PR is Important in the Cannabis Industry

Why PR is so Important at the Cannabis Industry

As a lifetime marketer and diehard millennial who avoids reading complete news articles whenever possible, I can honestly say I didn’t understand the importance of PR just a few short years, much less understand its value to the emerging cannabis market. I always understood it would be good to have news media pay attention to my clients, but I was convinced I could create just as much of an impact with a good marketing budget and a good graphic team. So why did I decide to build a PR agency within the cannabis space? Simple answer is: it’s a complete requirement.

Kyle Porter — President, CMW Media

For the beginners, Public Relations, or PR, is the act of coordinating with members of the media (whether on behalf of a customer ) with hopes of persuading them to cover your story in a positive light. PR can be either reactive or proactive, reacting to breaking headline news and hoping for inclusion on business news, or proactivity pitching the value propositions of a firm with hopes of positioning. While there are quite a few different facets of a full-scale PR effort, that’s the general summary. Get the information was covered in by you. But why? What does that help?

Well for starters, based on  Neilson, 90% of individuals trust a news source as credible over advertisements. Getting your business, product, event or spokesperson covered in a trade or mainstream news media outlet creates a feeling of assurance that resonates with individuals and tells a story. While there’s always a possibility that an organic news placement may take a negative angle, each the old adage that “all publicity is good publicity,” it’s well worth the risk. With a good PR team, the chances of getting negative publicity are much less.

But why is it so crucial in the cannabis space? Well, I’m glad you asked!

First of all, cannabis companies are unable to advertise like mainstream businesses. From Facebook blocking company webpages to conventional outlets literally turning down advertising dollars, the challenges cannabis businesses face when trying to advertise through conventional outlets are painful. It hasn’t changed that much from the 60s where to be able to get a message out you have to damn near go door to door with a printed pamphlet.   I myself happen to be completely blocked from ever again advertisements on Facebook or Instagram. After several appeals, I finally got a human to react by saying they “do not support my business model” citing a policy which states “no marketing of illegal drugs” is allowed and that it is a final decision. I’m a cannabis PR FIRM — I don’t even touch the plant — UGH — yet another time, another website.

Facebook denies CMW Media marketing rights

Anyhow, for emerging consumer brands in cannabis, PR might be the only way to get consumers attention. Per the rule of 7, a guideline that says consumers will need to be hit with a new 7 times before it sticks, cannabis brands are extremely restricted in communication channels to reach potential clients. Imagine a customer walking into a dispensary and instead of saying “What do you recommend? ” into the budtender who then holds all the keys, he says, “Could I have that edible I read about in that magazine article? ” This could be a reality! Garnering a product review in trade or mainstream outlets is just one example of positioning that appeals to consumers, much like a peer recommendation– they work. There are many ways to get media focus on consumer brands and products, but 9.9999 times out of ten the press doesn’t just come calling.

Apart from consumer branding, PR plays an significant role in distinguishing the value proposition and overall credibility of an organization over its competitors. With hundreds (probably thousands) of individuals entering the cannabis industry daily, there’s a good deal of noise about “the next best thing in cannabis. ” Who can really distinguish between those people who are going to make it and people who are all smoke and mirrors? The media– that’s who. If a significant publication, for example Forbes or Reuters, covers a business, it places the company as superior while impressing the brand onto that socket ’s crowd, which often equates to hundreds or thousands of impressions. Can a paid ad do that? In an emerging market like cannabis where many organizations are still raising money and looking for investors, information placement offers that piece of credibility that can mean the difference between a $100,000 and a $1,000,000 valuation.

When these reasons should be persuasive enough for businesses to want a powerful PR program, there’s another reason that PR is so important in the cannabis industry. Although we have come a long way since the days of reefer madness (remake anyone?) , we are still fighting a stigma daily. We have states in the dark ages where banks, politicians, regulators and others continue to perceive cannabis negatively and cast doubt on emerging companies and products. As cannabis businesses enter new markets, they must be ready to combat negative views of cannabis and among the best avenues to do this is through the media. Seeing an inspirational human interest story about how a little girl’s seizures stopped after using cannabidiol (CBD) oil on a local news station resonates with people in a way that no ad or Facebook post ever could.

Now, I’ve talked a lot of trash on my beloved marketing, which is not fair. That being said, business owners often forget the importance of media exposure as a part of that program. Yes, PR costs are more difficult to swallow since they are not guaranteed like the buying of an ad. But, if you think about it, the only real thing you are receiving out of a traditional advertising is the creative itself. Tracking ROI on advertising can be just as difficult and I would assert that the CPM (for the rookies, that’therefore the price of every one thousand impressions on individuals ) is much reduced in an earned media piece — where the reach is larger, and audiences tend to absorb news content more than ads.

Sure, the landscape has changed since the arrival of the world wide web, but I would say that only increases the opportunity to shape the dialogue in a way we want through a properly executed PR campaign.

SHAMELESS PLUG: If you wish to talk more about what you could do with your media exposure, please reach out to us at [email protected] — we would like to help!

Subscribe for more content — I am excited to share this crazy journey that’s the cannabis industry with anyone want to follow along on the trip.

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