The Gong

The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership.

Snark Week: HodgePodge for Aug. 15

August 15, 2014 | by Tony Scida

Modern problems

Vaudeville tries to save itself like print journalism is trying to save itself.

Candy crushed

Have you noticed fewer and fewer Candy Crush Saga invitations in your Facebook feed? That’s bad news for the game’s maker, King, who are struggling to come up with another hit. The Atlantic says you can, uh, thank Kim Kardashian for the fall of Candy Crush.

I’m waiting for the Kidz Bop version

The number one album in the country is a compilation of ’60s and ’70s hits that serves as the soundtrack to Guardians of the Galaxy. The number two album is the latest Now That’s What I Call Music, a feat A.V. Club says “confirms that most CD sales are made by people who don’t know how to use iTunes.”

An original iPhone would’ve been funnier

Gizmodo took a late-oughts LCD TV to Antiques Roadshow and PBS played along.

Us darn kids

From Quartz: “I couldn’t stand millennials until I realized I was one.” Elsewhere on Quartz, they want to make sure you know that Twitter and Slack and all those cool new start-ups aren’t anything new.

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4 tips to engage journalists on social media

August 12, 2014 | by Stacey Brucia

I admit it: I recently listened to a Bulldog Reporter webinar on engaging journalists on social media hoping that I’d find that one secret to unlock all doors: “If you do X on social media, 25 percent more journalists will say ‘yes’ to your story pitches.” Sigh. That didn’t turn out to be one of the slides. In dieting and in media pitching, there’s no magic pill.

However, the webinar did confirm a lot of our own practices at THP as far as dos and don’ts of engaging journalists on social media. In my case, Twitter is the platform I primarily use to track what journalists are writing and what they are interested in, both professionally and in their personal lives. I like to call it “Twitter spying,” and frankly, you’re missing out if you aren’t using that public information to help yourself stand out and further relationships in this online world.

Below are my takeaways from the Bulldog webinar led by Sandra Fathi, president of a NYC-based firm that focuses on tech media:

  • Tag journalists: Read a story you like or one that speaks to the industry that your client is in? Share it on Twitter or LinkedIn or whatever network you’re using to interact with journalists. As we’ve said before, journalists are people, too, and if you tag them by name, they will see that you are spreading their work around and engaging. (Note: More journalists are being judged on how widely their articles are being shared electronically as this New York Times piece explains the shifts going on at USA Today. We need to help out the folks who are such a key part of our livelihood, whether or not our client is in a story.)
  • Don’t tag journalists: Wait. Didn’t you just say to tag journalists? The flip side of this coin – as Sandra pointed out throughout her presentation– is that you need to approach social media interactions with sincerity. Nobody wants to be tagged for something that’s off topic for them, or it will be viewed as blatant spam. Most often, the goal is to use social media to begin a relationship with someone, and then you’ll end up taking that interaction to email once that initial contact has been made and you need to share more information. Just in the last few days, I was able to switch from Twitter to email exchanges with new contacts for me at The Virginian-Pilot and The Washington Post.
  • Keep platforms separate as far as business and personal: Here and there, some journalists do use Facebook to promote their work or request sources. In that case, if they invite you to be their FB friend, go ahead. As Sandra has experienced, you might see that they’re at a trade show you’re attending, too. Or you might be able to comment to be a potential source. In my experience, however, FB tends to be more personal. Most of my own FB status updates are of the non-professional variety – endless photos of kids and the parenting dilemma of the day. And purposely, I avoid sharing that kind of thing on Twitter so that I’m not annoying business associates and journalists.
  • Remember, it’s public: Duh, you say. However, Sandra told stories of well-meaning PR people outing a journalist’s upcoming story in a way that would tip their competitor outlet as well. And, you don’t want to be revealing client information that’s under embargo via a tweet either. Apparently that’s been done by PR folks themselves. Oops, indeed.

Here are a few examples of things I've learned about journalists from my Twitter feed:

A beat change in Charlotte means I need to find another reporter for our client

Gummy bears make for happy HLNTV producers; plus a new producer for me to follow

Who does Kathleen Hays from Bloomberg Radio have as her guest today?

The personal finance reporter at CNNMoney was away for the good part of July on her honeymoon, but now she’s back and writing again, breaking down how we’re paying for college

What are the “rules” of your most current social media interactions with journalists? What’s your best tip to begin and maintain solid media relationships in this online world? Please share. Heck, put it in 140 characters to @hodgestweets. We’ll be following and sharing. 

(Photo by Roger H. Goun on Flickr.)

0 commentsPosted in: Media Relations  |  Social Media

Hits and Misses: HodgePodge for Aug. 8

August 08, 2014 | by Tony Scida

November is for talking animals

In a work that surely signifies an apotheosis of data journalism, TIME goes beyond the summer blockbuster to catalog seasonal trends in movie topics.

Play time

According to this NPR story (which is part of a series), playing helps us learn. I have two words for you: Corporate Recess.


What happens when you enter the witness protection program?

Polka party

In the wake of Weird Al’s latest album debuting at number 1 (a first for him), The New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jones takes a look at what makes the parody musician better. (For bonus points, check out the video commentary linked at the bottom of the piece.)

That’s the ticket

A few weeks ago I shared a story about the history of the restaurant reservation. But some popular restaurants are doing away with reservations and moving to concert-like tickets.

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Using social advertising to leverage offers with prospective customers

August 06, 2014 | by Emily Shane

In my last post, I discussed the 4 steps businesses should take in order to develop a social lead-generation campaign: develop the offer, build a landing page to explain it, promote it to existing social communities and track their engagement. While this is an important first step in converting social communities into customers—by giving them a compelling reason or incentive to share their email addresses and thus enter your sales funnel—it does not address reaching new audiences.

While virality and the concept of social sharing might have carried your message to new audiences (prospective customers) a few years ago, unfortunately, that’s no longer something you can build a strategy upon because:

  • The sheer amount of content that’s available socially—from businesses and individuals—makes it challenging for brands to appear organically.
  • Social platforms have an obligation to make money for their investors. Ad units are how social platforms make money, and so they prioritize paid content over organic content in users’ feeds.
  • While it is likely that friends have shared interests, friend networks are not targeted enough for niche messaging. If you’re running a lead-generation campaign, then you’ll want access to targeted audiences so you can reach customers who are the best match for your product or service, making the cost-per-lead as low as possible.

Social ads allow businesses to target their messaging to prospects and leverage the demographic information contained in each platform.

Before you begin developing ads, you’ll want to look at your website analytics to determine which social platforms are organically driving the most traffic or, if you’re an ecommerce site, the sites that are driving the most sales. Then, select the top 2-3 referring platforms (depending on your budget) and develop campaigns on those sites.

Each platform has its own take on ad units, and where those units appear on-platform, but Sponsored Content is a product offered by all of the major players. These ads look like a normal status update, except they are paid messages for targeted audiences. They appear alongside organic content, except with a label notifying users that the content is in fact not organic, but paid. Here’s an example of a sponsored post on Facebook from Sandler, one of our social lead-gen clients.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest offer this type of unit and we find it effective because:

  1. You’re reusing content that you’ve already deemed relevant for your community. If you’re sending it to people who look like your existing community, or people who have expressed interest in this subject matter through their profile, then they’re likely a good prospective customer. This validates Hodges’ own social mantra about the importance of creating useful content.
  2. This type of content looks so similar to organic content that in most cases, paid audiences think it’s the same.
  3. Most social platforms have built in lead-generation-specific functionality into their ad units, which helps explain the benefit clearly to consumers and improve conversion results.

Developing promoted posts also allows you to leverage the endless volume of demographic and behavioral data available on these platforms. In order to reach the right audience, look at all of your internal data sources and learn more about your target. You can do this by:

  • Pulling data on existing customers
  • Collecting the information from your sales team that they use to prospect customers
  • Checking out analytics for website visitor data
  • Visiting the audience insights tab from the social platforms where you maintain a profile

This information will help inform the targeting for your first campaign, so that you can find customers who look like your existing audiences, but are not yet a member of your community. On subsequent campaigns, you’ll have the ability to look back at responder demographics (people who clicked on your ad or downloaded your offer) and target future efforts based on those learnings.

If this is your first crack at social advertising, or social lead generation, we recommend supporting select messages—like your offer posts—so that you can begin collecting demographic information on your target audience and their preferences (in terms of copy, images and offer). We also recommend investing enough in each post so that your message is visible for at least half a business day, which will make your dataset representative. Testing on all of these fronts will help you set budgets and collect the necessary data for successful future campaigns.

If you’ve got platform specific questions on developing a sponsored content campaign, or would like to share some of your own best practices, please do so in the comments section of this post.

Image: The Facebook Like Stamp by Denis Dervisevic, on Flickr.

0 commentsPosted in: Marketing  |  Social Marketing  |  Social Media

It’s time we all got a lot smarter (or we’ll be out of a job)

August 04, 2014 | by Greg Surber

Editor. Industry analyst. Blogger.

These are people PR folks routinely identify as influencers – those who get the distinct honor of getting bombarded with our pitches, introductory call requests and emails with “quick question…” as the subject line in the hopes they’ll mention our organization in an article. The problem though is that reporters are an endangered species, and more organizations are bypassing the middleman and producing their own content.

But as content marketing continues to rise, and more studies like this highlight the disconnect between companies buying into the idea of content marketing and actually developing content people care about, public relations professionals will need to develop a much better understanding of the markets where their companies (or clients) reside – as an editor or industry analyst would.

Not just your pitching angles and key messages, but an objective, fully encompassing understanding of your market – what’s influencing it, who’s your audience and where’s it heading.

This shouldn’t be news to you. This has been at the heart of every how-to-pitch-a-reporter article you’ve ever read. But it’s worth repeating because before it was just reporters who saw bad PR pitches that demonstrated a complete lack of understanding and relevance. They’d roll their eyes, delete the message and that would be that. Now though, each sales-y social media update, blog post or white paper demonstrates more and more how out of touch you are with your customers’ needs – and sets up an opportunity for your competition.

Before you hit the books, here are some things to keep in mind:

Brace yourself for some frustrating internal conversations

Great content is objective and self-aware – and without agenda. However, many executives, sales and marketing professionals try to shoehorn in promotional copy into any and all content. Often they’re resistant to a content plan that does little to nothing to directly promote the company and will likely need some time and long conversations to understand the value of letting your company name take a back seat to your organization’s expertise.

Read. Read a lot.

This is more than glancing at the media-monitoring recap your account coordinator sends each morning. You need to routinely read trade magazines and articles from the top reporters covering your industry. What topics are being discussed at your industry’s major conferences? Is there any legislation that could affect your industry – or your adjacent markets? These are things that can help shape and add value to your content. And don’t do this just so you can write better pitches to reporters. Do this so you can develop content that a reporter would write.

Don’t try to replace your internal experts

At the end of the day, our job as PR practitioners is to help tell our organization or clients’ stories and share their expertise, which is always best told by them. I’m not advocating we start behaving contrary to that. But in order for us to extract their expertise on a subject, we can’t simply ask, “So, what’s going on?” Our bosses and clients are busy and don’t always have time to openly speculate on their field of expertise. A good reporter comes to an interview with research on a subject and questions to help guide the conversation. We should do the same.

If you’re at an agency with several clients, you might be starting to panic. Take a step away from the ledge. You don’t need to be all things to all of your clients. Assign one person on your team to be the account expert who can keep everyone else up to speed.

Don’t expect this to all come together overnight. It takes time to develop a firm grasp on an entire industry. Ultimately your bosses and clients undoubtedly will value your insight to their profession, and your customers will appreciate your organization’s content that speaks to their needs and not your own.

Image: "Lewis Hine, Boy studying, ca. 1924" by Lewis Hine - Lewis Hine: Boy studying, ca. 1924, based on file from the Library of Congress. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

0 commentsPosted in: Media Relations  |  Public Relations

Wanted dead or alive: HodgePodge for Aug. 1

August 01, 2014 | by Tony Scida

Reverse osmosis

Amid all the high-profile journalists leaving old-media companies to launch news start-ups, The Verge co-founder Joshua Topolsky is joining Bloomberg.

Hot, fresh news

Then there’s that time Thermos FedExed a hot cup of coffee to a journalist at The Atlantic.

In defense of the doodle

WSJ cites research claiming the practice has benefits ranging from helping with focus to venting emotions.

Moving news

Running for as few as five minutes a day could lower your risk of dying prematurely, says the NYT. (Or maybe not.)

Spoiler alert: it’s football related

How Jon Bon Jovi became the most hated man in Buffalo.

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Hodges Starters: Our Presentation on Demystifying Content Management

July 30, 2014 | by Jon Newman

First of all I’d like to thank the folks that got up early this morning to “pack the room” for our first Hodges Starters event.

If you joined us for our inaugural session (background here) event, you saw how we manage content on social channels and how it should and can be measurable, strategic and occasionally, magical. (Remember that Ellen selfie at the Oscars?)

We haven’t forgotten the folks that couldn’t come (or the folks that made it and asked for a copy of the presentation :) ).

Realizing that magic doesn’t happen on its own— or without hard work—take a deep dive with Caroline Platt and Emily Shane in the presentation below to view the Hodges 7-Step Program to do social media well.

Thanks to Caroline and Emily for the great job and to all the Hodgers who pulled off a great event this morning. We’ll be announcing our fall Hodges Starters event in the coming weeks.

0 commentsPosted in: Marketing  |  Social Marketing  |  Social Media

Cupertino Effect: HodgePodge for July 25

July 25, 2014 | by Tony Scida

Have a seat

The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal digs into the origins of the practice (and language) of restaurant reservations.

Come correct

And from Wired, a look at the short, sordid history of autocorrect.

On the origin of spices

Back over at The Atlantic, an excerpt from the Sriracha documentary traces the history of the hot sauce to its origins to a woman in the Thai town of Si Racha.

Numbers game

What does a 20% chance of rain mean? (Related: Why are Americans bad at math?)

Of relevance

Of note to content marketers everywhere: how Michelle Phan stays relevant on YouTube.

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How I develop a lead generation campaign for social

July 23, 2014 | by Emily Shane

Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like everyone is talking about lead generation—how to drum up qualified prospects, drive them to a website and convert them into customers. While I initially categorized this activity as like pure sales, with no connection to public relations, further consideration led me to two conclusions:

  • Storytelling (one of our core capabilities at Hodges) is one of the most effective tools for getting a prospect’s attention and drive them to a business’ website.
  • Social networks have a tremendous amount of user demographic information. I can’t think of another readily accessible tool that is better suited for identifying targeted audiences who have expressed interest in category or subject.

Then, I started thinking about one of the biggest challenges our clients and prospective clients face when considering Hodges’ social capabilities. Up until about 9 months ago, we had trouble quantifying the ROI for businesses maintaining a social presence. Most times, we’d say it’s a marketing expense, somewhere you need to be because it’s what your customers expect. The prospect of integrating lead generation into a broader social marketing strategy would allow Hodges to track a user’s interactions with a brand from the social platform, to that business’ website and finally to conversion (exchange of contact information or a purchase), thus placing a value on social media activities.

So, in Hodges fashion, we thought it might be helpful to share how our agency approaches lead generation by sharing the 4 steps you’ll need to take in order to get started.

  1. Develop an offer. This can be information, (e.g., a white paper on an area of expertise), a service (free consultation) or even a discount for your services. Spend time exploring the details of your offer so that it makes financial sense for your business and is compelling to the audience you want to reach.
  2. Create a unique destination for your users to land. After you’ve solidified the details of your offer, explain the high points on a visually attractive yet simple page on your website. In addition to describing the offer, your landing page should allow people to sign up for said offer and connect to other relevant information on your website.
  3. Announce this offer on each of your social profiles in the form of a status update. Your announcement should tease one fact from your white paper (or a benefit of the consultation). Also, when you link people to the offer, make sure to create a unique URL for each post (on each platform), so that you can track which activities are driving the most traffic and conversions. Google has a URL builder which will help ensure you include all the necessary pieces.
  4. Set up Google Analytics for your website and track referrals from each platform and post using your custom URLs. The Acquisition tab lets you can see which platform is driving the most traffic, and how those people are interacting with your website. Use this information to develop new offers and hone targeting for future paid advertising efforts.

While social is a great mechanism to share meaningful content and build community, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Because of the rich demographic information contained on each of these platforms, they can also act as targeted advertising tools that businesses can use to push existing fans and niche prospects to content that matches up with their likes and interests. Next week, we’ll continue the conversation by talking about how you can create sponsored updates to promote your offer to targeted audiences and fill your sales pipeline.

And for those who are already engaged in lead generation campaigns, please feel free to share lessons learned and other tips in the comment section of this post. 

0 commentsPosted in: Social Marketing  |  Social Media

Shark Sandwich: HodgePodge for July 18

July 18, 2014 | by Tony Scida

None more black

You already saw this, but it’s so cool I had to included: The world has a new blackest black.

Her hips don’t like

The Wall Street Journal crowns Shakira the Queen of Facebook and then tells us how she got there.


Because this can’t be said enough, apparently, humans already use more than 10% of our brains.

The future of news

BuzzFeed CEO says the New York Times shouldn’t try to be like BuzzFeed.

The future of fake news

John Oliver’s new HBO show and The Onion’s new real/faux clickbait website are taking fake news in different directions, says the aformentioned Gray Lady.

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