Well-crafted content is so much more valuable than promotional content. What should cannabis brands focus on right now? When the 2019 Farm Act passed, the CBD industry widely celebrated it. But not long after, newcomers overran the CBD industry and even established brands found themselves surprised by the competitive environment. Despite the challenges, the biggest brands, the most well-known, continue to thrive. In fact, Charlotte’s Web recently became the first CBD brand to sponsor Major League Baseball.  There are a few reasons for this. The first is from the start, CW invested in branding and PR.  But there’s an even bigger reason – they immediately embraced the realities of DTC sales and their website had digital authority because they had been investing in it for years. That’s why it’s more important than ever for cannabis brands to commit to their online presence with these 3 tips to improve cannabis digital marketing with quality content that pays dividends for years to come.

When federal legalization happens – history will repeat itself. It will excite marketers in the industry that FINALLY Instagram can’t boot them. But social media sites come and go (apparently, IG is already “over”), and owning your own corner of the internet has never been more important. While it remains important to HAVE an Insta account, it isn’t a place where cannabis brands can maximize their digital marketing or their content. Once cannabis brands can sell online more directly or even advertise more freely, in a more DTC fashion, mature digital destinations will thrive.

Building an authoritative website takes time, and it takes strategy. You can not start too soon.  Make 2023 the year you invest in your cannabis digital marketing with these 3 digital marketing tips that supercharge digital PR.

Create Lifestyle, Not Medical Content

Historically, cannabis brands have built content to educate consumers. And that’s been a really important step in cannabis normalization. But between new formats that make cannabis more accessible to Google’s suppression of “fake news,” including non-authoritative sites providing anything akin to medical advice, you’re just wasting your time by creating anything that could be considered health advice, or expertise.

Unless you’re already a credible, published authority on these matters,  you’d be better off taking a page out of a publisher’s took kit and creating like “5 Games That Are Better When You’re High.”

The better you know your customer, the more dialed in you’ll be to creating content for them. Be disciplined. Be consistent. If you create 3 pieces of content a month, you are already miles ahead of 99% of cannabis brands. Not only does this help people find you today, but it will be a rich resource tomorrow. Creating content YOU own is still the most impactful marketing and PR tactic you can do.

Trigger The Seeking Hormone

A while back, I wrote about creating Instagram content that would trigger anticipation while also solving some of the Instagram violation problems by using anticipation triggers in cannabis digital marketing.

Use can use that to your advantage right now while circumventing Instagram challenges, and even advertising challenges while ALSO adding authority to your website. Use unexpected prompts, both audio and visual, to keep consumers on your site longer. And while we’re at it, if you aren’t already, you MUST incentivize people to join your email list. Again, owning your list is an actual asset, while Instagram followers are so fluid, and Instagram itself so unreliable, it’s questionable whether there is any long-term value there at all. And believe me, as one of the earliest adopters of social media for brands, it truly pains me to say that.

But there are lessons to be learned from Instagram. The scrolling feed, for example, is an outstanding example of a “seeking hormone” trigger. In the early days, it was genius. The way it scrolled felt like a slot machine, juuuust enough of the next post would appear on the phone screen. It was nearly impossible to stop scrolling. TikTok’s interface triggers that too. The latest digital website designs use a similar approach. Your cannabis digital marketing can mimic some of the most tried and true digital best practices used by today’s leading consumer brands.

QUALITY Inbound Links Still Matter

 

Your current and past coverage from respected, authoritative sites is your hedge against link inflation.

Google says it’s deprioritizing inbound links, but that’s only compared to how much they’re increasing the value of trusted content. Simply having inbound links isn’t enough. Gone are the days when thousands of low-value affiliate links could stack up to a credible website in Google’s eyes.

Today, Google wants to improve its search algorithm by presenting trusted answers. The recipe to trust is a closely guarded Google, but what we DO know is credible content = trust. And Publishers have Google’s trust. And when Google presents it, consumers trust it more too, so your site gets a super boost. Customers who trust you buy faster and stay longer, so incorporating quality inbound links is a triple home run for your cannabis brand.

Preparing for federal cannabis legalization is THE business strategy for 2023 and digital marketing and PR are the levers to pull your brand along. Since our earliest days, we’ve been the best cannabis PR agency for digitally savvy brands. We know successful cannabis digital marketing and PR advice of today is the backbone of tomorrow’s most successful cannabis brands. Today, it’s more important than ever to coordinate cannabis digital marketing with cannabis digital PR.

The unfair and highly politicized stigma that once surrounded the use of cannabis is quickly dissipating as more states embrace legalized cannabis and cannabis-related products. The earliest cannabis brands hired PR firms to reduce stigmatization. With a budding industry on the rise, more companies are jumping on the cannabis bandwagon. While this hyper-growth is great for consumers, it has created competition in the cannabis marketplace. How can cannabis companies set themselves apart to capture a chunk of the profit? No doubt, hyper-growth cannabis companies absolutely have distinct PR needs.

To keep up with industry growth, the time may be right to consider hiring a cannabis PR agency. PR isn’t just for high-profile celebrities. Public relations firms can help you market yourself, your unique products, and let the public know how you stand out from the crowd. However, before you hire a PR firm to represent your business, consider how a cannabis PR firm may benefit your company and how to choose the right firm for your needs.

What is a PR Agency?

Public relations agencies are multifaceted firms that specialize in promoting and growing other businesses through editorial coverage. Editorial coverage is sometimes known as “earned” or free” media because it isn’t a paid placement in an outlet. A PR agency generally doesn’t buy or place ads on social media or through billboards or podcasts. A PR agency knows how to leverage the media for the benefit of a company. Media can include local news, national news, newspapers, magazines, and websites.

The ultimate goal of a PR agency is to promote the best interests of its client by generating favorable media coverage. When potential customers view this coverage, it builds brand recognition and trust in the company. The positive public opinion can then help translate into sales for the business.

What Does a Cannabis PR Firm Do?

A top cannabis PR firm specializes in drumming up positive media coverage for growing cannabis businesses. They generally will use their resources to pitch story ideas to various media outlets. They will then follow up with these media outlets to convince them that the story will interest their viewers or readers. In the end, the media outlet gets a piece that entices its audience. The cannabis company then gets recognition. A good agency understands how to take a company message or campaign and translate that into a positive media piece.

On the flip side, a cannabis PR agency can also help a business mitigate the fallout from a less than ideal or unfortunate situation. A good firm is always strategically thinking about how to protect a client from potentially hurtful coverage. An agency can also help formulate a response that is both appropriate and has the potential to turn a situation around.

Overall, you want a cannabis PR agency to be well-versed in the following:

  • Writing and distributing press releases
  • Following up with appropriate media outlets after the release of a press statement
  • Crafting pitches
  • Product placement
  • Writing speeches
  • Crisis management
  • Copywriting
  • Blog writing
  • Market research
  • Event planning
  • Community engagement
  • Non-profit relationship management

Some of the most successful PR firms have former journalists and news people on their staff. These individuals generally have inside knowledge of the media industry and can leverage their former contacts and skills for the benefit of cannabis clients. These professionals know what stories media outlets generally select and can help convince them that coverage of your materials is beneficial to the outlets and the community.

Picking a Cannabis PR Firm

In many areas, cannabis is a relatively new business. When looking for a PR firm to manage the image and media coverage of a cannabis business, there is an important initial question. A company should ask if the agency has previous experience working with the cannabis industry. Why is this the most important question? There are limitations on the types of material and information that can be distributed about cannabis in some jurisdictions. A business will want to make sure that the PR firm they are working with understands the intricacies of working with the media and cannabis-related businesses. Knowledge of the industry helps ensure that your coverage is positive and accurate. It will also ensure that media outlets distribute coverage with the best chance of being picked up and not tossed in the press-release trash bin.

Beyond looking for an agency that understands the unique challenges of working with cannabis-related businesses, you will want to sit down and outline your marketing goals. What are you hoping to achieve? What is your budget? What are you expecting a firm to deliver? Establishing your objectives and goals early will help in selecting the best firm for your company. Once you determine these objectives, find a PR firm that aligns with your goals. Consider the following:

  • What is your budget?
  • Do they specialize in a specific industry?
  • How do they measure success?
  • What is their communication style?
  • How often will they be in contact?
  • Does their team have experience in PR and marketing?
  • How do they generate coverage?
  • Do they have experience handling crisis situations?

Hold meetings before you settle on a PR firm. In these meetings, you can ask plenty of predetermined questions pertaining to your concerns and goals. Consider these meetings an interview process. You want the best candidate for the job. Effective coverage doesn’t happen passively. It is a process that needs to be actively pursued and nurtured. The PR team you choose should be aggressive, responsive, and communicate with you throughout the PR process.

PR as an Investment

Making investments in your business is essential to growth. You know how to cultivate relationships with growers, suppliers, paraphernalia manufacturers, consumers, and sometimes even local artisans and craftsmen. Securing the help of a PR firm is another form of investment in your business. A solid relationship with a cannabis PR firm can help increase recognition, brand loyalty, and visibility in the community.

Eventually, these attributes can start translating into new customers, repeat business, and profit growth. The relationship between the cannabis industry and the media is always evolving. If you’re ready to experience growth and visibility for your business, hiring an experienced cannabis PR agency is the next step to developing your product’s brand.

There’s a secret hidden in ALL our brains that you can use for cannabis content marketing.

Did you know that we’re all ruled by a super powerful hormone? It’s true. This hormone dominates decision-making, especially split-second choices like the ones digital users are making every day. Decisions like “click,” “like,” “retweet,” and “buy” and “subscribe” are all significantly impacted by this hormone. Savvy marketing strategists have been triggering this hormone for years, some knowingly, some stumbling upon it.

You’ve undoubtedly heard of this hormone. You’ve heard about in the context of drugs, sex, and even food. But what does this hormone do for cannabis marketers? I’ll get to that in a minute.

First, a little more about this hormone: dopamine. See? I told you you’ve heard of it. Dopamine is best known as the “pleasure hormone.” It’s the hormone that creates the surge of euphoria that we feel after a satisfying cannabis session. But, the surge of satisfaction is not actually the most powerful tool in a marketer’s arsenal.

The most powerful tool for the marketer is anticipation.

And it turns out that dopamine is actually more aptly described as the “wanting and seeking” hormone.
Ah. Now you get it right?
It turns out that the “wanting and seeking” trigger is MORE powerful than the “satisfaction.” Which means, we’re hardwired to keep looking, keep seeking until we satisfy our wanting and seeking. And then, we’re hard-wired to do it all again.

Think for just a moment about the advantage to your content and overall cannabis marketing strategy if you can trigger this motivation. Images can trigger our wanting and seeking. Ever seen a really great close-up shot of your favorite food and found yourself searching for how to have it delivered at lunch that.very.day? Images of just about anything we want can trigger our “wanting and seeking” hormone. This means you really need to think about the images you’re using in marketing and advertising, because images are incredibly key to the top of the funnel.
While we see food and sex all the time in marketing, maybe those images aren’t appropriate for your brand. Although this knowledge is particularly useful for the cannabis industry – imagine using a cupcake instead of a joint in everyone one of your Instagram posts. Not only would this spark some word-of-mouth PR, but it solves many of the problems cannabis brands have with their own Instagram presence. Imagine how much harder it would be for Instagram to punish a pro-cupcake brand. Not only does this stike at the consumers’ anticipation in two different ways, it also creates another type of seeking.

Guess what else fuels our anticipation?

Just guess.
This is super important because not all businesses and campaigns are suitable for triggering the food, sex and drug urges.
Curiosity.
The brain experiences dopamine rushes when we’re curious for more information.
Think about the last Google search you did. Ever been sucked down the rabbit hole of Google and found yourself coming out of the other side 45 minutes later? That’s your insatiable, hormone-driven seeking and wanting trigger. That’s your brain on the anticipation train.

Our quest for information is basically never-ending. We’re hard-wired that way, and from an evolutionary perspective, this is a very, very good thing. Now, WHAT information triggers this is the key. This is where we circle back around to audience identification and personalization.
We’re inundated with information, so we have to be very clear on our audience so we understand WHAT kind of information or curiosity triggers our target audience. Motivational triggers work on all people, but what triggers the motivation is where your marketing research and strategy come in.

Unexpected prompts, audio and visual also trigger our wanting and seeking hormone. You know what does this exceptionally well?
Your phone.

It beeps or vibrates or a message pops up and you almost ALWAYS stop what you are doing to look at it don’t you? This is why SMS messaging is so powerful.  If you do manage to ignore your phone’s notifications, it takes an active and conscious effort on your part.
This is why my most hated and dreaded marketing tactic, pop-up messaging, is so powerful. I drop right out of a page when I get a pop-up because I feel like it’s insensitive to the reader, but the truth is, it works on the vast majority of people because the surprise triggers the wanting and seeking. Novelty and unpredictability also trigger our seeking behavior. Therefore, “New and Improved” works. It’s also why the above cupcake example works.

The Counter-Intuitive Path

You’ve probably heard over and over again to simplify. The message is too long. The funnel is too long.
Overall, this is good advice.
However, once you really understand the “seeking and wanting” hormone, your path can actually be quite long, so long as it keeps triggering curiosity and gives information in small bits and pieces if it gives anything until it offers the solution. Cannabis marketers can use this hunting and seeking trigger on their own websites too. And this is really important, because as federal legalization looms, cannabis brands will need to have a digital presence that is in control of them.

As cannabis education to a larger base becomes more important, you may find this technique particularly relevant in your cannabis marketing.

Have you ever found yourself reading a really ugly landing page with all text? Really awesome copywriters understand how to use this tactic in writing to move you through the process. Interestingly enough, the more time you spend on something, the more committed you are. So long copy, long funnels, they have a purpose and in the right situation, the right circumstance, the right audience, they work. You can use this strategy in your digital cannabis marketing to your benefit, particularly for product launches and blogs.

In A Nutshell:

Here it is in a nutshell, for fast and motivational results: trigger the wanting and seeking hormone.
Make your audience curious.
Lead them down a path that satisfies in bits and pieces.
Experiment with what triggers curiosity in your audience, experiment with the strength of their curiosity with funnel length.
Triggering the “wanting and seeking” hormone is the very premise behind free information in content cannabis marketing and the internet in general.

This article has been slightly edited from the original version on poodlemafia.com

About the Captivation Motivations:

The Captivation Motivations are all built around what I call our “other 90%” of our brain. The part of our brain that is the oldest and most developed part of our brain.

I didn’t make up the Captivation Motivations, I’ve simply been studying them and their effects for the last four years. I’ve been testing them in my strategies and tactics, reading and writing about them.
Simply put, these motivations are not some flash-in-the-pan-do-whats-trendy-now strategy, these are strategies which trigger reactions from the oldest part of our brain.  More and more is now understood about these motivations. But one thing is clear: despite the fact that these motivations developed in the earliest days of humanity’s survival of the fittest experiences, these motivations are very much alive and well today. What triggers them in the modern world is just different than what triggered them in our earliest evolutionary days.

PR is still a critical component of any cannabis brand’s consumer product strategy. And you might find that PR is expensive, so you might ask yourself, “how can I get PR for my cannabis business?” There are two reasons to ask this question. The first is you want to hire a PR professional in-house, the second might be you’re trying to save money on your PR agency budget.  Either way, you’ll want to dig more deeply in order to find your place in PR and maximize your financial or time investment.

 

  1. Define Your Story

    If you’ve ever heard someone say, “that’s not news,” it’s because there isn’t enough meat on the bone for your story. Case in point, being a minority-owned cannabis business, by itself, is not a story. But if you’re the first minority-owned cannabis business to set up a scholarship fund for minority students, that could be a story – especially if it ties in with the start or end of school. And whatever your story is, give it the lift it needs with data and noticeable numbers. You’ll find that cannabis journalists respond positively to stories that have enough background and information to write a piece about. Especially when it touches on trending topics. Be the brand or company that comes to a journalist with the solution to a cultural problem and you’ll find you can get more PR for your cannabis business, regardless of whether it comes from in-house or an agency.

  2. Entertain Us

    From nostalgia to a cultural wink, pulling off a fun stunt, something that makes people look twice and laugh, almost always gets some PR attention. The attention may be from the press, or it might be as social media coverage, but getting your product in front of new people, or giving your current customers a reason to share your email with their friends, is priceless. And even if you don’t get massive reach on your stunt, you’ll have attached fun and happiness to your brand for those who saw it. This is how advertising campaigns get media coverage as well. You’ll find that Clio award-winning work very often has a wink and a smile behind it. Everyone appreciates the opportunity to have a little fun, so lean in and make your campaigns do double duty to get PR for your cannabis business.

  3. Activate with Partners

    On the surface, sponsorships are rarely PR worthy. But what sponsorships might do is give you access to an opportunity to tell your story to the right people. When our client Elixinol sponsored the press booth at events in key media cities and then activated that sponsorship with a locally popular, Super Bowl-winning, football star to talk about his experience with the product after considerable head injuries during his professional career. By itself, having a spokesperson may or may not be notable, but the sponsorship provided access to the press to make sure they knew about the athlete, the athlete’s story was compelling, and there was a local tie-in that was easy for journalists to grab onto.

  4. Incorporate Digital Savvy

    If you’re leading a plant-touching cannabis brand, you might be tempted to curtail your cannabis website’s digital presence. That’s a mistake. Today’s editors wear many hats, but it boils down to this: content that attracts eyeballs so they can earn money. The old-fashioned way for newsrooms to make money was straight-up advertising. But digital PR changed all that and today there are so many ways for an editor to juice the revenue for their outlet. Case in point, for the cannabis industry, sponsored posts are a common augmentation to a campaign. They’re relatively easy to create, and they can secure a solid inbound link for your website. Plus, eventually, cannabis brands will be able to do what other consumer product brands have been doing: use affiliate networking as a honeypot for product coverage. Use Google to get more frequent PR for your cannabis company.

Whether you’re hiring a cannabis PR agency or doing PR in-house, earning media coverage for your cannabis brand will take some work, but that work will be well worth it for years to come.

Marketing and PR during a recession? Who does that? Well, the answer may surprise you: brands that grow the fastest. Why? Studies who brands that market during recessions gain additional advantages because it’s less noisy and easier to be seen and heard. Make your marketing and PR budget go further by tapping into these consumer trends.

Consumer Brands: Remember the Lipstick Effect

Coined by Leonard Lauder in 2001, the term “lipstick effect” when he observed that lipstick sales are inversely correlated to economic health. Why? Because consumers still want to treat themselves and small indulgences fit the bill, even during economic downturns. Luxury lifestyle brands do this with their perfume and makeup offerings. Yes, $69 for Hermes lipstick is a lot for lipstick, but for the Hermes customer or aspirational customer, $69 is an easy purchase compared to a $6,000 purse. Consumer PR and marketing during a recession can help you gain market share and grow when you offer your customers a way to sport your brand without making a gigantic purchase.

What’s your brand’s “lipstick”? What is the product that makes customers feel like they’re treating themselves without large expenditure? 

Find the Fun with Your Customers

What did the post-pandemic consumer teach us? They want fun and frivolity in the pandemic’s wake – and they STILL want that, perhaps even more, with all the gloomy news about a recession. While you, as a CEO, or CMO, might feel doubly beat up, it’s really up to you to bring the fun. From marketing to PR, if you give consumers something fun to talk about or a sense of escapism, consumers will find a way to your party, because they really want to have fun. So while you may be cutting your marketing or PR budget, make sure the things you keep are fun-filled. Not only will this improve your bottom line, it will attach fun to your consumer’s experience of your brand, which means they’ll associate you with fun after the recession too.

What’s your customer’s ideal way to escape? Find them and play with them there. 

Make Lasting Memories with Nostalgia

When uncertainty strikes, consumers love to “remember when.” Whether it’s nostalgia-based packaging or scents to connections to movies and songs, yesterday always brings comfort to consumers. If you’re a legacy brand with long-time customers, then you should absolutely take this opportunity to remind your customers of the good ole days you had together. If you’re a new brand and you don’t have that depth, you can trigger fond memories through partnerships and advertising.

What era makes your customers nostalgic?

Avoid Deep Discounts that Train Customers

If you train your customers to wait until the next sale, they will never buy if there isn’t one, whether or not there is a recession. Resist the urge to devalue your own brand right now. Not only do price discounts squeeze your margins during a time when you can least afford them, constant discounting feels desperate. Desperation is never a great look, especially for luxury brands. To maintain brand and positioning, the beloved cupcake brand Sprinkles resisted the urge to discount during the pandemic:

“Customers had been taught by other bakeries to expect that the product at the end of the day was worth less than at the beginning. But with our just-in-time baking system, these cupcakes were as fresh as their morning relatives. Even then, as tempting as it was to sell off those last few cupcakes at a discount right before closing, I knew we had to stand firmly behind the price. I preferred to donate those cupcakes than to eat into the value of our brand.” -Candace Nelson, founder.

The better option is to carve out a single day (or two) that your brand will offer value pricing, and when you do, look for ways to add value to your current price rather than discounting the product itself. You could offer a gift with purchase or a VIP experience.

Budget planning for marketing and PR during a recession feels less fun than when budgets are flush, but the reality is, you can make major headway during a recession AND you can enjoy the process and the output just as much if not more.