The Gong

The mostly official blog of the Hodges Partnership.

Post-Race Blues: HodgePodge for Oct. 2

October 02, 2015 | by Tony Scida

Block party

How much are ads on major news sites costing consumers (in time and bandwidth)? The New York Times did the math.

Is there anybody out there?

How many of those bandwidth clogging ads actually work? According to a study cited by Bloomberg Business, 11 to 25 percent of online ads are viewed by software, not people.

Medium large

Citing posts from the local supervisors all the way up the White House, Business Insider’s Biz Carson calls Medium “this generation’s PR Newswire”.

Extra medium

Speaking of Medium, Dave Pell (proprietor of Next Draft, a newsletter to which you should subscribe) writes about disruption and journalism in a compelling essay titled “News is Different”.

Pinch me

Of course, all this business disruption in journalism means opportunities for innovation. Like the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which is outsourcing editorial writing to a service called Opinion in a Pinch.

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0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

Richmond 2015: The real spin

September 28, 2015 | by Jon Newman

This is the blog post I promised myself I’d never write.

I promised myself I’d stay out of the Monday morning peloton-breakaway debates over whether Richmond 2015 was worth the effort, the cost and the inconvenience.

The main reason? The Hodges Partnership counts Richmond 2015 as a client, having worked closely with the group in the years leading up to the race. We were paid a monthly fee during that time time but we also donated a fair number of hours to the cause. A cause we felt was more than valid since we are believers in (to use one of our favorite baseball analogies) swinging for the fences.

Our role during that time has primarily been to help the race get exposure outside of Richmond, but like with many of our clients, it expanded to helping with content management, strategic counsel and yes sometimes amateur psychologists.

So most people who will read this will obviously think that I’m shilling or defending this grand effort because we’ve been paid to spin it.

Please go right ahead.

The wheels that spun on Libby Hill and throughout the region the last few days and the thousands of people who cheered them on help me make my case.

Here are my Monday morning thoughts:

  • We tend to measure these events in the moment, when their true impacts are felt in the many moments to come. While I feel for restaurateurs who expected an early-week shortfall, my bet is the worldwide exposure Richmond received will have a ripple effect for you for years to come.
  • This was extremely difficult to pull off. But we did. It wasn’t perfect—believe me. I sat in many meetings and listened in on many phone calls that were more than contentious and had many people who I respect pitted against one another. But in the end, Richmond as a region was able to pull off a major world-wide sporting event. For one shining moment we were on the same page. And it felt wonderful. We need to keep feeling that feeling. For more than five minutes. And we need to use that model to solve other regional issues. Let’s keep swinging for the fences.
  • There will always be voices of discontent and they are healthy voices and they make things better. However, I think even they must admit a feeling of pride today as they saw their city and region fare well on a world stage. They will continue to debate things like final numbers and the “worth” of the event and they should. But it will be hard to refute the evidence of the thousands who lined the hills and the streets and who went home with hats and t-shirts.

I personally want to congratulate and thank Wilson Flohr, Tim Miller, Lee Kallman, Paul Shanks and the rest of the Richmond 2015 team. It was our honor to help them in any way we could. They pulled off an event that many people didn’t understand, and an event that people couldn’t really conceive and an event that many people doubted.

In the end they brought the world to Richmond. And the world will come back. Again and again.

Those wheels are already in motion and will do all the spinning for me.

5 commentsPosted in: Richmond

The Home Stretch: HodgePodge for Sept. 25

September 25, 2015 | by Greg Surber

The bike race might be almost over, but this is the BIG weekend. Get excited.


Not to shortchange the amazing local coverage of Richmond 2015, but the Washingtonian has put together a fantastic guide of riders to watch, places to eat and sightsee for those venturing in from out of town.

An American in Richmond

If you haven’t chosen a favorite rider to cheer for, allow us to introduce you to Taylor Phinney.

Take your mark

Have you found yourself saying about the course, “It doesn’t look that hard.” Prove it.

Richmond Ink

Love the RVA logo? Love free things? Love tattoos? Then what are you waiting for!

A look back

How does Richmond compare to past host cities? Take a look

0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge  |  Public Relations  |  Richmond  |  The Hodges Partnership

Apple makes it easier to block mobile ads - what’s a marketer to do?

September 22, 2015 | by Tony Scida

With the release of iOS 9, Apple has brought ad blockers to the mobile web. Blockers have been available on desktop computers for some time, but mostly have been used by technically savvy—OK, I’ll say it, nerdy—users. With iOS 9’s new content blocking features, millions of iPhone and iPad users can now download (some free and some paid) ad blockers from the App Store. (I’ll wait for you while you stop reading and eagerly go download one for your phone.)

Apple’s new content-blocking capabilities aren’t explicitly meant for blocking ads, but that’s exactly the feature people are most excited for. Ever wonder why large websites can be a pain to visit because they take such a long time to load? That’s because many are weighted down with intrusive advertisements and tracking scripts with demanding bandwidth requirements. This is felt ever more acutely on mobile devices, especially if you’re near or passed your data allowance for the month. 

So while we all are rejoicing at the prospect of better web surfing, how should companies that have traditionally relied on these ads proceed? The good news is that no one has (yet) invented a PR blocker.

As Jon mentioned a couple weeks ago, the Earned, Owned and Paid era of PR has arrived. And more than ever, PR practitioners have the ability to deliver quantifiable metrics that traditionally have been available only to online advertisers.

Unfortunately, media relations and content marketing aren’t as simple as buying ad space on a website or ad network. The third-party endorsement achieved through media relations is increasingly hard to come by, and the expertise established through thoughtful content marketing is anything but an overnight process.

But these strategies remain powerful tools for reaching audiences and establishing credibility – and now that you have your content-blocking app installed, they are all-the-more important options companies need to start considering.

0 commentsPosted in: Mobile  |  Social Marketing  |  Social Media

We Are the Worlds

September 21, 2015 | by Josh Dare

Welcome to Richmond!  

Without so much as a second thought, that’s what I found myself shouting from my open car window the other day.  I had spotted a half dozen cyclists from the Wiggle-Honda team*, clad in their racing uniforms and helmets idling at an intersection, looking a bit confused as to whether their next turn was left or right. They smiled and waved for a moment, then went back to pointing in both directions like the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.

I surprised myself at how excited I was to spot such elite cyclists navigating our city.  I don’t know why. We’ve been expecting thousands of the world’s best athletes here in Richmond for more than three years. To prepare for them, the city has polished its rough spots, mowed the grass, repaved roads and even erected what is a pretty cool “RICHMOND” sign at the I-94/64 interchange.  There are flags of all nations adorning the streets, bicycle-themed artwork and events.  Heck, there’s even a special beer on tap at Strangeways to mark the occasion.  

I for one am caught up in the anticipation that comes with serving as the world stage for such an international event. Our office is fortunate enough to sit astride the course over a couple days, and I suspect I’ll be hanging out the window waving a flag or down on the sidewalk yelling encouragement to the cyclists and they pass by at speeds I won’t be able to comprehend.  While we’ll be inconvenienced by street closings and detours, by large crowds and unexpected nuisances, all of those things are such trivial matters that I hope Richmonders won’t waste their breath with complaint. 

This is the first UCI world championships in the United States in almost 30 years, and I’m proud to see Richmond showcasing our history and culture and aesthetic beauty for the world to see.  I hope all of RVA will join our small company in a collective sense of pride in all that has been accomplished.  Let’s embrace this moment and greet our guests with the hospitality with which we are known.

Welcome to Richmond!

(*I Googled them later.  They are a female team of Brits based in Belgium.) 

0 commentsPosted in: Public Relations  |  Richmond  |  The Hodges Partnership

Richmond 2015 Eve: HodgePodge for Sept. 18

September 18, 2015 | by Greg Surber

Tomorrow kicks off the UCI Road World Championships. Before we all get wrapped up in cycling fever, here’s a roundup of non-bicycle stories to cap off your week.


Ahmed Mohamed isn’t the only young teenager who’s engineering while Muslim. (Thank God.) Here are some fantastic programs helping fuel underrepresented students’ passion for science and technology.

What’s that sound?

Soul music, retro-soul music and neo-soul music: A critique.

Holdin’ it down

The Federal Reserve has decided to keep interest rates near zero. So exactly what does that mean?

Harry Potter & The College Dropout

Would Kanye West really be sorted into Hufflepuff if he went to Hogwarts?

Recommended dosage

Fans of the 1987 Martin Short comedy Innerspace, read on.

0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge  |  Public Relations  |  Richmond  |  The Hodges Partnership

What’s with this attitude about Facebook?

September 16, 2015 | by Josh Dare

On one day in late summer, Facebook reported that it hit a significant milestone – one billion people had used the social networking site on August 24.  Translation: one in every seven people on the planet logged in to Facebook that day.  

Perhaps, I surmised, the spike was due to the Pope getting a ton of happy birthday posts (nope, he was actually born in December) or that some Kardashian (current or former) had posted a new selfie (wait, doesn’t that happen every day?).

More likely, Facebook has reached such global saturation – almost 1.5 billion users – that the milestone was entirely inevitable.  

And yet, despite this massive market penetration on a worldwide scale, I still have many friends and business contacts that scoff at Facebook as if it were some kind of teenage mania, an online Macarena of sorts that will soon fade into obscurity. Mention Facebook, and they’ll roll their eyes and shake their heads as an almost sympathetic gesture. To them, Facebook is something we need to grow out of.  It might just as well be Candy Crush or Clash of Clans or some other time-sapping obsession best left for those whose lives are somehow not as serious as theirs. 

But one BILLION users in a single day?  Does Facebook really deserve the derision it gets from so many people, including those in the professional world?

I suspect that other technologies through the ages had a similar reception.  One point of reference that comes to mind is Robert Crawley, Downton Abbey’s Earl of Grantham who welcomes the arrival of the telephone to the manor as enthusiastically as he does his mother-in-law.  While the younger family members embrace this symbol of modernism as a transformative convenience, Lord Grantham sees it as a nuisance that, if he looks away long enough, might very well go away.

Make no mistake, Facebook is here to stay, and not simply by virtue of its capacity to enable friends to share photos, videos and opinions among one another. The platform is transforming marketing, giving us unprecedented new tools for precisely targeting new customers.  Through Facebook (and other platforms like LinkedIn), we are able to engage complete strangers in the “buyers’ journey,” taking them from someone who never heard of our product or service, to someone intrigued enough to learn more, to, ultimately, a customer.  We can build brands on Facebook, showcase our expertise and build a community of friends – all with an unprecedented cost efficiency.

I for one am at a loss for this undercurrent of disdain for Facebook.  And for the record, my mother-in-law is welcome at our house any time. 

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

Today’s Tom Sawyer: HodgePodge for Sept. 11

September 11, 2015 | by Tony Scida

Meeting makers

This is not so much news as it is content: a British distillery is doing a web series with Anthony Bourdain where he talks to different craftspeople. The episode with knifesmith Bob Kramer making kitchen knives from meteorites is rightly getting a lot of views.

Play by play

Haven’t had time to watch the hours-long Apple presentation from earlier this week? BuzzFeed has the video highlights.

Dream on

If you think you don’t dream at night, you’re probably wrong.


Scientists have discovered fossilized remnants of a new human relative, which you probably have heard about by now, but the story of how the fossils were discovered — and then recovered is worth checking out.


Apparently we’re all waiting in line wrong.

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0 commentsPosted in: HodgePodge

Trading Up: The case for regular media monitoring

September 01, 2015 | by Greg Surber

So I was browsing through Mobility Magazine the other day, and there was this interesting article on how companies can help employees facing an international move get better acclimated to their new country. Great stuff.

You may have missed it.  And that’s okay.  But when one of your main clients is in the moving and storage business, it’s a good idea to stay abreast of things happening in that industry, and Mobility is one of the regular sites I check in with to get smarter about that line of work.

That’s a good idea across the board.  Clients count on us to not only keep up with their business but with their industry as a whole. That is especially true in the B2B world, with industries and services that, as consumers, we wouldn’t have regular exposure to.  So in order to be able to speak intelligently to the issues and trends that your clients’ customers and trade reporters care about, there’s no better way to get the kind of insight you need than by regularly checking out trade media outlets.

That may be pretty obvious, straightforward advice, but even so, it’s often difficult to find the time to follow it.  Trade reading is one of those tasks we always mean to do, but is also the first to get sacrificed when work gets hectic.

Similar to flossing, this tedious daily to-do can pay big gains when done regularly. Reporters’ main gripe with PR pros? We don’t read their work to find out specifically what they cover and writing style before we send them a pitch. Not only does this help you understand their beat, it helps you find opportunities where you could add your organization’s expertise.

On the content marketing side of things, it’s valuable insight to how you should be structuring your strategy. What topics are regularly covered, where are the holes in the content where your company could add its perspective, etc. In short, it helps you distinguish where the need is for your organization’s expertise.

You might be thinking, “I get that, but I still don’t have time.” The answer? Assign it to a junior staff employee.

I don’t suggest that in a The-Devil-Wears-Prada kind of way. Media monitoring is an incredibly helpful way for younger staffers to learn about your industry, while also doing a lot of the heavy lifting for you.

Before you hand this off to them, make sure you follow these tips to set them – and you – up for success.

  • Define the parameters: It’s a big Internet out there. Trying to read everything is a recipe for disaster. Clearly identify what publications and reporters they should read and how often they should do so.
  • Ask for more than copy-and-pasting: Anyone can scan the home page of news site and copy and paste the lead articles. Require them to offer a 3-4 sentence summary of the article and how it’s relevant to your business’ industry.
  • Respect this assignment: It’s understandable some days they’ll have more pressing projects that take priority, but make sure as you assign projects to them that you continue to make room for this in their daily to dos. Also be sure to read what they find – otherwise it’s work for the sake of work.

I mentioned a while ago that we all need to get smarter about our respective industries if we want to continue to be successful. Just like media relations, good content marketing demands more than a cursory understanding of the trends and issues of the day. Is daily (or even weekly) monitoring tedious? Yes. But the more you do it, the less time you’ll have to spend figuring out pitching and content topics down the road.

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

The WDBJ-7 tragedy

August 26, 2015 | by Jon Newman

There really are no words.

More than 30 years ago I started my television news career in the Roanoke-Lynchburg market working for the “Lynchburg station” WSET-13 out of the Roanoke bureau. We had three people (two reporters and a videographer) in our office. Across the street was the headquarters of “Your Hometown Station” WDBJ-7.

They were, and still are, the model small-to-medium market news and television operation that others can just aspire to be.

They had reporters and anchors who never left because they were treated well, always had the best equipment and always had great leadership.

Today, 30 years later, WDBJ-7 once again showed its strength in the face of absolute tragedy as two of their best, a young reporter and videographer, were senselessly gunned down apparently by a disgruntled and confused former reporter.

Watching online today I shared my amazement with others at how the station’s GM and staff stayed on the air reporting this story while simultaneously celebrating the lives of the co-workers and friends and grieving for them. As a former reporter I can tell you I’m not sure I could have held my stuff together.

My personal thoughts and prayers go to all at WDBJ-7, especially Kelly Zuber who 30 years ago was there manning the assignment desk as my direct competitor. Kelly has been the news director at the station for a number of years and is one of the people responsible for what WBDJ-7 has stood for all these years.

In PR we regularly view the media as confrontational sometimes even as the enemy. This is wrong. In many ways they are our partners. We may not always agree with them but our working relationship is critical to a shared success.

In recent years their jobs have become more difficult because of downsizing on one side and the public’s increasing negative attitude on the other. It’s a shame that events like this morning’s on Smith Mountain Lake serve as a reminder that the media is people too. They perform an important public service and while we sometimes don’t agree with them and what they report, we need to keep our roles and feelings in perspective.

As evidenced again today, these people literally put their lives on the line doing what they do, be it on a battlefield reporting on a war in the Middle East or doing a feature story on a lake in Virginia.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

1 commentPosted in: Crisis Communications

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


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