The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership and Hodges Digital Strategies.
June 12, 2013 | by Kelsey Leavey
Last month, I spent two weeks traveling through China to complete my final class as a graduate student at VCU. The course, Public Relations & Journalism in China, was a cultural and educational experience that I will never forget.
Before the trip I tried to prepare myself for culture shock by attempting to brush up on some Mandarin—total fail, I entered the country knowing how to say “hello,” “thank you,” and “I love you panda bear”—but one of the things I was most unsure about was what exactly there was to learn about public relations in China.
I knew that public relations was going to be different in a country ruled by the Communist Party of China, but I wasn’t sure exactly how it would be different. As part of our educational experience we met with the EVP of Ketchum China, the president of Ogilvy for North Asia, the bureau chief for the Associated Press in Shanghai and an online editor for Shanghai Daily. Here’s a recap of what I learned:
- Public relations firms in China are growing — As many brands are expanding their operations to include outreach in China, a marketplace once controlled by small mom and pop PR firms has transformed into one driven by large, internationally known firms such as Ogilvy, Ketchum and Edelman.
- Social media is huge — On the mainland, many of the social networking sites we use here in the US are blocked by the Chinese government. This doesn’t stop everyone from accessing these sites, which means as a PR person you may still need to manage them for clients. Additionally, China has its own social media sites such as Weibo, which had 564 million users as of 2012. Comparatively, there are around 200 million Facebook users in America.
- Events, celebrities and online videos are key elements of most large scale public relations campaigns — Just ask the Backstreet Boys.
- Campaigns can be censored or stopped by the government — The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the General Administration of Press and Publication have the authority to censor or stop public relations campaigns in China. Additionally, reporters are often given instructions from the Department of Publicity (known as the Department of Propaganda in China).
- There’s one time zone in China, but international business doesn’t care about time zones — The days never seemed to end for the business people we met. China’s lone time zone is 12 hours ahead of New York. So if you are involved in international business in Shanghai, once you get home from your rush hour drive at 7 p.m. New York is just waking up, which means your work day will. never. end. And that doesn’t even begin to consider the fact that in 3 hours, people in Los Angeles will need to talk to you as well. Good luck staying awake for that conference call.
- Cultural differences mean different ethical lines — It is not out of the question to pay for a reporter’s traveling expenses to come to an event you’ve invited them to, in fact it’s almost a given.
For me, my biggest takeaway was realizing that the world is so much larger than I could even imagine. And while my study abroad trip only lasted two weeks, I feel as though I left China with memories and knowledge that will last a lifetime.2 commentsPosted in: Public Relations | Social Media
June 04, 2013 | by Cameron McPherson
Once again, Mary Meeker’s latest Internet Trends report has tons of interesting nuggets on worldwide Internet usage. Overall, there are now 2.4 billion Internet users across the world. And that number is growing, fast.
The report includes 117 pages of data and insights, but what does it mean for the PR industry? Here are nine takeaways and their implications for PR professionals:
- TV and Internet top media consumption: 42 percent of America’s media diet is dedicated to television; another 26 percent goes to the Internet. Only 6 percent of that time is spent with print, most likely indicative of the trouble the newspaper industry is currently having.
- People like photos: The number of photos uploaded to the Internet per day has exploded since 2005 – to more than 500 million per day. As brands share content on social networks, the need for visuals is apparent.
- Smartphone users look at their devices, a lot: Consumers are reaching for their mobile devices 150 times a day. Make websites, content and whatever you’re communicating to consumers with, mobile-friendly.
- Users flock to video: People are embracing video on the Internet like never before. Per minute, 100 hours of footage is uploaded to YouTube. That’s a 100 percent increase from six years ago. Is your brand there?
- Vine: Another nod to the boom in Internet video, only these are a bit more condensed. The 6-second video clip app Vine has grown significantly since January, from 2 percent to nearly 8 percent. How can brands leverage the app for storytelling? Last week, a local tv station in Richmond, Va. even linked to a Vine app in an online story related to a high school prank.
- Facebook is huge, but declining: Facebook is in the top 3 of the world’s most visited websites, only behind Google and Microsoft. It’s also the only social network to experience a decline in users from 2011-2012. Decline or not, the sheer number of visitors to the site proves Facebook’s worth as a promotional tool for brands.
- Transparency gets more transparent: Think about these stats – there are 1.1 billion global active Facebook users, 68 percent of which are on mobile with an average of more than 200 friends. Every person has the ability to be a reporter. Companies must be truthful and transparent, or risk their mistakes being spread across social media.
- Internet access habits will change, quickly: Within two years, more people will access the Internet from cars, televisions and other appliances than PCs. And, wearable technology is coming. This will be another opportunity for brands to creatively develop ways for consumers to access on the go (and possibly, through their glasses).
- Scan me up, Scotty: Think the QR Code is dead? Think again. QR Code adoption in China has jumped from two to nine million in the last year. The QR Code will continue to be an extension of campaigns – and a way for consumers to stay informed, increase convenience and even pay for goods.
I’ve spent the last couple of days flipping through Mary’s slides. They’re almost like going through an antique store; you find something new every time you visit. Of all the insights, there is one common theme: the need for PR pros to continue to make engaging, relevant content no matter what the platform.
What trends are you most excited about?
4 commentsPosted in: Mobile | Public Relations | Social Media
May 28, 2013 | by Casey Ferguson
Recently, I’ve gone back to the classroom. This classroom wasn’t at a university, but in a training center for a client of Hodges, but nonetheless, being in the environment got me thinking.
My mother was a teacher and I HATED summer vacation. I loved school. Not because I was a sacrilegious student, but I loved learning and I was bored at home. I lived for the challenge of learning new material, getting lost in an assignment and competing with myself (ok, and with others) to be the best I could be. Man, I was a geek.
To this day, I still get that summer vacation feeling, which is why I’ve started contemplating furthering my public relations credentials by becoming an APR (Accredited in Public Relations). In order to become an APR, you must be considered eligible by the UAB (Universal Accreditation Board), find a mentor to guide you through the process, prepare a readiness questionnaire, present your portfolio and take a computer-based exam. Once you pass the exam, you must maintain accreditation by meeting a set criteria every couple of years.
Taking on the challenge of going through the APR process is an exciting one. It’s a process that I know will not only challenge me on a personal level, but one that will also encourage me to think about my strengths and successes in my career.
While I may be a little junior for an APR (its encouraged to wait until you have five years under your PR belt), it never hurts to start thinking about how it could help me in my career down the line. And knowing me, I might even start the application on a recycled piece of paper and have my questionnaire ready to go.
For those APRs out there, what are some of the benefits you’ve seen from becoming accredited?1 commentPosted in: Public Relations
May 23, 2013 | by Jon Newman
We just had a baby. Three of them in fact.
Before we start debating the biological impossibilities, THP is coming off three maternity leaves that overlapped involving three valuable account leads. How bad is that scenario at least on paper? It was so bad, the third mom delayed telling us that she was pregnant because she was afraid of our reaction.
But after seven months of adjusting, juggling and stretching the truth is it wasn’t bad after all.
In fact it was an extremely good thing, not only for the moms, but for all of us at Hodges.
Here are some of the things we learned:
- It’s good to stretch: Sometimes we don’t know what our limits are until we reach them. Our team really pitched in, worked longer hours, and helped each other as we were a few women down during this time.
- It’s time to grow: Since these folks were account leads it was time for others who were waiting for their opportunities to seize the day. And they did in a big way. In some cases not only maintaining the successful relationships but growing them in exciting ways.
- A lot can happen during 3-4 months: It’s amazing how much things change in agency life during the time of an average maternity leave. People and clients grow, the usual client churn occurs, and because people step up and succeed the spirit of the agency changes in surprising ways.
- Flexibility increases: As the moms came back to work we found the jobs they came back to changed as well. They had more “capacity” to work on different accounts. We had more opportunities to experiment with their assignments especially as they realized that those who stepped up were doing a solid job.
Sometimes agencies don’t change until change is forced upon them. As leaders we are content not rocking the boat when things are going well because, well….why should we?
But change is good. We are a better place because of these new members of the THP family. Better because there are three new members of our extended family.
But also better because of what we’ve learned and accomplished as a result of them coming into our world.0 commentsPosted in: Agency Management | The Hodges Partnership
May 21, 2013 | by Tony Scida
Many restaurant owners have a love-hate relationship with sites like Yelp, which allow (encourage?) customers to air their grievances online, rather than asking servers to fix problems in the moment. Restaurant owners and managers are rightly frustrated by customers who don’t tell their server about their overdone steak and then log onto Yelp and post a negative review.
But no matter how good the restaurant, it will have negative reviews—all restaurants have off nights and, let’s face it, some people just cannot be pleased. As an owner or manager, it’s important to concentrate on the things under your control.
If you’re struggling with how do deal with Yelp (or similar sites) for your business, here’s three things you can do to get started down the right path.
Don’t Take it Personally
If someone insults you, of course you’ll be hurt, but it’s important to not react out of anger, spite or any other negative emotion. You’re better off letting a negative comment go unaddressed than responding in an emotional way. If you wait until the next day when you’re calmer, you may even find that some of your fans have come to your defense without your interference or prompting. While you may not like Yelp, advertising with them (being a featured location in their search feature) allows you to message users directly, letting you take communications offline, which can help you avoid a public back and forth with a disgruntled customer. If you handle the feedback properly, you may even turn a negative reviewer into an ambassador or at least diffuse their complaints.
Encourage Reviews from Happy Customers
It’s true that sometimes customers say everything is fine and then leave a negative review, but that doesn’t mean you and your staff can’t tell who the truly happy customers are. Train your staff to encourage those customers to write up their experiences on review sites. Those who have bad experiences already have the motivation they need to leave a review, but others may need more prompting. You only need a few of those customers to leave a review to make sure your business is well-represented on Yelp, and sometimes simply asking for a review is enough.
Keep Your Listings Current
If your address, hours, website, or menu changes, make sure your Yelp profile reflects the latest information. If someone arrives at your restaurant and you’re not open (or you’re not there because you moved across town), that’s business you’ll likely never get back. Restaurants are notorious for not listing their hours, menu and contact information front and center on their websites, and so even people who don’t have any interest in reviews or ratings (there are some of us) rely on services like Yelp to find restaurants. Do yourself a favor and keep your info updated by checking the listing every quarter, which is a good schedule for checking your reviews as well.
There’s obviously much more that can be said about review sites (and social networks) for small businesses, including restaurants. But for the busy restaurateur, remembering just these three things is a good start. No matter how you feel about Yelp and sites like it, they’ve become an important tool for your consumers.0 commentsPosted in: Social Media
May 16, 2013 | by Lindsay Grant
It’s always nice when you can add “award-winning” in front of words like ‘agency’ and ‘campaign.’ And last night at the Virginia Public Relations Awards, put on by PRSA Richmond, we were honored to be able to add some more award-winning work to our portfolio.
Kudos to all of our PRSA friends who took home top awards this week. We may not have taken home Best in Show this year but we’re grateful to our clients who brought us these interesting and fun projects. Below are some details on our award-winning clients and work that took home a few statues last night.
- Award of Excellence
- Move Pro iPhone/iPad app
- Client: Hilldrup Moving & Storage
Hodges Digital Strategies and Hilldrup developed a user-friendly app that adhered to Hilldrup’s brand standards and could be developed within the parameters of the iOS. Based on frequent customer requests, the app was built to include helpful features like storage box inventory, shipment tracking, currency convertor, friends & family new address notifications, how-to moving articles and videos, and links to set up local utilities. With more than 2,000 downloads since launching, the app averages 208 downloads per month.
- Award of Merit
- Creative Capital: Fill in the Blank Corridor
Josh Dare thinks Interstate 95 could use a makeover – especially the part that runs through the heart of Downtown Richmond. Once he had this idea, he got to work. An OpEd in the Richmond Times-Dispatch started the conversation and from there the idea has spread. Multiple articles appeared after his initial OpEd, he received countless emails in support of the idea and a committee has been formed among some of Richmond’s elite influencers to make the corridor represent Richmond’s rich history, bright future and unique personality.
- Award of Merit
- Small Voices, Big Dreams
- Client: ChildFund International
Small Voices, Big Dreams is the ChildFund International’s annual survey that identifies the hopes, dreams and fears of children across the globe. The Hodges Partnership used the new data and was able to secure interviews and stories with Reuters, CBS Radio, USA Today, Richmond Times-Dispatch and several other outlets.
- Award of Merit
- Clear Skies Ahead 2012 Newsletter Campaign
- Client: Chesapeake Bank
Long-time client Chesapeake Bank asked The Hodges Partnership to help improve its readership metrics for its Clear Skies Ahead newsletter. By setting achievable click-through and open rate goals (25% and 11%, respectively) and a incorporating a fresh approach to content that touched on key messages and, more importantly, topics that the readership cared about, the needle began to move. Since the new changes were implemented, the Clear Skies Ahead newsletters surpassed click-through and open rate goals each month.0 commentsPosted in: Public Relations | Richmond | The Hodges Partnership
May 15, 2013 | by Jon Newman
More and more folks searching for jobs on their mobile devices according to new info out from our friends at Snagajob.0 commentsPosted in: Gongs
May 08, 2013 | by Tony Scida
It’s time to emphasize the CHALLENGE of the Big Idea Challenge. Our two teams at Hodges challenge you to out-wit us at this year’s Big Idea Challenge. We came in second last year and are determined to win it all this year. (Watch out, CarMax!) It’s great fun and great way to support the Community Idea Stations in Richmond! If you think you can take us, sign up at www.BigIdeaChallenge.org.0 commentsPosted in: Richmond
May 02, 2013 | by Megan Semmelman
As college graduations take place across the country, many eager applicants are searching for work. As someone who was in that position two years ago (in a new-to-me city with zero connections – might I add), I thought I’d pass along practices that helped me most when starting out my search.
Get ahead of a company’s needs.
Take the approach of being the person a company needs before they even know they need someone. You never know what’s happening internally at a company or how close they are to signing a new client – but if you put yourself on the radar before that need even occurs, it will be easy for an employer to think of you first and see your value.
Search for relationships, not jobs.
A job search is better when it’s a relationship search. Job seekers often make the job search all about them by stating what they need and what they are looking for. I found the most success when I made my search about the person I was meeting with – not a position.
When you’re sending a message to someone asking for a meeting, discuss why their company interests you, mention their recent accomplishments and tell them a little about yourself. This approach will set you apart, because it shows that you truly care about what the company is doing and their successes, which is one of the key rules of any human interaction. It’s simple, but people like it when you take an interest in them and what they’re doing.
Be prepared that finding a job takes time – a lot of it.
The old adage that “it’s all about who you know” rings particularly true when you’re looking for work – and getting to know everyone you should know can take a lot of time. It seems like many recent graduates don’t want to “waste anyone’s time” so choose not to take this step - but many seasoned professionals are eager to meet with newcomers to the field. Take these meetings seriously by dressing appropriately, taking notes, asking intelligent questions and doing your research.
Bonus tip: Ask every person you meet with for one or two more people that might be good for you to meet, and your network will quickly build.
Follow up – with something meaningful.
After informational meetings, the ending remarks are often to “stay in touch” – and you shouldn’t take that lightly! When you start to build relationships, keep them going in a persistent, albeit respectful, manner. Find a way or reason to reach out at least once a month. Mention a new client of theirs, a big media hit or something else relevant to their specific industry. Just mentioning an interesting news article that you think your potential employer might find interesting will help you stand out from the crowd.
Remember the basics!
When you’re trying to stand out from other candidates, the little things are, in fact, the big things. Be punctual for a meeting or a phone call and always send a thank you note to someone who has given you their time. If you’re really trying to impress the person you met with, then send a quick email thank you note the same day of your meeting and drop a handwritten thank you note in the mail. Think ahead and have thoughtful responses to questions that may come up, such as “Why are you interested in a particular field?” (Bonus tip: In PR, the answer better be something other than the fact that you’re a ‘people person.’)0 commentsPosted in: The Hodges Partnership
April 30, 2013 | by Jon Newman
Great story in the Wall Street Journal's Small Business special section on how Snagajob's Shawn Boyer came up with the idea for Snagajob.0 commentsPosted in: Gongs