Michael Tavani, Co-Founder

Eight years ago, Michael Tavani co-founded M18 to give clients the best of both worlds: a culturally on-trend approach with the business savvy of a corporate firm. Today, a look at M18’s client roster proves that he was onto something big. In under ten years, the company has grown from an NYC business to one with an international scope. Michael shares some insight on their path to success, including how M18 is evolving to suit today’s digital media landscape.

What does your company do and for whom?

We are a full service public relations firm, with a specialization in hospitality, real estate, and design.

How did you come to launch your business? What were you doing prior?

I had been working in agency public relations for about 8 years, and was fortunate to work with some pretty incredible clients. At the time there seemed to be a gap in the market – if you were opening a hotel or developing a real estate project, you generally had a fundamental choice: do you hire a ‘fashionable’ firm that is tapped in culturally, or do you hire a ‘corporate’ firm, that is tapped into the business world. The reality is that most projects, in order to ultimately be successful, need someone with a high-level understanding of both worlds, and that happened to align well with my background. This was the basis for starting the company.

Were there any mentors or people who inspired you?

Nadine Johnson was an early mentor. I would credit her with giving me a high-level understanding of certain aspects of the business that we were able to evolve and morph into who we are today. 8 years into M18, we are a very different company, but the opportunity to do what we have done came largely due to the doors that were opened for me working there, and from that point we carried it forward in our own voice and vision for what a company like ours should be.

How have you differentiated from other companies in your field?    

I would like to think that in many ways our client list speaks for itself – there a lot of companies working in these areas today, but it’s much tougher to find others that have achieved both the scale and the quality level of clients that we have. What began as primarily a NYC business, is now wholly national, and increasingly international.

How are you evolving the agency into the future, with the increasingly digital media landscape?

Ultimately, our collective efforts come down to storytelling – crafting a particular message and then making sure that it’s heard by the right audience. The continuing evolution of digital platforms means that there are more avenues for that information, and more ways for us to get the word out and amplify press coverage. It’s a combination of harnessing certain channels to the benefit of our clients, and vetting out the ones that aren’t going to last.

What do you look for in a client or new hire? Is there a specific lens you put over your decision to work with a brand, or a staff member?

In terms of hiring, we are looking for people with a high level of personal interest in what we do and who are passionate about the areas that we focus. There is this stereotypical idea of a publicist that is, perhaps, loud and aggressive, or overly enthusiastic in an inauthentic way. There are few things that turn me off more. We are looking for thoughtful and intelligent people who can communicate their ideas in a succinct and meaningful way, and have a voracious appetite for all forms of media. On the client/brand side, we always take the long view - does this client add something to us as an agency? Is there a story here that is interesting to us and can be sustained? Will our other clients be ok with being indirectly associated with them? I take this very seriously; in so many ways you are only as good as the clients you represent.

What are a few of your current projects you’re excited about?

I am excited about all of them, but I am especially intrigued by entering new markets – we are working on openings this year in LA, Detroit, Las Vegas, Austin, DC, New Orleans and others.

You work with many leading brands in the hotels & real estate fields. What distinguishes the best?

A thoughtfulness; a willingness not to cut corners; a personal belief that these buildings and projects will live on for many years and taking the long view on the execution.        


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