Spin Sucks Author Talks Shop with RVA Content Strategy

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich

Not even a severe hailstorm (seriously, check out this video Trevor took outside our office–it was no joke) or the threat of tornadoes could keep the crowd away for the May edition of the RVA Content Strategy meetup.

We invited Gini Dietrich, PR pro and author of ‘Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age,’ to share her insights on how to come up with great content– that gets shared.

We learned a lot. Here are a few tips and services that stood out to us.

Use SmartBrief

SmartBrief is one of Gini’s favorite tools to quickly see what’s going on in her industry. Think of it as Google Reader or Feedly, but curated and targeted to exactly what you’re interested in. Gini uses this to keep up with news and trends in the PR and marketing world–it’s a quick way to see what’s shaping the landscape of her profession.

Incorporate current events and pop culture references

When relevant and possible, don’t be afraid to talk about the latest pop culture fad or snafu in the media–they make great analogies and examples of what to do–or what not to do–when it comes to your own strategy. When writing about a current event, be careful not to take a side politically, Gini says. Rather, limit the conversation to that which is relevant to your industry.

Don’t be afraid of the ‘listicle’

Surely you’ve seen the infamous ‘listicle’ post–those BuzzFeed-style articles composed almost entirely of funny GIFs and life truths we can all relate to. And while they may not be everyone’s favorite, we all click them. You can drive clicks to and interest around your content with listicles. Don’t be afraid to use them! Even Gini fought them before she saw how effective they could be.

Scan sent mail and blog comments for topic ideas

Inspiration can come from the most unlikely places–even sent email and blog comment sections. Scanning either of them is a great way to compile some topics to write about, says Gini. It makes sense when you think about it. Seeing what others are commenting on or asking questions about is a great indicator of what people are interested in.

If you want more content strategy tips and advice on sourcing it more efficiently, with a touch of wit and humor, be sure to visit Gini’s blog, Spin Sucks. Thanks again to Gini for speaking and to 804RVA for hosting! A huge shout-out to Jamaica House for the delicious coco bread and empanadas (they did not last long) and to Center of the Universe Brewing for the suds. Always a hit!

ICYMI: Here’s the full Google Hangout of Gini speaking at our meeting: YouTube Preview Image

Hilliard House: Housing Families First

What would it take for you to find yourself homeless?

This is the question Ross Altenbaugh, director at Hilliard House, posed to me at our first meeting.

It’s hard to think about — but try to imagine it. Considering the number of Americans who received pink slips this year, we all know someone whose position was determined: non-essential.

What if you couldn’t find another job? What if you couldn’t find one that paid enough?

What would happen when the money ran out?

What if you couldn’t go to your family? How long could you stay with friends before you were no longer welcome?

What would you tell your kids?

tanikaWhen Ross asked me this, I couldn’t help but think of a Richmondmom.com post a few years back called “Dinner on a Frisbee” in which Michelle Garcia writes about how quickly she “slipped from a beautiful four bedroom house to residing with my three children in one room at an emergency shelter.”

“Families need stability to thrive and we believe it starts with permanent housing,” said Altenbaugh. “You may have a world of problems, but you can tackle them all if you have a solid foundation.”

That’s exactly what Hilliard House is all about– creating stability quickly through rapid rehousing. The idea is to get the family out of the emergency shelter and into a permanent home as quickly as possible. Thanks to the network of partners with whom Hilliard House collaborates, many families are able to find homes immediately.

Amy & Children 1 - CopyIt isn’t easy. Many families served by Hilliard House are viewed by prospective landlords as undesirable due to poor work histories, prior evictions, bad credit, and felony backgrounds. There are families who have experienced repeated episodes of homelessness due to inadequate support and poor coping skills, often the result of domestic violence. Hilliard House helps families address these barriers, beginning with the resources to maintain housing.

Providing families with access to the supportive services they need reduces the cost of evictions, minimizes the use of community homeless services and eliminates the costs associated with job turnover and foster home placement that can occur when vulnerable families fall apart.

Hilliard House recently housed 31 Richmond families in 100 days as part of a National Alliance to End Homelessness project.

signleaseLet me repeat that: 31 families in 100 days.

Hilliard House ranked third in the state for their rapid rehousing efforts, despite the fact that they were one of the smallest organizations to participate.

Always ready for a new challenge, Altenbaugh has upped the ante. Hilliard House is committed to finding housing for 55 more families in 2014.

Want to help?

Baby Gear:

Many Hilliard House families have young children. Right now there is a need for baby gear. We’re talking strollers, baby bathtubs, pack-n-plays and more. Bonus points for throwing in a pack of diapers of any size. Contact Terri Iguina at 804-236-5800 to schedule a delivery.

SAVE THE DATE: Buz-n-Neds Helping Hams 6/2

Pig out at Buz-n-Neds anytime between 6-10pm on Monday, June 2 and 10 percent of the proceeds will go directly to Hilliard House. What a delicious idea!

We’re proud to partner with this amazing team. Stay tuned for updates on their progress.

Rocketts Red Glare Launches Fireworks…and Summer

Let’s face it–Memorial Day is pretty much the unofficial start to summer, and Rocketts Landing is launching it with a bang.

The third annual Rocketts Red Glare event is taking place this Sunday, May 21. The family friendly celebration promises plenty of local food, craft beer and fireworks–the only professional display in town this weekend, in fact.

Colin Healy will kick off the festivities with a free concert at 5:30 PM, followed by the Kings of Swing. Fireworks will get underway around 9:00. (Pro tip: Grab a prime viewing spot on the deck of The Boathouse facing the James River, and do it early!)

Proceeds from Rocketts Red Glare will benefit Connor’s Heroes, a local non-profit that supports kids fighting cancer in Central Virginia.

Jack Bettin, Manager of The Boathouse, talked to NBC12 about this weekend’s event for the ’12 About Town’ events segment.

NBC12.com – Richmond, VA News

‘Everybody Talks’ About Carena’s…Even Rockstars

Pop and alternative rock sensation Neon Trees made a stop at The National Tuesday night in support of their new album, “Pop Psychology.” Just before fans got a taste of their latest release, band members Tyler Glenn, Chris Allen, Branden Campbell and Elaine Bradley got a taste of a Richmond favorite. Carena’s Jamaican Grille catered dinner for the band before their show, pausing to take a couple photos with Carena’s staff before taking the stage.


Carena’s staff with members of Neon Trees (Photo: Bibi Johnstone)

Carena’s was a hit with the band, known for chart-toppers such as ‘Everybody Talks,’ ‘Animal’ and ‘Sleeping With A Friend.’ The group went full on ‘heart eyes’ for Carena’s kale and white bean stew, as you can see below. Screenshot 2014-05-21 13.50.55

We asked that ‘hard-hitting’ question on everyone’s mind–so, what did they eat?


Mini beef and chicken empanadas
Cool Runnings salad (mixed greens with corn and avocado


Curry vegetable w/ linguine or rice and peas
Salmon w/ mango relish
Jerk chicken

(All served with rice and peas and cabbage and kale sauté)


Rum walnut pound cake

The Richmond stop was part of a nationwide tour that began in April and will run through mid-July.

Richmond’s Canal Walk: A Staple of its History and Future

Cinco de Mayo at Casa Del Barco

Cinco de Mayo at Casa Del Barco

If you haven’t been down to Richmond’s Canal Walk lately, there’s a lot going on. This unique part of Richmond is chock full of history and has come alive now that we’re into the spring months.

This past weekend, the Que Pasa Festival, a celebration of the food, music, and art of Virginia’s Latin American communities, took place on the Canal Turning Basin. The latin sounds of Richmond favorite Ban Caribe filled the air inside Casa Del Barco–which features more than 150 agave-based tequilas. Nearby, blues rockers Vintage Trouble lit up Brown’s Island with funky, soulful beats.

The Canal Walk area has been abuzz since 1785, when George Washington surveyed the route for the canal–the purpose of which was to transport people and goods between the western counties of Virginia and Richmond upon completion.

During the Civil War, the area was home to Tredegar Iron Works, one of the largest iron foundries in the nation and whose gun foundry played an important role in the war.

In 1900, the city’s first power plant was constructed, which powered Richmond’s electric street car system–the first such network in the country. Both buildings remain intact today.

By 1995, the city was abuzz about a about a multi-million dollar investment to fix up the Canal Walk–a plan that came to fruition. A video from WTVR’s Video Vault captures the excitement.

If you’ve yet to take a stroll down the canal, there are plenty opportunities this year. Friday Cheers, the aforementioned weekly outdoor music series (now in its 30th year) runs through the end of June. Outdoor lifestyle festival Dominion Riverrock brings trail, bike and kayak races, among other events, to Brown’s Island on May 25. Finally, the Richmond Folk Festival, the largest of its kind in the nation, celebrates its 10th year on the island October 10-12.

It’s All About The Endorphasm

Erica Porter

Erica D. Porter, founder of Endorphasm

Okay, let’s go ahead and get the name out of the way–Endorphasm. I know what you’re thinking. The name does have to do with pleasure. More specifically, that feeling you get from endorphins after a great workout.

Personal trainer Erica Porter, a fitness studio owner in Midlothian, is no stranger to the idea, and used the name to brand her studio and line of fitness apparel.

Porter’s brand is twofold–a full service fitness studio with daily classes and a variety of trainers and an online retailer offering custom fitness apparel. Being that she had a relatively new concept, Porter was without a website, which made it difficult for clients to find her studio and her apparel.

We jumped at the opportunity to help Porter develop a web presence by customizing a WordPress site to fit her needs. By integrating with the software she uses to allow customers to sign up for classes online, we were able to provide an easy way for customers to see which classes are offered and when, which Porter can easily manage from her computer. The information then auto-populates to the website as changes are made.


One of the many original Endorphasm t-shirt designs available for purchase

We also created an easy way for Porter to show off her custom t-shirt designs, which are housed on a Square Market website, by embedding each product directly into her website. Customers can then click through for more information and secure payment.

If you’re looking to get in shape for beach season or just interested in some cool, locally-designed apparel, be sure to check out Endorphasm!

But First…Let Me Buy A Shelfie!


Shelfie, “the bathroom tray for safer play.”

By now, you’ve no doubt seen and heard the viral #SELFIE music video, a song that pokes fun at an entire generation’s selfie-taking obsession.

Local ‘momtrepreneur’ Joy Jones, decided–perhaps quite serendipitously–to launch her new product, the Shelfie, around the same time the video came out. Shelfie is what Jones calls “the bathtub tray for safer play.”

After one of her daughters slipped and bumped her head on the wet floor, Jones thought up the idea to build a prototype of a bathtub tray that allowed her kids to play with toys on the side of the tub without spilling water onto the bathroom floor.

After several tests and interest from friends and family, Jones decided to go for it. She ordered a pallet Shelfies from a manufacturer. Her product is now carried at a number of online retail stores, and locally at The Toy Center and Pigtails and Crewcuts.

Shelfie was a finalist in the 2014 i.e.* Competition, an annual startup event put on by the Greater Richmond Chamber. It is now available for purchase online, too.

Check out the product video we produced for Shelfie below.

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Second Screens & Sochi: NBC Olympics Producer Caroline Engle

photo 1

Organizer Andrea Goulet Ford watches as attendee Dorsey McFadden asks Caroline Engle a question at the RVA Content Strategy Meetup.

TV as we know it is evolving. DVRs allow us to watch shows on our own schedules, social media is driving our conversations about programming and smartphones and tablets are practically an extension of our arms while many of us watch our favorite shows–a phenomenon known as the ‘second screen’ movement.

It’s exactly the audience that NBC aimed to cater to with its experimental Primetime Companion feature, a component of its Sochi 2014 Olympics Highlights & Results app. The feature allowed viewers to get real time facts, stats and photos relating to the content that was on TV at any given time.

Caroline Engle, a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was contracted by the network to produce content for the Primetime Companion feature. Engle shared her experiences and strategy at the April RVA Content Strategy Meetup, organized by our office neighbor, BrandVox’s Andrea Goulet Ford.

Pulling from a vast bank of research, statistics and photos going back to the first modern Olympic games in 1924, Engle produced upwards of 250 pieces of content for each primetime broadcast for 18 days of coverage–from athlete facts and trivia to background on sports, Olympic history and country stats.


Trevor live tweets the RVA Content Strategy Meetup featuring Caroline Engle.

Engle said her best line of defense was over-preparing and producing the content up front. Over 90% of the content she produced was done ahead of time. “When you over-prepare, it makes it easier to shift things around,” said Engle.

A second advantage was that, due to the time difference, Engle got to watch each broadcast before it aired. Primetime programming was taped live in Sochi for later viewing in the US, which allowed her to decide when to best have each factoid pop up in the app.

What was most surprising to me was that there was no approval process for the facts in the app–what Engle wrote was published to the app without any level of oversight. Producers trusted her research and accuracy wholeheartedly.

While the app received a great response, Engle says she wishes it provided a more interactive experience for users rather than just having the app present users with information.

Overall, Engle is excited about the trends in second screen viewing and optimistic about its future. “I love this type of media. I think it’s fantastic and makes it easy to engage with those who are enthusiastic about any subject,” said Engle

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Third Annual RVA Hackathon Calls On Developers To “Make Something Awesome”

Developers collaborate on a project at the inaugural RVA Hackathon in 2012.

Richmond is a city of movers and shakers, makers and doers. From the individuals and small startups that work within the walls of our home, 804RVA, to nationally known firms like Mobelux and The Martin Agency, our city’s tech ecosphere is brimming with talent.

But there are also plenty of self-proclaimed “nerds” in Richmond’s tech ecosphere that may not be a part of the larger tech community on a regular basis. RVA Hackathon, an upcoming tech event, is a chance for these individuals to either team up or fly solo and “make something awesome” in a collaborative environment.

Now in its third year, the 2014 Hackathon will take place at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden on Saturday, April 12 from 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. Mobelux is the presenting sponsor again this year, and we’re proud to be a sponsor for the first time as well.

Developers will have 10 hours to work on their project, after which a panel of judges will award small prizes to the Best in Show, Best Concept, Best Design and Best Execution. The audience will also award a Crowd Favorite. Regardless of the outcome, everyone will at least walk away with a t-shirt and mason jar for participating.

If you have an idea for the next big thing or a project you’ve been tinkering with, join other Richmond developers and make it a reality!

Early bird tickets are available for $20 before March 28, after which the price increases to $25. Admission includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and all the coffee you can drink. Register now here.

Wedding Season is Already in Full Bloom–For Planners

Getting hitched? Be sure to pick up the 2014 edition of Virginia Bride Magazine, on newsstands now around Central Virginia.

It may be cold and snowy outside, but the spring and summer wedding season is just around the corner–and that means planning season is in full swing!

If you’re tying the knot this year (or planning for a wedding down the road), the Richmond Greater Virginia Bridal Show taking place this weekend is a great source of inspiration and ideas. Held at the Old Dominion Exhibit Hall, part of the Richmond International Raceway Complex, the show will allow brides and grooms to plan their big day in one fell swoop.

Representatives from a variety of Central Virginia vendors will be on hand, from caterers and florists to DJs and venues. The show, put on by Virginia Bride Magazine, takes place Sunday, February 16 from 1:00-5:00 p.m. Admission is $10.

Pick up a copy of Virginia Bride Magazine on newsstands around the state, and be sure to look for a spread from The Boathouse on locally sourced menu ideas and one from Casa Del Barco on great bachelor party ideas (Think tequila!) Both feature food photography from yours truly.

Need some wedding venue inspiration? Be sure to pick up Virginia Bride’s sister magazine, Virginia Wedding Locations, on newsstands next week.

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