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.

Meet Dan Serard, Director of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships for Cannabis Creative Group, one of the most respected cannabis marketing agencies in the U.S., Dan has worked there since 2018 and has worked with an impressive 200 cannabis brands.

 

First, a little background about you:

I started working in the cannabis industry in 2018 and have worked with over 200 different brands! I live in Massachusetts and am originally from the Northeast. I spent some time traveling around the US and landed in Los Angeles for a little while, where I became ingrained in some of the legacy market up in Humboldt county.

When did you first start working in cannabis?

2018, when I started with Cannabis Creative Group.

What were you doing prior to cannabis?

I managed sales teams for health clubs and worked in enterprise sales for a genetic testing company.

Do you sit on any industry boards or associations that you’d like to mention?

I’m a member of Cannabis Marketing Association, Business Owners Hemp and Cannabis Association, and National Association of Cannabis Businesses. I’m also a committee member of the National Cannabis Industry Association’s Marketing and Advertising Committee and Co-Chair of the Education and Content Committee and a member of the Rolling Stone Cultural Council.

What lesson did you learn BEFORE cannabis that’s been most valuable in cannabis?

Sales is all about listening to the prospect and learning what really matters to them and how to assist them.

Is there a particular cannabis project you’d like to highlight?

There are many! We have an amazing portfolio [at Cannabis Creative Group].

What’s the biggest misconception cannabis companies have about cannabis branding, advertising, marketing, PR, social media?

Many people think that “if you build it, they will come”, especially dispensary owners.

 

In your view, what is the biggest cannabis branding/marketing/advertising challenge facing cannabis companies today?

Where and how to advertise!

What will get easier in cannabis PR/marketing/branding and what will get harder?

Easier – other media outlets opening up to cannabis. Television, radio, Google, social media channels, etc.

Harder- Competing on cannabis-specific platforms. If you’re a new business and competing against established businesses that spend much more money on apps like Weedmaps, your money is not spent appropriately.

 

What can companies do to ease their cannabis PR branding/marketing/advertising challenges?

 

Take the time, effort and energy to establish a TRUE brand foundation. Not just a logo, but think about your voice, position, messaging, etc. so you can scale that message across all platforms.

 

In your view, what is the most under-rated tool in the branding/marketing/advertising/PR toolbox for cannabis companies?

SEO!!!! The adult-use market is using search engines, just like any other industry, and if you can’t be found on Google, then you’re going to have a tough time!

In your view, what is the most over-rated tool in the cannabis branding/marketing/advertising/PR toolbox for cannabis companies?

Social media. It is very difficult to track direct ROI from social media. It is great to have but doesn’t correspond to many sales. Also, advertising on cannabis-specific platforms. It is tough to compete with many other cannabis businesses and many consumers in adult markets don’t even use these platforms compared to Google.

What’s the BEST piece of advice you give everyone you work with?

Start slow and grow! Find a niche market that really associates with your brand, grow within that market, then expand from there if needed.

What’s your advice for people who want to get into cannabis marketing/advertising/pr/branding?

NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK!!! Get yourself out there to meet people, join groups, and walk a tradeshow. The industry is open to many people, and it’s important to make connections.

 

Thanks for sharing your insights with us, Dan. How can people get in touch with you?

 

www.cannabiscreativegroup.com

GLOBAL HYPERGROWTH STARTUP LEVERAGES TECH PR


TO CHANGE THE NARRATIVE WITH TECH CONSUMERS

THE PR CHALLENGE

A creative global AI powered content creation and niche content app seeks to create awareness around product launches and existing properties to increase consumer awareness and increase brand value to enhance investment negotiations. Our nimble team works alongside this hypergrowth technology company to create a lasting impact.

THE PR SOLUTION

We conduct a thorough brand audit to identify key messages, over-arching themes, and storylines for both a consumer PR campaign and an investor PR campaign. We align brand messages with cultural overtones line gender, and equity alongside technology themes like AI, content creation, and global access that strike a chord with journalists.

We create on-brand digital assets and make recommendations to existing assets to support the messaging and develop stakeholder engaging campaigns to launch four product launches within 8 months and pen many thought leadership pieces that appear around the globe on some of the most trusted news outlets in the world.

Our media relations strategy develops general population topics along with pitches for niche interests such as gaming, entertainment, publishing, social media, and technology.

The consumer PR campaign aligns with monthly product launches, each with its own consumer persona and niche interests. We implement the campaigns with an emphasis on technology and entertainment media relations and we implement monthly owned media which aligns with campaigns and product launches.

PRODUCT LAUNCH PR STRATEGY


We develop campaigns with owned and earned media designed to increase awareness for consumers while creating interest with journalists.

TECH MEDIA RELATIONS


Our bespoke campaigns use the cross-over strengths of the brand and its global community to leverage media opportunities. We activate with multiple in-house spokespersons and key influencers.

OMNI CHANNEL STRATEGY


We recommend and implement an owned media strategy that complements business goals. We also review branding assets including the website and social media accounts, to unify the brand, eliminate consumer confusion with unified messaging.

EXECUTIVE THOUGHT LEADERSHIP


We deeply engage with executives and technologists to create a thought leadership campaign that advances key talking points in investor-friendly outlets.

THE KUDOS


“Our experience with Avaans Media was more than we could have asked for. Not only did you blow us away with results, we learned so much from your team of experts. I know we will work together again.” 
-Brand Executive

THE CRUSHING RESULTS

68 pieces of earned media


in global news outlets, not including press releases in 8 months

5.36 Billion 


Global Audience Size

.00003


Cost per person reached 

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