By Melissa A Vitale
Opening a business doesn’t come with a definitive how-to guide, and community centers don’t teach courses on “Being the best entrepreneur you can be.” Much of what business owners learn comes from experience, expertise, or reading. Longtime and prospective clients ask me all the time for advice on increasing their visibility on social media, improving their professional presence, and other publicity-related topics. They want to know “What is best for this campaign?” or “How can I present myself better in front of investors?” You could schedule a pricey session with a media consultant to answer these and other questions, or consider buying the five books that I think every business owner needs to read to ensure success.
“Pitch Perfect: How to Say It Right the First Time, Every Time”
By Bill McGowan; Buy it on Amazon.
If you can say something memorable in five words, don’t waste your audience’s time expressing that same thought in 15 or 20 words, thereby risking losing people’s attention. Similarly, sometimes you need to distill a complex thought. If you can’t do that already, I recommend learning this essential skill. In today’s connected world, it’s not enough to have a great business. You need to be able to communicate that effectively every day, and “Pitch Perfect” will help you do it.
“Influencer: Building Your Personal Brand in the Age of Social Media”
By Brittany Hennessy ; Buy it on Amazon.
Before I even finished reading this book, I had already recommended it to more than 10 people, because Brittany knows social media, and she shares her knowledge here. This book is the answer when clients ask me what they can do to attract more attention on social media. This book is targeted to influencers, so some sections may not apply to everyone. But in this day and age, succeeding in business requires having a functional social media presence. You don’t always have to hire an expensive agency; sometimes all you need is a copy of “Influencer.” Brittany’s observations, tips, and expertise will help any business owner.
“The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, 5th Edition: The Official Style Guide Used by the Writers and Editors of the World's Most Authoritative News Organization”
By Allan M. Siegal & William Connolly; Buy it on Amazon.
Unless you are a professionally trained editor, I suggest keeping a copy of this on the bookshelf by your desk. After purchasing this indispensable manual, first skim it and note your personal problem areas. Go ahead: Mark it up for later, and keep it handy whenever you’re writing an important brief or email. It’s more consistent and reliable than an online search, and it’s what the professionals use.
“How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships”
By Leil Lowndes; Buy it on Amazon.
Sometimes, I read books to help clients more than myself, so when I picked up this book originally, I thought only its later chapters would be useful because the beginning sections looked more like the classic media training I give my clients. Surprise! I was taking notes from Page 1. Every business owner is constantly on a stage: either performing for customers, employees, the media, or auditioning for investors. Even the biggest wallflower will benefit from the book, cultivating the confidence necessary to take on any social or professional event.
“PeopleSmart: Developing Your Interpersonal Intelligence”
By Melvin Silberman & Freda Hansburg; Buy it on Amazon.
No matter how much every business owner tries to avoid them, situations involving socialization and networking arise, times when not only must you put your best foot forward, you need to be able to accurately read every person with whom you are interacting. Entailing science and research, this book also includes a workbook format to reinforce everything you just read, preventing the knowledge from going in one ear and out the other. PeopleSmart is essential for business owners looking to step up their networking game.
These books will present you with essential tools to face many the challenges that come your way as a business owner or entrepreneur. Enjoy your reading my fellow hustlers. If you've read any of these books, let us know in the comments if you agree with our suggestions!
If you are a small-business owner looking to explore public relations services, please get in touch with us
How to avoid refiling your taxes within your first year of business
This post is a personal lesson that we hope to share with other young entrepreneurs heading into their first year of business. For other great material on Public Relations, please find more great blogs below. For those interested in hearing about my first year of taxes as a business owner, read on.
By Melissa A Vitale
I had been operating my business for about four months in 2017 when another new business owner asked me for my expertise on how to handle taxes. The conversation was winded, because it wasn’t easy to explain that frankly, I didn’t know what I was doing, nor was it a priority as it probably should have been. When I started my PR Firm, I was more concerned about clients and revenue than business expenses and taxes.
“Don’t take my advice,” I finally told her. “If I earn enough that I need to worry about taxes this year, I will… but 2017-Melissa will bring in the revenue and 2018-Melissa will worry about the taxes.”
In the meantime, when it came to taxes, everyone, or so it seemed, had advice for me.
My friends have never been in the position of investing their savings, and launching a business with little planning, direction, or resources would chide early on to be sure that I saved 30 percent of all revenue for taxes.
“If I did that, I wouldn’t be able to eat,” I coldly responded in the first months on business.
Like that unsolicited advice, I ignored the concept of taxes for most of 2017 and focused on one thing: building my business, Melissa A Vitale Public Relations, from the foundation up.
In my mind, I could either worry about taxes or worry about generating revenue; without money coming in, I wouldn’t need to worry about paying Uncle Sam anyway. I looked at the opportunity cost and decided what was more beneficial overall and made a note to ask around for CPAs come 2018 while my business continued to grow.
Well, 2018 came…and January passed…then February. In early March, I started calling Certified Public Accountants. Most laughed at my attempt to hire an accountant so close to April 15! Luckily, one angel (referred to me by la famiglia, so my Italian upbringing approved!) accepted the project that my taxes became.
I hadn’t been using any business tools at first, but six months or so in, I luckily adopted QuickBooks for my invoices. While my invoices were half-tracked, my expenses were only kept in my bank statements. Long story short, my CPA was in for a hell of a time.
She tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade me to report exactly all my expenses, but the idea of perusing multiple statements across 12 months seemed impossible.
I asked every CPA I ran into if I could estimate my expenses until I found one who declared, “Absolutely.”
As you can expect: Worst. Advice. Ever.
With this misinformation, I used everything I could, calendars, emails and agendas, all my written records except my bank statements, to estimate my overall expenses for 2017, with the promise to be much more diligent for 2018
Still evolving from employee to business owner, I approached taxes the way I had most school exams: prepare a little, wing it, and hope for the best. As you can guess by the headline, things didn’t turn out the best they could have, not without a refile that is.
I finished my taxes and owed what I felt was a fair amount. If my revenue had been a salary, I would have been taxed nearly triple the amount my CPA came up with, so to me, the first-year owner of an LLC, I thought that was just fine.
While I was setting up a payment plan with my CPA to start paying my year-end taxes without losing a lump sum, I kept my promise for tax diligence and began entering expenses from January to April 2018 into QuickBooks. Once I started entering my expenses, I realized that technology had made things so easy for business owners, and I didn’t even take the time to notice.
My CPA began sending me emails about the estimated taxes I owed for the first quarter of 2018. Suddenly, what I thought was reasonable was no longer sustainable with a new business.
I looked at my actual expenses for the year and realized, I may have made a big enough mistake to actually impact my finances, and therefore business capabilities for the following year.
I did a bit of research on my own about tax laws and got myself up to shape. I inserted all my expenses that I had (because credit card statements expire 12 months retroactively, I lost the first six statements of 2017 by the time I sat down to refile) into QuickBooks, and realized I made a paramount mistake: I underclaimed close to $25,000 in expenses.
I called new CPAs, ones that specialized in startups and small businesses and decided to refile with one who comprehended my financial situation, experience and goals.
My new CPA laughed at the difference of expenses and informed me that not only did I owe the IRS less, I probably deserved a refund.
I went from struggling to pay my taxes to sending out one, simple check, but again, it wasn’t without a refile. While I was able to condense that story into under 1000 words, the actual 6-month timeframe included months of calls between two CPAs, hours on the phone with banks, weekends pouring over invoices and expenses and a lot of tears and sweat to be able to get a letter from the IRS in the mail without anxiety.
I realize that a lot of business owners will read all this and roll their eyes. “Stupid Millennial, no shit you have to track all your expenses.”
You’re right. Most business owners know this. However, there are more new, young business owners everyday, all wondering the same thing: do I need to worry about taxes my first year of business?
Not only did I learn that lesson, I made the mistakes so others can avoid it.
I want to own my mistakes as a young business owner, because I want others to learn from them the same way I did.
My QuickBooks is now impeccable. I update my information faster than my CPA can check in on it, and I would never have that diligence if I didn’t go through almost of year of Refile-hell.
So take it from me: don’t estimate your expenses. Brew some coffee. Roll something fat. Turn on your hustle music. Hunker down and do whatever you need to do to focus because when it comes to taxes, no matter how young your business is, you need to be accurate.
If my mistake can help one person avoid the same trial, sharing this tale will all be worth it.
Sometimes we business owners want to save time to focus on the important things: namely, bringing in revenue. Taxes are one of those compulsory things that, if not given the proper time or attention the first time, can become even more costly.
Maybe you found this page from a Google search.
Now that you’re here, have a look around and learn about what we do,
or if your brand is ready for PR:
Contrary to a conservative-leaning federal government, public opinion continues to tilt in a liberal direction, especially on the subjects of sexual wellness and legal cannabis.
Most police officers in large cities won’t waste their time anymore detaining or even questioning pedestrians smoking cannabis. Every day, women are reclaiming their sexuality from the patriarchy that has sought to exploit and control them. Even on the most generic of ad spaces, the walls of subway cars, riders can find promotions for pills aimed at men with erectile dysfunction, panties for women who don’t want to wear tampons, and funny-but-serious messages reminding passengers to get tested for STDs.
Attitudes about sex, spirituality, and drug culture are changing every day, whether you’re a college student walking into a dispensary to grab edibles to relax before an exam or a young woman scanning the growing list of powerful, predatory men accused of sexual misconduct. Most importantly, research is igniting the revolution. In the past year, educational content on the clitoris has tripled. Pharmaceutical companies are exploring THC- and CBD-powered drugs. The days of sweeping alternative notions under the rug and hoping the younger generation doesn’t notice are gone.
Also gone are the days of hypocritical, hysterical anti-drug films about the “horrors” of marijuana, the reputed “gateway drug.” The medical community now acknowledges that cannabis can safely and effectively alleviate many conditions in women and men. Gone, too, are the repressive days when adults had to slink to the back of a pharmacy and lurk at the counter until everyone else had gone before purchasing intimate products meant to stimulate pleasure sensors. It’s all out in the open — available over the counter, on TV, or online. Step right up: no waiting, no embarrassment necessary.
Intimate brands for women — with targeted, high-grade products that women and men want to use — are exploding in the marketplace, and finally answering the question: What do women want? In that same regard, cannabis companies with pure-extraction processes, quality-sourced material, and modern customer-service practices are the norm now. The same goes for legal cannabis itself.
Consumer brands for sexual wellness and legal cannabis have been condensed into one catchall group: VICE CATEGORY. Since 2013, the proliferation of vice category consumer products has exploded and will continue to inspire entrepreneurs looking to cater to people interested in investing money in their sex lives and smoking pleasure.
From disruptive female-led sexual-wellness companies like DAME and THINX to science-backed cannabis manufacturers like Aboslute Xtracts and TopStone, today’s vice category brands are far from the primitive toys you bought at seedy sex shops or the lumpy joints you purchased furtively from a dealer outside a concert venue.
As such, it’s crucial that these brands not only sell and run their business differently, but also interact with their customers and potential customers modernly, often through targeted media campaigns and in-depth press coverage. It’s not enough to have a publicist or a vague strategy when it comes to sex and cannabis public relations; standing out in this emerging industry requires a compelling brand story beyond the sensationalism of sex or cannabis and can curate memorable: profitable storylines that resonate with media and customers alike. Given these sensitive topics, one bad media experience can lead to a full-on scandal, so reliable media relations is essential for emerging vice-category brands.
While there are many wonderful lifestyle firms that cater to sexual wellness and cannabis brands, targeted and specialized boutique firms catering to startups and emerging brands can carry the expertise of a large firm with the hustle of a freelancer.
Here’s what to look for when picking a publicist or PR firm for your vice category brand:
Education over sensation
Many brands with low media exposure can feel “all press is good press.” Publicists who sell that notion tend to curate the type of sensational brands that trigger negative backlash in the comments section, and sometimes even in broader published reports. Rather than investing in a publicist who curates headlines around the price, a celebrity following, or the sensational reaction, hire the PR professional who takes time to educate the media beyond just introducing the brand. Adding education to your media strategy creates loyalty among audiences who seek brands out for their expertise beyond their product.
Example: “The 22K Vibrator Beyoncé Owns” vs. “Why investing in self-pleasure can lead to career empowerment”
Storytelling over headlines
There can be only so many articles “Introducing the latest women-led sex-tech company.” Rather than pitching another feature with that tiresome headline, an adept publicist generates unique and original storylines, piquing the interest of journalists.
Example: “This rolling paper is made with 24K gold” vs. “How to host the ultimate Gatsby-themed party, complete with elegant smoking accessories”
Media relationships over news blasts
Many consumer-focused PR firms have databases containing thousands of press contacts, most of whom don’t cover specific topics regularly but will gladly accept product that may sit in their office unopened for months.
A specialized publicist understands the likely budgeting constraints of vice-category brands. Often, such brands are startups lacking the ability to gift 50 samples for just a couple of placements in return. A publicist who keeps a brand’s budget in mind and relies on her media relationships to create a powerful campaign always produces more ROI for the client than a PR firm that merely blasts information into cyberspace and hopes it intrigues an influential reporter or blogger.
Example: Gifting 100 samples to random media outlets and receiving fewer than 10 secured placements vs. sending 15 samples to targeted journalists with 10 secured placements
Executive expertise over product placements
Googling “best sex/cannabis products of 2018” reveals to anyone with an eye for public relations the top journalists and writers featuring vice-category consumer products. Merely placing a product in a roundup of “Ways to get high at a summer festival” doesn’t spotlight the brand as much as coming up with topics and commentary points for executives that fit into news cycles.
Publicists and marketing aficionados alike learn how to place products as interns: It’s PR 101. Curating a thoughtful storyline or showcasing relevant expertise that writers, bloggers, and vloggers can use in their coverage, however, requires patience, timing, skill, creativity, and commitment to every client.
Melissa A. Vitale PR is known as a “sniper-PR firm” because of its penchant for high-target, quality press placements with leaner models than typical NYC-based PR agencies.
If you are an emerging brand in the vice-category space wondering whether PR is a fit for you, please set up a consultation with us today! https://www.melissaavitale.com/consulting.html
To learn more about MAVPR’s expertise in Vice Category PR, please visit: https://www.melissaavitale.com/vice.html
Relying on a proprietary strategy, storytelling, and strong relationships across the media industry, Melissa A. Vitale Public Relations delivers full-feature results for clients. For service inquiries, please visit: https://www.melissaavitale.com/services.html
Melissa A Vitale Public Relations
A public relations agency specializing in brands and startups in artificial intelligence, sexual wellness and legal cannabis.