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
By Melissa A. Vitale
When scrolling online these days, you cannot escape another meme, headline, or tweet about blockchain, cryptocurrency, bitcoin, or a new service switching over to blockchain technology through an ICO, or initial coin offering. From the finance sector to the health-care industry, businesses are eager to adopt blockchain technology for its encryption and potential for customization based on business needs. If it seems like there's a new ICO daily, it’s because there practically has been since the start of the year. Brands looking to adopt blockchain technology haven’t just crowded the space; they’ve oversaturated it. Not that long ago, bitcoin and blockchain were buzzwords that only your tech-savvy cousin used; now, it seems like everyone has a “token.”
So many brands are drinking the crypto Kool-Aid because it’s an exciting technology. It currently lacks stringent regulation from most major governments (and judging from how slowly the U.S. government is grappling with Facebook’s data breach, it will be months, maybe years, before Congress gets around to looking into any possibly adverse effects of blockchain). Companies are quickly jumping on the crypto bandwagon for the security and convenience it offers their customers and client base, not to mention the potential of automatizing and personalizing the platform.
Well-backed ICOs are seeking the help of digital marketers and public relations agencies to catapult their ICO to bitcoin heights. A PR campaign for an ICO can help establish the credentials of the names behind the currency, garner industry recognition for disruption, and reach interested investors and potential customers. Because of the crowded space and the range of marketing, advertising, and communications strategies available in this rapidly growing industry, not all ICOs are a fit for a public relations campaign.
Below, Melissa A. Vitale Public Relations rounds up the questions to ask before considering a public relations plan.
Digital currencies can operate on different blockchains, with Ethereum and Hashgraph being two of the most talked about beyond bitcoin. Depending on the blockchain that hosts your token, there may be more journalists tracking trends, growth and predictions, specifically at top-tier news outlets.
Is there an executive voice that needs to be heard?
Some ICOs are integrated into an established brand that’s already thriving, and some are meant to modernize outdated business models. Whatever the reason, usually there’s an insightful, newsworthy executive spearheading the strategy whose expertise would intrigue the media. ICOs that launch with no concrete purpose or direction, or without a team of executives passionate about the technology, typically do not excite news outlets.
Do you have big names or industry leaders behind the brand?
Unfortunately, blockchain and cryptocurrency are two fields of “fin tech” that are flooded with novices, overeager entrepreneurs, or amateurs hoping they have discovered the next big thing. If the partners and voices behind an ICO have a degree of industry recognition (either within finance, technology, or the industry they are adopting their coin for), they will stand out among the recreational investors.
Are you one of the first in your industry? Do you have an interesting story to tell?
While you certainly will not be the first company to adopt blockchain technology, you may be one of the trailblazers in your industry or sector launching a coin for a specific role or purpose. Even if there are a few competitors in your exact space, you can still attract media attention to your ICO, so long as you have an exciting or trendsetting brand story. A consultation with a professional publicist can asses brand appeal and target storylines.
Are there investors onboard?
Although typically not a make-or-break aspect of an ICO, well-funded tokens can typically focus on aesthetics, social presence, branding, and internal thought leadership, rather than just purpose, through a blog or press page, in addition to a full-scale media campaign.
Can you compete against well-groomed competitors?
Whenever you scan visuals depicting the explosion of ICOs hitting the interwebs, you will notice how few competitors you would have had if you had launched your ICO two, three, or up to five years ago. Now, many of the biggest industry names and brands are into the crypto craze, and if a protégé of Warren Buffett’s offers a coin even remotely similar to yours, he or she will interest the important journalists, unless, of course, your coin outshines theirs. The one thing that the media love more than big names is an underdog story. So how do you compete? Success stories and impressive or unexpected data-driven results are the foundation on which a publicist can build a compelling narrative.
If your ICO is ready for public relations, get in touch with us today.
In a rapidly moving industry, only a consultation with a professional publicist working with cryptocurrencies can assess whether your ICO is a fit for a public relations campaign. To learn more about rates and to schedule an introductory consultation with Melissa A. Vitale Public Relations, visit: https://www.melissaavitale.com/consulting.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 examples of work please visit: https://www.melissaavitale.com/in-the-news.html
New PR service tailored for enterprising professionals
Melissa A Vitale Public Relations, a boutique firm for disruptive startups and small businesses, is pleased to announce its latest service: the Executive PR Package. Designed for entrepreneurs and enterprising professionals who want to boost their media exposure through commentary and feature articles, the Executive PR Package brings all the prestige and recognition of working with a public relations agency, but without the expensive agency price tag.
“Since starting the agency, I’ve been approached by executives and professionals who were ready to present their individual brand to the media,” says MAVPR founder Melissa A. Vitale, “but they weren’t looking for the full-service costs and time commitment of working with an agency.”
The new service boasts staples of MAVPR’s signature media campaigns, including industry thought leadership, executive visibility opportunities, storytelling and top-tier media relations services customized for individuals looking to accelerate their media presence and expert voice.
Ideal candidates for the Executive PR package include:
After a detailed proposal process that aligns goals, messaging, and audience, MAVPR works in quarterly engagements to establish and expand brand voice in lifestyle, business, and cultural thought pieces, executive profiles, and industry roundups.
Executive PR packages begin at $2K per month; prices vary based on industry, goals, and overall press appeal.
Started in early 2017 as a solution to inefficient media relations, Melissa A Vitale PR has grown from a single sniper publicist to a team of empowered boss-babes known for their on-message, viral, and feature placements. Spearheading the team, Melissa A. Vitale offers a brand of no-nonsense PR that focuses on the art of relationship building, storytelling, and strategic media planning. Melissa's strategy has resulted in consecutive cover stories and cross-industry recognition, along with feature print, online, and broadcast coverage and placements, in some of the most recognizable media outlets.
To learn more about rates and to book an intro call or consultation, please visit: https://www.melissaavitale.com/services.html
It’s not exactly a “To be or not to be” Shakespearean conundrum, but eventually the founders of every startup must answer this question: “Big fee or not big fee?” In other words, should you hire an established, decorated, and pricey public relations agency or a comparatively cheaper independent or freelance publicist? So long as you do your research before investing in a PR campaign, which means choosing someone with a proven track record, either option should yield top-tier results. PR agencies have teams of publicists, each with a wealth of contacts and relationships with media outlets, but they also have higher overhead: posh offices, MacBook computers, Pellegrino instead of Poland Spring water, etc. Independent publicists have a leaner business model, but they typically have fewer contacts and influential relationships.
Deciding whether an agency or a freelancer is the best fit for your brand depends on a variety of factors:
Scope of work
Depending on your marketing and communications needs, press coverage alone may not be the only goal when hiring a publicity professional. Brands often want a one-stop shop for content curation, branding deck, content writing, video production, affiliate marketing, and social media management. Not every PR agency offers all those services, but an agency likely can activate all these channels within the first month.
Independent publicists have only so much time in a day to satisfy myriad clients. Often times, rather than spreading themselves too thin, freelancers focus on one service. For public relations, that is press outreach and securing coverage.
Is there a brand story to be told?
When I worked at agencies, I rarely saw what we in the industry call a “one-off,” a single email to a journalist. Most PR agencies have massive lists of industry contacts built over years. Although often outdated, these media lists usually range from 300 to 2,000 contacts. Getting your message into the in-box of 2,000 contacts sounds amazing, but let’s look at what is really happening:
An account coordinator writes a lengthy pitch about the brand and hits send on a Mail Merge program, but there is no vetting to see whether the recipients of the pitch are a fit for the brand or whether there is a unique coverage point. As a result, the relationship between these publicists and journalists is often superficial and reliant on a single pitch. In a PR firm with 10 employees or more, each account coordinator could be sending up to 2,000 emails a day. Now multiply that by the number of PR agencies in the world. If you were an editor, would you open ever single blast pitch you received? Absolutely not, and that’s why media lists exceed 1,500 people, to ensure that at least one person opens the pitch. We call this method “Spray Then Pray.”
Freelance publicists without extensive media lists instead hand-pick the best journalists for the story. Rather than spraying then praying, a single publicist is more likely to curate storylines with journalists within her network or work closely with existing media relationships. If your brand is more product-focused, a PR agency likely will have the contacts needed to place the product. If your brand has a unique story, avoid a PR campaign that relies on mass pitches and press-release distribution, as your story will get lost in the crowd.
If you have a specific goal in mind or a dream list, be sure that whatever option you pick is capable of meeting your goals.
As I mentioned earlier, most PR agencies have hundreds, maybe thousands, of media contacts they have been pitching for years. About half of them are bloggers or lower-tier or regional publications. Many PR firms work with multiple bloggers to show an ROI based on ad value (the cost of an advertisement equivalent) or inflate the value of a blog based on an often arbitrary industry standard. If a client is paying $7K a month, the PR firm wants to show $14K in ad value. Reaching that total could mean placements on a blog and in two regional magazines. If you’re a regional company, that is great coverage. If you’re a startup servicing financial professionals in NYC, a write-up in a Silicon Valley magazine isn’t going to be worth what you’re paying.
Independent publicists run leaner operations and often cut out the fluff of blogs and regional magazines. While larger brands appreciate blog reviews and regional features, most startups want to see their name in the Forbeses, Fortunes, and Tech Crunches of the business world, not Joe’s tech blog with 5,000 unique visitors per month. Many startups don’t see the value in the smaller outlets, and freelancers don’t typically have time to cultivate them either.
Just because you’re not pitching your own brand doesn’t mean you don’t need to reserve time for a PR commitment. If you have little time to do interviews or take intro calls from journalists, a public relations firm likely will have a senior partner who can answer questions or speak on your behalf or train another employee to represent the brand until the actual interview.
If you have a little more time to dedicate to a PR campaign, a freelancer will make the introductions and set up the calls, allowing you to tell your brand’s story from your perspective.
Disruptive startups are going to want a media campaign personalized for their brand. Many PR firms work with a regimented PR strategy that is applied across all clients based on their capabilities as an agency, not your goals as a brand. To keep everyone in the agency on the same track across different accounts, most agencies employ standard practices. Everything from new business proposals to pitches are templated and ready for modification, based on the startup they are pitching that day.
PR freelancers often curate a campaign from the ground up, looking first at the goals and newsworthiness of a brand. Because freelancers aren’t typically onboarding 15 brands a month, or even a year, they look at every campaign carefully. Not being beholden to a team of people and one stringent strategy, a freelancer can customize a campaign to better fit a company’s goals throughout the PR process.
If you have a rapid deadline, then, by all means, hire a PR agency, which has more people and, thusly, more contacts at media houses to quickly launch a timely story.
No matter what any freelancer says, independent publicists do not carry the same weight as a firm of 10 professionals and often only know a few people at each publication. This makes them much less likely to be able to accelerate the process.
If your story must be published next week, speak to an agency. If you can wait two weeks or more to allow a strategy to unfold and be implemented, then consider a freelancer.
Public relations agencies aren’t cheap; retainers typically start at $5K per month for a minimum of five months’ work. That $5K doesn’t guarantee star treatment either. PR principals constantly check on their teams to make sure members are not “overservicing” a client. This often means that a startup is cast aside by mid-month in favor of older clients.
Independent publicists usually charge in the range of $2K per month and limit the size of their business, thereby guaranteeing them the time necessary to commit themselves to their clients’ needs, campaign, and goals.
If you have a big budget for public relations, a PR firm has multiple publicists, each with a wealth contacts, who will ensure that your brand receives coverage.
If you’re more restricted financially, a freelance publicist will work within your budget and still deliver terrific service.
Some publicists, including Melissa A, Vitale, offer hybrid services. Some clients require one publicist, while others require a team of publicists, content and copywriters. To learn more about our services, visit https://www.melissaavitale.com/services.html
Melissa A Vitale Public Relations
A public relations agency specializing in brands and startups in crytocurrency, artificial intelligence, sexual wellness and legal cannabis.