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.

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?


#PRSARVA and social media, now what?

It could have been the “level” of the people in the room since it was billed as a professional development session.

It could have been the amount of attention, time and effort people are spending on social media these days.

It could have been a lot of factors coming together at once.

But I came away extremely impressed with the group at spoke to and with at PRSARVA’s professional development event last Friday.

Here are the presentation slides for all who want to take a look…

Click here to view presentation

If social media is a ladder and each step up is another level of education and commitment then I think Richmond’s PR and marketing community has climbed another rung or two over the last six-to-twelve months.

Outstanding crowd at PRSA session last week.

In the past, my hope as a speaker was to get everyone to the same level of understanding with a great deal of teaching going on in similar hour-long sessions.  Last Friday, it was clear that everyone in the room was on the same page and my role was more of a validator than teacher.  My hope is that each person came away with one little nugget as opposed to many bars of gold.

Needless to say I was impressed.

So where (as a community) do we go from here?   I think while we continue to educate ourselves about the new platforms, etc. that seem to pop up daily, it’s time to focus more on getting better on the core work.  Some of the themes of the presentation (storytelling, using images, understanding mobile and its opportunities) will hopefully help you focus.

Thanks again for the opportunity to present.  I really learned a lot.

#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.

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.

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.

LINsanity: Please let’s not ruin it with PR

NBA Commissioner David Stern should give Jeremy Lin a kiss.  Not the peck on the cheek variety but a big old sloppy one that leaves the recipient in a flabbergasted haze for five minutes.

Consider that a week ago the NBA was its usual boring self with games not decided till the last two minutes.  This was complicated by the fact that the lockout created a crammed schedule of games leading to crippled play on the court as teams were forced to play three nights in a row in different cities.  For aging teams like the Celtics and Lakers it led to an awful brand of ball that had some wanted to chance the name of the league to the NGA or National Geriatric Association.  Finally, in New York the Knicks, the NBA version of the team of misfit toys, were plodding around without a point guard scoring barely 80 points a night running an offensive system designed to score 120.  It’s coach was on death watch and the final nail was supposed to be its two best players missing games, one for an injury and one for a death in the family.

Enter Jeremy Lin.  The Asian Harvard graduate point guard who was inserted into a game because frankly there was no one else left to play.

In one magical week, Lin has led the Knicks to six wins, averaged 27 points doing it and has become a national cult hero not seen in American sports since Fernandomania swept baseball in the 80’s.

Knicks fans who have had no reason to watch the Knicks are watching.  Sports fans who have had no reason to watch basketball are watching.  Asians sports fans and non-sports fans are buying tickets to games in basketball hotbeds like Toronto (sorry Toronto) and donning number 17 jerseys and holding “LINsanity” posters.  ESPN anchors are holding internal contests to try to find as many way as they can to insert LIN into catch phrases.

Up until this point there has been something very pure about this story, mainly because it just “happened.”  It wasn’t created or manufactured or pushed on the American or global consciousness.  Lin dribbles, passes, shoots, scores and is then extremely humble in interviews praising his teammates and his savior is a just enough non-Tebow way.

My hope as a fan, a PR person and a marketer is for once the NBA, ESPN and all their sports partners resist as long as they can to “push” the story.  Let it continue to evolve naturally.  Let’s not make him do every late night show, find a way to involve him on All-Star weekend, create a million websites, social media channels and storylines.  Let’s just let this happen.

There’s something genuine and honest about this, let’s ride it for as long as we can without forcing it down our throats.

If the master marketers at the NBA can resist their long-time urge to market for the sake of marketing and ride the wave that would truly be refreshing and amazing.  In the end, we might even call it LINcredible.

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