5 marketing & PR trends for 2021 CMOs need now

5 PR Trends CMOs Need to Watch for 2021

There’s no shortage of uncertainty in marketing and PR planning for 2021. But there are some trends happening that are sure to impact PR and Marketing in 2021. At Avaans PR, CMO’s love us because we know consumer trends impact where our target audience will be, the frame of mind they’ll be in and what journalists will write about.  On a tactical level, trends impact our content creation, journalist relationships, and campaign recommendations we’re making now and in the next year. We’re ready for 2021 to require agility, but we’ve found that even agility requires forward-looking and yes, some planning. These are 5 of the marketing and PR trends for 2021 we’re watching on behalf of our consumer-forward brands.

PR Trend #1: Techlash Continues

From a PR trend perspective, this has a huge impact. Now is the time to reimagine how you’ll use social and digital media in 2021, from both a marketing and PR perspective.

The sting of social media won’t soon to be forgotten by consumers, regardless of political affiliation. During 2020, in particular, during the pandemic, social media took on outsized importance, but also affected consumers in new ways, and not all of them positive.

Yes, consumers continue to spend time and even buy on social media, but they are spending more and more time in micro-groups of their own on platforms like Slack or Messenger, or in like-minded platforms. This means brands will have to be extremely smart about their placements and presence in 2021. The separation also requires brands to be exceptionally clear about who their customers really are.

Further, the coveted 25-55 college-educated, earning $100,000 or more per year are using social media for customer service. This coveted group will not support companies who don’t support customer care. If 2020 was the year of pandemic-related customer acquisition for your brand, 2021 will most definitely need to be about keeping them happy and engaged. Part of that will most definitely be a branding effort to existing customers, ensuring your values align with theirs (more on purpose-driven initiatives below).

But it’s not just customer service affecting social media in 2021.  e-Marketer reported:

We have increased our forecast on mobile messaging and now believe time spent by US adults will grow by 4 minutes in 2020, to 24 minutes per day, not only due to the pandemic but also data showing strong engagement on messaging services like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Apple iMessage.

 

PR Trend #2: Work With Media in New Ways

Whether it’s TV, programmatic, or print, all media outlets are bracing for reduced advertising revenue in 2021. This will have very real implications for public relations initiatives.

First, according to Edelman, trust in media actually increased in 2020. This means you should absolutely be leveraging the trust of other outlets, particularly in lieu of the distrust around social media. However, you should do so with earned media and branded content.

Expect to see more “branded content,” in 2021. Well done branded content can be very effective in both PR and branding, so consider these options carefully. Branded content is better received than traditional ads, in fact, Second Street Lab reported in June that branded content through premium publishers sees a 50% brand lift.

Further, outlets will need to keep eyeballs on their content, to help drive ad revenue, brands with media relations campaigns should be looking at ways to support outlets who support them. At Avaans PR we are actively doing this for our clients already and seeing great brand lift and also enhanced journalist relations.

 

PR Trend #3: Purpose-Driven Buyers

Trusted brands saw huge increases during the pandemic, up to 50% growth, according to McKinsey. This is due to an unprecedented shift in brand loyalty during the pandemic.

Even pre-pandemic, affinity for brands who take a stand and align with consumer’s values were seeing real ROI on purpose-driven initiatives. As Americans slog through the pandemic, they are consistently re-evaluating priorities, this is especially true for Millenials and GenZ.

PR trends for 2021, include self-love and body positivity will be a purpose for many buyers, especially those who emerge from isolation hibernation with a few extra pounds. GenZ is feeling stressed. While some are still below the age of 18, they remember the great recession. Right now, self-care and home comfort are top of their list. Pre-pandemic, GenZ was actually returning to malls, but the pandemic has left this generation feeling a bit powerless and reconsidering purchasing behavior, at least for now. But 51% of GenZ’ers say they will return to in-store shopping. But when GenZ returns to stores, according to Retail Dive, they’ll do so with the expectation of safety and a frictionless environment that mirrors the ease of online shopping.   GenZ is also moving towards “thoughtful consumption,” especially those brands with responsible sourcing, environmentally friendly policies or support social issues. Local businesses and minority-owned businesses are also on their radar in a whole new way.

As for Millenials, the eldest of whom are in their 40’s already, are leading the way, followed by the often forgotten GenX, to continue online shopping across almost all verticals from essentials to alcohol, according to McKinsey.

Plus, record low-interest rates have created a whole host of new home buyers. In September 2020, 60% of U.S. homebuyers were Millenials, they’re likely to spend an increasing amount of time at home, items that allow them to spend more quality time with friends and family will be attractive, so delivery and home-based products will take a new focus for that generation.

PR Trend #5: The Re-Opening of America

We can’t really say when the “re-opening of America” will happen, but what we DO know Americans are ready for it already. The pent-up demand for all things in person will require ALL brands to pivot marketing and PR in 2021. We predict safety and trust will be key for the reopening of America.

Work is likely to be forever changed, more people will work from home than pre-pandemic. This means fewer people will waste time commuting. How will your initiatives work into their newly found time in the newly re-opened America? Will podcasting remain as vibrant as it was pre-pandemic? What about the TV surge happening now? Think about where your customers will be spending new time as we emerge from a post-pandemic world.

From tourism to retail to direct-to-consumer products, brands will need to be thinking about how they will be relevant at the right moment.

From a public relations standpoint, you’ll want to be thinking about how your brand will differentiate itself in the media and marketing activities. With trust and security taking new precedence, brands will need to think about how they will reinforce those messages in a brand-consistent way.  Now is the time to explore partnerships and the potential activations, which will create the memorable moments consumers are craving.

The time to plan for the Re-Opening America is now, the campaign should be fully ready to pull the trigger. From content to media relations to events, now is the time to plan, but bake in flexibility. For example, secure your video producers now, and create three original scripts, secure the time and the talent now, so you can move faster than everyone else when the moment is right.

PR Trend #5: Cross Collaboration

This is the year where everything needs alignment. If you haven’t already, tear down the silos between PR, Marketing, and Branding. Get those people together now so they can be more effective together in 2021. Think about how each department can align on digital and in-person initiatives. Think about initiatives that are word-of-mouth worthy, there will be plenty of industry and even national coverage for brands that are thoughtful about how they align.

A unified, personal experience will be an expectation in 2021. So ensure your messaging, your purpose, and your plans are operating together, not just in tandem, but together.

Use your owned, earned, and paid media together in new ways and your brand can benefit from the realignment of brand loyalty happening right now.

 

If you’re ready to use these and other marketing & PR trends for 2021 in a more customized way, let’s talk. 

 

CPG Lifestyle Case Study

TO ENHANCE PARTNERSHIP & INVESTOR OPPORTUNITIES THROUGH EARNED MEDIA COVERAGE

THE CHALLENGE

An ambitious CPG brand, previously unknown outside its local area, aims to secure expansion investment and distribution partnerships.

THE KUDOS

“Exactly what we were looking for in PR representation…smart, tough, persistent, and well connected… Consistently able to pitch us to the right outlets at the right times to get the coverage we were hoping for. Tara and her team are great and she came up with multiple really creative ways for us to stand out from the masses. I would highly recommend Tara and I would happily work with her again in the future.”


Ryan H.,
Marketing VP
CPG Marketing | Product Innovation | Lifestyle Branding

THE SOLUTION

Engage business, lifestyle, and vertical journalists on a weekly basis with timely, newsworthy storylines, tied in with announcements, conferences, and media calendars. Storylines encompassed purpose-driven, product-forward, and executive thought leadership,  Ensure national reputation management with media monitoring and on-going strategic counsel. Ensure key messaging consistency through internal training and on-going media training. Develop owned media assets, including video, press kit, and investor deck to stand out from the pack.

NATIONAL REPUTATION MANAGEMENT


Our national brand, competitor and category monitoring informs corporate decisions including partnerships, product development, and U.S. trends in the lifestyle and wellness category. We’re able to zero in on emerging trends before they happen and activate with strategic pitching.

ON-GOING COAST-TO-COAST MEDIA ENGAGEMENT


Activate media calendars with personalized review opportunities for selected journalists quarterly, which increased journalistic coverage as well as word of mouth.

OWNED CONTENT DEVELOPMENT


On-brand owned media, including branded video and regularly updated press kits and investor decks.

EXECUTIVE BRANDING


Reinforce executive thought leadership through media profiles, speaking engagements, and custom content development including paid, earned, and owned content.

WORD OF MOUTH CONFERENCE & TRADESHOW ACTIVATIONS


Ensure on-site coverage with journalists through activations of on-site journalists and sponsorships through engaging experiences and access.

AGENCY & PARTNER COLLABORATION


Work hand in hand with a branding firm to ensure consistent key messaging and partner PR agencies to ensure joint announcements are mutually beneficial.

THE RESULTS


Magazine cover featuring brand name and CEO

846 


Unique media mentions in 12 months.

10


Expansion to 10 additional U.S. states and 1 international destination

$7.4 million


Earned media value in 12 months

1


Clio nominated branded video

9% 


Share of voice against 5 aspirational, better funded, more established, national brands.

PR Firm California
Lifestyle PR Firm in California
Business PR Firm California
Reputation Management PR firm
Consumer Technology PR Firm
Consumer Technology PR Firms
Cannabis PR Agency California
MJ Biz
Global Tourism Social Media

A GLOBAL TOURISM DESTINATION TELLS SUSTAINABILITY STORY-GLOBALLY

THE CHALLENGE

One of the world’s best-known visitor destinations seeks to unify its global social media story-telling by providing agencies representing the destination in Europe, Asia, North America and Pacific regions with best practices, guidelines, processes, and procedures which reflect the global nature of its social media communications.

The organization also needs insights on tracking successful social media campaigns, both organic and paid with KPIs which can be easily reported to stakeholders.

Global social media crisis communication systems and processes are also needed.

At the same time, maximizing resources and merging brand paid social media budget.

THE SOLUTION

Support development of social media KPIs, establish best practices, including user-generated content UGC policies and guidance regarding GDPR. We maintain communication with agencies in Hong Kong, China, New Zealand, Australia, UK, and Germany to ensure consistent on-brand storytelling in social media.

We also manage a global social ad campaign, with a sophisticated funnel, that reaches into 12 countries and is translated into 10 different languages or dialects.

GLOBAL REPUTATION MANAGEMENT


From copy to images and video our international social media oversight ensures the brand story is consistent across languages and platforms including WeChat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

ESTABLISH GLOBAL SOCIAL MEDIA KPIs


We identify, evaluate and maintain organic and paid social media KPIs across 12 different global markets. We watch for shifts and changes and make recommendations to partner agencies and brand based on trends or shifts.

ESTABLISH & MANAGE GLOBAL SOCIAL MEDIA AD CAMPAIGNS


In addition to developing successful advertising campaigns, we developed a system and a process to manage multiple languages and cultural touch points across campaigns.

SUPPORT CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS


We help build systems and processes to implement crisis planning to agencies around the globe for social media distribution. Additionally, we create and establish guidelines for agencies for confident brand communication during periods of crisis for their location.

ESTABLISH INTERDEPARTMENTAL COMMUNICATION CHANNELS


We help build systems and processes to implement crisis planning to agencies around the globe for social media distribution. Additionally, we create and establish guidelines for agencies for confident brand communication during periods of crisis for their location.

ESTABLISH SOCIAL MEDIA GUIDELINES


From crisis management to content and branding, our team develops guidelines and training for agencies around the globe. We also support the organization with recommendations on important changes including GDPR, FTC Influencer Guidelines, and User Generated Content (UGC)

THE RESULTS

494%


Increase in social brand reach

494%


Increase in social brand reach

91%


Increase in social media brand engagement

25% 


Action rate on paid social website click campaigns.

133.6% 


Action rate on paid social video view campaigns

100.4% 


Overall action rate on paid social ad campaigns.

PR for Purpose Driven Brands

SOCIAL MEDIA WITH PURPOSE


Social media with purpose allows you to drive loyalty and attract new customers because your in touch with your customers. We are a digitally forward agency that combines emotional intelligence with strategy and data to build social media campaigns and programs. From startup to IPO, we build brand value. We’re a team of big thinkers with an eye for detail.

SOCIAL MEDIA

CONTENT STRATEGY

REPUTATION MANAGEMENT

CONTENT DEVELOPMENT

PAID STRATEGY + EXECUTION

CRISIS & REPUTATION RISK

CONTENT AMPLIFICATION

COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT

EXECUTIVE POSITIONING

SOCIAL MEDIA VIDEO & PHOTOGRAPHY

Social Impact PR

Building The Future Hand in Hand with Parents

THE CHALLENGE

Our client is a grant-receiving organization whose mission is to prepare pre-K children to become successful students. Of the audience served, many parents are economically disadvantaged and rely more heavily on their native language than English. There is another audience: the state legislature who is considering early education programs in its budget. Our legislative content must strike a delicate balance of advocating without alienating decision-makers.

THE SOLUTION

Our campaign strategy is to utilize social media as the primary communication method with parents and caregivers. We choose this method since many economically disadvantaged families access the internet only through their mobile phones and rely on social media to communicate with one another and geo-diverse family members. Our content needed to speak directly to parents, and be creatively sourced since the organization had no in-house photos or videos with social media permissions. We also felt content needed a peer-to-peer tone versus a “paternalistic” or “educator” tone. We purposely kept the content accessible through simple language and basic design; we felt overly polished content would feel inauthentic and too promotional to the primary audience of parents and caregivers.

CONTENT STRATEGY


Our content included fun activities for families to do together, alongside educational messages sourced from Vroom, an early education app which provides age-based activities for parents & caregivers with the science-based insights on how these activities impact early education. We ensured visuals included diverse examples of families relatable to the target audience and ensured posts could be translated on social platforms by incorporating it into the post. We also developed a series of social-specific videos for use in advertising and organic posts.

COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT


We monitored social platforms for questions and comments while also encouraging parents and caregivers to share with one another.

COLLABORATION


We engaged other area-based non-profits who shared our target audience to provide more complete resources to our community while also engaging their audiences as well.

CONTENT DEVELOPMENT


We sourced information and developed all social content including copywriting, video, and, social graphics, for parents and caregivers with an eye towards engaging the audience with easy-to-understand, supportive messaging.

SOCIAL ADS


Since our community was new and there was an urgency behind the message, we utilized social media advertising on Facebook and Instagram to ensure the messages reached the correct target audiences consistently.

STRATEGIC ADVISEMENT


We provided data-driven strategies and recommendations about utilizing the content, how the audience received the information, what they most responded to, and ways to incorporate it across platforms.

THE RESULTS

401K+


Content brand impressions by target audience during 6-month geo-targeted campaign.

52% 


Engagement rate on owned content including videos and social visuals.

1


Because community support was so clear to elected officials, the state legislature passed a bill funding early education programs serving 3-4 year-olds, particularly those who are economically challenged.

Building Community Around Purpose

THE CHALLENGE

Our client, a beta platform to provide parents with controls and tools for their kids’s social media usage was ramping up extremely quickly. They needed market research, but also needed real-time qualitative feedback to inform UX, branding and messaging.

THE SOLUTION

Since the target audience of parents was on social media and the product addressed key parental concerns on social media, our strategy was to utilize the platforms to create awareness of the product while also providing on-going feedback and community. We developed a strategy which gave parents early access while also offering them a place to discuss online safety with one another. We lead with community development and encouraged loyalty by providing a “safe space” for parents seeking resources. The community received early access to the tools and their conversations informed messaging and product development. Through a blend of owned content including organic social media and blogs, we provided resources and guidance to parents looking for advice surrounding social media. We engaged parental influencers and mental health experts to provide emotional support. All owned content was integrated into product development, PR and marketing initiatives.

STRATEGIC ADVISEMENT


In addition to providing community management services, we also ensured internal team members were empowered to engage their audience through community management training to ensure integrated internal understanding of the consumer and community.

DATA DRIVEN COMMUNICATIONS


Through social and media listening, we developed a data-driven feedback loop used in all marketing and communications, resulting in timely messages for use in marketing & media relations.

COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT


While providing social media resources to parents in the community, we also tested content types and styles to see what resonated most strongly with parents.

INFLUENCER ENGAGEMENT


We identified and engaged influencers who resonated with parents to review the product in both beta and pre-launch mode.

“From strategic planning to implementation, (they) demonstrated their expertise…truly a pleasure to work with,”


Jeana D.,
Marketing Director

THE RESULTS

2.8 Million


Organic digital brand impressions across social platforms including Facebook & Twitter.

252,000


Average monthly unique people reach on owned digital properties.

300% 


Increase in organic Facebook impressions. Our community of engaged parents and influencers were sharing tips & hints and engaging with our client’s tool providing essential feedback for both product development and communications teams.

social media ads during COVID-19 case studies
successful social media influencer campaigns

Successful Influencer Campaigns Aren’t Unicorns

PR has a number of tools in its tool belt, one of them is successful influencer campaigns & partnerships.

In consumer goods, influencer marketing is establishing a significant place in the mix. When we see some of these campaigns, a little part of our PR soul dies. Frankly, some of them are brand-damaging and unlikely to have an influence on sales. When working with influencers, you’re already taking a risk that there’s a past or future PR fiasco that could affect your brand reputation.  Influencer marketing should be considered paid media and owned media and just like you wouldn’t put out an ad or other content that damages your brand, nor should you execute an influencer campaign without consideration. Some people seem to think so long as you’re getting your product in someone’s IG story that’s all that matters, we disagree.

We believe all consumer goods PR should be executed with strategy and thought. While influencer campaigns aren’t exactly the same as ads, we take insight from advertising research to inform our recommendations. 

On average, it takes 21 brand exposures to bring someone to the purchase phase.
5-9 brand exposures to create brand awareness
more than 10 exposures during the consideration phase

While influencer campaigns are a paid opportunity (influencer rate range from product exchange to $1 million per post), there are public relations and brand opportunities and implications as well. While you might not be able to spend $1,500 per post, you should seriously balance the PR and brand implications.

 

Working with an influencer is NOT the same as placing an ad, so we also wanted to share our best practices for a  influencer campaign.

Get Crystal Clear on Your KPIs BEFORE Reaching Out to Influencers

If your consumer goods influencer campaign objective is SEO value as opposed to brand awareness, those are actually very different campaigns. They are both relevant.  Who you work with will be different. The number of influencers you work with will be different. How you CHOOSE the influencers might be different.  But even if you’re doing an influencer campaign for SEO value, we beg you to consider the brand implications.

For many CPG brands, their brand may be their most valuable asset, so treating the brand with long-term implications in mind is essential to the longevity or value of the brand. From a brand building and cannabis PR perspective, for MOST brands, our perspective is to go deep, rather than wide with cannabis social media influencers.  The biggest reason this is our typical approach is because of the importance of repeated exposure. This is PARTICULARLY important to emerging CPG brands whose other marketing initiatives are constrained.

Influencer Campaign Success #1:  Choose Your  Influencer Partners Carefully

No matter what strategy you apply to your influencer campaign, align with influencers who align with your brand. If you’re a wellness brand, maybe partnering with an influencer whose feed is about their last party isn’t natural synergy, the influencer’s audience may not receive your product well.

Why is a wellness driven product doing an influencer campaign with influencers aligned with party culture? Why not align with a nurse, a yogi, and a marathon runner? It’s jarring for customers to see inconsistent messages and creates brand confusion. Getting brand awareness is hard enough to do when you act with brand clarity, why make it harder on yourself?

Instead of looking at followers, look at engagement & reply rates. But dig a little deeper on those engagement rates, they should be consistent with typical engagement. If your influencer has 10,000 followers and 3,000 likes and 1,500 comments, that’s a red flag and suggests automation. On the other hand, if your influencer has 700 posts and 35 million followers, that’s disjointed as well. For context, as of this writing Kylie Jenner has 42M U.S. followers (164M globally), of which 1.2M are evaluated as authentic U.S. engagers, according to HypeAuditor.   Is it POSSIBLE that they reached 35 million followers over 700 posts? Yes, but there must have been a viral trigger, so look to see what that could be.

Take a careful look at the other brands the influencer has worked with and see how they align with you. Have they worked with your competitors? Is that an advantage or a disadvantage?

Since this is likely a paid relationship, you should also be evaluating their overall professionalism. How thoughtful and eye-catching is the content, how professional is their response to your inquiry?

Ruthlessly review their past content for any red flags that could cause your brand problems, and also consider ways to mutually separate in case of a brand clash in the future.

If you follow the other steps below, this stage is incredibly important.

Build a Relationship with the Influencer Before Your Influencer Campaign

Note I keep referring to social media influencers as partners. Treat them as such, treat them as humans. Social media influencers will have an emotional response to how they are treated and no matter how professional they are, how you treat them impacts the outcome. That’s because the POWER of influencers is in the PERSONAL.

Why undermine the most valuable part of the partnership? Why not turn that influencer into an actual advocate?

By inspiring your cannabis influencer, you can bet they’ll have an easier time inspiring their followers and creating content that’s consistent for both brands. Meet with the influencer if you can, engage with them as they’re experiencing the product for the first time.

Explain your favorite aspects of the product/brand and discuss your brand values and vision, so the influencer can align their value systems and genuinely connect with the brand.

This more personal relationship approach is something 90% of influencer campaigns lack, and it shows.

Another reason to build a relationship with a brand influencer is to review how you’ll mutually handle it if the account is shut down during the campaign or afterward.

Allow The Influencer Creative Freedom & Voice

Effective  influencers have their own style of content and voice, you’re likely attracted to that style and voice – let then keep it. Influencers are master content creators, they see the world through a lens that sparks enthusiasm by their followers. A great influencer will happily develop content ideas that meet your objectives, while also reinforcing both brands. This content will put a fresh spin on your brand.

Collaboration magic happens when two brands align in such a way that it seems absolutely natural. Collaborating WITH the  influencer on content as opposed to directing or scripting the content enables to you leverage the influencer’s own brand while also enhancing yours.

Know FTC Guidelines

Make sure to review FTC guidelines on disclosure. This is especially important because it’s almost always the brand who the FTC investigates. The brand has more skin in the game, so the brand needs to be the enforcer.

 

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. 

 

There’s no business like the cannabis business, we’re all in it together and despite (or maybe because of) the challenges, we love it. One of the areas with “challenges” is cannabis social media. 

Every cannabis brand knows that social media is an integral part of branding – and done right, it can play a pivotal role in press opportunities as well.  Yet, it can be a little disheartening to be on social media when just about every platform has become “pay to play.” But, never fear, there are solutions to the cannabis social media challenge. 

There are so many social media opportunities, I hope you’ll take a look at this and think about these issues within cannabis social media and how you can lead the industry with your social media. 

Product First, Second AND Third?

One of the issues I currently have with cannabis social media is that it’s so product forward, there’s so much opportunity to tell stories on social, and yet stream after stream is a picture of a plant or a bottle or a vape. OF course, it’s important to put your product out there, but who (besides a bot) stops to comment on a picture like that? The opportunity in cannabis social media is to create a passionate audience–very few people get really excited about product images. Think about the last visual ad you saw, I bet you remember the story in the ad better than the product hero shot. 

So what should we do about product/story balance? 

Consider including product within a mix of posts. Either find a way to tie together a series of posts that together, tell a story.  Your stories can be vignettes, values, people, anything that underscores your brand values and attributes. Within the context of these brand values, your goal is to make people pause long enough to look again, maybe even long enough to look at the rest of your feed. Now, I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t post product at all, I want you to post the product, especially in ways that highlight your customer’s experience. I WANT you to have products shots, but

Use the rule of thumb: product images for every 3rd or 4th image. 

Disruption: The Good, The Bad and The Amazing

First, I’d like to encourage all brands to consider the nascent stages we’re in and consider that it’s on all of us, as a community to improve our image. If you’re going to take risks on social (and not every brand is a “risk taking” brand), then be very clear about how other people perceive the message you’re putting out there. For example, if you’re marketing to women, be aware, women aren’t generally all that jazzed about hypersexualized images. But hey! If you’ve done the research and your cannabis brand is about disruption, and you’re using images like this strategically, I’m a huge fan of bold moves. But go into that kind of brand risk-taking with open eyes. You might just end up on the pages of a publication with an outraged journalist writing a missive about their disgust. And even if THAT doesn’t happen, you may forever alienate the people you thought would be interested in your product. Strong brands sometimes do alienate people, but that’s usually because they know their audience SO well, they know their audience will stand by them. Knowing your audience that well means you’ve done your research.

Maximize your payoff

On the other hand, recently I’ve seen some cannabis brands take a strong stand on controversial social justice issues. It’s a gutsy move, but when it’s consistent with the brand, it’s previous community building and presented well, it has the potential for huge pay-off. I’m personally really excited when I see brands taking a strong stand on issues, even when they aren’t MY issues, I’m excited to see brands stand for something. If you’re going to take a risk like this, lean into it, own it. Make sure the language and the imagery support the position in a strong, powerful way, and when you do this, leave out the product placement. Let your leadership shine, let the connectivity happen. Strong positions are much more memorable when they don’t feel like an advertisement. 



Disruption can be very good for a cannabis brand. The key for every brand to is to know their brand SO well, their audience SO intimately, the return outweighs the risk. 

Rethinking Social Media Influencers

When I Googled “cannabis influencers” today I got 4,530,000 hits, so clearly, it’s a thing. Most social media influencers know their value, and social media influencers are advertisements. Treat them as such. I’m not suggesting the relationship isn’t collaborative, because it is. What I’m telling you is keep your brand strong, You’d never let someone create a print ad for you without reviewing it. Insist on that same communication with your influencer.

But since you’re collaborating with your influencer anyway, why not invite their creative input for what the post(s) will look like. I’ve found that content creators are incredibly creative and they’re so excited when someone wants to hear THIER ideas, the collaborative outcome is much better than originally imagined.

The “thing” I wish cannabis brands realize is that you can pay big bucks per post for social reach and usually get really beautiful, custom content in return. Or you can do it for a less expensive per-post price and get a higher percentage of reach with a little grittier content. In either case, you’ll be managing the influencer, and the bigger the influencer, the bigger the personality, but also, the more professional. Really be thinking about what you expect from your cannabis influencer campaign and how you’ll evaluate success. 

Dig deep and make sure your influencer really matches your brand. Reach should not be your only consideration when you’re selecting your influencers – think holistically and you’ll get holistic results in return. 

One last word of advice about social media influencers: no cannabis brand has been publicly fined for lack of disclosure, YET. Don’t be the first. Brush up on the FTC’s disclosure rules about social media influencers and don’t assume you’re flying beneath the radar, because cannabis is never REALLY under the radar.

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