The Gong

The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership.

Hellooooo: HodgePodge for Jan. 30

January 30, 2015 | by Tony Scida

Move it

Here’s as good a reason as any to sign up for the Monument Ave 10k in March: Exercise can change your DNA.

What does ESPN stand for?

The Verge takes a look at how ESPN is pursuing the future of sports media

Gotta catch ’em all

So many American childhood pop culture phenomenon have their roots in Japan—think Pokémon, Transformers and Hello Kitty—but why?

Get a flat white while you’re there

Want to find the hotest neighborhoods? Go where Starbucks goes.

Press play

The rollercoaster of Startup life has been playing out over at the StartUp podcast for a few months now. This latest episode, on burnout, is a remarkably frank look behind the scenes of this podcast company.

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

0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

And the walls are tumbling down…

January 28, 2015 | by Jon Newman

Two big announcements this week have “media” people (journalists, PR folks, social media peeps) wondering is this truly the beginning of the end.

And the interesting thing is the announcements come from organizations on the opposite ends of the media world.

First, Condé Nast, home to such high-regarded media brands like The New Yorker, GQ, Vanity Fair, etc., announced the birth of 23 Stories. This new “studio” gives brands and marketers direct access to editors at Condé Nast magazines to create “branded” content designed to fit in nicely with other editorial in the magazine.

The sense here is that this is much more than your grandfather’s advertorial. So much so that there’s already rumored push back from within the 23 stories of the Condé Nast Building in New York.

It’s become a very popular topic in Wall Street Journal ad and marketing writer Suzanne Vranica’s Twitter stream. Here’s she’s wondering if staff will get paid extra for these extra duties.

On the opposite end is the announcement of social media darling for the tween set Snapchat.

Its announcement of Snapchat Discover is sure to rock my 15-year-old daughter’s world. This new effort will give advertisers, right now mainly media companies, the ability to provide their own version of sponsored content directly to Snapchat users.

As you can see in the TechCrunch piece, content providers ranging from CNN to ESPN to Nat Geo and others are now permanently (as long as they pay for it) available within Snapchat, making their brands available to users. This is quite different than the original Snapchat which allowed users to send short video messages to their friends and then have them magically disappear.

What to make of this? In both cases, it’s about making money, being relevant and—at the end of the day—survival. Condé Nast is making its venerable pages available to brands so they will continue to pay for the space with the lines blurred between editorial and sponsored content. Snapchat is making its platform available because it needs to figure out a way to make money in the first place.

For PR, ad, and marketing folks it is just more of the bricks on the wall tumbling down.

Whether you are old school or the new cool, great content, more than ever before, is the key.

Figuring out how to get it in front of people is now the challenge.

Money to do that is more important than ever.

Your thoughts?

New Call-to-action 1 commentPosted in: Media Relations  |  Social Marketing

Whither Media Relations

January 27, 2015 | by Josh Dare

We had a client a couple years back that was launching a new product. It was a boot-strapped enterprise, funded mostly by family money and propelled by the kind of energy that fuels early-stage companies and that we PR folks love to feed on.

We also did a lot of feeding on the product itself. I won’t reveal what it actually was, but suffice to say it was yummy. REALLY yummy.

Because the founder didn’t have much of a marketing budget, he threw what he did have behind a media relations push, a campaign to get the word out so that potential customers could read about it in print and on online outlets and perhaps even through some coverage on TV.

We had some early successes. Placements within the pages of Bon Appetit, Cooking Light, Prevention and Garden & Gun, among many others, not only plucked the product out of obscurity, but it also began driving a steady stream of curious, if not hungry, customers to its website.

Then came an appearance on the TODAY Show, and the floodgates collapsed…almost literally. The volume of orders that came in over the transom did so with such force and frequency that this little engine that could actually couldn’t. The website conked out amid the biggest crush of orders it could have ever imagined.

When we founded The Hodges Partnership almost 13 years ago, we did so with one core competency – media relations. We were – and still are – adept at wrapping a news angle around our clients’ brands, and that acumen and a dose of polite persistence has proven over the years to be a pretty prolific combination. Whether we’re helping launch a new product, working to enhance a client’s expert market position or calling attention to some new aspect of a client’s product or service offerings, we have a track record that I’d stack up against any agency around.

But enough of the loud back-patting.

The point of this trip down memory lane is not simply nostalgia but an assertion that media relations remains today and will remain tomorrow a substantial piece of our approach to client storytelling. Those of you who regularly follow The Gong Blog have noticed that we are adding new arrows to our PR quiver. Social platforms have created exciting new tools for us and our clients, and we have moved aggressively to stay abreast of current trends and even help do a little trailblazing ourselves. It’s all very cool.

But all of that is additive – it’s complementing and not replacing our focus on media relations. As much as content marketing gives us tools for efficiently targeting audiences, for creating relationships and engagement between brands and their customers, media relations holds some intrinsic power of its own, providing influential third-party endorsements, delivering instant credibility, and as our clients have learned, driving customers to your door.

But be warned. They also can break your website. 

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

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.

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

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.

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

0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

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.

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

0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

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


Agency Management
Crisis Communications
Hodges Digital Strategies
Media Relations
Public Relations
Social Marketing
Social Media
The Hodges Partnership