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.

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.


10 Tips for Mastering Your Television Skype Interview

(Editor’s note:  Cam is one of The Hodges Partnership’s media relations superstars. Much of his recent work has been focused on international media for clients like ChildFund International.  This post is a result of his recent success.) -JN

by Cameron McPherson

One of the neatest things about technology advances is how it lets news organizations connect with sources and experts more quickly. With Skype, Google+ and other video calling tools, news networks like CNN and MSNBC can get an expert on the air in a matter of minutes.

ChildFund’s Mark Dasco does a Skype interview with CNN International after last year’s tsunami in The Philippines.

ChildFund’s Mark Dasco does a Skype interview with CNN International after last year’s tsunami in The Philippines.

A video interview via Skype or Google+ is much like a traditional studio interview. There are some extra things to keep in mind though. When we’re coordinating Skype interviews for clients, here are some of the tips we share:

Do not look at your screen: You will look weird. Instead, look at your computer’s camera, so it appears to viewers that you are looking at them. Put a bright sticker or another marker to draw your eyes to the camera.

Know your talking points: Just because you’re behind a computer and not in the studio, does not mean you can cheat by including notes on your monitor. This is broadcast television – the big leagues! If your eyes are reading from the screen, it will look awkward to viewers.

Turn off notifications: Remember how I told you to look at the camera? Turn off email and other desktop notifications that may pop up and distract you during your interview. Also, silence cell phones to avoid unwanted background noise.

Create a backdrop: This sounds like common sense, but if you’re doing an interview from your office, be sure to clean up. It’s also an opportunity to include organization signage in the background. If you have a poster or sign with the organization’s logo, put it behind you.

Practice: Don’t wait until you’re live on CNN to see how you look on the video feed. Practice with a friend or coworker to make sure you and your surroundings look top notch. Test lighting to make sure it’s not too dark or bright. It’s also a chance to practice looking at the camera, something that may not feel “natural.”

Wardrobe: The safest color to wear for television interviews is blue. In general, do not wear white, black, red or patterns, and avoid colors that blend into the background.

Headphones: Ideally, you’ll be able to hear the anchor without the use of headphones, but have them around just in case. Use a pair of discreet, white or black headphones, if needed.

Reduce background noise: Turn the television off. Not only will it create background noise, but the short delay can distract interviewees. Additionally, be aware of other outside sounds that could interfere. Closing your office door is always a good idea.

A Professional Skype username: While it’s unlikely your username will be displayed on the screen, the producer will need to connect with you beforehand. Nothing takes away from an expert’s credibility like “BarbieGirl99.” I suggest a username with your full name and organization.

Keep IT on standby: This is technology you’re dealing with – it will break when you need it most! Make sure you have someone around who can fix any issues that pop up.

Producers will often call and do a sound check before broadcast to make sure the connection is solid. Feel free to ask any questions or concerns you may have at this time. But, remember: you’re an expert and you’re going to do great!

Do you have any tips for the perfect Skype interview? Please share in the comments below.

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.

Got Millions? New magazines are betting on you…

by Alissa Pak, member of THP’s “lux” team

The next time one of the recent Mega Millions winners happens to breeze past a newsstand, they certainly won’t have a shortage of reading materials to flip through. Though some may call the current economic outlook uncertain, for four magazine publications it’s anything but as they launch their new titles. Not exactly aimed at the populist sect, these magazines won’t be everyday reading material unless you count yourself among the 1 percent of society.

Are you a subscriber to the Bloomberg Terminal at an annual fee of $20,000? If yes, then be sure to check your mailbox for the next issue of Bloomberg Pursuits. Introduced earlier this year, Pursuits is distributed twice a year to an audience with an average annual household income of more than $450,000. The premiere issue profiled a solar eclipse-viewing Bloomberg subscriber traveling via icebreaker. Now how do you book that trip?

Bloomberg isn’t the only one jumping on the luxury magazine bandwagon. Niche Media which already publishes regional luxury titles such as Hamptons, Ocean Drive and more will unveil Du Jour this upcoming September. Their typical reader will have a net worth of more than $5 million and average home value of $1.5 million.

Time Style & Design sound familiar? It should. After a three-year absence, parent company Time Magazine thought it the perfect climate for its comeback for the twice published luxury title. A commonly spotted phrase in the issues return is “price upon request”. ForbesLife, a spinoff made available only to Forbes subscribers is hitting the stands, literally. For the first time, the latest issue of the luxury lifestyle title can be picked up by anyone wanting to read about your average billionaire’s Manhattan’s Upper East Side pad.

So what gives?

With slumping newsstand sales and disappearing advertising pages, it’s pretty common knowledge that the mass-market magazine industry has seen better days. But its luxury counterparts the likes of Departures and Financial Times’ monthly luxury magazine How to Spend It have all grown, both in revenue and subscribers. A recent article on this very topic by industry trade publication, Women’s Wear Daily, happened to put it best. “As middle-income consumers get pushed to the bottom of the hourglass, the brands succeeding are those that target low-end and high-end consumers.”

So next time you pass a newsstand, flip through these newbies and pick up a lottery ticket while you’re at it.

PR story of the day: Pay to play.

Interesting story in the New York Times about network morning shows shelling out the big bucks for exclusive newsmaker interviews.

What do you think about this practice?  Is it a sign of the times given they have fewer staff members working on stories?

What are your thoughts/


The Daily from the PR perspective

Some quick thoughts on The Daily, News Corp’s new iPad-only newspaper.

I love it.

Not because the content is great or the design is tremendous, remember people ragged on the first issues of USA Today when it come out.

I love it because, it represents the future of what dynamic, interactive, freshly delivered content CAN be.

I also love it because at a time when daily news delivered in a “news-a-zine” format is dying, here is a new fresh source of information.

Finally, I love it because as a media relations professional it is the equivalent of “cool fresh meat” for folks like us to pitch to and to get coverage for our clients.

Don’t judge The Daily by its debut yesterday, wait a year and lets talk.  I have a feeling it will be an interesting conversation.

Media relations pros’ best friend.

We temporarily interrupt the regular social media-tilted programming on this blog to discuss old-fashioned media relations.

I would like to introduce you to a media relations pros’ best friend:  The Bookstore.

Most specifically, the magazine stands.

You remember magazines don’t you.   Our old friend Sarah Marchetti (@sarahmarchetti) of Ogilvy’s digital practice in D.C. chided me this week on Twitter by tweeting, “What are magazines? Are they like paper versions of blogs?

Okay maybe I’m showing my age, but we all still have clients or bosses that would give us a kiss on the lips for a major mention or quote in a national magazine.  And while you can use online media databases all day and night (apologies to my friends at Cision, Vocus, My MediaInfo and others), nothing, I MEAN NOTHING, replaces spending a few hours leafing through the racks and seeing who is writing or editing what for which section.

Some of you might say, “well I can find that out by reading the online edition.”

It’s really not the same and we all know it.

So I challenge all the media relations pros out there the next time they get a new assignment or a big client to break away from their computers and ride, run, do not walk to the closest Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc. and spend a few hours leafing through those bound stacks of paper.  Get your finger prints on them.  Bring a pad and paper and write down names and articles.

My bet is you may be surprised at what you find and that all of those names may not show up in your database.

My second bet is that your media relations efforts will be more successful.

I’d love to hear back from those who try this.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

The “eyes” of the Tiger

So I will try not to tread on ground already covered in the few hours since the Tiger Woods Presidential Address.  But as someone who professes to do crisis management for a living here are some of the highlights.

– It is very difficult to come off genuine and natural in such a controlled environment.  The handpicked audience, single lecture, two-camera (one of which failed about two-thirds of the way through, btw), blue background set the tone that was hard for most to get over.  More on this in a minute.

– He was obviously coached to use the “pregnant pause” before each apology and to look straight into the camera when talking about his wife and kids.  This comes off more as fake than genuine.

– It seemed to me that the only time he truly felt emotion it was more in anger for those who hounded his family than it was for sadness over the events.

– It was obvious that he is in a self-help program of some sort since much of the language could be borrowed from their teachings.

– It took way too long to specifically address his affairs and infidelity as he used the phrase “my behavior” many times before saying the word “affair.”

– Woods went way out of his way early in the speech to remind people about all the philanthropic work he does.  He may have couched it in an apology to folks who work for his foundation, but don’t be fooled that reminder was extremely intentional.

– He was smart (you can make an argument about how sincere this was) to thank Accenture and his fellow players.  He’s been trashed by the folks on the tour for holding this newser during the match play event this weekend.

I will pass on things like “he should have said more about that night,” or “I want to know more about the affairs.”  that’s his business.  I will also pass on all those who think the Buddhism thing is contrived, maybe, maybe not.

What will stick with me most is the orchestrated use of the main camera until it bugged out.  You need to be a pro to pull off that look straight into the camera.  Some can do it well and make it come off naturally, some can’t.

Tiger can’t.

When he looked right into the camera with his eyes it screamed to me “THEY TOLD ME TO DO THIS TO MAKE A POINT SO NOW I’M DOING IT.”  It was almost a mixed blessing for him when the main camera failed two-thirds through.  That way it wouldn’t have turned more people off than it did.

A key indicator of the “eyes” factor is my wife was unable to watch the feed but listened to it in the car.  When we met up for a lunch meeting, she told me how great she thought Tiger did and how he covered all the points in very effective way.

In true Nixonian fashion, Tiger might have talked the talk, but the camera and eyes never lie.

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