We are the content creators

This will be my last post until after the new year (we’ll get to New Year’s resolutions in a second).  So from all of us to all of you here’s our THP Happy Hodgerdays eCard with tons of stuff about us, what we like during the holidays and some appropriate tunes from our friends at Spotify.  Have fun, share the card, be safe during the holidays.

On the flip side you’ll be hearing a lot more from us, a variety of us.  We’re putting a blog schedule together.  We’ve been gratified by the feedback we’ve received to date as more Hodgers have added their voices to the blog and weighed in on the PR/social topics of the day.

Overall, we’ve been very focused on content.  The content we produce for ourselves and our clients and the content our clients prImageoduce every day. 

The PR and social world have morphed into one giant communications channel with less lines drawn separating the two. 

Our goal for the coming year is to think less about the separate world of PR, social and digital and much more about the content we’re producing and how it can best be spread across this entire communications spectrum.

We’ve had too many conversations recently with people who are “over contenting.”  This means they create specific content for each channel and think “ne’er the twain shall meet.”  Well friends I’m here to tell you that nowhere in the PR rule book does it say that content specifically written for the media can’t also end up on your website.  Or that great picture that you just posted to Facebook, no you shouldn’t post it on your Pinterest board.

Too many people still don’t understand that content is meant to be shared across all channels since NO ONE IS CONSUMING EVERY CHANNEL YOU ARE CREATING.

(Sorry for yelling)

You are making too much work for yourselves and more times than not you are diluting your brand and message instead of doing what you should be doing and keeping the message and imagery as tight and consistent as possible.

We are the content creators, it is our job to extract that content from the source, make it clear and consistent, and then pitch, post, produce, etc.  Once you do that, don’t recreate the wheel, just tailor that content to the platform and the audience.

Isn’t that what PR people are supposed to do?

Comment please and Happy Holidays.

Our New Website: Being “Responsive”

Editor’s note:  Great job by Tony Scida and Casey Ferguson on our new website.  One of the features that’s explained below is “responsive design” which basically means the site grows and shrinks to accommodate the computer or mobile device that you’re using.  To best illustrate, view the site on your laptop and then your smart phone.  Or just look at the images below.  Cool, huh?  We think so.  Enjoy.-JN

by Tony Scida

When I started at Hodges, the first thing I wanted to do was update the website. While the site had served the agency well for a number of years, it had started to show its age—it didn’t take advantage of the new variety of screen sizes that users have come to find on their desks and in their hands, for instance. It was also not all that easy to update to add new Hodgers or update or add case studies, for instance.

I was cautious at first, because I wasn’t sure how Jon & Josh (and my coworkers) felt about the existing site and the prospect of undertaking a major site redesign. Fortunately for me, everyone around here was in agreement that we needed a new site.

This week—just days shy of my three-year anniversary—we’ve launched the new hodgespart.com. What took so long? Well, I’ll talk about some of the site features and considerations below, but the main reason is that, as with any agency, client work comes first.

Goals for the new THP site:

  • Update the look and feel to match recent logo and color palette changes.
  • Better integrate additional services and practices such as social media and luxury.
  • Improve updateability of the content.
  • Provide a first-class experience for users of mobile and other small-screen devices.
  • Put the work front and center.

With these goals in mind, we worked with Sonali and the Hodges Digital Strategies team to create the final site you see. Here are some of the features we’re particularly proud of.

Our website viewed on a browser

Responsive Web Design

The site was designed from the start to work well on iPhones and other mobile devices. Without getting too technical, the site uses modern CSS and HTML features such as media queries to resize and shift elements on the page to provide a better experience on small devices without sacrificing the desktop experience. We learned a lot of responsive design throughout this process, as we do with every project, and we already have some enhancements to the responsiveness planned.

Client Success Front and Center

Our website viewed on an iPhone

On the previous site, the case studies were a little minimized. They were all on the same page and there was no room for compelling images. With the new site, we decided to put the case studies right up front. And, thanks to our content management system (CMS), we can easily change and update the case studies that are featured on the homepage. But case studies aren’t the only way we’re featuring client work. Because this blog serves both THP and HDS, it didn’t make sense to create a separate blog on the THP site, so instead we created what we call The Gong, a nod to the real-life gong we hang in our office. When something good happens, like a great hit for a client, we bang the gong so everyone in the office can hear. With The Gong, which I like to call our “hit blog,” we can now sound a virtual gong as well.

What’s Next?

Just because this site is launched doesn’t mean it’s done. This was a long time coming, but it’s just the starting point. We’ll continue to update the content, optimize performance, refine the responsiveness and, we hope, constantly update The Gong with quality client hits.

What Luxury Means to Hodges

By Elisabeth Edelman

We at The Hodges Partnership have been developing a luxury practice over the last couple years.  As with most things, the perception of luxury depends on the lens used.  I wanted to take a moment and discuss what luxury means to us and why we are so passionate for this sector.

If you turn to the dictionary, you will find definitions of abundance, extravagance and the enjoyment of pleasures or comforts that are not absolutely necessary.  Some equate luxury with items bearing exorbitant price tags.  Others might get philosophical on you and explain that luxury is intangible, a precious moment of satisfaction or ease.

We take a slightly different perspective.  To us, the notion of luxury reflects a dedication to sourcing and serving the best of the world’s talents and resources to create a product of meaning and value.  I see this in a jeweler’s seventh-generation artisans taking days to carefully shape pieces of sterling silver and gemstones into delicate bangles.  I see this in a retailer whose every catalog is held to the standards of an editorial fashion shoot.  I see this in a designer spending years perfecting the shape of a garment and traveling to Italy to find just the right fabric.

We love working with this industry because we share our clients’ pride in creating these amazing goods and services.  We have the privilege of getting to know the businesses inside out, hearing the stories and seeing the hard work that is put in everyday to deliver at such a caliber.

But who says luxury can’t have a sense of humor?  I love this shot from May 2011 issue of Harper’s Bazaar with the cast of Bridesmaids in the midst of a materialistic orgy, cleverly likening Bridesmaids as the female version of The Hangover.

The Wild and Innocent and the Broad Street Shuffle.

by Jon Newman

I have a confession to make.  I picked Wichita State to beat VCU in the first round on my brackets.

I didn’t want to tell anyone before the tournament here in roundball-crazy #RVA for fear they would equate me with Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale.

VCU Pepband from VCU Athletics

Richmond and to a greater extent the VCU fan base has reached a critical stage in its current run of basketball success.  You see you can’t make the Final Four every year or the Sweet Sixteen either.  The long-term question is will the recent success create a base of season ticket sales, donations, etc. to propel VCU to higher levels of success?  Or will it fall off as the attempt to reach the heights falls short?

Fan bases are fickle.  For example at Rutgers, my alma mater, we would give just about anything to just make the NCAA tournament.  We haven’t been there since 1991.  Incredible for a team that made the Final Four just 15 years earlier and was a tournament regular into the early 80s’.

But things change.  Coaches move on, fan bases get spoiled, you change leagues or new leagues are formed and blink you go 20 years without a dance.

My Rutgers and VCU lives intersected this year as Vic Cegles invited me  and my family to our first Rams home game.  I sort of knew Vic’s dad when I was a student at Rutgers and he headed up athletic fundraising at the Scarlet R club.  Vic was the second baseman for Rutgers Big East champion baseball team a few years ago and is now following in his father’s footsteps as the Director of the Ram Athletic Club at VCU.

Thanks Vic, what I witnessed at the Siegel Center was a basketball revival meeting of sorts.  The sellout crowd, fans singing soccer-style with the pep band, and a genuine love between the fans and the team.  I also witnesses a sold out donor suite populated by a who’s who of #RVA movers and shakers wanting to see and be seen.  It reminded me of Rutgers in the mid-to-late 70’s and 80’s.  It reminded me that we took that success for granted.  It reminded me how quickly things can change.

My hope is that VCU and Richmond as a whole can hang onto this feeling of success as long as we can.  We should not be spoiled by it and assume it will occur year after year.  As Springsteen would say, We need to stay a bit “wild and innocent.”  Because things change.

Before we sign off on Richmond March Madness 2012 let’s take one last moment to celebrate our success.  The worst thing we can do is take it for granted.

#PRRVACHAT this Wednesday

Just a quick reminder about the first #PRRVACHAT on Twitter this Wednesday night at 8pm on Twitter.

Some of the discussion topics will include:

  • Komen and the long-term PR damage.
  • What is the true PR value of Super Bowl advertising?
  • Are we seeing a shift away from Facebook to Twitter and other social platforms especially by younger users?

The chat will last an hour and is a great way to discuss these topics and network online.  Each topic will be discussed for about ten minutes and can be followed through by using the #PRRVACHAT hashtag.  Tweetdeck, Hootsuite and other platform users can follow be creating the corresponding search column or you can use a third-part Twitter chat site like TweetChat.

We invite you to add to the conversation by suggesting discussion topics in the comment section on this blog.

Thanks, and we’re looking forward to it.

#PRRVACHAT, Richmond PR folks, let’s chat!

One of the most underrated ways to take advantage of all Twitter has to offer is through one of its many regular chat sessions.  These are regularly scheduled sessions related to specific topics that are facilitated by using one of Twitter’s famous hashtags.Image

One of my favorite chats is the regular #PR20CHAT which has PR pros around the country responding to specific questions or trends that are posed by facilitators.

So it got me thinking why not try this on a local #RVA level.  We have a great PR community led by our local PRSA chapter and including great agencies, corporate pros, government PR people and solo practitioners.  We also have lots of folks looking to network and break into the business.

The national version has allowed me to:

  • Share ideas with PR people from around the country
  • Meet them on Twitter and follow them for future conversations
  • Meet some up and coming PR pros looking to network and break into the business
  • Even find some new business along the way
  • Make some great friends as we talk PR

So I’m proposed a local Richmond version with the hashtag #PRRVACHAT.  The first session will be on Wednesday night, February 8 at 8:00 and go for about an hour.  I will be promoting on Twitter and Facebook so please pass the word, RT the tweets, etc.  I will likely send out some proposed topics, etc.

I great way to follow and participate in the conversation is by using a third-party platform like TweetDeck or Hootsuite and use the #PRRVACHAT hashtag or by using a web-based app like Tweetchat.com and follow the directions.

I’m really excited about this because of how much fun I’ve had on similar chats and I hope you will participate and share your thoughts and ideas.  If you have a suggested topic for questions, etc., please comment below.

(Also looking for a co-facilitator to help me with this as well so if you’re interested please contact below.)

Quick hits: Pinterest, Twitter and what is Carnival thinking???

Some quick hitters for a Tuesday:

We (Britt Farrah @saidlikefarrah) and I started our second semester teaching social media at VCU yesterday some interesting observations from questions we asked our predominantly PR majors…

  • Most of them preferred Twitter over Facebook and other social media platforms.  In the couple of years that I’ve been asking college students this question, this is the first time ever that they selected Twitter.  In fact, this is the first time that most of the class even was “on” Twitter.  Maybe this is because the class is made up of PR majors but maybe this is a change in social media course.  We shall see….
  • I asked if they ever heard of Pinterest (my new social media obsession) and not a surprise but most of the women raised their hands.  The “pinning” platform is all the rage of the female set.  What was surprising is how some of the women expressed an almost obsessive relationship with the platform, spending hours pinning.  I for one am waiting for my Gentlemint invite to come in the email.

Finally, not related to the class but to PR in general, is Carnival Cruise lines smoking crack or what?

All I got on a Tuesday….you?

The Year of “E”

I’ve been looking for a reason to fire up the blog and for a way to wrap up the self-proclaimed “Year of Me.”

Yes, I did catch a lot of crap for announcing that the year in which I’d be celebrating my 50th birthday would have a selfish theme.

Yes, I did have a great year personally thanks to my wife, my kids, my business partner and fellow Hodgers.

Yes, the year was challenging in other ways that I won’t bore you with but I think I’ve learned a great deal from those challenges and they have made me a better person.

But if you look back to my January blog post, The Year of Me was supposed to be celebrating life, and giving to others.

Credit: Sports Illustrated

It highlighted the life of Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand and his battle to recover from a hit on the football field that left him paralyzed.  It was a reminder that life is short and to live it to the fullest.

I think I’ve accomplished many of the goals I set out in that list.  But my accomplishments pale in comparison to those Eric achieved in the last 12 months.

He can now sit up with some help.  He is an accomplished broadcaster with appearances on all the networks and on Rutgers football games.  He is a social media star.  And he is a team leader.  Most importantly, he is regaining more sensation and feeling in his body each day.

To illustrate all of those accomplishments, readers of Sports Illustrated selected the photo of Eric leading his team on the field against West Virginia on a snowy October day as the cover of the magazine’s “Photos of the Year” issue that comes out next week.

In a world with too few heroes, Eric LeGrand is one of mine.  He has taken a life-altering hit and turned it into inspiration for all.

At Rutgers that inspiration is summed up in the phrase “bELieve 52,” a tribute to Eric’s belief that he will one day walk again and the number that he wears.

So this holiday season as you run from place to place and get those last-minute errands done, take a minute and just bELieve.  Here’s a great place to donate to support Eric and his family.

And pay tribute to The Year of “E.”

#Rutgers app: Labor of love

Those who know me, even those who have just met me once or twice, know I bleed Scarlet.

It seems I was born a Rutgers Scarlet Knight with most of my family members having attended the State University of New Jersey.

My first memory of attending a sporting event is as a five-year-old jamming into my dad’s green Chrysler New Yorker (the world’s largest car) and riding to West Point to see the Knights face off against Army.  He must have had to stop at least three times for me to puke because of car sickness.

Rutgers sports was one of my paternal bonds.  I remember trying to watch basketball on New Jersey Network and trying to adjust the old VHS antenna to try to stabilize the picture and the snowy reception.  Living in North Jersey back in the day, it was tough to get WCTC-AM, at the time the only radio station carrying Rutgers sports.  So we’d stick the big transistor radio outside the window and contort our bodies in weird directions to get the best signal trying to listen to broadcasts in the Final Four year of 1976.

In later years (late 70’s and 80’s) my dad would do the same as he tried to listen to me as an undergrad, broadcasting football and basketball games on WRSU-FM, the student radio station.  As I grew older, technology advanced, and I moved to Virginia and Tennessee.   We’d be able to watch games on satellite and then listen to them online while sharing our commentary with each other on the phone.

When Tim Pernetti became Rutgers Athletic Director a few years ago, one of the first things he articulated was a vision for a broadband network where Rutgers fans could go online and watch games live, get taped interviews, etc.  He also envisioned it as a training ground for student broadcasters.  That was about the same time my dad’s health began to decline and within the year he passed away.

As I have mentioned in this space before, it was only natural that we would honor dad by supporting KnightVision financially, helping its growth.  As a result I was about to get to know Tim, Jason Baum, Colin Osbourne and others in Rutgers athletics who are passionate about expanding the reach of all Scarlet Knights sports through new technologies.

Rutgers iPad app magazine-style page

At the same time, we at Hodges were starting our new venture Hodges Digital Strategies, a social media and digital design and development company.  Our main products beside social media consulting are Facebook landing pages and apps and mobile apps, particularly for iPhones and iPads.

For me it was a no-brainer and a labor of love to collaborate with Tim and his team on an app designed from the fans point of view.  The main goal was to include the ability to embed the live streaming video from KnightVision (now renamed RVision) into the app so that fans could watch games and events on their phones and tablets.

After a year or so of fits and starts, today Rutgers Athletics announced the launch of the apps (they will be in the App store in about a week).  This post is my way of thanking Tim, Jason, Colin and all the folks at Rutgers for the hard work, and thanking my partners and folks at Hodges Digital Strategies (especially Sonali and Pradeep) who willingly made the countless changes I request.

The app accomplishes two things, it make Rutgers sports accessible to its fans anywhere in the world and it shows the great capabilities of our new company.  I’m thrilled on both counts.

For Rutgers fans, I hope you enjoy the app and its features.  Please give us your feedback so we can make it better over time.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had to stick the out transistor radio out the window, this app makes sure we’ll never have to do that again.

Ode to the Big Man.

Other than the post I wrote after my father’s death, this is perhaps the most difficult post I’ve had to write.

For those of you who are not fans of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, I can sort of understand why you think those of us who are, are indeed a bit crazy.

I was a later bloomer myself especially for a kid from Jersey who went to Rutgers in the late 70’s.   I didn’t “find religion” so to speak until that fateful day when my friend Mitch called me and told me he had tickets for opening night at the Brendan Byrne Arena.  It was truly opening night as Bruce was playing something like ten shows in 15 nights to open the new arena.  My thought was I wanted to see the new arena and if I had to sit through a Springsteen concert to do it, so be it.

It was a transformation I’ve experienced many times since taking other Springsteen newbies to concert, but the saying is true, you can’t truly experience Springsteen until you see the band live.

For me, it was the beginning of a life-long journey.  And if Bruce supplied the words on that journey, it was the Big Man, Clarence Clemons who supplied the music.

We Springsteen fans all have stories of that fanaticism that follows.  I have seen the band dozens of times in the 30 years since.  At JFK, RFK, the Garden, the Dean Dome, the Meadowlands both indoor and out.  Greensboro, Nashville, having driven all night.  LiveAid, Kerry-Aid, just to hear an hour-long set.

There was lucking into seventh row seats at Hampton because the DJ at the radio station I was working at  knew I was a fan and someone called him at the station on the day of the concert saying he needed to give up his tickets.  Sitting up all night with my boss at the time and friend, Bill Bouyer, in the Cap Center parking lot waiting to get ticket bracelets. Me schelping my wife who was six-months pregnant with our first child to the top row of the Meadowlands Arena, after walking through that heinous pedestrian tunnel a mile from our parking spot.  Reconnecting with friends like those from college, Dave and Bruce, or those from just after like Terry.  Or exposing Bruce to new friends like Alan and riding with him and others in a limo the one mile or so from our office to the Richmond Coliseum because we wanted to treat ourselves and not have to deal with parking the car.  Taking our daughter Sarah to the suite in Charlottesville, she was eight at the time, having her tell us tell us she wanted to leave after a half hour and me telling her she was there for the duration.  And then returning to our own suite in the same arena months later with a group of 16 or so friends who intersected the entire 30 year span, a special night indeed.  They might not have realized this at the time, but I was extending them the greatest honor I know by asking them to join me that night.

Bruce and Clarence created the soundtrack of my life.  They created the reason to reconnect both with them when they toured and with friends from all the eras of my life who’d sit at our computers at 9:59 on a Saturday morning to try to trick the Ticketmaster gods so we could get the absolute best seats for our reunions.  They lifted us from our depths, they psyched us up at critical moments and they helped us celebrate our success and good fortune.

They introduced us to new friends like Dave’s friend Wayne who when I got them tickets and refused their money, paid me back with rare bootleg CD’s of concerts I now listen to regularly.  Or to my Twitter buddy Lisa Bednarski, who being a woman, sports nut, Springsteen Fan, successful PR pro and Canadian is me in sort of an alternative universe.

And when the concert started and the music flowed, somehow for me the great Springsteen anthems were not “official” until the Big Man strode center stage lifted his sax and blew the music that struck my inner emotional core.  From solos on Badlands and Thunder Road, to the haunting intro to The River, to the true religious experience of the sax solo masterpiece that is the essence of the greatest rock and roll poem ever, Jungleland, it was Clarence that lifted the crowd to its feet and added the punctuation.

If you asked my wife, she will tell you she’d like to have a dime for every time in the last decade that I sat in the car after a concert and said to her “I wonder if that’s the last time we’ll see them live?”

Kyra, yes now we have.

When Steve Van Zandt left the band for a while Bruce called on Nils Lofgren to join.  When Danny Federici died he was replaced, it was tough but we moved on.

There is no replacement for Clarence Clemons.  He was born to play Born to Run.

Sure someone will play the sax and the songs will sound almost the same.  But I doubt the music will reach me in the same way.

That era of my life is now over, it is the price we all pay by getting old and having our heroes experience their own mortality.

We will remember, we will listen to our bootlegs and to XM radio and we will celebrate.

“But the stars are burnin’ bright like some mystery uncovered
I’ll keep movin’ through the dark with you in my heart
My blood brother”

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