The cannabis industry is growing at a rapid rate, and cannabis-related products are being introduced to the market daily. As a result, cannabis PR firms have become increasingly popular for cannabis businesses looking to establish themselves as thought leaders in the cannabis industry. The first step to getting cannabis PR is hiring a cannabis PR agency.  Three considerations when hiring a cannabis PR firm:

 1) Strategic Expertise

For cannabis-focused PR agencies, there’s been unprecedented growth in recent years and it has led to an increase in consolidation and new entrants who may not provide clients with the level of strategic expertise that typically takes much longer to develop. As millennials continue driving change within organizations across all industries, we will see more PR agency consolidation and increased hiring among independently owned cannabis-centric agencies as they need help to build their industry-specific practices.

This means, the team working on your PR may be new to PR even if the agency isn’t. Before you sign on up with any PR firm, get to know the team you will work with on the day-to-day.

 

2) Media Relations Expertise

The cannabis industry is entering an era of mainstream media coverage like never, meaning cannabis PR firms that don’t show cannabis media relations expertise risk becoming irrelevant. Traditional PR agencies will need to develop cannabis-specific expertise with niche media outlets in order to remain relevant. Cannabis news outlets are a unique subset of the traditional cannabis industry trade press and the next generation cannabis-focused PR agency needs to help clients get into these specific cannabis publications.

While cannabis industry media coverage is important, you’ll also want a firm who can demonstrate cannabis PR in lifestyle, business, or niche communities to ensure your reach gets to the audiences who are most likely to respond to your brand.

“In addition, cannabis-oriented public relations agencies have popped up everywhere from Colorado to Canada,” says Roger Stonehouse, CEO of Stonehouse Group, a global financial services firm specializing in capital formation for cannabis companies. “Some cannabis-oriented PR agencies have been effective, others less so.”

3) Identifying Target Audience

In order to deliver high enough ROI, cannabis business owners need the ability to identify the target audience and create a message that will resonate. To develop a cannabis PR campaign that is an investment, not an expense, businesses must be able to understand their target audience and deliver a targeted message. Cannabis-focused public relations professionals can help cannabis businesses do just that by developing a cannabis public relations plan that delivers results for your company and the investor community as you establish legitimacy through thought leadership.”

Media outreach efforts should begin with promoting articles promoting brand visibility, positive cannabis industry news, and cannabis company milestones.

“If you’re starting a cannabis-related business and want to reach the cannabis consumer, make sure your cannabis PR firm has established media relationships with leading cannabis publications,” says Stonehouse. “This will increase the likelihood of your press release or client announcement making it into one of these sites and give you access to cannabis consumers.”

Effective cannabis-centric PR firms understand how to develop client messaging that resonates with target audiences and cannabis media outlets. Cannabis-focused PR professionals can also help cannabis businesses secure valuable cannabis media placements that provide high visibility within the niche publication and then leverage this coverage through social content (influencer marketing) and public relations outreach efforts on behalf of the cannabis brand to mainstream media outlets like the Associated Press, Reuters and/or Bloomberg News.

“However, it’s critical cannabis businesses don’t neglect the potential impact of ancillary cannabis industry coverage in publications like Forbes, Fortune, or Inc.,” says Stonehouse. “By elevating cannabis category visibility in leading business publications cannabis businesses can begin to change negative perceptions well outside the cannabis space.”

“Cannabis public relations firms need to focus on building relationships directly with consumers,” says Stonehouse. “After all, without people buying your products or services it doesn’t matter how good your cannabis PR firm is. By focusing on the cannabis media, cannabis influencers, and cannabis consumers, cannabis-centric PR firms can help cannabis brands cut through the noise and provide an interesting story that resonates with their target audience.”

The consumer tech PR trends to watch for 2022 are exciting and combine other macro trends impacting emerging brands’ PR this year. This year, for the first time in two years, consumer tech companies gathered to show off their latest innovations at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Perhaps it was the pent-up demand, perhaps it was the changes to our lives since the pandemic started, perhaps it was just that technology is ramping up faster than ever before, but the consumer tech PR trends to watch for 2022 are exciting.

Consumer Robots for Real

Robots, once the domain of government-grade applications only are becoming a reality in our homes. Consumer robots for everything from home tasks and chores like pool cleaning and vacuuming, STEM education for kids, to emotional support pets that are easily cared for, consumer robots are finally here.

While the Jetson age doesn’t look quite the way we thought it would, in some ways it’s better because many of these consumer robots are utilizing AI to do their jobs more efficiently.  This combination of robots and AI means robots will better integrate into our daily lives. But the physical world isn’t the only place where we will interact with robots.

Consumers will start interacting with robots more frequently as drones or uncrewed vehicles make their way onto our sidewalks for delivery of everything from food to medical prescriptions. Robots will soon be delivering food in restaurants and even mixing your drink at the bar.

While journalists are deeply familiar with some robots, AI-driven demonstrations are sure to catch the eye of media outlets throughout 2022.

The Metaverse

No consumer tech trends piece would be complete without mention of the Metaverse. While the depth of the cultural catalyst of the metaverse is yet to be written, we know the future will include a digital and virtual world that’s more interactive than the social media world we know no.

But what’s new, is the way robots will bridge the gap between our physical world and our digital world, for example, what Euisun Chung of Hyundai Motor Group is calling “metamobility” where robots will perform tasks for people who aren’t physically there.

Naturally, the expansion of the metaverse will be dependent on processing power and affordable hardware, but if CES 2022 is any indication, it won’t be long before those two items catch up to the idea of the Metaverse.

With the new .metaverse domain name, major consumer brands like Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and P&G are already staking out their metaverse presence.

Some estimates have the metaverse marketplace growing to $800 trillion. While that seems pretty extreme, between physical products and blockchain technologies and non-fungible tokens, the metaverse could indeed be an entirely new consumer tech economy.

Consumer Tech Trends Turn to Mental Health

According to the Pew Research Center, about one-fifth of adults are experiencing high levels of psychological distress. From emotional support wearables to digital therapeutics, tech is turning to home health and mental health for the latest innovations. Some wearables are predicting stress, others are helping address stress and anxiety. From soothing sounds to induce deep relaxation to mobile games that reduce stress, wearables are becoming more communicative, predictive, and meditative.

Also new is the connectivity to our medical professionals along with reducing costs for delivery of healthcare that democratizes access.

Anyone who has suffered from chronic sleeplessness can attest to sleep’s importance on mental health. Smart mattresses to the rescue. From self-adjusting mattresses that prevent snoring to self-regulating temperature mattresses, tech has taken over your sleep cycle, and given consumers a new way to improve mental and physical help.

Consumer Tech and Purpose-Driven Initiatives

Consumer tech PR will increasingly include stories about social, cultural, or environmental impact.

“Technology-driven by purpose will change the world,” says Deborah Wahl, Global CMO for GM. Indeed, purpose-driven initiatives are as critical to consumer tech brands as they are to any other consumer product.

Indeed, one of the biggest consumer technology trends is how cars will adapt to the environmental demands of the future.

Sustainability and tech are inextricably connected. From solar-powered batteries for cars and homes, to the reduction of single-use plastics, saving the world is on the mind of consumers, and technologists alike. Consumer technology products, a huge contributor to plastic waste, will soon be comprised of more recycled ocean-bound plastics.

Additional innovations will save water and electricity through newly developed systems that will be increasingly popular. Innovations that save water by cleaning, disinfecting, and drying drinking glasses in 10 seconds with .6 ounces of water will empower consumers to take better control of their water usage.

Sara Blakely didn’t become one of the most admired female CEOs without taking her public image seriously. Blakely credits her publicity-savvy approach to her grass-roots success that launched a billion-dollar exit.

Sara Blakely became notable for being one of three female founders to exit in 2021. In 2012, she made headlines as one of the first female billionaires when Spanx was valued at over $1 billion, because she retained 100% ownership, had zero debt, and to that point had never spent a dollar on advertising. Blakely wasn’t lucky. She is smart and from the start, dialed into earning trust and word of mouth. Blakely was so PR savvy she patented Spanx early because she saw it as a marketing lever. She knew actions can translate to media coverage. Consistently, Blakely refined and perfected three key strategies she credits to her success.

Tell Your Story Relentlessly



One thing Sara Blakely did immediately is take control of her own narrative. Sara knew: if you don’t tell your story, someone else will.

CEOs who take a personal interest in their brand’s success always generate better coverage. Blakely never took the “fake it before you make it” stance in the press. She took her failures and turned them into stories about resilience. Her career-focused and ambitious customers could relate to her humble fax-machine sales beginnings. Blakely famously said she’s “game for anything,” and it’s the company who has to reign her in.

Blakely celebrates her female strengths, recently claiming she ran the business from “intuition, vulnerability, and empathy,” which recently led to an acquisition by private equity firm Blackstone in November 2021.

From the start, Blakely refined her story, kept it authentic, and told it over and repeatedly. She never deviated from her why, and she never glossed over speed bumps or failures. That’s why, despite her elite success, women the world over related to Blakely. Her approachability gives her another lever to pull, she can celebrate her wins and women celebrate with her.

 

The Not-So-Overnight Success of Product Placement

“We always had PR and grassroots marketing at the forefront of what we did. It was getting the word out any way we could: speaking engagements, sampling,” said Spanx CEO Laurie Ann Goldman.

In the halls of famous breakthroughs, The Oprah Effect is perhaps one of the most celebrated. With Spanx, when Oprah included them on her list of favorite things, for many women, it was the first time they’d heard of the product. But Sara Blakely had been sending celebrities, stylists, and female icons Spanx samples from the very beginning, and she wasn’t cheap about it. Blakely sent full gift baskets, with enough product to make sure every celebrity had enough to get through the week, no matter how intense their appearance calendar was. By the time Gwyneth Paltrow said on the red carpet that Spanx was her post-baby-body secret in 2003, Spanx was already a well-known insider secret. “Word of mouth and the media are so much more powerful and believable, so that’s the route I went,” said Blakely.

Blakely knew: place your product consistently, earn the trust of celebrity influencers, and it pays off. It looks like an overnight success, but in fact, Blakely had been doing product gifting for years, and she did it with class.

 

Absolute Customer Clarity

Blakely knew: if you’re for everyone, you’re for no one. When she first started sending celebrity gift baskets, she targeted Oprah because she was open about her weight challenges, and Kim Kardashian because of her famous booty. Despite her success in famous retailers, direct-to-consumer sales are at the heart of the Spanx expansion, making up 70% of its sales, which means Spanx has to develop deep relationships with their target customers.

If you look at Spanx coverage over the years, Blakely was disciplined about keeping to her “why.” Customer clarity allows Blakely to stay focused on her “why,” which is a much more appealing story than a product story.

Blakely’s approachable voice is another key to the brand’s relatable success – she talks to her consumer the way they talk with their friends, from packaging to interviews, she just gives us enough to relate to her. Even her extravagances seemed relatable to her target market. You never hear about Blakely’s car or vacation homes. Instead, you hear about relatable splurges like when she bought Olivia Newton John’s Grease outfit; clothing her target market clearly remembers, and one that showcases a spectacular derriere.

Employing these three CEO publicity strategies doesn’t guarantee a billion-dollar business, but it does guarantee that you will get noticed. Everyone from consumers to venture capitalists and private equity firms like to know there’s a story there, and potential for brand affinity. The Spanx brand couldn’t have become so iconic without these three remarkable publicity strategies.

This contribution originally appeared on Entreprenuer.com

Congratulations to our CEO, Tara Coomans!

Tara has been chosen to speak at the Public Relations Society Western Region Conference. The annual conference, this year held in Honolulu, in April 2022 attracts thousands of PR professionals, communicators and PR leaders throughout the western United States.

Coomans presentation, Guiding Your Client Through Purpose, is a timely and important topic for communicators. Many PR professionals insight purpose-driven, given the current environment where businesses are expected to lead in social, cultural, and environmental issues.

Registration is open for the PRSA Conference in Honolulu.

To learn more about purpose driven PR, check out our resources.

[3 minutes]

Some have said that the fastest growing sector in cannabis is cannabis technology. While cannabis technology companies often serve very specific regulatory needs and enter the marketplace in a tech-mature world (as opposed to those during the initial dot-com era), cannabis tech companies with hyper-growth ambitions can learn from the tech company failures of the past.

Think Ahead, But Not Too Far

Many emerging industry companies have gone bust because they were simply too progressive. From the dot-com era, WebVan and Kozmo were two delivery companies with considerable capital that both went bust, only to see companies like Amazon eventually optimize the services they both introduced. Not every first mover gets first-mover advantage. There’s a lot to be said for meeting the customer or client where they’re at.

But moving people ahead is completely possible. Cannabis tech companies can think through the future of their business by planning past a regulatory world and creating brand loyalty well before any necessary pivots.

Setting an agenda to change the narrative and create demand is a long-term play, but consumers DO change behaviors and in the wake of COVID, there is still an opportunity to maximize the massive mind-shift happening. Cannabis itself is an outstanding example of changing the narrative. In fact, changing the narrative is an excellent competitive strategy and a way to differentiate yourself.

How Cannabis Tech Can Prepare for Bigger and Better Funded

As cannabis becomes a bigger part of the economy in more states, there will be more entrances into the marketplace.

Cannabis tech only has to look at what happened to the CBD space after the Farm Act passed to see a more recent cannabis example of this. From a tech perspective, a good example of this is the Pebble Smart Watch, which raised $10.3 million on Kickstarter (the most successful Kickstarter ever at the time). But of course, they struggled to compete with competitors like Apple Watch.

B2B cannabis tech companies are vulnerable to this as Silicon Valley continues to double down on cannabis tech from companies and founders with no experience in cannabis, but more funding. Dutchie is an example of this. Dutchie’s model is less cannabis and more tech as they model their services to something more akin to GrubHub. Silicon Valley likes companies that reinvent proven scale models.

Cannabis tech companies, whether they serve B2B or B2C should leverage both advertising and PR, together to secure market share AND trust simultaneously. Align your cannabis advertising and PR campaigns and messaging. Don’t isolate your advertising data from PR. Together they can be stronger. Branding dominance and brand value is the way to secure marketplace valuation; had Pebble done that, they would have stood a better chance of survival or at the very least gotten closer to the original offer of $740 million (which they got in 2015), as opposed to the sell to Fitbit for less than $40 million in 2016.

Cannabis technology companies should also be prepared to tell stories that aren’t technology-oriented. Whether those be founder stories, or purpose, there is also more to talk about, so prepare yourself and get those corporate stories in place.

Watch Consumer Tech Trends

Media consumption on the biggest social media platforms may well have peaked already. 2021 was the first year Facebook reported a decline in users. So what’s happening to those consumers? They certainly haven’t left the internet, they’ve simply shifted platforms.

Consumer communication with a cannabis niche or cannabis advertising platforms can learn so many lessons from the failures of social media platforms, in particular Facebook. These platforms need to evaluable the trust equation and invest in it immediately. Whether the customer is B2B or B2C, there is a broader techlash going on.

Leveraging the trust of third-party media outlets is imperative now. And unlike plant-touching brands, cannabis tech companies have a wide-open playing field about the media outlets who will write about them. We always say that “trust is an inside out job,” and that means PR can only clean up so much if you’re abusing trust; if you’re the Theanos of cannabis tech, PR won’t be your biggest spend.

 

Cannabis tech is sure to be a competitive and thriving sector with massive ups and downs, but those who reach hyper-growth will have taken a page out of the successes and failures of past Silicon Valley darlings.

Hyper growth DTC brands appear to have some things in common. If you’re a DTC brand or the CMO of a DTC brand, the future looks bright. We also wanted to connect a few dots about emerging industries we think are going to be increasingly important.

  1. Average Order Value (AOV) is a Key Indicator of Hyper Growth DTC

    RetentionX has discovered the fastest growing DTC brands have a 55% higher AOV than everyone else. They attribute this high AOV to customer loyalty. Customer loyalty is a holistic and multi-discipline objective.

    But this is where DTC PR really shines.

    Brand loyalty comes from trust. Trust in the product and trust in the brand values. If you’re the CMO or founder of a DTC brand, customer loyalty is your key KPI for revenue growth. One strategy for increased customer loyalty is premium branding, and PR delivers. According to Morgan Stanley’s research, Apple’s premium DTC branding came through a sustained PR campaign that helped deliver  90% brand retention.

  2.  Voice Search: DTC’s Premier Opportunity

    55% of American households own a smart speaker in 2022, according to Juniper research. And according to Navar, slightly more than half of consumers use voice-activated search for things like groceries, and by 2030, the global AI-based and voice recognition market should reach $27.3 billion (insightSLICE).

    Voice activation is likely to take advantage of a multitude of signals, just like SEO. A great start, if you haven’t already gotten there, is making sure your product FAQs include “how,” “why,” and “what” questions. The type of questions your buyers are likely to ask in various stages of product consideration.

    While you’re at it, look at Google’s Review requirements, because these types of reviews are likely to play into voice search, at least on Google. From a trust perspective, combining your owned content with trusted third-party reviews is a home run. Also, remember the added benefit of media coverage is stickiness – what Google can count on when creating its interpretation of your online reputation, which will undoubtedly play into your voice-activated reputation as well.

  3. Partnerships For the Win

    From collabs to join placement and pop-ups and the metaverse, DTC brands can double their exposure by partnering on campaigns. These campaigns can get a huge amount of lift from PR initiatives like media relations and events.

    Forgetting the PR component of these opportunities really misses the chance to secure customer retention and new acquisition. While social media, especially social advertising, is a must-have for DTC brands, DTC brands can look at the PR around partnerships as an opportunity to decouple their dependence on social media.