The Gong

The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership.

Do you have a rogue sales staff? How to keep sales on message

November 23, 2015 | by Greg Surber

Does this sound familiar?

Your department spends thousands of dollars and months of work developing a sophisticated marketing plan that leverages your company’s strengths for the year ahead. But when you check in with your sales staff six months in, you find out your plan was quickly abandoned for their “tried and true” methods, usually including one-off marketing pieces that in no way reflect your brand standards. 

We don’t mean to disparage sales professionals. They are a valued and necessary resource for virtually all for-profit companies. They do, however, have a long history of going rogue and abandoning their companies' marketing strategies in favor of familiarity.

Of course, you already know that "do it like we did it last year" isn't always (or usually) the best strategy.  That’s why we've created this checklist to help you rein in your sales staff. 

  • Speak their love language – qualified leads:  Your sales folks aren't likely to get on board with your vision until they can see tangible evidence that you can actually help them meet their sales numbers. Inbound marketing campaigns are designed to draw in the right prospects with relevant content that a person is willing to answer a couple questions (name, job title, company, etc.) in exchange for. With the right mix of content and amplification, your sales team could see the most qualified leads they’ve ever had, which in turn will make them put down their smartphones and pay attention to your plans.
  • Bring them in on the planning:  Sales people are competitive and strong by nature. Including tons of opinionated voices can sound counter-intuitive, but like anything else in life, people are more engaged when they feel they're being heard. And this isn’t strictly designed to soothe their ego. Excellent content, especially gated content, addresses a specific pain point your clients are facing. Who better to ask what these pain points are than those individuals who are talking to clients on a daily basis? 
  • Check in regularly:  This may be a no-brainer and something you already do regularly, but make sure you’re checking in to see how your department can help move their leads down the sales pipeline. Are they finding out prospects are struggling with a particular issue? If so, see what type of content (i.e., a blog post, template or checklist) you could develop that they could pass along and strengthen their relationship with the prospect.

Sales and marketing are almost always grouped together in conversation, but too often they don’t understand each others' needs. Creating a plan that delivers qualified leads and incorporates their input is a step toward a more unified front.  

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

Research on the cheap – Affordable ways to conduct research to inform comm strategies

November 19, 2015 | by Lindsay Grant

Anyone who’s gone about earning their APR accreditation will tell you that the most enduring takeaway is the emphasis the process puts on research. And with good reason. Only by having an informed understanding of both your business and customers can you develop the right communications plan.

But here’s the problem - market research can be expensive, depending on what methods you use. Massive phone surveys, for example, require a call center or a significant team that is typically paid by the hour to gather the data. 

There is good news, however. While most traditional research methods come with a tall bill, the Internet now provides opportunities to cut costs substantially. Here are ways to do valuable PR research within a tight budget.

  • Online Surveys: One of the new industries hatched from the Internet has been online survey services. Survey Monkey is a platform that allows you to create free to low-cost surveys to reach the site's vast audience. You can even customize the type of audience you want. The basic free package lets you ask 10 questions for up to 100 respondents, while the gold and premium packages allow you to ask unlimited questions with unlimited responses at only a few dollars or less per day. Survey Monkey also offers an automated telephone survey service at just a few cents per call. 
  • Contests: If your website already draws a large following, offer some kind of giveaway that your customers would be interested in. The catch? They have to fill out a survey form to qualify. Not a surprise, the bigger the grand prize you offer, the more contestants you'll attract. A prize can be from your own company or a promotional business partner that wants exposure from the contest.
  • Free Downloads: Determine a digital product of value that you can give away to consumers in exchange for information. You can offer a free ebook, checklist – really anything you think your customers would be willing to answer a couple short questions in exchange for.

Sure, these methods might include certain biases and margins of error that more expensive measures weed out, but if your budget simply doesn’t allow for a full-fledged research effort, these methods can give you some insight as a foundation for building your communications plan. 

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

How valuable is your information? Identifying expertise to use as gated content

November 17, 2015 | by Emily Shane

For many websites, gated content is a central piece of their content marketing program because of its one of the most effective tools to capture relevant emails for future prospecting. But how exactly do you identify which information is valuable – or even alluring – enough to seal behind a gate?  

What is gated content?

Gated content is any content that requires completing some sort of form to access. Sometimes it's as simple as providing an e-mail address. Other times, more information is required – a name company, title and sometimes even a phone number. Simply put, the purpose of a gated content marketing strategy is to generate leads. While some site visitors may be reluctant to provide such personal information, the secret is to make unlocking gated content attractive enough to overcome that hesitancy.

Which content should be gated?

In order to decide what kind of content should be gated, run through the following questions as you review your offer:

  • What are some of the common questions/pain points your customers routinely face? As they relate to your business and products, what are the issues that keep your customers up at night? Are they trying to get a handle on the forecast trends for next year? Or perhaps they have to accomplish certain tasks with limited resources? Try to figure exactly why they need your services or are on your site to begin with.
  • What insight can you provide that answers those questions and helps establish your credibility and authority within your industry? An accurate, albeit simplified, view toward marketing is finding the overlap of your customers’ needs and your company’s expertise. The more frustrating or pressing the need, combined with their belief that you can help, then the more likely individuals will be to give you certain information about themselves. Filling out a brief form to access gated content that could hold the answers to their challenges is for most folks a worthwhile exchange.  
  • Which format of content display would interest your ideal customers? How do your customers prefer to receive information? Now that you know what to say, you have to figure out how to say it in a way that your customers will be receptive to. Webinars, infographics, templates and even e-books are all viable options, depending on your customers’ preferences. Try a combination of them to see what format gets the most response. 

Remember, the purpose of gated content is to first and foremost to generate leads. You can offer hints to your expertise outside the gate, but save the good stuff for those who are most interested to begin a relationship with you – i.e. your gated content in exchange for their contact information. That contact information then forms the basis for a database of client prospects that you already know are interested in what you have to offer. 

(Photo: Flickr/denisbin)

Free Checklist: How to Run and Inbound Marketing Campaign

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

Ew: HodgePodge for Nov. 13

November 13, 2015 | by Tony Scida

Gum springs eternal

Seattle’s famed gum wall is in the process of being de-gummed. Read about it on NPR.

Happy little challenge

PBS NewsHour invited viewers to take the #BobRossChallenge and paint along to old Joy of Painting episodes on YouTube. The results are far-superior to 12-year-old Tony’s own attempts many years ago.

Stressed for success

“[W]hile family structure seems to have permanently changed, public policy, workplace structure and mores have not seemed to adjust to a norm in which both parents work.” NYT’s TheUpshot takes a look at what it calls a “Portrait of the Modern Family.”

Future news

The Times also recently distributed a Google Cardboard virtual reality headset to subscribers, along side a VR story, The Displaced. Here’s Fortune on the experience of watching it.

Speaking of watching

In-fighting, intense drama, voice-over narration—all standard features of reality shows that The Great British Bake-Off eschews to great success. Here’s Vox on why they like it so much.

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

0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

Are you using copyrighted images?

November 12, 2015 | by Kelsey Leavey

Photos and graphics are important elements that can make your posts and pages stand out and break up copy, making it easier to read. Unless you create your own images, however, you’ll need to make sure that you’re legally entitled to use what you download. 

Why you can’t just look for a copyright symbol?

You might assume that if an image doesn’t have the word “copyright” or letter C in a circle (©), you can freely use it. This isn’t necessarily the case. Images first published after March 1, 1989 don’t have to include this type of notice to be protected under copyright laws.

Even if you give credit to the image’s creator, alter it in some way, or use it on a not-for-profit site, you could still be in violation of copyright laws. 

What possible consequences could there be?

If you violate the law, you could face legal action. This is true even if you didn’t realize the image was protected and if you took it down immediately when asked to do so. Ultimately, you could be inviting a legal headache and even a costly lawsuit if you violate copyright laws. 

How do you find images you can legally use?

So how do you get the images you need without running afoul of the law? Many photo-sharing sites offer high-quality, royalty-free images. You may have to register with a particular site to download the images, and some rules may still apply. For example, you may be able to use the image as long as you give credit to the graphic artist or photographer.

In many cases, these kinds of images are free to use:

  • Creative Commons Search: A good place to start is on Creative Commons Search. This provides an access point to several sites, including Flickr, which offer free images.
  • Unsplash: Mostly nature images, Unsplash offers a wide selection of high-resolution royalty-free landscape pictures, with new pictures added daily.
  • Google Images filtered search: You can filter a Google Images search to include only those images that can be legally reused for commercial purposes. Go to Google Images and enter what you’d like to search for. Click on “Search tools,” and then look under “Usage rights” and make your selection. “Labeled for reuse” is the least restrictive choice, and results will show images that can be used for commercial purposes. 

It’s no surprise that social posts with an image are viewed more than those without. But don’t cut corners by using copyrighted images and graphics without permission. A lawsuit isn’t the way to get people talking about your business. 

For more information about finding high-quality images you can legally use, contact The Hodges Partnership. We’re experts at helping clients raise visibility and increase sales through their blogs and social media accounts.

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

Should we call it “PRublishing?”

November 11, 2015 | by Jon Newman

Okay, I know the word “PRublishing” is little hokey, but after some recent client efforts, conversations and new business meetings, one thing is becoming very clear: marketers are ALL OVER the idea of creating content that can be targeted to specific audiences to drive their business.

The marriage of PR and online publishing (PRublishing?) will continue to dominate our industry as it matures over the next year or so.

THP has just launched its first digital magazine on behalf of a client. Right now if we told you about it, the client would shoot us – at least for now. So instead of promoting that specific project, let’s talk about its benefits and what you need to do to get started.

This particular magazine is not about a specific product; it is not “selling” anything. Instead, it is about the brand lifestyle the client wants its company (and its product) to represent. This allows us to create content from a broad palate, content that is valuable to a wide range of readers. This is important given the fact that we need to feed the “content monster” at least eight times a month to keep the magazine fresh and promotable.

But other than content, what are the other elements needed to create a PRublishing platform like a digital magazine?

  • You need a place to house the content. In our case we created a new branded website from scratch. It has its own brand, look and feel, and design, and is separate from any of the client’s other websites. This is not a must-have and depends on how closely aligned you want the magazine to be with the client’s other brands and products.
  • You need an editor and a publisher. We handled both of these tasks in-house. The editor is in charge of the direction and creating of the content which includes articles, photos, videos, graphics, etc. The publisher is in charge of readership, promotion, partnerships, etc., all the things that drive traffic.
  • You need content creators. Whether you accomplish this in-house or hire writers, designers and freelancers, you need to create the content and stay ahead. Our goal is to stay at least one month ahead of our goal of eight new pieces of content (read: magazine-style feature articles) per month.
  • You need a promotional/amplification strategy. In our case, we’re using social channels we created for the magazine. We are simultaneously growing community and driving readers to specific articles using social channels as advertising platforms. We have specific markets and readers we’re targeting and are using the social ad platforms to acquire them.
  • You need measurable goals. From the type of content you want to create to the number of readers and where they come from, the ultimate goal is to reach your communications and marketing goals. This is where you need to start and this is where you come back to repeatedly to measure success.

In a past post I referenced Marriott Traveler as the model for such digital magazine efforts, so if you want to see one in action here’s the link.

While these are significant efforts we are already having meaningful internal conversations on how we can somewhat streamline our processes.

In a world where media relations is getting harder, the idea of creating, targeting and proving the value of good content is becoming more and more appealing to companies and prospective clients. And when you think about it, if they are willing to provide good, valuable content that positions them as thought leaders, doesn’t that make their companies and their products more appealing to customers?

Are you ready to PRublish?

We are.

New Call-to-action 0 commentsPosted in: Branding  |  Media Relations  |  Public Relations  |  Social Marketing

How to Get the Most Mileage Out of Your Content

November 03, 2015 | by Greg Surber

If you’re doing any kind of online marketing, then odds are that you understand the importance of a strong content marketing strategy. Good content is key to increasing awareness of your company and boosting traffic to your website. However, a lot of resources go into making just a single piece of content. 

Simply posting it to your website and moving onto the next assignment isn’t doing you or your company any favors. Instead of recreating the wheel every time, you should take a look at the other ways this content can be used. Here are five ways to help you repurpose your content to get even more mileage out of it:

  1. Break up longer content: Longer pieces of content, such as eBooks, can be broken up into smaller ones. A little rewriting is obviously necessary, but it won’t take nearly as much time to do this as it would to write something from scratch, and these smaller pieces may work perfectly as posts for your blog.
  2. Combine shorter content: On the other end of the spectrum, you can collect a series of blog posts that are relevant to one another and turn them into a longer guide or eBook.
  3. Use blog posts for your newsletter: Not everyone on your subscription list checks your blog regularly, so consider creating a tips-oriented newsletter that repurposes some of the content from your blog posts.
  4. Turn written content into visual content: Written content that contains a lot of data or is made up of bullet lists can easily be turned into a SlideShare presentation or even an infographic. Visual content like this is great for sharing on social media.
  5. Combine blog posts in Google+ Collections: Google+ Collections allows you to group posts with similar subject matter into a single collection. Users can then have access to older content that they may not have read before and be notified when you add new content to the collection.

Sure, it will take some additional time on the front end to think through all different ways your content can be leveraged, but it’s nothing compared to what’s needed when you start from scratch with each new piece of content.

For additional online marketing advice, contact us at The Hodges Partnership today.

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

Should we stop doing media relations because it’s hard?

November 03, 2015 | by Jon Newman

The shrinking media landscape. The pitches that generate zero response. The new technologies that allow for a more direct conversation and instant gratification. As PR folks, the growing question on our minds is should we stop trying to engage with the media at all?

I’m not blaming anyone here, so if you are a member of the media and reading this, please don’t think that I think it is your fault.

As we’ve discussed before media relations throughout history has been difficult to measure and put a true value on. In the past, though, you could count on a certain amount of frequency and tonnage. Nothing made a client’s eyes bug out of their head more than the slam of a giant clipbook filled with feature stories and pictures featuring their boss, their company and/or their product.

While you never truly could draw a direct line from that “slam” to the sound of money being made, you could at least show how your work as a media relations pro was paying off in some way.

I fear those days are fewer and far between.

But does that mean as we create content online that we control and drive target audiences to it without the “help” of our media brothers and sisters that we should punt on earned, traditional media relations once and for all? Does it mean that since we are not as instantly gratified that we should not take our place in the batter’s box and take a swing?

I still think the answer is no, but some attitude adjusting is in order:

  • Agencies need to find the right clients who understand the new realities and know it could take months to get them the coverage they desire. Especially if that coverage is of the “Holy Grail” variety. Whether that’s Ellen or the Wall Street Journal for some or a targeted trade publication for others. If the client doesn’t understand those realities, then we need to rethink working for them.
  • We need to give ourselves permission to take the swings in the first place. Just because it is harder than it was five years ago doesn’t mean we should stop trying. We actually have better tools today (Google, social channels, etc.) to find the right reporters.
  • We also need to realize that we will fail much more than we did in the past. Media relations is now the true “long-haul play.” It will be the rare case that you can hit the home run right out of the box anymore. This is very difficult for millennial PR folks to understand and deal with since they HATE failure and think it means they aren’t good at what they do.
  • We should encourage our clients not to put all their eggs in the media relations basket. This is a tough one for clients that are old school or don’t really understand PR. But more times than not, assignments that focus solely on media relations lead to tough client-agency conversations in a short period of time because of lack of results.
  • Media relations, as always, should not be done in a vacuum but as part of a broader strategic-communications approach that allows for success in other areas while you slug it out for media relations success.

As we enter 2016 this is the new reality for media relations pros and for agencies that still lead with it as a practice.

Media relations is hard, it doesn’t instantly gratify, it doesn’t provide tonnage, and in most cases it doesn’t make the phone ring. But at the end of the day, it does provide the value of third-party endorsement, creates awareness and can be leveraged for sales purposes.

Should we stop? No.

Should we set better expectations? Yes.

Should we cut ourselves a break? Absolutely.

Free download: 5 reasons your media relations strategy is failing

1 commentPosted in: Media Relations  |  Public Relations

Boo!: HodgePodge for Oct. 30

October 30, 2015 | by Tony Scida


Nobody cares how hard you work.

Read another day

In a Longread about Bond movie title tracks, Adrian Daub & Charles Kronengold look at what makes them wonderfully awful and awfully wonderful at the same time. (Or as the authors put it, “most Bond songs are gangly, glorious homunculi.”)

Greek mythology

As we lead up to the Richmond Marathon in a couple weeks, here’s the New Yorker on how the marathon, which had previously varied in length, came to become fixed at 26.2 miles.

One star

Via Next Draft, here’s the Verge on how ratings systems have turn customers into horrible bosses. (To be honest with you, it just had me dreaming of an Uber of pasta.)

In defense of bacon

Let’s dispense with the punchline at the beginning: no, bacon isn’t worse for you than smoking. If you need the details, Vox has an explainer.

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

0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

The Gil Legacy at Hodges

October 27, 2015 | by Josh Dare

In October 1969, I was a seventh grader at Weldon E. Howitt Jr. High School in Farmingdale on New York’s Long Island.  I lived two miles from the school, just a few feet from qualifying for a bus. But the 20-minute walk each way was rarely a chore, mostly a chance to cluster with other “walkers” for the trek home, our books tightly bound by those rubber straps with hooks on the ends of them. No one had backpacks back then.  

Never did those two miles seem so long as that October.  That was the year that the Mets, the team that had lost 89 games the year before, plopping them deservedly in ninth place in the National League, made a late-season charge to pass the Cubs, trounce the Braves in the first League Championship Series only to find themselves, lo and behold, in the World Series against the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles. 

In those days, World Series games were played during the day. Occasionally you’d get a cool PE teacher who had a transistor radio and would give you updates to the score of the game, but once that final bell sounded, it was time to sprint home to try to catch a few remaining innings.  I think I would have outraced Forrest Gump in speeding my way down Heisser Lane to Sullivan Avenue. The streets were filled with kids just like me, running with abandon toward their home TVs.  I have a vivid memory of getting home in time at the end of Game 4 when Ron Swoboda made this leaping catch.  The Mets would win it on a bunt play in the bottom of the 10th behind a strong outing from their ace, Tom Seaver.  The next day they’d become World Series champs.

That memory was among the highlights of my childhood, and so it was as well for a 9-year-old kid from Bayonne, N.J. whom I would meet 32 years later and with whom I would begin this abiding partnership.  When it came time to name our inchoate little agency, we looked for an intersection of our lives, a mutual touchstone.  We found it in that 1969 World Series, and with little more thought, agreed to honor the manager of that heroic bunch of rag-tag kids who brought the Series trophy home to Queens. Gil Hodges had been a beloved former Dodger great, winning the hearts and affections of people around the country.

When Cleon Jones was hit on the shoe by a pitch in the fifth and deciding game, the umpire ruled at first that the ball had simply hit the dirt.  But when the ball rolled into the Mets dugout and Hodges noticed a smudge of shoe polish on it, he showed it to the umpire who reversed his call and awarded Jones first base.  Only by virtue of Gil’s integrity would that be possible.

And so as the Mets prepare to take the field for their franchise’s fifth World Series, we at The Hodges Partnership celebrate it with an extra measure of pride and sentiment.  It’s a fitting occasion to honor and remember the man who brought the Mets its first championship, and the one that will always be the most special.

Here’s a fitting tribute

0 commentsPosted in: The Hodges Partnership

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


Agency Management
Crisis Communications
Hodges Digital Strategies
Media Relations
Public Relations
Social Marketing
Social Media
The Hodges Partnership