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.

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

A new dad with his baby girl circa September 2001

A new dad with his baby girl circa September 2001

My 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.