It’s no secret that starting a business is incredibly challenging. From idea to execution, business owners are undoubtedly busy and stretched thin financially. Yet, a business needs to spend money to make money. Companies of all sizes and statuses hire public relations (PR) agencies. PR professionals create digital platforms, assist with product development, create a positive brand image and help companies reach their target audience. The goal of these services is to get the word out about a company’s products and services, reach more clients and customers, create awareness and ultimately increase return on investment (ROI), all of which are especially useful for cannabis-related businesses. CULTURE B2B will identify the various duties of PR companies and help determine if hiring a PR agency is the right move for your company.
Hiring a PR company can create a unique, identifiable brand that helps a business stand out among its competition. This is especially helpful in a saturated industry like the cannabis industry. A good PR person will get their client the right amount of exposure to the right audience and create overall brand awareness. PR services include, but are not limited to, website construction, product development, creating press releases, event planning and landing product reviews.
Judy Campbell, PR specialist and founder of Campbell Consulting Group in Oregon, works closely with cannabis companies and offers insight on her services. “Lately, we’ve been involved in organizing cannabis-infused dinners, developing creative cannabis press kits, organizing meet-ups and events with cannabis journalists along with writing press releases and media alerts and other activities,” Campbell said. She also touched on the importance staying ahead of the news and trends in the industry so that her clients’ message remains relevant.
Lily Colley, national director of marketing for Medically Correct LLC, the parent company of the Colorado-famous edible company, Incredibles, explained that a multifaceted PR approach with tactics like guerrilla marketing and press releases has worked well for Incredibles. “We even had a sticker that made an appearance on an HBO show. Every little way that you can get exposure for your brand in an organic way is incredibly and exponentially valuable because of the restrictions on traditional advertising,” Colley said.
While PR companies are valuable in all markets, the cannabis industry faces countless restrictions on advertising at local, state and federal levels. “Most cannabis companies are not allowed to, for instance, buy a radio ad or a print ad unless they can verify the age of the people who will be observing it,” Colley explained. Restrictions like these pose obstacles for business owners that an industry savvy PR professional will know how to handle.
“There’s a famous saying, ‘there’s no such thing as bad press’ [but] when it comes to the cannabis industry, it’s such a tight nit and small community that I would say that advice does not hold true.”
Timing is Everything
Deciding when to hire a PR professional will be different for every company. First, consider whether there is room in the company budget. Retainer fees and á la carte style pricing can add up quickly. Also, you want to make sure that the idea or service that you’re looking to promote has been executed and tested before taking it to the public. Campbell shared that it’s important to ask if the business is ready for PR. “The last thing a company should do is go out to the media prematurely. We’ve had clients ask us to promote their products or services, only to realize later they either can’t meet consumer/customer demand, or that their product or service is flawed. We like to present our clients in the best possible light,” she said.
However, even if the development stages aren’t going well or the business timeline goals aren’t being met, a PR company can still be hired to help provide consultation in those areas. Campbell said her company loves consulting with businesses prior to their launch, because it creates solid communication from the beginning. A PR professional lays the groundwork so that media generated news and overall good hype about the business is produced, which ultimately increases ROI over time.
Choosing the Right Fit
When hiring a PR agency, it’s important to seek out a reputable company that has proficient knowledge of the industry. Although there is a learning curve in the fast-paced cannabis industry, it isn’t up to a client to coach the PR professional. Establishing good communication from the get-go is crucial and all parties should vibe well together. Strategy, pricing and determining who will be communicating with whom should be discussed, and it may take some shopping around to find a successful business match.
First, ask the PR agency that you’re considering if they have worked with others in the industry, and check their references. “Cannabis companies need professional and experienced PR counsel. They should look for a strong track record of PR success and find out if the firm has good media relationships and is up to speed on the cannabis industry in general, as well as their sector within the cannabis space,” said Campbell.
A cannabis business seeking PR should also look for professionals with social and digital capabilities that match up with what they hope to achieve from their services. “Often, traditional agencies, which require a long-term retainer contracts, don’t truly understand the nuances and complexities of the cannabis industry,” Colley added, “So be sure when looking at a candidate to seek individuals who not only have PR and traditional media experience but also people who are familiar with the nuances of cannabis products, preferences, laws and trends.” From her experience as the in-house PR person and a member of Medically Correct’s management team, Colley explains that finding someone who is truly invested in the business by taking the time to understand the products and services will be most effective in generating original news.
Taking on PR is a long road of building relationships and developing the right pitch while maintaining resilience, said Colley. She added, “There’s a famous saying, ‘there’s no such thing as bad press’ [but] when it comes to the cannabis industry, it’s such a tight-knit and small community that I would say that advice does not hold true. Something like a product recall or a poor quality product can have a very wide and fast effect on your reputation and direct sales.”
It’s not always the right time to go public with your product or service, but by taking on a PR company, a business can create a positive image, boost sales and gain exposure. What will your company do?