Why PR is so Important in the Cannabis Industry

Why PR is so Important at the Cannabis Industry

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

Kyle Porter — President

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 business with hopes of placement. While there are many different aspects of a full-scale PR campaign, that’s the general summary. Get you covered in the news. But why? What does that help?

Well for starters, according to Neilson, 90% of people trust a news source as credible over advertisements. Having your business, product, event or spokesperson coated in a trade or mainstream news media outlet creates a sense of confidence that resonates with people and tells a story. While there’s always a possibility that a natural news placement may have a negative angle, per the old adage that “all publicity is good publicity,” it’s well worth the risk. With a good PR team, the odds of getting negative publicity are much less.

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

First of all, cannabis companies are not able to advertise like mainstream businesses. From Facebook blocking business pages to traditional outlets literally turning down advertising dollars, the challenges cannabis businesses face when trying to market through traditional outlets are painful. It hasn’t changed that much from the 60s where in order to get a message out you have to damn near go door to door using a printed pamphlet.   I myself have been blocked from again advertising on Instagram or Facebook. After many appeals, I finally got a human to react by saying they “don’t encourage my business model” citing a policy which says “no marketing of illegal drugs” is allowed and it is a final decision. I’m a cannabis PR FIRM — I don’t even touch the plant — UGH — yet another time, another blog.

Facebook denies CMW Media advertising rights

Anyway, for emerging consumer brands in cannabis, PR may be the only way to get consumers attention. Per the rule of 7, a guideline that says consumers need to be hit with a brand 7 days 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 secrets, he says, “Could I have that edible I read about in that magazine article? ” This could be a reality! Garnering a product review in mainstream or trade outlets is just 1 example of placement that appeals to consumers, much like a peer recommendation– and they work. There are a number of ways to get media attention on consumer products and brands, but 9.9999 times out of ten the press doesn’t just come calling.

Apart from consumer branding, PR has an important role in identifying the value proposition and overall credibility of an organization over its competitors. With hundreds (probably thousands) of people entering the cannabis industry daily, there’s a lot of noise about “the next best thing in cannabis. ” Who really can distinguish between those people who will make it and people who are all smoke and mirrors? The press — that’s who. If a major publication, for example Forbes or Reuters, covers a business, it positions the company as superior when impressing the brand onto that socket ’s crowd, which often equates to hundreds or thousands of impressions. Can a paid advertisement do that? In an emerging market like cannabis where many companies are still raising money and looking for investors, news placement offers that part of credibility that can mean the difference between a $100,000 and a $1,000,000 valuation.

While these reasons should be persuasive enough for businesses to need a powerful PR program, there’s another reason that PR is so important from the cannabis industry. Although we’ve come a long way since the days of reefer madness (remake anyone?) , we’re still fighting a stigma daily. We still have countries in the dark ages in which politicians, banks, regulators and others continue to perceive cannabis negatively and throw doubt on emerging companies and products. As a publicist, our jobs would be to shift people’s perceptions (get it, CMW, Changing Minds Worldwide…oh snap) to what WE want them to be. As cannabis businesses enter new markets, they must be ready to fight negative opinions of cannabis and one of the best avenues to accomplish 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 advertisement or Facebook post ever could.

Now, I’ve talked plenty of trash on my cherished marketing, which isn’t fair. That being said, business owners often forget the value of media exposure as a component of that program. Yes, PR expenditures are more difficult to swallow as they aren’t guaranteed like the purchasing of an ad. But, if you consider it, the only tangible thing you’re receiving from 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’s the price of every one thousand impressions on individuals ) is much lower in an earned media piece — in which the reach is bigger, and audiences are inclined to absorb news content greater than advertisements.

Sure, the landscape has changed since the advent of the internet, but I would say that only increases the chance to shape the conversation in a way we need through a properly executed PR campaign.

SHAMELESS PLUG: If you want to talk more about what you might be doing with your media exposure, please reach us out at info@cmwmedia.com — we’d love to help!

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

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