Meet A Hodger: Josh Dare
After graduating from Gettysburg College, Hodges co-founder Josh Dare used a one-way ticket to Europe, happily backpacking through a dozen countries, until one day, he realized it was time to go home: the Orioles were going to the World Series. Everyone knows you can’t miss the World Series.
Starting his career in the FBI, Josh got his first communications hits in the Bureau’s public affairs office. But that was only the first inning. He’d go on to work as a Capitol Hill press secretary for the youngest woman in Congress at the time and would serve as a spokesman for the National Endowment for the Arts during the so-called “culture wars” of the early ‘90s.
Josh eventually found his way to Richmond, first as communications director for a Circuit City-backed startup and later at The Martin Agency where he met a smart media relations pro named Jon Newman. Together, the two decided that Richmond was a growing market and could use another PR firm, and after agreeing their firm would be named to honor childhood hero Gil Hodges (there’s that baseball thing again), The Hodges Partnership was born.
We know him as our editor-in-chief and one of the J’s, but without further ado, meet Josh Dare.
Why did you decide on a career in PR?
A lot of it had to do with the fact that I enjoyed writing. I enjoyed storytelling but didn’t think I could write fast enough to be a journalist because I’m kind of a plodder when it comes to writing. I didn’t think I could ask the hard questions that needed to be asked cause I hate confrontation. But I really do like the news, and I respect journalism a tremendous amount. Public relations seemed like a way to combine journalism and writing in a way that I would be able to contribute.
What advice do you have for young people who want to get into public relations?
When I was at the FBI, I did not start in public affairs. I started in the voucher unit. Every two weeks, the FBI posted job openings and I would go into the break room to check for openings in public affairs. Finally, there was an opening for a tour guide. I became a tour guide and soon after that, I went to the agent in charge asking to write a newsletter for the tour guides. So, I created a newsletter called “Walking and Talking,” filled with research I did about exhibits and all the things that were on the tour. I photocopied and stapled the first issue together, and the agent ended up sending a copy upstairs to the director’s office. Somebody up there saw it and said, “Who did this? Whoever can write like this, his tour guide days are over. We need him upstairs.”
That’s a story not to pat myself on the back but my advice to take ownership of where you want to go. You’ll find that you can make your own luck that way.
Can you think of a PR campaign that you particularly admire?
I really admire the work that our team is doing for Mercy Chefs. There’s a lot of year-round effort that goes on, but when disasters hit, that core team is scrambling to make things happen so that they’re leveraging the best opportunities at the time. We often can’t make that connection between what we do and the impact we have, but when the client says the reason we’re getting an uptick in donations is because of the publicity that we’re getting as a result of your work. I just admire that a lot.
What are the big misperceptions about working in PR?
The big misperception is that we plan parties like Samantha from “Sex and the City,” where they’re launching new products and rubbing elbows with celebrities and all that. And there’s some of that but by and large. I think that people don’t put enough stock in the value of being a good communicator and a good writer. Now more than ever, when you’re writing a pitch to a journalist, it needs to be persuasive and well done. When you’re doing blog posts or even just posting comments on Twitter, they should be compelling and well-crafted. You also have to be kind of a news junkie. When you’re reading the paper you say, “Oh who’s doing this?” “What reporter is writing about this?” “What publications are covering these kinds of things?” You have to have this curiosity of that whole ecosystem of print, online and electronic communications.
What celebrity do people say you look like?
For a long time, I got Chevy Chase – before he started losing his hair – some people actually called me Chevy. There are some pictures of Phil Mickelson that people will say I look like. I actually got stopped once and someone asked me if I was him. Those are the two that I get the most.