CPG Lifestyle Case Study

TO ENHANCE PARTNERSHIP & INVESTOR OPPORTUNITIES THROUGH EARNED MEDIA COVERAGE

THE CHALLENGE

An ambitious CPG brand, previously unknown outside its local area, aims to secure expansion investment and distribution partnerships.

THE KUDOS

“Exactly what we were looking for in PR representation…smart, tough, persistent, and well connected… Consistently able to pitch us to the right outlets at the right times to get the coverage we were hoping for. Tara and her team are great and she came up with multiple really creative ways for us to stand out from the masses. I would highly recommend Tara and I would happily work with her again in the future.”


Ryan H.,
Marketing VP
CPG Marketing | Product Innovation | Lifestyle Branding

THE SOLUTION

Engage business, lifestyle, and vertical journalists on a weekly basis with timely, newsworthy storylines, tied in with announcements, conferences, and media calendars. Storylines encompassed purpose-driven, product-forward, and executive thought leadership,  Ensure national reputation management with media monitoring and on-going strategic counsel. Ensure key messaging consistency through internal training and on-going media training. Develop owned media assets, including video, press kit, and investor deck to stand out from the pack.

NATIONAL REPUTATION MANAGEMENT


Our national brand, competitor and category monitoring informs corporate decisions including partnerships, product development, and U.S. trends in the lifestyle and wellness category. We’re able to zero in on emerging trends before they happen and activate with strategic pitching.

ON-GOING COAST-TO-COAST MEDIA ENGAGEMENT


Activate media calendars with personalized review opportunities for selected journalists quarterly, which increased journalistic coverage as well as word of mouth.

OWNED CONTENT DEVELOPMENT


On-brand owned media, including branded video and regularly updated press kits and investor decks.

EXECUTIVE BRANDING


Reinforce executive thought leadership through media profiles, speaking engagements, and custom content development including paid, earned, and owned content.

WORD OF MOUTH CONFERENCE & TRADESHOW ACTIVATIONS


Ensure on-site coverage with journalists through activations of on-site journalists and sponsorships through engaging experiences and access.

AGENCY & PARTNER COLLABORATION


Work hand in hand with a branding firm to ensure consistent key messaging and partner PR agencies to ensure joint announcements are mutually beneficial.

THE RESULTS


Magazine cover featuring brand name and CEO

846 


Unique media mentions in 12 months.

10


Expansion to 10 additional U.S. states and 1 international destination

$7.4 million


Earned media value in 12 months

1


Clio nominated branded video

9% 


Share of voice against 5 aspirational, better funded, more established, national brands.

PR Firm California
Lifestyle PR Firm in California
Business PR Firm California
Reputation Management PR firm
Consumer Technology PR Firm
Consumer Technology PR Firms
Cannabis PR Agency California
MJ Biz
b-corp public relations

B-corps are uniquely positioned to be storytellers. But how does PR differ for B-Corps?

Is purpose all it takes to thrive?

 

You started your company to make a difference in the world. You know it, your team knows it, and your loyal clients and customers know and believe in your product and your mission. So, how do you expand your reach? How can others find you in an increasingly crowded B-corp marketplace? Does PR play a role in successful B-corps?

This is an issue no matter what industry you’re in; the audience for your product or service may be larger than ever, and there may be more ways to reach them, but there are also more competitors out there looking to connect with that same audience. This is where a focused and strategic public relations campaign can help.

Expanding your awareness beyond traditional marketing campaigns is especially vital for companies who aren’t focused solely on profits and want to make a positive impact on the world. Becoming a certified B-Corporation isn’t easy, as it requires meeting exacting standards regarding accountability, transparency, and social and environmental impact. After going through the rigorous certification process to obtain B-Corporation status, it’s deeply discouraging if you can’t get your message out to those who want to hear it.

Should B-Corps Leverage PR Over Other Channels?

So, what are your options if you’re a B-Corporation looking to expand your reach? You could try the traditional tools: TV advertising, ads on social media, content marketing, direct mail, and so on. But these tools require significant resources that not all companies have, and worse still, there are signs that they are increasingly ineffective. One study showed that 86 percent of people skip or ignore TV advertisements, 44 percent of direct mail is never opened, and 91 percent of email users end up unsubscribing from company email lists they had previously opted into. These tools may work if you have the resources for a large, prolonged campaign, but they’re not feasible for many organizations.

A better approach for B-Corporations is to let other brands tell their story for them through a strategic public relations campaign. This may seem a bit counterintuitive; after all, you’re giving up control of your message when you use PR instead of more direct marketing or advertising tools. But for many people and businesses, getting a story from a brand they trust is more impactful than when companies try to engage them directly.

Is there any research that proves this theory? In fact, there’s quite a bit of it. A study from the Content Marketing Institute showed that 80 percent of business decision makers and 70 percent of customers prefer to get information on a company from articles rather than ads.

Is PR More Effective for B-Corps?

Why is it that so many people seem to prefer reading about a company in an article rather than seeing an ad from the company directly? For one thing, advertisements can be very pushy, and they have a way of inserting themselves when you’re trying to do something else. If a businessperson or customer comes across an engaging article about a company, however, they can choose to read it when and how they want, on their own terms.

The other reason people prefer to read about a company in articles is the issue of trust. Savvy decision makers and cynical consumers are often skeptical of the messages they receive through advertisements, social media posts, and other types of marketing with a more direct approach. They know that they’re being marketed to, and they’re suspicious that the message and information they’re receiving may be untrue or misleading.

On the other hand, if they get that same information from an outlet that they already know and trust, they’re more likely to be receptive to the message and believe it. This is particularly true for the Millennial generation; research shows that Millennials are 247 percent more likely to be influenced by blogs and social media sites than are older generations. Similarly, 96 percent of B2B buyers are looking to read more content from industry thought leaders, and 93 percent of B2B buyers begin their buying process with an online search. If you can get articles in well-known, respected publications, you’ll rank highly in online search results — and there’s an eager group of businesses who are waiting to hear from you.

This isn’t to say that PR can’t function in conjunction with other tools to help your business grow. In fact, that’s exactly how PR should work. By getting information about your company into relevant and respected publications, consumers and other businesses can learn more about what you do. From there, you can direct them from the articles to your business’ website, social media pages, and other venues where you can engage them more directly.

 

How To Use B-Corp PR with Other Channels

That’s exactly what we do at Avaans Media. We are experts at harnessing traditional PR tools as well as newer marketing strategies, to help purpose-driven brands find success in the marketplace. No matter what you do or what your goals are, we will help you grow and thrive by crafting a strategy uniquely tailored to your strengths.

Here’s one example of how we can use PR to help your business. Our client was looking to break into the consumer packaged goods industry with a range of hemp-based products. Despite the differences between hemp and marijuana, many consumers were unfamiliar with these kinds of products or had negative views of them. We knew we needed purpose-driven campaigns.

To help our client reach their goals, we took a multi-pronged approach that increased their brand awareness and shaped their public image in a positive direction. We celebrated purpose throughout our campaigns, from health and wellness to global sustainability.  We leveraged our media contacts to generate more than 200 articles about the company over three years, averaging five articles per month. These articles generated more than 10 billion earned media impressions over those three years, with an estimated value of over $5 million dollars. By the time the client was ready for their initial public offering, the company’s share price had risen by more than 300 percent, and much of that increase can be attributed to our campaign.

 

Contact Us To Get Started

building trust with PR

Building Trust with PR in a Volatile Environment

 

Building trust with PR is what tomorrow’s leading companies are doing today. Trust is a truly earned currency. There’s no fast tracking it and it’s easier to gain than it is to get back, so trust is a cherished and worthy asset for any company with ambitions. It’s essential for companies to build trust with key constituencies, whether those be consumers, investors, or other community stakeholders. After all, it’s virtually impossible to succeed if your audience can’t trust your company. And yet, it’s getting harder and harder for companies to win over skeptical consumers and communities.

Many factors have contributed to this volatile, and sometimes outright hostile, business environment. We’re all more engaged with the news and the world than ever before, which means we are more aware of what goes on “behind the curtain” at major companies.

Social media platforms are unethically harvesting and profiting from their users’ data. Major corporations are coming under the microscope for how they treat their employees. Income inequality has become a hot-button political issue. The environment is being irreparably damaged by companies exploiting it for a profit with little thought to how it will affect us and future generations.

Faced with innumerable examples of corporate greed and misconduct, it’s no wonder that the public’s trust in the business community has crashed. The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer found that only 56 percent of people trust the business community to do the right thing. When nearly half of the marketplace harbors fundamental misgivings about businesses’ willingness to behave ethically, companies that want to earn consumers’ trust have their work cut out for them.

The world of business is hardly alone in coming under greater scrutiny from the public. Many people have grown increasingly distrustful of government entities, nonprofits, the news media, and other institutions. In the minds of a skeptical public, these organizations are in business for themselves, not their community or the world at large. That same 2019 report from Edelman found that only 57 percent of the public trusts NGOs to do the right thing, and the figure is even lower for the news media at 47 percent. A 2019 study from the Pew Research Center found that only 14 percent of Americans trust the government to do the right thing “most of the time.”

 

How to Use PR to Earn the Trust of Your Consumers, Investors & Stakeholders

So, what can companies do to earn the trust of an increasingly skeptical public? The study suggests the right way to do it. The lone bright spot for companies is that while much of the public doesn’t trust the business community as a whole, they tend to trust their own employers. The 2019 Edelman report found that 75 percent of people generally trust their employer to do what’s right. This data suggests that when people get a chance to know a company better, they can be convinced to give that company the benefit of the doubt.

Edelman’s research found that 58 percent of employees count on their employers to be reliable sources of information about social and political issues. Furthermore, 67 percent of employees expect their employers to join them in taking a stand on issues they care about. Employees also have high expectations of CEOs and other executives, with 71 percent believing their CEO should respond to social and political challenges. The general public agrees, with 76 percent saying that CEOs should directly address societal issues instead of waiting for governments to respond.

These data points offer a roadmap for brands looking to increase trust with their customers. Consumers are looking for businesses to drop their old ways of doing things and embrace the challenge of change. Brands that rise to meet this challenge can tap into the zeitgeist and build a better, healthier relationship with their customers.

One of the most effective tools to building trust with the public is a well-crafted public relations campaign. Why PR for trust building instead of advertising or marketing? It all comes back to the trust factor. Advertising and marketing are what you say about yourself, while PR is what other people say about you. Many people either ignore the content they see in ads or reject it out of hand because they don’t trust it. They believe that advertisers aren’t truthful or that companies exaggerate the claims in their marketing materials.

By contrast, PR is all about crafting a message for your company. There’s a risk here, as you don’t control the entire story yourself, but the potential benefits are worth the trade-offs. Because so many consumers don’t trust what they see or hear in ads, they look to third parties like news media, blogs, and other sources to verify those claims. A well-placed story in the right publication will do more for your credibility than any ad spend ever could. Furthermore, external links from reputable publications are a key factor in search engine results, meaning good PR can also make it easier for people to find your company.

 

Need Help With Your Trust Building PR Campaign?

Creating effective, striking PR campaigns for purpose-driven brands is what we do at Avaans Media, and we’d love to bring our expertise to your company. We have the media contacts, talent, and creative vision to craft the perfect PR campaign for companies of all sizes and in all manner of industries.

Our past clients have included consumer packaged goods manufacturers, nonprofits, and tech startups. We’ve even led a global campaign focused on boosting tourism for an entire country. In each case, we made sure to highlight the organizations’ values and strengths, and in each case, we achieved resounding success.

When you partner with Avaans Media, you’re getting a PR agency that knows how to showcase what makes purpose-driven brands special. We’ve been helping companies build trust since 2008. If you’re ready to see what we can do for you, visit our contact page to set up a phone call with one of our offices. You can also find our team locally in Denver, Phoenix, San Diego, Honolulu, Los Angeles, and New York.

CONTACT US TODAY

social media ads during COVID-19 case studies
successful social media influencer campaigns

Successful Influencer Campaigns Aren’t Unicorns

PR has a number of tools in its tool belt, one of them is successful influencer campaigns & partnerships.

In consumer goods, influencer marketing is establishing a significant place in the mix. When we see some of these campaigns, a little part of our PR soul dies. Frankly, some of them are brand-damaging and unlikely to have an influence on sales. When working with influencers, you’re already taking a risk that there’s a past or future PR fiasco that could affect your brand reputation.  Influencer marketing should be considered paid media and owned media and just like you wouldn’t put out an ad or other content that damages your brand, nor should you execute an influencer campaign without consideration. Some people seem to think so long as you’re getting your product in someone’s IG story that’s all that matters, we disagree.

We believe all consumer goods PR should be executed with strategy and thought. While influencer campaigns aren’t exactly the same as ads, we take insight from advertising research to inform our recommendations. 

On average, it takes 21 brand exposures to bring someone to the purchase phase.
5-9 brand exposures to create brand awareness
more than 10 exposures during the consideration phase

While influencer campaigns are a paid opportunity (influencer rate range from product exchange to $1 million per post), there are public relations and brand opportunities and implications as well. While you might not be able to spend $1,500 per post, you should seriously balance the PR and brand implications.

 

Working with an influencer is NOT the same as placing an ad, so we also wanted to share our best practices for a  influencer campaign.

Get Crystal Clear on Your KPIs BEFORE Reaching Out to Influencers

If your consumer goods influencer campaign objective is SEO value as opposed to brand awareness, those are actually very different campaigns. They are both relevant.  Who you work with will be different. The number of influencers you work with will be different. How you CHOOSE the influencers might be different.  But even if you’re doing an influencer campaign for SEO value, we beg you to consider the brand implications.

For many CPG brands, their brand may be their most valuable asset, so treating the brand with long-term implications in mind is essential to the longevity or value of the brand. From a brand building and cannabis PR perspective, for MOST brands, our perspective is to go deep, rather than wide with cannabis social media influencers.  The biggest reason this is our typical approach is because of the importance of repeated exposure. This is PARTICULARLY important to emerging CPG brands whose other marketing initiatives are constrained.

Influencer Campaign Success #1:  Choose Your  Influencer Partners Carefully

No matter what strategy you apply to your influencer campaign, align with influencers who align with your brand. If you’re a wellness brand, maybe partnering with an influencer whose feed is about their last party isn’t natural synergy, the influencer’s audience may not receive your product well.

Why is a wellness driven product doing an influencer campaign with influencers aligned with party culture? Why not align with a nurse, a yogi, and a marathon runner? It’s jarring for customers to see inconsistent messages and creates brand confusion. Getting brand awareness is hard enough to do when you act with brand clarity, why make it harder on yourself?

Instead of looking at followers, look at engagement & reply rates. But dig a little deeper on those engagement rates, they should be consistent with typical engagement. If your influencer has 10,000 followers and 3,000 likes and 1,500 comments, that’s a red flag and suggests automation. On the other hand, if your influencer has 700 posts and 35 million followers, that’s disjointed as well. For context, as of this writing Kylie Jenner has 42M U.S. followers (164M globally), of which 1.2M are evaluated as authentic U.S. engagers, according to HypeAuditor.   Is it POSSIBLE that they reached 35 million followers over 700 posts? Yes, but there must have been a viral trigger, so look to see what that could be.

Take a careful look at the other brands the influencer has worked with and see how they align with you. Have they worked with your competitors? Is that an advantage or a disadvantage?

Since this is likely a paid relationship, you should also be evaluating their overall professionalism. How thoughtful and eye-catching is the content, how professional is their response to your inquiry?

Ruthlessly review their past content for any red flags that could cause your brand problems, and also consider ways to mutually separate in case of a brand clash in the future.

If you follow the other steps below, this stage is incredibly important.

Build a Relationship with the Influencer Before Your Influencer Campaign

Note I keep referring to social media influencers as partners. Treat them as such, treat them as humans. Social media influencers will have an emotional response to how they are treated and no matter how professional they are, how you treat them impacts the outcome. That’s because the POWER of influencers is in the PERSONAL.

Why undermine the most valuable part of the partnership? Why not turn that influencer into an actual advocate?

By inspiring your cannabis influencer, you can bet they’ll have an easier time inspiring their followers and creating content that’s consistent for both brands. Meet with the influencer if you can, engage with them as they’re experiencing the product for the first time.

Explain your favorite aspects of the product/brand and discuss your brand values and vision, so the influencer can align their value systems and genuinely connect with the brand.

This more personal relationship approach is something 90% of influencer campaigns lack, and it shows.

Another reason to build a relationship with a brand influencer is to review how you’ll mutually handle it if the account is shut down during the campaign or afterward.

Allow The Influencer Creative Freedom & Voice

Effective  influencers have their own style of content and voice, you’re likely attracted to that style and voice – let then keep it. Influencers are master content creators, they see the world through a lens that sparks enthusiasm by their followers. A great influencer will happily develop content ideas that meet your objectives, while also reinforcing both brands. This content will put a fresh spin on your brand.

Collaboration magic happens when two brands align in such a way that it seems absolutely natural. Collaborating WITH the  influencer on content as opposed to directing or scripting the content enables to you leverage the influencer’s own brand while also enhancing yours.

Know FTC Guidelines

Make sure to review FTC guidelines on disclosure. This is especially important because it’s almost always the brand who the FTC investigates. The brand has more skin in the game, so the brand needs to be the enforcer.

 

6 Free Ways To Maximize Brand Value During a Cannabis Industry Correction

Now is the time to maximize brand value with things that don’t cost extra.

You’ve seen the headlines, the cannabis industry is experiencing its first correction. Consolidations abound. Business closures are making headlines. Capital markets are all but frozen to anyone besides the big guys – and even to them in some cases.  So surviving this time is likely front and center in your mind.

Corrections are quite literally a matter of time – it’s just part of capitalism, and it’s literally just physics. But what is also physics, is that what goes down will also come back up. When it does come back up, it will look different, no doubt about it. Look, the cannabis industry isn’t going away, the market hasn’t even come close to peaking. According to Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics in 2020 alone, we’re projected to be a $16 BILLION dollar industry and next year, in 2021, over a $19 billion dollar industry.

Yes, absolutely, tighten up your books, reduce inventory, keep a tight eye on your cash flow and finances. All those things are 100% legitimate and important. But since we’re a cannabis PR & branding firm, we’d like to suggest ways you can still excel in this market that maximizes brand value.

 

arcview cannabis industry projections 2020

Image from Business Insider’s Cultivate Newsletter. Subscription link at bottom.

What should cannabis businesses do to survive and possibly even flourish during this time?

Those who survive this phase have a great opportunity to emerge even stronger. Certain efforts, particularly in marketing and PR, will actually provide you more ROI than they would have even a year ago because when panic sets in, balls get dropped, budgets get cut.  Branding and PR are inside-out jobs. There is so much more to branding than a sexy logo. Look deep inside your company for opportunities to distinguish your brand-many of these things won’t cost more and could save you millions.

Double Down On Relationships

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou

Join and Participate in Active Industry Associations

Right now, we need to commit to the industry associations who are actively working to improve and defend our industry on the local level and the national level. When you join, ask how you can more actively support the organization. By supporting the organization, you’ll not only strengthen its mission, you’ll be able to get to know the people better too.  Double down with your time and you’ll find the returns are immeasurable. Take full advantage of the membership benefits, if there are ways to share your point of view, maximize those. As the industry consolidates, people are looking to do work with people they trust and the best way to encourage trust is to be present, participate, show your commitment to the organization, it’s mission and the people who are contributing to the industry At Primo PR, we’re big fans of the way National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) treats its members.

When It’s Time to Say Goodbye

If you have to separate from employees or partners, do it with class. Be communicative and as a fair as you can possibly be. Anything you do when severing a relationship, especially when it’s abrupt, will be especially remembered. So take a hard look at what your brand is worth and treat goodbyes with respect and dignity. If you’re letting employees go, be sensitive to timing. If you’re canceling a contract, have a real discussion with your partner about how to do it fairly. It’s easy to feel shame about these conversations, but don’t hide from them.  Yes, these conversations are the worst kind to have, but during the tough times, it’s what you do more than what you say that people will remember.

Treat Your Partners & Vendors Like Gold

When was the last time your CEO made an effort to make budtenders feel special? Now is a great time. Budtenders, like it or not, are the face of your brand to the consumer and trust me, they feel stressed about the cannabis industry’s challenges too. Why not do something no one else will do for the front line during a correction: treat them with respect. Small efforts can go a long, long way right now. I’m not talking about training, I’m talking about thinking of ways to thank budtenders right now, genuinely show your appreciation. It could be as simple as a surprise visit to every dispensary with gift cards. Sure you can go bold and that’s fantastic too, but if you can’t be bold, that’s not an excuse to do nothing. Everyone else will do nothing, do more and get more.

While we’re at it, let’s talk vendors. Sure, go ahead, negotiate good terms – AND uphold your end of the bargain. No one will forget that you drove a hard bargain, but that’s business. But go the extra mile and hold up your end of the deal as if your life was on the line because, from a brand perspective, it is. The last thing you want right now is lackluster partners or partners who don’t really love you, what you want right now is passion, the vendors who are going the extra mile for you-but to do that, you need to treat them well too.  Any partner who will go through the craziness of a correction while looking out for you is worth their weight in gold, treat them that way. Pay on time, acknowledge their efforts and the importance of the relationship. Put a little free-but-important muscle into it and watch how that pays dividends.

Celebrate Your Most Passionate Customers

Customers are the obvious driver of revenue. Now is a great time to make being your customers more fun. Think about what’s REALLY important to your customers. What drives their motivations?  Reward cost-conscious customers with small incentives like purchase cards that can be turned in for promotional products.  If your customers are creative, how can you encourage them to spend their creative energies on their brand commitment? It could be making the inside of your packaging a game, it could be encouraging them to share your brand through social media. And by the way, track your most passionate brand advocates on social media and never forget to celebrate them and acknowledge them. No cannabis brand is too big to thank its customers right now.

 

Don’t Stop, Won’t Stop

“When they go low, we go high,” -Michelle Obama

Emphasize Your Strengths-More

You might not have had the time last year to really see where your best success stories were, but now is the time to look – and celebrate – what worked by actually increasing the heat of what’s doing well. Invest in things that are working well. Increase ROI of the things that are already returning value by committing to them at a whole new level. If your brand is great at social media, keep at it and make it better. Issue a special version of your most popular product line.  Really taking a stand and focus on something you do well will make you stand out from the pack and return more ROI as your competitors struggle to figure out how to manage the dynamics of this marketplace.

Maintain Quality

Consumers know, especially your most passionate consumers, they can tell when you’ve made substitutions and formulation changes. As tempting as it may be to cut corners on the product right now, don’t. Keep your customers happy by maintaining quality while your competitors decrease theirs. Keeping the quality up doesn’t cost extra, but decreasing quality will cost you in the short and long run.

Keep Your Chin Up and Your Numbers Up Too

Incentivize your sales, marketing and PR teams & vendors with trackable KPIs and hold them accountable. Self-serving as this sounds, if you devest cannabis PR, marketing and sales now, you’ll struggle to regain market share when the market starts its inevitable upward tick. Resist the urge to reduce these expenses because the hidden costs are ginormous and tend to extrapolate themselves in silent but deadly ways over years, not months.   I’ve seen this happen over and over again, eliminating these roles, or worse, hiring someone for cheaper, costs companies more. Instead, attend sales, marketing, and PR meetings and show that you’re in touch with the marketplace and work collectively to address issues early. Make sure you’re keeping a close eye on benchmarks and competitors so you have a real idea of how you’re faring in comparison.

In Short

Kindness, professionalism, and time don’t cost extra, but in a cannabis industry correction, they can be the difference-maker.  Now is a great time to really make your brand stronger.

PS: By the way, I grabbed this image from Business Insider’s Cultivated newsletter (link). If you’re not reading it, you should. 

So you want to make your CEO the star? It’s a growing trend and there’s still room for your celebrity cannabis CEO.

The cannabis industry is ready for you, and you can take some tips from outside the cannabis industry to capitalize on the opportunity. From investment opportunities to increased brand value, to policy influence locally and nationally, and even profit increases, there are a lot of reasons why a CEO can be an important brand asset.

We’re seeing celebrity CEOs in the cannabis space, you know who they are. While it might look like those cannabis CEOs became industry household names simply because they’re so brilliant or successful, that’s simply not the case – there are many brilliant AND successful CEOs in cannabis whose names you wouldn’t be able to name. If you look around, you’ll see that cannabis CEOs and even more famous CEOs whose names you know, with very few exceptions, do these things in some combination. Because I’ve had the opportunity to work directly with some fantastic CEOs as well as politicians, I well know the big and little steps creating a celebrity takes.

So how do these CEOs become celebrities? The answer: extreme commitment to repeated exposure in multiple channels. Rome wasn’t built overnight and neither is celebrity CEO.

Close the C-Suite/Consumer Disconnect with Social Media

Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer said the majority of people (63%) believe CEOs should communicate with the public via social media and even more (79%) say knowing a CEO’s personal values is important to building trust, and that they trust spontaneous speakers more than well-delivered speeches. Contrast these statistics with the fact that 61% of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social media presence at all. No wonder there’s a disconnect from the C-suite to the Consumer.

These are interesting statistics for cannabis CEOs, who run businesses in an industry not yet federally recognized.

Increased Industry & Brand Trust

Yet this is EXACTLY the reason cannabis CEOs should be using social media. Even more than most industries, we must create trust with the general public. Summer 2019’s vape crisis did not help the cannabis industry’s reputation with the general public.  Social media offers cannabis brands the opportunity to speak directly and consistently. Because social media offers the opportunity to be spontaneous, here’s the ONE THING you can’t get past with social media: if you’re CEO is tweeting or engaging on LinkedIn, she absolutely must be directly involved and engaged on the platform herself, at least sometimes. And she should be using social media as a listening platform too, it will help her feel more connected and more engaged with her clients.

Balance Strategy with Authenticity

Whatever objectives you have to this strategy, there are reasonably straightforward systems that can be employed to overcome them.  Regardless of your strength as CEO, there’s a way for social media to work. Ghostwriters have a place in social media and many executives and celebrities rely on them, but the truest opportunities come when it isn’t exclusively outsourced, where there is a natural balance that remains authentic AND strategic.  Harborside’s Steve DeAngelo does this very well, he uses Instagram to showcase his boundless energy and willingness to engage with the cannabis community. By intelligently committing to a platform he’s comfortable with, he’s able to work it into his daily life. DeAngelo has also been very consistent with his key messages, he comes back to the same topics time and again and he uses social media to reinforce those messages while also adding a sense of fun and celebration to serious industry discussions.

Pick A Format That Celebrates You as CEO

With social media, there are many, many formats and opportunities. For example, you can balance authenticity with strategy with serialized content. Serialized content allows for consistency and systems to be in place while maintaining flexibility enough to jump into action when there’s a particularly timely opportunity. From podcasts to video forums to tweetchats, serialized content offers a direct opportunity for CEOs to showcase their personalities and warmth, which according to Chris Malone of The Human Brand, is an essential factor in increasing trust, “There are two basic dimensions that we judge people on: competence, which is all about how your abilities are perceived, and warmth.” If your CEO is particularly witty or opinionated, live formats offer CEOs an outstanding opportunity for enhanced brand recognition.

Go where your consumers are. What cannabis CEO is going to make waves by being the first to create engaging content on TikToc or even one of the e-sports platform? There are all kinds of digital places where your consumers roam, be there, where you can actively enjoy the people and space.

 

Open the Kimono To The Press

Simply BEING a CEO isn’t enough to develop ongoing coverage. In order to become a celebrity CEO, there’s groundwork to be done.

Prepare Yourself

Show up for the interview on time and prepared. Be clear on what you’ll say, identify a couple of key quotable statements you don’t want to miss and yes, review the journalist’s past articles to get a sense of their voice and depth. When the article is published, be sure to send a thank-you note and make sure your social media outlets share them.  Get yourself ready with a variety of professional headshots and lifestyle shots that showcase how your CEO embodies the brand.

As CEO, you should be ready to share your availability with marketing and PR. When traveling for business, strategize with your team about how you can capitalize on the time your in that city. If you’re traveling for pleasure, stay a day or two extra and give your team ample time to set appointments for you.

Invest in media training, get really good at driving the conversation where you want it to go. Learn how to handle the toughest of questions with elegance and grace. Learn what circumstances produce the best outcomes for you and make yourself available for those oppotunities. For example, some people just don’t do well in person, so pursue opportunities that are over the phone, get comfortable with industry journalists so you can develop some mutual trust. Develop in-person opportunities over time and in settings where you feel comfortable.

Don’t Buy Into Your Own Press

“Fame is other people’s perception of who you are,” said Oprah Winfrey. “In order to remain true to who you are, you have to be aware of it, but you can’t buy into it.”

Stay grounded. For CEOs starting out on the celebrity endeavor, take a step back and treat all journalist opportunities like they are the most important you’ll ever do. Remember that journalists are a tight-knit crowd and if your cannabis CEO isn’t warm or inviting and interesting, word gets out. More importantly, you never know where that journalist will land. Be kind. Be respectful. Be humble.

Lean In on Warmth & Wit

CEOs don’t have to be flashy, they DO have to be open and wise. Linton wasn’t a particularly dynamic speaker, but he always had something interesting to say and he said it with the confidence and authority that left everyone hanging on his every word. He knew his strength and he exercised it.

An excellent example of this is Bruce Linton who was famously ousted from Canopy in July 2019. Linton had been making the speaking circuit and made himself available for comment to press, for the better part of a year, and it seemed no publication or conference was too big or too small for him to share his perspective.

Linton’s availability worked in his favor as his ousting was big news, but Linton wisely got out ahead of the story and used his visibility to tell his side of the story. It’s not just that he got out ahead of it either – he handled the entire situation with class, he was forward-looking and resisted any temptation to slam his former employer.  All this worked out well for his next employer Vireo Health who got a healthy 26% stock bump after naming him CEO.

What’s interesting is a good look at this Google Trends report, which starts in 2016. You can see that Linton was already taking his position as CEO seriously even then, the groundwork was being laid. Even before his firing, you can see that the hard work is starting to pay off. The spike is obviously the news that he was let go, but most interesting is that Linton never took his foot off the gas and searches for him remained high even after his firing:

The Number One Tip for A Celebrity CEO

Planning. Don’t launch a celebrity campaign without using all your resources in marketing and PR. It’s a great idea to have a mix of trusted resources and new people who can see the forest through the trees. By now, CEO, you know who you are, lead your team of advisors by being transparent with them about your strengths and weaknesses. There’s no one who wants you to flop and starting out on the right foot will enable you all to succeed in this very exciting opportunity.

securing speaking engagements

There are only so executive speaking spots in a given year.

Securing an executive speaking engagement is an honor, so if your  PR and marketing plan includes pitching trade show organizers, it’s never too early to get your house in order. Every conference opens calls for speakers differently and every conference accepts pitches differently, but if you get your house in order submitting for speaking engagements will become exciting and fun!

1. Do Your Homework 

Before you submit your industry speaking pitch, take a look at the speaker FAQ page, if one doesn’t exist, send an email to the conference organizer asking what topics they’re seeking and what parameters you should consider before submitting.  As a former conference organizer, it always surprised me how many questions we received which were readily available in the FAQ; alternatively, when I received questions, it was always a welcomed opportunity to hear what was unclear and how we could improve.

Review past speakers and talk to attendees at the conference, if you haven’t been yourself. Find out who the most successful presenters were and why the audience loved them so much. Review the conference hashtag and see who people talked about and why. Take a look at relevant magazine headlines, where are the emerging industry stories and can you tap into that in your presentation? Before you start pitching, do your travel budget because most executive speakers pay their own way.

Take a servant-leadership mentality and really think about who the audience is and how you can add real value to their business.

2. Consider the Organizer’s Needs

During your pitch, it’s not about you. It’s about how you can add value to the conference organizer and attendees. Take stock of your recent PR wins and use them as social proof. Conference organizers want to be sure their limited presentation spots are filled by people attendees want to hear from. The conference organizer’s job is to get people in the door, enough people to make exhibitors and sponsors thrilled by attendance – many people are so focused on promoting their key messages in the pitch they forget about the audience when they’re submitting for a speaking engagement.

Regardless, when you’re developing your pitch, don’t shy away from pointing out how your topic is timely and relevant to the specific audience the conference is trying to attract and why the attendees will be thrilled by your presentation. Articulating how you will drive traffic to the conference will also get an organizer’s attention.

Help the organizer visualize how you can help them, point out your strengths:

Conference organizers are also drowning in applications. Sifting through speaker applications is often like sifting through resumes, it’s monotonous, so speak directly to the conference organizer’s needs in your blurb. For this reason, some conferences are largely pay-to-play, speaker slots are primarily reserved for industry heavy hitters and sponsors or those willing to pay the conference organizer a fee. In that case, you have three choices: become an industry heavy-hitter by using the many PR and content avenues open to you, sponsor the conference, or blow them out of the water the other 4 tips presented here. Want to guarantee a speaker spot? Do all of it.

 

3. Develop Your Distinct Point of View

Be a Bold Thinker

Be bold, be current and don’t be afraid to take a strong stand on an industry or cultural topic. A strong point of view and a strong title will go along way. If you’re unwilling to take a bold stand, then think about sharing an insightful case study that transparently digs deep into what went right and what went wrong.

Be an Expert:

Share your distinct expertise, give the attendees something no one else can give them. Develop 1-2 memorable, quotable statements which you’ll use in your pitch and during your presentation that illustrates your distinct point of view. Show the conference organizers that you’ll have the attendees talking about your presentation.

4. Get Your Assets In Order

Because executive speaking engagements are competitive, make sure your house is in order.  One key element is all your public-facing assets. You might say that you don’t have time for this, but if you look around, the conference speakers who always get the gig do these things – even CEOs.

Social Media

For example, kick it into gear on social media. Many conference organizers will look at your personal and cannabis brand’s social media to get a sense of how engaged you are with the cannabis industry and whether the industry views your CEO or brand as leading in some way. Use your social media strategically and be sure to engage your audience.

Company Website

Create a speaker’s page on your blog with sample topics and presentations you’re prepared to give. Social media is another straightforward way for conference organizers to differentiate executive speakers.

Content

Make sure your headshot is professional, develop some industry blogs for your website that reflect your thought leadership. Use LinkedIn for those pieces as well.  For these pieces, you can think of quality over quantity.

Do a Google search on your name so you know what the conference organizer will see when they look you up,  take the necessary steps to improve the search in advance of your speaking pitches.

If you’re new to speaking at the conference, be prepared to submit a video of yourself presenting on your topic and a letter of recommendation from a communications professional or industry professional.

5. Be Human & Personalize

Speaking at industry conferences is an honor, and yes, a great opportunity. Remember to be authentic and genuine in your speaker pitch. Make your pitch empathetic and about the industry and the organizer, show that you really understand that it’s your job to make your presentation great, not the other way around.

public relations success

Plan for public relations success with these critical 3 tips

A little advance planning can make all the difference between public relations success and public relations frustration.  Public relations is increasingly important for companies and there’s nothing like a new year to give your brand and company a fresh image. PR firms are here to be your partners in success. As you pull levers for world domination next year, lean on your  PR firm so that together you’re on the same page about how you mutually define success. Here are 3 tips for working with a PR firm or formulating your in-house PR plan.

1.Determine Your Measurable PR Goals for Public Relations Success

PR success comes when there’s absolute clarity about goals. Your PR goals should match your business goals; make sure your PR firm knows how you’re REALLY defining success. Don’t hide your perspective from your PR firm and expect that the results you want will magically appear.  Make sure your  PR goals align and support your activations, product launches, and partnerships.

PR and marketing goals and KPIs should be:

  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant

The two most important considerations when defining your goals is ensuring that they are measurable and ambitious enough to be significant, but attainable with your budgets and efforts.

Measuring your PR and marketing efforts should include a baseline so you can track improvement. If you don’t have a baseline, you may need to evaluate how you will measure success and it may require something like an industry average or an industry survey. At Avaans, we include a number of KPIs during our monthly reviews, these KPIs are tracked the same way every month, so over time, we can really pinpoint what works and what doesn’t for each brand. We’re completely transparent with our clients about how we came to those KPIs and why they’re important for us to track internally for cannabis PR success.

Attainability is an important KPI. If you’re shooting for the stars, make sure all your assets are in place to support that goal. Assets also include time and brainpower.

There should be KPIs for marketing and KPIs for PR that have crossover. For example, new website visitors, inbound links to your website, both of those metrics will be impacted by both PR and marketing initiatives.  Sometimes we hear people say that they don’t want to give PR and Marketing joint KPIs because they feel it reduces responsibility, but when your KPIs are aligned with your overall business goals that encourages your PR firm and marketing agency to work together to accomplish the company’s mission-ultimately it’s not about pitting one set of KPIs against one another, it’s about achieving success and measuring respective impact.

2. Define Your Target Audiences

As a PR firm who works with highly ambitious brands, we often hear goals like “We want to be featured in XYZ publication.

When a single piece of press helps secure millions of dollars in funding, throwing all your efforts at securing that press is worth almost any PR and activations fees. That’s a great goal, so consider who your ultimate audience really is for any given publication so you can set yourself up for  public relations success. Many times, public relations  success is defined by share of voice within a specific audience.

Your audiences may be in the B2B space, they may be  consumers, they may be investors or partners. Be clear on who you’re trying to reach with each KPI and objectives-share your objectives with your PR firm, so they’re clear on where you REALLY want to be.

Sometimes earning national press even when you’re only in a few markets is strategic as the audience is potential investors or industry partners who like knowing that the brands they’re partnering with have enough clout to secure national coverage.  Alternatively, you may want to show that your brand is well received by multiple consumer types, in which case you may wish to have press in particular interest verticals.

3. Plan for Public Relations Success and Budget Your Activities

Public relations is an incredibly broad level to pull. Within your budget, you should be allocating events, sponsorships, social media, media relations, and asset/owned media development.

Chances are, in order to reach your pr and cannabis marketing goals, you’ll need to execute on some initiatives.

And, you’ll need a corresponding budget for these activities. A good marketing and public relations firm can help you allocate your budget to match your objectives.

At the very least they can tell you how to best allocate an over-all budget or at least inform you of best practices and first steps. A great example of this is events – events can be held for all sorts of objectives, from customer appreciation to media awareness. While both of those objectives MIGHT turn into earned media, it’s important you consider what it will take to earn press coverage on an event, before you spend the money on an event. Sponsorships are another area where the activation is an important marketing objective, but PR may be able to help you define some ways to use your sponsorship in a way that improves your industry image or earns you media coverage.

Need Some More Direction? Give Us a Call