The Gong

The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership.

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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Twelve years at bat with Jon Newman and Josh Dare

July 16, 2014 | by Megan Semmelman

Just a few weeks ago on July 1, The Hodges Partnership celebrated its 12th birthday. Celebrations ensued—the annual baseball outing—a Nats game this year—as well as lunch in D.C. and a visit to The Newseum.

Celebrations aside, what better time than an anniversary to reflect on the past, the present and what’s next for Hodges?

I sat down with founders Jon and Josh last week to chat with them about all of that:

What are your proudest accomplishments for Hodges?

Jon Newman: Lots of things. To begin with, learning how to manage a business and being named one of the top 100 PR agencies in the country. [O’Dwyer’s annual rankings]

Josh Dare: I’d add the culture we’ve created, the things we offer employees, from fun things to educational things, the spirit of comradery. Amid some great work, we can still have a lot of fun. In 12 years, you can count on one hand the people who have left us for other jobs (aside from those who moved), and we like to think it’s because of the culture we’ve created.

Jon Newman: Most importantly, long-standing client relationships that have developed into friendships as well. We’re proud of relationships we’ve had over the year with clients like Snagajob, AMF, FCEDA, and University of Richmond. It’s very important as you go to work every day that you have those type of relationships. When we look back, we can say we’ve had a lot of fun not only doing the work but getting to know the great people. Whether these people stay clients or not, they are people that we know will remain friends.

Both: Oh, and proving our wives wrong.

When you originally came up with the idea to launch the business, how long did it actually take to launch?

Josh Dare: Once you catch the entrepreneurial bug, it’s hard to go back. Jon and I started having conversations—I had visions of being a solo practitioner. The Martin Agency’s PR arm starting to shrink. A friend suggested Jon and I talk to each other, knowing we were both thinking of going solo. It was Jon who actually proposed that we to strike out together. He mentioned at the time that Richmond had only one independent PR firm, and with the growth of the Richmond business community, there was likely room for another one.

Despite the fact that it was a terrible time to start new business, we ended up putting out our shingle on July 1, 2002. We retained a number of bad advisors that roundly gave us bad advice and cost us more than we should have ever paid. Even with that, we were able to secure a client, and I remember even before we had a space to work from, we were taking conference calls on my cell phone. From there, it’s just kind of grown. We hired our first employee, Stacey, within two and a half months. From idea to conception, it all happened within a few months.

What have been some of the changes in the industry in the past 12 years?

Josh Dare: When we were coming back from one of our very first meetings in D.C., we thought the client would be so impressed that we knew how to write an email from our mobile phone. Wow, what pioneers we were.

Jon Newman: The industry has changed so quickly, and it continues to change in significant ways. There’s a tremendous amount of learning and self-teaching you have to do to stay ahead of these changes, of technology—social media, content marketing, lead generation. If you don’t spend time taking a breath and thinking about it and learning from others, you’re left in the dust. That’s something we try really hard to do. If you don’t, you risk losing any competitive edge.

Josh Dare: With the exception of a few, I think we’re ahead of our clients with respect to staying out ahead of the technology and the evolving tactical approach to our business. But there’s no doubt there have been huge changes.

Is Hodges now what you envisioned it to be when you started?

Josh Dare: I remember Jon saying, in five years we could have five people and in 10 years we could have 10 people—but we didn’t think we would grow much past that. It’s bigger today than I ever thought it would be. I didn’t think it would grow beyond the capacity where Jon and I couldn’t work on every single client we have. When we originally were shopping for office space, we were looking only for a few hundred square feet. Even when we moved into this building, we didn’t anticipate needing the upstairs. And now eight people work upstairs. We built the downstairs for eight people, and now we’re more than double that.

Jon and I came at founding this agency from two very different backgrounds, which touched PR in very different ways. Jon’s background was as a reporter and news director. I dealt with PR people from a client’s perspective, having worked in the corporate and start-up worlds as well as the government.. In founding Hodges, we intentionally wanted to apply those experiences to create an agency that in both of our previous lives, we would have wanted to work with.

I can’t tell you the amount of frustration I had over the years with agencies I hired that you could tell they just were going through the motions. And I’m sure Jon has stories has about PR people that were ill-prepared in pitching him stories. We feel like we’ve created an agency that both clients and journalists want to work with.

Jon Newman: We always try to be truthful and transparent. We’re not going to be people that are going to beat our chests or sell something that shouldn’t be sold. We’ve probably won and lost a lot of business based on that philosophy. We’ve relied on word of mouth and good client relationships. We save our best promotion for our clients. We’ve always tried to establish relationships first.

Josh Dare: It took us years to be convinced there was value in applying for awards. For a long time, we resisted, thinking it smarter to just focus on the work. We’ve transitioned mainly because of employees wanting to feel good about the work we’ve done here. In the five years of the Rising Star award from PRSA, four of them have worked here. Jon and I deserve no credit for this—only in that we’ve hired good people.

What’s next?

Jon Newman: We’re committed to being a leader in this new hybrid that is evolving, telling clients’ stories not only through media relations but on social platforms, and more recently, with sponsored content. We hope to exert that leadership through things like our new Starters series. But we’ll never turn our back to our media relations roots. We’re excited though to see where the industry is heading. We expect to grow the agency on the back of our expertise in creating and managing content, and how that marries with social platforms. If we do that well, we’ll be in a good position for the next 12 years.

Josh Dare: What I’d love to tell is next is that we’ll have a ringside seat to a new ballpark in the Bottom. But don’t get me started…

0 commentsPosted in: Agency Management  |  The Hodges Partnership

All the Clichés: HodgePodge for July 11

July 11, 2014 | by Tony Scida

Raising the journalism bar

The San Francisco Chronicle has collected a growing list of clichés for newspapers to avoid. PR people (and marketers in general), would do well to avoid most of them as well, I imagine.

Hug a millennial

Marketplace takes a look at just how bad it was to graduate into the recession with the help of a Department of Education study.

Taking your mind off of work

CityLab (formerly The Atlantic Cities) reports on a study that claims workers who take frequent phone breaks have higher job satisfaction than those who spend all day diligently filling out their TPS reports. I can’t imagine why.

The Internet of Tweets

The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal takes us through a strange turn of events that had Bank of America’s (presumably automated) official Twitter support account butting into an exchange between two Twitter “bots”: That Time 2 Bots Were Talking, and Bank of America Butted In.

So long and thanks for all the goals

The Atlantic also wonders aloud whether this is the best World Cup ever, noting the preponderance of goals among the reasons. And that was before Germany hung 7 goals on the host nation.

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We're presenting a free event July 30 on creating and delivering content for your business. Click the button below to find out more.

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Soccer and the Workplace

July 10, 2014 | by Sean Ryan

Ask anyone who knows me even casually and they’ll tell you I’m a baseball guy. Most would be surprised, however, to find that the event I most wanted to see—and had to pre-order tickets more than a year in advance—at the Summer Olympics in my hometown Atlanta was the gold-medal women’s soccer game. The United States edged China 2-1 on Tiffeny Milbrett’s goal with about 22 minutes to play, and the University of Georgia’s Sanford Stadium rocked a patriotic fervor.

In the aftermath of soccer’s latest push to tempt the American mainstream, much of the debate is what effect the United States’ World Cup run will have on the sport’s future: Will Tim Howard’s greatness help popularize the sport, or were Clint Dempsey’s exploits a passing fancy?

Let’s focus on what the run may have done in the present. Offices around the country—including here at THP (and at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, according to a reporter friend)—congregated for watch (and sometimes work) parties. And soccer fans flooded bars, city streets and even stadiums to watch the Americans (how about nearly 30,000 at Chicago’s Soldier Field?).

Yahoo! Finance predicted a nearly $700 million loss in worker productivity for the U.S.-Belgium knockout affair, which started near the end of the workday on the East Coast and just after lunch on the West Coast yet attracted 22 million U.S. viewers.

I tend to agree with University of Richmond leadership professor Don Forsyth, who has challenged the annual Challenger Gray & Christmas estimate that companies lose billions in productivity during the first week of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament with, “That’s a lot of money, no doubt, but as the efficiency experts of the old days of organizational charts and stop watches discovered, there is more to workplace productivity than time at task.”

In an opinion that ran in papers across the country from March, Forsyth continued:

The gains March Madness yields, in terms of strengthened social and psychological relationships, might overshadow the minor losses of a few hours spent in the shared enjoyment of the tournament. The event is replete with rituals and traditions – collective acknowledgement of victory, celebration of the underdog, recognition of the fair play and competition – and when these rituals spill into the workplace they align the group, turning the parts into a whole. Such rituals are strangely satisfying, for they strengthen interpersonal bonds and heighten camaraderie. March Madness can boost cohesion in the workplace, providing for free what those teambuilding junkets so often promise but can't deliver.

The Americans won’t win this year’s World Cup. And we likely won’t be the favorite to win the World Cup four years from now, but chances are, we’ll be watching. And our bosses, clients and colleagues will be better off because of it.

0 commentsPosted in: Agency Management  |  The Hodges Partnership

Hodges Starters: Demystifying Your Content

July 08, 2014 | by Jon Newman

For those of you who aren’t sports or baseball fans, please indulge me for a second. This post will eventually make sense.

As many of you know THP is named for Gil Hodges, the manager of the World Champion 1969 Mets. Any great baseball team has its stars and for Gil’s Mets that star was starting pitcher and eventual Hall of Famer Tom Seaver. But Tom wasn’t the only terrific starting pitcher on that team. The starting rotation boasted left-hander Jerry Koosman and rookie right-hander Gary Gentry. Even a young Nolan Ryan was a member of that staff. He both started and came out of the bullpen.

I’ve always likened managing a PR firm to managing a baseball team. The firm is known for its stars but everyone has a specialty and is a “starter” in their own right. It is up to the manager to put them in the position to “win” and become known for that specialty.

In that spirit I’m happy to announce “Hodges Starters.” It is what we hope will become a series of events featuring some of our “starters” who will share their expertise on how we do the things we do in the world of public relations, content and social management, crisis, etc.

Our first event is set for Wednesday morning, July 30, and is titled “Content Demystified: Making Social Content Collection and Delivery Easier,” you can register for it by clicking here.

Caroline Platt and Emily Shane will lead the presentation and discussion. Both Caroline and Emily have shaped our point of view on content, social advertising and lead generation and have given a number of client presentations on those subject. We think now is the time we share some of their (and our) knowledge with you.

In recent months we’ve shared our thoughts on blogs, social platforms, content curation and even selfies. It’s our hope that when you leave this first Hodges Starters session you’ll have learned how all these things fit together and how to manage your content “easier.”

On a personal note, I’ve been asked to once again contribute more to this blog so you’ll have me to kick around more often. So if you want to be among the first to receive our updates it’s as easy as submitting your email address in the form below.

So lots of fun things on your way from THP and this event is just for starters. :)

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

Telling your brand story

July 01, 2014 | by Alissa Pak

One of the first things we do here at Hodges during our onboarding process with a new client is to sit down with them to learn their story — usually a personal narrative that naturally progresses into and reflects the brand’s story. For those of us in media relations, storytelling is essential to what we do. After all, once you get the attention of the media, what’s next? It’s telling the story — one that is compelling enough for the media to share with their readers who in turn are sparked to learn more about your brand.

Well just how do you go about crafting your brand story?

Start from the beginning

What was that one thing or experience, call it the “aha moment,” that led you down the path of ultimately creating your business? As you reflect, you might discover those interesting tidbits that you might not have realized made a direct or indirect impact on your brand’s identity.

One such story, as our client Randy Ashton of Collared Greens tells it, had him recalling a time where he passed by the shuttered doors of once thriving manufacturing community and how it spurred him to help revive production in America. One of the founding principles behind the brand is everything is made in the U.S.A. Moments like these are what makes your story powerful to audiences.

Keep it short and sweet

In an age where stories can be told in 140 characters or less, brevity is key, especially when introducing your story to those in the media. It will be difficult to edit out or prioritize one aspect of the story over the other, but it’s about garnering their attention first and from there you can delve further into more of your brand’s story.

Work as a team

Last but not least, make sure everyone on the brand’s team is on board with how you’re telling your story. Mixed messages are not just confusing but can ultimately weaken the impact your story can make when told right.

Understand it’ll take a couple of drafts, but it’ll all be worth it when your story is being told and shared among key editors and reporters. 

0 commentsPosted in: Branding  |  Media Relations  |  Public Relations

Lisztomania: HodgePodge for June 27

June 27, 2014 | by Tony Scida

​The beautiful stream

If you had trouble streaming the USA-Germany soccer match yesterday afternoon, it might be because almost 2.5 million other people were also streaming it.


In celebration of RVA Burger Week, the New York Times has this article (and video) on how to make the perfect hamburger.

Quantified awkwardness

David Sedaris got a FitBit, which is as good a launching point as any for a story about Gypsies, snakes and picking up garbage.

You’re welcome

According to Inc., here’s 15 words that will make people like you.

Romantic music

Musical ability might be an evolutionary advantage, which totally explains why rock stars get all the girls/guys. That advantage isn’t enough for legendary producer T Bone Burnett, who says musicians also need to be paid for their work.

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3 reasons every PR person should learn HTML & CSS

June 24, 2014 | by Paulyn Roman

Over the weekend a few of my fellow Hodgers and I attended an HTML & CSS Coding Bootcamp held by the awesome folks at 804RVA. One of the great things about working at THP is the Js’ (our nickname for Jon and Josh) generosity and propensity for encouraging us to learn new skills, attend workshops or just to pursue things that interest us. So when a group of us expressed interest in attending the bootcamp and learning more about coding, they happily obliged.

Through the course of a Saturday, Cameron, Kelsey, Greg and I learned enough HTML and CSS to put up our own basic webpages. I now know how to make headers, insert images and links, change the background color and font style of a webpage, and I even know what a “div” is!

We learned some valuable skills with very practical applications for our work in PR. For those of you thinking about dipping your toes into the world of coding, I highly recommend it. And if you’re unsure if it’s for you, or why you’d need these skills in PR, maybe these reasons will convince you:

PR is about communications, most of which takes place online.

We wouldn’t be able to reach you on this very blog you’re reading without HTML and CSS (shout out to our own Tony Scida for building and maintaining the Hodges blog). We use platforms like WordPress and MailChimp to write blogs and send out newsletters that communicate our clients’ messages all the time. And while those platforms make it super easy to build a piece of content using their ready-made templates and tools, your content is infinitely more customizable with HTML and CSS skills. Also, you can fix small issues (broken links, space breaks, image or text resizing, etc.) on your own without having to call in your expensive design and development vendors.

Stop getting lost in translation.

Speaking of vendors, sometimes our job requires us to work with design and development agencies on behalf of our client. Having a working knowledge of how websites are built helps us speak their language and makes us better stewards of our clients’ messaging and vision when we can communicate more effectively with them. It also helps us set expectations and better communicate the process with the client.

“I don’t want to get left behind.”

This was Cameron’s apt response to the question “why are you here?” as we were conducting introductions in Saturday’s class, and I couldn’t agree more. Our industry is very much based in a digital world and we’re going to need to keep up. Even just 10 years ago, we didn’t need to worry about things like making a press release web and SEO friendly, let alone being able to insert digital media like a YouTube video or images into a blog. Who knows what even the next 5 years will bring, but like Cam, I certainly don’t want to be left behind.

Saturday’s class was a great introduction to coding, and I plan on continuing to learn more by using a mix of online resources and asking those who know more than me. If you have any tips or online resources to share I’d love to hear—drop me a comment below. 

(Image by Markus Tacker on Flickr.)

2 commentsPosted in: Agency Management  |  Public Relations