Our blog.

• 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. 


• Goodbye Virginia Press Women; Hello Virginia Professional Communicators 

On April 5, 2014, VPW revised its bylaws again – this time to change the name of an organization many of our members have been associated with for decades. Virginia Press Women now is called, Virginia Professional Communicators. While there are still members who are journalists, many long-time members, like me, who were writers and editors for newspapers and magazines, have now moved into public relations, marketing and even advertising careers. Learn more.

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• Revitalize. Recreate. Realize. Reinvent. Join the TEDxRVA 2014: “re____” Conversation

I first heard about TED talks the way many of us do, from an email with the subject line “10 TED Talks that will change your life.” After about the fourth email, each from a different person, I opened it. What I found was a handful of motivational talks that focus on “ideas worth spreading”—the TED organization’s mission.

My first TED talk hooked me from the beginning
Maybe because I’m a 20-something, or maybe because the speaker’s name was Meg, the first TED talk that immediately grabbed my attention was titled “Why 30 is Not the New 20.” Watch Meg Jay's talk to see why it hooked me from very beginning.


Meg, a therapist, spent her 15-minute talk motivating 20-somethings who have been ingrained with the idea that “life can happen later, enjoy the now, and figure out the rest later.” She encouraged people to let go of the idea that your 20s aren’t important, arguing instead that it’s a transformative decade where you can take control of your identity.

As a 20-something myself, I believe every word of that is true. Do I have an exact road map for my 20s? Absolutely not. Do I have control of my 20s? Absolutely.

In a few weeks the RVA community will have the chance to see similar “ideas worth spreading.” TEDxRVA 2014 will be held Friday, March 28, with the them of “re___”—as in, re-imagine, repair, realize, re-think.

Join the TEDxRVA conversation
We are in a time where we must all look twice at decisions, processes and assumptions. “Re___” leaves a space for you to decide, what is your “re___”? Now you can join the conversation.

Tune into the TEDxRVA “re___” conversation this week with a Tweet Chat organized by Rhudy & Co. on Tuesday, March 18, from 8 to 9 p.m. The TEDxRVA team and some of the participating speakers will be there to ask and answer questions.

Meg closed her TED talk by saying “30 is not the new 20. Claim your identity. Don’t be defined by what you didn’t know or didn’t do. You’re deciding your life right now.” In other words, create or maybe even recreate who you are.

Buy tickets and learn more about TEDxRVA.

Megan Jacoby is a 20-something navigating through this crazy ride we call life. She can’t promise it will be graceful, but it sure will be fun. Megan serves on the communications team for TEDxRVA thanks to Rhudy & Co.'s in-kind sponsorship of the 2014 event.



• Learn ‘The Power of Connection’ in this TEDxRVA Talk by Talley Baratka

“To create authentic relationships – real relationship with people – you have to be in the heart space to be molded and shaped by somebody else.”

Impact 100 Founder & RVA Community Advocate Talley Baratka These were a few of the words by my friend Talley Baratka at the TEDxRVA Women conference in Richmond last December. I was fortunate to watch Talley speak in person. Her inspiring remarks were straight from her giant heart. Just ask any of my colleagues, friends and clients who were there.

Take 10 minutes to watch Talley’s TED talk and find out why says she was “put here on here on Earth to be a connector of people and to activate a passion for community.”

About Impact 100 RVA
Over the past five years since starting Impact 100 Richmond, I’ve seen area nonprofits benefit from Talley’s leadership and passion to motivate women to give. The premise of Impact 100 – partnering with The Community Foundation – is simple: 100 women each give $1,000 to help one nonprofit with a transformative grant.

But here’s the big news – we are incredibly close to awarding two $100,000 grants this year at our Big Give in May. We need just a few more Richmond women to join us.

The world is watching
And here's some bigger news – Talley’s visionary work is getting noticed.

On March 6, 2014, the National Association of Women Business Owners' Richmond Foundation presented Talley with its prestigious Community Leader recognition as part of its Enterprising Women of Excellence Awards.

The program honors outstanding women in various categories from the Greater Richmond metropolitan area. Learn more.

Talley led Capital One’s philanthropic initiatives for years before joining us to help Rhudy & Co. clients. We are fortunate to have her talents, energy and passion on our team.

Michele Rhudy finds inspiration serving on the leadership team of Impact 100 with Talley and others.  Michele says, "Talley’s a busy mother of three like me trying to keep everything in balance. Somehow, she makes it look easier than it really is.”


• Cruising Toward Better Health One Step at a Time -- What I’ve Learned from My Employee Wellness Client

When you take a fall cruise to New England and Canada, you get the delight of seeing life about 40 years in the future. My husband and I were almost always the youngest people in the room, and we’re not young.

Seeing people in their golden years, enjoying a cruise, doing a little ballroom dancing and heading out on excursions to new places gave me unexpected joy, especially seeing people doing so while celebrating 40th, 50th and 60th wedding anniversaries.

One couple asked how long my husband and I had been married and when we replied 18 years, the gentleman smiled and said, “You’re just getting started."

Watching these seniors reminded me of the importance of good health. While I’m no fitness guru, one thing I’ve learned from my clients at Bon Secours Virginia Employee Wellness, it’s that you’ve got to take command of your health. You can’t passively hope all will turn out well as you ignore good nutrition, avoid activity and fail to manage chronic conditions.

I think they’ve rubbed off on me.

About a month before the cruise, I got an activity tracker called a FitBit and loved it so much I convinced my husband to get one too. I guessed we’d probably not even bring them on the cruise because we wouldn’t have Wi-Fi to sync them up. But we did.

And while I can’t say I’ve been a model for good nutrition, I’ve made some healthy choices. Only twice in our week-long cruise did I take the elevator — and that’s with us on the 5th floor and most activities on the 12th and 13th floors. I used the walking track almost every day.

I am not sure I would have had this awareness without our Wellness friends, and for that I’m thankful.  I’m not there yet, but I’m glad they’ve helped to set me on a better course — as I step toward a future I got to see up close and personal while cruising the North Atlantic.

Donna Dunn's favorite activity is walking — great for getting moving, clearing one's head and thinking creatively. 



• Main Player at ‘Downton Abbey’ No Longer Main Player Today

As the final episode of Season 4 “Downton Abbey” will air on PBS Sunday, Feb 23, my four-week obsession with this television show will be on hiatus. That is, until Season 5 begins. Find out what "main player at the Abbey no longer is a player today. HINT: It involves ink, paper and good penmanship.

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• The Need for Strategic Thinking in the 60-Second News Cycle -- Plus, 5 Tips for Thinking Fast

With the information explosion, especially in social media, in the past five years, public relations professionals have become an invaluable part of strategic planning for both corporations and nonprofits.

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• My Husband's in the Super Bowl ... Press Box ... Here's What I See

Nicole van Esselstyn’s husband, Drew van Esselstyn, has covered (including the one coming on Sunday) four Super Bowls, each of which has featured a Manning. Coincidence? The three Super Bowls Drew has covered were won by the teams with a Manning as QB. Will Sunday make it a clean sweep? Learn how Nicole sees Super Bowl via her husband who has been in the press box during three of the NFL's biggest games.

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• Feeding the Media Machine for the 100th Anniversary of Flight

Today marks 110 years since Orville Wright flew at 10:35 a.m. on Dec. 17, 1903, on a sandy beach dune in North Carolina. The two bicycle-building brothers from Dayton, Ohio, fired up a four-cylinder engine and embarked on the first manned, sustained, powered flight. Learn about the media frenzy surrounding the 100th anniversary of flight in 2003 from the media relations lead for EAA's Countdown to Kitty Hawk program.

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