By Melissa A. Vitale
I barely remember hosting my first family party when I was 17 years-old. However, I do vividly remember my racing heart and constant worry of my anxiety throughout the entire affair. Fast forward to this past holiday season where I seemingly-effortlessly hosted family for Christmas Eve and Day without stress. The big difference? The years of hosting press-events in between. Throughout my career as a publicist, I've arrived nearly-on-time to events hosted by my clients with the promise that everything would be ready upon my arrival; all I had to do was show up. So rarely is this the case for any publicist. I've done everything to unboxing sex furniture unexpectedly delivered from Croatia or booking last-minute talent to cleaning toilets or running across town for last-minute pick-ups of replacements for deliveries that never showed.
Over the years, I've gotten wiser and show up early to client-run events prepared for the worst yet hoping for the best, with sleeves rolled up to do anything needed to get ready for the arrival of guests and press list. When hosting my own events--whether personal or professional, though often a combination--I rarely feel stress anymore because I've gotten it down to a science.
Be Flexible with your Time-Slots
Whether renting a space or hosting in your own home, don't expect anything to be on time, it rarely is. Rather, anticipate windows from when you want to start getting the space ready, when to expect guests arrivals, features throughout the evening and when you want certain foods or cocktails served. Create your schedule sequentially rather than based on a certain time. If you want a panel to start or a course to be served within 45 minutes of guest arrivals, don't set your alarm for 7:45 with a 7:00 start time. Rather, wait for enough guests to arrive to signify half, and then plan from there.
Plan your Preparation in Advance
Don't think about preparation for the first time the day of an event. Typically a week before an event, I make my schedule for the day of and surrounding the event. If there's tasks I can do far in advance like picking up any decorations or branded material, or creating custom pieces like place cards, food labels, gift tags etc, I schedule those into the four or five days before the event. The day of, I plan for things like when I want the venue to be ready, when I want to be ready, and everything I know I need to do for an event. When I'm hosting in my house, I think of things like when I want to light candles, turn on music. For a venue those can be final lighting, placement of branded materials, bar open etc. If you have childcare to consider, meals to be eaten in between preparing, make sure you're scheduling the required time for those activities. You'll have a lot less stress the day of if you know exactly what you need to do to get through the event without issues.
The more people involved in an event, the better chances there are in delays or last-minute changes. If you're working with a lot of talent, plan for a call-time for each that is earlier than it needs to be and make them aware of it when negotiating the event. If someone is notorious for showing up late, tell them an earlier start time. Don't take chances when you're hosting an event where timeliness is required.
Articulate Any and ALL Entrance Instructions
When family members come to parties at my dad's house, there's no need for entrance instructions: everyone has been coming through the side door for twenty-plus years. When your hosting an event in a city, there's a possibility for bells to rung, doormen and security to be screened by, stairs to climb, elevators to ride, door codes, intercoms, coatchecks and I really don't need to go on but absolutely could with all the obstacles there are to get into an event in the city. Unless you plan of having signage from the street to the event, include entrance instructions or risk your guests turning away before entering.
Use What's On Hand
We all have that last-minute alarm that asks us do we have enough of XYZ. From drinks, food or even branded content from some of my client events, I always worry if I have enough. Before I go running to the store for purchases I probably don't need, I look around me. If I need props for a client I go into my office and all the materials of projects passed and stuff whatever I can into a tote bag before I head to the venue. When I'm thinking about cocktails when I'm hosting, I go through my fruit drawer in the fridge and my bar cart for open bottles and mix something from there. I often find creative solutions that make for a fun party story over the drinks table.
Always Plan for More
Especially for after-work or weekend events that don't require a sit-down place-setting, there's a chance a few of your guests may want to bring someone or someones that they're currently with. Always plan enough refreshments for more people, and if there's too much, your guests are usually happy to help make sure there's no waste.
My mother was a legendary hostess, and she always advocated that when hosting, the only thing you should have to do by the time your guests is open a bottle of wine. With thoughtful planning and savvy thinking, event planning whether on behalf of a brand or friends and family, can bring more joy and success than hiccups and stress.
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By Melissa A Vitale
Marketing - including social media marketing, public relations and advertising are so varied and interconnected that the title “publicist” doesn’t encompass one specific set of job roles. Some publicists are aces in turning drab social media paces into platforms ripe with revenue turning content while other publicists stay far away from social media management. Other publicists aren’t trained in crisis PR where some publicists live for corporate internal panic.
The type of public relations this post is going to break down is media relations and strategy that lead to organic, earned media placements, or getting placed in top tier outlets like Forbes, Glamour and Tech Crunch without having to pay advertising costs.
Earned media typically comes in three different forms: round-ups, thought-leadership commentary, and full feature profiles. Round-ups are popular ways to feature companies or products in a grouped article that pairs a common theme. Popular round-ups are Gift Guides, Lists of essentials for travel or holidays and seasonal must-haves. For a sex toy brand, a round-up like “Top ten accessories for the perfect date night” in Allure would be ideal to be included in. Thought leadership and commentary from brand executives are another vehicle for earned media. Journalists who cover specific industry topics are always looking for expert insight to prove a claim their making in an article. For a tech startup, having their CEO quoted in International Business Times’ “Top tech trends of 2020” could put their brand’s message in the forefront of industry conversation. Finally, in the crème-de-la-crème of earned media placements is full feature profiles. This is an entire article dedicate to a single company or co-founder, or executive.
So how do publicists go about getting these types of placements for our clients?
Leveraging our relationship combined with innovative strategy.
A publicist’s job is to know what publications, editors and journalists are working on specific stories that may be a fit for their client’s products or perspective. We do this by maintaining strong relationships with journalists everyday through events, pitches, emails, calls, desksides, market appointments, and the ever-favorite: press entertaining,
A large portion of a publicist’s job is to take lunch, dinners, and go out and stay connected with journalists so they always have a read on what journalists are doing. For clients, this means that when you hire a publicist, you have someone sitting down with writers at New York Post and MarketWatch and editors of Rolling Stone and SELF on behalf of your brand.
To keep conversations relevant (and our clients in editors inboxes) publicists are consistently coming up with fresh pitches with catchy product roundup categories, insightful industry commentary and unique inside perspective to whet a journalist's interest. These regular pitches are just a small portion of the media relations process.
Before hiring a publicist, a brand’s best hope of having media features is being discovered by journalists buying the product for themselves, researching for a story or perusing on social media. With a publicist, brands are being represented in the conversations that move industries.
Many of the industry trend stories that my clients have been in came as a result of discussing the ins-and-outs of the industry over drinks and a joint, and that conversation sticking with the reporter when a certain topic is assigned.
All earned media is contingent on a number of factors including an editorial calendar which is governed by an Editor-in-Chief, or an Online Editorial Director, advertising schedule and reader demographics and habits. When it comes down to why certain brands cannot be covered by all outlets is all a matter of man-hours and time that can be spent: for every story there are photo assistants, editorial assistants, researchers, fact-checkers, editors and writers who need to put together a single piece. Some months, there is simply no more time planned and no budget for additional writers that even if an editor loves what a brand is doing, their hands are tied, and they must revisit the topic another time. You could have the best or most expensive publicist but if there isn’t opening for a story, the only thing you could do is potentially risk the relationship with an editor with aggressiveness.
Media relations for earned media are a combination of outbound pitches and inbound requests. Pitches from publicists suggesting story ideas that may be compelling to readers offer journalists access to companies and insight that they might not normally have to tell a certain story. While journalists always have a steady stream of assigned stories that require experts. When they need experts, rather than going to one individual source, they go to their trusted publicists who will always connect them to expert, trusted, reliable insight.
This is why publicist focus on relationships. Reminding the editor months down the line when they’re looking for brand stories to fill their editorial calendar can be the difference between a full feature and just lukewarm interest. A strong relationship can also lead to dozens in inbound requests that turn to client features from without having to send a single pitch. The longer you work with a publicist, the more placements you get because the brand slowly aligns with more editorial calendars and openings.
A publicist is like a duck, on the surface, you may see them doing just one thing: getting drinks, or out at an event, but under the surface, like a duck’s rapidly moving webbed-feet, there are thousands of conversations, hundreds of story ideas, and dozens of documents ready for press on specific experts, brands, products etc all underneath the surface.
MAVPR has built a reputation as a trusted source for editors and press that commentary from our clients is relevant to the reader, on-message for the client, thought-provoking in the industry and always delivered to the journalist on time, respectful of their deadline and other sources, making us a popular choice for expert commentary requests from outlets like Forbes, Bustle, Refinery29, Benzinga and more.
To learn more about becoming a MAVPR client and our services, please visit: melissaavitale.com/services.html
By Melissa A Vitale
My goal for MAVPR is to be the ANTI-PR firm: to do more than send media alerts and press releases, but actually curate brand stories and trend conversations that audiences can't help but click on. Not only do I craft more curated pitches than a long press release, but I research each and every contact before pitching.
I am human: If you received a pitch that isn’t a fit for your beat, I may have found a specific assignment of yours and assumed you cover the topic regularly. Sending me a note of your personal and professional coverage preferences will make sure I only send you the most curated pitches for what you and your audiences will find innovative. I work across Sex, AI, Tech Startups, and Cannabis, Wellness, Luxury and everything in-between and I'm sure I have an angle you'd like to sink your teeth into.
Let me take a moment to introduce myself: I am the publicist that “knows what’s up”. I’m a sex and cannabis positive Brooklynite with roots in New Jersey so I don’t like to beat around the bush. I smoke way too much weed to follow up 5 times on a single email as I’ve seen some publicists do. I even have an app that tells me if you’ve read an email so sometimes, I use that to avoid follow up at all. Nice right?
I’ll go out of my way to make sure I don’t come off as a pushy, coverage hounding publicist. If you want to feature my clients, great... I’ll have all image and quote assets ready for you on your deadline. If not, keep them in your inbox for future stories. I try to make sure all my pitches are engaging and all my targets are relevant. If they are neither, please let me know! I welcome feedback and thoroughly enjoy writing emails I know press will love.
When I send a pitch, I'm not expecting you to stop what you're doing and cover that angle. But I know that in the coming months, it may be useful to have that pitch sitting in your inbox for when you assigned a relevant topic.
I only work with brands I love and support, so if I’m telling you a product is great, it’s not because I’m paid to do so; its because I actually work with some amazing clients and therefore I want you to try them, and make sure your audiences know about them. Along with brands I adore, I genuinely love working with media who are great and passionate about what they do. From an early age I've always respected journalists and held them on a pedestal. The journalists I work with are more than just a field in an email blast: I see the human behind each headline, and I'd rather build a strong relationship than make you feel used with every pitch you get.
Being based in NYC, I work with a number of event producers and brand events taking advantage of New York’s media hub. If you get an event invite, please RSVP without worrying that I require coverage or will hound you for weeks after the event. I am not the Coverage C*nt! During the event, I won’t even be the pesky fly on your shoulder asking you if you see an angle yet from an event. If you come to an event, that is great! If you cover an event, you will be invited to every single event I ever host. If you come to an event and cover a related topic without including my client, then maybe lets talk, lol! Come to an event, enjoy, and if something sparks your interest (and I do some cool events from erotic off-broadway plays, immersive play parties, CBD self-care nights and cannabis speakeasies and dinner series, so I’m sure your fancy will be tickled), we’ll make sure you have all the event details, photos and b-roll you need. One thing to note, I try to offer plus ones and press bags to all plus ones, but with startups and emerging brands, my clients don’t always have the budget to do so.
Beyond pitches and product samples, if you’re in or traveling to NYC, I would love to make sure you get to an event I host and take things offline and actually get to know each other. The more I know you and what and how you like the cover topics and brands, the better I can communicate to you in the long run (aka the more enjoyable our working relationship can be).
Outside of events, I love to take things offline for a drink, a smoke, a night on the town, an evening in hanging out with my 20-lb Maine coon over a bottle of champagne and some snacks Italian-mom style (cheese plate, meat plate, and dessert plate all served at different times). Just because we work together doesn’t mean it has to be dry. We work in media this is why we do it! These are the perks!!
Sadly, I’ve had some journalists say that I ruin all other publicists for them, and I probably will. I hate that some people in my industry are so pushy and ill-mannered that they ruin the name publicist (one of the reasons I wrote this post). I’ve met some other incredible boss babes who “get it” as well and we focus more on telling great stories and offering great angles, products and education to strong media relations, but we probably only make up 1% of the PR industry.
Because I don’t work for a larger firm, I often miss the gossip of public relations. As a result, bad PR tactics are my erotica, so if you have a horror story you’d like to share, I’d love, love to hear it. Seriously I would love to know how bad some people can get because this way, when I pitch a lot one week, I don’t feel as bad.
I’m happy that I provide the best service I can not just to my clients but to the journalists I work with every day.
PR is not the only goal in the next 20 years, I want to be president, and I want to transform human rights conditions globally, and I have the 20 year plan to prove it. For that reason, I’m passionate without being jaded, because I know media is just the first of my many careers (and if you’re politically minded, we could literally talk for hours!)
If you saw something that made you laugh above, let me know. I’d love to know what we already have in common
Thanks for reading and looking forward to working with you!
A public relations agency specializing in brands and startups across plant and intimate wellness