How important are journalist relationships to cannabis PR? That depends on your strategic objectives and how you’re incorporating cannabis pr into your cannabis marketing. Cannabis is still an emerging industry, and while it has changed dramatically since Avaans started working (as Primo PR) in cannabis in 2015, it’s still a pretty tight-knit group, that includes cannabis journalists. Your PR outcomes probably include the standard visibility KPIs but what other outcomes are you looking for? Media relations is really journalist branding and relationship building. Like all relationships, it’s important to view cannabis media relationships as a long-term process.

B2B Cannabis PR

There are very specific needs for cannabis businesses, from cannabis banking to crop management for CBD, the regulations make B2B cannabis products very specific. Journalists who cover cannabis regularly probably need little backstory on the industry and why the product purpose.  On the other hand, they aren’t as wowed by cannabis industry products because they understand what is and isn’t news to the industry. Having relationships with the cannabis industry journalists will give you the opportunity to have deeper conversations and understanding about their perspectives. Now, if your business objectives include things like an acquisition or VC funding or private equity investment, then not only do you want cannabis journalist PR, but you also want coverage in national outlets. In this case, your relationships with national outlets and their writers will be very important. National writers are overwhelmed with pitches and for B2B cannabis PR pitches, there needs to be an additional layer of relevance. It’s really not enough to be a “cannabis company” anymore (if it ever was). Further, many national outlets or journalists only cover publicly traded cannabis companies or national firms, so journalist relations matters here as well.

Cannabis CPG

In the cannabis CPG realm, journalist relationships are critical. This is one of the more competitive areas of journalism because, for product-driven coverage, you’re often competing with an enormous range of lifestyle products for the same space. A good cannabis PR firm will help you determine media-friendly differentiations and opportunities that support your larger business objectives. Depending on your business objectives, cannabis journalists may be a first or secondary priority for you. Some of this will also depend on your stage of growth and previous press coverage. If you’ve had a lot of press coverage, or you’re looking to differentiate yourself in a non-product forward realm, then you’ll definitely want to double down on media relationships.

Cannabis Tech

No matter whether your cannabis technology is B2B or B2C, your media relationships will be especially important. That’s because it will be important to put your technology in context for both your target audience in a way that isn’t promotional. This is a critical differentiation and the time you’ve spent developing cannabis journalist relationships will really help you tell your story in a newsworthy way. See, while you may think your tech is remarkable, to a journalist what’s most important is impact or a tie-in to a larger media trend when covering cannabis tech. Even VC investments in cannabis tech don’t make the same news that traditional tech does, because the numbers aren’t as large as we see in traditional tech. Publically traded cannabis companies need relationships with both general media and investor analysts (IR).

 

Journalists relationships in cannabis are very important. What journalist relationships you should massage is critical to your coverage – and supporting your business objectives– the bigger reason you’re engaging with PR.

5 Ways to Leverage Media Coverage

Leveraging media coverage is the key to maximizing PR outcomes for hyper-growth brands and emerging industries.

 

This post originally appeared in Authority Magazine

Welcome to another installment of our PR Strategy Series, where you can learn directly from top industry experts on how you can leverage media attention to grow your business.

I’m your host, Kage Spatz — here to help entrepreneurs, coaches, and service providers save more time, build more trust, and serve more customers. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Tara Coomans.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I did a lot of different marketing and PR roles before I started this agency, and I think that’s what makes my strategies and perspectives so valuable; I really do see things in a 360 degree way. When I was 26 years old, I started my first agency, it was an event marketing agency, from there I went into publishing and co-owned a few magazines, and then after working in sponsorship promotions for brand and nonprofit partnerships, I started my own communication and PR agency. My background really allowed me to work with a broad range of clients and appreciate the benefits of integrating marketing and PR levers.

When I first started this agency, social media was just taking off and we specialized in guiding companies, brands, government agencies, and nonprofits in integrating social media into their overall communication, so social media is really integral to Avaans’ PR roots as is integration with other marketing initiatives. Today, Avaans Media excels at integrated communication strategies with a special emphasis on earned media.

In your opinion, what separates your agency from others in the space?

I’ll share with you what we hear from our clients who have had PR firms before. They tell us we stand out as effective, strategic across channels, and able to move fast.

We really pride ourselves on our earned media success, we get multiple hits per month on an ongoing basis. We know how to get your company, your executive, your brand, in the press — and we know what to do with it once it’s there. We’re extremely proactive and we work shoulder to shoulder with our clients.

Our team is another differentiator. Our team is experienced and extremely effective and we have very little turnover. I’m also personally engaged with all our clients because we know brand consistency is the name of the game with PR. And our team really taps into their own emotional intelligence to provide outstanding strategy and positioning because we’re hyper-aware of the cultural and media mindset.

We also move incredibly fast, we pick up complicated technologies, business changes, cultural changes, or communication challenges and can very quickly determine the best course of action.

Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success up to this point?

  • Empathy-As an agency CEO, empathy is vital. I feel it makes us a better collaborator with our clients, and it’s really what allows me to keep a pulse on changing cultural conditions. I also think it’s why our team is so effective, because I truly hear and see what they’re experiencing and I work very hard to integrate their feedback. Empathy has allowed me to steer clients clear of potential pitfalls, and it’s allowed me to build a really talented team. Although empathy is something I’m proud of, we all have blind spots. Several years back, I usually addressed an email to an all-female team with “Hi Ladies,”. One of my team members told me that made her extremely uncomfortable and that she felt there was no reason to call out anyone’s gender at the top of an email. To be clear, this wasn’t a pronoun issue, but it did make me consider my own perspectives. You see, I’ve made a big point of hiring & supporting women in my agency, so I was proud when we had an all-female team. But her perspective brought something else to light: the way we address teams, especially those of us in leadership roles, can be perceived as one of elevation or diminishment, depending on the person’s own experiences. We now call our internal team the “A-Team,” and it seems to work better for us.
  • Know When To Say No — Another thing I’ve learned over the years is the type of client we work best with. We work really well with people who are invested in success and will be part of our village to raise a brand. We work best with clients who want to actually move the needle. Knowing when to say no has been pivotal to our growth. Our team is excellent and professional, but nothing takes the winds out of someone’s sails faster than knowing their advice, work, and recommendations are falling on completely deaf ears. It leads to less than desirable results and it weighs down my team too. I can’t have that, because it affects everything. I’ve gotten really good at identifying clients who are a good fit for us, as a result our work is outstanding, our team members are happy, and our day-to-day existence, while it can be stressful, is satisfying because we know we’re making a difference. I will say, this is a constant battle. I’ve developed an internal plan on managing these situations so I have guidance for myself and the team the next time we have a less than ideal client fit.
  • Resilience-Resilience is probably my superpower. As an entrepreneur, I’ve been through 3 major national crises (9/11, 2008, and the COVID pandemic). Not only have I survived them, but our clients also. I’ve developed plans and strategies for hyper-growth within and in the aftermath of these situations. I’m incredibly proud of that. That doesn’t mean I’ve never experienced failure, because like anyone, I’ve failed, but, I always look for the lesson learned and then move on.

What 3 media strategies are typically most effective in generating more business for a national brand?

National brands should be thinking about PR all the time. PR should have a seat at the table for any national or nationally ambitious brand. From partnerships to product development to 360 campaigns and internal initiatives, to leveraging media coverage, there are so many great ways for national brands to stand out with PR insights. And national brands need to be more and more focused on authenticity and the importance of internal communications too.

  • INTEGRATE — Integrating programs together so they activate one another is a great example. We worked with a client a few years back to bring PR into their events programs. For one of their major events they sponsored the press box, although this was a paid sponsorship, it was a true media relations move, particularly for their target audience. This elevated the brand’s exposure to the press in a positive way since the press box was a refuge and always had food, phone chargers, and private space for interviews. The Avaans team was onsite to ensure the press opportunities flowed and in the end, the ROI was truly remarkable –and sustained itself well past the actual event. It was a great activation of PR and paid sponsorship.
  • OWN YOUR CONTENT, OWN YOUR REPUTATION — Owned content is another fantastic PR opportunity. National brands really need to make sure their PR and SEO teams are working together and that owned content bridges those two worlds. This includes any kind of owned content from websites to videos. A few years ago, we did a Clio-nominated video for a CPG client and we scoured the script to make sure that the content was not only a beautiful example of storytelling but also engaged keywords that were aligned with the brand. The video was a masterpiece of storytelling and branding, but I’m also really proud of the behind-the-scenes work that ensures the video would attract traffic to the website because of the way it was scripted.
  • PR DURING PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT — I think something else important for national brands, is to consider PR during product development. It’s such a great opportunity to really consider how the product will stand out. PR can also help product development with insights into customer and culture trends and state of mind. There are PR opportunities during the design and testing phase that are really exciting. Something as simple as color choices on a consumer product: does the color pop off a page? Something like what the product will be named, many times a PR person can provide insights into things like that.

We’ve worked with clients to develop press-worthy products and we’ve used PR to help develop the product itself. We worked with a client years ago who was beta testing a platform aimed at parents. We developed a community of parents in social media to provide feedback and insight. We were engaging this community in a sustained way — not just in a focus group setting.

In the end, some of the feedback ended up radically improving the product and especially the messaging. Most exciting for the brand was the number of these parents who were defacto influencers during launch, they were the company’s earliest brand ambassadors and really made a huge impact at launch.

Would your PR strategy change much if a client is selling a physical product or has a service-based solution? B2C versus B2B? If so, please share an example or two that might demonstrate any differences.

Sure, there are big differences, including different expectations from the target audience. For example, a B2C brand might want to earn press in national consumer lifestyle outlets, but for B2B, it might be more relevant to focus on industry outlets. With consumer PR, having big reach numbers is important, but for a B2B outlet, it’s about aligning with quality over quantity. Also, how you leverage your media coverage will be different.

We have a technology client with a retail B2C product line and a B2B product line. One of the benefits for the brand is our B2B and B2C efforts are aligned, even though our PR strategies were different for each. The B2C side was heavy on earned media coverage, the B2B side was heavier on owned content, data, and trust-building within the industry and potential customers, which meant aligning with industry-specific opportunities.

There was is an added benefit for the B2B product line though: B2C PR added trust and awareness for the brand overall. When we secured a Today Show review of one of the B2C products, the B2B team used that an opportunity to start or re-engage conversations they were having and the B2B side was able to piggyback off the trust of one of America’s most trusted morning shows.

For Direct to Consumer (DTC) products, it’s important to remember the media landscape is changing and lots of publications are radically changing the way they do product reviews.

For one, Google is changing the way they view these types are articles, so savvy publishers are looking to dig a little deeper into the products and the reviews, so be prepared with a thorough FAQ that’s specific to press when you send product samples.

Along these same lines, I highly recommend an affiliate program, ad revenues continue to decline and major publishers are prioritizing products that offer affiliate links. When your brand gets a review, be sure to share the article with the affiliate link.

If a business is already investing monthly in PR, what other marketing strategies would you recommend they invest in that best compliments that work to bring in the most amount of business?

This really depends on what else they’re doing and who their audience is. Broadly, I would say take a deep look at your owned media for enhanced trust and reinforcing your brand; see what’s working and integrate those insights into leveraging your media coverage.

Hypergrowth companies sometimes underestimate the benefit of these two strategic objectives in PR and owned media’s role in these objectives.

If someone has already been covered in the media, what are the best next steps after that? What are your “5 Ways To Leverage that Media Coverage To Dramatically Grow Your Business”?

  1. CELEBRATE WINS — Make sure your employees know about your press coverage, celebrate it internally. CEOs can use it as an opportunity to remind the company that you’re a team and celebrate your efforts. You don’t need to ask your employees to share the press, if you’re creating a great culture, they’ll do that already. But it’s important to use press coverage as an opportunity to congratulate your internal team on a job well done and to reinforce your brand’s growing influence. Share your press with customers and clients too. Everyone likes to know that they’ve made the right choice and earned media reinforces that choice. It’s also an awesome opportunity for customers and clients to share it with someone else and say “this is the product/service I was telling you about.” Don’t be shy about empowering your existing clients with good news worth sharing. Make sure you’re pitch decks are updated regularly with your top 3 pieces of content. Your earned media and press is useful for biz development or capital raises. If you’re unsure which to select, as your PR firm, they’ll talk it through with you and point out what’s most relevant for your objectives.
  2. REPURPOSE YOUR EARNED COVERAGE — One of the beauties of earned media is it has a long lifespan. Be sure you’re highlighting your press coverage in ads and on your website. This is appreciated by the outlet and also increases the social proof to new audiences. While we’re at it, celebrate your earned media with your email list too. Resurface earned media when it’s relevant or right in social, in email, and in newsletters.
  3. USE YOUR PR FOR INDUSTRY ADVANTAGE — When you receive positive press think about doors it can open for you. Great brands always take PR seriously, this is especially true for companies using technologies like AI or drones, or other emerging industries or hyper-growth companies like fintech, blockchain, or cannabis. For emerging industries, it’s really important to focus heavily on trust-building initiatives. Emerging industries need to keep in mind that even people who aren’t their customers are early stakeholders in things like regulation. If you’re in an industry that’s likely to be or already is highly regulated, and you’ve received a business profile in a great publication, that’s a great opportunity for the CEO to introduce themselves to local political figures and representatives and start a dialogue about the industry or the business.

One more before we go: If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I’d love for us to celebrate and reward kindness more. There are millions of small acts of kindness daily, everything from holding open a door for a stranger to writing letters of recommendations.

If I could do anything it would be develop a true kindness economy. I envision tracking kindnesses in a way that people could see the ripple effects of their kindness.

Thank you for sharing your story and so many valuable insights with us today!

-This article originally appeared on Authority Magazine.

Ever notice the best people always seem to go to the best companies? Why is that? Reputation matters and PR improves recruiting outcomes. The magical part is this: it doesn’t matter whether you’re recruiting for executives or recent graduates, a strategic PR plan makes attracting the right talent easier and even keeps your best employees.

  1. Strong Brand Values Attract The Right Candidates

    You want candidates to be a good fit for your company’s culture and values. This is one way PR improves recruiting, especially important for companies in emerging industries and hyper-growth companies who may not have the resources for fancy employment retention programs.  Your PR should underscore your company’s values and contributions to society, your industry, and yes, your employees. And candidates who care about culture are more valuable employees. Brand values are an inside-out job. But you should celebrate those values with purpose-driven activations with recruitment in mind. Not every activation is worthy of the Wall Street Journal, but if that’s a goal, then make it newsworthy. Otherwise, this is where social media can be an outstanding messenger of your PR initiatives. But make no doubt about it, the best candidates do a Google search and check out your social profiles before they accept your job offer.

  2. Give Employees an Opportunity to Brag

    Everyone wants to work in a place where their co-workers are happy to be there. Here, activate your earned media with your employees. Every time you receive coverage, be sure to tell your employees and let them brag about the company to their friends and community. You can encourage sharing with recruitment bonuses, and other internal spotlights on employees who share your good news far and wide. Employee advocacy is a really effective way that PR can improve recruiting. There’s another benefit to encouraging employees to share content:

  3. Reduce Employee Turnover with PR

    Everyone wants to feel proud of where they work, and the more they talk about how proud they are, the more committed they become to that feeling of loyalty and pride. That’s a Captivation Motivation fact, it’s akin to sunk costs. The more we sink into something, the harder it is to walk away. So PR improves recruiting through increased employee pride, and that pride reduces costly turnover. It’s a lot harder to complain about your job on social media if you’re regularly posting about how much you love your company and job.

  4. Reputation Management Matters

    You definitely want someone monitoring your overall reputation. That includes everything a potential candidate might see from Glass Door to news coverage and even reviews. You also want someone to identify how certain audiences perceive your overall communications, and what you can do to improve your communications. For example, if you’re emphasizing diversity, equity, and inclusion in your recruitment, but no one on your website reflects DEI values, it feels very shallow and unwelcoming to those candidates. Do your job descriptions match the education levels and pay ranges you’re hiring for? If you’re hiring for people with college degrees, those job descriptions should look and feel differently than your job descriptions for roles that don’t require a college degree.

  5. Appeal To The Ego

    When high potential or high-level candidates see that news articles and media coverage of company executives, that’s a pretty compelling benefit for ambitious executives. It’s an outstanding way for your company to attract talent, even in the tightest recruitment markets. Plus, your that coverage adds benefits to your company’s brand values as well. Make sure your recruitment pages include executive coverage so potential employees can envision thier own name in the headlines too.

 

Using PR to improve recruiting outcomes is only one of the ways PR supports the most important business strategies, read more about the other 5 ways PR improves business outcomes.

As of today, there are 108 cannabis business tradeshows and expos around the world listed on our conference resource. It’s near impossible to go to them all and more importantly when you choose one, how do you turn an event into a consumer or cannabis industry PR opportunity?

 

We’re coming up on the annual big daddy of cannabis conferences: MJ Biz. It’s easily the largest single show in North America. If you’re planning on exhibiting, you might be thinking about how you’ll stand out and get PR at MJ Biz. Lean on your cannabis pr agency to turn your next conference into a cannabis event marketing opportunity. Since you’re spending significant time, energy, and money to be at a tradeshow or conference, it’s really important that you maximize the investment. The very last thing you want to do is walk away from a cannabis tradeshow wondering if it will make any impact on your bottom line. There are multitudes of reasons to go to cannabis events and conferences, mainly because the networking with thought leaders, colleagues, and clients, (more on that later), but be clear on how why your strategies. Little known tip: I used to be an owner for an industry trade show, so I’ve seen how even small companies can become great with some elbow grease and creativity. I’ve seen brand leaders come out of nowhere and suddenly be the toast of the town, by simply being smart about how they leverage a tradeshow.

Let Cannabis PR and Cannabis Event Marketing Work Together:

It’s critical to collaborate with cannabis PR agency on cannabis event marketing. Whether you’re doing CBD marketing or THC marketing, each of these cannabis events has a cannabis marketing and PR role to play. Regardless of what size your booth is, think about how you can and will activate on and off the floor. The obvious answer is sponsorships, which you can approach from a brand goal perspective. If your goal is simply awareness and you can afford the branding dollars, a major sponsorship can offer many CBD marketing and THC marketing benefits including SEO, cannabis business perception, and usually, some “insider and VIP” benefits. But even if you can’t afford one of the top-tier sponsorships, there are still a multitude of PR-worthy cannabis event marketing options available to you.

One often overlooked cannabis business PR opportunity: consider sponsoring a notable speaker (besides yourself) for a session that will drive mentions and press for far less. Maybe sponsoring a section of the floor makes more sense or work with the conference organizers on an off-the-floor event value-add (who is paying for the champagne at the cocktail reception?). For cannabis event marketing to stand out, it’s not enough to sponsor, be thinking about the value of “word of mouth,” and activations that will be memorable and get people talking. This is where your PR agency can help you develop cannabis event marketing strategies that fit in well with your brand development and PR budget.

Employ Big Fish/Small Pond Cannabis PR & Cannabis Marketing Strategies

What if you need to hit one of the larger shows, but you feel overwhelmed by the multitude of choices that aren’t tier 1 tradeshow or conferences? This is a great time to dig deep and choose another tradeshow or expo which you’d like to own. Owning the conference at a regional conference may well provide more cannabis branding and marketing benefits than being in booth 2067 at the largest conference in the country. Don’t let your FOMO dictate your cannabis marketing and cannabis PR budgets – be strategic about what you’re planning on doing at each conference. Be clear on the objectives and stay laser-focused on supporting those strategies.  Bring together your cannabis marketing and cannabis PR firms (if they’re different) to view each conference through an ROI, press, and word of mouth opportunity and stack rank your options.

Host Your Own Cannabis PR-Worthy Event

The cannabis industry loves to network. We’re tied to one another navigating this wild-wild west and we know: personal connections, trusted collaborators, friends, and partners make all the difference.

You don’t need a celebrity to earn media at your event (it doesn’t hurt though), but you do need to consider creative options. Gone are the days that simply providing THC and CBD samples are enough to pull together a crowd.
What can you do that’s on-brand to activate the space?
Is there a space that’s noteworthy in your area?
Can you partner with a nonprofit?
How can you create synergies between your brand and the press?
What access can you provide the press?
What insider opportunities can you give them and your most engaged customers and clients?

Shhhh…My Most Important Cannabis Marketing & PR Tip:

My insider tip on how to turn your own cannabis event into a cannabis PR worthy opportunity? Look around at what everyone else is doing – and do something else. Be the first, the original, the most fun. Be something notable, and it will earn you press for days. Cannabis industry PR agencies are usually particularly great at developing ideas that will capture the imagination of the “been-there-done-that press.” If your existing cannabis PR firm is anything like us – they have a few ideas they’ve been dying to deploy. Here’s a bonus tip: if you don’t have a big budget, don’t make your event do the heavy lifting during major seasonal or industry blow-outs. A great cannabis event marketing strategy is to hold an event during a “downtime” in the industry, which will invigorate and inspire your stakeholders, press, and customers.

Listen up: Going viral is a benefit to creating great content, not the goal.

But if you’re really committed to creating a viral video marketing campaign:

Creating viral content is this easy.
And this difficult.
Here’s my fool-proof 3-step process.

Create content that strikes an emotional cord (funny, sad, inspirational) and is distinctly unique and you’re one step closer to viral. 
Create content that tells a story, not a tagline and you’re one step closer to viral. 
If your branding it, make the product part of the story, not THE story. 
Not all that helpful, right? Truly the devil is in the details. Storytelling. More art than science. That’s why there is no Einstein-esque formula for viral. If only “viral” were as simple as math. It takes time to create and make a story. Song writers, ad professionals, photographers, marketers, movie makers, writers, videographers, graphic designers. We’re all storytellers. And once in awhile a storyteller also gets lucky. And viral happens. Think of all the stories out there today. Not too many go viral, but does that make them not worth making? Of course not.

So, in honor of The Story, let me tell you one. About 4 years ago, I talked with Judson Laipply, whose own viral video 2006 “Evolution of Dance” received 70 million views in under 8 months. At the time it was the #1 most viewed video of all time on YouTube (waaay before Gangam Style). Judson’s performance tells a great story in an entertaining, unique way. When I asked him about his own viral video, he said that he put it up on YouTube as a fluke, that in fact, someone in the audience recorded it and sent it to him. Judson was as surprised as anyone at the response, he wasn’t already famous (like some other viral video creators)  and he didn’t have a huge social media following at the time.  Since then, he’s done several follow-ups but none so successful as the original. Today, Judson is a working motivational speaker. The point is, completely of the moment? Yep. Complete accident? Yep. Repeatable? Probably not. With all due respect to Judson, we’ve all been there, and done that.

It’s pretty rare that branded material go viral. If you look at the most popular YouTube videos of all time (YouTube Charts), not a single one is a branded video. Almost all of them are music videos (YouTube being to this generation what MTV was

viral, branding, video,

Bloomberg Businessweek 6/14/2012

to mine). Coincidence? No.  Does that mean that branded content can’t still be powerful? No. Check out the videos in particular categories. The all-time #1 video in the auto & vehicles segment is a COMMERCIAL. The Volkswagen/Darth Vadar commercial that originally aired during the Superbowl 2011 (you don’t even have to go find it do you? You remember it). Notably, none of the other Superbowl ads from that year or this year can claim the number one spot in any category. There were some great branded viral videos in 2012, my personal favorite was the Dollar Shave Club, which was appears deceptively simple, but once you break it down you realize its the product of a lot of talent and planning.

There is a theme here: either viral is completely planned, thought out and scripted or its completely of the moment, off-the-cuff. One is time consuming, expensive and lucky and one is JUST lucky.  Which are you? 

So go forth, my marketing compadres. Create amazing content in whatever medium you wish. Please. But create amazing content because its the right thing to do if your going to create content at all. Because by creating content, you’re saying something about your brand…whether 1,000 people see it or 1 Billion people see it. Create the best, most memorable content you can create. And move on. And remember, sometimes its about quality over quantity.

 Header Image: Creative Commons Karl Jonsson