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

Maximize Your DTC or CPG PR

 

Multimedia for the Win

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

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

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

Affiliate Links…For Journalists?

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

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

Be Story Ready

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

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

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

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

 

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

Maybe you’ve never hired a PR firm before, or maybe it’s been a while and you’re just unsure of what a PR agency costs. Either way, you’re asking yourself, “how much will a PR firm cost me?” Since PR usually falls within the marketing budget, let’s start there.

To grow your position in the marketplace, a good marketing allocation is about 15% of revenue. In 2022, the average marketing budget for B2C brands was 13.7% of revenue, and for B2B brands, it was about 10% of revenue.

So if you’re an average company, and you’re looking to maintain your position, you’re probably spending in the range of 10% of revenue. If you’re looking to dominate, your budget should be higher. Ambitious startups typically allocate between 12-17%. A typical breakdown might be that 1/3 of the budget is advertising, 1/3 of the budget is content, and 1/3 of the budget is PR. Large international agency budgets can be $380,000 or more annually, while a mid-range agency budget typically clocks in at $156,000-$180,000 annually and a smaller agency budget would be $120,000 per year, a mid-range freelancer could be anywhere from $36,000-$100,000 a year. If you’re a CPG or DTC brand with a marketing spend of under $100,000, then you might consider consumer product PR sprints, which feature micro contracts that align with key buying seasons. Hiring a PR agency is an investment, but considering PR converts ten to 50% better than advertising, PR is indeed a place where the ROI pays off.

 

So what goes into a PR agency’s fees?

 

According to Muck Rack’s 2021 State of PR report, the number one cost to a company to PR is the agency, which makes sense because unlike programmatic ad spending (a typical minimum is programmatic spend is $25,000/month), PR agencies rarely have a minimum spend or activation fee requirements outside their retainers.

PR agency rates increased, and in 2020, the average PR agency CEO billed $417 per hour, while VPs clocked in at $319 per hour and Account Managers billed $256 per hour. The average blended rate was $240 per hour. It’s safe to say that if your PR team has executive PR experience, and your agency spends an average of 10 person-hours per week on your account, your monthly retainer will be around $13,226 per month.

If you require more executive hours, your fees could go up. If you work mostly with a junior team, your rates could go down. Oftentimes, fees are different depending on your strategic objectives. For example, if you want to keep a firm on retainer for a few calls a month, and no proactive media outreach, your annual fees may be considerably less. If you are trying to secure investment or you’re pre IPO, you may find your fees are on the higher end of an agency’s fee structure.

It’s a balance to strike your budget with your goals, but when asked, I always give the same advice to CMO’s and startup founders. In 2020, 45% of companies increased their PR budget. If your budget is $400,000 or more per year, hire an agency that does $20 million+ in revenue. If your budget is $180,000 per year, hire a boutique PR firm, with less than $10 million in revenue. If your budget is $60,000 per year, don’t hire an agency, hire a freelancer.

Odwyer PR’s annual report shows rates increased considerably between 2019 and 2020, so if your agency didn’t raise its rates, you’re fortunate.

Agencies are notoriously reluctant to share minimum retainers, but in 2013, several agency executives did just that with PR Observer, an industry publication.

“To properly scope a client program and assign the proper team support, we feel $15,000 – $17,500 per month is a reasonable starting point.”Anne Green, President & CEO, CooperKatz & Company, Inc.

“Our retainers range from $7,500 – $50,000 or so. Crisis costs are different and generally charged by the hour with a $20,000 minimum.”—Ronn Torossian, Founder & President, 5WPR

“We have some clients that pay us $100,000 or so per year, some clients that pay us more than $100,000 per week, and many clients that pay us $100,000 or so per month.”— Mark Hass, President & CEO, Edelman United States

“Our clients generally pay between $15,000-$30,000 a month depending on the workload.”—Stu Loeser, Founder & President, Stu Loeser & Co.
So what’s typically included in a bespoke retainer rate? Well, again, that may depend on each agency’s specialty. For example, if your agency specialized in digital communications, you may find that social media content creation is included, but media relations are not. But the following services are a good rule of thumb to expect within our typical PR agency retainer:
  • Strategies about how to stand out from your competitors using PR
  • Internal and external communication strategies that match your growth goals.
  • Campaign development and creative activations for marketing opportunities.
  • Media relations, and securing regular media coverage, speaking engagements.
  • KPI and business impact reporting.
  • Copywriting such as press releases, speeches, white papers, and branded journalism.
  • PR crisis planning – but not necessarily crisis management.
  • Partnership strategy and potentially management such as cause, social impact, or purpose-driven PR initiatives.
  • Executive training, including media training, interview prep, and research or executive ghostwriting.
  • Content strategy for video, social media, and inbound leads.
  • Content creation oversight, including social media, photography sessions, and video development.
  • Poll or research development, implementing the poll may or may not be within the agency’s retainer.
  • Peer agency coordination, such as with branding or advertising agencies.
  • PR campaigns that “make the news,” are designed to create word-of-mouth or media opportunities.

For a complete list of what we would include in your PR retainer, reach out to us and tell us more about your business and your goals.

Hiring a PR agency is an investment, but considering PR converts ten to 50% better than advertising, PR is indeed a place where the ROI pays off.

Do you find yourself asking “What will I get for my money if I hire a PR agency?” You might even see offers for guaranteed media coverage. But should PR agencies guarantee media coverage? The reasons the answer is “no” might surprise you. Any PR agency that promises earned media coverage is putting their journalist contacts at risk for journalistic ethics violations. Guaranteed PR coverage is not only unethical, it can even be illegal. “Guaranteed” PR coverage rarely lives as long as earned media coverage. Finally, it doesn’t have the authority and trust that comes with credible earned media.

[3 minute read]

Pay-to-Play Earned Media is Unethical

Sadly, we’ve seen it all, including journalists fired for violating professional journalist ethics. Violations might include not disclosing a monetary relationship or other conflict or interest. Paying a journalist under the table to write about a company or a product is the signal of an inexperienced, desperate, or unethical PR agency. These agencies don’t garner favor by journalists who value their jobs, and getting a journalist fired isn’t the way to reinforce media relationships. And when you hire a PR agency that does this, you’re attaching your brand’s reputation to unethical and even illegal behavior. No matter how cheap guaranteed PR coverage is, the cost to your reputation will far outweigh any benefits.

There is such a thing as legitimate sponsored coverage. And while sponsored coverage LOOKS like an article, it’s actually an advertisement. Secured through a media outlet’s advertising team, never directly with a journalist, sponsored coverage is a legitimate form of advertising. The FCC always requires sponsored coverage to identify itself as paid. Even Google wants to know what links are sponsored, and not tagging them correctly is an SEO risk authoritative and important media outlets won’t risk. Press releases are a great example of paid or sponsored coverage. Paid placements have a role in a campaign, and any good PR agency can make recommendations about how to use these tools in your campaign.

Guaranteed Coverage Isn’t Usually Authoritative

The primary reason fast-growing brands and hyper-growth companies need PR is for both exposure and trust that typically comes from earned media.

Today’s readers and content consumers are incredibly savvy. After thousands of hours of advertising exposure, most consumers can sniff out the difference between advertising articles and journalistic pieces. Like all advertisements, ethically secured readers’ and viewers’ trust earned coverage because journalists maintain independence.

We’ve seen self-proclaimed PR experts use their positions as media contributors to promote their clients; we’ve seen these same people banned from esteemed outlets like Entrepreneur and Forbes. Most times, the brands paying for this coverage did not know that what the “PR expert” was doing was unethical or illegal. No one wins in this situation, certainly not the brand who thought they paid a PR firm to secure high-value coverage. This is especially painful because once discovered by the media outlet, that content is often removed from their website and therefore the internet; this rarely happens with earned media coverage which lasts as long as the website is up.

Sponsored or Paid Coverage Doesn’t Last as Long

While earned media takes strategy, expertise, and yes, time, ethical sponsored or paid coverage doesn’t last as long as earned coverage. Sponsored and paid coverage, while it has its place, is like any other advertisement: it typically runs for a limited amount of time, then it disappears. One of the underappreciated perks of earned media is its longevity.

There’s nothing wrong with sponsored or paid coverage. We’ve seen some really remarkable pieces of sponsored coverage that went beyond the advertisement and well into providing true value for readers. The Washington Post, the New York Times, all do spectacular special projects like this. The starting cost is usually in the $50,000+ range. Regular ad rates for a premium location like the (printed) back page hover around $30,000 per ad, volume discounts usually apply to annual contracts. But hey, you’re getting ad placement in one of the world’s most credible news outlets at least once for that price.

 

Today’s modern PR firms are savvy in today’s media landscape, including traditional, paid, and digital mediums. We take our professional PR ethics very seriously, including guaranteed media coverage. Hire a PR firm you can trust and trust your PR firm.

In a competitive market, launching a new product is crucial for brands to stay relevant and maintain their current customers.

Before you launch your next CPG (consumer packaged goods) product, consider the following PR strategies:

8 Months Out

Select the Right Digital Channels 

Not all digital channels are right for every launch. Look at places where there are deep community wells, instead of hugely broad channels. Once you’ve identified those channels, spend some time engaging and listening to find out who the top  tier influencers are – watch who they partner with to get an idea of whether they align with your product launch, and pricing. 

Have customers use hashtags to engage in product-related conversations, which can be tagged on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. When customers tag your product on social media, it creates a sense of product engagement and excitement for customers that both current and potential customers can see. 

6 Months Out

Embrace Influencers of ALL Types 

We typically think of influencer marketing as a form of product promotion that allows product marketers to leverage the audiences of social media influencers to reach prospects and drive product sales. On Instagram, there are more than one million product review accounts with product-related hashtags, which is where product marketers should look for product endorsers.  Outreach should start 6 months out to ensure a collaborative, effective campaign. 

Social media influencers are popular on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook because of their large followings, so it is important that product marketers find product reviewers who have similar customer demographics as their target prospects. Influencer tips: – Look at product influencers’ follower demographics and product reviewer content to ensure it aligns with product messaging. – Engage product endorsers by asking them questions on social media, which helps you learn more about their product preferences and how they use your product. – Reach out to product reviewers via direct message on Instagram or Twitter, as well as on Facebook. Remember, product marketers should work with influencers six months prior to product launch.

Engage your existing customers on social media so they are engaged during launch. To create more customer loyalty, consider including your most engaged customers to help with the launch. And look beyond “social media followers” when you identify your most engaged customers. Cutting through the noise today often means authentic recommendations to a small, but targeted group COMBINED with other efforts to create social proof. 

Look for product experts—people with large social media followings who are experts in the product category. – Pose open-ended questions to product experts on how they use your product, what their favorite features are and why; this is likely to garner organic product-related content on social media

Re-Think Launch Parties

 In the post COVID world, there are so many ways to launch a product. Yes, traditional events launch parties with influencers may work. But when you identify who aligns with product messaging, look at your influencers with a digital lens.

 

Approach Bloggers to Post about Your Product

Bloggers often get overlooked in the age of social media influencers – but bloggers create extremely sticky content. Be creative with bloggers for your product launch. Product marketers can partner with bloggers who have product review blogs by providing them with sample products and product information. This allows product marketers a chance to get their product messages into the hands of product reviewers well in advance of product launch. It’s best to include product-related information in the product shipment package, along with a personal message from product marketers asking for product reviews and product mentions on social media channels.

Blogger tips: – Look for product reviewers who have similar customer demographics as your target prospects. – Create an outreach list of bloggers who have positive sentiment or product-related product reviews on social media channels. – Reach out to product bloggers via email with product information and a personal message asking for product reviews before product launch.

Hire a Public Relations Agency

Public relations firms are able to manage all aspects of brand product management from product messages to product campaigns. PR firms have experience in product launch field and can navigate product marketers through the product launch process, as well as manage product review blogger outreach efforts.

PR agency tips: – Look for a public relations agency that specializes in building brand equity with product launches. – Reach out to a product-centric PR agency six months before product launch to build product buzz and product hype.

4 Months Out

Create Compelling Content

CPG businesses should put out compelling free content well in advance of the launch—about two to four months before the product is available for sale— to create a buzz about the product among their current and potential customer base. Ensure to have a strong call-to-action, so interested users can easily find out more information on where they can buy the product once it becomes available. Share this content on social media and on product-specific landing pages. Keep in mind, you should publish your content 4 months out, so you may need to begin creating the content 6 months or more, out. 

3 Months Out

Offer Limited Edition Products

Offering product variations and limited edition items can help brands stand out and create product buzz. Consumers ultimately want to be the first to own new products, and they want others to know that they were able to get their hands on these product releases before anyone else. While each product release comes with its own product description, it’s important to include words such as new, limited edition or exclusive.

Include a Product in Customer Surveys

Customer surveys are a great way for product marketers to measure customer sentiment around product features and benefits, as well as product satisfaction rates. 

Sending product surveys to current customers about their product experiences can be beneficial because product marketers will learn how customers use the product, as well as product changes that might be needed. 

Question tips: – Focus on product features and benefits to solicit product-related feedback from customers before product launch. – Use questions such as: “What do you like most about our product?” “What product features would you like improved?”

1 Month Out

Create a Product Landing Page 

A product landing page is a long-lead product promotion that provides product marketers with the opportunity to create hype and product buzz online before product launch. The product landing page is a lead source for future product marketing efforts, such as webinars or product announcements. Landing page tips: – Partner with product review influencers to provide product information, product images and product videos to build excitement on product landing pages before product launch. – Create webinars to introduce the product to the marketplace.

 

Conduct Product Demos 

Product demonstrations are an easy way for product marketers to share product product information. Host product demo for your influencers and journalists, giving them a chance to ask questions live. Product marketers should gain product product knowledge before product demos in order to answer product review blogger questions about product features and benefits. Question tips: – Provide product demo websites that will provide product information when product review bloggers want to learn more after the product launch. Record your launch demos for use in future outreach campaigns. 

 

Product launch timelines can be extended and compressed, but keep in mind, successful product launches require collaboration and creativity, so giving yourself the time to have a successful launch pays dividends. Contact us regarding the specifics to your product launch.

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.

Despite the challenges for cannabis brands, social media is important to them.

In 2005, just 5% of American adults were on at least one social media platform. By 2020, that number had risen to 72%. And as social media has become a ubiquitous part of modern life, social media marketing has, in many ways, become a virtual version of the storefront. It is vital to the success of retail operations in the United States.

However, the booming cannabis industry cannot capitalize on social media marketing the way that others can. Because cannabis has still not been legalized at the federal level, major social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn all limit cannabis companies’ ability to promote their product on social platforms. Each platform has a specific policy in place that limits the efficacy of cannabis marketing online.

Many cannabis companies and cannabis-adjacent companies have had their profiles deactivated and pages deleted without notice by various platforms, and still others have their ad accounts shut down when they try to post a promotional ad for their products.

This ultimately costs each business money and customers and reduces their visibility and reach online. Social media platforms police these businesses and the content they post, and it’s not unheard of for a company to alert the platforms’ administrators to a competitor’s post as an underhanded way to reduce the impact of their advertising.

But while cannabis brands face and will likely continue to face specific challenges in advertising their product until it is legal at the federal level, there are still ways that they can advertise themselves while operating within social media platforms’ stated parameters. Let’s take a look at some of the ways cannabis companies can appeal to the hundreds of millions of people on social media without risking deplatforming.

Traditional Advertising

While you can definitely still make use of social media advertising, you will need to tread carefully to ensure that you are not in violation of any of the platforms’ policies, which vary from service to service.

One possible loophole to the platforms’ blanket moratorium on cannabis advertising is to publish ads that are for educational purposes. By ensuring that the ad is not promotional and doesn’t link to a promotional page, you will have improved the chances that your ads will be approved by the powers that be. There are, obviously, limits to the effectiveness of an ad that doesn’t actually advertise, and you’ll need to get creative for it to be effective.

However, even if your ads are educational and created for advocacy purposes, Facebook could still try to shut down your ads account or your business page. They may argue that even though your ads were merely meant to be educational, they still promote cannabis use.

At the end of the day, ads are an option, but you must exercise extreme caution. Most cannabis companies do not have much success with traditional advertising on social media platforms, and the few that do are in an extremely fortunate minority.

Educational and Valuable Content

In order to develop your unique brand online, you should publish content that your target audience will value. Your focus should be on educational content that could be useful to your customers, rather than on promotional content.

Share useful data with your target audience and indirectly promote your brand through videos, posts, articles, and more that help bring visibility to your brand but don’t violate social media policies. Even customers of businesses that are permitted to post promotional content regularly post other types of content, including educational content, as most customers don’t want to follow companies who only promote their products and offer little that is informational or otherwise useful.

Engagement

Instead of focusing on promotion, you should focus on engaging with your current customers and your new potential customers. Don’t post information about your products or price info. Don’t publish any content that shows customers interacting with your products. Instead, concentrate on creating content that won’t violate the platform’s policies.

There are many types of engaging and entertaining content that can instill brand loyalty in your customers, such as tutorials, infographics, behind-the-scenes content at your place of business, and more. When consumers interact with this type of content, it puts a proverbial face to your name, increasing their trust in your brand, and helping them get to know your business better.

Earned Media Attention

One of the most important social media advertising opportunities for cannabis companies is earned media attention. When individuals share content that you published in other forums, on other social media platforms and elsewhere, you earn social media attention. And unlike running ads that may go against platform policies and get your page shut down, this publicity is entirely free. Generating word of mouth is one of the very best ways to bring in new customers.

The content that people talk about and are excited to share is content that is entertaining, informative, and authentic.

Some ways to generate this shareable content is through:

  • Blogging – If you are in the cannabis business, you should absolutely maintain a regular blog. Draft interesting blogs and then share your blog posts to your social media platforms so that your audience can easily find and share your blog content. Select topics that you think your audience will care about and remember to keep it educational and informative rather than promotional.
  • Videos – Blogs, of course, require consumers to engage with the written word. Many people prefer a visual format, which is why videos are such a great way to reach your target audience. In fact, if you have the resources, you could turn your blogs into video blogs for those who prefer to watch rather than read. You can also share video content across various social media platforms, from Facebook and Twitter to YouTube and Instagram. You might consider using videos to interview important individuals in the cannabis industry, educate your audience on the many different beneficial compounds found in cannabis besides the well-known THC, and advocate for the federal legalization movement.
  • Podcasts – Finally, you can use podcasts to promote your brand and reach your audience. Grab some recording equipment and use one of the numerous free apps to create your own podcast. Use the podcast to do an audio version of your blog, or to conduct interviews with influencers in the industry or activists who are leading the fight to legalize cannabis at the federal level. And of course, share that content across all of your social platforms.

If you run a cannabis business, it can be an uphill battle trying to leverage social media tools to promote your products online. But there are still ways that you can reach your target audience and increase engagement through these platforms.

Contact Avaans Media

If you are interested in learning more about how to use social media to your advantage as a cannabis business, or are seeking assistance building your brand, look no further than Avaans Media, recognized as a top cannabis PR agency. Our team has the experience and skills to help you develop a strong brand and increase your customer engagement through social media marketing. Contact us today to find out more.