Cannabis CEOs have challenging jobs. You’re in the fast-moving cannabis business, so you’re also in the business of understanding trends and our industry. For that reason, we put together a shortlist of our favorite cannabis Twitter accounts, tailored for the time-constrained cannabis CEO and C-suite.

Twitter is an extremely useful listening tool, so we’ve curated the list intentionally for listening and we did throw in a few personal favorites as well because even cannabis CEOs need a breather now and then.  But overall, the list we’ve put together is highly curated and designed to give you what you need at the moment without overwhelming executives with chatter and nonsense. Hey, we love the nonsense too, but the point of a Twitter list is to create a curated experience and that’s what we’ve done.

We love Twitter because it’s such a great place to glean insights. We’ve already written about how we utilize Twitter for media relations. While we certainly use Twitter to engage our entire community, we do much more listening on Twitter than we do posting – and that’s intentional. With that perspective in mind, when we developed this Twitter List for cannabis CEOs, we thought about the Twitter uses who stay on topic, talk business, and keep chaos to a minimum. At it’s best, Twitter is a feed of quick snippets of insight, and we think these Twitter feeds embody that perspective.

Make things easy on yourself by subscribing to our Twitter list. In no particular order, here are our inclusions for 2020. 

 

Cannabis Journalists & News Twitter Accounts


Jeremy Berke @jberke

One of the first national business writers to cover the cannabis space from Business Insider, Jeremy’s feed is straightforward and no bull. From his Twitter profile, you can also subscribe to his weekly email newsletter which is a must-read of the week’s news.

Alan Brochstein, CFO @invest420
If industry analysis is what you crave, Alan Brochstein and his site, New Cannabis Ventures are on it. As the industry has changed, so has NCV. Today the NCV focuses mostly on cannabis’ publically traded businesses. But since so many of the industry cues and trends start there, it’s a great feed to watch. Alan’s distinct mix of business trends and insights are unbeatable. From his Twitter, you can also subscribe to his weekly newsletter, which is filled with investor insight and cannabis industry predictions. 

David George-Cosh @itsdgc
David primarily covers Canada’s legal cannabis market, which means he covers some of the world’s largest publically traded cannabis companies. Hailing from the Wall Street Journal, David gets to the heart of the matter with pertinent business issues from unionization to M&A.

AxisWire @axiswire
AxisWire is a newswire dedicated to the cannabis industry. It’s an easy to digest spot to catch up on the industry, by zeroing in on the latest press releases, from product announcements to industry events, it’s a good at-a-glance feed. 

WeedWeek @Weedweeknews
Hosted by Alex Halperin, a long-time cannabis journalist and Donny Alexander of public radio and ESPN, these two have a knack for being early adopters to industry trends, with a keen eye on what it means to consumers. Cannabis CEO and C-Suite executives will enjoy the thoughtful, no-drama approach of Halperin and Alexander while benefitting from their insightful guests. 

Cannabis Business & Thought Leader Twitter Accounts

By sparking your imagination, but these accounts are must-follows for cannabis industry CEOs for their broad perspectives on the overall health of the industry.

 

Andrew DeAngelo @Andrew_DeAngelo
Andrew might not be as well known as his brother, Steve, but these days he’s coming out from behind his operational role at the pioneering Oakland-based dispensary, Harborside, and sharing his opinions with his distinct rebellious flourish. Andrew’s thought-provoking perspective is cannabis industry-focused, with an emphasis on California and its regulatory environment. 

Emily Paxhia @empax1
As a woman in the VC world, Emily is already a notable follow, but as a cannabis VC, watching Emily’s tweets is interesting insight into the headspace of a cannabis VC. As co-founder of Poseidon Asset Management, Emily has been an active investor since 2014. Poseidon has invested in Pax, Juul and Canopy Growth. On Twitter, she’s a positive advocate for the industry, while maintaining a 360-degree view on the cannabis industry’s trends and future, including international expansion and legalization. 

Vangst @vangsttalent 
It’s always interesting to see who is hiring for what. Great CEOs can read between the lines when they see their competitors hiring – or not. Take a gander at the jobs posted and you’ll see a list of who’s growing and who isn’t. 

Cannabis Advocacy & Industry Twitter Accounts

We’ve come a long way, but we’re not finished. Both THC and CBD leaders should keep a close on the announcements from these accounts.

 

Norml @norml
From research to legislative initiatives, NORML is the OG of cannabis advocacy and consumer accessibility.  NORML’s Twitter feed is highly curated and includes information from state chapters too. A quick glance will get you immediately up to speed on today’s THC-related news. 

US Hemp Roundtable @HempRoundtable
The US Hemp Roundtable was formed to take a proactive role in hemp normalization and legislation. Many in the hemp industry credit the 2018 Farm Act to the US Hemp Roundtable. If you’re in the business of CBD or hemp, you’ve got to keep your eye on these tweets. 

National Cannabis Industry Association @NCIAorg 
As a cannabis industry representative at the federal legislative level, NCIA has a national presence and state chapters. The feed is filled with legislative updates affecting cannabis business owners as well as events, podcasts and blog posts written by the industry’s leading thought leaders.

Minority Cannabis @MinCannBusAssoc
If you’re looking for an inclusive perspective, and eh-em, you should be, then look no further than Minority Cannabis who share their perspectives and the latest diversity and inclusion news specific to the cannabis industry. As this movement continues within cannabis, this Twitter feed provides considerations and insights CEOs find helpful when developing diversity and inclusion policies and procedures. 

 

So you want to make your CEO the star? It’s a growing trend and there’s still room for your celebrity cannabis CEO.

The cannabis industry is ready for you, and you can take some tips from outside the cannabis industry to capitalize on the opportunity. From investment opportunities to increased brand value, to policy influence locally and nationally, and even profit increases, there are a lot of reasons why a CEO can be an important brand asset.

We’re seeing celebrity CEOs in the cannabis space, you know who they are. While it might look like those cannabis CEOs became industry household names simply because they’re so brilliant or successful, that’s simply not the case – there are many brilliant AND successful CEOs in cannabis whose names you wouldn’t be able to name. If you look around, you’ll see that cannabis CEOs and even more famous CEOs whose names you know, with very few exceptions, do these things in some combination. Because I’ve had the opportunity to work directly with some fantastic CEOs as well as politicians, I well know the big and little steps creating a celebrity takes.

So how do these CEOs become celebrities? The answer: extreme commitment to repeated exposure in multiple channels. Rome wasn’t built overnight and neither is celebrity CEO.

Close the C-Suite/Consumer Disconnect with Social Media

Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer said the majority of people (63%) believe CEOs should communicate with the public via social media and even more (79%) say knowing a CEO’s personal values is important to building trust, and that they trust spontaneous speakers more than well-delivered speeches. Contrast these statistics with the fact that 61% of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social media presence at all. No wonder there’s a disconnect from the C-suite to the Consumer.

These are interesting statistics for cannabis CEOs, who run businesses in an industry not yet federally recognized.

Increased Industry & Brand Trust

Yet this is EXACTLY the reason cannabis CEOs should be using social media. Even more than most industries, we must create trust with the general public. Summer 2019’s vape crisis did not help the cannabis industry’s reputation with the general public.  Social media offers cannabis brands the opportunity to speak directly and consistently. Because social media offers the opportunity to be spontaneous, here’s the ONE THING you can’t get past with social media: if you’re CEO is tweeting or engaging on LinkedIn, she absolutely must be directly involved and engaged on the platform herself, at least sometimes. And she should be using social media as a listening platform too, it will help her feel more connected and more engaged with her clients.

Balance Strategy with Authenticity

Whatever objectives you have to this strategy, there are reasonably straightforward systems that can be employed to overcome them.  Regardless of your strength as CEO, there’s a way for social media to work. Ghostwriters have a place in social media and many executives and celebrities rely on them, but the truest opportunities come when it isn’t exclusively outsourced, where there is a natural balance that remains authentic AND strategic.  Harborside’s Steve DeAngelo does this very well, he uses Instagram to showcase his boundless energy and willingness to engage with the cannabis community. By intelligently committing to a platform he’s comfortable with, he’s able to work it into his daily life. DeAngelo has also been very consistent with his key messages, he comes back to the same topics time and again and he uses social media to reinforce those messages while also adding a sense of fun and celebration to serious industry discussions.

Pick A Format That Celebrates You as CEO

With social media, there are many, many formats and opportunities. For example, you can balance authenticity with strategy with serialized content. Serialized content allows for consistency and systems to be in place while maintaining flexibility enough to jump into action when there’s a particularly timely opportunity. From podcasts to video forums to tweetchats, serialized content offers a direct opportunity for CEOs to showcase their personalities and warmth, which according to Chris Malone of The Human Brand, is an essential factor in increasing trust, “There are two basic dimensions that we judge people on: competence, which is all about how your abilities are perceived, and warmth.” If your CEO is particularly witty or opinionated, live formats offer CEOs an outstanding opportunity for enhanced brand recognition.

Go where your consumers are. What cannabis CEO is going to make waves by being the first to create engaging content on TikToc or even one of the e-sports platform? There are all kinds of digital places where your consumers roam, be there, where you can actively enjoy the people and space.

 

Open the Kimono To The Press

Simply BEING a CEO isn’t enough to develop ongoing coverage. In order to become a celebrity CEO, there’s groundwork to be done.

Prepare Yourself

Show up for the interview on time and prepared. Be clear on what you’ll say, identify a couple of key quotable statements you don’t want to miss and yes, review the journalist’s past articles to get a sense of their voice and depth. When the article is published, be sure to send a thank-you note and make sure your social media outlets share them.  Get yourself ready with a variety of professional headshots and lifestyle shots that showcase how your CEO embodies the brand.

As CEO, you should be ready to share your availability with marketing and PR. When traveling for business, strategize with your team about how you can capitalize on the time your in that city. If you’re traveling for pleasure, stay a day or two extra and give your team ample time to set appointments for you.

Invest in media training, get really good at driving the conversation where you want it to go. Learn how to handle the toughest of questions with elegance and grace. Learn what circumstances produce the best outcomes for you and make yourself available for those oppotunities. For example, some people just don’t do well in person, so pursue opportunities that are over the phone, get comfortable with industry journalists so you can develop some mutual trust. Develop in-person opportunities over time and in settings where you feel comfortable.

Don’t Buy Into Your Own Press

“Fame is other people’s perception of who you are,” said Oprah Winfrey. “In order to remain true to who you are, you have to be aware of it, but you can’t buy into it.”

Stay grounded. For CEOs starting out on the celebrity endeavor, take a step back and treat all journalist opportunities like they are the most important you’ll ever do. Remember that journalists are a tight-knit crowd and if your cannabis CEO isn’t warm or inviting and interesting, word gets out. More importantly, you never know where that journalist will land. Be kind. Be respectful. Be humble.

Lean In on Warmth & Wit

CEOs don’t have to be flashy, they DO have to be open and wise. Linton wasn’t a particularly dynamic speaker, but he always had something interesting to say and he said it with the confidence and authority that left everyone hanging on his every word. He knew his strength and he exercised it.

An excellent example of this is Bruce Linton who was famously ousted from Canopy in July 2019. Linton had been making the speaking circuit and made himself available for comment to press, for the better part of a year, and it seemed no publication or conference was too big or too small for him to share his perspective.

Linton’s availability worked in his favor as his ousting was big news, but Linton wisely got out ahead of the story and used his visibility to tell his side of the story. It’s not just that he got out ahead of it either – he handled the entire situation with class, he was forward-looking and resisted any temptation to slam his former employer.  All this worked out well for his next employer Vireo Health who got a healthy 26% stock bump after naming him CEO.

What’s interesting is a good look at this Google Trends report, which starts in 2016. You can see that Linton was already taking his position as CEO seriously even then, the groundwork was being laid. Even before his firing, you can see that the hard work is starting to pay off. The spike is obviously the news that he was let go, but most interesting is that Linton never took his foot off the gas and searches for him remained high even after his firing:

The Number One Tip for A Celebrity CEO

Planning. Don’t launch a celebrity campaign without using all your resources in marketing and PR. It’s a great idea to have a mix of trusted resources and new people who can see the forest through the trees. By now, CEO, you know who you are, lead your team of advisors by being transparent with them about your strengths and weaknesses. There’s no one who wants you to flop and starting out on the right foot will enable you all to succeed in this very exciting opportunity.

Cannabis Branding Is About To Become Extremely Important To Cannabis CMOs and Founders

Adult-use marijuana is on the ballot and in the minds of thousands of people in the United States this fall. Adult-use, especially in California, because of its market size will change everything for cannabis companies. What should cannabis brands be thinking about in preparation for market expansion? As a cannabis entrepreneur, you might be so busy keeping up that you haven’t given much thought to branding.

Before we jump into our 3 tips for cannabis branding, let’s talk for a minute about what branding is (and isn’t) so we’re all on the same page.

Branding: the emotional response the consumer has to your company and products. 
Branding: the humanity of your company.
Branding:  the often difficult to define, but easy to spot feeling people get when they know whether they want to “hang around” your brand.

 

Maybe the most important question is why should you CARE? Strong brands develop customer loyalty and they sell products for premium prices. Interested?

I thought so.

You know what companies are branding masters? Alcohol and tobacco. Technology. Beverages like soda, water, and sports drinks.

Truly great brands incorporate values, voice, design, and especially the customer into their presence, whether it’s in-person, online, or in-store. Notice I did NOT say that branding is the packing and logo. Those two are important aspects of branding. Logos and packaging should not be the last thing you ever do with branding. Branding should be a cornerstone of culture, communication, and position that your customers continue to relate to.

Strong cannabis branding will be a steady platform from which you make decisions on everything from products to partnerships, hiring and marketing campaigns. Cannabis brands need to nurture and develop their brands to be ready for the expansion of adult use. This is particularly important in California where consumers expect sophisticated brands and branding.

So, regardless of where you are in your branding process, it’s never too late to consider these 3 tips for cannabis brands in the adult-use market:

 

BE REALLY CLEAR: WHO is your customer?

Many people hear this question and they immediately think of demographics. That’s fine, be clear on demographics, it will save you time and money. But dig deeper. Think about your customer’s lifestyle, their other passions, and what motivations you’ll be tapping into when they see your brand.

Are your customers proud proclaimed pot users or have they been an “in-the-closet” user for most of their adult lives? If they aren’t open cannabis users, why is that? Is it because of kids, jobs, cultural fear? The potential of adult-use is tapping into the existing cannabis user or the adult whose perception of cannabis is changing and they’re beginning to see marijuana like a craft beer. This is future of cannabis branding-it’s wide open. You can do some really powerful branding when you understand these deeper aspects of your customers.  Do 2-3 customer profiles as you would if you were writing a bio on someone, this simple exercise can give you extraordinary clarity on your customer.

The potential of adult-use is tapping into the existing cannabis user who is in the closet or the adult whose perception of cannabis is changing even though they aren’t regular marijuana users. These new to marijuana customers will gravitate towards brands that are as well-rounded and credible as the other brands they’re used to buying. This is the future of cannabis branding-it’s wide open. You can do some really powerful branding when you understand these deeper aspects of your customers.

To prepare for these different customers, do 2-3 customer profiles as you would if you were writing a bio on someone, this simple exercise can give you extraordinary clarity on your customer.

 

ASK YOURSELF: Do I really SPEAK to my customer?

Now it’s time to look at the way you speak to your customer? Depending on how you view your brand, your voice might be “friendly-let’s-hang-out” or it might be “knowledgeable advisor” “edgy-hipster” or “couch-locked stoner”. There is room for each of these voices, but not within the same brand.

Whatever your voice is, be sure it’s one that your ideal potential customer can relate to. The cannabis market is expanding beyond the traditional young person’s product and while there’s still room for that branding, the market is expanding.  Today’s marijuana user isn’t necessarily hiding from their parents, they might be hiding it from their kids. I hear a lot of cannabis entrepreneurs say that they absolutely understand their market because they are marketing to their friends. Well, that’s a great start, but the average person only has 338 Facebook friends – you’re going to need your business to be a lot bigger than that, so you may have to dig deep and really think about whether your brand is relatable to a larger audience.

 

REMEMBER: Be consistent!

Now that you’ve identified your customer and the voice, take a hard look around at the rest of your branding. Is your branding consistent from the four senses perspective – does it look, feel, smell, taste like your brand? Would your ideal target customer buy and more importantly recommend to their friends? Sophisticated branding will take all this into account.  Commanding a higher price for your product requires that you consider these elements. Set some branding goals for your company and prioritize based on budgets. But do set them because as the market opens up, the strong brands who have developed loyalty will be the ones truly capitalizing on the future of cannabis branding.

 

The A-Team specializes in converging great brands with marvellous stories the media wants to write about.

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OK.  I’ll admit it. I watch Silicon Valley on HBO.

I hate admitting it because of course, it’s both a characterization and just a little too close for comfort to the startup experience.

Last night’s episode had me laughing AND crying.

Let me set the scene: The founder and the coders are desperately trying to hire new developers in a competitive market, time is short and so is money.  Meanwhile, in the board room, the newly minted but completely wacko investor insists the startup spend $30K on “shwag.” It’s a classically stressful startup moment.

I cringe.

No one asks any questions – the founders are too caught off guard by the mere suggestion. And yet, it’s patently obvious no one except the wildly erratic investor, who also spend a load of cash on billboards, has started to even think about marketing and branding.

Everyone’s thinking “splash” and no one is thinking “strategy.”

Here’s a pro-tip: “Splashes” without “Strategy” are usually huge wastes of money.

I don’t care how awesome your product is – you HAVE to think about branding and marketing for your startup. But the worst way to do it is in a scattershot “yah, let’s spend money on that,” way. Every startup has a “Shwag” moment.

I remember one startup I worked on wanted to spend $100K on hiring a talent for a “viral video.” Another spent over five-hundred thousand dollars on print ads.

Both happened for one reason only: everyone was in splash mode and no one was in strategy mode.

Here are 5 Ways To Know Whether It’s YOUR Time for “Schwag”

1. Have you done a pre-launch marketing plan? 

Before you go to launch, you’re going to need a marketing plan. Sounds obvious, except, it’s one of the hardest things for startups to focus on.

Through the haze of late nights and Redbull, frantic pivots and resource challenges, marketing strategy for launch is often overlooked.

Consequently, decisions like “we need to spend $30K on “shwag” happen in the moment and they happen quickly and then happen when everyone is actually focused elsewhere.

If there’s one place you need a plan for launch it’s in marketing. If you’re doing your pre-launch homework, you might just be well positioned for your splash.

2.  Who’s Suggesting? 

I know you wouldn’t take code advice from me. You shouldn’t. If I ever give it you, send me packing.

Get your experts and resources in order and more importantly, listen to them.

There’s going to come a point when someone or many people will start telling you what you should do, most of whom have no idea what you’re TRYING to do.  The better your relationship with your marketing expert, the more you’ll know whether you’re getting good advice from everyone else.

3. Who’s Implementing? 

What’s the point of your “shwag?” Whose getting it, when and where. Oh, yah, whose distributing it?

How many times have I seen impetuous spending happen without thought as to implementation?

Chances are – no matter what kind of “shwag” you’re investing in, you, the founder do NOT have time to implement said “shwag.” Better figure that out before you spend that $30K.

Even if you’re a master of marketing strategy, get your implementors together and THEN you’ll be ready for your splash.

4.  What Questions Aren’t You Asking?

Hey, I like a new idea probably even more than the next person, but somethings work consistently and somethings consistently don’t work. Some risks in marketing are worth taking, some are worth testing and some are just bad.

There should be at least one person on your team, whether in house or outsourced whose saying “that’s a bad idea,” once in awhile.

I’m not suggesting you have layers and layers of processes for a simple decision, but I don’t care how many millions you have, marketing is expensive, someone better be prioritizing and someone better be comfortable with “no.”

Find your “no” person. Not because they’ll throttle  you, but because they’ll let you splash at the right time.

5. How Expensive is “Cheap?” 

I get it, you don’t want to spend any of your money on “shwag” but you need to. So you call your nephew or niece because they’ll do it cheap.

Unraveling “cheap” is one of the most time and energy consuming processes you can not pay for. I bet you’ve been there in other forms of development. Marketing is no different. Not only that, but you’ll find unraveling cheap costs a whole lot more than “done right the first time.”

So, next time someone wants to drop big bucks on shwag, you’ll be ready for them. AND you’ll be on your way to being ready for your splash.