More Telephone, Less Megaphone

Social media isn’t a billboard, it’s a coffee shop. Unfortunately, too many organizations use their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to announce what it has going on, rather than invite people into a conversation.

These insights, among many others, came from Beau Coffron, the Lunchbox Dad. He’s famous for the inspiring creations he sends to school with his kiddos.

Coffron spoke as part of a conference I attended this fall that shone light on the current state of social media and how to use it more effectively, especially for nonprofits and churches.

“The number one reason people unfollow: too many promotions,” said Coffron.

So how do you make your social media more engaging and conversational?

  1. Ask questions. “Questions marks are greater than periods.”
  2. Do polls, but be creative. For example show several images of coffee. Ask members which they’d prefer.  Members can comment and say what cup they like and why. It helps them enter into more of a conversation, rather than clicking a button.
  3. Use social media as a telephone, not a megaphone. Again, try to reduce the number of “announcement” posts and increase the number of posts that ask for engagement. For every one promotional post, do three that are not promos.

The world of social media is always changing. A few other trending tips to consider:

  1. Mobile is everything. In whatever you create think, “How will this look on my smartphone?” Create shareable content for small screens.
  2. Go for video. Facebook, especially, is investing heavily in video. But keep it short. Grab the viewer’s attention in the first three seconds.
  3. Experiment with vertical videos. These days some social media platforms give more real estate to vertical, rather than horizontal images. Additionally, 94 percent of people say they prefer to view video vertically on their mobile devices.
  4. Facebook prefers native files. Vimeo and YouTube are now seen as competitors and will not receive as much play.
  5. Write it out. When you do create videos, be sure to include subtitles. Think about watching a video in line at the grocery store. You’re probably going to have the sound off. So if you watch a video without subtitles, you’ll likely skip to the next thing. Including subtitles means you’ll have more viewers. There are a number of services who can transcribe videos digitally so you don’t have to do this manually.
  6. Content is still king. Make sure you have a communications plan that provides consistent, interesting, innovative videos, images and stories. If your plan isn’t sustainable, you’re likely not to keep the followers you’ve worked so hard to reach.

Donna Dunn uses Instagram and Twitter, but prefers keeping up with friends on the platform that she’s used for nearly a decade: Facebook.

UZURV It! - Meet an RVA Innovator Inspiring Us

Innovation is all around us, especially in our hometown of Richmond, Va.

From startups creatively connecting with customers to Fortune 500s reinventing their core processes, our Rhudy & Co. team is inspired by the entrepreneurial approaches in #RVA. This year, we've launched a blog series, "RVA Innovators  Inspiring Rhudy & Co" to share more about these innovators. 

Do you know an RVA innovator we should highlight? Send us a Facebook message with the details.

Do you know an RVA innovator we should highlight? Send us a Facebook message with the details.

Making Uber and Lyft better
Taking Uber and Lyft to the next level, a local Richmond innovator – Matt  Donlon, founder and CEO of UZURV, developed a reservation services app that allows you to “UZURV” your ride in advance.

UZURV is headquartered in the historic Hofheimer Building in Scott's Addition. Originating in Richmond in 2015, the service has quickly grown and UZURV is now in 108 cities across the country. About 23,000 drivers are using it.

“It’s really gone viral,” Donlon said. “Part of that success is that we are investing in our drivers. They have a business card and a code they give to introduce people to UZURV. Customers get their first three rides free and the driver gets residual income – 7 percent of all future reservations just for introducing that customer to UZURV.”

Hatching an idea
And while Uber and Lyft and other ride-sharing disrupters have been challenged in court in several localities, the 2017 Virginia General Assembly passed the legal framework to allow UZURV to be recognized as the first Transportation Network Company broker in the nation, pre-arranging rides with specific Uber or Lyft drivers.

Donlon himself continues to serve as an Uber driver – where he and his partner, Harold Frans, hatched the idea for UZURV and where he can best keep his hand on the pulse of the business. He gave former Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton her first UZURV ride to the train station.

We are most successful where Uber and Lyft don’t do well,” Donlon said. “Chesdin Landing is a perfect example locally. UZRUV does great business in those dead zones.

How UZURV works

  • UZURV only handles reservations and does not provide transportation directly. Think of it as the “Open Table” for ride reservations.
  • After downloading the app to your smartphone, you can request a pick up date and time well in advance of your trip.
  • Another cool thing about UZURV is that you can select your favorite driver as well as services and amenities you are seeking in a car service – infant car seat, military base access, etc. You select the service you want to use – Uber or Lyft and the service type (size and/or luxury vehicle) and add an incentive (it automatically starts at $3; you can make it more or less).
  • The only downside for our instant gratification-seeking selves is that you have to wait for a driver to accept the reservation and the only way you will know is by checking back on the app.

With a recent Richmond airport trip requiring a 6 a.m. departure, I wanted to ensure I didn’t have to wait 15 minutes, when I summoned my ride.

Three drivers accepted my reservation and I selected “Kristen,” had an online iPhone “chat” with her to confirm details and describe my house. The process was seamless; she was at my door before 6 a.m. and delivered me to the airport for less than $20.

The app is available for download at the Apple App Store and Google Play store. To find out more, go to

Sande Snead frequently ubers to local restaurants especially downtown where parking and walking in heels can add to the value of paying for a ride. She UZURVs for early morning airport departures or destinations further afield.


And the Winners Are … Honesty and Transparency after an Infamous Awards Show Mix-up

Mistakes happen.

And, Hollywood’s on-stage mistake naming “La La Land” the Best Picture of the Year at the 89th Academy Awards ceremony on Feb. 26, arguably was the most-watched mistake of the 21st century.

Hollywood veterans Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced the film they thought had won on live TV before some 32.9 million viewers.  But they were given the wrong envelope.

Rhudy & Co. presented our own "Oscars" to our team at our holiday party in January.

Rhudy & Co. presented our own "Oscars" to our team at our holiday party in January.

The mistake wasn’t recognized until the middle of “La La Land” acceptance speeches. Just like the producer, directors and actors of “Moonlight,” everyone appeared truly stunned. We all wondered, “Did that just happen?”

Clearly, Beatty and Dunaway weren’t to blame for the monumental mix up, despite funnyman Jimmy Kimmel asking, “Warren, what did you do?” Poor Steve Harvey got mentioned by name (in reference to his Miss Universe mix-up). Of course, Kimmel was joking as comedians do, even in awkward moments.

How people respond to those once-in-a-lifetime moments with clear and compelling communications makes a difference.

In the midst of chaos
“La La Land” producers Jordan Horowitz and Marc Platt shared acceptance speeches for an award they didn’t win, but it was Horowitz who immediately responded with candor, honesty and humility once he knew the true winner of Best Picture. Horowitz dramatically returned to the center stage to declare, “‘Moonlight’ won. Guys, guys, I’m sorry. No. There’s a mistake. ‘Moonlight,’ you guys won best picture.”

In that split-second decision, Horowitz showed his integrity and character, and the world noticed. The next day, The Washington Post detailed the Oscar glitch in an article with a headline reading: “‘La La Land’ producer Jordan Horowitz is the truth-teller we need right now.”

So true.

Horowitz was emphatic, understanding and decisive in the midst of chaos.

These are qualities of great leaders. In fact, the 36-year-old couldn’t have been more gracious and sincere. He was the real star on Sunday.

Emma Stone, the leading lady in the six-time Oscar-winning musical, showed grace and humility in her remarks back stage, along with others involved in the movie.

PwC rises
From a communications standpoint, the employees of PwC (formerly PricewaterhouseCoopers), the accounting firm, also demonstrated star qualities. The firm that has been leading the Oscars’ balloting process on behalf of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for 83 years took full responsibility for the envelope glitch.

PwC provides accounting, tax advisory and consulting services to some of the world’s largest companies and appears to have handled the unfortunate event as well as could be expected. One of the PwC partners allegedly posting a backstage photo to Twitter before the mix-up and then deleting the image likely didn’t help.

Here are four takeaways for communicators about what PwC got right and how they could’ve improved their response.

  1. PwC owned the mistake, didn’t cast blame and quickly apologized.
    PwC quickly determined and shared the cause of the chaotic moment. Perhaps the PwC apology should have been the night of the event, but clearly the firm needed to get the facts straight rather than rush a statement, which posted to the Oscar website in the middle of the night. 
  2. PwC communicated clearly, but it could have been quicker.
    Some critics said the two PwC partners knew immediately about the blunder, and didn’t react fast enough.

    PwC opted to use Twitter for the apology. However, their YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ pages show no other updates. It doesn’t appear PwC issued a formal news release.
  3. PwC communicated with its employees.
    According to the New York Times, PwC’s U.S. chairman, who was in the live audience, immediately got involved. On Monday, he reportedly emailed employees an update. Keeping employees informed during a crisis is critical. They’re your frontline ambassadors.
  4. PwC is being proactive.
    The company’s snafu is still in the news three days later. They’ve given media interviews to share their side of the story. A video message from the chairman, a senior leader or the employees would convey transparency and solidify the firm’s messages. According to news reports, the firm’s top leader is “working with the Academy to repair the relationship."

Reportedly, the two PwC partners involved will not be back next year, but let’s hope Hollywood gives PwC another chance to shine and regain its trust.

After all, Hollywood loves a good come-back story.

Jonathan Rhudy and his wife and business partner Michele presented 17 Oscars of their own at the recent Rhudy & Co. holiday party.

Each co-worker received a unique, Oscar-inspired accolade for their unique contributions – from “most willing to bring order to chaos” to “most likely to dazzle (and hug) a client.”

Each co-worker received a unique, Oscar-inspired accolade for their unique contributions – from “most willing to bring order to chaos” to “most likely to dazzle (and hug) a client.”

Does Your Mother Really Love You?

If your mother says she loves you, check it out,” has long been the admonition for journalism students. Unfortunately, as news consumers, we haven’t always done a good job of checking out our sources.

There’s a proliferation of fake news on the internet these days. If a friend posts it on Facebook, it must be true. Sometimes legitimate journalists are picking up stories and running with them before they check them out. Consider the Rolling Stone rape story or the countless Hillary Clinton conspiracy stories. Did Pope Francis really endorse Donald Trump?

“This was supposed to be the information age. Instead, we find ourselves in a swamp of disinformation, rumor, innuendo and fake news,” noted Jeffrey Herbst, president and CEO of Washington’s Newseum, in a recent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.

Read More

5 Things to Know about Consumer Behavior … And 1 Helpful Secret

When we think of social media today, most of us go straight to Facebook and Twitter. We might also jump on Instagram or Snapchat if we’re targeting Millennials, and LinkedIn if we’re thinking about reaching a professional audience.

But how do you connect with older men who are not on Facebook and are interested in cars and tires? Think message boards.

This was one of the takeaways from a Virginia Professional Communicators talk, “Online Consumer Behaviors and Emerging Technologies,” given by Feedback Executive Vice President Dean Browell, Ph.D. This company, with offices in Richmond, New York City, London and Paris, specializes in customer behavior, message testing and research. 

Here are five things to know about consumer behavior: 

  1. To find your target audience, look to any “social network” that offers User Generated Content such as Message Boards and review sites (Yelp, GlassDoor), especially if you are looking for a narrow and specific target audience, such as North Carolina watermen or Virginia insurance adjusters. Hashtags are also a quick way to find people with specific interests. In some ways, hashtags are mini message boards.
  2. Mine message boards in any area of interest from mountain biking to childhood cancer through Board Reader and review sites for influencers — those who post and engage the most.
  3. Just because you know where to find your target audience on social media, doesn’t mean they want you marketing and advertising there. However, monitoring the conversation offers clues as to when those audiences are active and what’s on their minds.
  4. Understand the “sales cycle,” and that consumers rarely find out about your product or service and go straight to the purchase/transaction stage. The process begins with activation or awareness, research and shopping before the transaction takes place.

    A positive experience may turn a consumer into a passionate advocate who shares on social media, as well as via word of mouth, adding endorsements for your next potential customer.
  5. Be cautious about relying on influencer dashboards such as Klout, which often have sophisticated algorithms, but lack the human element to discern differences among key words. Is Klout really an indicator of the quality of the engagement?
In some ways, hashtags are mini message boards.

Finally, Browell suggested that, at least once a year, you should pretend to be your target audience and think about what networks you would use and go to those channels. You just might be surprised by what you learn.

Helpful Secret

Along that same idea, local Richmond connector Peter Kaufman with HoopleWorks suggests calling your own office using an unknown phone when you are out and see what kind of reception you get. You might be surprised at what you hear!

Sande Snead has been a consultant with Rhudy & Co. since 2012. She is active on Facebook and Twitter and is working on her Klout score.