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.

AND not OR*: How Mobile, Social and Web are converging

by Sonali Shetty of Hodges Digital Strategies

*For a refresher on Boolean algebra go here.

Are mobile, social and web three separate entities anymore? Not when you consider the following:

  • The number of smart-phone users, world-wide just crossed the 1 billion mark.  In the U.S., approximately 87 percent use their phones to access the web and other apps (25 percent of whom, primarily use their mobile devices to access the web).
  • More than half of Facebook’s 1 billion users access the platform through their mobile devices, while 18 percent of whom don’t even visit the website.

So, it’s no longer an option to pick a platform, businesses must be on all of them. At Hodges Digital Strategies, our most interesting challenges are design and development at these three intersections: mobile + web, mobile + social and web + social.

Mobile + Web

  • Side-by-side example of website on mobile (left) and mobile-optimized website (right)

    Mobile friendly sites (Sites that function on mobile devices.  These sites have no flash and small image sizes for relatively fast loading. Users may need to zoom in order to use the site.  Newer design and development capabilities are phasing out these kinds of sites in favor of mobile optimized and responsive sites.)

  • Mobile optimized sites (Sites designed to cater to mobile devices. Pared down functionality and navigation elements, large, touch friendly buttons and minimal data entry allow for mobile optimization.  Most mobile optimized sites give users the option to view the desktop version of their website.)
  • Responsive design (Sites that utilize responsive methodologies for web development. A full website that renders seamlessly on devices with various form-factors. Meaning, a separate mobile site is not required – a large three column site on your large screen monitor, with rich visuals and extensive menus, can step down to a single column in a series of steps, responding to various device sizes.)

As more people interact with the web, primarily through their mobile devices, mobile capabilities for your website are no longer optional. While there is no right answer on whether to choose mobile optimized or responsive, we are biased towards responsive design and are incorporating these techniques in pretty much every new site we build.

Mobile + Social

Of the main social platforms, Twitter and YouTube were the most mobile-centric from the beginning, however, the switch to Timeline impacted apps, as they’re not visible via Facebook’s mobile app. To mitigate this (and to aid in app discovery), Facebook announced App Center. Mobile friendly apps that are registered in App Center are now discoverable through Facebook’s search bar. From a development perspective, it does mean that each app needs to also include a mobile version (using any of the above methods). There is slightly more work on the backend, however, with more and more users coming in from mobile, this is the only way for the users to access apps on their devices.

Web + Social

Back in 2010, Facebook introduced Open Graph API (yes, that ubiquitous “Like” button is just a toddler). Social sharing by liking or sharing content on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google +, has been deployed on millions of websites. Sharing also happens in the reverse direction by embedding activity streams from social media onto the web.  Single sign-on (signing up for a web-app via your Facebook or Twitter account) saves us from having to remember yet another user ID and password. However, balance that with the risk of allowing the 3rd party site access to your information and sometimes publish on your behalf. You can control third-party app access via privacy settings on your Facebook account.

This digital convergence is only going to accelerate further and include future platforms. Just think: Google Glass, the Nike+ FuelBand, your car’s dashboard…the fun has only just begun.

Non-profit events: A PR recipe for success

by Cameron McPherson

(Quick editor’s note: There are few better at getting the word out about events than Cam.  Great ingredient list below. -JN)

I’m fortunate to work at an organization that encourages employees to volunteer and give back to the community. As a guy who loves to work with nonprofits, this makes me so happy. Throughout the year, in and outside of work, I help nonprofits publicize their events to the public. It’s not only an opportunity to fundraiser for a cause, it also gives the nonprofit a chance to tell their story to the community.

I just finished helping with PR for the Cookies for Kids’ Cancer bake sales in Richmond and thought some of the best practices would be helpful to other organizations. So, without further ado, here are 10 tips for getting the word out about your event:

  • Create a storyline: This isn’t just an event, it’s an opportunity for you to explain to the community why your nonprofit’s work is so important. Leverage facts about the issue and localize as much as possible – and then shout it from the rooftops!
  • Do some digging: Community news organizations have engaged readership and often love getting the word out about local events. You’re probably familiar with local TV and the daily newspaper, but don’t forget about blogs.  Do some Googling and ask Facebook friends, “where do you get community news?”
  • Look for interview opportunities: Flip through your radio dial for a week and listen for local drive-time programs that interview guests. Skip nationally syndicated programs, and focus on programs with local DJs. When it comes to TV, look for local newscasts that do in-studio interviews.
  • Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery: Have you seen a nonprofit in your area get great press for their events? Google search and see what outlets covered them. It’s a good way to pinpoint outlets that could cover your event.
  • Facebook, it’s free!: You might not have the financial resources to create a website dedicated to your event, but creating a Facebook event page is free.  Not only is it a great way to get attendees energized before the event, but you can use it to find volunteers and provide updates before the event. Even better, a lot of news media have Facebook pages with huge fan bases that will often link to your event.
  • Develop a variety of angles: Ever notice how news organizations sometimes cover a story differently? If you’re pursuing interviews or pre-event coverage, develop different angles. Find how the problem your nonprofit is trying to fix affects various local people. Or, maybe a local program has a cooking segment. Is your event catered? You could offer the chef as a guest on the program as an alternative way to plug the upcoming event.
  • Don’t forget a news release: Some say the news release is dead. For nonprofit events, it is very much alive and one of the best ways to ensure consistent messaging. There are tons of resources online on how to write a release. Make sure to include the basics: who, what, when, where and, most importantly, why. It is important to tell people why they should support the cause and how will it help the community.
  • Award buzz: Will you be honoring someone at the event? If so, contact your local newspaper about the why the recipient is receiving the award. It’s an opportunity to get positive exposure for that person’s work, while also getting the word out about an event.
  • Radios PSAs: Good news! Some stations are required to donate a certain amount of airtime to nonprofit causes. However, submission requirements for PSAs are different from station to station, so your best bet is to call and ask for someone who manages the PSAs. It’s a free way to create a “commercial” for your event.
  • At the event: Do certain outlets include event photos? Give the publication a big enough heads up (at least three weeks) and see if they would be interested in sending a photographer. Don’t be let down because the editor told you “no.”  Often times this is due to a lack of resources, ask if you can submit hi-res photos after the event.
  • Long term vision: Is your event annual? Be strategic with your media relations outreach plan. Every outlet can’t cover your event every year. If your daily newspaper did a feature on the event this year, try looking for other PR opportunities.

Those were just 10 tips, but there are many more ways to promote your event. Please share your ideas in the comments below.

 

No, not another “five brand lessons you learn from Springsteen” post

by Jon Newman

This is a big week for me.  In the next week or so I’m going to see Bruce Springsteen live.  Twice.

In the past I might have fallen victim to the same “crutch” that other blogger sometimes depend on.  I’ll admit to it, I’ve also done it in the past.  That’s taking something you are doing or are passionate about and stretching that into a blog post about three or five or seven lessons you can learn from that person or thing.

At first it was cute, then it grew a little tiresome and then it became the thing that everyone did.

I’m stopping now.

In this social world I’m finding it harder and harder to separate the personal from the professional.  More times than not lately I’ve been chided by some who have grown tired about my Facebook posting or tweeting about Springsteen, or Rutgers, or the Mets, or my other passions.  By not connecting my passions directly to a blog post I hope I’m giving them one less thing to chide me about.

If I sound a little bitter, well maybe I am.  If social sharing is not created to share things that you are truly passionate about then what is it there for?  Please tell me it’s not just about sharing your latest views about marketing, PR or advertising because if it is the world would then be a truly boring place.

Maybe I/we are somewhat to blame for that.  Maybe we get so caught up on the use of social media, we forget what it is there for, for people to just share.

If you don’t like what I’m sharing then feel free to unfollow, unfan, unlink, unpin and unconnect with me.  I’m not forcing you to do any of that, it is your choice.

As Springsteen says in “The Ties That Bind,”

It’s a long dark highway and a thin white line Connecting baby, your heart to mine.

Maybe we should look at social media as that highway and its thin white line.  You can ride it with me, or get off at the next exit.  You can choose and should choose the Ties That Bind.

Shit, there I go using Springsteen to teach a lesson in a blog post.  Damn.

Chick-fil-A’s Turf Toe

by Tony Scida

Recently a Chick-fil-A executive made a statement that caused a bit of a stir in the media and, especially, online. Yesterday, Gizmodo reported that Chick-fil-A (or someone representing them) created fake Facebook accounts (complete with stock photo profile photos) just to defend the company online.

Chick-fil-A denies this charge, but it brings up a very important piece of advice for companies trying to navigate the digital landscape: Do not make fake accounts.

It’s awfully tempting for companies that see criticism online to want to jump in there and post in their own defense. And since an official response may not be taken at its word, some companies engage in what’s known as astroturfing (I’m sure much to the chagrin of the presumably fine people who make imitation grass sporting surfaces), which is meant to look like grassroots support, but falls short on closer examination.

What makes astroturfing even worse is that it’s often not even necessary. If CFA did indeed create these accounts, they’ve just made themselves worse. Their fans had already come to their defense, with Fox News correspondent (and former presidential candidate) Mike Huckabee already calling for a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.

In the best case, astroturfing just costs a lot of money and fools no-one. In the worst case, your brand could be tarnished long-term (but you won’t be around to see it, because you’ll be fired).

#PRSARVA, what do you want to hear?

It wasn’t an easy call to make, especially at 6 in the morning.

I had to call Jennifer Pounders and tell her “you know that PRSARVA professional development session that I’m supposed to be leading in a hour?  Well, THAT’s not going to happen…”  She handled the curve ball with her usual grace and proceeded to call all the folks who had registered.  Thanks, Jen.

Long story short, I found out after a doctors visit that I had walking pneumonia and it was probably a good thing that I passed on speaking as I would have infected about 70 of Richmond’s stellar PR and marketing community.

So what do you want to hear???

So the session has been rescheduled for May 18 (two weeks of antibiotics later and I’m as good as new) and from what I understand the number of attendees has now risen.  There are a few slots left and you can register here.

I’m still planning to cover Facebook Timeline for Brands, the growing social media platform Pinterest, and touch on mobile.

But the main reason for this post is to solicit any other ideas or things that you’d like to hear about or want be to cover.

So please take a minute if you’re planning to attend ( and even if you aren’t) and comment below to help me add a topic or two to the session.

Thanks so much.

PR pros should “dance with the one that brung you”

by Jon Newman

OK, here we go.  Time for your daily dose of blasphemy on this Thursday.   Hold on to your hats but this is something that’s been bothering me for a while especially as a personally stand one foot in each bucket.

Are we spending too much time focusing on social media when good old-fashioned public and media relations still works just fine?

Before you say Jon, we can and should do both, I will quickly agree with you but add that maybe we should prioritize the time spent on both so we meet all of our clients goals.

Is it summed up with a question I recently asked my PR/social media class at VCU as they were wrapping up their semester-long social media projects.  “Given the choice would you rather have a smooth and successful social media campaign for a client, or get them a media relations hit on Good Morning America or The New York Times?”  To a person (and they are pretty plugged into the changing PR landscape) they choice the big national media relations hit.

I can’t say that I disagree with them.

I haven’t changed my thinking about social media and what it can accomplish, I am saying we may be hitting a slight plateau.  Given the continued struggle to prove ROI and the fact that EVERYONE (ad agencies, marketers, the guy on the street corner) is offering what they claim to be as comprehensive social media consulting, maybe we in PR need to re-look at our core competencies and what we can still offer.

Sure the media pool is shrinking, but it’s not dead by a long shot.  And clients eyes still get really wide when they see their products or companies on TV, online and in print.  As it gets harder to “break through” on the internet interstate that Facebook has become and as we try on the fly to figure out if Pinterest is going to be the next big play or big fail, let’s not forget what has worked for us for the last century or so.

So while we blog and slog it out to see who will comment or share our next post, we may have clearer sailing and a larger “ROI” by making sure we still reach out to national media who still know and can report a good story when they see one.

No, I haven’t changed my overall thinking.  Yes, we at Hodges are still defining best practices for social community management and have three Facebook contests going on for clients simultaneously.  But we also just completed some very cool New York media tours that will bear tremendous fruit.

As Darrell Royal, the patriarch of University of Texas football used to say, “Don’t forget to dance with the one who brung ya.”

It’s gotten us this far.

I Killed My Blog and Why

Jon’s 1.5 is dead.

It was time.

It’s not like I was running out of things to say but the original reason for the blog and the number of voices needed to tell that continuing story has evolved.

Kirk or Picard? Ok, I'm really done now.

A lot has happened in the world of PR, social and digital in the three years of Jon’s 1.5 and a lot has happened at Hodges during that time.  The initial journal that the blog was started to chronicle is over.  Think of the difference as the original Star Trek and TNG.  You might debate Kirk over Picard but the voyage continues and the characters change but the Federation’s prime directive is the same.  Okay, I’ve really pushed the geek envelope here.

So Jon’s 1.5 (the next generation, okay I promise to stop now) is now the Hodges Blog.  You likely noticed the changes in recent posts.

We not only have a new look and feel, also soon be seen in a slight tweak to our agency identity and a major redo of our website, but also in the number of post authors.  Don’t worry (for those who were really losing sleep over this), you’ll still be hearing from me on a regular basis.  But you will also be hearing from all the Hodgers.  The subjects of the posts will range from our culture (Tony’s recent post on our coffee issues) to our work (Elisabeth’s post on our growing luxury practice) and share our expertise (like Sonali and Casey’s collaboration, a  social media cheat sheet for Facebook Timeline for Brands).

We will continue to feature our work like today’s media relations successes for CarLotz in Fast Company and Snagajob in Time, or social media campaigns or mobile app development.  But we will also feature the people behind the work and what they do (and how they do it) to be successful for our clients.

A mentor of mine taught me a long time ago a simple lesson about our business that I try to practice and repeat:  The key to business success is to hire people who are a lot smarter than you and let them do what they do best.  The Hodges Blog will showcase them and by extension show how smart Josh and I were to bring them on board in the first place. 🙂

It is now their time to shine.

So please enjoy the Hodges Blog and try to keep your emotions in check about Jon 1.5.  I hope it served you well.  I know it did me.

Facebook Timeline for Brands: It’s Crunch Time

by Jon Newman

Don’t be nervous.  Change is good.

That should be the Facebook brand statement.

Just when you get used to things, the mother of all social media platforms changes things up.  No change in recent history has given more marketing folks heartburn as the coming change of Facebook Brands Pages to the Facebook Timeline format.

Timeline for famed soccer club Manchester United.

The change is official in just a few days (March 30) and Jim Belosic does a great job of helping marketing folks face this reality in this blog post on PR Daily.

We at THP and HDS have been spending lots of time getting clients ready for this change as well.  In addition, I’ve been asked to speak to a PRSARVA group about those changes in April (don’t worry I’ll cover Pinterest too).   For some reason I hear seats are going fast so you may want to register here.

I agree with all of Jim’s points but folks really need to focus on:

  • The use of the cover photo as a means to show your brand without being too “promotional.”
  • The increasing importance of custom apps and what they can do to improve the virality of your page.
  • The need to use timeline to tell a creative story and move the conversation forward.
  • The importance of pinning your posts and milestones.

Later this week in this space, we’ll be making a Timeline for Brands “cheat sheet” of sorts available, so look for that by Friday.

Don’t want to give away too many spoilers on my talk but the bottom line is you have about a week….are you ready?

Facebook Timeline for Brands. Holy S#@!

If you are a Facebook marketer like me, today is like Christmas (or for me Chanukah) in February.

Because Facebook Timeline for Brands is here and we have a month before it kicks in for good, whether we’re ready or not.

At first blush (here’s the THP page) it is pretty much what we expected with:

  • The new cover photo offering great promotional opportunities
  • The ability to highlight stories for greater impact
  • The ability to minimize or totally edit past posts to tell your story better

But a deeper dive has marketers like me salivating because:

  • Apps for landing pages, contests etc. now have a more prominent place directly under the cover photo and next to the new photos box.  This will likely lead to greater engagement and interest
  • For admins, the more streamlined admin panel give you additional tools to help you share the page with others including the ability to easily import emails from outside services like Outlook and LinkedIn.

Still to be answered is additional functionality like how this will impact landing pages, etc.  But my first guess is they will still exist and have greater cross-promotional opportunities with the Timeline page.

So the race is on.  If you haven’t created a cover photo or photos, what the heck are you waiting for?

Please share your initial thoughts in comments below.  We’ll have additional posts in the coming days.

Ready?  Go!

%d bloggers like this: