The Gong

The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership.

Lead-generating content starts with buyer personas

April 27, 2015 | by Laura Elizabeth Mann

When was the last time you had a problem and took to Google to find the answer? Given that every minute Google recieves more than 4,000,000 search queries, I bet it was fairly recent. Well, that’s what your potential customers are doing too.  They’ve got a problem and they need a solution. So, give the people what they want.

That’s the idea behind inbound marketing: providing informative, helpful content – blog posts, ebooks, checklists – that draws customers to your website. The first step in creating that content is developing buyer personas.

What are buyer personas?

Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on general demographic and biographic information, behaviors, motivations, goals and pain points.

Why are buyer personas so important?

Understanding buyer personas will focus your marketing efforts and help create more effective content. The right content not only brings people to your website, but also converts them to leads and customers. After all, isn’t reaching your ideal customer the goal of your online marketing efforts?

Buyer personas & content creation

Your buyer personas should always guide the content you create – from website copy and blog posts to ebooks and videos. Ask yourself: What content is most helpful, informative and useful to them? How can I help them solve a problem? What are my buyer personas searching for online and how can I provide that information on my website or blog?

How do I figure out who my buyer personas are?

Research to develop your buyer personas can include interviewing and surveying current customers, talking to your co-workers, and even getting feedback from your sales team on their experiences talking with potential customers.

Note: You can have multiple buyer personas, but focus on one primary persona to start. Remember, this primary persona represents not just any current or past customers, but your ideal customer.

Basic questions when developing buyer personas:

This is by no means a complete list, but here are a few basic questions to get started. Download our buyer persona checklist below for a more comprehensive list of questions to help create buyer personas.

  1. What is their job title and demographic information?
  2. What are their typical job responsibilities and roles?
  3. What does a day in their life look like?
  4. What are their challenges/pain points, and what can you do to help solve them?
  5. Who do they answer and report to and what does success look like?
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Out the Inbox: HodgePodge for Apr. 24

April 24, 2015 | by Tony Scida

Worry about it later

Chances are you’re well familiar with this conundrum: The procrastination loop and how to break it

Looking back

A compelling argument from Smithsonian for teaching music history backwards. For that matter, maybe we should teach all history that way?


Streaming TV has overtaken live TV in this consumer preferences study.

Speaking of streaming

After making a big initial splash, Jay-Z’s music streaming service Tidal seems to be struggling to gain traction.

Maybe Jay should take up the tuba

If you’re having trouble sleeping, may I suggest taking up a wind instrument?

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The Zuck was clearly listening to Hodges Starters

April 23, 2015 | by Emily Shane

Just hours after our most recent Hodges Starters event (where we discussed the importance of supporting your content with ad dollars), Facebook announced its latest tweak to the newsfeed algorithm—part of which was yet another blow to organic reach for brands. Ok, so maybe the timing was sheer coincidence, but the gist of the announcement is that the social network is listening to its user base (read: trying to stay relevant) and will begin prioritizing friend content, which users say they want to see more of, over brand content in the newsfeed. So, what’s the big deal? It means that brands will have greater competition for audience eyes and therefore likely see further decreases to organic reach, which is currently at 2-3% of a page’s total fan base.  

With organic reach that low, does that mean business should abandon the platform all together? Here at Hodges, we say no. If anything, this is further argument for social advertising and sending targeted content to people who are most likely to engage with you—whether or not they’re part of your existing community. And speaking of social advertising, just a day after this announcement, the company announced its Q1 revenue—$3.54 billion, 73% of which came from mobile advertising. It’s a decrease from the Q4 holiday period ($3.85 billion), but still, a very clear illustration of just how much money is in this game. 

The bottom line—if you want your content to be seen, you’ve got to put ad dollars behind it. It doesn’t take a huge investment—just invest in the content that will drive your business goals. 

If you’d like to learn more about the announcement directly from Facebook, click here

(Photo by Brian Solis)

0 commentsPosted in: Social Media

New THP client: Alexandria Renew Enterprises

April 22, 2015 | by Jon Newman

We’re very happy to announce the signing of Alexandria Renew Enterprises as a new THP client.

Our work for Alexandria Renew will focus on the “owned media” practice of content strategy and creation.

It also continues to expand the THP client footprint into Northern Virginia, part of our goal to work with great clients through the Commonwealth.

AlexRenew operates one of the most advanced wastewater reclamation facilities in the United States, serving the City of Alexandria and redefining what it means to be an environmental steward in this industry. It will be our honor to help it reach its audiences through the creation of content that helps educate and inform.

“To effectively reach the Alexandria community with messages about what Alexandria Renew does and why it’s important, essential, and innovative, content is key,” said Lisa Van Riper, Chief, Enterprise Communications, Alexandria Renew Enterprises. “Hodges is creating a content strategy for us in partnership with our new content manager. They are taking a strategic, segmented look at the audiences we want to reach in Alexandria, and the content types and online delivery vehicles that will get us the results we are looking for.”

Our team, led by Greg Surber, is working on our first deliverable, a content management plan, as we speak. We’re pleased to be working with Lisa’s broader team and consultants and will report back on our progress.

Alexandria Renew joins THP’s current client list that includes Kroger, Tridium, the University of Richmond, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority and Chesapeake Bank to name just a few.

0 commentsPosted in: Gongs  |  The Hodges Partnership

Hodges Starters recap: Beyond Boosting

April 21, 2015 | by Jon Newman

You’re hearing a lot from me on the “Integrated” Public Relations model of earned, owned and paid media. It is a drum I will continue to beat frequently.

It is that paid piece that was the focus of today’s Hodges Starters event “Beyond Boosting,” presented very capably by Emily Shane and Kelsey Leavey. They and others at THP have gone above and beyond by self-teaching themselves and staying ahead of the latest social advertising tools on various platforms.

IMHO, any PR agency who does not have a growing expertise is the social ad space is only delivering half of the content equation to their clients. The subhead of the presentation is “What’s required to keep your content from falling into black hole.” Given the pressure that the social platforms have placed on themselves to make money, that’s exactly where most content is falling.

Emily and Kelsey nicely traced the 11-year history of social ads from “Facebook Flyers” to the more sophisticated algorithm-based tools of today. But the ”kick in the stomach” stat for most in the room today was as Facebook earned more than $3.59 billion (with a “b”) in ad revenue in the fourth quarter of last year alone, its organic reach for posts fell to just six percent.

If you’re not spending at least some money then few folks are hearing what you are saying.

While I won’t bore you by explaining all the tools Facebook and Twitter offer marketers, the key takeaways are you can target audiences by interest, message, – and it’s pretty affordable. In many cases you can tailor the audiences and remarket ads to folks you already have on email lists or to those who visit your website.

The keys are making sure your advertising is married to your content and that both are aligned to your marketing goals (website traffic, leads, purchase, likes, etc.). You can then start with relatively small budgets ($500 or less on each platform) to test those campaigns and build from there.

But the bottom line (as I’ve said before) is that we at THP view these platforms as much as advertising platforms as we view them as content platforms. That’s part of the beauty of the “integrated” model. The earned, owned and paid working together to achieve the broader marketing goals.

We will be talking more about this. If you think this is valuable to you organization Emily and Kelsey are happy to present to your group. Just let us know. We’re also kicking around a webinar on this topic so stay tuned.

And before you ask “what about LinkedIn?” Well there’s only so much you can fit into an hour so we’re working on that for our next Hodges Starters event for all you B2B freaks out there.

Please subscribe to the blog to make sure you don’t miss the announcement and date.

As always would love to hear your ideas and comments below.

0 commentsPosted in: Social Marketing  |  The Hodges Partnership

A preppy miss for Target

April 19, 2015 | by Jon Newman

My daughter and I knew we were in trouble when we saw a filled Target parking lot just before eight on a Sunday morning.

Then we saw the line of (mostly) women wind around the side of the store.

It was then we knew of plans of scoring some of the coveted Target-Lilly Pulitzer merchandise that both companies had been promoting for months was slowly fading into the pastel-colored horizon.

We actually knew about an hour earlier when I tried only to find the entire Lilly collection already sold out and the first reports of issues had overnight began to surface.

Now the great debate starts. Is this a PR and marketing success for both brands because of the instant sellout? Or is it a failure because of the building anger coming from core audience for both brands, women and their daughters?

Target for one seems to be spinning, almost out of control. Recently I had mentioned to my wife that the store seemed much emptier during prime weekend shopping times. My guess to myself is the company still was recovering from 2013’s security breach and the horrific way it handled the aftermath.

Based on the immediate quotes coming from Target spokespeople on Sunday, they still are putting the consumer last. Here are just some examples While never crashed the company obviously wasn’t prepared for the “extreme traffic” to the site and had to intentionally make the site inaccessible for 15 minutes so it could catch up.

After past IT issues you’d think there’d be now why for Target to underestimate the site traffic. But it did.

Underestimating the aftermarket: I witnessed people with overflowing shopping carts leave two stores and I imagine that scene being played out across the country. I’m sure they didn’t check the size of each item they bought. I’m also sure they won’t have any of those items in their closet in a week.

Within minutes Target-Lilly items were up for sale on eBay for five times more than they were selling for in stores. But the Target company line while saying “that’s really disappointing to us” also doesn’t shed a tear for the consumer saying Target is “not the first retailer that’s experienced its products being sold” in the aftermarket. The spokesman actually added that limited product lines “become like collector’s items.”

That’s all folks: And finally while online rumors of restocking started to spread around the internet, Target is quick to point out that there will be no new items available in stores or online. That’s all folks.

That’s a heck of a way to rebuild faith in a brand and get people to come back after you make their credit card information for all the world to see, isn’t it.

And for Lilly Pulitzer, it won’t escape the wrath of its core either. As you can see on its Facebook page, its attempt to make good with a mystery gift with a new purchase is being met by the wrath of the consumer.

But Target is the one with the bullseye on its back here. I know there will be many who will say this is no different than other designer sales the retailer has based its recent strategy on. I also know that the company recently beat expected earnings as it recovers from the security breach. But you have to wonder how many times consumers will excuse deaf ear the company seems to be turning in their direction.

I know this dad who had to pay on eBay more than twice what he expected to pay for a pastel-colored Shift dress will be taking his expendable income elsewhere for a while.

Would love to hear what you think. Please comment below.

0 commentsPosted in: Crisis Communications

Friday Night Likes: HodgePodge for Apr. 17

April 17, 2015 | by Tony Scida

I know why the clicked link sings

Where did the mis-attributed quote on the new Maya Angelou stamp come from? Apparently Wikipedia.

Buying the forest for the trees

Apple just bought a forest where it will grow trees for its packaging.

Agree to disagree

No, Yes, Definitely: On The Rise Of ‘No, Totally’ As Linguistic Quirk

Running north

Via the indispensable Next Draft newsletter: A story from the starting line of the Pyongyang Marathon

There’ll be a quiz later

The typical American reads more than 100,000 words a day and remembers none of them.

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Making the case for targeted social advertising

April 15, 2015 | by Kelsey Leavey

If you’ve been reading our blog lately you’ve probably seen these four words together: owned, earned, paid and shared, as it relates to the future of public relations. Not only is it important for organizations to have a media relations strategy (earned), create original content such as blog posts or microsites (owned) and a social media strategy (shared), but it is now imperative for organizations to have a social advertising strategy (paid).

Next week, Emily Shane and I will be giving a presentation on the importance of social advertising and how you can take your organization’s strategy to the next level. (There are a few seats left, and you can still register here.) We’ve both witnessed the changes that have happened in social advertising over the last couple of years and know that it can be difficult for marketing and PR professionals to keep up. We also know that it can be difficult to make the case for a paid social media strategy, when most of the platforms started off as a “free” way to reach your audiences.

We’re hoping that through this presentation you’ll leave with two things:

  1. A better idea of how your organization can reach its target audiences on social media without breaking the bank
  2. The ammunition you need to make the case for a social advertising budget

We hope you’ll join us on April 21, at 8 a.m. for our Hodges Starters: Beyond Boosting workshop. We promise to feed and caffeinate you, and to keep our presentation to under an hour so you can be on your way. Hope to see you there!

Register for Beyond Boosting

0 commentsPosted in: Social Marketing

Periscope and Meerkat: Live from your Twitter, it’s…

April 14, 2015 | by Jon Newman

Remember the beginnings of Twitter when everyone told everyone what they were doing at that moment whether everyone else really cared or not.

Oops, that’s still Twitter…

Imagine that but doing it using live video and you’ve got the current state of Periscope and Meerkat. Those are the new live video apps that allow folks to live broadcast whatever they are doing wherever they are doing it and promote viewership through Twitter.

This post will not debate the merits of one versus the other (Periscope was acquired by Twitter pre-release so it is more embedded while Meerkat might be more easy to use and it was first), this post will explore what this means for marketers and brands.

As referenced above, most people are using the apps to play. This means live shows featuring their pets, what they’re eating or cooking, where they are driving, etc. This will get old very quickly (and has) but for marketers and brands the possibilities are much greater than that.

  • Sports Marketing: NBC broadcast the weigh-ins for its widely popular Saturday Night boxing series on Periscope and actually broke some news when one of the boxers failed to make weight thereby changing the terms of the fight. At the Final Four, athletic departments broadcast practice sessions as a way of keeping fans engaged. Overall the ability to provide additional and complimentary live content for fans is a great opportunity for all sports platforms.
  • Scheduled live shows: Brands can share their expertise by scheduling live demonstrations, shows, interviews featuring their experts. Periscope allows viewers to ask questions on the screen for experts to answers. Viewers can also “like” responses by tapping the screen generating floating hearts and providing instant feedback.
  • Breaking news: Yet another way for reporters or citizen journalists to “broadcast” live from the scene of events or news stories. Twitter is already know as the “breaking news” social platform, so this takes it to another level.
  • Personal branding: People have created personal brands on social platforms for the last six or so years without a great deal of video content, now they can easily add live video to their arsenal as they schedule shows or have impromptu sessions.

These are just some of the ways to seriously incorporate these new platforms.

Hey, I like watching people cook or drive as much as anyone but…

What other ideas do you have to use Periscope and Meerkat in “big boy” integrated public relations?

Would love to hear them. 

1 commentPosted in: Social Media

Detecting the Watches: HodgePodge for Apr. 10

April 10, 2015 | by Tony Scida

Hot stuff

What, exactly, is comforting about comfort food (aside from the, uh, eating)?

On the news

The Vanity Fair goes long on what’s wrong at NBC News. Presumably we’ll soon get an NBC segment on what’s wrong with Vanity Fair.

Debbie Downer

Can’t wait to see the SNL sketch on this: The Atlantic looked at FCC complaints to find the most offensive recent Saturday Night Live segments.

Economy of one

If, like me, you’ve wondered how a “living wage” is calculated, it seems like there’d be worse places to get an explanation than The Economist.

But what’s with Roger’s mustache?

From NPRMusic, A (Nearly) Comprehensive Guide To The Music Of ‘Mad Men’.

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