Tag Archive for: women-owned businesses

Perhaps one of the greatest PR stories in history is about lifestyle icon Martha Stewart. Martha Stewart’s PR playbook is vast, and it’s nimble. She knows how to stay modern and adjust her PR strategies to the cultural temperature. From her early days as a model turned stockbroker turned caterer, Stewart has shown an uncanny ability to tap into our culture and even our forgiveness. Martha Stewart’s PR lessons for any consumer brand work from product promotion to thought leadership; Martha Stewart has PR lessons for every consumer product entrepreneur.

She Owns It
Martha Stewart became a consumer and lifestyle scion because she boldly suggested ambitious ideas without apology. She knows who she is and she knows when she leans into it, it captures the imagination, creates conversation, and gives her brand character.

In the early days of the insider trading accusations, the press skewered Martha Stewart for conducting interviews on a kitchen set. One journalist called it comical and said it was a bad PR move because it connected the scandal to her lifestyle image. But looking back at it, that was a fantastic choice. Martha Stewart always maintained her innocence throughout her trial and sentence. By calmly and coolly talking about the situation on her home turf, doing things she was comfortable doing, she takes the air out of the accusations and speaks straight to her fans. Stewart’s famously coy aloofness also helped. When she smiles, there’s always been this subtext that she knows more than she’s telling. That’s her superpower, and it leaves everyone hanging on for the next great recipe or design idea. Martha’s clever use of mystery is PR wielded in an expert fashion, despite over-exposure to her consumer products.

Skewered as she was, Wall Street believed in her. While she was in prison, her Martha Stewart Living (MSLO) stock jumped 70%. When Stewart emerged from her five-month jail sentence, she didn’t hide as many people would have. She went straight to the daytime talk shows and showed everyone her ankle bracelet. By the time she launches her show, a mere six months after her release, she premiers the show as “free and unfettered,” now that her ankle bracelet is gone. Throughout the entire experience, Stewart refused to be shamed, even when she was found guilty. It takes courage to pull that off, but Stewart never wavered, and it worked for her.

She Says “Yes”

There are two strategies for building a brand. The first is cool aloofness, and the second is relentless exposure. Stewart is the second, she is a consumer brand PR maven. Being a caterer sounds like a sexy job but also incredible work. But Stewart kept saying yes. As a caterer, Steward contributed to The New York Times and served as the newspaper’s food and entertainment editor. Six years after launching her successful celebrity catering company, she published her first book and never stopped working. She publishes more books—99 at this writing, a monthly magazine, and pre-and post—jail time TV shows, not to mention thousands of media interviews and call-ins to everyone from Howard Stern to Sirius talk radio shows after launching her talk radio show, Martha Stewart is the hardest working woman in show business. Build success upon success; that’s this PR lesson for consumer brands.

But it’s more than that. She makes her brand work for her, instead of working for her brand. Stewart elevates accessible partners like Kmart and Walmart with affordable lifestyle merchandise without losing her aspirational panache. The Martha Stewart PR lesson for consumer brands is to create an aspirational brand and then make it accessible once the brand is established.

 

She’s In on The Joke

Another consumer product PR lesson is to partner wisely. At 80 years old, she partnered with Snoop Dog in ads for Bic lighters. Again, her coy presence gives it charm, while Snoop Dog gives it an edge. Their partnership created more press than the lighter itself, but I don’t think Bic minds sharing the real estate with two completely different lifestyle icons.

When Stewart was sentenced to jail, Saturday Night Live famously debuted a cold open of a topless Martha Stewart. Her response? Once she was released from prison, she was mad that her parole officer wouldn’t let her host the famously cheeky show. She’s said that one of her “big (career) regrets” is not hosting the show yet. Martha Stewart knows certain cultural touchstones resonate and lock in your place in lifestyle history – SNL is one of those, and she’s not done reaching.

Martha Stewart was always in on the joke, and that allowed her to have fun with her brand – another excellent consumer product PR lesson.

Still the “Guru of Good Taste,” Martha Stewart knows she’s not 42 anymore, but she also knows she can bust down boundaries with her timeless approach to humor.

Bazaar magazine called her the “original influencer,” the New York Times called her ageless for her “coquettish, goofy, rambunctious video ads” for Cle’ de Peau, a makeup brand, on TikTok.

Martha Stewart has been celebrated, vilified, laughed at, and skewered, but with a remarkable eye on PR, she’s turned all of that into an asset for herself. Today, Martha Stewart Living Omnicom is a publicly traded company worth billions, and she has a net worth of around $400 million. From thought leadership to consumer product scion, Martha Stewart has captured our imaginations with savvy consumer PR strategies.

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 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; lean into your strengths with these publicity ideas for women cannabis entrepreneurs

 

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 PR 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, not to mention opportunities to create content that inspires the target market.

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.