The Gong

The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership.

Team White & Gold: HodgePodge for Feb. 27

February 27, 2015 | by Tony Scida

Color me informed

Wired looks at the science behind why some people see that dress as blue and black, while others see it as white and gold.

Pick a door

Then there’s the time everyone corrected the world’s smartest woman about the “Monty Hall Problem.” Or should I say miscorrected?

Stand up

I switched to a standing desk, so now you should, too.

Also from the New Yorker

An artificial intelligence program taught itself to play Breakout.

Let it ride

Here’s a Vox explainer on how casinos get you to spend more money.

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0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

Why you should be paying attention to Snapchat Discover

February 26, 2015 | by Kelsey Leavey

Earlier this month, Jon blogged about the “walls tumbling down” where he referenced Snapchat’s new Discover feature. Discover launched at the end of January and is Snapchat’s newest iteration in its effort to monetize. And it makes sense; the latest stats are saying that Snapchat has more than 100 million monthly active users, an estimated 700 million ‘snaps’ (photo or video messages sent between users that ultimately disappear within a few seconds) are viewed daily and ‘stories’ (photos or videos that can only be viewed for a 24 hour period) are seen more than a billion times per day. Additionally, users have to be actively engaged to consume this content as snaps and stories are activated by touch.

So what is Discover?

Discover is a way for its 11 publishers (mainly media companies) to branch out and reach a new audience. Time Inc. executive business director Joseph LaFalce had this to say about People’s involvement, “The demographic on Snapchat is much different from the demographic that’s reading People right now. We want to tap into that and create that new generation of loyal readers.” It is also a way for Snapchat and these publishers to generate ad revenue—with ads ranging from an estimated $.15 to $.30 per view. While Discover is currently only open to the media companies that Snapchat has “invited” to participate, other brands like Taco Bell, the World Wildlife Fund, the NBA and Mashable have created profiles that users can interact with users (much like the early days of Facebook when brands were forced to create profiles, before Facebook Pages existed).

No formal figures have been released on the success of Discover, but if marketers didn’t already have Snapchat on their radar of emerging social platforms they should now, especially if your target audience is under 25.

Four Snapchat terms you should know:

An example of a geofilter

  • Snap—photo or video content that you create and share with your “friends” on snapchat. Snaps disappear within a timeframe of your choosing (1-10 seconds). To access snaps sent to you by friends, you press and hold. Think of snaps as disappearing messages. Text can be added to snaps, and users can even use the pen to draw on their photos.
  • Stories—photo or video content that can be accessed by your entire friends list (or the public depending on your profile’s settings). Your friends have to press and hold to view your stories. Users can see who has chosen to view their snapchat stories. Think of stories as disappearing status updates. Stories can be viewed more than once, but automatically disappear after a 24 hours period, or if a user decides to delete his or her story.
  • Screenshot—If you don’t want your friend’s snap or story to disappear, you can take a screenshot and save it forever. The only catch is that your friend will be notified that you saved that embarrassing selfie they sent to you.
  • Geofilter—Filters (text/image overlays) based on your location.

Snapchat made a bold statement with the release of Discover, claiming, “This is not social media. Social media companies tell us what to read based on what’s most recent or most popular. We see it differently. We count on editors and artists, not clicks and shares, to determine what’s important.” Marketing and PR professionals should keep an eye on what Snapchat is doing and at least know the basics of how users interact with the platform, especially if they work for organizations that are hoping to reach a much younger demographic. 

0 commentsPosted in: Mobile  |  Social Media

Behind the Hit: FCEDA in The Atlantic

February 26, 2015 | by Caroline L. Platt

Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA), a long-time THP client, promotes Fairfax County, Virginia, as a business location. The FCEDA has been so successful in its efforts that TIME magazine declared Fairfax “one of the greatest economic success stories of our time.” THP is tasked with trying to top that kind of national media coverage each year through media outreach to outlets like Fortune, WSJ, USAToday, HBR, CNBC, FoxBusiness, CNN and others.

We pitched the results of the FCEDA’s “Creativity Gap” survey to Bourree Lam at The Atlantic in mid-December. Two months later, The Atlantic ran Lam’s story which includes a reference to the EDA and the survey in the second graph (yes!).

For this study, conducted in August 2014 by Ipsos, the EDA surveyed 1,000 working Americans and asked them about their creativity and how it’s valued in the workplace. Turns out, most working Americans (76%) say they’re encouraged to be creative in the workplace. We feel lucky to be among them. Read more about the findings on the FCEDA website.

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

0 commentsPosted in: Media Relations

8 ways to show employees they’re valued

February 25, 2015 | by Lindsay Grant

According to a recent BLS reports, Americans (25-54) spent nearly nine hours per day at work or doing work-related activities. And we’ve all heard that Americans spend more time working than any other developed country. Knowing this, it’s more important than ever for companies to keep finding ways to reward and recognize employees in ways that let them know they’re valued.

Above everything else, a company’s greatest asset is its people. From word of mouth to social media, your employees have the ability to shape brands and manage reputations, making it more important than ever to enhance workplace environments and employee engagement efforts.

And while a company may not be positioned to offer meditation getaways, state-of-the-art onsite gyms and big bonuses, there are still so many things that can be done to make sure your employees know they’re valued. In fact, several of these tips come at no hard cost at all and will leave your employees feeling valued – which is priceless.

  1. Listen to your employees. Create an environment that fosters conversation and dialog about the company, specific issues facing the company and smaller operational concerns. Allowing your employees to feel heard will go a long way in building a loyal team. Consider hosting town hall-like meetings, living the “open-door policy” and creating a way to employees to make suggestions for company improvement.
  2. Talk to your employees, too.  Ask about their weekend, their vacation plans, their interests or how they’d handle a particular work-related situation. The more you engage with your employees the more you’ll earn their respect (and the harder they’ll work). So, walk around, shoot the breeze and set aside time to connect. It’s simple and everyone wins.
  3. Understand their schedules and priorities. No two employees have the same life outside of work and the companies that understand that are the ones topping the aforementioned lists. If your business lends itself to perks like job sharing, flex schedules, compressed workweeks, wellness programs and onsite child care, then make it a priority to start discussing how your company can offer more.
  4. Pay your employees fairly. Not talking about compensation on this list would leave an elephant on your computer screen. This is simple: fairly compensate all employees for their contributions. If someone doesn’t have to worry about financial problems while in the office, then they’re more likely to focus on their work. So, to the extent that you can make that easier, please do so. And when possible, offer additional incentives and rewards to remind them that the company’s success is all because of their work.
  5. Allow them to shine. Your company is filled with experts who carry valuable product and industry knowledge. Find those exceptional employees and pitch them as thought leaders to business media, trade media and speaking opportunities. Not only will they feel recognized for their work, but awareness for your company also will be raised.
  6. Provide training. The best of the best invest in their people. Encourage and allow your employees to further their professional development by offering a stipend to attend classes and seminars, bring in speakers, coordinate lunch and learns, etc. Continual training keeps employees feeling sharp, smart and motivated.
  7. Empower everyone. Encourage employees to own their position on the team by asking them to bring you solutions rather than problems, make decisions (that can be made without greater discussions) and move projects forward. Micromanaging creates a dependent and sometimes toxic environment – avoid at all costs!
  8. Let them eat cake! Or wear jeans, host a happy hour, laugh or have a good time. We spend more than 40 hours together each week, companies should make that time as pleasant and comfortable as possible, without affecting work performance. So, allow a birthday celebration or a “just-because” celebration to go down. It’s worth it.

From this list, which act goes the farthest with you? Do you agree that the small things can make the big difference?

3 commentsPosted in: The Hodges Partnership

Video Blog: Doubling down on media relations and brand journalism

February 24, 2015 | by Jon Newman

In my first video post (hopefully of many), I explore the dual paths of traditional and “new” public relations and why we are traveling both.

Marketing folks are using the phrases content marketing, social marketing, brand journalism, etc., interchangeably these days. This is causing a great deal of confusion not only in the client marketplace but within agencies themselves. As PR people look to grow they wonder things like, “What will happen to media relations as it becomes tougher given the shrinking media marketplace?” and “Where do I ‘fit in’ in this constantly changing world of social media and content marketing?”

We’ve been spending a great deal of time as an agency putting a process against our version of content marketing and brand journalism. So much so that there’s been some question as to the level of importance that we will continue place on “traditional” PR.

In this video blog I share some thoughts on both topics, the commitment we’re making to this dual path and why we're making it.

(Spoiler: For my Rutgers friends, please watch till the end for a special message. Everyone else watch till the end anyway.)

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

Sub Zero: HodgePodge for Feb. 20

February 20, 2015 | by Tony Scida

Eat before you click

Everyone knows going grocery shopping while hungry leads to a suboptimal shopping cart, but apparently that bad decision-making carries over to all kinds of purchasing decisions.

Here’s Jony

If you haven’t yet read the long profile of Apple design head Jony Ive, you should definitely check it out. It’s interesting to see Apple making its executives available for this kind of story.

Who are you wearing?

Why do actors walk the red carpet? Because they get paid to.

Old fish, new fish

A previously unpublished Dr. Seuss book has been found. It’ll be published this summer. It’s called “What pet should I get?” To miss it would be a bummer.

More lost and found

Completing the cultural rediscovery trifecta, I just saw this clip of a previously unknown hidden George Harrison guitar solo in Here Comes the Sun.

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0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

THP Field Trip: The Dog and Pig Show

February 18, 2015 | by Kelsey Leavey

We’ve been fans of The Dog and Pig Show since the day it opened (Paulyn loved the food so much she visited two days in a row during its first week of operations in December). The husband and wife duo who own the shop focus their efforts on a small but extremely flavorful menu. Local news outlets have described their menu as Louisiana flavor with an Asian twist including offerings such as a pulled pork po’ boy and shrimp and grits. They also have sweet treats that are out of this world.

When it was time to plan our winter birthday celebration, I knew we had to place an order with The Dog and Pig. We ended up going with the dalmatian cookies—a chocolate chip cookie (with both white and milk chocolate) and chunks of Oreo—and a chocolate cake with rosemary buttercream frosting. Added bonus: I picked up their last batch of candied bacon too. Don’t worry, we still have the running club here at Hodges to work all those calories off.

Thank you Isabell and James for adding a new regular lunch spot to the rotation for us in Church Hill and for making our Hodgers with winter birthdays happy. And Happy Birthday to Stacey, Steve, Josh, Meg and Greg!

Here’s a behind the scenes look at The Dog and Pig Show:

0 commentsPosted in: Richmond  |  The Hodges Partnership

If a gong bangs in the snow, can you hear it?

February 17, 2015 | by Jon Newman

Even a half a foot of snow in Richmond (and three inches in New Jersey where Stacey lives) can’t stop us from celebrating media relations success.

First, a great placement for Sandler Training, the leading global sales and leadership training outfit. This placement quotes Sandler VP Brian Sullivan sharing his thoughts on using LinkedIn for lead generation. A true team effort on our end and a month in the making.

Second, a national placement for a just-released survey from Monmouth University pollster, Patrick Murray, on Americans thoughts on the future of manned space-flight. This one landed as the main focus of a piece on The Switch, The Washington Post’s policy/tech blog.

The Gong in the headline refers to our practice of banging the Gong hanging in our office to celebrate a media relations (or other) success.

First person to brave the snow back to the office, please go ahead and bang it.


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Take these steps to secure your company social accounts

February 17, 2015 | by Tony Scida

A few weeks ago, Greg laid out the case for having a data breach section in your crisis communications plan so you’re prepared if your company’s computers are hacked. But, there’s another area of information security that marketing and communications departments have more direct control over: passwords for social media profiles and web services.

Compared to customer or financial information, a Twitter account might seem wholly insignificant, but ask the folks at Chipotle how their day was last Sunday when they awoke to a Twitter profile plastered with profanities. The irony that Chipotle lost control of their Twitter account after faking a hack as a stunt a couple years ago was not lost on the press, either.

But it’s not just Chipotle that’s been targeted by vandals and others with nefarious intent, even the U.S. military has seen their social accounts compromised.

What’s even worse is that services like Twitter and Facebook can be used to log into other sites, like commenting system Disqus or Q&A site Quora, and even major media websites.

Chipotle hasn’t said exactly how they lost control of their account, but chances are they either had a weak password or fell victim to a phishing attack. Here’s some steps you can take to make sure you’re a good steward of accounts you control on behalf of your company or brand. Use these tips, or share them with your staff, to conduct a review of your account credentials. In addition to these tips, make sure your social accounts, and your handling of passwords, comply with your company’s IT security policies.

Use a good password

What’s a good password? Well, for starters, nothing on this list of the 25 most common passwords, which includes such gems as “password” and, in an apparent nod to Mel Brooks, “123456.”

A good password also is unique to that account: don’t share passwords between accounts, because anyone who acquires your credentials for one account is likely to try it for other services.

Use effective password management

It doesn’t do any good to have a complicated password if you can’t remember or find it when it comes time to log in. Modern browsers include features that will save login credentials, which could be a good start, but there are also dedicated applications and services for storing login credentials. And as a bonus, these apps can also generate strong passwords which checks off the requirement above.

And, if you need to have login information shared among team members, some of these apps even allow for shared sets of credentials. Most also have mobile applications, so you can have all your passwords with you on the go. My favorite password app (or set of apps) is 1Password, but you can use literally whatever you want—just use something.

Another advantage to having effective password management in place is that it makes it easier to change your passwords if a service is compromised and account credentials are leaked.

Restrict third-party apps/services

The more third-party services you give access to your accounts, the greater your exposure to risk. Problems could come in the form of a breach at the service, as with the Buffer hack a couple years ago, but it could also put you at greater risk for phishing attacks. If team members have free rein to sign up for new services and there’s no clear rules on which services are official, you run the risk of a team member inadvertently providing a malicious party with your account credentials.

Decide what third-party apps are approved for your team and periodically review your account to revoke access to services you’re no longer using.

Be on the lookout for phishing

Third-party services put you at risk for phishing, as mentioned above, but even if you don’t use any, it’s important that anyone with access to your accounts knows what to look for to avoid being phished. There are lots of guides to avoiding phishing, but the best tool you can bring to your defense is a heaping dose of skepticism for any and every email link and login page you come across. If you get an email purporting to be from Twitter, Facebook or some other service, and you’re unsure about the veracity, visit the service directly (i.e. type “” in your browser, don’t click on the emailed link) and look for the notification there. Bottom line: if you’re not sure, do not click.

Consider using two-factor authentication

Many services offer two-factor authentication, which requires you to log in with a password and an additional “factor,” usually a time-based code that is sent to a device you own through a text message or within an app, such as Google Authenticator. With two-factor authentication, merely having a user’s login name and password isn’t enough. A malicious party would also need to intercept your text messages or have physical access to your phone.

If you observe these basic principles, you’ll be in a much better position to keep your social accounts secure. If your head is spinning a bit right now, don’t worry, I’ve summarized these recommendations in a simple one-page guide you can download and keep handy when creating accounts.

Download the Guide

0 commentsPosted in: Social Media

1,776: HodgePodge for Feb. 13

February 13, 2015 | by Tony Scida


Weren’t you just saying you really wanted to know Sarah Silverman’s take on Serial?

Where is he now?

Jon Stewart’s announcement that he was leaving the Daily Show launched a surprising amount of, I guess, nostalgia for his predecessor, Craig Kilborn.

A capella

This article says everyone can sing because very few people are actually tone deaf. If you ask me (and if you’re reading this, you basically did), being able to sing and not being tone deaf are two vastly different things.

More than words

Here’s the oral history of a particular hit rock ballad.

From David Carr

In a week when the journalism world was already reeling from the fall of Brian Williams and death of Bob Simon, NYT media columnist David Carr passed away in his office. I find myself wanting to read Carr’s take on this, but since that’s not possible, here’s a classic from his archive: the story of his own adiction and redemption.

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0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

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


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