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.

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.

What is a Purpose-driven strategy? It’s the natural evolution of four converging cultural changes, the first is when social, cultural, and environmental issues became more visible and urgent, followed by consumers who expect brands to connect with nonprofits or social impact, driven by a lack of confidence in government to solve big problems, and finally, institutional investors evaluating environmental, social governance (ESG). Purpose puts a movement and impact first. Purpose-driven companies understand when society, the environment, and our collective well-being are doing well—businesses do better too.

Purpose-Driven Strategies have Three Key Pillars:

Employee and Systemic Engagement, Externally Virtuous, Meaty Measurable. 

These pillars of purpose require a company to be engaged in a systemic way, are independent of sales, and the impact should be both audacious and measurable. While purpose-driven strategies may give way to recruiting advantages, brand valuation, and competitive advantages, those are not the driving outcomes behind purpose. Purpose-driven PR is not the driving motivation behind purpose-driven implementations. The defining commitment of purpose is when it takes precedence over profitswhen internal culture is SO strong, so empowered, that decisions at all levels are made with a purpose in mind.

These Purpose Driven Strategy distinctions are important—because consumers—AND Investors are savvier than ever: They see through cause marketing campaigns with little authenticity. They’re alert to saying one thing, but doing another -greenwashing is so common it had a name.  Distrust in governments continued to decrease, while expectations of businesses continued to increase.

Purpose-driven strategies differ from the historical ways brands engaged with movements and nonprofits.

The Difference Between Purpose Driven Strategies and Philanthropy

The difference between purpose-driven strategies and philanthropy is based on the level of engagement the company commits to. Traditionally philanthropy was a broad term used to describe when a business contributed to a cause – anything from a social nonprofit to fundinga building or a program at a college. This type of giving required very little else from the company outside of the donation. Companies often used philanthropy to attract other monied investors or achive other strategic goals, but on the surface, having a philanthropic donation very often align with a marketing campaign or a PR campaign. Philanthropy also usually had very little to do with employees and customer activism or interests.

The Difference Between Purpose Driven Strategies and Corporate Giving

That gave way to CORPORATE GIVING –programs. The United Way is an outstanding example of corporate giving, this is when an organization encourages its employees to unite behind a single cause to create a greater donation scale. At this stage, companies get more involved as multiple departments such as PR, or HR to create systems and messaging around corporate giving. Companies whose employees give a lot receive recognition in the community. Corporate giving gave employees the opportunity to easily give to an organization; some corporate giving programs allow employees to choose a cause that was important to them, but in the most traditional sense, the executive team partnered with a nonprofit to create a corporate giving program.

The Difference Between Purpose Driven Strategies and Cause Marketing

CAUSE MARKETING are initiatives that tied sales to a corporate donation  – started in 1983 when Amex donated a penny to restoring the Statue of Liberty every time someone used their card—cardholders grew 45% and card usage increased by 28%. By 2013, 76% of consumers thought it was OK for brands to support good causes and make money at the same time. Before we knew it, there was a cause marketing campaign everywhere we looked, from pink ribbons to yogurt lids. Enterprises like Hersheys even had internal positions that combined marketing & corporate social responsibility.

If you’re interested in implementing purpose-driven strategies at your company, check out our free guide to implementing purpose. 

Hyper growth DTC brands appear to have some things in common. If you’re a DTC brand or the CMO of a DTC brand, the future looks bright. We also wanted to connect a few dots about emerging industries we think are going to be increasingly important.

  1. Average Order Value (AOV) is a Key Indicator of Hyper Growth DTC

    RetentionX has discovered the fastest growing DTC brands have a 55% higher AOV than everyone else. They attribute this high AOV to customer loyalty. Customer loyalty is a holistic and multi-discipline objective.

    But this is where DTC PR really shines.

    Brand loyalty comes from trust. Trust in the product and trust in the brand values. If you’re the CMO or founder of a DTC brand, customer loyalty is your key KPI for revenue growth. One strategy for increased customer loyalty is premium branding, and PR delivers. According to Morgan Stanley’s research, Apple’s premium DTC branding came through a sustained PR campaign that helped deliver  90% brand retention.

  2.  Voice Search: DTC’s Premier Opportunity

    55% of American households own a smart speaker in 2022, according to Juniper research. And according to Navar, slightly more than half of consumers use voice-activated search for things like groceries, and by 2030, the global AI-based and voice recognition market should reach $27.3 billion (insightSLICE).

    Voice activation is likely to take advantage of a multitude of signals, just like SEO. A great start, if you haven’t already gotten there, is making sure your product FAQs include “how,” “why,” and “what” questions. The type of questions your buyers are likely to ask in various stages of product consideration.

    While you’re at it, look at Google’s Review requirements, because these types of reviews are likely to play into voice search, at least on Google. From a trust perspective, combining your owned content with trusted third-party reviews is a home run. Also, remember the added benefit of media coverage is stickiness – what Google can count on when creating its interpretation of your online reputation, which will undoubtedly play into your voice-activated reputation as well.

  3. Partnerships For the Win

    From collabs to join placement and pop-ups and the metaverse, DTC brands can double their exposure by partnering on campaigns. These campaigns can get a huge amount of lift from PR initiatives like media relations and events.

    Forgetting the PR component of these opportunities really misses the chance to secure customer retention and new acquisition. While social media, especially social advertising, is a must-have for DTC brands, DTC brands can look at the PR around partnerships as an opportunity to decouple their dependence on social media.

Investing in PR is a commitment, so before you get started, it’s important to be clear on the competitive advantages of PR. Clarity around these advantages can ultimately help you enhance your overall PR outcomes.

  1. Enhance Credibility

    A trusted brand will increase sales and revenue, but there’s an additional reason to use the competitive advantages of PR: the bank of trust and credibility. Building trust and credibility has it’s own brand value advantages, the third-party validation from credible media outlets positively affects capital raises, increased sales, and future IPOs. But there’s more, if you get caught up in bad news, have a product recall, or other upsetting news, the trust you’ve established with customers, investors, and journalists will serve you well as you respond to bad news. Depending on the news, PR could also save you legal fees, re-branding fees, or lost sales. Credibility and trust build up over time, and if given the opportunity, trust is a lot like reinvested dividends, they grow exponentially over the years, so it’s never too early to make deposits in the trust bank.

  2. Cost-Effective Marketing

    Paid ads require copywriters, videographers or photographers, a team of editors for content, and that’s before you ever purchase the space or pay the ad and marketing agency for their creative ideas and campaign planning. PR agencies specialize in creating opportunities that come at little to no cost, like creating buzz, word of mouth, or owned content. Product placements or executive quotes, interviews or public speaking opportunities, awards, these have little to no additional cost, and yet they lend 3x more credibility than an advertisement. So what’s the competitive advantage? Let your competitors spin their wheels on the ever-changing price of digital ads or the unknown impact of a print ad and instead invest in sticky earned media, with a predictable budget, that delivers awareness AND credibility.

  3. Increased Loyalty

    What would you pay to have 50% or more of your customers or clients be completely loyal to your brand, no matter how much your competition targets them? Competitive advantage PR campaigns that appeal directly to customer values or purpose have an enormous impact on customer loyalty and earned media. Purpose-driven programs also have the added competitive advantage of potentially appealing to a segment of journalists too. Well-considered PR campaigns will have the added competitive advantage of giving you more opportunities to communicate with your customers and give your employees more opportunities to humble-brag about the socially aware company they work for. And when the recruiting market is tight, giving your employees pride in their work saves on recruiting and turn-over costs.

  4. Playing with the Big Boys

    If you’re not already a household name, then one of the competitive advantages of PR is the statement that you’ve arrived. When media outlets start covering your products, you’ve entered into a rarified realm because less than 2% of all companies EVER receive media exposure, and we bestow those that do with more credibility. Simply appearing in an article with a household name elevates your company. At Avaans Media, our clients are hyper-growth companies or those in emerging industries, or developing purpose-driven campaigns – what all our clients have in common is when they come to us, they are in the mix, but not well known to key stakeholders, but when they leave us, they have measurable outcomes including capital investment, mergers and acquisitions, and IPOs.

  5. Leverage Your Other Initiatives

    One additional competitive advantage of PR is having them at the table when planning internal or external initiatives. PR experts can help you develop those plans with media reactions in mind. If you DON’T want press on something, PR experts will know how to enhance that outcome and will help you prepare if it hits the press. On the other hand, PR experts can advise how to leverage marketing initiatives for additional coverage. We’ve helped our clients identify many ways their investments in branding, partnerships, and even advertising can pay 3X more dividends through earned media.

 

PR is the choice of brands with big plans and that’s because the competitive advantages of PR can’t be beaten. Regardless of your strategic business goals, talk to the Avaans Media PR experts about them so we can advise you on the best ways to make those goals a reality faster.

Do We Need PR?

Why do PR? These are the 5 reasons why PR is vital to growth.  Straight up: PR is the only way to differentiate yourself. While it might be tempting for businesses to focus on sales and marketing only and, it’s technically possible to operate a business without PR, it’s virtually impossible to become an industry leader or a household name without PR. Emerging industries, which need to establish credibility to investors and consumers, and hyper-growth companies with very ambitious growth plans need PR.

PR is a vital partner to business goals that have long-term effects on the success of a business. These 5 reasons why PR is vital for the success of growing companies. PR adds credibility and authority to emerging industries and hyper-growth brands.

5 Reasons Why PR is Vital for Emerging Industries and Hyper-Growth Brand Success

At Avaans Media, we specialize in emerging industries and hyper-growth brands, be they B2B or B2C. From raising awareness with consistent media placement to aligning social media with your most important key messaging, to crisis prevention and management, having a cohesive and active PR presence is the secret ingredient to building brand equity and awareness. We’re so committed to helping you get to the next level, we base our PR pricing on your strategic objectives.

 

  1. Increase Revenue: Public relations has very real and exciting implications for revenue growth. More credible than advertising PR contributes to increased sales conversion and deal flow improvement, as well as decreasing churn and increasing customer lifetime value (CLTV). Working with your PR firm to develop baselines and KPIs for your business goals not only allows you to see PR’s impact on your bottom line, but also enables your PR firm to develop a strategy that is effective and long-lasting.
  2. Attract Investors: For many emerging industry companies and hyper-growth brands, attracting investment is a key goal for scale. Investors like to see that your product has legs. There is no better endorsement of your product’s potential than media placement. It might be tempting to only use PR after you’ve secured investment, but PR can increase deal flow, give you more brand equity, and improve the quality of investment.
  3. Competitive Advantages: If you’re in an industry where there are a lot of competitors, then you absolutely need PR. PR will help you clarify your messaging and ensure you know where and when you can stand out. Further, in crowded fields, what do consumers do? They Google brands to find reviews and articles. If your brand has this critical 3rd party social proof, it’s a massive edge for your brand.
  4. Recruitment: The best candidates know their value and want to work for companies that are known entities in their industry, no matter whether the job market is tight. Great candidates are rarely interested in growing a business that hasn’t committed resources to growing the business. No one ever became an industry leader by focusing solely on cutting costs. PR shouts from the rooftops: “we’re serious about our future,” and that’s just the message to appeal to the best and brightest talent at all levels.
  5. Attract Acquisition or an IPO: Sometimes the next stage in a company’s growth is an acquisition or an IPO.  For both scenarios, completely integrated PR and marketing efforts are critical. For emerging industry companies and hyper-growth brands, if you’re serious about being acquired or an IPO, AND you want the best price for your company, now is the time to double down on brand equity investment. These strategic objectives require an aligned PR strategy that may differ from what you’ve done in the past. But since our company has done this many times, we can help you navigate the strategy and implement it flawlessly.

Why is PR your secret weapon? These are only the most critical to business goals, there are hundreds of smaller PR advantages that increase revenue and even save you money. At Avaans Media, we’re exceptionally proud of our A-team, a group of experienced and insightful communication experts who never stop working for our clients.  Get started being the most important brand you can be. Contact us today for a discussion about your business goals.