It’s not about the press (news) release

by Tony Scida

(Editor’s note: BTW, I always refer to it as news release.  The old TV guy in me. -JN)

This inside joke greets folks at THP's front door.

This inside joke greets folks at THP’s front door.

Late last month the intersection of technology, journalism and public relations was sent into a tizzy when a number of news sites fell for a phony press release posted to PRWeb in an apparent attempt to game the stock market. While other postulate whether this is a nail in the coffin of PR, journalism, Google News or all of the above (and what’s next), I wanted to talk a bit about the document that got this whole mess started and how we think about them here at The Hodges Partnership: the press release (or news release, if you prefer).

We certainly produce our share of press releases around here, usually in close collaboration with our clients, and they have their uses, including securing approval from corporate legal departments, satisfying federal regulations and highlighting basic facts about a company or campaign. In fact, we create enough press releases that we put a press release pun on our doorbell sign. But, at least for the way we practice PR, the news release is not usually the center of our media relations strategy.

Media relations, stated as simply as possible, is about:

  • Helping journalists understand what our clients do, so they can decide whether to write about them
  • Helping our clients hone their message or generate newsworthy content that supports their business goals

In some cases, a press release may be the right tactic to achieve those goals, but more often it requires a pitch targeted to specific journalists. If all goes well, we help the journalist do their job and help our clients get their message out to the world. And of course, as important as media relations remains, it is only one tactic in a company’s public relations and social media programs.


Why do you like RVA? (And, why I love it.)

by Cameron McPherson

I really love Richmond. I’ve called it home for the past 27 years.

As a Fan-dweller, I enjoy being able to walk to restaurants, parks and the ultimate Richmond destination: my friends’ porches.

The 8-minute drive to The Hodges Partnership is also a perk. How people survive 45 minute commutes, I will never know. As a young professional, our agency has some great perks: flexible schedules, a fun environment, collaborative culture and other things like agency-wide pizza (and beer) brainstorms and an annual baseball outing. This year, I went to my first Orioles game! Which brings up another convenience: Richmond is so close to so much, from mountains and beaches to other cities.

I’m part of YRVA, a project team of about 30 young professionals that aims to survey other young professionals and college students on why they like Richmond and how we can improve it. We’re organized by Richmond’s Future, a nonprofit think tank focused on the future of Richmond. Results from the survey will be made public and will be shared with city leaders and HR professionals at companies around Richmond.

Help us figure out how we can make Richmond a better place. It only takes 15 minutes! Please take one of the surveys below:

Hopefully, we’ll hang out on a Richmond porch one day!

(Editor’s note:  There was also a great column in the T-D yesterday from publisher Tom Silvestri .  Click here to read.

Thinking “Outside” the box to leverage RVA’s recent PR success

A belated congrats to everyone who contributed to the recent Outside Magazine story that declared Richmond as the Best River Town in America.

This story has been literally years in the making and is tied into a broader strategy first embraced by groups like the Sports Backers and Venture Richmond.  That strategy is to promote Richmond as a participatory sports town focusing on events like the Marathon and Riverrock and as a vibrant river community with events like the Folk Festival.

The story is great, but our collective job as region and its ambassadors is only half complete.

As PR pros we know that any big story like is great but only if as many people as possible are exposed to it.  As soon as we get a “big hit” for any client we first celebrate with them and then ask them specifically, “what can we all do to leverage the story to your target audience?”

Without arming your sales force or evangelists with the story, the job is half done.  That’s PR 101.

So as we all bask in the afterglow of this great cover story, I will ask the question “what are we doing to leverage the story to everyone we know?”

The collective community came through in a big way the last time the city was on center stage.  When VCU and the University of Richmond made the NCAA basketball “Sweet 16” and then VCU made the Final Four we had rallies, tweaked Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas, and greeted all the visiting media with a wave and a smile.

But remember that story came to us.  That media coverage while fantastic was sort of “baked” into the event.

This Outside opportunity is different.  Instead of the media coming to us, we need to push the story out to a much broader audience than the readership of the magazine.

How do we do that?  There are many ways but I have a suggestion that everyone with an email account can sign up for.

Just include the link to the article and a little explanation in your email signature.  We all do it for ourselves and our companies, why not do it to promote our region.

We have a great story, it has now been told in a spectacular way.  The pressure for us to tell it is off.  All we have to do now is spread the word.

Will you sign up?  I did.  Check the next email I send you.

Thanks For Ten Great Years….

by Jon Newman

I know I’ve been a bit of a slacker on the blog side recently.  The truth is I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about the future and the direction of PR and how it fits in the social and digital universe.  I’ve got some posts “written” in my brain and I will share them with you in the near future.

I’ve also been thinking about the past since THP is celebrating its tenth anniversary this week.

It’s been a fun, wild ride so far.  Amazing what you can accomplish without a business plan, huh?

So some quick thanks are in order.  To my wife Kyra and Josh’s wife Rose, thanks so much for being patient with us on this continuing journey.  Josh always says we have three levels in our business hierarchy, us…our employees…and on the top rung, Kyra and Rose.

To our co-workers, many thanks for the great work and great times.  We’ve been very fortunate to have had a very low turnover through the years with our first four employees still working with us for many of those ten years.  Thanks for taking such good care of us and our clients.

To our clients, we hope we’ve delivered great work for you.  Many of you have been along for most of the ride as well and have become great friends along the way.  We hope to continue all those business and personal relationships.

To the Richmond business community, thanks for all the support.  We have and work with a lot of great partners who have added to the success of our business.  We hope to continue partnering with you as we have always looked at our business as a true “Partnership.”

On a truly personal note, I’d like to thank Josh (who hopefully played at least one round of golf on his current trip to Ireland) for being the best “second wife” a guy could ever have.  The truth is we barely knew each other ten years ago when we took this leap of faith and I can say on my end that it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I’ve included the latest edition of our e-newsletter which has a lot of fun info on the ten years and our current staff.  Don’t forget to take the quiz that’s included since one lucky person will win, what else, two tickets to see Springsteen in DC in September (got to be true to the personal brand, right?)

A lot has changed in ten years and we expect more changes in the future.  Our plan is to be here for at least the next ten being the best we can be.

That’s all we or anyone can ask for, right?


“When it ends….”

“When it ends, you fall off a cliff.”

Those were the words uttered by the losing coach in the “other” NCAA Men’s Basketball semi-final after his team lost last night.

But will John Calipari’s words foreshadow what will happen in Richmond, now that the NCAA magic carpet ride came to its inevitable end in Houston?

Long after Dickie V ate his crow and the memories of long lines at the VCU bookstore fade, we are left with the same public perception issues that we were dealing with three weeks ago.

Or are we?

That is now for us to decide.

Can we build on the fun we had at ESPN’s expense and turn Venture Richmond’s banner into a rallying cry for the future?

Can we turn this regional goodwill into progress in attracting new businesses and tourists to a community in great need of the revenue they will bring?

Can we take this excitement for sports and finally decide what new regional sports facilities will help fuel our next Cinderella story?

In a culture where people quickly have a hard time to name who made the Final Four last year, will we look back years from now and say this was the moment that it all turned around?

Perhaps that’s too much to ask for two weeks of Black and Yellow magic.

Richmond is this our time to shoot for the stars?  Or will we just fall off the cliff?

It’s time for our leaders to step up and Shaka the world just like the team they all adopted.

This was Our Team.  And our time is Right Now.

#RVA, this week, we are ALL Rams.

So you thought last week was wild, well Richmond, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Final Four, baby!

And another week for the team, the school and the city to bask in the glow of national attention.

First and foremost, let’s stay classy and celebrate safely.  Many cities have had their reputations destroyed forever during sports celebrations.  It’s also time for forget about Bilas and Vitale, this is way past the debate of getting in or not.  It is about the celebration of success achieved and success still for the taking.


Jamie Skeen can feel it.

Second, we should ALL be VCU.  Most people know I bleed Scarlet for Rutgers, but this week I will proudly wear black and gold.  And why not, Richmonders, even those who are Spiders, Wahoos, Hokies or Panthers may never see the likes of this again.  Let’s embrace Ram Fever.  It’s time to make last week’s pep rallies look like first acts in the ultimate basketball Cinderella story.


Third, in a city that is in a constant search for its identity but where in recent times we have focused on the intersection of history and creativity, what better way to celebrate that identity than through this team of scrappy underdogs who have used their creativity on the court to continue writing their inprobable history.

A history that is still in the making.

Butler is very beatable, after all.

So Richmond, let make the most of this next week.  Let’s unite under the black and gold halo and let this be the start of something as opposed to the end of a magical run.

But first and foremost.  Go, Rams, go.

#RVA Sweet 16 kudos

So of course I picked the worst two days in recent memory to be out of town on business (although the business partner and I did have plenty of bonding time listening to classic rock.  My rendition of “Carry On, My Wayward Son” was especially poignant).

Congrats go out to the folks at Venture Richmond including Jack Berry, Lisa Simms and Lucy Meade for seizing the day and quickly organizing the Turning Basin rally last night.  This is exactly what we needed and was the point of my Sunday night blog post.

Also a public tip of the hat to our good friend Greg Burton from ESPN 950, those cool t-Shirts handed out at the rally were his idea.  Rick Whiteman of Pixel-Works designed them, great stuff Rick.

This is a prime example of cool, smart people jumping on quickly and taking advantage of a one-in-a-generation event.

Congrats to all, and to all who helped them make it happen.

Oh and by the way, Dickie V, “Eat Crow, baby!”

#RVA, two teams. Our one shining moment.

So there I was about half way through the second half last night, with most of this blog post already written in my head and my wife’s uncle, a huge college basketball fan, sent me this email.

Jon, can Richmond handle two teams in the Sweet 16???   A lot of hype and PR for a small city?

Well, can we?

Given our lack of success in the professional sports arena, there will perhaps be no other time in modern history that the mainstream sports world will focus its eyes on Richmond, VA.

Usually, just one Cinderella in the Sweet 16 would make this glare close to unbearable, but two?

Elite Eight matchup?

This is our time Richmond, let’s make the most of it.

Let’s celebrate our diversity.  A diversity exemplified by the school themselves.  One, a small liberal arts school on one of the most beautiful small campuses in the country.  The other, a prime example of how a large state school can lead the redevelopment of a once-blighted downtown area.

Let’s celebrate our creativity.  Let’s use the media spotlight to promote our neighborhoods, our restaurants, our tourism attractions, our museums.

Let’s speak in one voice.  The welcoming voice of possibilities, the voice of our future with a nod to our past.

Let’s urge our politicians and leaders to be aggressive in seeking this spotlight and for once be on the same page.

Let’s for once agree.  Let’s root for each other (at least until the two schools meet in the Elite Eight),  and put aside out differences at least till next weekend.  It’s time for a moratorium on mean.

Yes, Uncle BK, it is a lot of PR hype for a small city.

This is our ultimate PR opportunity, it is Richmond’s true and rare “One Shining Moment.”

The eyes are on all of us, will we seize it?

#RVA and Creativity, one year later. #RVACreates

One of the most viewed posts in this blog’s two-plus year history was one I wrote on Richmond and the concept of creativity.

Posted early last March, I made the case that Richmond’s “brand” should not rely on its history but on its future and that future should highlight the strong creative community that exists here.

The reaction and comments I received from that post were stunning to me with most in favor of the idea and making suggestions as to how we could harness and celebrate Richmond’s creative spirit.

Little did I know, at the exact same time, some of the most creative people in Richmond (most of them a lot smarter than me) we exploring the same idea and were planting the seeds to do something about it.

People like the great crew at Venture Richmond, Kelly O’Keefe at VCU’s BrandCenter and Matt Williams of The Martin Agency were picking the brains of the talented BrandCenter students to forge and idea.  Over the months a larger group that includes folks from West Cary Group, Elevation, JHI and even us at THP, plus local civic groups and others that I will apologize to for forgetting, having been meeting to figure out a way to help celebrate Richmond’s creativity.

Not in and obnoxious let’s force this thing down everyone’s throats way.  But in a way in which everyone can participate and everyone can celebrate.  Most importantly, in a way that everyone can contribute to publicly.

What the BrandCenter students identified early on was the adoption of “RVA” as a common ID for Richmond.  Many companies, online communities, etc. have already incorporated RVA into their language.  Twitter has spurred this by the mutual adoption of the #RVA hashtag as the universal Richmond ID.

Fast forward past all those meetings with all those people smarter than me and what has emerged is RVA Creates.

Is it a brand?  I wouldn’t call it that.

Is it a movement?  Could be.

Is it a state of mind? I hope so.

Is it an opportunity? Without question.

How can you participate?  Easy.

First, go to and read up on what you can do.  You can send in your examples of Richmond’s creativity to and it might be featured on the website, the RVA Creates blog or on the RVA Creates Facebook page in the near future.  We’re looking for any or all examples that you can come up with whether your an artist, an architect or an accountant.

Please also read the blog and become a fan of the fan page, more cool stuff coming to both those places.

You can also create your own example of RVA creativity by filling in the RVA generator on the website.  It is a self-explanatory process and we encourage you to use the RVA you generate as an avatar for social media or as a signature on your email, a poster, whatever.

This is the beauty of RVA Creates.  If it becomes a brand or a movement or a way of life, we can all have a part of it.

In a society where others seem to always to define us, this time we can all define what our community truly is and what makes us great.

Let’s have some fun as we Create.

So, what’s next? We want to know.

A quick post here to preview a talk that Sonali and I are giving next Wednesday to PRSA Richmond.

They tell me that more than 100 folks have signed up so seats are going fast (more than veiled attempt here to jam the room.)  Here’s a link to sign up.

Even though Hodges Digital Strategies is still in its first year, our learning over the course of the last year or so has been exponential.  I peeked back at a similar presentation I gave last year and it looked prehistoric in comparison.  That being said, we are not experts and don’t have all the answers so some of this will be nothing more than our opinion based on what we’ve learned so far.

First and foremost, our presentation is still in the formative stages so if you’re coming (and even if you’re not) and there’s something you’d like us to touch on please comment below and we will try to cover it.

Some of the topics we are going to discuss include:

  • Public relations and its leadership role in social media
  • The maturing of social media platforms and what they means for brands
  • How to promote and grow your social media presence
  • “multi-channeling”
  • The current status of Twitter, Foursquare and others
  • The “next” platforms and trends
  • Mobile, mobile and did we mention mobile
  • And a takeaway for B2C and B2B and social/digital

Lots of stuff to cover in a short period of time.  If we’re missing anything please let us know.  If you have a comment please do so.

We will post the presentation next week after we give it.

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