Well-crafted content is so much more valuable than promotional content. What should cannabis brands focus on right now? When the 2019 Farm Act passed, the CBD industry widely celebrated it. But not long after, newcomers overran the CBD industry and even established brands found themselves surprised by the competitive environment. Despite the challenges, the biggest brands, the most well-known, continue to thrive. In fact, Charlotte’s Web recently became the first CBD brand to sponsor Major League Baseball.  There are a few reasons for this. The first is from the start, CW invested in branding and PR.  But there’s an even bigger reason – they immediately embraced the realities of DTC sales and their website had digital authority because they had been investing in it for years. That’s why it’s more important than ever for cannabis brands to commit to their online presence with these 3 tips to improve cannabis digital marketing with quality content that pays dividends for years to come.

When federal legalization happens – history will repeat itself. It will excite marketers in the industry that FINALLY Instagram can’t boot them. But social media sites come and go (apparently, IG is already “over”), and owning your own corner of the internet has never been more important. While it remains important to HAVE an Insta account, it isn’t a place where cannabis brands can maximize their digital marketing or their content. Once cannabis brands can sell online more directly or even advertise more freely, in a more DTC fashion, mature digital destinations will thrive.

Building an authoritative website takes time, and it takes strategy. You can not start too soon.  Make 2023 the year you invest in your cannabis digital marketing with these 3 digital marketing tips that supercharge digital PR.

Create Lifestyle, Not Medical Content

Historically, cannabis brands have built content to educate consumers. And that’s been a really important step in cannabis normalization. But between new formats that make cannabis more accessible to Google’s suppression of “fake news,” including non-authoritative sites providing anything akin to medical advice, you’re just wasting your time by creating anything that could be considered health advice, or expertise.

Unless you’re already a credible, published authority on these matters,  you’d be better off taking a page out of a publisher’s took kit and creating like “5 Games That Are Better When You’re High.”

The better you know your customer, the more dialed in you’ll be to creating content for them. Be disciplined. Be consistent. If you create 3 pieces of content a month, you are already miles ahead of 99% of cannabis brands. Not only does this help people find you today, but it will be a rich resource tomorrow. Creating content YOU own is still the most impactful marketing and PR tactic you can do.

Trigger The Seeking Hormone

A while back, I wrote about creating Instagram content that would trigger anticipation while also solving some of the Instagram violation problems by using anticipation triggers in cannabis digital marketing.

Use can use that to your advantage right now while circumventing Instagram challenges, and even advertising challenges while ALSO adding authority to your website. Use unexpected prompts, both audio and visual, to keep consumers on your site longer. And while we’re at it, if you aren’t already, you MUST incentivize people to join your email list. Again, owning your list is an actual asset, while Instagram followers are so fluid, and Instagram itself so unreliable, it’s questionable whether there is any long-term value there at all. And believe me, as one of the earliest adopters of social media for brands, it truly pains me to say that.

But there are lessons to be learned from Instagram. The scrolling feed, for example, is an outstanding example of a “seeking hormone” trigger. In the early days, it was genius. The way it scrolled felt like a slot machine, juuuust enough of the next post would appear on the phone screen. It was nearly impossible to stop scrolling. TikTok’s interface triggers that too. The latest digital website designs use a similar approach. Your cannabis digital marketing can mimic some of the most tried and true digital best practices used by today’s leading consumer brands.

QUALITY Inbound Links Still Matter

 

Your current and past coverage from respected, authoritative sites is your hedge against link inflation.

Google says it’s deprioritizing inbound links, but that’s only compared to how much they’re increasing the value of trusted content. Simply having inbound links isn’t enough. Gone are the days when thousands of low-value affiliate links could stack up to a credible website in Google’s eyes.

Today, Google wants to improve its search algorithm by presenting trusted answers. The recipe to trust is a closely guarded Google, but what we DO know is credible content = trust. And Publishers have Google’s trust. And when Google presents it, consumers trust it more too, so your site gets a super boost. Customers who trust you buy faster and stay longer, so incorporating quality inbound links is a triple home run for your cannabis brand.

Preparing for federal cannabis legalization is THE business strategy for 2023 and digital marketing and PR are the levers to pull your brand along. Since our earliest days, we’ve been the best cannabis PR agency for digitally savvy brands. We know successful cannabis digital marketing and PR advice of today is the backbone of tomorrow’s most successful cannabis brands. Today, it’s more important than ever to coordinate cannabis digital marketing with cannabis digital PR.

Ah, the early adopter. Their the people who grab on to things first, they start trends and they are influencers in their respective communities.

Whether you’re a startup, a movement or a personality, you need these early adopters. Marketing to early adopters can be slippery though, what they grab on to is almost entirely motivationally based. Toss out your traditional “Three P’s” of marketing if you want to capture this crowd, you’re going to need to think through what makes them tick.

Whether you’re building a product or starting a movement, keep your early adopters in mind. Strategies of early adopter marketing require a deep understanding of their motiviations.

Early Adopters Value Intellectual Stimulation

It doesn’t matter what your target market is, a certain segment of them are early adopters and early adopters like to be challenged and stimulated.  Puzzles and quizzes are intriguing to these people, but they get bored easily, so make sure the content matches the intelligence level.

Don’t mistake this to assume that every puzzle or quiz is intriguing to early adopters. They aren’t necessarily the “Buzzfeed” quiz takers. They like to learn and be challenged but they aren’t interested in dumbed down versions of anything. By the time something has caught mass adoption, early adopters have either “been there/done that” or are already deeply engaged in using the product.

Early Adopters Have High “FOMO.”

Because they value their role as early adopters, they never want to be “out of the loop” or miss something that’s particularly cool.

Tap into that “Fear of Missing Out” during the earliest stages. Give them ways to be cool to their community by letting them be the gateway to a broader audience and you’ll be tapping into their desires to be seen as an early adopter.

Google generally does this really well when it launches products. It does an initial invitation to known early adopters and gets everyone else clamoring to be part of it in the first phase and SEEN as an early adopter. Google definitely has marketing to early adopters down.

Early Adopters Are Attracted to Art, Emotion and Adventure

Perhaps more than any other target market, early adopters are pulled in by emotion, art and adventure.

This is one reason why Apple’s early emphasis on design caught on with early adopters, they loved the elegance of the product and interface, the art of the experience.

Remember, art, emotion and adventure can happen online and offline. This is a place where you can really get creative and have some fun. It’s also easy to identify these people based on where they go because events like TED and TEDX inherently draw early adopter personality types.

Because of this constant searching early adopters have, curiosity is a primary trigger for action. Tripping the curiosity trigger requires some thought because early adopters aren’t generally suckers for the usual mass-marketing techniques; they’re a little more sophisticated than that. You’re going to really have to think of something that genuinely makes them curious.

The “Why” Seriously Matters

Early adopters are very observant they generally see through tactics and need a reason to be inspired.  Your marketing message to early adopters needs to be centered around something inspiring.

Instead of focusing on product features, tap into the deep intellectual and emotional reservoir of early adopters and give some insight to them about why this product or movement matters. You’ll likely need to do some message testing here, but it will be worth it once you hit on the “why” that matters most.

Don’t Confuse Early Adopters for Extroverts

It’s easy to lump the two together, but research shows that messaging that targets extroverts actually repels early adopters. Early adopters like intrigue and creativity, they aren’t particularly attracted to social attention in a public way. This doesn’t mean they aren’t on social media, it just means that their triggers are different. They like to have their role as early adopters confirmed, but they also like to be the messenger of that delivery.

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.