Tag Archive for: conferences

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.

As of today, there are 108 cannabis business tradeshows and expos around the world listed on our conference resource. It’s near impossible to go to them all and more importantly when you choose one, how do you turn an event into a consumer or cannabis industry PR opportunity?

 

We’re coming up on the annual big daddy of cannabis conferences: MJ Biz. It’s easily the largest single show in North America. If you’re planning on exhibiting, you might be thinking about how you’ll stand out and get PR at MJ Biz. Lean on your cannabis pr agency to turn your next conference into a cannabis event marketing opportunity. Since you’re spending significant time, energy, and money to be at a tradeshow or conference, it’s really important that you maximize the investment. The very last thing you want to do is walk away from a cannabis tradeshow wondering if it will make any impact on your bottom line. There are multitudes of reasons to go to cannabis events and conferences, mainly because the networking with thought leaders, colleagues, and clients, (more on that later), but be clear on how why your strategies. Little known tip: I used to be an owner for an industry trade show, so I’ve seen how even small companies can become great with some elbow grease and creativity. I’ve seen brand leaders come out of nowhere and suddenly be the toast of the town, by simply being smart about how they leverage a tradeshow.

Let Cannabis PR and Cannabis Event Marketing Work Together:

It’s critical to collaborate with cannabis PR agency on cannabis event marketing. Whether you’re doing CBD marketing or THC marketing, each of these cannabis events has a cannabis marketing and PR role to play. Regardless of what size your booth is, think about how you can and will activate on and off the floor. The obvious answer is sponsorships, which you can approach from a brand goal perspective. If your goal is simply awareness and you can afford the branding dollars, a major sponsorship can offer many CBD marketing and THC marketing benefits including SEO, cannabis business perception, and usually, some “insider and VIP” benefits. But even if you can’t afford one of the top-tier sponsorships, there are still a multitude of PR-worthy cannabis event marketing options available to you.

One often overlooked cannabis business PR opportunity: consider sponsoring a notable speaker (besides yourself) for a session that will drive mentions and press for far less. Maybe sponsoring a section of the floor makes more sense or work with the conference organizers on an off-the-floor event value-add (who is paying for the champagne at the cocktail reception?). For cannabis event marketing to stand out, it’s not enough to sponsor, be thinking about the value of “word of mouth,” and activations that will be memorable and get people talking. This is where your PR agency can help you develop cannabis event marketing strategies that fit in well with your brand development and PR budget.

Employ Big Fish/Small Pond Cannabis PR & Cannabis Marketing Strategies

What if you need to hit one of the larger shows, but you feel overwhelmed by the multitude of choices that aren’t tier 1 tradeshow or conferences? This is a great time to dig deep and choose another tradeshow or expo which you’d like to own. Owning the conference at a regional conference may well provide more cannabis branding and marketing benefits than being in booth 2067 at the largest conference in the country. Don’t let your FOMO dictate your cannabis marketing and cannabis PR budgets – be strategic about what you’re planning on doing at each conference. Be clear on the objectives and stay laser-focused on supporting those strategies.  Bring together your cannabis marketing and cannabis PR firms (if they’re different) to view each conference through an ROI, press, and word of mouth opportunity and stack rank your options.

Host Your Own Cannabis PR-Worthy Event

The cannabis industry loves to network. We’re tied to one another navigating this wild-wild west and we know: personal connections, trusted collaborators, friends, and partners make all the difference.

You don’t need a celebrity to earn media at your event (it doesn’t hurt though), but you do need to consider creative options. Gone are the days that simply providing THC and CBD samples are enough to pull together a crowd.
What can you do that’s on-brand to activate the space?
Is there a space that’s noteworthy in your area?
Can you partner with a nonprofit?
How can you create synergies between your brand and the press?
What access can you provide the press?
What insider opportunities can you give them and your most engaged customers and clients?

Shhhh…My Most Important Cannabis Marketing & PR Tip:

My insider tip on how to turn your own cannabis event into a cannabis PR worthy opportunity? Look around at what everyone else is doing – and do something else. Be the first, the original, the most fun. Be something notable, and it will earn you press for days. Cannabis industry PR agencies are usually particularly great at developing ideas that will capture the imagination of the “been-there-done-that press.” If your existing cannabis PR firm is anything like us – they have a few ideas they’ve been dying to deploy. Here’s a bonus tip: if you don’t have a big budget, don’t make your event do the heavy lifting during major seasonal or industry blow-outs. A great cannabis event marketing strategy is to hold an event during a “downtime” in the industry, which will invigorate and inspire your stakeholders, press, and customers.

What Should You Really Be Look For In A PR Firm?

We know, hiring a PR firm can be daunting. With increasing frequency, we’re hearing stories from  colleagues who have experienced “bad PR.” What should you ask before hiring a modern PR firm?

We truly believe many of these stories are due to client and agency were a mismatch, rather than a “bad PR firm”. Taking a deeper look at PR before hiring them can save you money, but most importantly, time.  Much of this can be attributed to the vast distinctions with how PR agencies operate and handle their clients. The intention of this piece is to provide you with questions we would be asking OUR PR firm before we hired them, and why those questions are important. Also, consider these “6 great questions you can ask us before hiring Avvans PR”

6 Questions to Ask Before Hiring Your Next PR Firm

Do You Understand Our Product?

Ask yourself how important a baseline understanding of your product or industry is to your overall communications. We’ve heard story after story of people unhappy with their PR firm because their PR firm doesn’t understand an emerging industry’s regulations or a technology. Understanding the industry isn’t just important from a regulatory and technical perspective, it’s also the ability to monitor relevant news, understand what’s relevant (and what isn’t) and move quickly. Now, that’s not to say that a beauty PR can’t handle B2B PR for the industry, but expect to educate your firm.

What tradeshows and conferences has your team attended?
Does your PR firm understand what makes your product distinct within your industry?
What publications are writing about your vertical?

Before Hiring a PR Firm, Establish Clearly Defined Ways of Measuring Success for PR

Most companies today want consistent placement, strategic oversight, and outstanding communication. But what else? In a mature, less regulated industry, a PR firm typically works with multiple other firms from branding to experiential to an ad agency.

PR is THE leading brand trust and awareness tool.

In addition to earned media, companies should be looking at additional metrics for PR such as SEO value. Website traffic, brand mentions, brand name reach, and even share of voice are all KPIs that are relevant, depending on the overall strategy. Your PR firm should be ready and able to provide those kinds of metrics to you on a monthly basis. Changes in public perception or decreased sales cycle are also metrics with which PR can support. If you’re measuring your PR firm against KPIs like this, work with your PR firm to set a baseline and a reasonable timeframe.

Is the Fee Structure Fair & Does It Make Sense?

Most PR firms work on a retainer, so make sure you have an understanding of what’s included in your retainer?

Does the firm charge for wire releases?
Is branded content included, and if so, does that extend to graphic design?
Is there a markup on expenses incurred by the PR agency and if so, what is it?
Are off-site activations included?
How are hours tracked?

There’s no single way to manage a retainer, so asking questions like this upfront will give you a deeper understanding. Be fearless about asking these questions, after all, you’re the client. You should expect a rationale that isn’t arbitrary. While you may view this as a negotiation opportunity, be wary of cutting the budget to the point where your brand isn’t on the radar daily. You want your PR firm engaged with your brand on a daily basis – make sure you’re getting that because the alternative often provides unsatisfactory results. A great PR firm will be transparent about their billing methods.  Financial terms form the foundation of your relationship with your PR firm. Get that right and find a balance that works for you and your PR firm.

Look for Good Personal Chemistry in Your PR Firm

While this one is tough to put on a spreadsheet, asking some tough questions will often reveal the quality of the chemistry. As an engaged client, you should be working with your cannabis PR experts regularly and you REALLY want that process to be enjoyable. Make sure your company culture meshes well with your cannabis PR firm’s value system.  Teams who like one another, work better together. If you’re not gelling with someone in the first call, chances are, that’s not going to change.

Compatability breeds productivity and results.

Before Hiring Your Next PR Firm, Consider: Location, Location, Location

Before you start narrowing down your PR firms, decide how important location is to you. We think having account presence in major journalism markets is priority one, but if you’re the kind of person who needs to meet face-to-face once a week, acknowledge that and find a firm close to your base of operations and hire a PR firm that’s near by.

Flexibility AND Systems

Pay close attention to the systems your PR firm uses and also take notice of their flexibility.

For starters, there should also be a clearly defined exit clause in the contract.

Who owns content?
How will the PR firm handle future press inquires when/if the engagement ends?
What is the cancelation agreement?

Your PR should have systems and processes in place, but those systems and processes should also be nimble enough to manage the PR world. For example, getting a press release right is exceptionally important, but it shouldn’t take your PR firm a week to write it. You should be able to review the first draft within hours on an emergency or breaking news circumstance. On the other hand, there should be a consistent drum beat and strategy behind media relations.  Which bring us to:

A Strategic Approach That Makes Sense

Before hiring, your  PR firm should be able to articulate an approach and strategy that makes sense to you. While credible PR firms won’t reveal details about clients, they should be able to articulate some case studies of  PR strategies and why they worked. For example, provide an experience that required a decision to respond to industry news. When, where and how you respond to breaking industry news is determined by your brand strategy, BUT your PR should be able to articulate a strategy and when/why it worked. Your PR firm should have some strategic storylines and outlines in mind for your brand, which proves they’ve done a little research. Even if they aren’t perfectly on-brand, at least you’re starting with a strategy which is better than starting from zero.

For most CPG brands, it’s not a matter of IF there will be a PR crisis, it’s a matter of when, particularly if you’re in an emerging industry where the regulations are ever-changing, the research is emerging, and the deals are getting bigger. This is a perfect storm for a public relations crisis.

Most of the time CPG companies come to us because they want to share their story, appear in the press, create noteworthy and press-worthy activations and add value to their brand, all perfectly delightful reasons to hire a PR firm. It’s the fun side of PR work.


Why Plan for a PR Crisis When One Hasn’t Happened? 

According to Plos|One research, true rumors are confirmed within around 2 hours, but it takes over 14 hours for the average false rumor to be debunked. 


But the fact is, some of the most important work a PR firm can do for you is crisis planning. We recently had an entrepreneur refuse crisis planning because they “didn’t want to even think about it.” That was a major red flag for us because it’s an outright refusal to protect the brand and create a plan in which we can perform our best services in the case of a crisis; we decided the potential client wasn’t a good fit team Avaans PR and opted not to pursue the relationship. PR crisis planning is not sexy. It’s not fun. But it is important to your brand’s value and most importantly, it will help you sleep at night.

The time to manage a crisis is BEFORE it happens, you can’t expect your team to be prepared in a moment of panic. At the bare minimum, cannabis brands should put together a PR crisis plan. Exact strategies for your plan and the triggers to implement may vary, but in the world of rapid-fire news, cancel culture, and social media, having a plan is the most important step.

Step 1: IDENTIFY YOUR PR CRISIS TEAM

Depending on your brand, your cannabis PR crisis team may at the very least include:

  • Chief Executive Officer
  • Chief Marketing or Communications Officer
  • Brand Spokesperson
  • Public Relations Agency and Investor Relations Agency

Depending on the nature of the crisis

  • Law Firm
  • Human Relations
  • Product Formulation
  • Social Media Specialist
  • Customer Service

If that list seems long, that indicates how complicated a PR crisis can be. Not all  these people will be part of every single crisis. But it’s important for every one of these people to understand their role and stick to their role during a crisis. Each of these people represents different points of contact for various stakeholders. They should also have a seat at the table during the second step.

STEP 2: IDENTIFY POTENTIAL CANNABIS PR CRISIS COMMUNICATION SCENARIOS

Some CPG PR crisis scenarios are unique to CPG, others are not. But your key crisis team members need to be involved with the identification of crisis from the start. An important thing to remember is that a crisis can happen just because someone said it did, not because it ACTUALLY happened. We see this happen on social media frequently. For example, if someone accuses your company of fraud and makes the lawsuit public, whether you committed the alleged acts might be irrelevant; if the information is in the press, you may still need to defend yourself against it.  Another unforeseen example of this is the Tide Pod Challenge. When thousands of social media posts started popping up encouraging young people to eat Tide Pods, even though Tide has nothing to do with the challenge, Tide had to respond both in the immediate and long term, and researchers said the entire incident may have helped their brand image because their response was so swift and extensive. 

On the other hand, you should also determine what the trigger points are for responding to a crisis. Some crises’ need an immediate response from a company, some are better left communicated to a small audience and in other cases, in this fast-moving media world, it might be best not to execute a response at all. There is no “one size fits all,” for your response. The old adage of “get out in front of it,” still applies, in specific circumstances, but other situations require a more nuanced strategy.

A crisis that include consideration might be:

  • Injury to staff or public as a result of your product, processes, or location
  • A quality control issue, defect, or product recall
  • A natural diaster that effects your business, such as an earthquake, hurricane or flood
  • Legal action or public claims about an employee, client or customer
  • Emerging research or regulatory investigations that affect your product, your clients or the industry
  • Executive Leadership change

STEP 3: IDENTIFY STAKEHOLDERS AND AUDIENCES

Each CPG PR crisis may have multiple stakeholders who should be notified of a situation; in most cases, there will be multiple stakeholders. Your responses to each audience should be consistent but may vary in technicality, point of view, or details.

  • Employees
  • Customers
  • Dispensaries
  • Partners
  • Investors
  • Government Regulators
  • Industry Media
  • National Media
  • Local Media

STEP 4: DETERMINE COMMUNICATION FORMATS

Again, strategies will vary depending on the PR crisis, but you should determine in advance HOW you will communicate your message. For example, will you address to the media or will you issue a press release? Will you comment on social media or will you make a video? Is this a matter that needs to be released to investors and if so, what is the timeline? Press conferences are rare in the CPG industry, but there may be a circumstance where this would be an effective tool.

STEP 5: IDENTIFY WHERE IMPORTANT INFORMATION IS HELD

Your key crisis communication team should have access to important contact information for each other, including emergency contacts and follow-up contacts. Your PR firm should have at the ready multiple pieces of information which will be needed in the case of a crisis. Having information on hand can sometimes be the difference between undesirable media coverage and squashing the coverage altogether.

LISTEN UP: THE ONGOING STEP

In the day-to-day of running a CPG brand, it’s easy to miss the signals. Be sure someone from your PR team is keeping an eye on industry trends and evaluating how they might impact your overall reputation and any crisis plans in place.  Having your finger on the pulse of these waves can help you navigate changing consumer, political, and investor perceptions more adeptly. From social media listing to media monitoring, when it comes time to decide about response triggers, you’ll have more insight into what kind of response will be well received.

There’s no single solution to CPG PR crisis planning. Your plan will be distinctive to your company culture, values, leadership, and risks. But should a crisis hit, you’ll be grateful for the plan that gives you a path for decision making.