The Gong

The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership.

The art of the opinion

November 25, 2014 | by Sean Ryan

So, you have an opinion. 

Placing that opinion, often called an Op/Ed (which originally meant opposite to the editorial page in a newspaper), is easier said than done, as I wrote back in April. Consider that the New York Times receives about 2,000 submissions per week. That’s right, several hundred a day. My guess is that the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post are about the same. 

Here are five steps to consider to improve the chances of your opinion seeing the light of day.

  • Pieces should be 750-800 words, not including your headline, byline or “about” line at end of piece. It may vary a little by publication. Editors shouldn’t be expected to edit 1,500 words down to fit space…they’ll likely spike it.
  • Grab the reader in the first two or three paragraphs. Make your main point quickly, and support that takeaway the rest of the piece.
  • Be concise. Short paragraphs are encouraged. Avoid overly-long and comma-filled sentences. Don’t forget to mix in a few transitions.
  • Be knowledgeable and understandable. Avoid jargon and making the average reader (think of your parents or friends of your parents reading the piece) go to the dictionary/thesaurus every sentence (a couple times is OK!). 
  • The KISS principle, no, not Gene Simmons. One of my dad’s favorites, “Keep It Simple Stupid.” Establish your point of view, and guide your reader through a clear start, middle and finish. Then, “Stay on target” (another of Dad’s favorites).

Opinions can be a valuable way to demonstrate expertise while controlling your message at the same time. But they take time and a little bit of practice to do them well.

Happy writing!

(Image by Pete O'Shea on Flickr)

0 commentsPosted in: Public Relations

A Night at the Museum: HodgePodge for Nov. 21

November 21, 2014 | by Tony Scida

Bad guys

Here’s something you didn’t think you needed: The complete visual guide to the 37 villains of the Batman TV series.

On a different note

FastCo brings us the unauthorized biography of everyone’s favorite emoji.

Millennials, again

This article from NPR seems to do a good job of cutting through the popular narrative to provide some actual facts and figures about the current “it” generation. (There sure are a lot of them.)

The real challenge is to duplicate the results

From NTY Mag, a look behind, and beyond, the ice bucket challenge and what it means for fundraising in the 21st Century.

It wasn’t pretty

Do you remember Windows 1.0? Slate does.

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Seeing is believing: bad visuals will ruin your content marketing campaign

November 17, 2014 | by Greg Surber

Content marketing is bubbling up here at The Hodges Partnership. Jon heralded its arrival the other week. It’s been the running theme in most of my blog posts the past year. And other people feel the same way. According to one article, 93 percent of marketers employed content marketing to some degree in 2014.

But if you aren’t careful, you will sabotage your content marketing campaign by making this one common, but critical mistake—you aren’t willing to invest in visuals to enhance your written content. Professional photography, professionally designed graphics, professionally produced videos. Do you see what I’m getting at?

Yes, everyone agrees on the basics like including an image with a Facebook or blog post, but the quality (and usage rights in some cases) of the visual seems to be an afterthought. Why? Cost. Most people don’t have a proper understanding of how much time, skill and creativity goes into the work of professional photographers, graphic designers and videographers. And when we don’t understand something, we devalue it.

Here are some of the most common responses organizations give when pressed to properly invest in professional creatives—and what goes through my head when I hear them:

  1. It’s too expensive. (“Yes, but it’s worth it.”)
  2. Well my teenage daughter is into photography, she can take pictures for free. (“There’s a lot more to photography than having an entry-level DSLR.”)
  3. Don’t worry, some of our staff got some iPhone pictures. (Silently shaking my head…)

In my mind, here’s the disconnect—organizations aren’t thinking of themselves as content creators, similar to a magazine or a newspaper. Someone on your content staff needs to play the role of editor, who knows how to tell your company’s story as it relates to the broader industry and has a sense of how to tell that story visually.

Stepping off my soapbox, here are some helpful tips and resources to get you started:

High-resolution images

At a minimum, you need a core collection of high-res images: headshots of your thought leaders, products, recently completed projects—any tangible thing that you want to promote. It’s among the first thing any reporter will request, and believe me from experience, can be the determining factor for a reporter deciding to move forward with the story. Extra credit if you have an easily accessible vector copy of your company logo.

Stock photography subscriptions

Stock photography is a great way to get a lot of professional images for far less than you’d pay a photographer. Many like ShutterStock or iStock offer a flat monthly rate that allows you to download a certain number of images per month to use in blog posts, Facebook or LinkedIn updates, etc.

Know how to story board

You don’t need to have a picture, graphic or video for everything your company does, but at the very least, you do need to know how to visually communicate whatever story you’re trying to tell. It’ll not only help you determine what visual elements you need for your content, it’s essential when pitching media, especially broadcast.

Bottom line, if you aren’t willing to invest in visuals, even if it’s stock photography, your content marketing successes will be muted at best. The hard reality of content marketing is if you don’t take it seriously, your customers won’t either. 

(Image by Alex Proimos on Flickr)

0 commentsPosted in: Social Marketing  |  Social Media

Because Science: HodgePodge for Nov. 14

November 14, 2014 | by Tony Scida


After 12 years, The New Republic takes a fresh look at the man behind the scandal that almost ended it: Hello, My Name Is Stephen Glass, and I’m Sorry.

But mostly it’s the skinny jeans

Because you’ve been wondering, here’s a unified mathematical theory of hipsterism.

You probably will believe what happens next

Being inclined towards skepticism myself, I found this profile of The Amazing Randi utterly fascinating.

Unfair use

The Eiffel Tower’s lighting design is new enough to still fall under copyright, which means your photos of the iconic tower at night are illegal.

Value-added re-teller

Just what are the origins of mind-numbing office-speak?

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Finding your hidden audience on social media

November 10, 2014 | by Emily Shane

If you’re reading this post during the month of November, it’s likely that you found it through one of Hodges’ (or its employees’) social profiles. If you found it on Facebook or LinkedIn, the content either appeared organically through your newsfeed—because you’re an engaged fan or friend—or via a sponsored post—because we want you to become an engaged fan. If you’re on Twitter, you found the content organically (woohoo!) and you should comment below because we’d love to know when you saw this content in your feed.

While virality on the major social platforms isn’t totally extinct, it’s definitely in an endangered state…and quite frankly, who can blame the platforms? For the most part, they’re public and they have a responsibility to their shareholders to make money. Don’t get me wrong, as a lover of content, I’d certainly prefer that good things just naturally bubbled to the top…but the reality is that there is so much content living on The Interweb, that at this very moment in time, social advertising almost aids users in that it sifts through the bad stuff and connects them with things—essays, videos, podcasts, etc.—that actually matter.

Since businesses are funding this transaction—bringing good content to potential customers—I thought it might be helpful to walk through a few advertising products that brand page managers should without a doubt be utilizing to get their message in the right hands.

Custom Audience

If you are actively doing business, it’s fair to assume that you have customers and accompanying contact information for each. If you are looking for a way to communicate more frequently with those customers (because its more cost effective to retain an existing customer than to find a new one), then you may want to consider loading that information into Facebook or Twitter and developing a like/follower remarketing campaign to build your community.

You’ll just upload your list to the platform and the social network will identify which contacts are users. What you’ll find is that your cost per action is less than demographic or interest targeting because these individuals already are familiar with your product, and might even be advocates.

Lookalike Audience

Eventually, you will burn through your custom audience list—you’ll reach a maximum frequency and your cost per action will become exponentially higher. This will occur within a month or two, if your list is small (2k), and within a several months if your list is larger. At that point, you can upload an updated list from the same source (which is likely relatively small given the short timeframe), use a list from a new source (which can be expensive) or you can try and create a lookalike or model list.

Lookalike audiences are exclusive to Facebook. Here’s how they do it. Using their extensive database—which users populate each time they add content, he platform finds people who look and act like your customer list (demographically and by interest), but are not yet members of your community. You can create a lookalike of any custom list—customer, email, lead, website visitor—and what’s great is that unlike some of Facebook’s other custom audience products, it only takes a few hours to create.

Custom Website Audience

Do you have a mechanism to collect email addresses on your website? Say you do, but when you look at submissions and compare that number to total website traffic (which you can find on Google Analytics), you realize that you’re not capturing the majority of site visitors. Facebook and Twitter both offer cookie-like tools that allow you to place code on your site and track social users who visit. The platforms then compare traffic data with their own user information, and create a list to which you can encourage to join your social community, customer persona specific content and offers.

Once you’ve implanted the code on your website and the length of time a person should remain on this list after visiting your website (closer to 30 days if you have a lot of web traffic and up to 90 if you do not see large traffic numbers), the platform will begin building a list, which take between 2 days and 1 month depending on your website traffic. Once you have about 2,000 contacts, you should be ready to build creative and begin converting these visitors into a fan or follower and eventually a customer.

So what’s the point of all this? Why are we talking about this, and not the ad units themselves, or creative testing? Yes, that is important as well. But what we’ve noticed is that by placing a greater focus on the audience, and combining your assets with those of the social platform, social content is more efficient and more effective.

Want to build one of these campaigns for your business? Download a PowerPoint tutorial that walks you through the steps on Facebook.

0 commentsPosted in: Social Marketing  |  Social Media

Pop Quiz: HodgePodge for Nov. 7

November 07, 2014 | by Tony Scida

Chapters in history

A brief but elucidating history of the chapter from the New Yorker.

Put down that sandwich

People make better complex choices when they’re hungry. (Grocery shopping decisions apparently are not complex.)

Dollars and sentences

Jill Abramson, former executive editor for the New York Times is starting a new venture that aims to pay $100,000 advances to journalists.

That’s saxy

NPR wishes a happy birthday to Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone (what a modest guy), a monstrosity of an instrument that somehow still managed to work.

Attention parents

Here’s an app that can make you seem like you remember more math than your kid can possibly imagine: The app that would end math homework. (From Alexis Madrigal, whose 5 Intriguing Things email newsletter is worth your consideration.)

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Boo!: HodgePodge for Oct. 31

October 31, 2014 | by Tony Scida


The future of in-flight entertainment is in your hands. (See what I did there?)

Tell me something I don’t know

Here’s an interesting survey comparing perceptions versus reality in different countries on various controversial topics.

Possibly related

The NY Times says Facebook is changing journalism.

On the front line

Meet the invisible team keeping Facebook clean.

In your ears

The Atlantic rounds up binge-worthy podcasts. (If you aren’t already listening to Serial, you really should.)

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Content Marketing and the role of PR firms

October 28, 2014 | by Jon Newman

Continuing on my recent content marketing rant…

When the marketing trend du jour emerges, the sirens usually sound proclaiming that “(insert marketing trend du jour here) is the end or death of public relations.”

Having been around for a long time, we saw that during the dot-com bubble when online communications became the rage. We also saw similar headlines five years ago at the beginning of the social media era. Now, content marketing is about to kill PR.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan to die any time soon.

In fact, as George Costanza used to say, “The opposite, Jerry.”

A couple of years ago I wrote about how PR firms were better positioned to lead the social media charge than their ad agency cousins. At the end of the day, I was right and wrong. The development of digital-agency offshoots of both created a third type of agency. The truth is we all do social pretty well and somewhat different from one another. 

In the case of content marketing, I once again feel strongly that PR firms, especially ones with specific skill sets, are very well positioned to lead their clients down this new path. You can read about THP’s approach here. 

Here are some questions you need to ask your agency to see if they pass the content marketing acid test:

Can they write? 

Every PR/marketing firm should be able to write, right? You would think so, but some as a whole can write better than others. Ask to see writing samples for blogs and content the firm has written for other clients.

Do they truly understand social platforms? 

By now most firms have created and managed social media campaigns, but at what level? Have they managed them for both B2B and B2C clients? What results have they achieved?

Can they create, find and manage content? 

Do they understand that content curation is something you just don’t wake up in the morning and do? Do they have experience in creating “personas” to target? Do they use editorial calendars for management and content approval?

Do they understand social advertising? 

If your firm thinks that social ads are as simple as boosting Facebook posts, then you need to ask if they are the right fit. Today’s social platforms are really ad platforms used to amplify content and drive traffic to content, websites and lead-generation tools, so firms need to be versed in how those platforms are maximized through their ad tools.

Can all marketing firms (including ad agencies, digital agencies and SEO experts) bring this set of combined skills to the table? No. Can all PR firms? Well, no. But those who can have a leg up on the ever-changing world of B2B and B2C content.

The truth is PR firms who have spent the past few years paying attention to the intersection of PR, social, digital and content should have a leg up on putting checks next to most or all of these bullets. 

The challenge is how they communicate this new expertise while not totally throwing the traditional PR capabilities under the bus. They still are good at them, they still need them and they work well with this brave new world of content.

Communications is what PR firms are supposed to do. It’s time they embrace that challenge as they try to be the content marketing standard bearer.

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

EVERY conversation I’m having includes Content Marketing

October 20, 2014 | by Jon Newman

Let me apologize up front to everyone I “talked business” with at the annualish Newman Pig Pickin this past weekend. You know who you are. Thanks for telling me to relax.

That being said, every conversation I had over pork and brisket, every phone call I’m having with folks, every new business meeting I’ve taken recently includes the new buzz topic du jour: Content Marketing.

Aside from this thrilling me because THP has been focusing our efforts on this for the past year or so, I’m very excited since this moves the conversation away from social media as it has been. This new conversation includes the true, new combination of solid content, content planning, social media and platforms, creativity, and social advertising that makes up this new world of Content Marketing.

It also moves PR firms from those murky non-ROI days to being able to use a client’s content and expertise to not only do great things like helping to create a leadership position for clients, to the cool stuff like capturing leads.

But before I continue my happy dance here are the words of wisdom and warning that I’m finding coming out of my mouth in every conversation:

  • This takes time: Time to figure out your positioning, time to create the content, time to plan, time to post and target those posts. Time and lots of it. If you can’t devote the time or pay someone else to devote it for you, you’re just paying lip service to true content marketing.
  • This takes people: This means experts in your organization need to understand the importance of this because you’re leading with them, their brain power, their experience, their expertise. If they can’t spend at least an hour a week devoted to this, it won’t get you anywhere.
  • This takes experience: Not any 23-year-old can walk out of school anymore and be anointed as the “content czar” because they know how to take a photo on an iPhone and post it on Instagram (and sorry to all the 23-year-olds out there including those who work for us). This is where the experienced writers, creatives and PR pros regain the seat at the table. Because the content needs to be good, be on point, be of value.
  • This takes money: Money for writers, for social ad experts, for videos and photos, for time for agencies to work with your organizations, for social advertising to amplify the content to push it out to the right audiences, for offers to generate leads. And not a little money either. This is and should be a significant investment.
  • This takes social to another level: This is not your kid in college’s social media anymore. Posting for the sake of it is dead. Social channels are just the beginning. It is what you post and the quality of it AND how you use those channels to AMPLIFY the content to your targeted audiences that will win the day.

If any of those bullets scare you, then you’re not ready. The conversation should end right here.

You will see a lot more on this coming from me and from us in the coming days and months. As always, I’m biased and think that PR firms are best positioned to do this kind of content marketing and expertise positioning well.

It is not for the faint of heart. It is not for every client. It IS for those who understand the impact that solid, unfiltered, direct content that when published and amplified (catch the theme here?) to the right audience can have on their company or organization.

Care to join me in the conversation?

0 commentsPosted in: Marketing  |  Social Marketing  |  Social Media

Title Goes Here: HodgePodge for Oct. 17

October 17, 2014 | by Tony Scida

Pencil stuff

You’re so right, The Atlantic, erasers do suck at erasing. (They also tell you why.)

Dept. of crisis management

In 1989, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit the Bay area just as the A’s and Giants were set to play game 3 of the World Series. Fox Sports has an interesting profile of then-commissioner Fay Vincent.

Commas matter

Pricenomics takes a look at the most expensive typo in legislative history.

Dept. of I’m getting old

After a 4-day stunt where they played nothing but Beyonce, a Texas radio station has debuted a new format: Classic Hip-Hop

Who, who? Who, who?

According to big data, this is who you are.

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