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• How Do You Manage Your News Diet? Three Tips to Help You Cope

A new dad with his baby girl circa September 2001My news consumption changed dramatically in September 2001.

My wife, Michele, was pregnant with our first child on Sept. 11. As we were inundated with heartbreaking stories of unimaginable loss, we struggled to digest the information overload, raw videos and graphic photos. Just six days later, we welcomed our first daughter, Morgan.

By late September 2001, we began to limit our news consumption, which was hard for me as a trained journalist. I’ve always loved the news, especially stories behind the story and how different outlets cover breaking news. It’s why as a teenager I would read the entire front page of The Richmond News Leader before I delivered the afternoon paper. My parents didn’t have any news filters on me, but things were a lot different in the 1980s. 

As a new parent in 2001, I knew I needed to protect my children and my own sanity just a little more, so after Morgan’s birth, we needed to step back from the chaos of the cable news cycle and focus on our family.

Information overload = a fragmented brain
By mid-2004, we upgraded our coaxial connection to the world of the high-speed Internet modem. It was empowering because it led to the birth of Rhudy & Co., our strategic communications firm. Yet, the Internet’s constant flow of information started to mess with our brains.

Yet, the Internet’s constant flow of information started to mess with our brains.

This trend of fragmentation continued in late 2008, when I joined Facebook, and in early 2009, when I invited Twitter into my personal and work life. Since then, it has been a constant hum of posts, tweets, photos, videos and notifications.

The power of eyewitness media
In 2016, my information diet at times feels like an all-consuming fatty buffet. There’s more than you want to consume: the random violence, hate crimes, destructive rhetoric, political bullying, natural disasters and police brutality. It’s exhausting. It’s constant. For some, it’s truly debilitating, and infomania is all too real.

The challenge is similar to what we faced in late 2001 but it has intensified due to technology. How do we maintain our connection to the world without feeling beaten down by the negative news? 

Eyewitness user-generated content media also now floods my Facebook feed. 

Eyewitness user-generated content media also now floods my Facebook feed. The juxtaposition of seeing my fraternity brother’s cute twin toddlers alongside the Facebook Live video of mass causalities in Nice, France, is unsettling and hard to shake.

The eternal optimistic in me seeks the good stuff in my news buffet. Like fruits and vegetables, those content bites make me feel better and healthier while restoring my faith in humanity. That includes stories of neighbors helping neighbors, people overcoming adversity or helpful tips to make life a little easier.

Tips for coping and managing your news diet
On Tuesday, I heard an expert talking about just this challenge. In an NPR segment titled, “Managing Your News Intake In The Age Of Endless Phone Notifications.”  It made me think.

Take 5 minutes to listen to this NPR segment.

In the report, Claire Wardle, research director at the distinguished Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, shared tips to help balance our news diet. Wardle validated and described what I’ve been feeling in recent years.

Wardle is the co-founder of Eyewitness Media Hub, which studies the legal, ethical and logistical aspects of user-generated or eyewitness media.

 Here are some of Wardle’s tips and few of my own for taking charge of your news:

  1. Cut the feed: Turn off autoplay in your social media feeds so you don't see a graphic video that you didn't expect to see.
  2. Take charge of your news consumption: Be prepared to watch or listen to the news. Limit your news consumption to a set period of time such as 30 minutes in the evening. Use your DVR to focus on the stories that matter to you.
  3. Control the uncontrollable: Unfollow news outlets in your social media feeds and unsubscribe from alerts from news outlets.

News is raw. It’s disturbing. We can’t turn a blind eye to the horrors in our world, but we can — as individuals, parents and grandparents — control how we access and consume news. 

Don’t be afraid to take charge of your news diet.

Jonathan Rhudy studied journalism at James Madison University. Most nights he watches highlights of NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt with his three daughters. They spend about 15 minutes watching and talking about some of the day's good news events to help them better understand the big world around them. 


• 6 Ways to Help Your CEO Rock the Next Video Interview

It’s always important to help make your CEO or a leader look good, but even more so when your CEO is going in front of a video camera. Whether it’s a media interview or internal interview, here are six simple steps you can take to help make him or her look and sound great.

  1. Determine location: The location of the shoot is very important to set the tone. Does an outdoor or office scene work best? Should the video feel inviting or more formal? Choosing a space that reflects the tone will help reinforce the messages your CEO shares in the video.
  2. Think wardrobe: Certain colors and patterns do not capture well on camera. Avoid busy prints or patterns that tend to blur on screen and instead choose solid bold colors. Most skin tones look great in blues and purples. For women, we recommend an open-collared shirt, v-neck or rounded neck top. Turtlenecks and mock necks can make the subject appear shorter and squatter on camera. Clothing items that lengthen are the most flattering.
  3. Consider angles: Ask your CEO if they have a side that they prefer for photographs. Do some research and look at the best headshots of your CEO to determine the best angle. The camera crew can help capture the great angles with lighting, but directing them to a  preferred side  is the best way to ensure a flattering shot.
  4. Hire a professional makeup artist: You can’t go wrong hiring a professional makeup artist for a female or male CEO. Before the shoot, share photos of your CEO with the artist and tell them about the tone of the video and any important “don’ts.” It is important that CEOs still look like themselves, just extra polished.
  5. Remember to blot: The lights of the camera highlight shine, so it’s wise to bring blotting paper. Simple ask your CEO to dab lightly in the t-zone before filming for a more flawless look.
  6. Bring water: During the course of any interview, your CEO may become slightly parched. Being sure to have a water bottle or a favorite beverage handy to keep them hydrated and sounding their best!

Erin Pray leads the video team at Rhudy & Co. and coaches everyone from CEOs and front-line employees to look and sound their best on camera.


• Five Facebook Tips You'll Want to Know (as shared by My Daughter Who Works There)

Sande Snead poses in front of the real Facebook wall at their offices.Yes, I’m the proud mother of a Berkeley grad who is now a Facebook Program Associate on the Global Public Policy team. Recently, I picked her brain for how I can be smarter about Facebook. Here’s my daugther Nick's top tips:

1. Follow Mark Zuckerberg. The Facebook community is 1.5 billion people strong and growing and yet only 42 million are following the Facebook CEO. Mark Zuckerberg’s posts are frequent and insightful, and will keep you in the know about some of Facebook’s latest efforts and developments.

2. Boost your posts. If you are a business, only a small percent of your followers will see your post in their News Feed. If you really need to get a message to your constituents, get donations or make a sale, it may be worth spending $10 or $25 to boost your post.

You can select the demographics of the audience you wish to reach including geography, age, race, sex and even interest areas such as dining, gardening, exercising, etc.

3. Use Facebook ad manager. If you are thinking of boosting a post or a page, use the Facebook ad manager so you can see exactly what your ad will look like and have more control over the content. Of note: Your image cannot have much copy embedded.

A look at the future of fundraising thanks to the Facebook.4.  Check out the Facebook for Business blog. You’ll get tips and tricks, as well as information about new products. For example, Facebook recently launched a pilot for non-profits. They are working with 37 national non-profits to test a program to help organizations raise money.

Among other features, it allows followers to make a donation with one click on a Donate Now button.  You have the ability to allow Facebook to store your credit card information, so it’s easy every time you want to make a donation to your favorite cause – of course, this is optional!

5. Use hashtags. This may be obvious, but hashtags seem to have become clichéd. However, they are invaluable on social media. They turn topics and phrases into clickable links, which helps people find posts about their interests. #usemorehashtags

Sande Snead of Richmond knows the quickest way to reach her daughter Nick (pictured on the left) living in San Francisco is, of course, via Facebook Messenger.


• Why I Finally Broke Down and Watched Star Wars

My husband told me he would not marry me until I had watched all of the Star Wars movies.

True story.

That was 1994, and I had watched none of the three out at that point. We went to the local Blockbuster and rented the VHS tapes. Looking back, it’s rather miraculous that I made it through the ‘80s sans Star Wars. But I wasn’t much on science fiction, my parents didn’t have a lot of money for trips to the box office and back in the 1980s the films weren’t easily available.

In fact, one of the reasons historians say the film was such an initial hit in 1977 was that people loved it and went to the theater to see it again and again. Back before digital media, before cable TV, before VHS, you didn’t necessarily know when you’d get to see your favorite movie again.

My favorite guy was definitely a fan of the Force, so there was no escaping the trilogy. To my surprise, I liked it. As much of humanity likes it. Nay, loves it. Fanatically.

In fact, my son who is 11 and who refuses to watch movies “made in the last century” (aka before 2000), loves all things “Star Wars.”

What makes this franchise/brand/series so enduring? And what can we learn from this brand as communicators? Here are a few thoughts:

  • Star Wars captures the imagination. It opens us to something new and exciting, innovating and creative. Innovation can never be underestimated. It should be a top priority as thought partners in communication.
  • At the same time, Star Wars taps into something deeply familiar. Star Wars Creator George Lucas was an admirer of Joseph Campbell, a world-renowned mythologist, who argued that myths often had certain archetypes. While different stories portrayed them slightly differently, you could find the Hero (Luke Skywalker), the Mentor (Obi-Wan), and the Shadow (the dark side) in all great stories. According to some sources, about half of all American movies are based on this “Hero’s Journey” storyline. As communicators, we need to remember to connect our audiences to the familiar in order to be more engaging.
  • Finally, the mythology of Star Wars appeals to the fact that we are hard wired for story. There is actually brain chemistry that changes when we follow a character-driven narrative. It makes us more empathetic. It helps us make connections. So make sure your communications are more than facts. If you want to move your audience, share a story.

Many movies do these three things, but Star Wars does it masterfully.

I’ll be taking in the newest Star Wars saga on opening day, with my husband who bought tickets weeks ago. I’ll probably see most of you there.

Donna Dunn has a vast collection of Star Wars Hallmark ornaments on her tree.




• What I Learned from the Chief Evangelist

"The core of innovation is to make meaning."
— Guy Kawasaki

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• Making Fluoride Sexy and Other Communication Challenges

But as a 21st century communications consultant, I know that most people have neither time nor patience for great detail, especially when consuming bites of information on a 5-inch screen. Plus, learn five tips

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• Opting Out of Email & Finding Freedom in the Fine Print 

This summer, I took back my inbox. I created my first email address in 1998 and am still using that same address today, mostly for online purchasing and accounts. During that time, it attracted quite a bit of junk, some of which I swear I never requested. Learn more.

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• What I Learned from My Fourth Grade Science Presentation and Other Adventures in Public Speaking

Great speeches take thought, planning and immense creativity.

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• I Know the Secret to Comcast’s 'Future of Awesome' Customer Service

Cable repairmen have a bad rap. Think about Jim Carrey as the lonely and slightly disturbed cable installer in the 1996 movie “The Cable Guy” or the Comcast tech who fell asleep at a customer's home in 2006 and became a viral hit. Now, consider Roy Streete who works as Comcast contractor in Richmond, Va. Learn why he's the secret to Comcast’s excellent customer service.

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• Uber Up! – How Convenience Drives Innovation

Forget about price. Uber is an uber smart business model that creates a triple win. Here’s why:

  1. The ride is usually cheaper than a taxi (watch surge charges* during peak periods) and comes within minutes of your smartphone-app summons.
  2. Drivers work when they want and get 80 percent of the fare.
  3. The company does nearly nothing and collects the other 20 percent.

Uber and Lyft (taxi alternatives) are classic low-end disrupters, which Techcrunch.com says is when a new product provides a simpler, cheaper or more convenient alternative.

They came into marketplaces such as Richmond, Va., where taxis are not prolific and where a person made a (yawn) phone call for a ride from point A to point B. The dispatcher relayed the information and then let you know how long before you would be picked up. It could be an hour wait on weekends. Some taxis didn’t take credit cards, and tips were expected – neither of which occurs with Uber.

Uber turned the traditional taxi model upside down thanks to one big trend: convenience. People are willing to pay for concierge services. Just as yourself the following:

Uber driver Brigitte Simo gave me a lift to the airport in her 2010 Acura MDX. Brigitte is originally from Cameroon, Africa, but has lived in Richmond for nearly 20 years. She owns Tropicana Krispy Krunchy on Jahnke Road.Who wants to wait in security lines when you can apply for TSA pre-check?

Why wait in the bank line when a concierge banker will come to you?

Why waste a half hour sitting on I-95 when you can zip through
Express Lanes?

How about never having to wait in line at the dryers thanks to Pressed 4 Time?

Why wait weeks for a doctor’s appointment when you can see one immediately with a concierge physician membership?

What else are you willing to pay for to go to the front of the line? If you have the answer, you may just have the next disrupter on your hands …

Sande Snead is a communications consultant with Rhudy & Co., who is thinking hard about investing some dollars in a new Uber-like service model.

*A month after first trying Uber for the first time, Sande learned the importance of understanding Uber’s 2.8x surge charge. Her first 15-mile trip to airport totaled $28, but the same trip three weeks later with the surge totaled $82.76. She later shared her disappointment about the pricey trip, and the customer-focused Uber gave her a $20 credit.



• How to Speak so Everyone Listens

Learn Rhudy & Co.'s three takeaways from “How to Speak so Everyone Listens.”

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• Still We Rise: Celebrating the Power of Women’s Stories in RVA

Are you addicted to hurry? Do you run through your everyday life? How often do you carve out time to think about your own life story? How did you get from there to here? And, maybe, more importantly how do you get from here to where you really want to be?

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• Carol S. Fox MAKING KIDS COUNT Award recipients to be honored Oct. 7

Learn about Voices for Virginia’s Children third annual Carol S. Fox MAKING KIDS COUNT Awards on Oct. 7, 2014.

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• Rhudy & Co. is Fighting Pediatric Cancer in Carytown This Saturday

You can buy delicious cookies and support a great cause in Carytown this Saturday, Sept. 6, as the 5th annual RVA Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Bake Sale is in full swing.

Join the Rhudy & Co. team and some of our friends in Carytown, on the corner of Belmont and Cary Street, in front of the Ten Thousand Villages store at 3201 Cary St. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. as we raise funds for pediatric cancer research and therapies.

About the organization
Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is a national nonprofit organization founded by former Richmonder Gretchen Holt Witt, who lost her son Liam to cancer in 2011. Jonathan and Michele Rhudy worked with Gretchen years ago at Carter Ryley Thomas PR (now Padilla/CRT) in Richmond.

Think a city-wide bake sale can’t make a big difference?
The RVA community is the highest grossing Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Bake Sale in history and has raised $200,000 for pediatric cancer research over the last four years.

A city-wide bake sale wouldn’t be possible without the help of Daystar Desserts in Ashland baking more than 20,000 delicious cookies.

How can you get involved?

  • Cookies will be sold in packages of three, for a suggested donation of $5. Flavors being offered include: chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, sugar and white chocolate macadamia nut.
  • Come join the fun, pick your favorite cookie and support Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.
  • Review other RVA bake-sale locations and spread the word via Facebook .
  • Not in RVA but still want to help? You can still support Cookies for Kids' Cancer from afar.

Michele Rhudy loves cookies as much as her daughter Morgan, pictured here in 2011. Michele, Morgan and the rest of the Rhudy family love the energy and excitement of the annual RVA Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Bake Sale. 



I had never even heard of the term “disruption” as a positive before our recent Rhudy & Co. annual retreat, but now it seems I see this everywhere.

Techcrunch.com says, “A disruptive product addresses a market that previously couldn’t be served — a new-market disruption — or it offers a simpler, cheaper or more convenient alternative to an existing product – a low-end disruption.”

Think about Google and how it entered the advertising marketplace previously fairly monopolized by Yahoo! Yahoo’s business model required advertisers to make a $10,000 minimal ad investment. Google offered a self-service ad product for as little as $1. You know the rest.

At our retreat we discussed, “Consulting on the Cusp of Disruption,” in the October 2013 Harvard Business Review.

As a nimble communications company, our business model is solid. We have a select group of incredibly talented people with an ingrained service mentality that serves clients well. But competition is fierce. 

As the HBR article stated, “ a disrupter whose product was once barely good enough achieves a level of quality acceptable to the broad middle of the market, undermining the position of longtime leaders and often causing the ’flip’ to a new basis of competition.”

So how do we stay relevant, compete with new players, maintain excellent quality, and continue to bring new solutions to our clients? 

At Rhudy & Co., we are more than problem solvers. We are proactive thought partners. We are not only invited to communications meetings, but often to business meetings and boardrooms. Our clients look to us to bring fresh, new ideas to the table.

Our team includes seasoned strategists, marketing and public relations experts, but also talented writers who are skilled at helping our clients tell their stories. 

It is thrilling to be the disrupters ourselves. By bringing new ways of thinking, new technology and new solutions to our clients, we have sometimes won business from much bigger players. But we are mindful of the need to stay on our toes and not become too comfortable or complacent.

As the Techcrunch.com article ended, “Understanding disruption is hard. Disrupting is even harder.” 

Sande Snead joined Rhudy & Co. in 2013 and is an apt student in the world of technology and all things new, but she remains a firm believer in power of the hand written note.


• How to Convert Cranky Customers to Happy Ones 

When employees feel empowered, amazing things can happen.

Just ask Frontier Airlines Captain Gerhard Brandner.

Last week, Brandner found himself in a challenging work environment. With a delayed plane packed with tired and frustrated Frontier Airlines passengers, Brandner faced a potentially angry mob.

His Denver-bound plane landed unexpectedly in Cheyenne, Wyo., due to severe weather and sat on the runaway awaiting its fate from the airline’s maintenance team. Sensing his passengers were tired, restless and hungry, Brandner took matters into his own hands.

He called Domino’s and ordered about 50 pizzas.

Word spread quickly as passengers shared the tasty news on Facebook and Twitter. Social media channels erupted with praise and cheers. Brandner’s quick action instantly became PR gold.

TV crews, like KTLA and FOX News, took notice, and so did People magazine, which proclaimed Brandner as “the Greatest Airline Captain of All Time.” (Captain Sully Sullenberger, who safely landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, seems a little more suited for this title.)

One Frontier passenger later told a TV news crew, “the captain said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, Frontier Airlines is known for being one of the cheapest airlines in the U.S., but your captain is not cheap. I just ordered pizza for the entire plane.'”

Clearly, Brandner is one highly engaged employee, even if he reportedly called his employer “cheap” and paid for the pizzas himself. He felt personally empowered to make a difference for his customers. He later told news media, “[the passengers] are my responsibility the moment they step on the aircraft until they get off the aircraft.”

Companies that understand this customer service mentality and empower their employees to take action are going to have more engaged customers. Note to Frontier Airlines: It’s even better if your employer gives you the budget to help make the situation right.

In the retail and service business, exceptional customer services means giving front-line employees budget control to make decisions without having to check with a manager.

Not every airline can pass out free pizza during a delay, but the positive attitude and caring gestures by employees can turn unfortunate situations, like delayed flights, into memorable ones.

It’s the small stuff that customers typically remember … the warm smile, the eye contact and the friendly conversation. A slice of hot pizza also helps.

Jonathan Rhudy first learned customer service as a bag boy working at Ukrop’s Super Markets in Richmond as a teenager. Today, Kimpton Hotels continually wows him with unexpected and creative gestures when he’s on the road. 


• What I Learned from My Father

As a young boy, my father taught me that small actions can make a big difference, details matter, and so did helping others. Learn what else he taught me.

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• What I Really Want for My Three Daughters

What I Really Want for My Three Daughters

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• Hear Christopher Columbus Sing in RVA this Month … Well, Kind Of

Broadway is coming to Central Virginia with musical artist and actor Zack Dobbins, performing in a one-night event in Midlothian on Tuesday, June 24, 2014.

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• Richmond Women to Give Two $100,000 Grants to #RVA Nonprofits

Rhudy & Co. is proud to have supported Impact 100 over the past five years. It's the Big Give x2 for Impact 100 Richmond.

The end-of-the-year celebration for Impact 100 on May 13, the Big Give, is like Christmas for the RVA nonprofit community. This year, the Big Give is twice as exciting — like Christmas and a birthday all wrapped in one.

About Impact 100
Impact 100, in case you haven’t heard, brings together hundreds of women with huge hearts who each give $1,000 to form $100,000 grants that are given to deserving local nonprofits. Donating money to any nonprofit is appreciated. But bringing together hundreds of women and combining those funds can be transformative.

So, what’s so different about this year? 2014 marks the fifth year of Impact 100 and the first time the event will feature TWO $100,000 transformative grants. That’s right: two! More than 200 RVA women joined Impact 100 this year; each pledging their money to change lives in our community.

How it works 
RVA nonprofits submit a grant proposal for one of five focus areas. Then Impact 100 grants committee members select nonprofits to visit and then choose finalists. This year’s finalists include:

YWCA of Richmond received a $100,000 Impact 100 RVA grant in 2013.Finalists will present their nonprofit tonight and explain how the grant money could make a difference. Then, Impact 100 members cast a live vote and decide who will receive the funds. This year, the top two nonprofits will go home with $100,000.

It’s exhilarating to think that in just five years Impact 100 has given more than a half a million dollars and can offer TWO $100,000 grants in its fifth year!

I am honored to have served as the chairperson these last five years.

When I kicked off the idea that became Impact 100, I wanted to create a special kind of organization that was open to anyone who was interested in a smart community investment. I am gratified to see so many smart, generous RVA women come together to make this vision a reality.

When she's not inspiring Richmond women give to give, Talley Baratka is busy helping Rhudy & Co. clients communicate in bold and creative ways.