It doesn’t matter whether your interview is with the Wall Street Journal or a tiny vertical publication with a niche audience. You, the company representative, the thought leader, really do set the tone for the the interview. You control first impressions; you influence the tone and nature of the interview, and you set the stage for a fantastic interview or a deadly one. PR is like building a suit. There are 500 ways to screw it up. This post is part of a series on how to screw up PR. There are literally thousands of thing not to do in a media interview. So, let’s discuss 4 ways to screw up a media interview.

1. Be Unresponsive to the Interviewer’s Time

Journalists are under more pressure than ever today. The average journalist covers 4 beats, up 25% from last year, and 21% say layoffs or furloughs contribute to an increasing workload. More journalists are freelance, meaning they work for many publications and don’t get receive benefits, like paid time off, or even health insurance. From scheduling your time with a journalist to sending follow-up information like headshots, or company stats, journalists need you to do what you say you’ll do, and they need you to do it fast.

Many people think because so much content is digital, there are no deadlines. We indeed deal with PRINT deadlines less, but more than ever, there are deadlines. The pace of content creation that publishers and editors must keep up with necessitates deadlines.

So when you’re working with a journalist, it’s just good practice to be ultra helpful and responsive. Doing so might be the difference of getting in the story or not.

2. Treat the Press Like the Enemy

The press needs an angle, a story, something that people want to read. That’s what they really need. That every person in the press is out to get you, personally, is overblown. There are very specific circumstances where an investigative journalist has a job to do. If you’re in that situation, then you need crisis comm, not interviews. It’s unlikely that a journalist is approaching their conversation as a “gotcha.”

Now, that doesn’t mean you can drop your guard, it means you come to the table playing offense, not defense. Respect the interviewer’s time, give them a reason to be glad they showed up. Treat a media interview with the same level of professionalism you would treat an important meeting with an investor or a dream client, and you will probably be just fine.

A journalist is another human with a job to do. That’s all. Treat your interviewer like a human, and you will probably get the same professional courtesies back. Or you could screw up your media interview by treating them like the enemy and receive the same professional courtesies back.

3. Act Like the Journalist is Working for You

Let’s be clear: Aside from an accurate representation of your quotes and conversation, a journalist owes you nothing. They don’t owe you approval of the article; they don’t owe you a link to your website. They don’t owe you any. thing. They do not even owe you a retraction of an embarrassing statement. If you actually said it, you own it, don’t ask for a retraction or edit unless the quote is just wrong. This is not a paid placement, it’s not an ad. You do not have editorial control.

For example, during an occasion where we secured a magazine cover for the most prestigious cannabis industry magazine. The CEO went on a full-throated campaign to art direct the cover and the entire photo shoot, a photo shoot the magazine was paying for. He insisted on making the photographer come to his difficult-to-get-to home, for an outside location shoot even though outside shoots are harder on the photographer, and despite being told that studio shoots present better on magazine covers. The photo journalist was lovely and gracious and in touch with our team, but there was little we could do from a distance since the CEO declined to have a representative at the shoot.

When the publication came out, the cover disappointed the CEO. And I had to agree with him. It wasn’t the most flattering photo I’d ever seen. I’m sure there were better photos, but in a situation like this, the editor has full editorial control and I’m also sure the photojournalist had had enough with the prima donna he was throughout the entire process. So while the photojournalist was incredibly professional to our team and on-site, she felt completely disrespected and her work reflected her feelings.

When you’re working with photojournalists and journalists, be gracious. Take your cues from them. Make their jobs easier, not harder.

4. Be Unprepared

Remember the recommendation to treat your interview like you would a meeting with an investor? Would you go to an investor meeting unprepared? Of course not, so don’t screw up a media interview because you didn’t prepare.

Do your homework, because the journalist has. According to MuckRack’s State of Journalism, 77% of journalists say Twitter is their most valuable social platform, and LinkedIn is a distant second. Jump on Twitter and see what they’re talking about, and while you’re at it, take a sharp eye to your own Twitter and LinkedIn to make sure it’s your best self.

Read a few recent articles by the journalist and get a sense of their style and beats. As a bonus, you’ll also get a look at some of the other publications they write for and you may create interest in another angle for another publication.

What are your must airs? Decide ahead of time how you will answer the likely questions, and what’s most important for you to say what are your “must airs”? Also, decide in advance how you will handle the tough questions. Be purposeful, strategic, and planned.

Know your facts. You need to be able to cite the facts and the source, and you need to be confident when you do it. If you don’t have your facts straight, you will lose the confidence of the interviewer, or worse, the audience.

If your meeting is on Zoom, dress for the moment and make sure your lighting is on point. If you’ll be on TV, brush up on what does and doesn’t look good on TV.

A really great media interview is a skill. It takes practice. But you CAN have a successful interview if you simply give yourself the best chance by being empathetic to the journalist, respecting their job and being prepared.

 

If you’re looking to brush up your media skills or develop a strategic thought leadership program, take a look at our stand-alone thought leadership offering.

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.

PR firms in major markets come with a premium investment. In today’s world, does working with a cannabis PR firm in a major metro market worth it? Yes, because major market PR firms tend to be in touch with media trends and have deeper personal relationships with journalists over the years. With more states coming online with legal cannabis, cannabis industry businesses are often expanding in multiple of states, and because the regulatory environment in cannabis prohibits cross-state commerce of cannabis, a cannabis brand might consider PR firms in several of states, which is expensive and impracticable. So why would a Los Angeles-based PR firm be an advantage at all?

 

  1. Do Media Markets Do Matter?

    In the early days of cannabis, having a presence in Denver was really important, as Colorado was the first state to legalize adult-use cannabis. As cannabis becomes increasingly normalized and cannabis brands look to mainstream consumer coverage, having a PR firm with LA and New York presence is vital. Los Angeles-based PR firms like Avaans Media have been active in cannabis marketing and PR since 2015. The media contacts in LA are often entertainment, trend, and lifestyle, so if you’re looking to appear in consumer media outlets within any of those broad categories, you’ll want a PR firm who knows what journalists and freelancers in those topics are interested in covering. LA PR agencies also have the advantage of being dialed into the San Francisco media market, which is technology, venture capital, and startup oriented.  New York-based journalists also have some lifestyle coverage, especially legacy lifestyle titles, along with financial business journalists. Media markets ESPECIALLY matter if you’re holding a product launch event with journalist invites.

  2. But What About Local Cannabis Coverage?

    Cannabis businesses in a multitude of markets should consider agencies with team members on the ground in multiple states. If you’re lobbying in local markets or you’re launching in a new market, a local presence may very well be relevant.

    But from a trend perspective, journalists tend to live in larger metro areas, meaning they’re on the cutting edge of what’s happening. You want a PR firm that is on the ground and in touch with the earliest trends, as well as those that are passe.  In the case of Avaans PR, our network of PR experts around the country, including important cannabis markets like Miami, Washington D.C., Massachusets, Chicago, and more, means we can ensure local coverage in those markets as well. A cannabis brand can always hire freelancers in every state and then manage them directly, but few cannabis brands can manage a disconnected, disjointed, and distributed team of freelancers. Working with a PR agency allows cannabis companies to expand their reach without adding layers of additional management hours.

  3. Is Cannabis Industry PR Experience Relevant?

    California leads the country in cannabis normalization. California’s medical marijuana Prop 215 passed in 1996, and in 2016 California became the largest legal cannabis market in the world. Los Angeles cannabis PR agencies like Avaans have deep experience in cannabis PR, and know the journalists who have been covering the cannabis industry for a long time. In cannabis, context is everything and knowing what journalists have covered helps cannabis brands stand out in their pitches and PR campaign.

  4. What About B2B Cannabis PR?

    While national B2B cannabis industry businesses may not have the same issue as consumer cannabis products, having a cannabis PR firm in a major market like LA is still important. That’s because B2B cannabis brands need a strategic, experienced approach to cannabis media, and experienced PR professionals with decades of experience crafting business stories and developing campaigns that stand out in the cannabis industry and business media outlets.

 

If you’re not sure what you need from a PR firm, look at the Avaans pricing approach and then get in touch with us. We’re candid and honest, and if we’re not a good fit, we can make recommendations for experienced cannabis PR agencies that would suit you better.

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.

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.

Because of the competitive nature of customer acquisition, hyper-growth DTC (D2C) brands are always looking for ways to improve word of mouth and awareness. So it’s no surprise that a lot of fast-growing DTC brands of all sizes are asking, “should we join the metaverse?” The answer to should DTC brands join the metaverse naturally depends on several external factors. From an awareness and PR perspective, there are some considerations before DTC brands joining the metaverse.

What Have You Learned From Watching Other Brands?

Brands like Nike, Warner Brothers, Gucci, and Wendy’s are already in the metaverse. Have you watched these brands closely and experienced their ventures? CMOs and founders intrigued by the metaverse and its opportunities should be sure to sit back and watch a bit. What worked, what didn’t? What inspiration can you take from these digital experiences? Notice many of these ventures are co-branded, which is a great way to double the potential audience size – so what partnerships would enhance the digital introduction of your DTC brand? Gamers are already intimately familiar with NFTs and Virtual goods, so what games appeal to your audience? From breakfast cereal to gaming super powers to fashion add-ons there truly are endless ways for DTC brands to join the metaverse.

Have You Tried Virtual Goods Yet?

46% of consumers haven’t bought a virtual good yet because they don’t understand how it works and 35% might try it if it comes from a brand they trust (full report here). Those two considerations are a lot to unpack. But if your customers are curious early adopters, AND they trust your DTC brand, a great way to test the waters is to experiment with virtual goods (NFTs) like music, memes, or even artwork.

If your customers are curious, but midrange adopters, maybe you set the stage and start educating your consumers a bit, adding to that trust bucket so when the day comes for your brand to fully invest, your customers are ready to come on the journey with you. . The key to intriguing your customers to start their virtual good collection is to pair it with another passion or interest. Virtual goods like avatars or virtual event tickets are easy enough to understand to most consumers, even if they aren’t ready to use them or engage with them yet.

There’s a tremendous value in being the trusted brand that takes your customers by the hand to introduce them to the digital landscape that will make social media look like a flash in the pan.

What Will You DO Once You Get to the Metaverse?

With something like the metaverse, the end goal isn’t to BE there, it’s to activate there. Given that for most consumers, the metaverse is just some vague notion they don’t know how to even access, you’ll need to take stock of where this lands on your priority list. If your customers aren’t in the 18-34 age range of typical NFT purchasers, then this is a pretty big consideration.

Now, if your only goal is to be an early mover, and you have the bandwidth, that is the financial and team resources to do so, by all means, go for it, it’s an interesting brand move right now and it may even get you some press. Media coverage over brands with placement in the metaverse won’t garner attention for long – the metaverse will be as common as having a website and social media. And yet, even now, simply being in the metaverse itself doesn’t garner media attention. You’ll want to activate in some interesting, notable way. The options are endless, but keep in mind that your audience is likely to be small, but starting with a metaverse experience is a great way for the brand and its customers to connect in the virtual world.

 

The “Ready Player One” vision of the metaverse isn’t quite here yet. For one, adoption hasn’t reached a tipping point yet, but it won’t be long. Today’s consumers are now used to moving into new platforms every few years and the metaverse will follow a similar trend of other platforms: younger people will start, but soon their parents will follow, then their parent’s friends. Instagram was the domain of the youthful for a long time, then its users expanded; for TikTok that process was much faster some of the most vibrant TikTok hashtags belong to GenX, and they’re in their 50’s already. The metaverse is coming, tomorrow’s brand will be there.

As a digitally forward PR firm, we can help you maximize the digital world. Give us a call.