people working on a marijuana microbusinessna microbusiness

Starting a Marijuana Microbusiness: 10 Things to Know

Every day we hear from people who are interested in starting a marijuana microbusiness. 

Yay, you! We want you to have a marijuana microbusiness, too, but we also don’t want you to get your hopes up without having some basic facts. This is a challenging industry, it’s very competitive and expensive. If you’re up for the challenge of starting a marijuana microbusiness, read on!

a stack of coins growing some seedlings to show how starting a marijuana microbusiness costs money
  1. Microbusinesses are not that different than any other marijuana business in that you’ll need to locate in a city, township or village that has opted in for recreational marijuana and for the business you want to create. For instance, if you want to create a consumption lounge, you’ll need to find a municipality that has created zoning for a consumption lounge. Some places are only allowing specific kinds of adult-use/recreational licenses. You can’t have a microbusiness in your home unless you’re a marijuana consumption event planner.
  2. There aren’t many places in Michigan welcoming to adult-use/recreational marijuana licenses of any sort, at least not yet. You’ve probably read articles about how most municipalities have opted-out. We believe this will change this year and next. We HIGHLY recommend if you desire a specific location, start meeting with and persuading the municipality of your choice to opt-in. Many municipalities opted-out to take a wait and see period—if yours is one that did that—it’s time to start building your case. There’s no guarantee of success when working with elected officials, but you need to start working on this angle if you have a specific area in mind. 
  3. Once you locate a municipality, you will need to find a property that meets the local zoning ordinance. This is easier said than done. Finding the right property in the right municipality for the right price will likely be the hardest part of starting up your Michigan microbusiness. 
  4. You’re going to need a lot of money. Just because this is a microbusiness application you’re seeking, that doesn’t mean micro-cash. For instance, just to have your application reviewed by the State, you’ll need to pay a non-refundable $6,000 application fee, and an annual assessment to $8,000. You’ll also need to locate a property that’s zoned for your business, and either purchase or lease that building. There are hundreds of items, small and large, that you’ll be paying for as you move forward. We recommend that you hire an accountant to help you keep track of your expenses. If you’re in a social equity community and qualify, you can save some money on some of the state fees.
  5. Get your paperwork in order. You’ll need to create your business structure, determine if you’re want to be an LLC or a corporation, as well as determine the best tax status for your company. Make sure your partners are on board with the risk and the amount of time the start-up phase of this business will take. Starting a marijuana microbusiness takes a lot of time!
  6. You also may want to consider getting prequalified under the MRTMA as many municipalities require pre-qualification in order to apply for a municipal license. This will also give you the certainty to start spending money since you won’t know for sure whether the state will allow you to own a marijuana microbusiness until you become prequalified. 
  7. The state microbusiness license, while less burdensome than a medical marijuana business license, still takes an effort to complete. You need to round up your tax paperwork from the last year, be ready to explain in a narrative form any missing paperwork or discrepancies; you’ll need to speak to any legal action against you and no matter how minor the misdemeanor or lawsuit, you need to address it. You’ll be going through a thorough background check and it’s best to explain and provide paperwork for anything that has happened in your background that involves law enforcement, recent litigation, or taxes.  If you’re not good at this kind of detail work get some help.
  8. You’ll need to secure and pay for local marijuana business permits and/or licenses. For the most part, that’s usually $5000. 
  9. At the same time you’re making an application for a marijuana microbusiness license you’ll need to have a business plan and a social equity plan completed. While the state does not require much for these plans, oftentimes a municipality will. A business plan is typically comprised of two parts: financial projections and a narrative. Business plans need to be completed with care and attention–not only for State or municipal review–but so that you will have a plan of attack and can hit the ground running.
  10.  As soon as you have a permit to get started with a building, you need to determine if your DBA is the actual name of your business, and if not, you can start working on what you want it to be. You’ll need to find a website URL and develop a strategic marketing communication plan to guide you as you get ready to launch. 

Still ready to do this thing? GREAT! If you need help with anything microbusiness-related, give us a shout or even better, hop on over to our partner site Marijuana Microbusinesses and find out more.

a prerolled joint great for using cannabis for the first time

Cannabis Curious: Let’s Try Some Weed

There are a few things to know about using cannabis for the first time. Okay, it might not be the first time you’ve used cannabis, but if you’ve been away for a few years or decades—welcome back.

Is the marijuana you bought that much different than what you might have consumed in the past? No, and yes.

It’s true that cannabis is more potent than it was in the past. Good genetics and careful growing have made a better looking, smelling and tasting plant. You also know now what the potency is—in the past that information wasn’t available to consumers. That goes double with edibles. Carefully review the packaging on your goods so you know the percentage of THC that you’re about to consume.

If you’re using cannabis for the first time or the first time in recent memory, go easy.

Try a couple of hits from the joint or pre-roll. If you’re vaping cannabis, it’s not like tobacco vapes and there won’t be a giant plume of smoke when you exhale, and much less smoke than a joint, too.

Vapes are made from cannabis concentrates, so take one hit and wait a 10-15 minutes before you do another, as it can be powerful. You’ll feel something quickly with either the joint or the vape and then make a decision about more consumption. You’ll stay high for at least two hours depending on how much you smoked.

an orange box with a vape cartridge inside

Edibles have a reputation for sneaking up on people and for people overdoing it. When it comes to food, we’re not used to eating one tiny square of a chocolate bar or only part of gummy candy. But with cannabis-infused food, you need to take care. If you’ve never had an edible, use the mantra “start low and go slow.” That means 5mg of anything, so that’s ½ of Michigan recommended a dose of 10mg, if you’re anxious about getting too high, cut it to 2.5 mg. And here’s where it gets tricky—because edibles are absorbed via that stomach and that’s a slower absorption process than smoking or vaping.

It takes an hour or more to feel the effect of an edible.

It’s a common mistake to eat a bite, think that you’re not feeling anything and have another bite or two and then BOOM, you’re unpleasantly stoned. Resist the urge to consume more until you feel the effect of the first dose. We recommend doing something active like taking a walk or a hike after you consume, you’ll then notice the high more gradually and we promise you’ll appreciate nature even more.

The high will last about 3-4 hours, depending on the THC level and your body composition. The high will just gradually fade away, the same way it came on. It’s quite pleasant.

Whatever you do—don’t drive while consuming or after consuming marijuana. It’s against the law and dangerous.

If you overconsume and feel extraordinarily high there are a few things you can do.

  • Drink water.
  • Nibble on a couple of black peppercorns.
  • If you have CBD in the house, take a dose of that.
  • Lock into the couch and watch a mindless TV series or cartoons and pet your dog or cat.
  • Throw on your headphones and enjoy your music.
  • Don’t worry. You’re not going to die—no one has and you’re not going to the first.
  • Phone a friend who has experience with cannabis. You know that person and they’ll let you know everything is going to be alright.
  • Take a walk, the fresh air will do you good.
  • Take a hot shower, for some reason hot water helps bring you down.
  • Go to bed and sleep it off.

We’ve written about cannabis microdosing before, check out this blog if you’re interested in that option.

the chemical map of THC

Cannabis Curious: A Guide to Marijuana in Michigan

Phew. Prohibition is over and people are free to purchase recreational marijuana in Michigan. If you’re thinking about trying cannabis for the first time, or if it has been a few decades since the last time you enjoyed a sesh, we’re giving you some help in making your first purchase and then fully enjoying the experience.

Finding a shop with marijuana products to purchase is going to be your biggest challenge. At present there are just a handful of marijuana provisioning stores in Michigan that are licensed for recreational sales and most are clustered around Ann Arbor and in a few rural spots across the state.

A hand holding three marijuana buds.

We expect that by the summer of 2020, it’ll be easier to find places to purchase marijuana in Michigan and that more communities will be opting in for recreational sales. Until then, use Leafly or Weedmaps for locating a shop near you.

You’ll need to make sure the shop is recreational before you head out because not all are and it isn’t always clear.

A few tips to make your entrance smooth.

  • Bring a valid ID. You’ll need a driver’s license or state-issued ID to make a purchase of marijuana in Michigan.
  • You must be 21 years of age or older to buy anything.
  • Bring cash. It’s strange in these times to carry a wad of bills, but most provisionaries don’t process credit or debit cards. Most of them do have ATMs in the lobby or can tell you where the closest one is located.
  • How much cash? Check out the menu before you go, that’ll give you an idea of what flower (the cannabis you smoke in a joint is called flower), edibles and vape carts will cost. On average, people spend about $100 on a visit.
  • Ask questions of the budtender behind the counter in the shop. She or he should be able to answer most of your questions and will know specifics about the products. You won’t be able to see inside the packages of the wax or edibles as they’re sealed. You should be able to see and smell the cannabis flower that’s for sale. You’ll also be able to read the THC percentage of the flower—the more THC, the more potent the product and usually the price goes up, too.
  • By state law, you can have up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis flower (or equivalent_ on your person and up to 10 ounces in your home. When you leave the provisioning center, the most product you can take with you is 2.5 ounces. In all likelihood, you’ll buy a gram or two of flower, which costs between $15-$20 per gram and gives you a nice amount to test out. The shop will factor in the weight (of the THC) of your concentrates or edibles, too.
  • If you buy cannabis flower, you’ll need a grinder, rolling papers, cones or a pipe and a lighter. If you’ve never rolled a joint, here’s some help.
  • If not sure about buying flower, grinding and rolling, just buy a pre-roll. It’s a ready-to-smoke joint. Pre-rolls run about $10-$15 depending on the THC percentage.
  • If you buy a vape cart, you’ll need a battery (aka pen) to fire up the vape cart. It’s rechargeable in a USB port.
  • Edible marijuana in Michigan for the recreational market are packaged in 100 mg child-proof containers and dosed in 10 mg pieces. Edibles aren’t just brownies, gummies or candy. They come in a variety of forms—tinctures, capsules or instance. If you don’t like the idea of smoking or vaping, but still want to try cannabis, edibles are a solid option.

Now, take your stash home and get ready to enjoy it. Our blog titled Cannabis Curious: Let’s Try Some Weed will give you some help with consuming.

post it notes on paper to represent communication planning for a marijuana microbusiness

Strategic Communication for a Marijuana Microbusiness


The need for communication (aka marketing or public relations) might seem like something to do when you get close to opening your marijuana microbusiness. But waiting to plan and prepare will leave you scrambling and behind the competition. You need to work on creating a communication plan and tactics as you go through the licensing process, and as your business gets started. It’ll give you focus on the kind of business that you want to be and what you provide to customers. Remember, the concept of a marijuana microbusiness is “craft cannabis,” and how you express that idea with name, images and words is the essence of your business.


cannabis flower

Defining Your Brand Comes First

A brand is everything around and inside your marijuana microbusiness. It includes creating a name for your company. Try to find something original, appropriate and memorable. And make sure that it doesn’t belong to another company. Even if you find a URL for your website that fits your company, that doesn’t mean someone doesn’t already have that same name, and if it is trademarked, you run the risk of being sued for using it. Do careful and comprehensive research when selecting a company name. After you’ve settled on a name, you can start thinking about a logo and a website. We encourage you to seek professional design and development assistance for these items. They’re essential to your brand and are meant to last. The logo is how people will first come to know you, and your website is the center of your communication ecosystem.

Creating a Communication Plan

Taking time to develop a communication plan can be challenging for marijuana microbusiness owners. It’s easy and fun to think about tactics: going to a cannabis cup event or an expo, growing your Instagram page, hosting special events, buying the perfect billboard, creating swag and writing smart text messages. BUT, without a strategic plan, your tactics are unfocused and random.

someone writing with a pen and paper to illustrate marijuana microbusiness communication plan

If your goal is getting people into your shop and talking about your products, then everything needs to lead to that goal. A brand strategy plan starts with a goal or goals. Other steps include defining your audience, writing your key messages around your business, developing objectives, writing a strategy statement and then finally considering your tactics. 

Once you have that work done, you’ll work to create a timeline and a budget. It’s a challenging process, but worth the time and it will help you focus on your communication when you’re open for business and things are hectic.

Use PESO to Define Your Tactics

We utilize the PESO model for organizing tactics in communication. Once your plan is in place, consider this structure to organize your tactics. 

P stands for PAID: this is any advertising or sponsorships you might do.

E stands for EARNED: this is your effort in media relations, getting your story in the news.

S stands for SOCIAL or SHARED: this is your efforts in social media.

O stands for OWNED: the assets that belong to you like a website and its content.

Once your tactics are complete, you’ll start to develop a timeline and budget. This is where the reality of the expenses involved comes into play. We promise that you’ll be scaling things down a bit and making adjustments as you go. BUT, with a communication plan, you can also develop a realistic budget for your marijuana microbusiness.

If you’re looking for guidance with the communication strategy for your marijuana microbusiness, give us a buzz. We’re experienced in helping brands launch in the Michigan marketplace and we’d love to help you compete and succeed.

Canna Communication is pleased to be partnering with Marijuana Microbusinesses in helping entrepreneurs get started in Michigan.

Post It photo by Felipe Furtado on Unsplash
Cannabis flower photo by Get Budding on Unsplash

image of a macbook computer searching with google

Basic SEO for a Cannabis Business Website

Search engine optimization (SEO) for a cannabis business website is the fuel that makes your site rank (or show on top) when a specific topic is searched. It is the process of getting traffic to your cannabis website via free or organic search. As you know, the competition in cannabis is fierce, so the engines behind Google, Bing and Safari need to present the BEST and most relevant sites to the searcher. This magic is done via algorithms, a mathematical and super-secret formula that takes into account hundreds of bits of information and that determine the ranking for keywords. 

SEO has an air of mystery about it, and everyone wants it to work for them and to be a top-ranking page. Big companies have SEO staff or consultants that help with SEO, but what if you’re a cannabis start-up or a marijuana entrepreneur without resources to work on SEO day-to-day? 

Don’t despair. We have some ideas for you to use to make the SEO for your cannabis business website work.

Here’s the thing: it takes time and effort, and results might come slowly. But if you’re persistent, you can make it happen.

SEO is comprised of multiple factors that work together for a successful search.

It begins with content on your site that matches a search, which are words people use when searching. If your website is rich with keywords that match what people are looking for, that’s a good start.

You need content that is optimized on your website, keywords and meta descriptions for each page. The words that people are searching for should exist on the page name, in the headers, and frequently within the content itself. A meta description is a small amount of content on a web page that tells the search engines and readers what’s there. Take care to write good meta descriptions that reflect how users are searching.

Content creation is essential to successful SEO for the cannabis business website, and that’s where people tend to have trouble. Creating content about cannabis is fun and easy if you’re a writer, videographer, or photographer. But, if you don’t have those skills, you’ll struggle, and fresh content is essential to SEO. People often ask about how often content needs to be added to a website. Ideally, three times a week. Yikes! Who has time for that? Shoot for once a week, or at least twice a month. And before you talk yourself into once a month, create a list of 26 topics you can write about, and you’ll have a starting point.

mac on a table, to illustrate SEO search for a cannabis business website

Other SEO Tips and Tricks.

You need to have an SSL or secure site, which is a certificate (of safety essentially) that you can get via your website host. You need to have a website that loads quickly, check your page speed here. A speed test will give you some ideas to speed things up for users. Your site should have been created with mobile as its focus. You know instantly on a mobile device if a website isn’t mobile-friendly, and you don’t want that to be your cannabis business. Use the free Moz tool to review your domain name and authority. It provides a score between 1 and 100 and other information you might find useful. You can also review the domains of your competition and see how you compare.

When you review your Google analytics, check on the bounce rate and time on page data. Both have an impact on your SEO, and you want a low number of bounces and a longer time on page. If you have a high bounce rate, something isn’t working, and people are finding your site and leaving. Think about why that might be the case.

Links within your website and post are essential to your SEO success. You need to be generous with your outbound links and look for opportunities for backlinks (links to your site) too. The more credible a site that backlinks to you is, the better your SEO will be.

Social sharing also helps improve your SEO. Make sure to post your new content on your social media pages and in groups where you’re a member.

Make sure that you have a business listing on Google, Bing and Yahoo. Having an accurate listing with reviews, where that applies will help with your SEO. 

image of a google business page to illustrate SEO for a cannabis business website
Example of a Google business listing

Inside of your site (if it is a WordPress site), there is a plug-in called Yoast. Yoast will virtually coach you through making new content SEO-rich. It will help you make decisions on headlines, keywords, keyword frequency and other SEO tricks. If not for Yoast, we’d be a lot less successful with our Canna Communication SEO.

Lastly, don’t ignore your alt text on photos within your site. Alt text is written for visually impaired users who are looking at your website. Write text that use your keywords and reflect the essence of the image. It not only helps your SEO, but you’re also doing something right to make your site welcoming and inclusive to all users.

Need help with implementing search engine optimization (SEO) for a cannabis business website? Give us a jingle we’d love to help you out.

wzzm tv reporter at park place provisionary

Using PR for Promoting a Cannabis Brand

In the mix of communication tactics, business owners have multiple options from traditional advertising to social media and everything in between, but for quick results and a big bang, nothing beats using PR for promoting cannabis brand. Media relations is part of the PR package and it is great for reaching new audiences beyond your social media circle.

It might feel like traditional media is out of reach, but if you have a good story and are willing to pitch and follow up, the benefits are immense.

Here’s the story about how PR helped the start-up of Park Place Provisionary by Agri-Med and garner significant news coverage.

Park Place Provisionary is a locally-owned medical marijuana provisioning center in Muskegon, Michigan. It is also the first state-licensed center in the county and one of just a few on the in West Michigan. Those two things are notable and newsworthy and here’s why.

Increasingly, medical marijuana businesses in Michigan are owned by people who live outside the community. That’s because Michigan municipalities, for the most part, have opted-out of the zoning that allows them. So, with fewer places to locate, marijuana entrepreneurs are spreading out across the state and coming into communities where they have no connection.

We’ve seen it in Grand Rapids, Michigan’s second largest city where it is estimated that of the 80+ applicants for medical marijuana permits less than five are city residents. We’re not going to debate local ownership in this post. That being said, we think local ownership is the best option for a community.

The strategy we used to write the press release and make the pitch focused on local ownership and being the first to open in the market. We were able to use that hook to attract the attention of not only the Muskegon media but television stations in Grand Rapids, too.

ribbon cutting ceremony at park place provisionary

Here’s some of the text from the press release and I’ve highlighted parts that made this newsworthy.

Highlights of the Press Release

The provisioning center located at 1922 Park Street in Muskegon is owned by Muskegon resident and long-time business owner Greg Maki. Maki bought and renovated an old trucking and freight terminal for the provisioning center.

The building has undergone extensive renovation, connecting with city water and sewer, landscaping, lighting, and comprehensive security and surveillance, making the building secure, compliant and accessible. Located in Muskegon’s marijuana overlay district, Maki’s business is the first to be completed and opened in Muskegon.

“It’s great to be able to open my business in the place where I live. Being part of the community helped with everything from securing the property to working on-site every day to finding local contractors,” said Maki. Part of his motivation for getting into medical marijuana was to create a business where his sons and other close family members would want to work. His nephew Aaron Smith is the financial manager and his partner Tracy Powers is vice president. Other company leaders include non-family members. Charles Bronkema is the operations manager, and Cindy Devenport is Park Place’s compliance manager. In all 13 new jobs were created at the facility.

Agri-Med was the 9th applicant for a medical marijuana license when the state began licensing in December 2017; it was the 5th prequalified license that the state issued.

Hooks and Visuals for Cannabis PR

Park Place Provisionary was lucky to have so many good hooks: local, family and first. The media used those and also focused on the building renovation and how marijuana was improving a languishing industrial park in Muskegon.

We also created a small event, a ribbon cutting and grand opening for the store. It’s traditional for new businesses to cut a ribbon, and doing this at Park Place Provisionary helps normalize cannabis to people in the community. A ribbon cutting also allows the business owner to invite family, friends, elected officials and community leaders to gather and be part of the celebration.

photo of Greg Maki at the grand opening of his provisionary center. Cannabis PR helped make the event a success by using PR for promoting a cannabis brand

In public relations terms—the event and announcement was a home run. We garnered coverage from three television stations, several local newspapers and a public radio station, a business paper and an online hyperlocal news site. It’s a great example of how using PR for promoting a cannabis brand can bring new customers.

The initial impact was good for Park Place—they went from seeing about 20 customers in the first few days of the soft opening to a peak of more than 100 after the ribbon-cutting.  Keeping the momentum is the next step—communicating with patients via text and email, using social media and cannabis digital outlets to grow the business. And always looking for the next story to share with the media.

Results

Here are some of the links to the media stories that Canna Communication secured for Park Place Provisionary showing how using PR for promoting a cannabis brand can work and the messages that come across.

From Mlive, Muskegon’s newspaper and online news source. Another story was on West Michigan’s ABC affiliate, WZZM 13. The store also was featured on the local Fox affiliate, Fox17. Park Place Provisionary was also on the air at West Michigan’s public radio station WGVU.

Muskegon Times Muskegon’s online hyperlocal news site wrote this story.

WOODTV8 West Michigan’s NBC affiliate did an advance before the grand opening.

Let’s Talk About Your Cannabis PR

If you are opening a new facility or have another story to share related to your cannabis business or want to explore how using PR for promotion your cannabis brand can help you grow give us a call.

Public relations is our specialty. Contact Roberta F. King, APR to get the conversation started.  

a person thinking about social media

Marijuana Memes + Messages in Social Media

I was talking with a colleague the other day about marijuana memes. You know the ones—funny photo of a person, celebrity, animal or cartoon with droopy eyes, big grin, smoking a big joint or bong and ending with the punchline HAF.

I think these are funny, I really do. Researching this article, I fell into the rabbit hole of marijuana memes and spent way too much time looking at them and thinking about how true they are to my experience. On a personal level, they’re funny, but for professionals and businesses, they’re better left behind.

Here’s why.

Stereotyping.

We’ve written before about stereotyping in cannabis we see it in music, movies and TV shows. These images of forgetful, goofy characters don’t help legitimate cannabis consumers and businesses. People who need medical marijuana to survive a day of chronic pain, to relieve the symptoms of chemotherapy, to sleep or keep seizures at bay deserve better than a stereotype. As we work toward public acceptance of cannabis use and continue to persuade municipalities that cannabis businesses are legitimate and healthy for a community, we need to leave the stoner stuff behind.

marijuana meme featuring sponge bob squarepants
And improper punctuation.

Copyright use.

Business owners need to be aware of copyright and fair use laws. We understand that by using a marijuana meme, you’re not taking anyone’s intellectual property, but you are using something that was created and belongs to someone else. You are also using it in a manner that wasn’t as intended by the creator. Sure, there are plenty of images in the public domain, but be assured, a stoned Mickey Mouse isn’t what the Walt Disney Corporation intended for its brand.

Advertising to Children.

It’s pretty clear that advertising marijuana to kids is wrong, and in many states, it is illegal. Putting a cartoon character on your marijuana social media crosses that line.

Target audiences.

Every business has a target audience that it’s trying to reach and knowledge of that audience is essential to your success. You can’t be everything to everyone. If you’re using stoner marijuana memes on your social media, you’re targeting young men ages 18-24 right? But what if you’re looking to attract women ages 35-50? Or older adults? Probably not the best thing to be sharing.

In Michigan, it’s still medical marijuana, and we have to ask: do HAF and SpongeBob meet the information needs of patients? Does it help build credibility, or does it distract from what you’re trying to do? Does it build interest or loyalty in your business, does it fit with the image and you’re trying to create for your company? If it doesn’t help, then it needs to go away.

Quality information.

We believe that cannabis brands, above all, need to be purveyors of quality products and information. Education of the public, cannabis consumers, and those interested in trying marijuana products for the first time is something we need to focus our efforts on doing well. We’re still overcoming a reefer madness mindset as well as new criticism of our industry from the outside.

A Few Content Ideas.

If you’re looking for social media content here are some things we suggest—because we know there are days when you can’t find anything to post.

Use google alerts to receive information that is curated for you. Using keywords like medical marijuana, cannabis, Michigan medical marijuana dispensary, hemp and CBD will bring dozens of articles to your inbox. Find something that works with your brand and your audience and share it. If nothing is interesting in that collection, jump over to the sites of Marijuana Moment, Norml, Leafly, High Times or one of the cannabis trade organization publications.

quote from Willie Nelson instead of a marijuana meme. It says, I think people need to be educated to the fact that marijuana is not a drug. Marijuana is a flower. God put it here.

Share a quote about marijuana history or legalization. There are plenty on this site. We post a quote on a client’s Facebook page on Sunday mornings, and they usually receive multiple shares and likes. Share a non-cannabis inspirational quote—something that reflects your brand values.

Ask a question to your audience—what’s their favorite strain, the best way to consume, advice for a new cannabis consumer or other tips. Share your own experiences or show your expertise. This type of message will help develop your voice and brand personality and gain insight into what works for you.

Photos and videos can’t be beaten—show your operations and processes, your products and people. It allows audiences to get to know you better and to see what you have to offer and who makes things happen in your business.

Social media is an integral part of any marijuana business communication plan—but it needs always to be audience-centric and true to your brand so leave the marijuana memes behind. If you need help with your brand development or social media strategy—give us a shout.

Feature image by Mike Renpening from Pixabay

a cannabis leaf used to illustrate cannabis news

Our Best Ideas for Pitching Your Cannabis Business Story to the Media

Placing stories about your cannabis business in the news is a powerful means of amplification that can’t be underestimated. It’s something businesses need to do regularly to get the word out and further normalize cannabis for the public.

We know that mainstream media is shrinking, and local newsrooms and outlets are harder to find. Yet, the impact of a well-placed cannabis business news story will have a positive effect on your business that is hard to duplicate. Depending on where you are, your local media will always have more readers, viewers and listeners than you will ever have on your social media site or in your enews subscriptions. And with the big cannabis hitters like Leafly, Cannabis Now, High Times, Culture or Ganjapreneur reaching new audiences there can be a game changer.

How do you get Your Cannabis Business Into the news?

It takes a combination of strategy, planning, being able to react quickly to trends and news and a bit of persuasion. Here’s how we work to make cannabis business news happen.

Build a Solid Relationship.

Having a good relationship with a reporter involves providing accurate, timely and newsworthy information; being available for interviews and being a good source. Sometimes being a good source is helping a reporter with a story that doesn’t involve you or your business, but is within the cannabis industry. Use a silver bullet, not a shotgun when making your pitch. While we like to be seen across the media, in multiple outlets, we write every pitch email personally and customize it to the reporter.

The Fast Pitch.

young woman with a softball to illustrate a pitch to the media of a cannabis business story

Journalists are busy people, and in a big newsroom, we’ve heard that a reporter can get about 200 emails a day. Make your pitch short, helpful and to the point. Don’t spend time on minor details in the pitch. You can stick that in the news release that’s either attached or detailed below the actual pitch. If you’ve succeeded in your pitch, they’ll read further.  If you can keep a pitch to about 150 words, you’re doing great!

Think of Your News With a Headline in Mind.

When you’re thinking about the pitch you’re making, write the headline you envision and use it for the subject of your email.  Anything that’s genuinely new and first makes good potential news stories. But it also must have an impact on the business you’re doing and the audience that the media outlet serves. Building a $2 million cannabis grow facility? That’s news. Are you hiring people in your community? That’s news. Are you bringing a new cannabis product to market? That’s news. Make sure when you use first and new that you have the data and research to back it up.

someone reading a newspaper with a headline about a cannabis business in it

Know Your News.

Some stories are breaking news, some are features, and others are evergreen in nature—that is—time doesn’t matter so much. Craft your pitch for what the news actually is and the media outlet you want to be in; it’s okay to ask a reporter about his or her deadlines. Keep in mind that print magazines often work 2-3 months in advance, weekly publications are working on stories the week or two before, and even daily print publications need some lead time. Breaking stories happen throughout the 24-hour news cycle and those are the opportunities for which you drop what you’re doing and jump in. Make sure for radio you have someone who is a willing and enthusiastic speaker, and for TV you’ll need something visual. For print and online, assets like photography help make a story happen.

Timing Matters.

a clock that illustrates timing when it comes to media for your cannabis business

Tuesdays and Wednesday are best days for pitches, and it appears that between 10 AM and noon are also good. But, if you have real news and are connected to the reporter, don’t wait to make the pitch. You can also use slow media times to your advantage. The week between Christmas and New Year is notoriously quiet in the news business as are other long holiday breaks. Remember if you make a pitch on a Friday, you might end up with a weekend news story, which isn’t all bad. If your pitch isn’t working, it could be your news is an internal update, which might best be shared on social media.

Make the quick decision to jump in and help when there’s a crisis. Established brands are always the first to help when disaster strikes—and your cannabis business can do this, too. If a tornado hits your community, or a flood or a family suffers from a fire—lend a hand and let the media know. Whether it is providing cases of bottled water, helping lead a drive for food or funds or giving people in your business time off to help out, that’s the kind of story the media likes during dark times.

Make Sure You’re Qualified to be on the Bandwagon.

Local news organizations often find some of their news leads from breaking national stories that are happening or even from news in a nearby media market. If it makes sense for you to jump in give your opinion on something or offer advice, then make the pitch. Newsjacking or inserting your company or brand into a breaking story is part of what PR professionals do. Keep up on cannabis news so that you can be part of the story.  Make sure you are educated on the subject and not straying too far from your area of expertise or brand.

In the cannabis community, there’s plenty of competition, but collaboration can move all of us forward as we evolve and grow as an industry. If you need a hand with your cannabis business news generation, Canna Communication can help, just give us a call or send a quick note.

photograph of a camera and writing pad, cannabis communication tools

Boost Your Cannabis Communication Outreach with 9 Free Tools

It’s a harsh world for cannabis businesses. We deal with acceptance issues and stigma, unlike any other industry. It’s hard to finding banking that works, Facebook hates us, Google ignores us and Eventbrite shuts us down. We loathe those arbitrary and capricious community rules that interfere with us doing our work.

a crying baby to illustrate frustration with companies that exclude cannabis
Wah-wah.

There’s no sense in crying about what we can’t change, so let’s look at some things we can use to improve our business communication where cannabis isn’t an issue. But we have some great free and inexpensive tools for cannabis communication that work around the speed bumps.

Let’s start with Unsplash, a site where you can find free, high-quality photographs for your website or social media posts. The photos are searchable from tags that the photographer has added and in categories, at the top of the page. Make sure to experiment with searches–we’ve found that cannabis, hemp and marijuana, marijuana flower produce different results. You can use the photos for free and without credit, but it’s great to give credit to the photographer in your blog or on your website.

Another good source for free photos and illustrations is Pixabay. Like Unsplash there are lots of great images, but it adds illustration and graphic art to the mix, which we love to use sometimes. You have the option to buy the artists a cup of coffee (donate to them) which is a great way to keep free art coming.

a hear made from cannabis leaves to show the use of illustration in cannabis communication
Found this sweetie on Pixabay

If you’re a big player and have access to a pay to play media database, you’re lucky. But, if you’re a small business and doing your own PR, how do you build a media database? Getting the emails for local reporters is pretty easy if you read their stories, most of them are available in the byline or on the news source’s webpage. Some are harder to come by, like those in the national cannabis publications. For this, you need Hunter.io Register, and you can find up to 100 emails a month for people and companies you want to connect with. You’ll need the name of the person you wish to contact as in “Clark Kent” and the media outlet as in “Daily Planet” and most times you’ll get a correct email.

Writing headlines that attract the attention of readers is an art, what you think might work well to get someone’s attention might not do the job. How do you know? Well, we use this tool to test our cannabis communication headlines and we’ve done numerous revisions of what we thought were good headers to up our score in Co-Schedule’s Headline Analyzer.

We spend a good deal of our time writing for clients and for our own blog, and we are big fans of Grammarly. It’s a great tool to help you become a better writer. It points out as you write the typos, incorrect word usage and where commas do and don’t belong. You can install an extension on your Mac or PC and it will correct your emails and social media posts, too. It offers a more robust writing analysis than does the standard grammar and spelling that are resident on your computer. Honestly, if you’re uncertain about the correctness of your writing, use it.

Need to make a graphic for a webpage, social media post, an email blast or a printed product but don’t quite need to hire a graphic designer? We use Canva for simple things. It’s a free tool that has hundreds of templates and already sized up uses. Need a profile picture or page cover for Facebook, an Instagram graphic or a slider image for your website? Canva has all the sizes, backgrounds and tools to make something perfect for your cannabis communication. If you don’t have an eye for design, look at their templates and adapt one of them that to what you’re doing.

Ever wonder how your competitor is doing with their digital reach? With SEMRush, you can plug in a domain, and it will show you all of the data about that company’s digital presence. You can look at backlinks, referring domains, search terms and the position of their competitors all done in great charts and bars. It’s free for up to ten searches per month, and you can look at your own site, too and see how you’re doing.

Check out Spark (from Adobe) for making simple videos from photographs. You can add text, add music, determine the length of the slide and brand the slide with your company colors and logo. It isn’t as intuitive as Canva for simple design, but for on-the-fly photos into videos, it’s so easy. Here’s one we did about our company.

screen shot of a Spark video

For email marketing, we use Mail Chimp. There have been some issues in the past with the company shutting down cannabis accounts and that spooks us a bit. We like the flexibility of the platform, the ease of use and the tracking tools. It’s free until your list is over 2000 subscribers and if you do use a paid plan, you get a few more features. To be safe, download your database regularly because if you’re shut down, you might lose it. Email marketing for your cannabis business is effective and easy to work into your annual schedule or plan.

So we’ve shared a few of our secrets about how we get cannabis business communication done. But, these are tools, not a comprehensive strategy and that’s where Canna Communication comes in. We look at the big picture, know the cannabis industry, and we’re experienced at launching a new business or moving an existing one forward.

Need some help getting started? Too busy to develop a communication strategy? Canna Communication is here for you. Just give us a shout and we’ll lend you a hand.

Tools photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash

a glass you might use for a cannabis special event, it has a leaf made out of confetti in it

Ten Ways to Spark Your Cannabis Special Event

A cannabis special event is one of the best ways for a business to connect directly with customers. An event gives a business the opportunity to showcase a place, a new product or an idea. A special event can be used to celebrate an anniversary, a grand opening, an expansion, a national holiday like Independence or Veterans Day or the high holiday of 4/20. You don’t need an official reason for hosting an event, it’s all about getting to know your customers.

Organizing a cannabis special event can be time-consuming, there are real benefits.

  •      It builds customer loyalty.
  •      It builds brand awareness.
  •      It attracts new customers.
  •      It provides space to inform people on a subject or a product      
  •      It provides insight into your customers.
  •      It’s fun.

Putting together a cannabis special event for your business takes time and planning, but it’s worth it.

Outside of the ordinary planning points of a special event, we suggest paying attention to a few things that can truly make a difference to your attendees and the success of your special event.

  1. Choose your date and time carefully. Look at not only what’s happening in your community, but around the world. You don’t want to plan an event and have it fall on Rosh Hashanah, Good Friday, Super Bowl Sunday, the Michigan/Michigan State game day or Martin Luther King Day.
  2. Assign two point people to help “manage” the event. One is the host the other is the troubleshooter. Don’t have the host solving on the ground problems and don’t have the troubleshooter serve as the host. Your guests need attention as much as the problems do.
  3. Be fun, but be legal. Make sure that everything you do when it comespeople having fun at a cannabis special event to marijuana is compliant with local and state laws. You don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize your license, whether that is onsite consumption, giving away product or serving alcohol in your space.
  4. Give people something to do other than stand around. Whether it’s a game like corn hole (assuming you’re outdoors), building something like a jenga tower, a trivia game or even crayons to color on a table cover or provide a photo wall where they can take a selfie.
  5. Collect data on your guests while being a friendly host. When your guests check in, ask for their email and phone and for them to opt-in to your mailing or texting list. Ask them about their favorite way to consume cannabis and about the one thing they want you to carry that you don’t already have.
  6. Establish a hashtag for your event and post it where people can see it. Do your research to make sure it is unique and short. People will use it if they’re on social media and it will help you see what your visitors are saying.
  7. Door prizes, not raffles. Keep in mind that in most states a raffle requires a license, so don’t call your giveaway a raffle. People are pretty much happy to get anything free. Branded swag from your company, like a tee-shirt or a pint glass, is always a good option and big stickers, rolling papers and lighters are always welcome.
  8. Food is an essential part of any event—it should be simple, abundant food for a cannabis special eventand easy to eat. Keep in mind the time of your event, 5-7 PM is the dinner hour and people might expect heavier foods, 7-9 PM might lend itself to desserts and mid-afternoon is great for veggies, cheeses and crackers.  Keep in mind food preferences like vegetarians and allergies like gluten and provide options. Label your food and make sure your troubleshooter knows what’s in the food you’re serving. If you’re serving infused food make sure it’s clearly labeled with potency and that you’re not outside the law.
  9. Music is essential to setting the mood for your event and developing a playlist isn’t an easy task. Keep in mind your audience and the purpose and time of your event and use music that works to meet those goals. If you know someone who really knows music, ask that person to make suggestions for your mix. Using a paid subscription to a music service can provide a party mix without ads.
  10. Thank your attendees. With collected emails or phone numbers, you can send a quick note after the event and let them know how much you appreciated their attendance. It’s also a great time to offer a discount on something you’ve got in stock.

Need a hand with planning your next cannabis special event? Give us a shout and we’ll give you the help you need to make it perfect.