The Gong

The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership.

Trading Up: The case for regular media monitoring

September 01, 2015 | by Greg Surber

So I was browsing through Mobility Magazine the other day, and there was this interesting article on how companies can help employees facing an international move get better acclimated to their new country. Great stuff.

You may have missed it.  And that’s okay.  But when one of your main clients is in the moving and storage business, it’s a good idea to stay abreast of things happening in that industry, and Mobility is one of the regular sites I check in with to get smarter about that line of work.

That’s a good idea across the board.  Clients count on us to not only keep up with their business but with their industry as a whole. That is especially true in the B2B world, with industries and services that, as consumers, we wouldn’t have regular exposure to.  So in order to be able to speak intelligently to the issues and trends that your clients’ customers and trade reporters care about, there’s no better way to get the kind of insight you need than by regularly checking out trade media outlets.

That may be pretty obvious, straightforward advice, but even so, it’s often difficult to find the time to follow it.  Trade reading is one of those tasks we always mean to do, but is also the first to get sacrificed when work gets hectic.

Similar to flossing, this tedious daily to-do can pay big gains when done regularly. Reporters’ main gripe with PR pros? We don’t read their work to find out specifically what they cover and writing style before we send them a pitch. Not only does this help you understand their beat, it helps you find opportunities where you could add your organization’s expertise.

On the content marketing side of things, it’s valuable insight to how you should be structuring your strategy. What topics are regularly covered, where are the holes in the content where your company could add its perspective, etc. In short, it helps you distinguish where the need is for your organization’s expertise.

You might be thinking, “I get that, but I still don’t have time.” The answer? Assign it to a junior staff employee.

I don’t suggest that in a The-Devil-Wears-Prada kind of way. Media monitoring is an incredibly helpful way for younger staffers to learn about your industry, while also doing a lot of the heavy lifting for you.

Before you hand this off to them, make sure you follow these tips to set them – and you – up for success.

  • Define the parameters: It’s a big Internet out there. Trying to read everything is a recipe for disaster. Clearly identify what publications and reporters they should read and how often they should do so.
  • Ask for more than copy-and-pasting: Anyone can scan the home page of news site and copy and paste the lead articles. Require them to offer a 3-4 sentence summary of the article and how it’s relevant to your business’ industry.
  • Respect this assignment: It’s understandable some days they’ll have more pressing projects that take priority, but make sure as you assign projects to them that you continue to make room for this in their daily to dos. Also be sure to read what they find – otherwise it’s work for the sake of work.

I mentioned a while ago that we all need to get smarter about our respective industries if we want to continue to be successful. Just like media relations, good content marketing demands more than a cursory understanding of the trends and issues of the day. Is daily (or even weekly) monitoring tedious? Yes. But the more you do it, the less time you’ll have to spend figuring out pitching and content topics down the road.

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0 commentsPosted in: Media Relations  |  Public Relations  |  Social Marketing  |  Social Media

The WDBJ-7 tragedy

August 26, 2015 | by Jon Newman

There really are no words.

More than 30 years ago I started my television news career in the Roanoke-Lynchburg market working for the “Lynchburg station” WSET-13 out of the Roanoke bureau. We had three people (two reporters and a videographer) in our office. Across the street was the headquarters of “Your Hometown Station” WDBJ-7.

They were, and still are, the model small-to-medium market news and television operation that others can just aspire to be.

They had reporters and anchors who never left because they were treated well, always had the best equipment and always had great leadership.

Today, 30 years later, WDBJ-7 once again showed its strength in the face of absolute tragedy as two of their best, a young reporter and videographer, were senselessly gunned down apparently by a disgruntled and confused former reporter.

Watching online today I shared my amazement with others at how the station’s GM and staff stayed on the air reporting this story while simultaneously celebrating the lives of the co-workers and friends and grieving for them. As a former reporter I can tell you I’m not sure I could have held my stuff together.

My personal thoughts and prayers go to all at WDBJ-7, especially Kelly Zuber who 30 years ago was there manning the assignment desk as my direct competitor. Kelly has been the news director at the station for a number of years and is one of the people responsible for what WBDJ-7 has stood for all these years.

In PR we regularly view the media as confrontational sometimes even as the enemy. This is wrong. In many ways they are our partners. We may not always agree with them but our working relationship is critical to a shared success.

In recent years their jobs have become more difficult because of downsizing on one side and the public’s increasing negative attitude on the other. It’s a shame that events like this morning’s on Smith Mountain Lake serve as a reminder that the media is people too. They perform an important public service and while we sometimes don’t agree with them and what they report, we need to keep our roles and feelings in perspective.

As evidenced again today, these people literally put their lives on the line doing what they do, be it on a battlefield reporting on a war in the Middle East or doing a feature story on a lake in Virginia.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

1 commentPosted in: Crisis Communications

What’s Your Starbucks Name?: HodgePodge for Aug. 21

August 21, 2015 | by Tony Scida


It might be hard to find a copy of Space Jam to watch, but you can still visit the movie’s original website, a time capsule of sort for the early web. Rolling Stone has the story behind the site from the people involved.

Finding a way

Profit is hard to come by for small farms, so some of them are bringing the tables to the farm and serving pizza.

Finding a way, part two

From one of my favorite writers, Steven Johnson: The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t.

Siri would never lie

The Amazingly Accurate Futurism of 2001: A Space Odyssey.


I’m not saying it’s a good movie but, 25 years on, it’s worth looking back at My Blue Heaven, the Nora Ephron flick that sent Steve Martin’s mobster to live in suburbia.

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0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

What marketers need to know about Instagram’s ad API

August 19, 2015 | by Kelsey Leavey

Earlier this month Instagram announced that it was making its ad API (application programming interface, which allows users to access the platform’s analytics to help monitor and drive marketing campaigns) available to marketing partners. More simply, much of the same audience and campaign data that’s available on other social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn now will be accessible also on Instagram, opening the floodgates for new brands wanting to advertise on the platform.

Back in spring of 2014, (yes, just a little over a year ago) reports were surfacing that an ad campaign lasting one month on the platform cost between $350,000 – $1 million and advertisers in this initial test group included Adidas, Burberry, Macy’s, Michael Kors, and General Electric. While ad rates are still to be released, it’s expected they’ll be significantly lower – making it an affordable social media advertising option for most businesses.

So why is this Instagram news something you should pay attention to?

  • Instagram has 300 million monthly active users
  • 1 out of 5 minutes spent on mobile is on Facebook and Instagram
  • 70 million photos are posted to Instagram PER DAY! And 2.5 billion photo likes are given (That’s billion. With a B.)
  • 60% of young millennials in the U.S. (18-24 year olds) – an audience that brands often have a more difficult time reaching through traditional advertising and media – use Instagram every day
  • The engagement rate, on average, is higher on Instagram than on any other major social platform

Okay, I get it Instagram is insanely popular, but what makes their ads so great?

  • Sponsored posts (ads) during the test period were found to have and ad recall rate 2.8x higher than Nielsen’s norms for online advertising
  • Targeting capabilities will include the same categories you see with Facebook advertising: demographic information, partner/behavior categories and custom and lookalike audiences
  • Ads will soon include call to action links helping to drive increased action and engagement by users AND you’ll be able to choose your objective much like you do on Facebook allowing you to optimize your campaigns to match your objectives
  • Self-serve with no minimum ad spend is coming

Instagram has opened its ad API to a number of marketing partners (Hootsuite, Kenshoo, Brand Networks, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, etc.) so for now going through one of those partners is the only way to create an Instagram ad campaign, but don’t expect it to stay that way for long.

So what now?

With Instagram’s ad rates still up in the air, it’s difficult to offer any firm recommendations – other than that if any of your customers are largely on Instagram, you might want to leave some room in your 2016 budget to test the waters. In the meantime, Instagram's ad sales deck has more information if you’re interested in doing a deeper dive. We’ll be following the good, the bad and the ugly of Instagram ads, so if you aren’t already signed up to receive our blog posts, be sure to do so!

0 commentsPosted in: Marketing  |  Public Relations  |  Social Marketing  |  Social Media

Friday: HodgePodge for Aug. 14

August 14, 2015 | by Tony Scida

I was way off

Take a moment to take this one-question test at NYTimes.


Comedian Chris Gethard got in a Twitter argument with a teenager and you won’t believe what happened next! (He invited the teen on his show and they worked it out.)

Dot come on, man!

Silicon Valley companies often espouse high-minded ideals (Google’s “don’t be evil,” for one), but it’s harder for them to live up to them. Like when a Harvard student lost his Facebook internship for pointing out a privacy flaw in Facebook Messenger, despite Zuckerberg’s public embrace of the “Hacker Way.”

Hi, Felicia

The Inside Story of How the Ultimate “Bye, Felicia” Got in “Straight Outta Compton”

Throwing shade

If you haven’t yet seen the video of workers in L.A. adding “shade balls” to a reservoir to protect the water from the harsh sun, definitely check it out.

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0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

So your CEO wants to be on national TV…

August 11, 2015 | by Cameron McPherson

We want your CEO to be on TV too. Let’s make it happen.  

Producers and guest bookers receive tons of email per day. A TODAY Show producer revealed she gets 300 email pitches per day at an event my colleague attended earlier this year. That’s 1,500 per week. I’d theorize their counterparts at business networks like CNBC and Fox Business have similar inbox email counts.  

So how do you stand out? Here are six tips to help you land that coveted national TV segment:

Boost experience by starting local

Most producers at national shows like to book guests with previous on-camera experience. Does your client/organization have news with a local angle? Pitch local news stations and morning shows to get your spokesperson more experience. Many times, these are more attainable spots that can boost a person’s on-camera resume. 

Produce your own videos

As brand journalism continues to take hold, consider producing your own videos featuring your client/executive. It’s not an exact replacement for media interview, but it will demonstrate that he or she is capable of being engaging on camera.

A strong viewpoint

Executives need to have a strong point of view and a willingness to share it with viewers. If a story or topic is breaking, the PR team needs the opportunity to put the issue in front of the expert and gather their opinion and reaction. A guest pitch is much stronger when the PR professional can share perspectives from the expert upfront.

Provide access

If you want to be on national TV, you need to be flexible and play by the booker’s schedule. I’ve had clients lose out on opportunities at CNN because they couldn’t drive to D.C. for an in-studio. Keep in mind, producers remember the guests who will make the drive. Alternatively, if you’re offering a satellite or Skype interview, make sure you state the video options in the initial pitch (and touch base with a local TV affiliate about availability and pricing so you’re not scrambling after a request).

Watch the show

It’s a given, but bears repeating. Know the types of guests and various segments that appear on the show so you can offer a more thoughtful pitch. A lot of cable service providers like Xfinity and FiOS allow you to watch TV shows online now. Tune in from your desk. 

Use social media

Tons of guest bookers are on social media. If your expert is on Twitter, create a list of contacts they should follow and have the executive engage with the booker by retweeting or commenting on their recent stories.

We hope to see your company’s expert on the airwaves soon. Care to share any tips or best practices? Drop them in the comments below. 

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

2 commentsPosted in: Media Relations  |  Public Relations

Unbothered: HodgePodge for Aug. 7

August 07, 2015 | by Tony Scida


Robots aren’t coming for your job, and Vox says that’s a bad thing

Or not

Big companies are abandoning performance reviews in favor of ongoing manager feedback. Are the two mutually exclusive?

Bubble science

As a big La Croix-drinking office, we found this fascinating: why are we drawn to fizzy drinks?


Half the world’s online population uses Facebook at least once a month

On fleek

Social media is helping us figure out how new words new-wordify

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The #PR measurement “Hail Mary.”

August 04, 2015 | by Jon Newman

7.8 billion.

Those of us in PR and marketing immediately knew there was a problem because we’ve all experienced it before. How do you reasonably measure the success of media exposure?

It’s the age old question.

It’s a question that once again reared its ugly head when reports circulated that the Redskins claimed more than 7.8 billion people (that’s more than the total population of the earth) were exposed to stories of the 2014 Redskins training camp in Richmond. It was the Redskins’ version of the PR Hail Mary designed to justify their continued Richmond training camp existence.

I believed it as much as I believe that RGIII can still hit DeSean Jackson in stride from 70 yards out.

Most PR folks know numbers like that are not biologically impossible. However, most in the past have blindly followed the lead of their monitoring companies.

In the good old days of media relations when print and TV ruled the day, it was as “easy” as counting circulation numbers and multiplying by pass-around rates. We took Nielsen viewership and listenership numbers as gospel and happily reported huge numbers back to our clients.

Then came the internet.

Over the last 15-20 years, the internet has changed how we market and more importantly how we count and then market success. No longer do those big numbers add up.

At the same time, the art of media relations — how we pitch, how we practice, and how we succeed and gauge success — has changed dramatically.

In the past, it was good enough for PR firms to get stories in the paper, on TV or online and declare success just for getting the story placed. Those days are dead.

Now clients not only want the ego rush of seeing themselves in the paper or their product on TV, they want the phone to ring, the website to click, and the sales to come in.

In the new EOP (earned, owned, paid) world of PR, media relations for media relations’ sake is no longer and should no longer be the driver. It is a piece of the broader equation that also includes content that you create, own and place on your website or somewhere online, as well as paid and unpaid ways to amplify that content to targeted audiences.

So how do we gauge success across the board?

Media (relations) exposure is still important for three reasons: general awareness, ego/credibility, and as a way to leverage stories for third-party purposes like sales or raising money.

PR pros need to set media relations metrics with the client on the front end. Discuss what you are going to count and how you are going to count it. For many of our clients, we’ve dropped counting impressions and set goals against specific tiers of media outlets depending on their importance to the client. For some it is national, regional and local outlets. For some it’s specific consumer and trade publications. It’s a much more targeted approach and much easier to track and measure.

The days of tonnage are over.

In today’s media relations world it is difficult to maintain the frequency needed to drive web traffic for expertise positioning or sales reasons. If you are expected to deliver those results using media relations alone, then you should throw your yellow penalty flag.

Driving consistent web exposure/traffic, leads and sales are the place of earned (media relations) media PLUS owned and paid media. In EOP world we can:

  • Track media relations success against placement in defined targeted media.
  • Measure traffic to specific web pages.
  • Create calls to action and offers to generate leads to hand off to sales people.
  • Or at the very least create databases of email addresses to continue the content conversation.

In short, we can do what PR people never thought could be done. Truly measure ROI.

If you don’t believe me, I can give you 7.8 billion reasons….

Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

0 commentsPosted in: Agency Management  |  Media Relations  |  Public Relations

Could Instant Messaging Apps Be the Next Big Thing in Your Marketing Plan?

July 29, 2015 | by Greg Surber

Confession time. My first AOL screen name in middle school was MisterEMan83. Because…well I have no idea really. I lived a life of awkwardness then (and debatably now), not mystery. Regardless, my sweet (read: embarrassing) handle and I would spend hours hogging the phone line chatting with my friends.

Now at 32, I’m well on my way to being a kids-these-days… adult, so it’s tempting to look at instant messaging apps like Snapchat as just another young adult obsession. But then I look at the numbers.

At the height of AIM’s popularity the service reported 18 million simultaneous users. Respectable, but wildly eclipsed by today’s apps. SnapChat’s reportedly has more than 100 million monthly active users, WhatsApp has 800 million monthly active users and Facebook Messenger (who recently acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion) has 600 million monthly active users.

What’s the draw?

The Wall Street Journal wrote a fantastic piece on why messaging apps have taken off the way they have, noting its largely because one-to-one messaging more closely resembles how we normally communicate with each other. Whereas more established platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are more of a broadcasting model. The WSJ article also mentions that while platforms like Facebook may have more users, messaging apps like Snapchat are opened at a much higher frequency throughout the day.

What does this mean for me as a PR professional?

No, don’t abandon your Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn strategy in light of this news. But you do need to start asking yourself how your brand might be able to use instant messaging platforms, especially as each crystalizes its advertising partner strategy. Here are some examples of how you can use instant messaging to achieve your communication goals.

I know, you finally got everyone in your company to see the business value in social media and now there’s this. But as platforms like Facebook get more crowded, it’s important to find new ways where your brand can directly reach your customers – and instant messaging might be just what you need. 

0 commentsPosted in: Marketing  |  Mobile  |  Public Relations  |  Social Marketing  |  Social Media

A Very Special Episode: HodgePodge for Jul. 24

July 24, 2015 | by Tony Scida

Earth 2.0

The Kepler Space Telescope has identified a very Earth-like planet. (Via Next Draft, which you subscribe to, right?)


On the occasion of the release of a National Lampoon-less sequel to National Lampoon’s Vacation, a former Lampoon editor ruminates on the demise of the magazine (and takes some pot-shots at the new film).

Hoisted by their own dog food

Google employees used Google’s own collaborative document tools to collectively share and compare their salaries.

Self referential

What my landlord learned about me from Twitter

The more you know

From The Atlantic: The Evolution of TV’s ‘Very Special Episode’

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0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

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