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Cannabis Public Relations: 3 ways to be a brand buzzkill

By: Jake Miller

Bad cannabis public relations is a chronic problem.

(Hang with the puns, I’ll explain.)

Too many lows. Not enough highs. Somehow, we need to weed out the bad.

Luckily, getting rid of seedy cannabis public relations tactics is easy. The big secret? Show that you have the self-control not to fall into bad industry habits.

Whether at trade shows, garden shops or while reading a variety of pot publications each week, I’ve consistently seen several PR tactics deployed. And each is guaranteed to make you look foolish among reporters and your customers.

This matters to you – especially if you’re relatively new to the cannabis industry – for two reasons:

  • More companies come into the cannabis industry daily and you need to establish your credibility now.
  • Paid advertising is highly restricted for cannabis, making PR that much more important for sharing your message.

To build that credibility, avoid these three things:

Lose the lame events

You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Even if you haven’t been to one in the cannabis industry, you’ve experienced this at least once.

Think about it: You walk into a trade show “party” and find platters of tepid ham rollups, some product literature and an over-enthusiastic guy named Gary who can’t wait to talk your ear off about the sponsor’s Hyperdrive 9000, guaranteed to deliver the biggest buds on the planet.

Gary says things like, “I remember scoring some reefer back in my day.” Avoid Gary. And avoid hosting a similar event. You’ll save money and brand reputation.

Instead, take the time to get to know the industry. Attend other corporate sponsored after-parties at some of the bigger shows, like the NCIA Cannabis Business Summit & Expo in Oakland or the industry’s largest trade show, the Marijuana Business Conference & Expo in Las Vegas. You’ll quickly get a sense of how to do things right.

For instance, in Vegas last year Sensi Magazine put in the time and investment by hosting a party with DJ Lord, who began working with Public Enemy in the late 1990s. That’s cool. And that’s what it takes to make a lasting impression.

Oh, and leave Gary at home.

Ditch the marketing speak

Of course – I know: Your product IS the latest and greatest. It IS the only one that is innovative. And no doubt: It’s one of a kind.

Save that message for your sales team and packaging. When it comes to cannabis public relations, or any good PR for that matter, you have to have something that’s informative or entertaining, or ideally both.

Here’s what I mean: If you’re talking about a product, talk about the impact and do it in layman’s terms.

  • Does it improve cannabis yield?
  • How does it improve return on investment?

You need to go beyond product features. Focus on business problems and solving industry issues.

The market, like others, is flooded with jargon and you need to stand out from the noise. I’ll go deeper into this in a future column but for now resist the urge to fall back on flashy, hollow marketing words. They won’t win media pitches and they won’t secure news coverage. They will make you look ridiculous in front of reporters and editors.

Put an end to pot puns.

If you’re counting, you’ll have found plenty of punning in this article. Point made – they’re awful. Don’t do it. It’s easy, but don’t use this communications crutch.

I asked one cannabis editor how many pitches he gets daily with weed puns in the subject line. “Easy,” he said, “pretty much all of them.”

A few classics:

The marijuana business is really growing.

Cannabis is riding high in legal markets.

[Insert new, amazing product here] guaranteed to generate a buzz among cultivators.

If you’re groaning in disgust, I’m right there with you.

Instead, focus on your news. Save the gimmicks for another venue – maybe a secret diary? It will pay dividends with reporters, help you build those key editorial relationships and put you closer to garnering media coverage that impacts business goals.

On that note, it’s high time (seriously, too easy) I wrap this up.

Next month: We’ll go deep into how to start developing a media relations strategy tailored to your cannabiz.

Jake Miller

PR ACCOUNT DIRECTOR

A publicity specialist with roots in journalism and client-side PR, Jake knows just how to craft and pitch compelling stories. His passion lies in creating emotional connections through storytelling that inspires, informs and gives people reasons to believe in causes and brands. Jake has an uncomfortable obsession with WebMD and frequently offers “helpful” diagnoses to friends and co-workers.

Read more from Jake Miller

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PR, Public Relations

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