6 Free Cannabis PR Ideas for an Industry Correction
Now is the time to maximize brand value on things that don’t cost extra.
You may look at these 6 cannabis PR ideas and wonder what they have to do with PR, but when you consider that your reputation is a holistic, dynamic entity, you can appreciate how these actions can add up to big value. 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 sometimes. 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 usually happens is there is a recovery. 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.
Frankly, while we’re writing this in response to the 2019 cannabis correction, these are 6 cannabis PR ideas that will improve your bottom line during the good times too.
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. These 6 free cannabis PR ideas are here to give you ideas of places you can probably improve immediately. 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.
Use these free cannabis PR ideas to improve your brand, your reputation, and loyalty, which means your cannabis PR and marketing when things improve will be even more effective than they would have been otherwise.
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 that 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, but you’ll also 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, take part, show your commitment to the organization, the mission, and the people who are contributing to the industry At Avaans Media, 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 attempted to make bud tenders feel special? Now is a great time. Bud tenders, 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 bud tenders 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.
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.
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. These free cannabis PR ideas are inside-out jobs, now is a good time to focus on the solutions that will bring you the most value during a rebound.
PS: By the way, I grabbed this image from Business Insider’s Cultivated newsletter (link). If you’re not reading it, you should.