Why do PR? What is the outcome you’re looking for? Our PR case studies and insights highlight the reasons we’re a top-rated PR firm, who creates top-notch PR results.

As uncertainty rises, funding falls. At least that’s what the news would have you believe. But according to Inc. magazine, seed and angel deals are still trending upward, and early stage companies with proven product are still getting most of the deals. In fact, 64% of venture funding is early stage, and seed deals through Q2 of 2022 were on par with the entirety of 2019 (Q2 NVCA/PitchBook). That means for hyper-growth or ambitious companies and challenger brands, there is still an opportunity for you. So what should you do when VC funding is down and inflation is still driving uncertainty? I’ve been through every recession since 9/11 and I’ve been working with ambitious brands and companies since then as well. So I’ve seen what successful businesses do during recessions to position themselves for competitive advantage, survival and growth, despite the economic hurdles. Over the years I’ve noticed, startups who focus on looking ahead while being laser-focused, and tend to survive tumultuous times.

Focus Your Energies and Budget

“Everything you do, do exceptionally well, and if you aren’t exceptional at it, then get rid of it or outsource it.”

Look at everything you’re doing and cut out the things you aren’t doing well. For example, let’s say your internal biz development team is excellent, but your event marketing isn’t producing the results you’d hoped for, take that event marketing budget and focus it on one thing your biz dev team says they need to get to the next level.

Everything you do, do exceptionally well, and if you aren’t exceptional at it, then get rid of it or outsource it. Outsourcing is just more nimble. What you outsource, be exceptionally clear about your goals, so you can maximize your reduced budget. Focusing your time and budget has the additional advantage of clearing out the cobwebs and giving you new insight into operational efficiencies too. Who knows? You might decide that outsourcing certain strategies, like PR, simply works better than doing it in-house, anyway.

Startups should also focus on the long term. Think about ways you can increase efficiencies with agency partners, and where you can maximize the partners you have on board.

 

Bullish on the Future

“Deals are still happening, but they’re more happening on industries and trends which are moving ahead full steam, no matter what happens to the economy,”

What should a startup focus on when thinking about funding? No matter what happens to the economy, innovation rolls forward, and VCs know this. The money isn’t on solving today’s problems, it’s on solving tomorrow’s problems. According to Pitchbook, in Q1 of 2022, VC’s raised more money than in the entirety of 2019. So are coming down? Oh, absolutely, but VC’s know – the future is now.

Even when funding is down, deals are still happening, but they’re more happening on industries and trends which are moving ahead full steam. So do your homework on where your product fits into the biggest challenges or opportunities in the next 5, 10, 15 years. Look at all the challenges the pandemic brought to light – those challenges are still top of mind, and the companies solving those problems will have a head start. Your corporate storytelling should also lean into the future and purpose driven initiatives. These two aspects will allow you to lead against your peers.

FinTech is another area where the gloom and doom may be over-reported – through Q2, FinTech funding was still more than in 2019, but it’s definitely not as frothy as 2021. FinTech founder may wish to focus on thought leadership and tie it into purpose-driven points of view in order to tap into future trends.

Plan For Success

“Companies that survive this time focus… on problem-solving,”

Now is the time to think out loud and do your due diligence for tomorrow. Companies that survive this time focus their operations team on problem-solving. For example, if  VC funding doesn’t seem likely for you right now, turn your attention to policy initiatives at the federal and local levels. For example, the last infrastructure project had a lot of opportunities for climate-related startups. And the 2021 infrastructure package held lots of tidbits for infrastructure tech programs, that emerging industries like drones and UOV could take advantage of.

Consumer tech VC funding really has taken a sharp nose-dive. Storytelling PR campaigns may not be as attractive as they once were for consumer tech. Now is the time to look at product-based programs which increase awareness but not the budget.

You should take this opportunity to do some scenario planning as well. Now is a great time to plan for a crisis, and create plans for things like cyber breaches ,which will help you secure your future.

 

Tomorrow’s greatest companies and emerging industries aren’t going to allow this uncertainty to derail them. This is where the rubber meets the road, and strategy makes a difference.

Make Google’s Latest Changes Your Secret Digital PR Weapon


Over 15 actionable tips for consumer and DTC brands

Request Your Free Download Today


What do Google, your PR, and affiliate networks have in common? They are the spine of your digital reputation. Consumer brands, especially DTC can no longer ignore the realities of how these once distinct digital tactics work together today.


Digital PR is real. And yet, so many PR professionals overlook the realities and intersection of Google and the media. Today’s PR isn’t really complete without Google considerations.

Many of the changes from Google are incredibly exciting for consumer brands. Those brands who understand the changes with more frequent earned media and better search results on owned and paid content like press releases will be rewarded with better search visibility and content stickiness.

Turn your PR into a revenue-generating machine with our actionable insights and tips that your competitors have probably overlooked.

From branded journalism to product reviews, and even press releases, Google’s changes and affiliate networks are essential considerations for any consumer brand that is trying to raise awareness online. These changes even impact your influencer campaigns.

Our easy-to-digest and insightful whitepaper is an at-a-glance resource every time you’re creating content for owned, paid, or earned media.

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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 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.