Tag Archive for: PR Expertise

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.

The cost to hire a PR firm should align with the impact you expect your PR firm to have on your business goals. If you’re hiring a PR firm to grow sales, then the expense of your PR firm should reflect the importance of that on your brand. Don’t expect to grow your sales 100% by investing an additional 5% in PR. For example, if you’re in maintenance mode and need a responsive rather than a proactive PR agency, that cost should be less than a proactive media relations and media placement campaign, which can reach billions of people.

In general, solopreneur firms, or less experienced PR firms might charge around $3,000 per month, depending on the client and the market. Larger firms, premium agencies, and boutique firms can charge upwards of $18,000 to $25,000 per month for their services. Businesses in fast-growing or emerging industries can also affect PR pricing. How do you know what’s fair and what rate to pay? Consider some of these factors when looking into whether a PR firm is right for your business.

If you are contemplating the cost of hiring a PR firm, chances are you already know the importance of establishing your business’s image. Positive PR can help increase brand recognition, loyalty, and community goodwill. However, you might be wondering, how much does it cost to hire a PR firm?

 

Why Experience Matters in PR

Understand that while experience is important, it can also be costly. Established PR firms with track records of success tend to charge more for their services. Hiring experienced PR professionals can be costly. Most often, a firm’s reputation is established through the skill and experience level of its employees.

Like in any industry, with PR, experience matters. Many top PR firms will employ former journalists and experienced PR professionals and for a good reason. Former journalists have a wealth of contacts in the media industry. These people also have contacts at non-profit organizations and with community leaders, among others.

These contacts are extremely valuable for pitching stories for their clients. Former journalists also understand what media companies are looking for when it comes to story ideas. They can craft attention-getting press releases that stand a better chance of being seen and picked up instead of being tossed in the trash heap of yesterday’s news. Former journalists also tend to know the best people to follow up with after issuing a press release or event notice.

The same skills and connections can be true for experienced PR professionals. Those with experience in the industry understand the intricacies of the business. They are masters of communication who know how to get a message across and which avenues offer their clients the best chance at positive exposure in the media. Understanding the nuances of marketing and portraying a positive image are honed skills needed for your business’s PR firm.

 

Why Pay-to-Play PR is So Dangerous

Careers in PR and journalism have a natural connection. It’s why so many former journalists tend to expand their careers into the PR realm. However, businesses need to be on the lookout for a potentially dangerous practice called pay-to-play. Pay-to-play is a phrase that refers to professionals making undisclosed or under-the-table payments to journalists or media companies in exchange for publishing a client’s story.

This behavior is generally considered unethical. Local media outlets should be viewed as a public service. A newsroom assesses the merit of stories and gauges how interested their audience will be in the information that they provide. Paying for coverage is both unethical and potentially deprives an audience of newsworthy content.

It is also dangerous because media outlets have a duty to report to their audience when a spot or story includes paid content. Paid content includes commercials and ads. A potential consumer knows that the information provided has been paid for by an advertiser when they view a commercial. Pay-for-play is essentially duping an audience into thinking that the content is unbiased. However, if a PR firm purchases airtime under the table, it misrepresents the impartiality of the content.

Setting Goals and Expectations with Your PR Firm

Do your homework ahead of time before committing to a PR agency. Sit down with your team and outline your goals and expectations. What are you hoping to gain out of your relationship with a PR firm? How much of your budget are you willing to dedicate monthly to a PR firm? You need to be honest when answering these questions and establishing your objectives. When you have your goals firmly set, schedule meetings with a variety of PR agencies.

When consulting with a PR firm, consider asking these questions to assess whether the firm will be a good fit:

  • Do they have experience in your particular industry?
  • What is their communication style?
  • How do they measure success?
  • How will they go about generating leads and coverage?
  • Do they know how to manage crisis situations?
  • How will they help you reach your goals?

Don’t be afraid to also ask questions about their fee structure. Budget is a big factor in deciding whether to hire an agency or keep your PR work in-house. A PR firm should be transparent when discussing what they charge and how their fee structure works. You may also want to ask how long it takes their team to craft a press release or set up for an event. Understanding how many hours a typical project can take may help you evaluate whether a PR agency is cost-effective for your business.

To help foster a successful relationship with a PR firm, you need to communicate your goals upfront and set your expectations early. Doing so means that you and the firm start on the same page and can track results throughout the relationship. Meeting with a company before you hire them allows you to gauge how comfortable you are with the firm and how they will manage the reputation of your business.

At the end of the day, hiring a PR firm is an investment, but only if you find an agency whose goals align with yours. When deciding if a firm’s prices coincide with your company’s budget and needs, consider your goals, specific industry challenges, and the expertise of a firm’s staff. Do not be afraid to ask tough questions because the reputation of your business may depend on how your PR agency responds. The right PR agency can be an excellent investment in your business.

We’re just about to round the corner to a key consumer buying season: the fall. And about the only thing that’s certain is consumer uncertainty; but consumers aren’t giving up on conscious consumption. Nothing shows that more than the latest consumer trends from Google Searches. What do Google searches have to do with PR? Consumer media outlets keep a strong eye on consumer trends, and usually respond with seasonal content that matches the customer’s mood. Fitting into that season content is key to earning digitally savvy PR during the fall. There’s another important reason to get it right this fall: you’re likely to have a larger share of voice for any of your marketing efforts as some competitors will pull back, so if you’re not pulling back, or you’re jumping into the market now, it’s great timing because research shows that brands who stay with marketing during economic downturns, get ahead.

What does this mean for consumer brands?

It gives you insight into key themes you can use in your PR and marketing this year. While some of these facts seem contradictory, put these in context with what you’re seeing from your customers.

Searches for “specials this week” is up 60% year over year / Searches for “designer outlet” have grown 90% globally year over year

Keep in mind, that consumer spending remains strong, so this is about the consumer feeling the need to feel like they’re getting a deal. 31% of consumers say they are still rewarding themselves by buying things they want. Consumers haven’t stopped loving name brands, they’re just in need of a discount. They also want to feel their brand choices are premium choices.

Luxury and premium brands with strong brand affinity should lead to smaller, more affordable items for the masses, rather than discount the brand. Premium consumer brands can use this mindset with bonus gifts.

Align your brand with premium publishing outlets by getting an early start on your consumer PR and ad re-targeting. Have your programmatic and PR teams talk before they launch their respective campaigns.

Consumer brands should publish any kind of black Friday promotions well in advance, and use competitor pricing as a benchmark (25% less than a comparable brand), to anchor value.

Now is also the time to focus on loyalty for existing customers. Don’t make your customers search you out. Be there during the key buying triggers for your customers. If your customers tend to buy on Fridays, be there on Thursday with the bonus giveaway or loyalty reward.

Searches for “say no to plastic” have grown globally 200% year over year

Consumers want brands who want what they want. This new purpose-driven alignment applies to all consumer brands. Even if you can’t get around plastic packaging (yet), now is the time to celebrate your sustainability efforts. What’s comforting to consumers right now, more than anything is brands they can trust. So if you’ve been working hard on building consumer trust, now is the time for you to celebrate the efforts in a way that reinforces your consumer’s choices.

Consumers want personal content

87% of consumers said they want personal and relevant content. Keep this in mind with your email marketing and social media. Use your own data to ensure your delivering the right message to the right audience. Consumers want to see themselves in your content – by the way, editors know this trend too, so positioning your brand clearly allows editors to follow this content expectation too.

One of the most notable attributes of “relevant” content is content that is emotionally resonant. Your consumers want to know that you understand them. Note that during previous times of uncertainty, nostalgia and comfort messages surge. Very often, this means consumers would prefer to stay with their favored brands, but that favored brands need to continue to provide the experience customers have come to expect.

More than ever, having digitally savvy and data-informed PR, branding, and advertising will make a difference in your seasonal marketing. Now is the time to dig deep into your customer insights and give your agencies the information they need to supercharge their efforts this fall.

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!