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Even the savviest woman cannabis entrepreneurs need fresh publicity ideas.

Women in cannabis. In the early days, there was a lot of media attention around the entrepreneurship opportunities in cannabis, and even more about how the cannabis industry was going to break through the “green ceiling.” This 2015 Inc. magazine article titled “Why Women Founders Are Ruling Legal Marijuana” didn’t age so well. In 2021, Business Insider reported 70% of top cannabis executives were white men. And in the fall of 2021, High Times reported that nationally, only 19% of plant-touching cannabis businesses were women-owned. While female cannabis entrepreneur pieces still pop up once in a while, these days it’s pretty rare to see profiles on women business leaders about something besides bad news for women cannabis entrepreneurs.

Even though women cannabis entrepreneurship is literally the exception to the rule, being a woman founder isn’t newsworthy enough to garner coverage on its own; women founders still have to find creative ways to break through the noise if they want media coverage. The key for women cannabis entrepreneurs to secure press is to lean into the ways we’re different.

 

Find Purpose in Female Leadership

Social impact and female entrepreneurship are both trends. The search term “purpose-driven leadership,” is up 300% on Google, and “Social Impact Leadership” searches are up 40%. I’ve always found Google trends a splendid piece of information to drop into a pitch because publishers love eyeballs AND they love it when you do some homework for them. From DEI to the Last Prisoner Project, cannabis leaders are taking a stand. In fact, the entire cannabis industry is a leader in social impact and purpose. Consider your purpose – why you started the company and how you can support that purpose in an authentic, but female-oriented way.

Los Angeles cannabis dispensary GorillaRX received feature coverage for incorporating “compassion” into their business mode. Spanx founder Sara Blakely recently made headlines by declaring she “ran the business from intuition, vulnerability, and empathy.”

Turning the good ole boy’s network on its head by bucking the trend is a great example of finding purpose in female leadership. Taking a distinct stand on how you run your business with purpose can create media opportunities over and over.

And the purpose isn’t just for PR, HBR found “companies with high levels of purpose outperform the market by 57%-7% a year.”

Go Gurl-illa with the Ladies

Developing a guerilla campaign – or any kind of campaign – around days that celebrate women is a great way to use the mundane with the novel. Marketing activations and publicity stunts get a lot of coverage in cannabis and beyond. Neither of those has to be inherently expensive, but because of cannabis advertising limitations, going guerilla can present a great PR opportunity.

MariMed’s 850 pound edible in honor of national brownie is a recent example of a guerilla stunt that garnered national news attention, including coverage by Inc. magazine. There are some fantastic women’s holidays and journalists love the ease of tying a piece into a holiday, especially one that provides some cultural justification – you’re unlikely to see a lot of coverage on International Men’s Day.

Use the calendar to your advantage with your cannabis guerilla marketing campaigns to earn publicity rather than buy media coverage.

Create Community Around Female Consumers

There are so many ways to create community. You can support education and networking like the ArcView Women’s Inclusion Network or other cannabis women’s organizations. But when you really think about it, talking directly to women AS women is a powerful way to stand out from the crowd. If I had a nickel for every man-owned brand who told me they wanted to target soccer moms, and then asked me where they could find them, I’d be funding women-owned businesses instead of owning one. As women, we have authenticity on our side; we know the secret handshake and we can speak to each other from a place of respect in a way that men-owned brands sometimes struggle with. 

Empowering points of view like CBD brand Aja who asks “Why are women expected to make excuses for their consumption?” is a great way to tap into the mindset of women customers and activate  loyalty. Whoopie and Maya came into the space with a bang talking about the unique needs of women cannabis users, including the menstrual cycle. It started an entire surge of media coverage on the topic. Cannabis lubrication brand Foria has a female sexual education, empowerment, and cannabis spokesperson and she’s a very strong advocate for many women. These are all interesting distinctions that provide many media opportunities.

Another great way to create and support female cannabis entrepreneurs is to collab with other women-owned businesses like Buy Weed from Women. These collaborations are unusual enough it’s a great way to puncture the media cycle.

Consider the ways you name your products, how you speak to your women customers, and your unique point of view as a woman when developing products.

Women cannabis entrepreneurs have a unique set of challenges, but securing earned media coverage can be maximized when we turn our differences into our strengths. If you’re a woman cannabis entrepreneur, I’d love to connect with you on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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. 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 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.