When is it Necessary to Hire a Public Relations Firm?

General Business News February 2018

When is it Necessary to Hire a Public Relations Firm?

When it comes to organizations getting the word out, using internal public relations professionals can be quite effective. But how do you know when it is necessary to retain the services of an outside PR firm?

One important step in determining if you should hire an external PR company is to have a goal in mind. Is a brand-new company being launched? Is a PR campaign necessary to win back customers after the rebranding of a new bar or a remodeled store?

Depending on the need, a PR agency might be more helpful because they are experienced in pitching to prominent bloggers and journalists about a new product or service. If it’s a construction business looking to hire a PR agency, for example, but the agency has most of its contacts within the restaurant industry, it’s not going to be as fruitful.

Determine How External PR Will Function

For a public relations campaign to be as effective as possible, it needs to be expertly integrated with a business’ marketing and sales plan. Is the marketing, sales and PR done in-house currently? Will the marketing and sales be done in-house, but the PR work done by an agency? These are some important questions to ask before outsourcing.

If an external PR agency is used, it’s wise to ask what types of services they offer and how they’ll work with the organization’s staff. For example, if a team at a PR agency is assigned to the business, will there be an individual at the PR agency within that team that serves as a liaison for the business? Otherwise, multiple contacts might lead to confusion.

Lastly, what will be the scope of PR services performed? Will the PR agency exclusively introduce the business’ experts to journalists at media outlets? Or will the PR agency work in conjunction with the business’ in-house marketing team to collaborate with or create social media posts and mailers, for example?

The Importance of Setting Goals

Whether PR work is done in-house, externally or through a combination, one way to monitor effectiveness is by setting metrics. While goals can be tailored easier within an organization, there are different types of goals that organizations can strive for when having public relations work done externally.

An example goal is how will the organization’s reputation be managed. This concerns how the business is perceived by those outside the organization. For example, if a pizza shop recently suffered a rash of crimes or a few customers publicized that meals made them sick, there may be a goal to increase the number of customer visits. This can be accomplished by a PR campaign to educate the public on steps the pizza shop has taken to secure the shop or how better food handling practices are being employed.     

This type of goal can be measured by how the public relations staff educates the public on the organization’s commitment to improving. Does the agency publish social media posts depicting staff wearing hairnets and gloves while preparing food? Is a recently issued health inspection certificate showing the pizza shop passed inspection posted for visitors to see?

The public relation’s efficacy could be measured by an increase in foot traffic or by asking customers if the PR campaign encouraged former customers to stop by again. If customers reported seeing the social media campaign and it led them to give the shop’s food and service another chance, that’s a measurable way to determine if the public relations goal was met.

 

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Life Events February 2018

2017 vs. 2018 Federal Income Tax Brackets

Single Taxpayers
2018 Tax Rates – Standard Deduction $12,000 2017 Tax Rates – Standard Deduction $6,350
10% 0 to $9,525 10% 0 to $9,325
12% $9,525 to $38,700 15% $9,325 to $37,950
22% $38,700 to $82,500 25% $37,950 to $91,900
24% $82,500 to $157,500 28% $91,900 to $191,650
32% $157,500 to $200,000 33% $191,650 to $416,700
35% $200,000 to $500,000 35% $416,700 to $418,400
37% Over $500,000 39.60% Over $418,400

 

Married Filing Jointly & Surviving Spouses
2018 Tax Rates – Standard Deduction $24,000 2017 Tax Rates – Standard Deduction $12,700
10% 0 to $19,050 10% 0 to $18,650
12% $19,050 to $77,400 15% $18,650 to $75,900
22% $77,400 to $165,000 25% $75,900 to $153,100
24% $165,000 to $315,000 28% $153,100 to $233,350
32% $315,000 to $400,000 33% $233,350 to $416,700
35% $400,000 to $600,000 35% $416,700 to $470,700
37% Over $600,000 39.60% Over $470,700

 

Married Filing Separately
2018 Tax Rates – Standard Deduction $12,000 2017 Tax Rates – Standard Deduction $6,350
10% 0 to $9,525 10% 0 to $9,325
12% $9,525 to $38,700 15% $9,325 to $37,950
22% $38,700 to $82,500 25% $37,950 to $76,550
24% $82,500 to $157,500 28% $76,550 to $116,675
32% $157,500 to $200,000 33% $116,675 to $208,350
35% $200,000 to $500,000 35% $208,350 to $235,350
37% Over $500,000 39.60% Over $235,350

 

Head of Household
2018 Tax Rates – Standard Deduction $18,000 2017 Tax Rates  – Standard Deduction $9,350
10% 0 to $13,600 10% 0 to $13,350
12% $13,600 to $51,800 15% $13,350 to $50,800
22% $51,800 to $82,500 25% $50,800 to $131,200
24% $82,500 to $157,500 28% $131,200 to $212,500
32% $157,500 to $200,000 33% $212,500 to $416,700
35% $200,000 to $500,000 35% $416,700 to $444,500
37% Over $500,000 39.60% Over $444,500

 

Estates & Trusts
2018 Tax Rates 2017 Tax Rates
10% 0 to $2,550 15% 0 to $2,550
24% $2,550 to $9,150 25% $2,550 to $6,000
35% $9,150 to $12,500 28% $6,000 to $9,150
37% Over $12,500 33% $9,150 to $12,500
N/A N/A 39.60% Over $12,500

 

FICA (Social Security & Medicare)
FICA Tax 2018 2017
Social Security Tax Rate: Employers 6.2% 6.2%
Social Security Tax Rate: Employees 6.2% 6.2%
Social Security Tax Rate: Self-Employed 15.3% 15.3%
Maximum Taxable Earnings $128,400 $127,200
Medicare Base Salary Unlimited Unlimited
Medicare Tax Rate 1.5% 1.5%
Additional Medicare Tax for income above $200,000 (single filers) or $250,000 (joint filers) 0.9% 0.9%
Medicare tax on net investment income ($200,000 single filers, $250,000 joint filers) 3.8% 3.8%

 

Education Credits & Deductions
Credit / Deduction 2018 2017
American Opportunity Credit (Hope) 2500 2500
Lifetime Learning Credit 2000 2000
Student Loan Interest Deduction 2500 2500
Coverdell Education Savings Contribution 2000 2000

 

Miscellaneous Provisions
2018 2017
N/A – No longer exists N/A Personal Exemption $4,050
Business expensing limit: Cap on equipment purchases $2,500,000 Business expensing limit: Cap on equipment purchases $2,030,000
Business expensing limit: New and Used Equipment and Software $1,000,000 Business expensing limit: New and Used Equipment and Software $510,000
Prior-year safe harbor for estimated taxes of higher-income 110% of your 2018 tax liability Prior-year safe harbor for estimated taxes of higher-income 110% of your 2017 tax liability
Standard mileage rate for business driving 54.5 cents Standard mileage rate for business driving 53.5 cents
Standard mileage rate for medical/moving driving 18 cents Standard mileage rate for medical/moving driving 17 cents
Standard mileage rate for charitable driving 14 cents Standard mileage rate for charitable driving 14 cents
Child Tax Credit $2,000 Child Tax Credit $1,000
Unearned income maximum for children under 19 before kiddie tax applies $1,050 Unearned income maximum for children under 19 before kiddie tax applies $1,050
Maximum capital gains tax rate for taxpayers with income up to $51,700 for single filers, $77,200 for married filing jointly 0% Maximum capital gains tax rate for taxpayers in the 10% or 15% bracket 0%
Maximum capital gains tax rate for taxpayers with income above $51,700 for single filers, $77,200 for married filing jointly 15% Maximum capital gains tax rate for taxpayers above the 15% bracket but below the 39.6% bracket 15%
Maximum capital gains tax rate for taxpayers with income above $425,800 for single filers, $479,000 for married filing jointly 20% Maximum capital gains tax rate for taxpayers in the 39.6% bracket 20%
Capital gains tax rate for unrecaptured Sec. 1250 gains 25% Capital gains tax rate for unrecaptured Sec. 1250 gains 25%
Capital gains tax rate on collectibles 28% Capital gains tax rate on collectibles 28%
Maximum contribution for Traditional/Roth IRA $5,500 if under age 50 $6,500 if 50 or older Maximum contribution for Traditional/Roth IRA $5,500 if under age 50 $6,500 if 50 or older
Maximum employee contribution to SIMPLE IRA $12,500 if under age 50 $15,500 if 50 or older Maximum employee contribution to SIMPLE IRA $12,500 if under age 50 $15,500 if 50 or older
Maximum Contribution to SEP IRA 25% of eligible compensation up to $55,000 Maximum Contribution to SEP IRA 25% of eligible compensation up to $54,000
401(k) maximum employee contribution limit $18,500 if under age 50 $24,500 if 50 or older 401(k) maximum employee contribution limit $18,000 if under age 50 $24,000 if 50 or older
Estate tax exemption $11,200,000 Estate tax exemption $5,490,000
Annual Exclusion for Gifts $15,000 Annual Exclusion for Gifts $14,000

 

 

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Financial Planning February 2018

Retirement: Living on Less

By 2035, millions of baby boomers might well be living a meager existence. That’s because today, close to half of the households in the United States have absolutely nothing saved for retirement. Over the past 25 years, pensions have rapidly died out and their replacement – defined contribution plans – have been woefully underfunded.

Combine this lack of savings with the rampant increase in healthcare expenses – that manage to keep us alive longer than any other time in history, resulting in a greater need for assisted living and long-term care – and many folks are looking at a more pared down retirement lifestyle than they expected. Many will live solely on Social Security benefits.

In fact, very few retirees these days get to travel the world and live out their dream retirement. Most folks – or at least those who survive to a ripe old age – settle into an existence that derives happiness from spending time with friends and family, fixing up and then puttering around in their homes, and working on small, day-to-day goals.

One way to prepare for living on less money during retirement is to start living on less before then. Learning to live within (or under) your means is part skill, part art – but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to live without. If you start early and learn to live lean, retiring won’t seem like such a big life change.

Better yet, the more you tighten the belt today, the more money you can save for tomorrow. The following are a few ideas for how to make your money last over the long haul.

Housing

Even once you pay off your mortgage, owning a home can be expensive during retirement. Consider the annual cost of maintenance, repairs, property taxes, insurance and utilities for a large family home. With this number in mind, consider what you might save by moving to another housing option, such as a smaller home, duplex (with rental income from the other unit), townhome or condominium. It also may be worth considering moving closer to family to benefit from a support network in your later years. Bear in mind that it will be easier and cheaper for everyone involved if you live closer to them than if they must care for you from hundreds of miles away.

Food

You might have enjoyed home-cooked meals for a large family, but in retirement it’ll just be one or two people in your home. Start learning how to cut down recipes, prepare simpler meals, and discover good values for dining out (like early-bird dinners for seniors). On the other hand, you could start inviting friends over more often to share meals and/or host regular potluck dinners. Break out those cost-saving meals you planned when the children were young, such as slow cooker recipes and freezing leftovers so you always have a meal on hand. Consider cultivating your own garden to grow fresh herbs and produce.

Frivolities and Entertainment

When you’re working, a little retail therapy to make yourself feel better is a small indulgence. But while you’re living on a fixed income, this habit might actually rob you of a few meals. If you have troubles brewing on your mind, look for less expensive solutions such as a brisk walk in nature or inviting a friend over for coffee.

While you’re at it, think about what types of hobbies and social engagements you can engage in that won’t cost a lot of money. Walk instead of playing golf. Read novels instead of going to the movies. When it comes to periodic vacations, visit friends and family to save money on lodging and meals.

Cost of Living Increases

This year, Social Security recipients will benefit from a 2 percent cost of living increase; the highest since 2012. Still, this increase is anything but large in reality, with the average beneficiary receiving an additional $25 per month. Whether still working or in retirement, think about a strategy for what to do with windfalls, no matter how small. For example:

  • Put it in a savings account earmarked for emergency expenses
  • Set it aside to use for co-pays, prescription drugs and other medical expenses
  • Save it in a Christmas account for gifts next holiday season
  • Pay for a vacation, season tickets or some other entertainment perk
  • Upgrade to a better phone or computer at year’s end during holiday sales