The Cannabis Industry and the Importance of Good PR

Consumer PR
cannabis marketing 11.07.19

In its most basic form, public relations are an act of coordinating with members of the media in the hopes of securing positive news stories for a brand and/or product. PR, then, can be either reactive or proactive: reacting to a piece of breaking headline news and hoping for inclusion in industry news, or proactively pitching a brand’s value proposition in the hopes of getting placement.

The question on many executives’ lips, especially in the ever-so-slightly-skeptical cannabis industry, is “why?” Why should your brand aim to be covered in the news? Why does it help? For starters, research shows that 90% of people trust a news source as more credible than advertising. Having your company, product, event or spokesperson cited in a trade or mainstream news media creates a sense of confidence in your brand, resonates with potential customers, and tells a story. While there is always the risk that news placement may take a negative angle, the old adage still stands: “all publicity is good publicity.” Further still, with a good PR team, the chances of dealing with negative press are substantially reduced. This advice is especially pertinent to cannabis companies, who have so far been unable to advertise as mainstream businesses.

Whether it’s Facebook blocking company pages to traditional outlets outright rejecting advertising dollars, the challenges cannabis businesses face when trying to advertise can sometimes seem insurmountable. For emerging consumer brands, then, PR may be the only way to get consumers’ attention. Per the rule of 7- the rule that consumers need to be hit with a brand 7 times before it sticks – cannabis brands are substantially limited in their communication channels to reach potential customers even once. PR plays an important role in distinguishing the value proposition and overall credibility of a company over its competitors. With hundreds, if not thousands, of people entering the cannabis industry daily, there is a lot of talk about the “next big thing in cannabis.”

The media is essential to framing this question and offering an answer. If a major publication such as Forbes or Reuters covers a company, the impression made on an audience is almost incalculable. It is certainly much more valuable than any paid advertisement. Furthermore, the cannabis industry continues to battle daily stigma. Whether it’s politicians, banks, regulators and other high profile thought leaders, suspicion over cannabis products casts doubt on emerging brands and their products. Good PR is key to shifting people’s perceptions in a more positive direction.

Increasing the profile of a story about how a patient’s seizures can be stopped using cannabidiol (CBD) oil, for example, resonates in a way that paid Facebook advertising never could. A successful communications strategy utilizes all available channels in a consistent way. Even so, most businesses are quick to forget the importance of media exposure as part of the big picture. When it comes to the cannabis industry, this is no less true.

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