The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership.
December 06, 2013 | by Tony Scida
This could be a story about how Jack Kerouac contributed to the economy by using Willie Nelson’s guitar to imitate Vermeer sending a rude text message.
Anyone who has ever taken a high school English literature class has surely wondered whether all the purported symbolism was legit. In 1963, 16-year-old Bruce McAllister decided to actually find out, so he mailed a questionnaire to 150 authors.
What about arts tourism?
According to new government research, arts and culture makes up a larger portion of the U.S. economy than tourism.
Texas Monthly takes a long look at a singular instrument: Willie Nelson’s guitar, Trigger.
Take a picture. It’ll last longer.
Here’s a story about art and technology and obsession: Reverse-Engineering a Genius.
The meanest dot
Sometime when I wasn’t looking, using proper punctuation started making you seem like kind of a jerk. At least when it comes to text messaging.0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge
November 22, 2013 | by Tony Scida
Today’s edition of HodgePodge brings you stories on the dismal science of Star Trek, a really old ocean, breaking the seal, Jony and Marc’s red objects, and America’s Sherlock.
Where no invisible hand has gone before
What’s geekier than talking about economics? Talking about Star Trek. What’s geekier than talking about Star Trek? Talking about the economics of Star Trek.
The ocean at the end of the... other ocean
Not only is “breaking the seal” a real thing, but there’s actual science involved in understanding the phenomenon.
The two most-influential industrial designers in the world teamed up to create more than 40 objects to be auctioned to raise money for H.I.V. research.
Watching the detective
William J. Burns was dubbed “America’s Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and preceeded J. Edgar Hoover at the precursor to the FBI before retiring to Florida in relative anonymity.0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge
November 21, 2013 | by Greg Surber
For the past couple years, public relations has found itself at the top of the most stressful jobs list. In fact, if you take away the life-or-death careers (police officer, soldier, fire fighter, pilot), our profession is #1. Not brain surgeon, not nuclear engineer – public relations professional. Take a moment to really let it sink in.
Many PR people take this as a point of pride. It shouldn’t, unless we’re also willing to admit a self-importance problem. (Before I go any further, I’m not trashing the public relations profession. I love what I do and think it serves an extremely valuable service to organizations.)
My co-worker Lindsay half jokingly reminded me a while back the common industry phrase most of us have heard before: it’s PR not the ER. Even though it was meant in jest, there’s truth to this statement. What we do shouldn’t be so stressful. We are not performing life-or-death procedures. We help organizations communicate. Do you see difference?
So why is our profession routinely one of the most stressful? The easy answer would be to point to those outside the profession – our managers, our CEO, our clients. It’s their demands that keep us so stressed, right? Yes and no. It’s part them, part us.
We’re Just Misunderstood
Public relations is an incredibly misunderstood profession. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard someone say, “We need some good PR,” expecting it to solve all business and reputational goals. To which I always want to respond: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2y8Sx4B2Sk
So it’s easy to imagine how we could be put under undue stress by those who sign our checks when they see PR as a cure-all. Public relations can do a lot of things, but it can’t be expected to replace all the other business functions that factor into a company’s success, like marketing and advertising. But because public relations is so misunderstood, it’s easy to blame when things aren’t going well.
Unfortunately, that’s not the whole problem. As I mentioned, part of it falls on us.
We Need to Manage Expectations Better
The nature of a PR agency is stressful. We need our clients to believe we can help meet their business goals. If they don’t, they stop paying us – and that is a very bad place to be.
But ultimately the reason PR people are hired is because our clients need someone who knows more about PR than they do. It’s our job to provide them counsel on what to do. And if they don’t know understand what public relation does (and doesn’t) accomplish, it’s up to us to fix that.
Next time you run into someone with unrealistic expectations about PR, here are a couple things to keep in mind to help keep the stress level down.
- Ask (the right) questions early: What are your client’s business goals? Who are they trying to reach? Where do their targets get their information? These are the questions that will help you determine what strategies and tactics make the most sense.
- Set agreed-upon, measurable goals: Without a clear objective, it’s easy for people to suddenly have different expectations halfway through a campaign. It might take some time and frustration on the frontend, but it’s well worth the effort.
- Have some humility: Yes, you might be the PR expert, but we aren’t the only department offering advice toward the organization’s goals, and sometimes we just have to suck it up and play along.
November 15, 2013 | by Tony Scida
Here’s your weekly look at some of the interesting stories we’ve read (and heard) this week.
You can keep your official NFL McDonald’s happy meal and official Hunger Games: Catching Fire Subway sandwich, I’ll take a fan-improvised Starbucks Butterbeer, please.
The BBC wonders if MLS can survive and thrive. I’d love to see the league move to a more-traditional system of promotion and relegation, but that seems pretty unlikely.
My commute home is really not complete without hearing the business news from Kai Ryssdal on Marketplace. Vanity Fair takes a brief look at the man behind the voice.
You don’t say
In other public radio news, This American Life talks about seven things you’re not supposed to talk about.
Upon further consideration
A Harrisburg newspaper reaches back 150 years to issue a retraction for an editorial that called the Gettysburg Address “silly.”0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge
November 12, 2013 | by Cameron McPherson
Earlier this fall, Barilla made headlines for all the wrong reasons: its president said they’d never use a gay family in advertisements.
News outlets reported on planned boycotts, people flocked to social media expressing outrage and clever Photoshoppers edited the company’s trademark blue Barilla box to say, “Bigotoni,” a play on rigatoni.
Two months later the company is doing damage control by creating a diversity and inclusion board, hiring a chief diversity officer and participating in the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index.
Too little, too late? I don’t think so. Consumers are forgiving and the company is making positive steps forward.
But, how many organizations have to ostracize consumer segments before they realize it pays to be nice — to everyone?
It’s 2013. Wise up.
Barilla’s effort to create a diversity and inclusion board is a smart move and it’s a tactic other companies should follow. Only, they should’ve created the board years ago, and before the current crisis.
The U.S. is an incredible country because of our wide-ranging diversity. Sometimes it’s hard for marketing teams and companies to understand the sensitivities of every minority group.
So how can you make sure you’re not upsetting consumers? Ask them. And use a little common sense.
Four years ago, Richmond Region Tourism, Richmond, Va.’s tourism arm, organized an LGBTQ advisory committee of community leaders, advocates and professionals for their help and opinions on reaching LGBTQ travelers. The committee met periodically throughout the year to provide ideas, vet ad campaigns and give feedback.
Led by Richmond Region Tourism, the committee helped launch Pride Over Richmond, a tourism campaign that invited LGBTQ travelers to Richmond.
The LGBTQ advisory committee was setup on a volunteer basis. Participants joined because they cared about Richmond.
Companies should utilize a similar strategy when vetting marketing efforts and soliciting feedback from consumers. Perhaps you don’t have a gigantic marketing budget to survey consumer thoughts. That’s okay.
An LGBTQ advisory committee is just one example. The idea can be extended to other groups.
Most of the time, consumers are very willing to give constructive feedback if you just ask. It doesn’t even take a penny for their thoughts — sometimes it only takes a meeting with pizza.
And perhaps your mother’s advice still rings true: just be nice.
*Cameron is a volunteer member of Richmond Region Tourism’s LGBTQ advisory committee.0 commentsPosted in: Crisis Communications | Public Relations | Social Media
November 08, 2013 | by Tony Scida
Here’s your weekly look at the most interesting articles we’ve read around the office.
Twitter launched its long-awaited initial public offering this week. Here’s a helpful flow chart to help you decide whether to buy Twitter stock. Poynter takes a look at some media outlets’ first tweets. Time has a helpful tool for you to calculate your share of Twitter’s value.
Can’t buy me love
But, when it comes to wine, at least, money can buy happiness, says Reuters’ Felix Salmon.
Shouldn’t it be the Wizard train?
A group of investors is proposing a high-speed maglev train that could travel from D.C. to New York in just an hour.
Behind the coterie
A couple weeks ago, Saturday Night Live aired a pitch-perfect spoof trailer for a Wes Anderson horror movie. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how it came together.
Business Insider interviews WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg about the culture at his company: How Automattic Grew Into A Startup Worth $1 Billion With No Email And No Office Workers.0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge
November 06, 2013 | by Megan Semmelman
It’s time to talk apples — and not the iPhone variety. Cider is one of my favorite beverages — but it’s also a good opportunity to take a look at an industry that is finding popularity from a whole new group of followers and rebranding itself along the way.
A recent Time article reports that hard cider sales increased 85 percent in 2012 from the year before. From an outside perspective, the industry is doing everything right. So, what can communications practitioners learn from the ascendant popularity of cider?
Here’s a look at a few things cider has done to be the apple of everyone’s eyes:
Told a story
The cider industry has a history, which provides a great story for cider as a whole. This article in Nation’s Restaurant News describes how the recent rise in cider sales is “merely a repeat of American history.” (It was a drink of choice for John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.)
Two Virginia cideries showcase examples of the stories of individual cideries within the industry as well. Bold Rock’s founder wanted to bridge the gap between wine and beer lovers. Blue Bee Cider’s founder was an office worker for years before deciding to go to cider school and do something totally different. The consensus? They all have a story to tell. The takeaway? No matter your brand or product, make sure you have a vision/story/tale to tell consumers about how you got where you are.
Provided messaging that works
If you Google popular cider companies — from Crispin to Woodchuck to Angry Orchard — and spend a little time on their websites, you’re likely to see the words “gluten free” and “artisanal.” This messaging shows that cideries are aware of their target demographics and include words that will be meaningful to their audiences.
Responded to a consumer need
Success follows need, and an industry is only going to do well if there is a need for what is being offered. Think about the microwave — it answered a need for a convenient and fast way to prepare food. Though all kinds of people enjoy cider, cider is an answer to a need for those with food allergies, as it’s a beverage those with gluten allergies can drink.
Provided education for consumers
Consumers don’t know always know what they need. It’s up to communicators and brands to explain how a product is innovative or what it can do to make life easier. Most cider companies have an educational aspect to their websites, responding to common questions like how cider is different from beer and wine and how cider is made, to name a couple.
Followed a trend
The craft beer industry is on the rise, and the cider industry is becoming a part of that larger craft trend. The Washington Post highlights the industry relationships in an article this week, pointing out that cider makers are “sometimes borrowing flavors and techniques from their craft-brewer cousins.”
For those locals that want to learn more about the growing cider industry, Cider Week Virginia is coming up November 15–24.
Cheers!0 commentsPosted in: Marketing | Media Relations
November 01, 2013 | by Tony Scida
Step away from the Halloween candy and take a few moments to check out these stories about the FAA, unplugging, Mike Tyson, the perfect food and the most-quoted man.
Angry Birds in flight
The big news of the week is the new FAA ruling to allow electronic devices “gate-to-gate” on airplanes. If you don’t want to use up one of your free Times articles, here’s CNN’s take.
No app for that
Wired’s Mat Honan says it’s not the fault of technology that you can’t get away from it all.
New York Magazine has an excerpt from Mike Tyson’s forthcoming autobiography: My Life As a Young Thug.
The perfect food?
Everyone loves bacon, but does it make everything better? NPR’s The Salt does the math.
Quoth the area man0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge
October 29, 2013 | by Caroline L. Platt
Remember: Daylight savings is also the time to check your smoke detectors
Last year, around this time, my husband and I had a house fire. It was pretty big, pretty serious. I was seven months pregnant and made it out (along with my husband and two dogs, safely) just as black smoke started pouring into our bedroom and just before the roof leapt into flames.
What undoubtedly saved our lives was a smoke alarm. And so I read Wired’s article on the new Nest smoke alarm with some interest. The headline reads: Nest Gives the Lowly Smoke Detector a Brain—and a Voice.
Apparently, the device addresses some of the common aesthetic and functional issues with existing smoke detectors. For one thing, it doesn’t screech every time the house fills up with smoke from cooking. According to the article, when smoke is first detected the device speaks to you in a female voice:
“‘There’s smoke in the bedroom,’ she said. She didn’t sound panicky, but you could tell she meant business.”
The article goes on:
“…what sets Nest Protect apart is its vocal warning before things get that bad. This feature has the potential to save lives: Millions of people intentionally disable smoke alarms because they’re fed up when the alert blares at the slightest hint of charred bacon. Nest’s verbal alert gives owners a chance to head off a heart-palpitating klaxon call when none is warranted, making it less likely they’ll rip out the batteries in disgust. And the Nest Protect will never wake you at 3 a.m. to inform you that the battery is low—instead, when the lights go down at bedtime, its gentle ring of light provides a status report. A green glow means all is fine; a yellow circle tells you that it’s time to replace the battery.”
Before my house fire I might have readily bought into Nest’s proposition. As I’ve shared with anyone who’s heard my story, my first thought when my own smoke detector went off that morning was that the batteries were low or the thing was malfunctioning. I was annoyed. I was ready to pull it off the wall. It was 5:45 a.m., dammit!
But here’s the thing, my husband had already been in a fire and he knew differently. He takes the smoke detector seriously every time. We didn’t need a soft warning, we needed to move and he did. I like Nest’s nod to the vast majority of our experiences with smoke alarms — unnecessary screeching when dinner, not the house, is burning. But I’m left wondering — would it have been enough for us?
I applaud Nest. I like where their intentions are. But my advice to you is still the same as it was a year ago after this happened to me:
Get updated smoke detectors, have them wired into your house and take them seriously every time.0 commentsPosted in: Richmond
October 25, 2013 | by Tony Scida
This may be the only time in the history of ever that the CEO of a condiment company, the former head of a covert agency and Abraham Lincoln are mentioned in one article.
Spice up your life
No matter how you feel about spicy food, the story of Sriracha, and the enigmatic CEO of the company that popularized it, is worth checking out. (If you don’t want to read about it, you can always wait for the Sriracha documentary to come out.)
Abraham is kind of a hipster name
Did you know Lincoln loved infographics? I don’t know why Spielberg left that part out of the movie.
Shine a little light
What would you do if your town was in a valley and got no direct sunlight for months at a time? You’d erect big mirrors on the top of a mountain, of course.
Bonfire of the Vanity
The fascinating story of how Vanity Fair was reborn after 50 years as a footnote in Vogue: Vanity Fair, the rebirth.
Can you hear me now?
Here’s a PR tip for anyone out there giving interviews on the condition of anonymity: don’t take the call in a public place.0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge