The Gong

The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership.

Hold On: HodgePodge for Jan. 23

January 23, 2015 | by Tony Scida

Rubbing elbows

Good news: the media elite put their pants on one leg at a time and eat lunch at their desks just like the rest of us.

Bridge to nowhere

Freakonomics Radio takes a look at the stock answer preamble “that’s a good question.

The alibi

I’ve lost all sense for what constitutes a legitimate development among all the pieces of Serial-related news, but this seems relatively important: Asia’s new affadavit.

How to save a life

More good news: going from extremely lazy to only mostly lazy could make all the difference in your health, so remove that ultramarathon from your bucket list and add in, say, taking out the trash, I guess?

The story of us

Fast Company has the “untold story” of the invention of the video game cartridge. I hope they make a movie version staring Benedict Cumberbatch.

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0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

State of the (Social Media) Union

January 22, 2015 | by Kelsey Leavey

If predictions about the most recent State of the Union (SOTU) address are correct, a little more than 30 million people watched the SOTU from the comfort of their home on their television sets. That’s a significant drop from an average of 42.3 million people watching the speech during the past two decades.

When you compare that statistic to the 125 million Americans that log onto Facebook every day, 30 million viewers starts to sound quite small. On Facebook alone, President Obama boasts more than 44 million likes. Couple this with the fact that 44% of Americans reported finding their news on social media platforms and now you’re likely starting to understand why social media played a major role in the SOTU communications strategy.  

Instead of just accepting the fact that the TV audience is dwindling, the White House embraced social media and used it to set the stage for and amplify the President’s message leading up to the address. For example, senior advisor Valerie Jarrett penned a post on LinkedIn pushing for paid sick days and family leave policies. Additionally, a video about the expansion of broadband access was posted by the Administration to Upworthy. The President also expanded upon his proposal for free community college with a video posted to Facebook. Lastly, the White House made the full text of the SOTU speech available on Medium before the address, a privilege that is usually only afforded to the press. 

In further acknowledgment of the power of social, the White House continued its multi-media and multi-platform outreach during his address. Here’s a few examples of how they handled communications on the major platforms: 

  • Twitter: Excerpts from the speech were live tweeted during the speech. Some tweets even had accompanying graphics and video to drive home key points. According to Twitter, there were more than 2.6 million tweets sent related to #SOTU from the start of the speech through the end of the Republican response.
  • Facebook: Longer excerpts from the speech were shared during the SOTU along with embedded video clips that showed the sound bite as well as additional information related to the topic. 
  • YouTube: A livestream broadcast (that you can now watch on demand) incorporated a split screen to provide viewers with relevant graphs and charts to supplement the President’s speech. Three YouTube “stars” are also set to interview the President on 1/22. A strategy sure to appeal to the younger American demographic.
  • State of the Union Landing Page: Contains a link to the YouTube version of the speech. There are also bits and pieces of the SOTU that have been broken down into messages crafted for sharing on social media. By now, I’m sure you’ve all seen this one.

Social media wasn’t just utilized by the White House. According to the New York Times, “members of Congress (or their staffs) wrote more than one thousand tweets during President Obama’s address.” And this shouldn’t be surprising, these channels give politicians the ability to carefully craft and control messages.

While this year’s SOTU certainly wasn’t the first presidential speech given since the rise of social media, it was the first time that social media was intentional and where the end user – and their channel preferences – took a front seat in the outreach planning process.

0 commentsPosted in: Public Relations  |  Social Media

Wikinomics and the importance of sharing

January 20, 2015 | by Caroline L. Platt

One of the most influential books I’ve read in my career is Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott. You know those books where you can still remember just where you were, what you were doing and what you were feeling as you read them? Well, this one ranked up there for me and I think about it to this day.

Wikinomics is about breaking down barriers. It describes a new kind of economy where sharing knowledge and expertise and trusting that others will do the same for you is not just something you do with trusted colleagues, but is critical to even the largest, most successful enterprises. In light of trends like “brand journalism” and “content marketing” the idea of sharing expertise openly and transparently may sound almost quaint. But in 2006, it was new and I was rapt.

Having been baptized in Tapscott’s belief that sharing is a sound business practice, I’m thrilled to be joining the University of Richmond’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies as a part-time instructor with its Institute on Philanthropy. On January 25-31, I’ll work with marketing experts from across Richmond to present a curriculum on non-profit marketing.

The goal of the program is to arm non-profit leaders with essential tools for marketing their organization—strategy, excellent written content, a command of rich media, social/digital media and public relations. I’ll focus on media outreach. If you want to see how the media pros at The Hodges Partnership build media lists, connect with journalists, write press releases, distribute news and measure success, I’ll be covering all of the above in detail. And while my expertise certainly doesn’t rise to the level or value of the business acumen detailed in Wikinomics (sorry, no gold mines here) I will take some pride in sharing openly and freely what I know and what I’ve learned through more than a decade of slogging it out on the front lines of PR. 

I think Tapscott would approve.

(Photo: Caroline with Don Tapscott at the 2014 Niagara Summit in Las Vegas. Don was as keynote speaker and Caroline presented on social strategy.)

0 commentsPosted in: Public Relations  |  Social Media

Never Say Never: HodgePodge for Jan. 16

January 16, 2015 | by Tony Scida

News you can use

It’s impossible to keep up-to-date on all the news, so of course media and technology companies have been working for years on ways to make it easier to get caught up. In Fast Company, Harry McCracken takes a look at one such app, called Timeline.

Disappearing money

If you were wondering how much it costs to advertise on Snapchat, the answer is $750,000. A day. (If you don’t know what Snapchat is, ask a teenager.)

Have you tried turning it off and on?

If you’ve used a Windows PC, you’ve almost certainly had to press Ctrl+Alt+Del to reboot a stuck machine at some point. Turns out it was never even meant to be consumer facing.

But did they use their hands?

How soccer fans saved the Seattle Seahawks.

Contageous sparkles

Mathew Carpenter thought it would be funny if you could anonymously ship glitter to people. It backfired when he had to, you know, actually ship glitter places.

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The 2015 marketing Crystal Ball: What others think

January 15, 2015 | by Jon Newman

Sonali and I got together last week to plan our upcoming Hodges Starters presentation for next Wednesday (shameless plug: you can register here). While we have things pretty nailed down I have to admit it was harder than usual to gain consensus around what 2015 will bring in the PR/marketing/social/digital work.

So while I know you’re waiting with baited breath to see what Sonali and I say, here’s a rundown of links from other PR/marketing folks as they looked into their crystal ball.

I really like what Lee Odden did as he talked to a bunch of folks and got some consensus around content and writing.

The folks at Sprocket Communications also talk about trends in traditional PR like media relations.

PRSA did its own roundup with people talking about the continuing blur between PR and other marketing disciplines.

Measurement expert Katie Payne is talking about the measurement industry and the continued shakeout there.

And on a wider marketing focus one of my faves, Jay Baer, talks about B2B marketing with content as its focus.

We promise (fingers crossed behind my back) not to “borrow” too much from these great lists and ideas but this is a great way to get us all in the right mindset for next week.

Please share your thoughts on 2015 in comments below and we can share it with the class.

Also click below to register for our event on the 21st. Hope to see you then.

0 commentsPosted in: Hodges Digital Strategies  |  The Hodges Partnership

The Year of ???

January 12, 2015 | by Jon Newman

So if you’re like me you’ve consumed all of the “year-ender/year-beginninger” marketing guru roundups. You know the ones where marketing leaders are asked about the big trends of the year and they each proclaim it as “The Year of The (insert the cool marketing word here).”

I admit I’ve been guilty of doing that in the past inserting words like “social” or “content” or “personal” into the void as a way of simply describing what the coming year will be known for in public relations and marketing.

Next week, Sonali Shetty from Hodges Digital and I are hosting the first 2015 Hodges Starters event where we will look into our marketing Crystal Balls to talk about what to expect this year.

There are a limited number of seats available to our early morning event on Wednesday the 21st, please click here to register.

I will tell you in past years the answer to that question has come to me pretty easily.

This year, not so much.

Not that there’s nothing new or things aren’t trending in a certain direction, but because more than at any other time I think the practice of public relations has reached a true tipping point. Media relations as we knew it isn’t quite dead but it is quite different. Social is now content which is now also paid which sounds a lot like advertising but really isn’t.

We are seeing a maturation of PR, content, social and digital so maybe instead of this being the year we talk about this stuff and experiment, this is The Year of Implementation?


I can’t promise to have it all figured out by next Wednesday but Sonali and I will share our thoughts on our marketing disciplines and how technology continues to drive all these changes.

Again please join us on Wednesday the 21st at 7:30am.

Looking forward to seeing you.

0 commentsPosted in: Hodges Digital Strategies  |  Public Relations  |  Social Marketing  |  The Hodges Partnership

Welcome back: HodgePodge for Jan. 9

January 09, 2015 | by Tony Scida

And the selfie goes to…

Awards season officially gets underway this weekend with the Golden Globes (sorry People’s Choice Awards) and Facebook and Instagram are aiming to make it the “most social Golden Globes to date.”


In 1911, T. Kennard Thomson proposed filling in the East River as part of a plan that would add 50 square miles of land to Manhattan.

The other enigma

How a con man helped the Allies win WWII and received commendations from both England and Germany in the process.

But can it fly?

Wired drove(?) the self-driving car of the near future.

Play to pay

If you’re stuck on a project, it might be time to get out your guitar or pick up that knitting project.

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Your 2015 PR Resolution: Add a data breach section to your crisis manual

January 07, 2015 | by Greg Surber

If we keep up at this pace, hackers may very well be Time’s 2015 “Person of the Year.” By now, we’re all familiar with the Sony/The Interview/North Korea saga, where North Korea allegedly hacked Sony’s servers—releasing loads of damaging emails, contract details and the like—with the United States allegedly shutting down the country’s Internet for 36 hours in response.

Then over the holidays, news broke that Amazon was hacked, putting thousands of passwords and credit card numbers online. As an Amazon Prime evangelist, this one struck a nerve—especially after I found out my credit card was used to buy a cup of coffee in Brazil. (Note: I was not, nor have I ever been, in Brazil.)

And finally this week at the annual Consumer Electronic Show, The New York Times noted how the Internet of Things is ushering in a new era for gadgets—and clothing for that matter. (Think Internet-connected ceiling fans.) But as you can imagine, having virtually every personal and home device online in some capacity creates some enormous security concerns, which companies are still grabbling to figure out.

Back in October, I attended a seminar on the future of PR and big data at the International PRSA Conference, led by Kathy Stershic of Dialog Research & Communications. Her advice for PR professionals: the question is no longer if your company will experience a data breach, but when you will experience one. Like any crisis, how you respond when that day comes will have a huge impact on your organization’s reputation—and most likely your bottom line. If it isn’t there already, you might want to add a data breach section to your crisis communications manual at some point in 2015.

(Image: "WinonaSavingsBankVault" by Jonathunder - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

0 commentsPosted in: Crisis Communications  |  Public Relations

Counting to 10: Tips to steer clear of a social media crisis

January 06, 2015 | by Lindsay Grant

So, you're the content manager for your company's social media channels. Congratulations! You've been selected as the voice of the company and the one who "gets it." On top of that, everyone thinks you're hip and in tune with what's going on in the world. Life is pretty good for you, my friend.

Until there's a social crisis. Then, all eyes are on you and everyone will wonder how you let this happen.

My advice? Don't let it happen.

Growing up, my mom often reminded me to "count to 10” before I opened my mouth. At the time, I didn’t listen and often found myself in trouble. Today I remind myself of this nearly every day as a communications professional. (Thanks, mom!) One could argue that it's the cornerstone of all sage advice. Sure, "think before you speak" also falls into this advice but, for me, there was something about those 10 seconds.

Just think, if Congressional aide Elizabeth Lauten had "counted to 10" and considered the tips below, then this mess would have never happened and she'd likely still have her job on the Hill. However, the urge to chime in and be snarky led to a highly inappropriate comment that rubbed nearly everyone the wrong way.

Now, let's not be literal, please allocate more than 10 seconds to your social media planning - but you get the sentiment. Below are some keep tips to consider when taking the reigns as social content manager.

Count to 10 before you post.

This should dovetail into most of the tips below but always think about the gravity of what you're about to post. Who will be affected? Will people be insulted? Do we sound sincere? Is this on brand? If it's current event-related, are we adding to or detracting from the conversation? (Bonus: This can be applied to your professional and personal social media practices.)

Know your audience.

Are you a brand that's speaking to a wide range of people with varied and diverse backgrounds? If so, then your content needs to be one size fits all.

Recognize the weight of your words.

Whether you're representing a brand that employs thousands or a nonprofit that helps thousands, there's a lot that could be at stake from poor judgment on social media. Remind yourself that your role as social media content manager matters to more people than just you and the effect of your misstep could be far reaching.

Know your humor (or lack thereof…). 

Any good speechwriter will tell you to avoid all attempts at humor unless you are 100% positive it'll be well received. Certainly humor has been done well on social, but I can promise you that considerable time and thought went into that post. When using humor, go ahead and count to 100.

Plan your content. 

I'd be willing to put good money on that a large amount of ill-fated social media posts have come from the immediate need for content. The struggle for good content is real - and when forced, we often fall flat on coming up with that genius 140-character post. Take a tip from the pros and plan out your content in advance. We're fans of the social editorial calendar.

Tighten up your password security. 

Even though everything worked out for Burger King, they learned a major lesson in online security. Maintain strong, bullet-proof passwords and change them regularly.

Let others know where the bones are buried.

You can't be everywhere all the time. You'll need to make sure others have access to updating social platforms when needed. Put a reminder on your calendar to share updated passwords with those who can fill your shoes in the time of need.

If it's a current event, consider whether you need to weigh in.

Oftentimes this is where brands make a mistake. Social "newsjacking" has been done incorrectly and insensitively many times. Should you choose to contribute to the conversation, make sure it's tasteful, objective and appropriate. When in doubt, sit it out.

React quickly when a problem arises.

Experts are still waiting on the research to come in but it's been said that time moves faster on social media. A spill can become a mess in no time. Should you find your brand in the line of fire, take immediate control of the situation. Whether that means apologizing for something inappropriate that was said, addressing a disgruntled customer, changing passwords if you've been hacked, etc. Time is of the essence on social media.

Recovering from a social crisis is an uphill battle. Even after the apology and work to win back followers, you'll spend hours creating content just to dig yourself out of a hole. Don't let that happen to you.

I look back on all those weekends I spent grounded throughout middle school and I know that mom was right - I should have counted.

So please, always think about what's at stake before you post. As you can see, the punishment and consequences only get steeper.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

0 commentsPosted in: Crisis Communications  |  Social Media

Hodges 2014: The Year in Review

December 23, 2014 | by Josh Dare

Let’s take stock in 2014 — the highs and lows, the gong-able and wrong-able moments of the year.

The Gong Show.

That yard-wide brass gong in our lobby is not there for some staff production of The Mikado; it’s for celebrating client success — loudly and with enough reverberation to affect the drive-thru window at McDonald’s across the street. Among 2014 media hits still ringing in our ears:

  • Reginald’s Homemade peanut butter made a star turn on the TODAY Show and in the pages of Cooking with Paula DeenTriathlete and USAirways’ in-flight magazine and on
  • Sandler Training showcased it expertise in FortuneUSA Today, Inc. and
  • ChildFund International’s work was profiled in The Wall Street Journal, al Jazeera, BBC, USA Today and The Washington Post.
  • Collared Greens collared a nice full-page hit in Coastal Living.
  • The University of Richmond’s professors were quoted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today and by the Associated Press, which all told, reached almost 340 million eyeballs in 2014 (that’s assuming everyone has two of them).

Write on. 

The year included some notable op-ed placements that appeared in The New York TimesPhiladelphia Inquirer¸ Seattle Times, Huffington Post, al Jazeera, The Washington Post, and The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Lead Gen.

Whatever you call it — content marketing, brand journalism, social media — our expertise in this dynamic space has helped clients like Sandler, Hilldrup and Passion Roses (as well as THP ourselves)  generate new client leads and stay top-of-mind among key client prospects. 

What happens in Vegas.

Our social media campaign to promote Tridium’s Niagara Summit in Las Vegas led to 40 percent increase in followers and included up-to-the-minute posts at the conference to its 1300 attendees. 

Bon appetit.

Our resident foodies helped open two new restaurants in 2014 — the new Chuy’s location on Hull Street in Chesterfield and the new Cooper’s Hawk restaurant on West Broad in Short Pump. (A couple of us may still be hung over.) We also broke out the grand opening scissors for the opening of four new Kroger stores this past year.

Let’s get Starters.

The past year saw the kickoff of our new Starters series, a set of workshops that serve the same roll as Toto tugging the curtain back on the Wizard. Our first two sessions — on content marketing and media relations — seemed to be as well received as the donuts. 

Play ball.

Our annual baseball outing included a visit to DC’s Newseum as well as Nats Park.


The year was not without its disappointments, even beyond the excess Kardashian news we were made to endure. Some of the low points included:

  • When Belgium scored twice in extra time — despite the Herculean efforts of USA keeper Tim Howard — the air went out of the building at 1805 East Broad Street. See you in Kazan in 2018.
  • The Hall of Fame’s Golden Era Committee failed to elect Gil Hodges to the Hall, extending an indignity that has lasted more than 35 years.
  • Josh’s doctor tells him to lose 30 pounds, telling him his BMI is too high. When Josh points out that Adrian’s Peterson’s BMI is even higher, the astounded doc says, “are you for real comparing yourself to Adrian Peterson?” Point taken.
  • Five short-sighted members of Richmond’s city council keep Shockoe Bottom from moving into the 21st century by failing to support a downtown ballpark, a new Hyatt and Kroger, new apartments and a slave memorial. Definitely the year’s low point. 

Lots to look forward to in 2015. See you in January.  

0 commentsPosted in: Agency Management

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


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