Tag Archive for: cannabis industry

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.

As uncertainty rises, funding falls. At least that’s what the news would have you believe. But according to Inc. magazine, seed and angel deals are still trending upward, and early-stage companies with proven product are still getting most of the deals. In fact, 64% of venture funding is early stage, and seed deals through Q2 of 2022 were on par with the entirety of 2019 (Q2 NVCA/PitchBook). That means for hyper-growth or ambitious companies and challenger brands, there is still an opportunity for you. So what should you do when VC funding is down and inflation is still driving uncertainty? I’ve been through every recession since 9/11 and I’ve been working with ambitious brands and companies since then as well. So I’ve seen what successful businesses do during recessions to position themselves for competitive advantage, survival and growth, despite the economic hurdles. Over the years I’ve noticed, startups who focus on looking ahead while being laser-focused, and tend to survive tumultuous times.

Focus Your Energies and Budget

“Everything you do, do exceptionally well, and if you aren’t exceptional at it, then get rid of it or outsource it.”

Look at everything you’re doing and cut out the things you aren’t doing well. For example, let’s say your internal biz development team is excellent, but your event marketing isn’t producing the results you’d hoped for, take that event marketing budget and focus it on one thing your biz dev team says they need to get to the next level.

Everything you do, do exceptionally well, and if you aren’t exceptional at it, then get rid of it or outsource it. Outsourcing is just more nimble. What you outsource, be exceptionally clear about your goals, so you can maximize your reduced budget. Focusing your time and budget has the additional advantage of clearing out the cobwebs and giving you new insight into operational efficiencies too. Who knows? You might decide that outsourcing certain strategies, like PR, simply works better than doing it in-house, anyway.

Startups should also focus on the long term. Think about ways you can increase efficiencies with agency partners, and where you can maximize the partners you have on board.

 

Bullish on the Future

“Deals are still happening, but they’re more happening on industries and trends which are moving ahead full steam, no matter what happens to the economy,”

What should a startup focus on when thinking about funding? No matter what happens to the economy, innovation rolls forward, and VCs know this. The money isn’t on solving today’s problems, it’s on solving tomorrow’s problems. According to Pitchbook, in Q1 of 2022, VC’s raised more money than in the entirety of 2019. So are coming down? Oh, absolutely, but VC’s know – the future is now.

Even when funding is down, deals are still happening, but they’re more happening on industries and trends which are moving ahead full steam. So do your homework on where your product fits into the biggest challenges or opportunities in the next 5, 10, 15 years. Look at all the challenges the pandemic brought to light – those challenges are still top of mind, and the companies solving those problems will have a head start. Your corporate storytelling should also lean into the future and purpose driven initiatives. These two aspects will allow you to lead against your peers.

FinTech is another area where the gloom and doom may be over-reported – through Q2, FinTech funding was still more than in 2019, but it’s definitely not as frothy as 2021. FinTech founders may wish to focus on thought leadership and tie it into purpose-driven points of view in order to tap into future trends.

And although the cannabis industry has been experiencing its share of disruptions as of late, no one thinks that industry is disappearing, the growth is only projected to increase as more states move to legalize cannabis, and states create interstate sales as California has, and many expect the east coast to do. Experts predict the cannabis industry will be $100 billion by the end of the decade. You can learn a lot about the future of cannabis by reviewing the pitch decks from startups that recently secured funding.

Plan For Success

“Companies that survive this time focus… on problem-solving,”

Now is the time to think out loud and do your due diligence for tomorrow. Companies that survive this time focus their operations team on problem-solving. For example, if  VC funding doesn’t seem likely for you right now, turn your attention to policy initiatives at the federal and local levels. For example, the last infrastructure project had a lot of opportunities for climate-related startups. And the 2021 infrastructure package held lots of tidbits for infrastructure tech programs, that emerging industries like drones and UOV could take advantage of.

Consumer tech VC funding really has taken a sharp nose-dive. Storytelling PR campaigns may not be as attractive as they once were for consumer tech. Now is the time to look at product-based programs which increase awareness but not the budget.

Direct to Consumer (DTC) funding has radically pulled back, because simply having a DTC company isn’t in itself enough to attract investment – today, a DTC strategy is an expectation. But startups can take this time to develop something that can’t easily be replicated, like technology. Or, as investor Caitlin Strandberg said, don’t even ask for investment unless you have an Amazon strategy, because social media isn’t where they see buyers, “if you’re going to be where people buy—people are buying more and more on Amazon—you can expect they’ll search your brand name on Amazon, and you want to be on that search page,” so be looking your sales channels along with SEO and digital PR so your startup is poised for growth.

You should take this opportunity to do some scenario planning as well. Now is a great time to plan for a crisis, and create plans for things like cyber breaches ,which will help you secure your future.

 

Tomorrow’s greatest companies and emerging industries aren’t going to allow this uncertainty to derail them. This is where the rubber meets the road, and strategy makes a difference.

Cannabis businesses who are new to PR have a lot of decisions to make. Many of our clients have never hired a PR agency before and the process can seem daunting. That’s why we came up with 3 tips for cannabis companies new to PR. At Avaans we work with a lot of hyper-growth or early stage companies in emerging industries, so we’re pros at guiding ambitious companies to the next stage of growth. Often our clients are CEOs or CMOs who understand why PR is important, but maybe haven’t engaged a professional PR agency before.

Am I Ready for PR?

 

If you’re new to PR and you’re asking yourself the question, you’re off to a great start.

If you’re new to PR, you might be confused about what to ask an agency. For more strategic PR partnerships, ask the agency whether they think you are ready for PR. That will tell you how prepared they are to work with a company of your PR readiness. If a firm tells you that you aren’t ready for PR, what they’re saying is “You aren’t ready for our PR services.” We believe it’s important to consider PR from the very first moment.

The next question to ask yourself is how much bandwidth you have for PR. We started our consumer product PR sprints for very early growth companies or companies without huge budgets. Our PR Sprints are an excellent way to look underneath the hood of working with a PR agency, without a long-term PR contract. The PR Sprints are also great for cannabis product launches.

A full-scale bespoke PR program is more successful when the PR agency has a key contact at the cannabis company. Bespoke programs are for consumer brands committed to strategic PR outcomes like pre-IPO or investment, or attracting top talent. Bespoke programs are for companies and brands that have a long-term vision for the company and can state their 3-year and 5-year goals. B2B PR are also bespoke PR campaigns because every B2B campaign has dependencies as distinctive as the company’s leadership, product, and ambitions.

Naturally, budget comes into play, but working with a PR firm is like hiring a contractor – you rarely want the cheapest. If you’re new to PR, you’re in the early stages of reputation and branding, and this is a critical time for new cannabis brands. In particular, a cannabis company needs to invest in trust-first positioning and can’t take risks with the brand, because there is less brand equity.

Another way to know whether you’re ready for bespoke PR? Being crystal clear on cannabis public relations goals and outcomes will make choosing a firm, and a time to start PR much easier.

How Do I Look, Hunny?

Starting a cannabis business means jumping through a lot of hoops, and sometimes branding and marketing seem like it takes a back seat to the regulatory hurdles for cannabis companies. How does your cannabis packaging look on the shelves at a dispensary? How will it look on the pages of a magazine? Are your product images professionally shot? Do you know who your customers really are? If you’re still figuring out your website or tinkering with formulations, then focus on those items first, or at least go with a shorter-term, very focused PR campaign. Starting with a freelancer could also be an option at this stage as well. But in general, bespoke PR firms are worth the investment if you’re clear on your brand, its customers, and the look/feel of your cannabis packaging and product.

What’s the Best Time of Year To Engage a PR Agency?

Journalists and editors are planning months in advance. This means your PR pitching should start months in advance, too. This is one aspect of PR that many new-to-PR companies struggle with: the need to plan in advance. For example, PR agencies will want photos and product descriptions months before

The fall months are a dynamic time for the cannabis industry. There are cannabis industry tradeshows and conferences happening, award winners announced, and of course, Halloween, Thanksgiving, the December holidays, and New Years’ Eve all add up to massive revenue opportunities for cannabis brands. For consumer brands new to PR, the fall can be one of the most valuable times of year to get editorial coverage for consumer brands. In fact, up to 40% of coverage for consumer brands happens during this time of year, so that’s a great time to pack a PR punch. We developed our consumer brand PR Sprints to include fall cannabis PR for this reason.

For B2B cannabis PR, the equation looks a little different. If you’re looking for a feature on a product launch or an executive, planting that story takes planning on behalf of the journalist and editor who have to fit it into regularly scheduled articles. Starting B2B cannabis public relations in the fall may be right for you if you have big plans for the spring. B2B PR, like thought leadership, speaking engagements, and cannabis industry visibility have more dependencies, some of which – like when speaking engagement submissions close, aren’t in your control. If you miss the window for this year at a particular event, there are only a couple of avenues to take, and most of them include spending a considerable sum of money. Campaigns and activations around key industry events may take longer to plan and implement, especially cannabis industry events. In short, B2B PR often requires longer lead times.

For consumer brands new to PR, there are some advantages to starting PR in the second quarter. But not if you’re planning a big 420 splash or product launch. You really aren’t giving yourself enough time to maximize your 420 if you’re starting in Q2. At that point, the question is really should you do a 420 campaign? On the other hand, if you’re a consumer or CPG cannabis brand who tends to have a summer-based sales cycle, say cannabis beverages, then starting your PR well in advance of the summer is a great idea.

Starting a new PR campaign in January gives most brands a superb runway to plan for everything the year offers, regardless of whether it’s B2B or B2C. We love starting the year off together with new clients, but this isn’t a time of year to start new projects for everyone. If your product does particularly well in February for Valentine’s Day – then starting in January is too late.

Being a cannabis company new to PR doesn’t have to daunting. Contact us with questions about hiring an agency, and what to look for. We love working with cannabis companies in all stages of growth.

Meet Chris Shreeve, cannabis advertising expert for programmatic ad buys.

Based in Seattle, not only is Chris co-founder of PrograMetrix, a nationally recognized programmatic advertising agency for cannabis brands (not “just” CBD) he is also the co-owner of The Bakeree dispensary. 

 

First, a little background about you, Chris:

Digital advertising veteran, specifically in programmatic advertising technology and services. Started PrograMetrix in 2015. Co-owner of The Bakeree dispensaries in Seattle. That intersection between cannabis retail owner and agency co-founder is why our agency has seen success in the space.

What were you doing prior to cannabis?

While PrograMetrix highlights our work in the cannabis space, we also have incredible mainstream clients that we support outside of the space. I have always been in advertising, technology and marketing but we found white space in the cannabis industry and wanted to bring our expertise to the space.

When did you first start working in cannabis?

My brother started selling medical cannabis in Seattle, WA 8-9 years ago before the state went recreational. I always knew that there would be a time when the cannabis space would need mainstream marketing and cannabis advertising solutions but it was years before there was enough tech and data to dive into the space.

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

I always recommend Cannabis Marketing Association to new cannabis marketers!

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

Solve a problem, don’t just sell a product/service. Everyone wants to create a cannabis or CBD product but many don’t have a unique selling proposition that resonates with a specific audience. Build a brand and product/service line to solve a need for a specific audience and be the best solution for your target market.

What’s the biggest misconception cannabis companies have about cannabis advertising?

That because Google and Facebook regulate cannabis and CBD brands on their platforms, you can’t advertise your product online. There are thousands of sites, apps, and platforms that allow cannabis advertising and that can be accessed through programmatic advertising. Retarget your current customers online, reach new consumers on channels like video, audio, or streaming tv services.

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

Many brands are looking for the silver bullet and believe that paid advertising is it. It’s not. It is one channel that can support a broader marketing initiative but it can’t be the only focus. You need to build a brand and that doesn’t always require an ROI for every dollar you spend on marketing.

What will get easier in cannabis marketing & branding? What will get harder?

We will gain more access to mainstream advertising channels. More sites, apps, and platforms are going to accept cannabis but it might be too late. Instead of waiting for Google or Facebook to change their ad guidelines, optimize your current marketing mix to the best of your ability. Go digital before your competitors and find new technologies and channels that differentiate your brand online.

What will get harder… competition. More mainstream brands are coming into the space and there will continue to be consolidation, making the larger brands even bigger and taking market share from the smaller companies. Don’t get left behind, build your brand NOW.

What can cannabis companies do to alleviate their cannabis PR and branding challenges?

It is incredibly important to hire an internal marketer to lead the communication of the business to the market. Many smaller brands still haven’t fully invested in a marketing professional and you can tell. Let that marketing professional figure out what can be accomplished internally, then fill the gaps with experienced agency professionals for the more complicated and time consumer channels.

In your view, what is the most under-rated tool in the brand marketing toolbox for cannabis companies?

Website development.

Too many cannabis companies don’t invest enough in their website. Especially cannabis brands that don’t sell products directly from their site (DTC).

You might have one opportunity to catch the eye of a consumer online and if your website doesn’t tell the store of your brand in a compelling visual fashion, you might lose that customer forever.

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

SEO. Now this might get me in trouble… BUT… everyone is trying to rank for “cannabis dispensary near me” or some generic keywords on their website. Many don’t leverage blog content enough but those that focus solely on SEO will miss out on many other marketing opportunities that can help differentiate your marketing mix.

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

Set realistic expectations. Don’t over-promise and under-deliver.

What’s your advice for people who want to get into cannabis marketing?

Show that you have a vested interest in the industry and not just marketing/advertising expertise. This industry is unique. Its products and services are still evolving but having an interest in the plant or industry at larger is incredibly valuable.

How can someone contact you, Chris?

https://programetrix.com/
Twitter @PrograMetrix
LinkedIn @ChrisShreeve

Thanks for sharing your cannabis advertising and branding insights with us today, Chris, you rock!