The Gong

The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership.

Innovator’s Dilemma: HodgePodge for Apr. 18

April 18, 2014 | by Tony Scida

​Each week I share articles we’ve read and discussed around the THP offices. We call it the HodgePodge. Today, we have five stories about (or purportedly about) innovation or innovators.


Mashable recounts an epic story of getting their first and doing nothing with it in The Rise and Fall of AIM, the Breakthrough AOL Never Wanted.

The newest Jimmy

When Stephen Colbert takes the reins of CBS’ Late Show next year, he’ll be the king of a shrinking mountain, says the Onion A.V. Club.

Welcome to Goodburger

Here’s how one sketch comedy show revolutionized kids TV.

Smiley-face, frowny-face

Everyone was all excited this week over the possibility of the first emoticon appearing in a poem from 1648. It turns out that’s not what it was, but that won’t stop you from hearing about it over and over again for the rest of time.

State of the Mark

Frahad Manjoo sits down for a talk with Mark Zuckerberg about innovation and Facebook.

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

0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

In Defense of Selfies

April 15, 2014 | by Megan Semmelman

Retired Gen. Colin Powell recently posted this self-portrait from the 1950s to his Facebook page.​You read that right, I’m defending selfies—and not because I’m a Millennial who takes them often. (In fact, if you go to my Instagram account, you’ll find just one.)

Chances are, if you’ve scrolled through your newsfeed recently, you’ve happened upon a selfie. The Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for 2013, a selfie is defined as a photograph taken of yourself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website. Kids these days, right?

On that same newsfeed, you’ll likely see information on birthdays, family milestones and maybe even a post on a recent dinner. And you’ll find some of the tough moments in life on display, posts about divorce, illness or even a death in the family.

We react to this shared news quickly and instinctively, typically by commenting or sharing with our own online community, or just as often by internalizing what we’ve seen. Our reactions can be positive or, sadly, not nice at all. This article from The Wall Street Journal, Why Are We So Rude Online, describes what we already know too well: we are meaner to each other on the internet than we ever would be in person. We’ll leave it to the sociologists to figure out why.

Last week, the reaction to one particular selfie—posted by a victim of the Pittsburgh-area high school stabbings—ranged from supportive to downright cruel. Nate Scimio posted the selfie while still in his hospital gown, his arm bandaged, with a caption that read, “Chillin’ at Children’s.” What Nate’s selfie doesn’t tell you is that he was the one who pulled the fire alarm in the school that morning, alerting students and faculty to the danger and likely saving many lives.

In less than 24 hours after the stabbings, commentary on Nate’s selfie exploded. Many were critical of a seemingly cavalier attitude in the wake of tragedy. You’ll find that reaction and others like it in this Washington Post article that summarized the varied responses the selfie drew on social media. Among them was Mel Robbins, a political commentator for CNN, who wrote an opinion piece in support of Nate’s decision to post the selfie. To Robbins, the selfie was Nate’s way of communicating to his community after a tragedy, of letting his friends know he was okay.

Robbins is exactly right. Selfies have become an efficient communications tool, and Nate’s gesture no doubt provided a great deal of comfort to his friends and family who, through one quick post, could see for themselves that he was truly okay. Even so, we should not have to defend Nate’s selfie. In the face of a tragedy like this one, or other sudden and devastating events—the shooting at Sandy Hook, the bombings at the Boston Marathon—we must resist the temptation to judge. How people react to tragedy is a complex and personal matter and not the occasion for others to publicly respond with characteristic web-based insensitivity.

We live in world that is quick to comment, quick to judge, and technology has given us the capacity to share those emotions often before we’ve had a chance to really think them through. So, one week later, kudos to Nate for his reaction on that scary day that perhaps saved many, many lives. Perhaps the best reaction is to be happy that Nate was alive to take that selfie.

0 commentsPosted in: Social Media

Spring Into It: HodgePodge for Apr. 11

April 11, 2014 | by Tony Scida

​Take a moment between sneezes to read some of the interesting articles we saw this week.

Like if you agree, share if you don’t

Facebook recently made changes designed to de-emphasize “like baiting” posts. This is good news for both users and companies.


With the official, final, we’re-not-kidding-this-time end of support for Windows XP, Ad Week looks at the story behind perhaps the most famous computer desktop wallpaper photo ever, Microsoft Bliss.

Brazil or bust

Maxim introduces us to the super fans of American soccer: American Outlaws.

A type problem

Whether you know it or not, every day you see type designed and sold by Hoefler & Frere-Jones (like Gotham, used by Obama in his first run for office, or Archer, used in Wes Anderson’s latest movie), but the pair have split amid a nasty lawsuit. Businessweek takes a look at their story and reminds us that all good things must eventually end.

Drinking it to the man

Your brand is important, but the story of the gradual fall and hipster-fueled rise of Pabst Blue Ribbon is a good reminder that your brand isn’t fully under your control.

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

0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

Picking the right social platforms for your company

April 08, 2014 | by Tony Scida

​I recently attended an event where one of the speakers made an off-hand remark that implied LinkedIn company pages aren’t worthy of our attention or effort. The audience had a good chuckle, but I found the remark strange because Hodges has seen some great results for clients using LinkedIn for sales, recruitment and marketing.

Whether or not LinkedIn is to your taste, responsible marketers owe their clients the best advice they can give, and for some clients, you may find that LinkedIn is a great fit.

Here are a few questions we ask our clients (or ask ourselves about our clients) to help guide the platform decision process.

Who’s the audience?

Though there are areas of overlap, the various different platforms have cater best to different populations. Facebook is the biggest player, with the broadest userbase, but it may be harder place to find an audience receptive to your goals.

What’s the content?

While visual content performs best across the major platforms, many businesses struggle to generate or find compelling and relevant visual content. Whatever services you pick should work well for the kind of content you can provide.

What’s the ultimate goal?

More than anything, your social media program needs to support your marketing goals, and different platforms have different strengths in different areas. A company selling consumer goods to a broad audience will necessarily have a different approach than a consultant looking for business leads.

What’s the budget?

Social media was never truly free in the first place, but it’s really, really not free now. Facebook has essentially killed organic reach in order to drive ad spending by companies, so you’ll have to spend money to reach even the people that already like your page. Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest all have ad products as well. If you plan to use a social media platform, you should plan from the beginning to support it with some level of paid promotion.

Ultimately, we should keep in mind that we’re investing in an online presence we don’t own and that can change drastically with very little notice. It’s important to put a program into place that can change with those platforms.

0 commentsPosted in: Social Marketing  |  Social Media

Mostly baseball: HodgePodge for Apr. 4

April 04, 2014 | by Tony Scida

​As a firm named after a baseball player and manager, you can imagine that MLB’s Opening Day is a pretty big deal around here. In honor of this young baseball season, we’ve got a few interesting baseball stories plus a couple interesting unrelated items.

Swing away

The story of jazz and baseball, two of America’s greatest contributions to the world of disposable time, have some common history. The Smithsonian tells the story through some rare footage of Duke Ellington playing ball.

Striking decisions

MLB umpires will use replay on certain calls, like home runs and force out, but not for calling balls and strikes. This New York Times opinion piece argues technology would do a better job at calling the strike zone.

Game on

Baseball fans take some technology, like stadium lights, for granted, but the story of how lights came to the majors is pretty interesting.

Ready player one

Baseball may be America’s pastime, but last year 71 million people watched other people play video games.

About a movie

Here are 21 things you might not have known about Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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

0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

Your Opinion Matters

April 01, 2014 | by Sean Ryan

A good opinion is a terrible thing to waste — after all, where else can you claim prime media real estate with 750 or so well-chosen words?

Finding a home for your prose, however, isn’t always easy. Space often is tight. Your subject matter might be popular among other aspirants. And news breaks, often making your masterpiece a little less masterful.

Here are a few guidelines to consider when trying to place an opinion piece.

Do Your Homework/Be Realistic

Regular readers of THP’s “The Gong Blog” have heard this over and over. In this case, take some time to determine if the piece is better suited for local or regional play or if it’s ready for prime time – the answer could be either or both. According to Clay Risen, an opinion editor at The New York Times (and expert on whiskey and bourbon; buy his terrific book here), the Times receives several hundred submissions per day. That’s more than 2,000 a week. In other words, the piece will have to really stand out. Bob Rayner, an opinion editor at our local daily, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, said the RTD gets a few dozen pieces aimed directly at its readership, with several hundred more of the email blast variety, which he said never get picked up. Keep in mind that local can lead to national – just a couple weeks ago, a client’s opinion in the Times-Dispatch attracted the eye of a freelancer working on a piece for The New York Times and led to an interview.

Make It Stand Out

For starters, the piece should be exclusive (editors normally like 1-3 days to consider a piece, and Rayner encourages follow-ups to let him know when you want to offer the piece elsewhere). It also should be well-written and fit the parameters of the publication you’re pitching. If asked for 750-800 words, don’t send 2,000 thinking that 1) it’s really, really good, all of it or 2) it’s up to the editors to cut it down. Think of it this way…it’s a great opportunity to control your message (knowing suggested edits still will come from the editors) and make it easier on the editors at the same time. As for the content, Risen advises taking the time to learn the Times’ style. “It wouldn’t hurt to get one of us on the phone to talk through our approach. I am much more willing to take a call or read a submission from someone who has taken the time to make a personal connection with me.” As for Rayner, “We publish exclusive material that is concise, accurate, interesting, well-written and based on facts and clear reasoning. Pretty simple, actually. Rule No. 1: Be original.”

Avoid Mistakes

From the editors themselves:

  • Rayner at the RTD: Don’t confuse me, don’t write cute leads. Don’t think you are my only option on any topic. And never send me a long email!
  • Risen at the Times:
    • Not understanding the outlet. We publish a broad range of pieces, but we put a primacy on unique, newsworthy op-eds…we also have a low tolerance for pieces that promote specific projects or products.
    • Sending multiple pitches, rather than a single, well-crafted, full article.
    • Not personalizing an email. The best way to get my attention is to make it clear that you took the time to write an email specifically to me instead of an impersonal blast.

(Photo by Christopher Stephen.)

0 commentsPosted in: Media Relations  |  Public Relations

Run fast: HodgePodge for Mar. 28

March 28, 2014 | by Tony Scida

​Good luck to all 40,000 of you who are running Monument 10k in the rain tomorrow. Here’s some things to read while you wait for your wave to start.

Play ball

Here’s a story about how NPR producer Theo Balcomb’s great-great-great-uncle introduced baseball to Japan.

The Bourne McAfee

USA Today’s Jon Swartz went on the road, and on the run, with John McAfee, the eccentric namesake of the anti-virus software, and it is pretty incredible.

What is Jeopardy?

Mental Floss (which is like an erudite BuzzFeed) briefly recounts the history of one of TV’s longest-running game shows.

Unique pairing

There aren’t many contexts in which it makes sense to mention Disney and Playboy in the same sentence, but author and consultant Dan S. Kennedy does just that in this piece for Entrepreneur.

Drawing lessons

Fast Company talks to ex-Pixar employees about what lessons they’ve taken with them to subsequent endeavors.

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

0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

Collaboration is the New Organic Reach

March 26, 2014 | by Emily Shane

This past week, I digitally attended (aka streamed) The Digital Innovation Summit. The event brought together experts from business and the media who each spoke to how they’re driving innovation, both from a technology and social perspective.

The streaming, in and of itself, was kinda interesting and something I personally had never done. We took that approach for several reasons: it allowed other Hodgers to pop in and participate, was very cost effective and it placed minimal burden on my family (which includes 2 kids under 3). During the talk, there was a lot of conversation and questions surrounding measuring the impact of social media, and I’ll get into that in a future post. What I’d like to focus on now is the talk given by Jennifer Burnham, Dir. Social Marketing at Salesforce. Hodges had come into contact with Salesforce during its acquisition of Buddy Media, which was a social dashboard that would allow clients to manage its social presence (outbound and inbound content) from one destination.

Salesforce is taking an approach to organic reach that not only validates Hodges approach, but also some of our clients’ philosophies. As we all know, the juggernauts of social media — namely Facebook and Twitter — have been commoditized. And with the weight of stockholders on their shoulders, these titans of community have killed organic reach and virality. As a result, brands can no longer expect that their content will be seen be all fans. And more importantly, for businesses who are trying to build a community, it’s very unlikely that content will be seen by new eyes, unless there are advertising dollars behind your effort.

During her talk, Jennifer talked about how Salesforce is reaching new audiences through collaboration, and the principals were applicable to any business that is willing to devote time to blogging (I know…it’s not for everyone). At Hodges, we practice what we preach by sharing the responsibility of writing a blog among an employee base, which broadens the expertise of the blog (making the content better) and takes the burden off just one or two people. At Salesforce, Jennifer has extended her editorial team beyond Salesforces’ large employee base to include customers, industry influencers and even sales prospects for the company.

Here’s why that’s a winning equation. Salesforce has established large followings on the major platforms. Customers, industry influencers and prospects all represent a unique perspective, which they’d like to share with Salesforce’s likeminded community. Salesforce wants relevant content that doesn’t cut into their bottom line … and free content from friends does just that.

Obviously guest blogging is not a new concept, but building a blog with the intent to regularly source original content from outside sources reminds me of the traditional media landscape, before “The Facebook.” Plus, it solves two barriers businesses typically face when starting a blog — the concern over having enough content and the challenge of organically reaching new audiences — through collaboration. This is certainly not a cure-all for businesses who have no desire to create any content, but Salesforce’s approach reshaped my thinking on good content and where that could come from. 

0 commentsPosted in: Social Marketing  |  Social Media

Between Two Ferns: Just the Right Place for Pitching Millennials

March 24, 2014 | by Greg Surber

President Obama made headlines the other week by appearing on Zach Galifianakis’ Between Two Ferns, a satirical Internet talk show on where Galifianakis poses aggressive questions and non-sequiturs to his guests — not the typical media appearance for a sitting president.

While it appeared random and mocking at first, the President used the segment to pitch Immediately following, many questioned the President for agreeing to go on the show. Something so irreverent undoubtedly diminishes the Office of the President’s reputation, right? Not really.

Ultimately, Obamacare’s success hinges on sign-ups of the “young invincibles,” 18-29 year olds who have few annual medical needs, and as a result, whose premiums offset the expenses of older, more costly Americans. Any good public relations campaign must identify where the target audience gets their information. Although a news program like 60 Minutes historically might have been the go-to place for a president to state his case, if your audience doesn’t watch it, what’s the point?

Prior to President Obama’s episode, the top three Between Two Ferns episodes had 18, 16 and 14.5 million views, respectively. (For what it’s worth, 60 Minutes pulls an average of 12.4 million viewers per week). Why the high numbers — and the fundamental reason why this was such a good move by the Obama administration? The video — both technically and content-wise — is remarkably sharable.

Between Two Ferns is incredibly popular with millennials, and more importantly, it’s designed to be shared on social media. Add in such a you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me factor like the guy from The Hangover interviewing the President of the United States, and it’s no surprise the video appeared virtually everywhere. (The episode currently has 19 million views.)

Healthcare coverage isn’t a pressing topic among millennials, and given how politicized the issue has become, it’s no wonder why so many of them have tuned it out. So how do you reach a tuned-out, young audience? Comedy. Good satire always has had an amazing ability to cut through the noise surrounding an issue and reframe the public’s thinking of it.

So did the gamble payoff? According to a tweet from White House communications advisor, Tara McGuinness, was the #1 source of referrals to last Tuesday. Whether that results in actual sign-ups remains to be seen, but it’s a good start.

I can see how more conservative baby boomers might be bewildered that President Obama would go on a mock Internet talk show to hock, but frankly given what the Administration’s communication goals were, their opinion doesn’t matter.

Politicians’ success always has been tied to their ability to relate to their constituents, and appearing on Between Two Ferns did just that. Millennials’ media habits are significantly different than previous generations, and as they get older and more engaged, the more politicians will have to adapt their messaging to reach them to stay relevant and relatable — even if it means using channels previously believed to be beneath the dignity of the presidency.

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

And we’re back: HodgePodge for Mar. 21

March 21, 2014 | by Tony Scida

​After an impromptu absence due to some scheduling conflicts, we’re back with another edition of our round-up of the most interesting news we’ve seen this week.

Jony Time

Whether you use Apple products or not, your world has been greatly affected by the work of Jonathan Ive, from the iconic bubbly iMac to the sleek iPhone in my pocket. If you’re interested in Apple, Ive, or design in-general, this Time piece is a must-read.

It’s over

Journalists, PR people and other AP Style Guide sticklers around the country are today mourning the loss of yet another hard and fast rule: AP says “over” is perfectly acceptable in place of “more than.”


Turkey’s Prime Minister thinks he can block Twitter in Turkey. (Spoiler alert: he can’t.)


It might be too late to peeve over “over,” but you can still freak out about over-use of punctuation.

About a sticker

Remember Mr. Yuk? Did you know he’s from Pittsburgh?

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

0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge