Cannabis

In an era where the cannabis industry is evolving rapidly, the role of top cannabis PR firms has become more crucial than ever. These specialized agencies are not just about creating buzz; they’re about navigating complex legal landscapes, altering public perceptions, and building robust brand identities. But what exactly should one expect when partnering with a PR agency with expert cannabis PR experience? This comprehensive guide will take you through everything you need to know.

Understanding Cannabis PR: Beyond the Green Horizon

Cannabis PR isn’t just regular public relations with a green hue. It’s a highly specialized field where deep industry knowledge and expertise are paramount. Cannabis PR companies find themselves at the intersection of legislative advocacy, consumer education, and cutting-edge marketing strategies, which is crucial because the cannabis industry’s challenges and opportunities aren’t solely about selling a product—they’re also about shifting societal perceptions and navigating a complex legal landscape.

The History of Cannabis PR: Something You Must Know

The history of cannabis PR is a fascinating journey that mirrors the evolving societal attitudes and legal landscapes surrounding cannabis. From its early days marked by stigma and prohibition to its current status as a burgeoning, rapidly growing industry, the innovative role of cannabis PR companies has been pivotal in shaping and transforming the narrative around cannabis.

The Early Years: Battling Stigma and Prohibition

The roots of cannabis PR can be traced back to the early 20th century when cannabis was widely stigmatized and illegal in most parts of the world, including the United States. The lack of public understanding and heavy government propaganda against cannabis use, best exemplified by the infamous 1936 film “Reefer Madness.” is marked during this period. During these years, any PR efforts related to cannabis were largely underground and focused on advocacy and counterculture movements, which sought to challenge the prevailing negative stereotypes and legal restrictions.

The 1960s and 70s: Counterculture and the Push for Legalization

The 1960s and 70s witnessed a significant shift with the counterculture movement. Cannabis became a symbol of rebellion against the establishment, and this period saw the first organized efforts to change public perception and laws regarding cannabis. Social activists and early cannabis PR companies, although few and operating on the fringes, began to promote the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of cannabis, countering decades of negative propaganda. This era set the foundation for future PR efforts by highlighting the need for public discourse and policy change.

The 1990s: Medical Marijuana and Changing Perceptions

The 1990s marked a turning point with the advent of medical marijuana. California’s Proposition 215 in 1996, which legalized medical cannabis in the state, was a watershed moment. It shifted cannabis PR from a focus on countercultural advocacy to a more nuanced approach highlighting medical research and patient stories. This period saw the emergence of more professionalized cannabis PR companies that began to use traditional PR strategies, such as media engagement and press releases, to educate the public and influence policymakers about the benefits of medical cannabis.

The 2000s: The Green Rush Begins

The 2000s saw an acceleration in cannabis legalization movements, both for medical and recreational use. Top cannabis PR firms played a crucial role in this era, employing sophisticated PR strategies to reshape public opinion. They worked to rebrand cannabis from a recreational drug to a legitimate product with medicinal and economic benefits. PR campaigns focused on demystifying cannabis, using data-driven approaches, and leveraging social media platforms to reach a broader audience. Different modalities begin to emerge including cannabis edibles and cannabis beverages.

The Present and Future: Mainstream Acceptance and Challenges Ahead

Today, the cannabis industry is at a point of mainstream acceptance in many regions, with a burgeoning legal market. Modern cannabis PR companies are now part of a multi-billion-dollar industry, facing new challenges such as market differentiation, corporate social responsibility, and international expansion. They continue to play a vital role in shaping the narrative around cannabis, ensuring compliance with regulatory environments, and promoting responsible use.

What to Expect from Top Cannabis PR Firms

When you partner with a top cannabis PR firm, you unlock a spectrum of specialized services crafted to elevate your cannabis brand. These firms offer a blend of traditional PR innovative strategies and expertise tailored to the unique needs of the cannabis industry. Let’s explore these services in detail.

Media Relations: Top cannabis PR firms excel in media relations by creating compelling narratives that resonate with diverse audiences. They skillfully craft stories appealing to cannabis enthusiasts and those new to the industry, effectively broadening your brand’s reach and positively influencing public perception, which is crucial for navigating the evolving cannabis landscape.

Crisis Management: In the unpredictable cannabis industry, sudden regulatory changes and public misperceptions are frequent. Expertise in crisis management is essential. These firms adeptly handle these challenges, using strategic communication to lessen impacts, safeguard your brand’s reputation, and sustain trust with your audience and stakeholders, ensuring stability in a volatile market.

BrandBuilding: Brand-building in the cannabis sector entails more than just product marketing; it’s about developing a resonant, authentic brand ethos. Cannabis PR companies specialize in crafting a brand identity that stands out in an extremely competitive market and genuinely represents your business’s core values and vision, significantly enhancing consumer connection.

Digital Marketing: In a digital-focused world, a solid online presence is crucial. Cannabis PR firms offer digital marketing services, including SEO optimization and social media management. They expertly navigate the unique challenges of online cannabis marketing, ensuring your brand’s successful growth and robust presence in the digital landscape, which is crucial for modern success.

Event Planning and Management: Event planning and management are vital for cannabis brands, providing platforms for product showcasing and community engagement. Expert firms design and execute events that enhance brand visibility and offer valuable industry networking opportunities, building a solid brand presence and fostering community relationships.

Influencer Partnerships: Influencer marketing is crucial in contemporary PR, especially for cannabis brands. Top Cannabis PR Firms excel in identifying and working together with influencers who align with your brand values and authentically engage their audience. This approach amplifies your brand’s reach and credibility in the cannabis community, leveraging influencer influence.

Regulatory Compliance: Navigating the complex regulatory environment of the cannabis industry is critical. These PR firms ensure all your PR complies with current laws and regulations, protecting your brand from legal issues and upholding its market integrity. This compliance expertise is essential for the long-term sustainability and growth of your cannabis brand in a regulated industry.

Challenges and Solutions in Cannabis PR

The world of cannabis public relations is laden with unique challenges. However, these challenges present opportunities for cannabis PR companies to innovate and move the industry forward.

Regulatory Restrictions and Compliance

Challenge: One of the most significant hurdles for cannabis PR is navigating the intricate web of regulatory restrictions. These regulations vary across different regions and are subject to frequent, often unpredictable changes, making compliance a constantly moving target. Non-compliance can result in serious penalties, damaging a brand’s reputation and financial standing.

Solution: To tackle this, cannabis PR companies focus on understanding the legal landscape. They invest in legal expertise and compliance teams to ensure all communications and marketing efforts adhere to the latest regulations. This proactive approach not only safeguards against legal pitfalls but also positions these firms as trusted advisors in the eyes of the clients.

Market Volatility and Consumer Misconceptions

Challenge: The cannabis industry is characterized by significant market volatility, heavily influenced by changing legislation, emerging competitors, and fluctuating consumer perceptions. Additionally, deep-rooted misconceptions about cannabis, fueled by historical stigma and misinformation, continue to pose a substantial challenge in effectively reaching and educating broader demographics.

Solution: Cannabis PR companies counter this challenge by launching education-focused campaigns. These campaigns aim to enlighten the public about the benefits and safety of cannabis, thereby altering deep-rooted misconceptions. They use a strategic mix of traditional and digital media to disseminate fact-based information, making it widely accessible to a diverse audience.

Navigating Advertising Restrictions

Challenge: Advertising cannabis products is fraught with numerous restrictions, which vary from one platform to another and across different regions. These multifaceted restrictions severely limit the avenues available for effectively promoting cannabis products, making it exceedingly challenging to reach target audiences and maintain compliance with diverse advertising rules.

Solution: To navigate this, cannabis PR firms leverage creative content marketing and storytelling. They focus on building brand narratives that resonate with their audience’s values and lifestyles, circumventing direct product promotion. Utilizing platforms like podcasts, blogs, and influencer partnerships helps reach audiences within the bounds of advertising regulations.

Building Trust with Skeptical Audiences

Challenge: Despite its growing acceptance, a notable portion of the audience remains skeptical about cannabis, often influenced by historical stigmas and misinformation. Overcoming this skepticism is crucial not only for expanding the market but also for the development and nurturing of cannabis brands. Addressing these concerns is key to broadening the consumer base and industry growth.

Solution: Building relationships with cannabis-friendly media outlets is a strategic, well-calculated move by cannabis PR companies. These relationships enable them to place stories in outlets viewed as credible by the skeptical audience. PR firms also organize community events and workshops to foster direct engagement and trust-building, enhancing public perception.

Staying Agile in a Changing Legal Landscape

Challenge: The legal landscape of the cannabis industry is constantly in flux, with new regulations and policies emerging regularly. This ongoing change demands that Cannabis PR Companies remain exceptionally agile and adaptive. Keeping up with these frequent legal shifts is crucial for ensuring compliance and maintaining a positive brand image in the ever-evolving cannabis market.

Solution: Agility and responsiveness are crucial in this dynamic scenario. Cannabis PR firms continuously train team members to stay abreast of any legal changes. They also craft flexible PR strategies that can swiftly pivot in response to new regulations. This approach ensures their clients’ PR efforts remain effective, compliant, and aligned with the latest legal requirements.

Managing Reputation in a Controversial Industry

Challenge: The cannabis industry, still grappling with social and legal controversies, often leads to cannabis companies facing reputation challenges. Negative media coverage or public sentiment can significantly tarnish a brand’s image. Addressing and managing these reputation issues is critical to maintaining a positive and credible brand presence in this controversial yet evolving market sector.

Solution: Proactive reputation management is essential in the cannabis industry. This strategy includes monitoring the media landscape to address negative coverage. Cannabis PR firms actively promote their clients’ positive stories and accomplishments, balancing the narrative. This approach is crucial in reinforcing a positive brand image and countering prevailing stigmas.

Leveraging Digital Platforms Amidst Restrictions

Challenge: Navigating digital platforms presents a unique challenge for cannabis-related content due to stringent restrictions. Many platforms impose specific limitations on cannabis advertising and promotion, necessitating creative approaches to utilize these digital avenues effectively, ensuring the brand’s message reaches its intended audience within the bounds of platform guidelines.

Solution: Cannabis PR firms are increasingly turning to unconventional digital strategies, which include SEO optimization to enhance organic reach on SERPs, engaging video content to captivate target audiences, and utilizing lesser-known digital platforms that are more cannabis-friendly. They also capitalize on social media trends and viral content to maintain a robust digital presence.

To conclude, navigating the world of cannabis PR is about understanding the nuances and unique challenges of the industry. By partnering with top cannabis PR firms, businesses in the cannabis sector can effectively communicate their message, build the brand, and navigate the complex regulatory environment. The key is to choose a public relations (PR) agency with cannabis PR experience that aligns with your vision and understands the intricacies of the cannabis market.

Elevate Your Cannabis Brand with Avaans Media

Are you ready to redefine your position in the ever-evolving cannabis market? Don’t let your brand’s voice get lost in the green rush. Partner with Avaans Media and watch your cannabis brand flourish. Whether through strategic storytelling, navigating regulatory complexities, or pioneering innovative marketing techniques, we’re the only agency to launch your brand to new heights. So, don’t wait for the future of cannabis to shape itself—be a part of shaping it. Contact us today!

In the dynamic venture capital arena, startups are in a perpetual race for funding and visibility. The advent of a robust Public Relations (PR) strategy is not a mere luxury but a pivotal component in the tapestry of a startup’s journey, particularly for those buoyed by venture capital. These PR agency hiring tips for VC-backed start-ups are meant to get you thinking about what you actually need and how to find a PR firm with relevant experience.

The investment garnered from venture capital is a testament to a startup’s potential, yet the journey ahead demands a narrative that resonates with the market, investors, and potential customers. It is where the finesse of a well-chosen PR agency with established PR experts at the helm becomes invaluable. Such an agency crafts and amplifies the startup’s story, transforming it from mere noise into a clear signal in a saturated marketplace. The stakes are high; the right agency can catapult a startup into the limelight, while a misalignment can relegate it to the shadows.

This discourse aims to unravel three cardinal tips for VC-backed startups in their quest to enlist a PR agency that understands the gravity of their vision and can navigate the intricacies of their industry to position them for exponential growth.

PR Agency Hiring Tips for VC-backed Startups

Public Relations can mold perceptions and, by extension, realities in the business world. Emerging as an ally is PR for VC-backed startups, where each narrative thread can significantly sway investor confidence. It can articulate the startup’s value proposition to potential customers and maintain a favorable investor sentiment. By carefully curating a startup’s interactions with the media, a competent PR team can ensure that public discourse aligns with the company’s strategic objectives, influencing customer acquisition and investor relations.

However, the path is fraught with unique challenges, as startups must navigate a media landscape that is as treacherous as rewarding. The right PR agency can serve as the startup’s compass, steering through the tumultuous waters of public opinion, crisis management, and brand positioning. The subsequent sections will delve into the critical considerations that startups must heed when selecting a PR partner – from industry expertise and strategic alignment to cultural fit and adaptability – collectively chart the course for a successful and symbiotic partnership.

Tip 1: Identifying PR Agencies with Relevant Experience

The axiom “experience is the best teacher” is particularly pertinent when selecting a PR agency for a VC-backed startup. An agency’s prior experience within a specific industry or even companies at the same stage of growth can be a harbinger of success, offering an understanding of the market and a nuanced grasp of the industry’s unique challenges and opportunities. Industry-specific experience translates into a repository of relevant media contacts, knowledge of effective strategies, and a keen awareness of what resonates with the target audience.

When assessing an agency’s experience, it is crucial to go beyond the surface-level number of years in operation. A VC-backed startup should delve into the agency’s track record, seeking evidence of impactful PR campaigns within similar industries or with startups at comparable growth stages. Scrutinizing an agency’s portfolio and case studies provides insights into its ability to garner media attention and drive meaningful engagement.

The following questions may serve as a guide to ascertain an agency’s fitness with your startup’s niche:

  • Can you provide examples of measurable successes you’ve achieved for clients in our industry?
  • How do you stay abreast of industry trends and incorporate them into your PR strategies?
  • What media relationships do you have that are relevant to our field?
  • How have you tailored campaigns to meet the unique needs of startups like ours?

These inquiries can illuminate whether an agency possesses the relevant experience that aligns with the startup’s vision and industry, ultimately ensuring that the PR efforts are not a shot in the dark but a targeted, strategic endeavor.

Tip 2: Evaluating Strategic Alignment and Creative Capabilities

In the competitive landscape that VC-backed startups operate within, strategic thinking and creativity in PR are not merely additives but the core ingredients of differentiation. A PR agency’s ability to think strategically ensures that every communication and campaign is purpose-driven, designed to build upon the startup’s broader objectives and to propel its narrative in a crowded market.

Creative capabilities in a PR agency manifest as innovative approaches to storytelling, crafting messages that capture the imagination of the audience and media’s imaginations. The creative angle can elevate a startup’s story from mundane to memorable. When evaluating a PR agency’s strategic and creative prowess, examining their previous campaigns can be revealing. Look for case studies demonstrating a blend of strategic objectives and creative execution. The campaigns should attract attention, engage the audience, and further the startup’s strategic goals.

Consider asking the following to gauge an agency’s strategic and creative insight:

  • How do you approach developing a PR strategy for a new client?
  • Can you share an example of a creative campaign that achieved strategic goals for a similar client?
  • How do you measure the success of a creative endeavor in terms of strategic outcomes?
  • Describe when you had to pivot a campaign strategy creatively to adapt to unexpected market conditions or results.

 

The answers to these questions will show how the agency thinks and operates, signaling whether they can truly align with your startup’s ambitions and whether their creative spark can ignite the interest your startup needs to thrive.

Tip 3: Ensuring Cultural Fit and Flexibility

When a VC-backed startup partners with a PR agency, the synergy of their corporate cultures is a significant determinant of the partnership’s success. Cultural fit aligns with company values, work ethic, and business philosophies. This alignment enhances collaboration, fosters mutual respect, and facilitates a shared vision. It’s important because it ensures that both parties are working towards common goals in a manner that is congruent with their core values. It’s also important to know how important it is to your team to have a PR agency near you.

A VC-backed startup’s culture is often characterized by agility, innovation, and a high tolerance for risk, and the right PR agency should complement this ethos. An adaptable agency that can scale its services is invaluable as the startup grows. It must be able to anticipate the evolving needs of the startup and respond with agility to the rapid changes that are part and parcel of the startup ecosystem.

To assess cultural fit and flexibility, consider the following:

 

  • Inquire about the agency’s previous experience with startups and how they have adapted their strategies as their clients grow.
  • Discuss the agency’s approach to risk and innovation, ensuring it matches your startup’s culture.
  • Evaluate the agency’s communication style and responsiveness. Prompt and clear communication is crucial, especially in crises.
  • Regularly reviewing the relationship and ensuring that the agency meets the startup’s changing needs is also important. An agency that was a perfect fit at an early stage may not necessarily be the best fit as the company scales.

Assessing Agency Transparency and Reporting

When venturing into the realm of public relations, the transparency of a PR agency becomes a cornerstone for a trustful and effective partnership. A PR agency worth its salt should serve as a beacon of clarity, offering insight into the minutiae of its strategies, its operational approaches, and the metrics that signify success. Such transparency is vital; it enables VC-backed startups to gauge the effectiveness of PR activities and ensures that the agency remains accountable for the results it promises.

Transparency in Operations and Strategies: Transparency begins with clearly understanding the PR agency’s methodologies. How do they plan to elevate your brand? What channels and tactics will they employ to reach your target audience? A candid discussion about their strategies will set a solid foundation for the partnership.

Reporting on Progress and Results: Regular and detailed reporting is a must. These reports should provide results and insights into what those results mean for your business. They should reflect both successes and areas for improvement, guiding future strategy.

Questions to Consider:

  • Reporting: Inquire about the nature and frequency of their reporting. How comprehensive are their reports, and do they include quantitative and qualitative analysis?
  • Metrics: Understanding which metrics the PR agency prioritizes is essential. Are they focusing on vanity metrics or providing data that truly matters to your business objectives?
  • Billing Transparency: A clear breakdown of costs ensures that your startup is not blindsided by hidden fees or ambiguous billing.

PR Agency Hiring Tips for VC-backed Startups Assessment Tips:

  • Sample Reports: Requesting sample reports is a practical way to preview how the agency conveys progress and to determine if their reporting style matches your expectations.
  • Goal Alignment: The agency’s metrics should mirror your startup’s goals. Whether it’s brand awareness, lead generation, or thought leadership, ensure their reports track these objectives.
  • Communication Schedule: Establish a communication schedule that keeps you informed and engaged with the agency’s efforts. Regular meetings and updates can help maintain a pulse on the campaign’s impact.

Compatibility with Your Startup’s Size and Stage

Selecting the right PR agency for your VC-backed startup is akin to choosing a companion for a journey; the agency must match your pace, understand your path, and be equipped for the challenges ahead. Your startup’s size and developmental stage are compass points that should guide this choice. A smaller boutique agency may provide a level of intimacy, bespoke service, and dedication that resonates with the needs of budding startups. These agencies can offer more hands-on time, deeper understanding, and a tailored approach that aligns closely with an early-stage startup’s evolving demands.

Conversely, larger agencies may bring an expansive suite of services, broader expertise across various industries, and a depth of resources that can be pivotal for startups on the cusp of scaling. Their experience with market leaders can be invaluable for a startup looking to make a quantum leap in its growth trajectory.

Questions to Consider:

  • Experience with Similar Startups: Does the agency have a proven record with companies at the same growth stage as yours? How have they navigated the particular challenges that come with that stage?
  • Tailored Services: How does the agency plan to adapt its services to meet your startup’s specific needs? Is there flexibility in their approach to cater to your unique market position?
  • Growth and Scaling: What strategies does the agency have to scale its services with your growth? Can they anticipate the needs of your expanding business and adapt accordingly?

Assessment Tips:

  • Case Studies: Delve into case studies where the agency has successfully guided startups through growth milestones. These stories can offer a blueprint of the agency’s capacity to foster growth.
  • Future Scenario Planning: Engage in discussions about hypothetical future scenarios. How would the agency respond if your startup doubled in size or entered a new market? Their answers will shed light on their agility and scalability.
  • Agency’s Growth Trajectory: Consider the agency’s history. An agency that has experienced significant growth or stability over time may be more adept at supporting your startup as it scales.

Case Studies and Testimonials

Case studies and testimonials signal a PR agency’s ability to deliver results and maintain strong client relationships. For instance, a tech startup might share how their PR agency crafted a narrative around their latest innovation, leading to feature articles in top industry publications and a significant uptick in website traffic and investor interest.

Testimonials could highlight the agency’s responsiveness and adaptability, such as a founder praising their PR team for a rapid and effective response to an unforeseen event, protecting the startup’s reputation, and even turning the situation into a positive public relations opportunity.

These real-world endorsements are powerful because they provide social proof of the agency’s competencies and the impact of their work on the startups’ success trajectories. They also give insight into the agency’s working relationship and clients, which can be as crucial as the results achieved.

When gathering case studies and testimonials, looking for diversity in the examples showcasing the agency’s breadth of experience and ability to tailor their approach to different startup needs and challenges is beneficial.

The journey of hiring the right PR agency is a critical venture for VC-backed startups. The process demands meticulous attention to three pivotal areas: finding an agency with relevant industry experience, evaluating strategic and creative capabilities, and ensuring cultural fit and flexibility. These elements are not just checkboxes but foundational pillars that can set the stage for a startup’s narrative in the public domain. By investing time and effort into this process, startups reap long-term benefits, including sustained investor interest, a robust customer base, and a resonant brand image.

As startups embark on this path, they must remember that the relationship with a PR agency is a partnership that extends beyond mere service provision. It’s a collaborative journey that, when navigated wisely, can lead to unprecedented PR success. Therefore, startups are encouraged to initiate their search with diligence and foresight.

PR Agency Hiring Tips for VC-Backed Startups Additional Tips

Quick Actionable Tips:

  • Look beyond the pitch; evaluate the PR agency’s action plans.
  • Verify references and results from previous clients.
  • Discuss long-term strategies, not just immediate wins.

Checklist for Interviewing PR Agencies:

  • Does the agency have direct experience in your industry?
  • What awards and distinctions can the PR agency point to?
  • Can the agency demonstrate strategic thinking through past campaigns?
  • How does the agency approach creativity and innovation?
  • Is there a cultural resonance with your team?
  • Can the agency adapt to the changing scale of your operations?
  • What is the agency’s track record of responsiveness and crisis management?

 

Start your journey today: Seek a PR agency that understands your vision and will stand by your side as your brand grows. Let the search begin with the conviction that the right partnership will elevate your startup to new heights.

Updated FTC Guidance on Influencer Marketing Disclosure

Updated July 13, 2023

 

The FTC’s job is to preserve consumer trust. When the FTC adds clarity to its regulations, the purpose is usually to make the guidelines more clear, and therefore easier to follow.

This is an important announcement if you use influencer marketing or consumer reviews.

The updated FTC guidance covers:

1) articulating a new principle regarding procuring, suppressing, boosting, organizing, publishing, upvoting, down voting, or editing consumer reviews so as to distort what consumers think of a product; 2) addressing incentivized reviews, reviews by employees and fake negative reviews of a competitor; 3) adding a definition of “clear and conspicuous” and saying that a platform’s built-in disclosure tool might not be an adequate disclosure; 4) changing the definition of “endorsements” to clarify the extent to which it includes fake reviews, virtual influencers, and tags in social media; 5) better explaining the potential liability of advertisers, endorsers, and intermediaries; and 6) highlighting that child-directed advertising is of special concern.

 

 

You can read about the announcement here:

FTC updated guidance on deceptive reviews 

 

May 9, 2017:

Because of continuing conversations with colleagues, brands, and influencers, I wanted to put some guidelines together for based on the FTC’s native advertising guidelines or influencer disclosure.

The FTC has shot some arrows over the bow in the last several years regarding native advertising disclosure, including calling out Warner Bros. and Lord and Taylor.

In both cases, the brand was held liable, not the influencers or content creators, strongly signaling that it’s the brand’s responsibility to ensure disclosure. But, the FTC native advertising guidelines make it clear: ” …the FTC has taken action against other parties who helped create deceptive advertising content – for example, ad agencies and operators of affiliate advertising networks.  Everyone who participates directly or indirectly in creating or presenting native ads should make sure that ads don’t mislead consumers about their commercial nature.”

Basically, no one is off the hook.

As if by magic, the FTC slapped 45 celebrity influencers with warning letters but didn’t forget to include their agents and the brands – in total 90 letters were issued about the FTC native advertising guidelines. It’s safe to say this isn’t going away. It’s always been best practice, but if you didn’t take it seriously before, it’s time to do so now.

My view is this: disclosure and transparency are good for all.

A brand should have no shame about showcasing its products and experiences in a real life scenario. Influencers shouldn’t have shame either, because working with a brand is a badge of honor. It’s a real compliment to a community that a brand values their eyeballs. If you’re ashamed of working with a particular brand or influencer, perhaps you’re working with the wrong partner.

Often times when I have conversations about disclosure with brands and influencers, I get questions like “what if…we do….”

Whether you are a brand or an influencer, if you’re asking questions about how to get around these guidelines, you’re on the wrong track. The guidelines make it very clear: make it obvious to an uneducated viewer that there is a material relationship (basically, anything which might effect the outcome of the endorsement). Influencers are often concerned about “selling out” their community. As an influencer, if you’re making a living from your community with native advertising and you’re not disclosing those relationships, you’re REALLY selling them out.

The Edelman Trust Barometer makes it clear: trust is in crisis. 

Establishing trust and adhering to guidelines is necessary for native advertising and influencer relations to continue. If trust is eroded the FTC guidelines won’t be at fault for the collapse of social native advertising.

So here are the guidelines based on reading hundreds of pages including all of the FTC links provided below.


When do social media influencers need to disclose a relationship with a brand?

Always.

Does this apply to me?

Yes.

Why does it matter?

The FTC says it does.
Consumer trust is important to all of us. 

How do I disclose?

Make it “clear and conspicuous” and leave no doubt.


If you want to read through the FTC’s own words on this:

FTC Native Advertising Guideline Resources

.com Disclosures (2013)

Native Advertising: A Guide For Business

FTC Endorsement Guidelines: What People Are Asking (2015)

The Lord & Taylor Disclosure Case-FTC Blog (2015)

The Warner Bros Disclosure Case-FTC Blog (2015)

Enforcement Policy Statement On Deceptively Formatted Ads (2015)

 

Cannabis businesses who are new to PR have a lot of decisions to make. Many of our clients have never hired a cannabis PR agency before and the process can seem daunting.At Avaans we work with a lot of hyper-growth or early stage companies in emerging industries, so we’re pros at guiding ambitious companies to the next stage of growth. Often our clients are CEOs or CMOs who understand why PR is important, but maybe haven’t engaged a professional PR agency before. That’s why we came up with 3 tips for cannabis companies new to PR.

Cannabis Companies New to PR: “Am I Ready for PR?”

 

If you’re new to PR and you’re asking yourself the question, you’re off to a great start.

If you’re new to PR, you might be confused about what to ask an agency. For more strategic PR partnerships, ask the agency whether they think you are ready for PR. That will tell you how prepared they are to work with a company of your PR readiness. If a firm tells you that you aren’t ready for cannabis PR, what they’re saying is “You aren’t ready for our PR services.” We believe it’s important to consider PR from the very first moment.

The next question to ask yourself is how much bandwidth you have for PR. We started our consumer product PR sprints for very early growth companies or companies without huge budgets. Our cannabis PR Sprints are an excellent way to look underneath the hood of working with a PR agency, without a long-term PR contract. The PR Sprints are also great for cannabis product launches.

A full-scale bespoke PR program is more successful when the PR agency has a key contact at the cannabis company. Bespoke programs are for consumer brands committed to strategic PR outcomes like pre-IPO or investment, or attracting top talent. Bespoke programs are for companies and brands that have a long-term vision for the company and can state their 3-year and 5-year goals. B2B PR are also bespoke PR campaigns because every B2B campaign has dependencies as distinctive as the company’s leadership, product, and ambitions.

Naturally, budget comes into play, but working with a cannabis PR firm is like hiring a contractor – you rarely want the cheapest. If you’re new to PR, you’re in the early stages of reputation and branding, and this is a critical time for new cannabis brands. In particular, a cannabis company needs to invest in trust-first positioning and can’t take risks with the brand, because there is less brand equity.

Another way to know whether you’re ready for bespoke PR? Being crystal clear on cannabis public relations goals and outcomes will make choosing a firm, and a time to start cannabis PR much easier.

How Do I Look, Hunny?

Starting a cannabis business means jumping through a lot of hoops, and sometimes branding and marketing seem like it takes a back seat to the regulatory hurdles for cannabis companies. How does your cannabis packaging look on the shelves at a dispensary? How will it look on the pages of a magazine? Are your product images professionally shot? Do you know who your customers really are? If you’re still figuring out your website or tinkering with formulations, then focus on those items first, or at least go with a shorter-term, very focused PR campaign. Starting with a freelancer could also be an option at this stage as well. But in general, bespoke PR firms are worth the investment if you’re clear on your brand, its customers, and the look/feel of your cannabis packaging and product.

What’s the Best Time of Year To Engage a Cannabis PR Agency?

Journalists and editors are planning months in advance. This means your PR pitching should start months in advance, too. This is one aspect of PR that many new-to-PR companies struggle with: the need to plan in advance. For example, PR agencies will want photos and product descriptions months before

Look beyond 420 for cannabis PR. The fall months are a dynamic time for the cannabis industry. There are cannabis industry tradeshows and conferences happening, award winners announced, and of course, Halloween, Thanksgiving, the December holidays, and New Years’ Eve all add up to massive revenue opportunities for cannabis brands. For consumer brands new to PR, the fall can be one of the most valuable times of year to get editorial coverage for consumer brands. In fact, up to 40% of coverage for consumer brands happens during this time of year, so that’s a great time to pack a PR punch. We developed our consumer brand PR Sprints to include fall cannabis PR for this reason.

For B2B cannabis PR, the equation looks a little different. If you’re looking for a feature on a product launch or an executive, planting that story takes planning on behalf of the journalist and editor who have to fit it into regularly scheduled articles. Starting B2B cannabis public relations in the fall may be right for you if you have big plans for the spring. B2B PR, like thought leadership, speaking engagements, and cannabis industry visibility have more dependencies, some of which – like when speaking engagement submissions close, aren’t in your control. If you miss the window for this year at a particular event, there are only a couple of avenues to take, and most of them include spending a considerable sum of money. Campaigns and activations around crucial industry events may take longer to plan and implement, especially cannabis industry events. In short, B2B PR often requires longer lead times.

For cannabis consumer brands new to PR, there are some advantages to starting PR in the second quarter. But not if you’re planning a big 420 splash or product launch. You really aren’t giving yourself enough time to maximize your 420 if you’re starting in Q2. At that point, the question is really should you do a 420 campaign? On the other hand, if you’re a consumer or CPG cannabis brand who tends to have a summer-based sales cycle, say cannabis beverages, then starting your PR well in advance of the summer is a great idea.

Starting a new PR campaign in January gives most brands a superb runway to plan for everything the year offers, regardless of whether it’s B2B or B2C. We love starting the year off together with new clients, but this isn’t a time of year to start new projects for everyone. If your product does particularly well in February for Valentine’s Day – then starting in January is too late.

Being a cannabis company new to PR doesn’t have to daunting. Contact us with questions about hiring an agency, and what to look for. We love working with cannabis companies in all stages of growth.

I was on a webinar presented by Morgan Stanley and PwC about preparing for an IPO – and something struck me – there was optimism, and the organizations were signaling their faith in the return of IPOs, soon. 2023 has been an IPO graveyard, but as one host said, “One thing we know is markets change, and so it will also be for the low point of IPOs.” Their advice? Prepare now. Preparing for an IPO is a daunting task for any startup, and the focus is often on due diligence. Yet communications and PR are critical to public offering preparedness. What do pre-IPO companies need to do from a communication standpoint? 

 

Reputation Building 

Bankers know that when you pitch them for your IPO, the company has a verified financial model and total addressable market (TAM). And founders know investors are looking for the next $1 billion brand. This makes your company’s reputation extremely relevant. So when you’re looking to stand out to investors, nothing shows social proof quite as well as media coverage. Media coverage can go on the road with you and helps you stand out to investors. Confident, media savvy CEOs give investors confidence; it shows you can handle a very different role as CEO of a public company. 

Thought leadership is vital to reputation building. During this growth stage, executive visibility is more relevant than ever. Since a solid thought leadership program takes time and strategy, we recommend starting a thought leadership program at least 24 months before a desired IPO. 

Create a Compelling Narrative

Many founders mistake the pitch to investors as the corporate narrative. The two are cousins, but different. The narrative should resonate with key stakeholders, investors, and the public, highlighting the company’s mission, accomplishments, and long-term vision.

Know the Difference Between IR and PR

IR (investor relations) and PR (public relations) have important but slightly different roles in a company’s growth pre-IPO phase. Investor relations focuses almost solely on analysts covering topics your potential investors care about. Meanwhile, PR is targeted towards a broader set of journalists, and the public at large. They can and should work together. For example, both should play a role in any press releases. IR will ensure due diligence is met and ensure the investor messaging is correct, while PR will want to ensure the brand message is consistent and the media targets get the information they need. 

Crisis Planning 

The best time to manage a crisis is before a crisis. Before you go public, and get caught up in all the details of going public, plan for a crisis. How you handle a crisis will affect your brand, and god forbid you to have a crisis during your roadshow or quiet period. Your crisis planning should include many scenarios, from the employee, to property, to product, and, yes, cyber security. Every one of these scenarios could require different stakeholder involvement and point persons. Your crisis planning should include table top exercises and the executive team should review crisis PR plans at least once yearly. 

ESG Planning 

 Investors want to be part of companies with the broadest investor audience, and ESG (environmental, social and governance) is part of that, especially since some brokerage firms and mutual funds are offering investment products that employ ESG strategies. Larry Fink, Blackrock CEO, and co-founder, said ESG is “capitalism, driven by mutually beneficial relationships between you, the employees, customers, suppliers, and communities your company relies on to prosper,”.

From a PR perspective, ESG and even purpose-driven brands have special sensitivities, and it’s important to have a coherent plan and PR strategy for these talking points for all your stakeholders, from investors to customers. ESG is not just for the “woke” – investors see the writing on the wall and have for some time. Also, buyers beyond GenZ see the importance of ESG. 

Audit Your External Communications 

Ensure your website and any owned media meet all regulatory requirements – including executive bios, blog posts, and social media. Look at this moment as your last chance to shower before prom. Your website and social media should also be robust and brand consistent. You want everyone to see you in your best possible light, and the most accessible way for new friends to get to know you is your website. 

Media Training 

The press is not the enemy, but they aren’t here to be your BFF either. Talking to the press live and learning to work with the media under various conditions, including in person with lights and mics, is a skill. While you may have undergone media preparedness before interviews, now is the time to take on a full media training program for your CEO, executives and spokespersons, including anyone who attends public events (like trade shows) on your behalf. 

Expect media training to take several days of intense hands-on training and review. Since all relevant stakeholders will be together, it is also a good time to review and practice your crisis plan too. Since media training is a skill, conducting this exercise well before IPO is recommended. 

The Big Show

Your company will never again go public. This is one of the few indisputably great news moments.  Someone (not the CEO) must ensure the moment is documented and promoted. Do not miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s true – not every company makes the front page of the Wall Street Journal when they go public, but it is news – and someone will care. Using this opportunity to connect with journalists is key; it’s a great time to fill up the trust bucket in the eyes of journalists. 

Prepare for the moment with some notable key messages and brand-worthy must-airs. Run through your must airs and make sure you are prepared to answer questions that might come your way. Have your day meticulously planned with your communications in mind and watch the accolades roll in. 

Effective pre-IPO PR planning is crucial for companies aiming to go public. By crafting an interesting narrative, engaging media and influencers, developing investor communication strategies, building a strong online presence, managing crises, leveraging thought leadership opportunities, and engaging internal stakeholders, companies can establish a positive brand image, attract investors, and generate enthusiasm around their IPO. 

 

The holiday season offers an excellent chance for cannabis consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands. It is an opportunity to increase visibility, connect with customers, and increase sales. So what is the roadmap for holiday success leveraging cannabis CPG brand PR

This blog post will discuss how cannabis CPG brands can use public relations strategies to their advantage during the holiday season. Cannabis marketing and PR strategies can help consumer cannabis companies build their brand image, increase sales, and reach new customers. With the right approach, cannabis CPG brands can make the most of the holiday season.

PR can help cannabis brands work around legal restrictions. It can also help them build trust with their target audience. This trust can give them an advantage in the competitive cannabis industry.

Navigating Legal Limitations

The emerging cannabis industry is subject to strict regulations that can pose challenges for CPG brands seeking to promote their products. However, brands can navigate these legal limitations through strategic PR initiatives while generating interest and exposure.

Brands can create compelling brand stories that meet legal requirements. They can also inform consumers about the advantages and safe use of cannabis products during the holiday season.

Cultivating Trust and Credibility

One of the most valuable assets for any cannabis brand is trust. PR allows cannabis CPG brands to establish credibility and build consumer trust.

Brands can build a good reputation and be responsible leaders in their industry. They can share exciting stories, customer testimonials, and expert opinions. They can do this through press releases, media interviews, and social media campaigns. This fosters consumer confidence, encouraging engagement and loyalty during the holiday season.

Engaging Target Audiences

The holidays are a time when consumers are actively seeking unique, thoughtful gift ideas. Cannabis CPG brands can leverage a top-rated cannabis PR agency to engage their target audience and highlight their products’ value. Capitalizing on relationships with journalists, collaborating with influencers, organizing cannabis experiential events, and taking part in cannabis industry trade shows can create buzz and generate media coverage.

Leveraging social media platforms can be a great way to generate excitement for the holidays. Share holiday-themed content and exclusive promotions to engage with your customers. This can help foster a positive relationship with your brand.

Don’t Forget Digital

As technologies like AI revolutionize the way we engage with the internet, now is a great time to invest in your digital presence. Digital media, especially social media, poses a navigational challenge for legal cannabis companies due to its shadow banning. To prepare for the future, it is wise to begin laying the groundwork for better search now.

The way to get around social media’s constantly shifting sands is to invest in your own website. Make sure your cannabis products all have their pages and that the descriptions meet the latest Google PRU qualifications. While we’re at it – leverage PR to secure third-party Google-friendly reviews from credible sites.

Creating Thought Leadership

PR offers cannabis CPG brands the opportunity to position themselves as thought leaders in the cannabis industry. Brands can build trust with their audience by sharing educational content, industry trends, and expert opinions. This can be done by creating thought-provoking articles and blog posts.

Media interest is generated as brands promote cannabis and its positive impact and benefits. This applies not only during the holiday season but also beyond.

Measuring Impact and Adapting

It is essential for cannabis CPG brands to track their PR campaigns’ success. This helps them make adjustments to their strategies as needed.

Brands can use analytics tools and monitor media coverage. This allows them to track key metrics, such as brand mentions, website traffic, and social media engagement.

Insights allow brands to improve their PR strategies. They can fine-tune their messaging and tactics to get the most out of the holiday season. This will leave a lasting impression on consumers.

Conclusion

The holiday season is a special time for cannabis CPG brands. It is a chance to use PR strategies to become more visible, gain trust, and interact with their target audience.

Brands can use PR to stand out in a competitive market. To do this, they must navigate legal limitations, cultivate trust, engage consumers, establish thought leadership, and measure impact. By embracing PR techniques, cannabis CPG brands can unlock new avenues for growth and success during this festive time of year. Avaans Media has been a top cannabis PR firm since 2015. If you’re an ambitious brand, we’re the A-team for you.