Our very best collection of PR insights, tips, and ideas, especially for emerging industries, fast-growing brands, and hyper-growth companies.

We’re just about to round the corner to a key consumer buying season: the fall. And about the only thing that’s certain is consumer uncertainty; but consumers aren’t giving up on conscious consumption. Nothing shows that more than the latest consumer trends from Google Searches. What do Google searches have to do with PR? Consumer media outlets keep a strong eye on consumer trends, and usually respond with seasonal content that matches the customer’s mood. Fitting into that season content is key to earning digitally savvy PR during the fall. There’s another important reason to get it right this fall: you’re likely to have a larger share of voice for any of your marketing efforts as some competitors will pull back, so if you’re not pulling back, or you’re jumping into the market now, it’s great timing because research shows that brands who stay with marketing during economic downturns, get ahead.

What does this mean for consumer brands?

It gives you insight into key themes you can use in your PR and marketing this year. While some of these facts seem contradictory, put these in context with what you’re seeing from your customers.

Searches for “specials this week” is up 60% year over year / Searches for “designer outlet” have grown 90% globally year over year

Keep in mind, that consumer spending remains strong, so this is about the consumer feeling the need to feel like they’re getting a deal. 31% of consumers say they are still rewarding themselves by buying things they want. Consumers haven’t stopped loving name brands, they’re just in need of a discount. They also want to feel their brand choices are premium choices.

Luxury and premium brands with strong brand affinity should lead to smaller, more affordable items for the masses, rather than discount the brand. Premium consumer brands can use this mindset with bonus gifts.

Align your brand with premium publishing outlets by getting an early start on your consumer PR and ad re-targeting. Have your programmatic and PR teams talk before they launch their respective campaigns.

Consumer brands should publish any kind of black Friday promotions well in advance, and use competitor pricing as a benchmark (25% less than a comparable brand), to anchor value.

Now is also the time to focus on loyalty for existing customers. Don’t make your customers search you out. Be there during the key buying triggers for your customers. If your customers tend to buy on Fridays, be there on Thursday with the bonus giveaway or loyalty reward.

Searches for “say no to plastic” have grown globally 200% year over year

Consumers want brands who want what they want. This new purpose-driven alignment applies to all consumer brands. Even if you can’t get around plastic packaging (yet), now is the time to celebrate your sustainability efforts. What’s comforting to consumers right now, more than anything is brands they can trust. So if you’ve been working hard on building consumer trust, now is the time for you to celebrate the efforts in a way that reinforces your consumer’s choices.

Consumers want personal content

87% of consumers said they want personal and relevant content. Keep this in mind with your email marketing and social media. Use your own data to ensure your delivering the right message to the right audience. Consumers want to see themselves in your content – by the way, editors know this trend too, so positioning your brand clearly allows editors to follow this content expectation too.

One of the most notable attributes of “relevant” content is content that is emotionally resonant. Your consumers want to know that you understand them. Note that during previous times of uncertainty, nostalgia and comfort messages surge. Very often, this means consumers would prefer to stay with their favored brands, but that favored brands need to continue to provide the experience customers have come to expect.

More than ever, having digitally savvy and data-informed PR, branding, and advertising will make a difference in your seasonal marketing. Now is the time to dig deep into your customer insights and give your agencies the information they need to supercharge their efforts this fall.

Cannabis businesses who are new to PR have a lot of decisions to make. Many of our clients have never hired a PR agency before and the process can seem daunting. That’s why we came up with 3 tips for cannabis companies new to PR. 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.

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 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 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 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 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 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 packaging and product.

What’s the Best Time of Year To Engage a 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

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 key industry events may take longer to plan and implement, especially cannabis industry events. In short, B2B PR often requires longer lead times.

For 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.

Over the years, I’ve learned there are over 500 ways to screw up PR. I’m going to be honest with you – I have a lot of conversations with people who say they hired an agency and got nothing, or not what they were promised. The consistent takeaway for these folks is often “PR doesn’t work.” You can imagine my skepticism when people say that because, without exception, we know it does. We have launched brands, driven record sales for brands, and sent them through IPO. But it’s totally worth diving into a few of the reasons PR doesn’t work, with one caveat, it’s RARELY just one of these things.

 

PR Agency Mismatch

Perhaps one of the most important keys to success is agency fit. The most successful relationships align on experience level, ambitions, and cost. Let’s dive into that a little more.
Experience level. Some stories, some products, and some movements are just harder to pitch. If you’re one of those companies, you probably know it deep in your heart. Does that mean you won’t get any PR? No, it means you need to find agencies who either have direct experience telling stories like yours, OR you need to have an agency whose storytellers are seasoned enough to know what lessons they’ve learned and how to apply them now.

Ambitions. If your ambition is to double your sales, then the brand commitment needs to match that, and no single one lever can change sales overnight. It’s also important that you weigh the time-money continuum here. The faster something gets done, the more upfront work it takes.

Yet, if you say “we want to double our sales in 3 years,” it could cost you more than 3X, even if it feels cheaper on a monthly basis. So be clear on what it will take to meet your objective and be sure you’re attacking that aim from all fronts which you control.

If you’re a DTC brand, make sure your SEO and PR teams are operating together. If you’re a consumer tech brand, make sure you’re tapping into trends with your social media. If you’re a CPG brand, make sure the rest of your branding (internal and external) matches the values your product projects.

Cost. PR cost and ambitions are closely tied, because time and cost are deeply connected. There are PR agencies that are cheap, and you will find that some PR agencies are extraordinarily expensive. I would say if saving money is your biggest ambition, then maybe PR isn’t right for you. PR is a lot like building a house and no one ever advises you to pick the cheapest contractor.

If your budget for PR is less than you would pay an executive assistant, then you’re probably undershooting your goals. Whenever someone tells me they hired a firm and got nothing, I usually find that they hired a firm and were the cheapest client that the firm had, OR they hired a scary cheap firm. There’s value-driven pricing and then there’s scary cheap. Learn the difference.

There are only two ways to get scary cheap: hire inexperienced people, or spend no time on the account. That’s it. That’s the only way scary cheap PR agencies work. You’ll get a sense of which one you’ll experience when you meet the team. A seasoned team won’t be spending a lot of time on the account. If the team is inexperienced, then they’ll spend a lot of time learning on your dime. That’s a signal you should watch for.

Your Agency isn’t REALLY a PR Agency

Sometimes agencies try to be all things to everyone and offer every marketing, branding, advertising, and PR service under the moon. That’s a REALLY difficult thing to do.

PR agencies absolutely overlap with other agencies regularly.

There are parts of what we do that a branding agency will also do – like planning word-of-mouth opportunities or creating publicity stunts. Sometimes a branding agency will also create content for their clients, or surveys. That’s also something that PR agencies do-both can usually do them equally well depending on the purpose of the content. But where branding agencies and PR agencies are separate is media outreach, journalist relations, and understanding of the media. And candidly, very few PR agencies have the talent to develop a well-rounded brand from a visual standpoint.

Unbelievably, I’ve seen “entrepreneurial coaches” pitch themselves as PR experts. I think these people understand a lot about self-promotion, and believe me, that’s a true skill, but they rarely really understand media relations outside of sending a press release. Which isn’t the reason you send a press release.

Ad agencies and PR agencies have very little in common. If your ad agency says they can also handle your PR (or vice-versa), that’s typically a red flag.

SEO agencies aren’t PR agencies either. Now, as a digitally savvy PR agency, for our bespoke clients, we absolutely dive into the SEO of our clients so we can incorporate keywords and important links. But let me assure you, we are NOT an SEO agency. Nor is your SEO agency a PR firm. Don’t confuse the two. Unless you’re working for one of the world’s largest agencies, there are very few exceptions to the fact that the two rarely go together.

 

Collaboration or Miscommunication

The root of this is usually either the personalities just didn’t fit, or there wasn’t bandwidth for consistent communication on either side. A truly bespoke PR program is highly intimate and collaborative. If that isn’t happening, you will find results suffer. Another aspect of this is executive or spokesperson availability – when the executives aren’t making time for journalists on deadline, then the success rate falls dramatically, AND your PR team is reluctant to pitch him/her to their best contacts because relationships matter and no one client is worth burning a long time media partner over. Sorry, but that’s the truth.

The media, and especially journalists, are under extreme stress these days. When clients don’t get back to us immediately about opportunities, that makes it really difficult for us to take advantage of the most interesting and timely media opportunities. PR agencies often receive inquiries from the media, but those inquiries have tight deadlines, sometimes even less than a day. So if your PR team is promoting you 2-3 times to get back to them for a query, that’s a red flag.

 

Since there are over 500 ways to screw up PR, that’s the reason we structure our programs the way we do. If you’ve ever talked to us, you know, we take our partnerships exceptionally seriously – our bespoke PR results and client reviews prove it. If you’re in the middle of hiring a firm, and you’re having a hard time differentiating, call us. We’ll give you our unbiased opinion of the top PR agencies you’ve identified.

What does it mean to be a modern PR agency these days? There are 3 characteristics of a modern PR firm. Today’s modern PR firms are trust-focused, digitally savvy, purpose forward, and customer-obsessed. This means modern PR agencies can think long-term while staying nimble enough to be a strategic and operational resource in today’s fast-moving world. It’s difficult to do both, but that’s why modern PR agencies are so valuable.

Can a legacy PR firm also be a modern PR firm? Absolutely. And, a new PR firm isn’t necessarily more modern than a legacy PR firm. Digital PR firms aren’t necessarily more modern than those who focus on earned media. That’s because our characteristics supersede age and services and for depth and maturity. Depth and maturity are particularly important for fast-growing brands and hyper-growth companies because these companies need the savvy and emotional intelligence of a modern PR firm so they can stay nimble and focused.

 

      1. Trust Focused

        Modern PR firms are trust-focused. Consumers today are incredibly savvy. After all, we’re exposed to roughly 10,000 messages a DAY. To understand why trust is so important to modern PR, we have to go way, way, back into how we evolved. Our brains haven’t quite evolved to deal with this kind of input, so as a result, we manage this input in our subconscious. One of the most basic human survival functions is trust, that’s why we organize into social tribes. We trust our social tribes. See where this is headed?

        Today, our default reaction to almost anything is suspicion – even our most established institutions get the side-eye. 6 out of 10 adults say they distrust something until they see evidence.

        While there are initial trust signals, trust is the long game. Trust signals need to be consistent and thorough. Consumers today quickly recognize brands who say one thing, but do another. They recognize greenwashing, they see through insincerity. But it’s not just the cost of distrust that hypergrowth and fast-growing brands need to consider, it’s also the advantages of trust.

        Which means we trust brands who act and signal in ways that we trust. Our source of trust can come from several signals, but earned media, that is coverage where a brand, or person, is characterized in a trusted outlet and/or trusted person in an independent and organic manner.

         

        Trust becomes a brand cornerstone because trust begets loyalty and loyalty begets advocacy. Trust is also a considerable cornerstone to brand value. You can’t really have considerable brand value without considerable trust. And damaged trust, on a grand scale is incredibly expensive to repair.

        That’s why modern PR firms place an important emphasis on trust – because they know that’s what their clients are really after. It also takes discipline for a modern PR agency to stay trust-focused, for the same reason it takes discipline to be a trusted brand-there are indeed short-term shortcuts that look good today, but can have devastating affects in the future.

        A GREAT modern PR firm will help you define a wide range of strategics and values and aligned KPIs so you can track your trust-building efforts.

      2. Digitally Savvy

        Modern PR firms are digitally savvy. This doesn’t “only” mean they understand social media. It also means they understand how to earn trust in digital formats from forums to social media. It means they know how PR and SEO can work together, and where they separate. Digitally savvy PR firms are monitoring review sites, your search results, and other digital signals for red flags. Digitally savvy PR firms understand how earned media, paid media, social media and owned media work together and how to pull the levers of each type of media for a stated campaign aim.

        Digitally savvy PR firms also have their pulse on other avenues growing in influence. For example, media relations today include trusted magazines, blogs, and increasingly newsletters. Newsletters are an outstanding example of trust AND digital intelligence. Think about it – if you’ve given your email to receive a newsletter in your inbox, that’s a big trust signal. Several years ago, newsy newsletters took on renewed relevance and when Substack courted journalists, it was another endorsement for newsy newsletters. Some of Substack’s email publishers are making well over $100K per year on subscriptions. Newsletter impressions and reach are difficult to track, but that’s offset by the incredible trust value they bring.  While the “ROI” might be difficult to pinpoint, the digitally savvy PR firm knows how to evaluate newsletter appearances

        Using digital tools wisely also helps a modern PR firm deeply understand your customers or target customers. Our deep analysis isn’t only observational, it’s data driven from a multitude of sources, that give us a wide view of what’s happened, and what is likely to happen. We also use a multitude of sources to engage on a deeper level with journalists.

      3. Purpose Forward

        Because consumers are aligning with their tribes, it’s more and more important for brands to align with a larger purpose. Purpose, like trust, is an inside-out job. Purpose HAS to be authentic. The good news is that for most brands, there actually is an authentic purpose; it’s just a matter of aligning that purpose with other campaigns, including sponsorship, social media, word of mouth, and earned media.

        From an earned media perspective, it’s rarely enough to have a purpose. It’s important that brands today activate on purpose and align on purpose. There’s no doubt that purpose can be a landmine, so that’s where public relations comes in. Modern PR firms are emotionally intelligent and able to guide brands on choices that may be consistent with their stated purpose. PR can help guide ad campaigns, sponsorship, and influencer campaigns to improve outcomes and brand reputation.

      4. Customer Obsessive

        How can a PR agency help its clients improve trust, loyalty, and brand if it isn’t client obsessed? Now, your definition of client obsessed might differ from someone else’s. That’s why it’s important to know the client characteristics that you really need. Do you need a PR agency that is on-call 24/7? Do you crave a stable, intelligent PR team that becomes an extension of your team? How does your PR firm stay aligned with your strategies and objectives, even as they change? Our entire model is based on your needs – from our Strategy Driven Pricing  to our Product PR Sprints for DTC or CPG brands everything we do is designed to move the needle for you.

 

Today’s modern PR firms come in all sizes, from the extraordinarily large to the boutique. But to be a truly modern PR firm, it takes a village, so it’s not enough to have a micro-agency or freelancer. No one person can see the entire landscape alone. Smart agencies hire emotionally intelligent team members. At Avaans, we hire emotionally intelligent PR executives. Our experienced team has successful track records and comes from an array of backgrounds. That’s why we call our team the A-Team. If you’re a fast-growing or hyper-growth or ambitious brand, and you’d like a modern PR firm that’s also experienced, please reach out to us.

ALL CONSUMER BRANDS FROM TECH TO CPG ARE JUGGLING A VERY DYNAMIC WORLD



Special Report Packed with PR Strategies and Ideas


Our compelling and insight-packed PR report offers 3 consumer PR strategies and 10 timely ideas for CPG, consumer tech, e-commerce, and DTC to thrive despite global, political, and social changes.

There are lots of reasons to invest in CPG PR, but no matter the reason, it’s an investment and you want your efforts to pay off, which is why you’re hiring a top-rated PR agency in the first place, right? Whether you’re trying to educate your customers about a distinctive ingredient, improve customer loyalty, invest in brand value or want a more straightforward approach to product inclusions in holiday gift guides, PR is not a set and forget it strategy, you can radically improve your outcomes with these three tips.

Maximize Your DTC or CPG PR

 

Multimedia for the Win

49% of journalists want pictures with the pitch. Owned media is an important tool for earned media. Having a variety of images of your CPG product images, both lifestyle, and product shots are helpful to busy journalists who don’t have time for multiple back and forth emails. Sometimes having the ideal lifestyle shot makes all the difference for busy editors who need a header shot for the story. In fact, journalists are 6X more likely to open pitches with multimedia, that’s a huge improvement when you consider that over half of journalists receive 50-100 pitches, PER DAY.

Images are the most common multimedia inclusions, but you can stand out with infographics, and social media posts too.

And data. Data is key. 39% of journalists want relevant data in the pitch. The funds for investigative polling are all but gone, if you conduct a consumer or industry poll and have fresh data, that’s news. And you can use that data in multiple ways, both for your own inside strategic planning and to secure media coverage.

Affiliate Links…For Journalists?

It’s not exactly news that media outlets are reshaping their revenue sources. Modern PR agencies understand the world is moving faster than ever and everyone in the media space is pressed for time and revenue.

For CPG or DTC products, having an affiliate program for media outlets increases the chances your product will get coverage in round-ups. Almost all media outlets are using affiliate links on their coverage, everyone from the Today Show to your local morning show. Being able to include an affiliate link in the coverage means your product may receive multiple pieces of coverage from one pitch.

Be Story Ready

When every company says it’s unique or revolutionary, it’s not eye-catching anymore. In fact, 100% of journalists roll their eyes when they see those words, because about .05% of the time, it’s true.

If you’re looking to leverage PR for things like features or newsjacking, be ready to help shape, inform and create the stories that will be attractive to the media. Even if you really DON’T have “any competitors,” you STILL need a story to get deeper more important coverage.

One PR professional said it best in an anonymous interview with Digiday: “It’s not enough to just be a disruptive DTC brand anymore. Brands need to figure out who they are, why they’re doing something so innovative and then work with us to tell that story.”

Your PR company needs to know that when they schedule a meeting with a journalist, you will respond in a timely manner. 1 in 4 journalists will block a publicist who fails to respond within the same day or a given deadline. If you’re not able to be available for journalists, say that upfront, to save face with journalists.

 

All statistics are from Cision State of Media Report 2022, unless otherwise noted.