a number of ways. First, consider broadening your professional outlook. Sure, you want to get into public relations, but there’s nothing wrong with taking that first entry-level job in marketing more generally. And even if you need to pay the rent and can’t find even that, find opportunities in your current job where you can begin flexing your PR skills. Soon after I landed a job with the FBI giving tours (loved that official natty blue blazer), I asked if I could start a newsletter for fellow tour guides. After one issue of Walking and Talking, I was summoned “upstairs” to the public affairs office to take a writing job, which is where I had been trying to get for the previous six months. Flexibility also means expanding your geography. PR opportunities are limited in Richmond, but in DC, they are almost as ubiquitous as attorney openings. Even if you have your heart set on staying around, it’s only 100 miles away, and after you get some great experience, you can direct your career path back to the RVA.


If you want to become a public relations professional, start acting like one. And the best way to do so is to join the local PRSA chapter, or the student chapter, as the case may be. Attending the regular lunches and learning from speakers and forums is not only a great way to begin your professional development, but it’s also ideal for networking. Meet as many people as you can. Let them know your career interests. Find ways to get involved on committees. Get your name out there as a budding PR professional, even if you are currently a receptionist at a real estate firm.


The best PR people have a fearlessness about them. You need to be able to speak frankly but tactfully to a client about the real world or reach out to reporters with a great sense of confidence. My business partner is a perfect example. So many PR people pitch stories to reporters as if they are asking for a favor. When Jon Newman pitches, it’s as if he’s doing the reporter a favor. And to be clear, I’m not talking about changing your personality. Some of the best public relations practitioners are dyed-in-the-wool introverts, and yet they possess a confidence and fearlessness that forms the foundation of their success.

So, congratulations on your choice of careers. Now go out and do what great PR people do—set a clear plan of attack, stay persistent and make your own luck.

1 commentPosted in: Public Relations

Apple-Free: HodgePodge for Sept. 12

September 12, 2014 | by Tony Scida

Inbox gajillion

If any part of you making a living depends at all on interacting with journalists, this is required reading: I Read and Replied to Every Single PR Email I Received for a Week.

Dot dot dot

It’s not just you—those text message typing indicators cause all kinds of people all kinds of stress.

Sleep on it

Maybe your friendly neighborhood overachiever really is doing things in her sleep?

As seen on the web

Despite the infomercial-like headline, this advice seems quite useful: The ‘Feynman Technique’ Can Help You Learn Anything Faster.

How to succeed in business while really trying

As a music major who has gone on to gainful non-music-related employment, I agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment from Forbes contributor Liz Ryan: Let the Kid Study Music, Already!

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One of My Favorite Content Curation Tools – BuzzSumo

September 10, 2014 | by Laura Elizabeth Mann

Working with various clients — from banks to software companies to local RVA groups — keeps me on my toes. Admittedly, I didn’t know much about banking, software or the RVA startup scene before working at Hodges. But, having clients in these areas made me knowledgeable about their businesses, what’s going on in their spaces and what their audience’s needs are.

It’s important not only to know about the companies we work with, but also to stay on top of what’s going on in their industries. Knowing the latest news and topics helps me create interesting, sharable content, and stay in front of trends. Not long ago, Hodger Tony Scida – whom we deemed the office’s “Ombudsman of Life” – clued me into a (free) tool I now use every day: BuzzSumo.

According to their website, BuzzSumo was created out of a desire to see what type of content resonated with the social web.

Here’s why I use BuzzSumo:

What is everybody talking about?

Here’s how it works: Enter a topic in the search bar, like “big data” or “personal finance,” and BuzzSumo shows you the top trending (shared) articles about your topic. For example, in light of recent Virginia news, I searched “McDonnell” and BuzzSumo showed that a post on MSNBC was shared 21,000+ times (20,000 of those shares were on Facebook) and a Huffington Post article was shared 19,000+ times. It’s useful to know what content performed well (i.e. has been shared a lot) when curating content for my clients. If 20,000 people are talking about it on social media — and it’s relevant to my client’s audiences — it’s probably a topic worth blogging about or sharing.

Want just infographics? That’s an option, too.

People are drawn to visual content, and infographics are a great way to share something eye-catching. With BuzzSumo, you can filter searches by type. Sometimes I’m looking for an article, sometimes a video or infographic. With BuzzSumo, you can search for just articles, infographics, guest posts, giveaways, interviews, videos or all of the above.

Filter by date.

BuzzSumo lets users filter search topics by: 24 hours, past week, past month, past six months and past year. This is especially helpful in remaining relevant. When creating a content calendar for the month with topics and articles to share on social media, it’s not very relevant to share an article from 2010. I use BuzzSumo to make sure the topics I plan to share are really news. Also, for one client, I send a daily news roundup of what’s going on in their business space to my team. What about Google Alerts? Well, I use those too. But, using BuzzSumo in conjunction with Google Alerts lets me know what’s in the news and how popular the topic or article is.

Creating content that’s useful, timely and engages your audience can be challenging. Hodgers Emily and Caroline recently gave a presentation as part of our Hodges Starters series on “Demystifying Content.” (If you missed it, check out Jon’s wrap-up here.)  

BuzzSumo is one of my favorite tools to help with content curation and keeping up with news and trends. What are some of your favorite tools? Do tell.

0 commentsPosted in: Social Media

Back to School: HodgePodge for Aug. 29

August 29, 2014 | by Tony Scida

Caesus paratus

Actual researchers at an actual university (as far as I can tell) used actual science to determine what cheeses make the best, perfectly browned pizza topping.


You may have heard that Hello Kitty is apprently not a cat. Twitter freaked out about it a little bit.

Today in publicity stunts

Taco Bell is giving away a “lifetime” supply of free Taco Bell.

That’s a wrap

Tony Soprano is either dead or not dead.

It’s not very insta

Instagram’s new app, Hyperlapse, is pretty fun. Here’s the story behind it.

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Why PR practitioners should care about Facebook’s click bait change

August 27, 2014 | by Lindsay Grant

(You won’t believe how Facebook’s recent change will affect you…)

^See what we did there?

That sigh you heard on Monday was the sound of PR professionals everywhere rejoicing at Facebook’s new “click bait” changes. Finally, content will reach more people due to quality writing, and not because of teasing, deceptive headlines often ending in an ellipsis. Sure, this is another change to Facebook’s frequent algorithm changes, but this is one content creators can get behind because it will impact how brand content is distributed.

At Hodges, we talk a lot about PR being more than media relations. Over the years the profession has evolved and taken the lead in several areas that were once left to our marketing brothers and sisters, such as content creation, social media strategy and lead generation.

Before I go on, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to click bait. In the simplest terms, click baiting can be defined as any content designed specifically to gain attention or encourage others to click on a link but usually does not give much information about what the content is beyond the link. It’s an approach some brands use to show a high number of clicks.

After watching behaviors, Facebook’s analytics indicated that people were likely not happy with what they found when they fell for click baiting. Facebook landed at this conclusion based on the time people spent away from Facebook after clicking on the link. If the time was greater, then it showed that the content was valuable. If the person quickly returned to Facebook, then, more than likely, the person was not satisfied with what they found.

So, why should you, a PR practitioner, be happy with these changes? Finally, those hours spent creating editorial calendars with compelling, honest content will now outrank the click-bait links that get a high frequency of clicks, but deliver little value to the person clicking.

And what should you be doing to maximize Facebook’s algorithm configuration? Approach Facebook from the user’s point of view. Your friends aren’t click-baiting you with their recent beach photos, are they? They’re not hiding links to articles they’re sharing. So, neither should you.

To provide value to your brand’s audience post relevant, educational and entertaining content that entices a user to want to click on your easy-to-find link. By doing this, your content will reach more eyes and make a greater impact.

Were you happy to hear about the click bait changes? Have you been waiting for Facebook to do something about this? Comment below.

(Image by: CNET)

1 commentPosted in: Social Marketing  |  Social Media

Jars, Bars and Startups: HodgePodge for Aug. 22

August 22, 2014 | by Tony Scida

Even his pivots have pivots

Stewart Butterfield really wants to make a particular kind of online game. He’s tried and failed twice now. The first failure spawned Flickr. The second attempt has now led to Slack, the hottest boring startup in all the land.

Jarring trends

If it seems like you’ve seen more things in Mason jars lately, it’s not your imagination. In what the New York Times labels a desire for authenticity, demand for the screw-top glass jars has surged in recent years.

Out of the woods

The truly fascinating story of a man who just decided one day to live in the woods in Maine. He survived on supplies pilfered from nearby towns for almost three decades before being caught in the act.

Drink responsibly

There’s still a lot we scientists don’t know about hangovers, but what they do know contradicts a lot of the advice you’ve heard.

Game theory

Textbooks are expensive and maybe don’t even work that well, so what’s the solution? KQED says the future may point to video games.

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Snark Week: HodgePodge for Aug. 15

August 15, 2014 | by Tony Scida

Modern problems

Vaudeville tries to save itself like print journalism is trying to save itself.

Candy crushed

Have you noticed fewer and fewer Candy Crush Saga invitations in your Facebook feed? That’s bad news for the game’s maker, King, who are struggling to come up with another hit. The Atlantic says you can, uh, thank Kim Kardashian for the fall of Candy Crush.

I’m waiting for the Kidz Bop version

The number one album in the country is a compilation of ’60s and ’70s hits that serves as the soundtrack to Guardians of the Galaxy. The number two album is the latest Now That’s What I Call Music, a feat A.V. Club says “confirms that most CD sales are made by people who don’t know how to use iTunes.”

An original iPhone would’ve been funnier

Gizmodo took a late-oughts LCD TV to Antiques Roadshow and PBS played along.

Us darn kids

From Quartz: “I couldn’t stand millennials until I realized I was one.” Elsewhere on Quartz, they want to make sure you know that Twitter and Slack and all those cool new start-ups aren’t anything new.

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


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