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

If you’re a smaller consumer brand, it might feel impossible to compete with the big guys. But according to Nielsen, in the United States “manufacturers outside of the top 100 have contributed to 52% of their region’s annual fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) growth,” that’s an incredibly promising trend for any consumer product, from skincare to cannabis. But the challenges to increasing market share aren’t imagined. In some categories, especially consumables, over 50% of consumers have no brand preference. This underscores the importance of small, independent CPG brands to invest in branding with awareness and loyalty strategies. Neilsen IQ has done some fantastic research for small, independent DTC and CPG brands.

Nielsen Chart for Consumer Product Brand Loyalty

 

 

 

 

 

69% of consumers are actively looking for new and trendy CPG products. Tapping into current trends is a key way to appeal to this audience.  Whether the brand is launching, or already launched, there are always PR opportunities to increase sales by driving awareness and loyalty. The key takeaway on all the most recent Neilsen data: premiumization is absolutely key for small, independent CPG brands. 

Driving Awareness for Small Consumer Brands

When Snapple tea was a small independent brand, it relied on PR, including crazy stunts with two ambitions in mind: acquisition and sales. When they were acquired by Quaker Oats, the PR stunts stopped and sales decreased. In fact, PR is often responsible for trends that drive consumers. Before CBD, a wellness ingredient that almost everyone now knows was allowed to advertise, it relied on firms like Avaans Media to create PR campaigns that educated consumers and created awareness for their brands. PR is almost single-handedly responsible for launching CBD into the public’s general knowledge. Other wellness products have benefited from PR, including melatonin.

Independent brands often turn to PR because while PR is an investment, it’s still more affordable than many other branding initiatives such as advertising, especially when you include videography costs. Facebook is famous for launching thousands of new DTC brands, but of late, many independent CPG brands are finding Facebook’s advertising to be less effective. Ambitious consumer product brands are turning to PR in ever greater numbers to reach consumers, and stay in front of buyers. A PR campaign can reach hundreds of billions of annual impressions. Is it any wonder that everyone from new consumer products to old standbys is moving dollars to PR?

New CPG brands can use PR to validate the brand. An upfront burst of PR is a powerful trust indicator. Many consumer brand startups showcase PR wins on their website and in advertising as a way to increase consumer trust. Independent boutique products use PR to nail their launch because they need to appeal directly and immediately to their consumer. As Nielsen notes in small brand, “There is little room for error in small launches. Nailing your activation requires planning and strategic execution. Whatever your differentiation—hitting your target, justifying your premium or communicating a new usage occasion—it must land, and land well,”

 

Driving Loyalty for Independent CPG Brands

If your consumer brand isn’t exactly new, but also isn’t a household name, then using PR to increase loyalty and awareness is effective. 25% of consumers are mainstream followers who sometimes try new products, but don’t seek them. This is a critical audience to penetrate. If you’re broadening your audience to this important, but slightly elusive group, you want to make sure your customer product reviews are solid, and that your early PR had at least 1-2 tier 1 press hits so you can use the ever-so-important social proof to lure this audience in.  Good PR also allows existing customers to have their choice validated and is a great opportunity for them to sing your praises to their friends.

But that’s not the only way PR helps early and mid-stage CPG brands. PR helps your customers see you understand who they really are. Bob’s Red Mill used PR to improve its already stellar reputation through purpose-driven storytelling. Not only does PR help new consumers find your product, but it also reinforces the good choice your current customers have made. A good PR firm will help you identify ways to differentiate and to secure brand-improving earned media.

When it’s difficult to plan, it’s tempting to just eliminate budgets, especially for marketing and PR agencies. In the short term, that might seem like a negotiable expense that’s fairly easy to eliminate. But if you’re working well with an agency, eliminating them will cost you more time and money in the long run, not to mention the costs associated with reduced awareness and sales. Instead of eliminating Most agency owners can show you why cutting back on marketing and PR will damage your brand, but what insider tips do agencies give to their existing clients when economics requires a marketing shift? For this article, we called on some of the most respected mid-size agencies in the United States and asked them what strategies they use to reduce agency budgets, so you can ask your own agency to help you.

Discuss your plans with the agency upfront. Getting strategic advice early in the process will help you avoid wasting the implementation budget later. Measure twice, cut once.Karl Sakas, Sakas & Company

Sakas, who uses his years in the agency world to consult with growing agencies today, suggests involving your agency at the highest strategic level from the onset to reduce agency budgets. Agency strategists may cost more hourly, but a deep, collaborative strategic understanding saves hundreds of wasted implementation hours, not to mention emergency charges. Sometimes there is this idea that withholding information from your agency will give you an edge in negotiations. But if your agency is really on your side, and really approaches the relationship as a partner, then that strategy could cost you. Most agencies can help you prioritize and refine a strategy to fit your budget during a recession.

Using agency as a consultative partner, rather than an implementation house Ross Johnson, 3.7 Designs, a Michigan Inbound Marketing Agency

When clients need to reduce budgets, Ross Johnson of 3.7 Designs suggests leaning into strategy with the agency, and sticking with outputs that have a longer shelf life. For example, instead of eliminating content creation, which is invaluable because it’s sticky, he says, “Take more of the content creation in-house. We advise on what content to create, and provide feedback after it’s created so the client receives 90% of the same value but at a lower cost.”  He also recommends focusing more energy on earned media and organic activities over paid spending, because it lasts longer and delivers more value.

Technology is your friend – Dan Serard, Cannabis Creative

“Following up with and nurturing leads can be time intensive,”

“We recommend our clients to invest in our email marketing automation services and prioritize automation strategy in addition to one-time or seasonal campaigns to get the most value out of our services. It’s not just about the immediate content output, but the long-term journey for your leads. As an agency, we set up our clients’ email systems in ways that work smarter, not harder. Email marketing automation can be an investment to strategize at the onset, but once running, generate cost-effective results that function in perpetuity. Automations can keep leads engaged and convert them into customers through a series of well-planned out messages, and do not require much intervention.”

Cut low-performing or time-consuming services. – Hunter Young, HiFi Agency, 

The longer something takes, the more it costs. If you have multiple layers of approvals built into agency work, then reducing those layers can save you time, and your agency can either refocus it’s efforts on more valuable outcomes, or they can reasonably count on reducing fees by the time saved.

Hunter suggests looking at an agency budget cut as “an opportunity to cut the items that were truly low-performing or low-efficiency for the agency/client (e.g. things that take forever to get approved).” Items that take multiple back-and-forths, cost the agency time, which translates to money for you.

Have the right people do the right work, – Stephanie Chavez President of Zen Media

Most agencies provide a blended rate for their services. Yes, a strategist is more per hour, but they aren’t likely to be spending 10-20 hours in your account every week. This is a spot that can create unforeseen costs when clients insist on using the strategist as a project manager. Indeed, a highly paid strategist should not be managing the project on a day-to-day basis, they should ensure the output matches the strategy.

As President of a PR and marketing agency for tech-driven B2B brands, Chavez is used to clients who expect smooth operations. She says when clients are looking for ways to save money, she doubles down on making sure the budget is used where it should be, with the right skill sets in the right place.

Use recessions strategically.   – Chris Shreeve PrograMetrix 

During a recession, there is less noise. PR agencies get cut and ad budgets get reduced. So using a scalpel approach to your budget can provide higher ROI than when the economy is moving in full swing. Plus, although consumers still consume, they’re more sensitive to getting the best product and/or the best price, so staying present is even more important.

“After all, consumers will still consume, even during a recession,while some brands may go silent, other brands see a pathway to make more of an impression on their target audience.”

 

Reducing your agency costs doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Working WITH your agency to find the sweet spot for your specific needs can be an excellent exercise in creativity. By shifting strategies, outcomes, and outputs, you can find the sweet spot that keeps your marketing and PR on track even during cost-cutting seasons.

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.

The cannabis industry is growing rapidly, and with that growth comes an increasing demand for cannabis conferences and events, like the granddaddy, MJ Biz in Las Vegas. Obtaining media coverage at a crowded conference is almost never an accident. Maximize your event budget with these 3 strategies that will get you PR at MJ Biz.

Think Like a Journalist and Plan Ahead

When you think about your cannabis marketing budget and calendar, you probably think about your needs or your customer’s needs, but for effective press coverage, add journalists and their needs. We’ve helped our clients stand out from the competitive cannabis show floors like MJ Biz with ideas that make the lives of journalists easier. When you think about what the day is like for a journalist who visits the trade show floor, you’ll get some empathy for their jobs. They’re looking for trends readers will click through to read while also looking for a distinctive point of view that will be different from every other journalist’s article. Ultimately, the journalist has the same challenge as you: standing out from the very crowded field.

Look at the trends impacting the cannabis industry and ancillary topics for ideas that will get you ahead of the competition on the expo floor. Think about how these trends are impacting the larger economy or general public and think about how you can talk about that trend in the months, weeks, and days leading up to the conference. A well-oiled cannabis industry expo PR campaign will include social media, direct media outreach, and perhaps even a press release.

Double Down on Expo Activations

From sponsorships to events, to stunts and ambassadors, the reason everyone loves a cannabis conference is there are so many ways to elevate your presence and raise awareness when there’s a captive audience.

While cannabis samples aren’t allowed on trade show floors, many cannabis companies get around this by hosting private events – at MJ Biz in Las Vegas, there are literally 10-30 private cannabis events every night. Given the saturation of these events, many companies look to stand out in other ways.

Think about guerilla marketing campaigns that leave an impression by following the event attendees around the city. This could include everything from subtle cues to flash mobs. A treasure hunt that rewards attendees and drives them to your booth is a good idea. This kind of word of mouth can intrigue cannabis journalists and give them an incentive to learn more.

Invite Cannabis Journalists

Before the MJ Biz Conference in Las Vegas, think about what scheduled activities will happen in your booth. Having a schedule of appearances, activities, or activations at your booth gives everyone an incentive to be there at a certain time, and who doesn’t love a crowd?

Then, give journalists a sneak peek. Reach out to journalists who will be covering MJ Biz and give them the schedule of events, activations, and on-trend topics your company is talking about at MJ Biz so the media knows where to find you and what’s interesting. Consider providing assets like quotes, images, and/or b-roll videos to journalists in advance. Being a resource to journalists is always a great way to make in-roads with media.

MJ Biz is one of the biggest and best-attended cannabis conferences in the U.S., but it certainly isn’t the only one. We keep an updated list of cannabis conferences available for download.

If you’d like more on-brand and tailored ideas that will maximize your cannabis expo investment, contact us directly. But don’t wait – the best campaigns come from thoughtful planning.

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 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 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.

Purpose-driven public relations means the brand proactively builds incorporates values that impact social, cultural, and environmental issues. A true purpose-driven company makes corporate choices within its purpose framework, even when it means purpose over profits.

Truthfully, public relations aren’t purpose-driven, a brand is purpose-driven. Public relations is simply a lever a purpose-driven brand can use to improve the world around them. Building a purpose-driven brand is an inside-out job. They aren’t PR campaigns or PR ideas; they are a cultural way of thinking that’s internalized by everyone in the company.

[3 minute read]

The Importance of Internalizing Purpose

There are lots of ways a brand can support its customers, community, and the globe meaningfully. Cause partnerships, and donation campaigns, are all relevant PR campaigns, but they aren’t purpose-driven. Purpose-driven companies take the long view on purpose and impact.

Internalization distinguishes purpose-driven brands. When everyone from the Board, to the CEO to the janitor walks the talk of purpose, then a brand has authentically implemented a purpose-driven brand. This also means when employees face choices, they incorporate the purpose into their decision-making. This can include employee hiring, employee programs, purchasing, and product decisions. It also means employees feel safe in making a purpose-informed choice because they know they’re acting within the company’s ethos; their choice is supported and even celebrated.

 

Should Purpose-Driven Initiatives Even Have a PR Component?

The deciding factor on this issue is the “why,” behind the initiative. Every day, businesses from Fortune 500 all the way to emerging industries are making decisions that have a social impact, and most of the time, these decisions don’t get the credit they deserve. But it’s not one decision, or one campaign, or one person who makes purpose – it’s people moving in unison making decisions that impact millions.

For example, let’s take eggs. When you go to the grocery, you face a lot of buying choices. Cage-free eggs, organic eggs, local eggs, inexpensive eggs. Many of these egg producers are balancing product, purpose, and price. Even though the organic or cage-free eggs are more expensive, it’s likely the margins on those eggs are considerably less than the mass-produced eggs. It’s also very likely that the producers of the cage-free or organic eggs are making other choices that cost more – maybe they buy the more expensive food, maybe they supplement their electricity with solar power. These are all purpose-driven decisions that are really important, but they won’t make news. What may make the news is the impact or the multiple steps they take for their purpose might make news. The people behind these choices may have interesting stories to tell. There will be PR opportunities, but they require real storytelling. Therefore, it’s important to have experienced purpose-driven PR agencies who can tell ethos and purpose stories.

Brands should have PR at the table when incorporating purpose-driven ethos, but PR should be part of the purpose, not the purpose of the purpose.

 

Are Purpose-Driven Brands Born or Made?

Both and neither. Some brands are founded in purpose, we can all name a few. Other brands grow into purpose. Both are as legitimate as their ability to stick to their ethos. It’s important for both types of purpose-driven brands to be authentic. Just because a brand is founded in purpose doesn’t mean it won’t lose its way. And just because a brand develops purpose doesn’t entirely absolve them from past actions. All brands should be very careful with their initiatives because consumers are getting fantastic at sniffing out disingenuous missions. These disingenuous missions create consumer distrust and may even run afoul of today’s cancel culture. A brand is better off doing nothing than taking on duplicitous or insincere purpose-driven initiatives.

 

If your company is considering a purpose-driven plan, please download our guide and call us. We can help you and your team navigate the exciting opportunities – and avoid the pitfalls – for purpose-driven brands.