[RLM PR] How to Do Cannabis PR the Right Way

The cannabis industry is rapidly growing, with the market for legal cannabis products projected to reach over $72 billion by 2030 in the U.S. alone. As more states legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use, opportunities abound for companies innovating in this nascent yet booming space. 

However, regulations around advertising and promotion, and traditional marketing avenues are limited for cannabis businesses. This makes strategic public relations (PR) all the more important to increasing brand awareness, establishing credibility, and driving sales. But cannabis PR comes with its own challenges that require a thoughtful, nuanced approach.

In this article, we’ll explore proven PR strategies that agencies and companies employ to reach the right audiences. 

Let’s dive in. 

RLM PR Experience in Cannabis PR

A few years ago, our PR agency boosted cannabis MD’s reputation as a reliable source for cannabis and CBD info. We used education and expert input to do this. We’ve also successfully promoted our client’s adtech solution, Knowledge Navigator (KN), which showcased its unique features and branding potential. This collaboration led to the creation of the first-ever 30-day cannabis billboard in Times Square, boosting our client’s visibility, among other measurable results.

The key takeaways from this first experience were:

  1. Education always wins
  2. Using data for decisions is better than guessing
  3. Out-of-the-box thinking leads to success

Since then, we’ve stayed tuned to the cannabis industry, gaining more know-how, experience, and insights to share. 

How to Do Cannabis PR the Right Way 

The cannabis industry is now expanding, leading to tougher competition and a higher demand for PR. Big agencies have a slight advantage with their well-established media connections, but smaller, creative firms can still offer great opportunities for their clients in niche media outlets. 

If you’re starting out, or simply looking to grow your services, in the legal cannabis industry, here’s our advice:

Understand the Regulatory Landscape 

Before executing any cannabis PR work, it’s important to have a firm grasp on the advertising regulations at the federal, state, and local levels where your startup operates or aims to promote itself.

While marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, the policies around cannabis advertising and promotion vary across the states that have legalized it for medical or recreational purposes. Some states like Colorado and Oregon are relatively lax, while others such as Utah have stringent restrictions on paid advertising.

Therefore ignoring local and State legislation can lead to hefty fines and damage your agency’s reputation. You need to work closely with legal counsel to ensure that your messaging, channels, and marketing tactics align with all the applicable regulations. 

When in doubt, it’s best to be overly cautious and compliant than needlessly reckless.

Establish Specialized Media Relationships

In our 30+ years of experience, we’ve made sure our “cannabis” clients get seen in big media outlets like Forbes, USA Today, FOX News, MSN, AdWeek, and more. However, it’s still important to connect with smaller outlets and influencers, especially those who understand and support the cannabis industry..

Some examples of respected cannabis-focused publications include:

  1. Marijuana Business Daily
  2. Cannabis & Tech Today 
  3. Leafly
  4. Dope Magazine
  5. Cannabis Now

While these outlets may have smaller overall readerships compared to major media outlets, their audiences consist of highly qualified cannabis enthusiasts and professionals – your client’s ideal potential customers.

Before contacting these niche publications, take some time to understand their content and editorial focus. This way you can customize your approach to fit each outlet’s interests and preferences. A one-size-fits-all pitch is a surefire way to get ignored.

Prioritize Education Over Activism

Some cannabis businesses, driven by their passion for the plant, have an activist approach to their PR and marketing. While advocating for legalization is important, an overly preachy, aggressive tone can turn off potential customers and media partners.

Instead, educate your audiences on the measurable benefits, real-world applications, and technological advancements in medical research, cultivation, product formulations, and more. 

PR is all about storytelling.  Therefore, take the opportunity to share interesting stories, case studies, data-driven thought leadership content, and other educational resources through earned media channels.

For instance, a cannabis biotech startup could promote research into therapeutic cannabinoid formulations for treating chronic pain. Or a tech company might share a case study on how to help licensed growers reduce energy costs and environmental impact, etc.

Furthermore, an educational approach showcases the tangible value and impact of your solutions, while avoiding pushback from those still biased against cannabis.

Focus On Authenticity and Credibility

Cannabis still carries a stigma for many, so building trust and credibility through honest, authentic PR should be a top priority. Avoid exaggerated claims or following the overhyped narrative trends that can plague other budding industries like crypto and AI.

Every piece of content, media pitch, and external messaging should be rooted in facts, data, and real-world evidence that can back up your value propositions. Be upfront about what your solutions can and cannot do, allowing your startup’s genuine expertise and integrity to shine through.

Additionally, earn credibility by securing placements and endorsements from publishers, expert voices, and influencers who are respected in the cannabis space. Their stamp of approval will not only improve your brand’s recognition but also the respectability and trust you gain is paramount.

Make Data-Driven Decisions

Cannabis startups that understand their audience and what resonates the best can capitalize on the wealth of knowledge at their disposal by supercharging their messaging.

By analyzing data such as demographics, personal interests, social media metrics, customer surveys, sales figures, and many other analytics companies can gain unique insight into customer profiles and segments. 

Afterward, this data can:

  1. Identify subject areas and angles based on the topics, keywords, and themes that interest your audience.
  2. Determine the best earned, owned, or paid media channels that can reach your audiences most cost-effectively. This could include niche publications, podcasts, influencers, and more.
  3. Craft narratives and your messaging in a way that resonates deeply with your audience.
  4. Target your pitches, byline pieces, and other PR efforts towards publications and influencers whose readers/followers match your high-value audience segments.
  5. Continuously monitor performance analytics, test different content, and channel strategies. It can then optimize your PR tactics based on what moves the needle with your customers.

Wrap Up

The cannabis industry’s combination of rapid growth, regulations, and remaining stigma makes PR an invaluable channel for cannabis companies that need to increase their brand visibility, earn credibility, and attract customers and partners.

By adhering to compliance obligations, targeting niche media, prioritizing education, leveraging data to optimize tactics, and focusing on authenticity, businesses can execute high-impact ads and content that drive measurable business results.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *