Mountains with a blue sky in the backgorund and green pine trees in front with a hiking path

Seven Things About My Five Years of Cannabis PR

Five years ago, just after the big solar eclipse of 2017, I launched Canna Communication. It was a giant experiment, a risky endeavor that was nearly one year in planning before launch. 

Honestly, it’s a moderately successful business, and most of that’s on me. I’m not much of a hustler; I don’t grind, I loathe networking and luckily, I don’t need dozens of clients to keep the business moving forward. That being said, I do grind, hustle and do whatever it takes for my clients—but I’m more chill regarding my own business.

Some of Canna Communication’s success is due to timing—the business was created just as Michigan moved to license medical marijuana and took off when recreational was implemented in 2020. I was lucky to be in the right place and ready as cannabis got lit in the Mitten.

As I reflect on the past five years, here are seven insights about being an entrepreneur in cannabis communication. The best points are at the end, so feel free to skip down.

1) People Are REALLY Interested in Cannabis.

I’ve had four career PR positions: American Red Cross, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Mercy Hospital and Grand Rapids Community Foundation. When I told people that I worked for any of these entities, I was met with a “that’s nice” or “what’s that?” but when I left the traditional workspace and started working in weed, people became interested in what I do. However, as much as I loved community philanthropy and art, people tended to glaze over when I started talking about those subjects in the context of my work. 

Cannabis is a totally different topic. People tell me about good and bad experiences, ask about products and share stories about people they know whose aches, pains and cancer journeys have been made better with the plant. Even people who hate weed still like to engage with me.

2) Make Yourself An Expert.

Like many PR people, I spend a lot of time reading news about the cannabis industry, and listening to podcasts, and listservs, thus keeping up on emerging products and trends. I pride myself on my expertise, connections, and knowledge about cannabis, which I believe separates Canna Communication from other PR firms. 

Cannabis is a quirky industry and having inside knowledge about what’s going on makes us more effective with the media and clients. I built my early expertise and knowledge on the Canna Communication website, writing blogs based on questions people were asking me. These blogs, which I posted on the Canna Communication website, helped establish the company through SEO and that web presence helps bring clients to us. 

While I don’t write as frequently for the Canna Communication website as I once did, I research and write blogs for clients on various cannabis topics. With that work, I maintain a base of cannabis knowledge that provides value to my company and clients. 

3) Pay Your Dues.

A few core things anger people in the cannabis industry are interlopers—people who don’t know a thing about weed, don’t love the plant, don’t consume cannabis, are in it just for the money and haven’t paid their dues in advocacy. 

Admittedly, my advocacy began when Michigan decided to license and communities had to opt-in or opt-out of allowing medical cannabis businesses to operate. I started e-mailing Muskegon City Commissioners in late 2016 and 2017, asking them to consider opting in. I attended many City Commission meetings, and in the public comment period, I spoke about the positive aspects of cannabis for people’s health and economic gain. When commissioners would have a negative cannabis comment, I’d research it, find facts and return to the next meeting with a response. In the end, Muskegon opted in for medical marijuana. 

When Prop 1, the initiative to bring recreational cannabis to Michigan, came before the voters, I helped with petitions, distributed yard signs, attended forums, and used the Canna Communication website and social media to promote a yes vote. As a result, the state voters passed the proposal, and the City of Muskegon opted in.

This advocacy work connected me with other activists in cannabis and helped move Michigan out of cannabis prohibition. It also made for fertile ground for a cannabis PR firm.

4) If The Work Doesn’t Make You Happy, Move On.

In year three of Canna Communication’s life, I decided to apply for a Michigan-issued Marijuana Event Organizer license. I thought being able to do temporary marijuana events would be a great addition to the company portfolio. The license fee was about $3000, and the application process was one of my life’s singularity most unpleasant experiences. 

The amount of meddling in the life and background of an applicant is just invasive. 

Shortly after I was approved as an MEO, the state went into COVID lockdown. So I was unable to use the license for a year. I paid the renewal fee, sent more paperwork, and another year of COVID prevented more events. Finally, in the autumn of 2021, I worked with Park Place Provisionary on Halloweed—Muskegon’s first cannabis consumption event. It was a moderate success, and I was miserable. I didn’t enjoy the process, the hours and hours of highly detailed work, the state rules, dealing with all sorts of moving parts from food to music and always making sure people were having fun. 

When we finished that event, I swore I wouldn’t do another. I came close a few times to accepting new event work, but in the end, I let the MEO license expire. 

5) Work With Great Clients.

Two men stand in from of a green house with other people in the background. The building is Pharmhouse Wellness. There is a TV camera in the foreground of the photo.
Casey Kornoelje and the Pharmhouse Pham.

Dang! I’ve had some super good cannabis PR clients over the years and am incredibly proud of the things we did together. 

My first paying client was Greg Maki from Agri-Med—I helped him figure out where he could locate a cannabis business by calling and emailing about 50 municipalities in West Michigan—and it was in the City of Muskegon where he established Park Place Provisionary. I helped them open Park Place as Muskegon’s first medical marijuana store and its first recreational shop again. His partner Tracy Powers and I planned and executed some epic opening events. 

I’m crazy about Pharmhouse Wellness in Grand Rapids and its owner Casey. It’s one of the few locally-owned cannabis businesses in Michigan. Casey has a great backstory, and his parents continue to help him with the business. He’s devoted to the store’s west side neighborhood and does super interesting social equity work.

Public Health-Muskegon County is a favorite, too. I’ve worked with them for three years and we created a website and a set of fact-based campaigns for youth, pregnant women, drivers, workers and harm-reduction messaging.

It’s been fun to write and do PR work with The WellFlower and Scout Cannabis as they grow, open new stores, and create new brands in Michigan. But, again, it’s a local company and that matters to me when I decide who I’ll align with.

My client highlight list is here—all the good ones anyway!

6) Hike The Pacific Crest Trail. 

The second summer Canna Communication was open, business was very slow. I had two clients in the first two years—Cannalex Law and Agri-Med. I was enthusiastically sending proposals and talking with people, but nothing was happening in cannabis PR.

Roberta King, cannabis PR professional poses on the Pacific Crest Trail. She has red curly hair with trekking poles and a gray backpack with Oregon Mountains in the background.
Somewhere on the PCT—don’t ask about my eyes.

Rather than wallow in self-pity, a friend and I hiked the Oregon section of the Pacific Crest Trail for three weeks. It was something we’d talked about for a few years before, and the timing was right to go in the summer of 2018 

It was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, and looking at the photos gives me a lump in my throat. I’d go back in a heartbeat. My goal was to consider Canna Communication and how to make it succeed and imagine the plot of my next book, but all I did was hike, eat and sleep. It was the best three weeks of that summer!

7) Yes. I’m High.

I can’t work while I’m stoned and cannot write high at all, so I’m pretty much straight when I’m working, except when I’m trying to generate ideas—then weed is so helpful. But when I’m not working, I try to be somewhere on the stoned scale. I’m usually not too high because I do a lot of active stuff like cycling, kayaking, running, snowshoeing, and hiking, and don’t want to get hurt.

The last place I want to be is in a news headline about a cannabis-user accident. 

But outside of work, I’ve spent the last five years experiencing all aspects of daily life with some level of cannabis in my system. 

It’s a joyful thing.

Target audience

Integrated Marketing and Public Relations: One Message Fits All

When a company wants to promote something new like a slogan or campaign, integrated marketing is the smartest way to do it. Integrated marketing uses various mediums at the same time to get a message out. There may be marginal differences across all platforms, but the goal is to have the overall message remain consistent. Whether the medium is TV, web, print, or social networks it must be recognizable to your audience and each strategy must support all platforms.

A proven best practice is to meld modern and traditional marketing strategies. It ensures that anyone who should receive the messaging does by taking elements of old school and new school marketing to reach consumers where they are. Though the integrated marketing goals may be different, like building brand awareness or driving traffic to your website, the one thing they need to have in common is having an alliance with one another. 

  • Integrated marketing campaigns are powerful for several reasons:
  • Reach a wider audience
  • Brand presence on all platforms
  • Keeps your brand top of mind
  • Builds trust through familiarity
  • Share of marketing assets
  • Allows current customers to spread the word

Importance of integrated marketing.

Let’s say you come across a new brand on Instagram and want to learn more about it. The first thing you do normally is go to the brand’s website. However, the website looks and feels completely different, because what they have up on Instagram is a new marketing initiative and is not consistent with the brand you are seeing on the site. If the website has messaging that differs from their social media, the consumer cannot grasp the gist of the brand. The last thing you want to do is confuse potential buyers.

An example of doing integrated marketing correctly is The Wellflower. Their provisioning centers have a sister company cultivation called Scout Cannabis. Both brands have the same color scheme that carries on throughout all of their marketing on all platforms. Whether you are on their Facebook, in one of their three stores, or looking at an internal email signature, the look and feel of these brands flow together nicely.

Audience Targeting for Integrated Marketing Communications.

No matter what your product is, taking time to define exactly who you are targeting is crucial. The demographics of your audience should include current and potential customer profiles. Things to take into consideration are occupation, age, education level, gender, income, family situation, and geographic location.

Things to consider are:

The needs of your target audience.

The wants of your target audience.

What it is that you are doing or offering that is different from your competitor(s)

How do PR and integrated marketing work together?

PR has evolved through the years. Your media relations are still important but there are so many more baskets to put your eggs in these days. Twenty percent of all newspapers in the United States have folded or merged since 2004, so you can’t count on this medium like you used to, but TV and radio news still hold a lot of power and the medium reaches thousands and thousands of people. One of the most important aspects of a media outlet picking up your story is amplification and credibility. Despite issues with the public and media trust nationally on the local level news outlets still have credibility and reach.

Integrated marketing is when your media efforts complement your marketing efforts. Internally and externally, your messaging must be consistent and ubiquitous. 

Integrated marketing is not a new concept but it’s an important one. Your brand’s message points pull together as a whole through this marketing concept and competent public relations professionals know this and can assist you. There is a lot of information coming at us these days from different people on different platforms. Integrated marketing delivers one distinct message regardless of where it is going out and that makes it easier for everyone.


Nonprofit and Charitable Giving: Cannabis and Community

The legalization of cannabis has created an entirely new industry that is doing more than just generating tax revenue for municipalities. It is greatly benefiting nonprofit organizations and supplying volunteers needed for various events and activities. Many of the founders of cannabis companies began as caregivers and have a strong sense of community. They welcome opportunities to give back. It does seem like things are getting a little crowded in certain cities regarding the number of dispensaries. So how do you set yourself apart from the competitor down the street? A strategic community outreach plan is a solid way to exhibit your dedication to the community.

Giving back

The initial enthusiasm of opening a cannabis business wears off a bit after a few months. One of the best ways to keep up momentum is through community engagement. Since there are many barriers when it comes to marketing and advertising for cannabis. The more involvement you have with neighbors, neighboring businesses, and nonprofits the better. For example, Pharmhouse Wellness in Grand Rapids along with Redemption Cannabis did a turkey giveaway in 2021 that received significant media coverage and drove sales. The companies gave away one hundred turkeys on Thanksgiving Eve. This charitable event showed people that these are companies with a true commitment to the people in the communities they operate in.

Volunteering time and money. Charitable giving for nonprofit organizations.
Volunteering gets noticed.

We’ve seen Muskegon-based companies like New Standard Park Place and MJ Verdant partner with Stand Up for the Cure and Grassy Knoll has an ongoing relationship with The Noah Project. 

Event donations to nonprofits

Most grand opening events have a charitable donation aspect as well. The Wellflower in Ypsilanti donated a portion of proceeds from their grand opening event to We The People Opportunity Farm. This organization supports a workforce of formerly incarcerated individuals. They also have paid internship opportunities and free food distribution. The nonprofit organization a company chooses to partner with for their grand opening usually ends up being a partner in co-promotion moving forward. This shows a true commitment to the cause so it is important to choose a nonprofit you fully believe in.

To go a quantum leap further, Oops Cannabis is helping Ukrainian emergency relief efforts in their own way. This company changed the name of their Russian Diesel cartridge product to Ukrainian Diesel. This product name change drove sales significantly because provisioning centers felt good buying them. Oops is dontating one dollar of every cartridge sold to a relief fund. Now that’s global community outreach!

Nonprofit fund guidelines

There are some challenges cannabis companies encounter when approaching nonprofits for engagement opportunities. Cannabis is still an illegal substance at the federal level so not all nonprofits will gladly receive funds from the industry. Federally funded nonprofit organizations must be choosey about who they accept donations from. A charity may not want to accept donations from a cannabis company because of the stigma that still exists. Accepting these funds could affect how other supporters view them and cause them to lose money instead of gaining it.

Make a plan

There are several things to consider as you choose what your community outreach plan will look like. What do you stand for? What do you have true conviction about? Define your company values and make sure they relate to your charitable donations.

To donate funds is one thing but to walk the walk and volunteer when an organization you care about needs assistance is going above and beyond.  As the saying goes, “Actions speak loud than words.”

As the cannabis industry continues to expand it becomes even more important to create a plan for community outreach so that you can hit the ground running. Make sure your company leadership is in agreement with the plan so execution will go smoothly and set the best first impression with your community as possible. If you are unsure how to begin, Canna Communication is ready to help you consider a strategy and tactics for community giving. We’re here to collaborate with you to ensure you put your best foot forward with community outreach efforts and beyond.

Successful Cannabis Promotion on Social Media

The social media platforms have made cannabis companies social media misfits. As a cannabis company, if you have not been scared off or annoyed beyond recognition by this point, we applaud you. You realize everyone is pushing out the same content with a different brand name because that’s all anyone can really do. You also realize your presence there is expected and necessary. It’s all about how you look at it though, so make your brand stand out from the herd. Be creative and have fun with what you can do and dismiss what you cannot, but whatever you do, do not push the boundaries. These platforms can and will suspend or permanently remove your account if you do not adhere to their guidelines, so you must know what they are.

Ultimately, what really serves your cannabis company is driving traffic to your website. Your website is your online storefront where you can showcase your goodies and the deals you are offering. As your web traffic increases so does its quality rating with Google which is advantageous in searches. Your social media channels can certainly help get people to visit your site, so they serve a meaningful purpose. Here are some guidelines to adhere to, so you can make sure to stay in good standing.

Very strict regulations are an ongoing battle for cannabis businesses marketing on social media. Cannabis violates every platform’s terms of service and community guidelines just by being there and every cannabis brand wants to dominate. Unfortunately, today you can only expect to reach about 3 percent of your audience on most social media platforms. Even with amazing content, algorithms change often, and hashtags help, but not as much as most people think. 

Simply put, follow the rules and you’ll be fine and remain in good standing.

You can post…

Educational, informative content.

Advocacy content including data, statistics, quotes, legislative updates, health reports, research results, and so on.

Images of products – just don’t post anything that implies the products are for sale, trade, or delivery.

Keep an eye on all social media updates to its guidelines so you’re always adhering to the current rules. This includes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit and Tik Tok.

Closely monitor the activities on your page, particularly if you outsource content creation, sharing, and communications on your business page to a marketing agency, freelancer, or another third party. It’s equally important to monitor your employees’ activities on your page as well to ensure they comply with Facebook’s rules.

You cannot…

Say that a product is for sale, trade, or delivery.

Ask people to buy a product, i.e. put in bio “Nothing for sale and 21+ only” 

List prices.

Encourage people to inquire or contact your business about a product.

Show images that depict the sale of cannabis products.

Post anything that gives instructions on how to grow, sell, or use cannabis.

Provide any contact information for people to buy cannabis products.

Make any medical claims.

Safe content looks like this:

Budtender bios and recommendations 

Cultivation behind-the-scenes

Cannabis lifestyle imagery and content

Memes for cannabis enthusiasts, nothing cartoonish or child-related, i.e. Mickey Mouse

General cannabis education

Product education

Dosing tips and guidelines

Having an experienced marketing team creating your content makes a difference, but not everyone has access to that initially. If you are going at it alone to begin, start with some objectives you can measure like increase in number of followers per month and number of engagements per post. Focus on the power of your social content more than the frequency. Variety is the spice of life, so get creative and bring something new and fun to your audiences. A lot of different types of people use weed. You can still stay on brand and market to Deadheads and soccer moms alike. Sometimes they are the same people. Never judge a book, right?

post it notes to show the branding process

Branding Brings Connections to Your Work

Think of some of your favorite brands and why you like them. The most successful branding efforts bring connections to you, they speak to your heart, not talk at your head. We humans act according to the way we feel, so if you can make people feel a certain way they’ll stick with you. To make this happen you must understand and embrace your “why.” Why does your company exist? If your why is at the core of your brand it separates you from every other company that does what you do. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

When a brand creates an experience or evokes an emotion repeatedly, over time it builds loyalty and therefore consumer loyalty. If you have a core purpose frame your identity, as opposed to tying your brand solely to the actual product, and you set yourself up for success and longevity. Take for example, the Kenneth Cole brand. Through focused branding, it has been donating a percentage of profits to AIDS research and awareness since 1985, so people feel like they’ve done something good when they spend their hard-earned dollars with Kenneth Cole. They aren’t just selling footwear and handbags. This is a perfect example of a purpose-led brand that ties its purpose to a singular tactic. Bissell is another fine example with its Bissell Pet Foundation. A portion of profits from this corporation go to helping homeless pets. You see branding is not just a logo and template to follow for all advertising. It is looking at what your relevance, coherence and credibility are. Link your brand to a perceived positive impact and you’ve got something that separates you from the rest of the businesses in your community.

a red ribbon to symbolize a brand connection

Emotion inspires action and branding is the key!

This is where amplification comes into play. It is not sufficient to just push out content. You need to amplify your message by using the media, advocacy, influencers, native social media and advertising where you can. Most platforms have very specific rules about cannabis advertising, but it can still be done and being newsworthy and relevant helps with amplification.

Deep down the cannabis consumer wants more than to just buy weed. They can do that almost anywhere these days. Your employees want to do more than just sell weed. The attrition rate is just as high in the cannabis industry as it is in the restaurant industry. So how do you get good people to stay and not jump ship for the highest (pardon the pun) bidder and keep customers coming back regardless of what deals are going on down the street? People want something to identify with, so what resonates with them will sell them. Express what you stand for, so it does some actual good. You gotta live it! The people that work for you need to be inspired by it and that feeling will translate when they interact with your customers.

This is particularly true in cannabis public relations and marketing. Redemption Cannabis in Jackson, Michigan is a perfect example of a cannabis company with a purpose. Ten percent of all revenue goes to those affected by the war on cannabis. These funds are mostly used in cannabis conviction expungement efforts. On a national level, Ocean Cannabis is a brand committed to ending the cannabis plastic problem. By sourcing their packaging from 100% reclaimed and recycled plastic found in oceans, each product purchase recovers the equivalent of fifteen straws or one water bottle worth of recycled plastic. Their goal is to “smoke the ocean clean, one joint at a time.”

a photo of a person ligthing a pre-roll to illustrate branding a cannabis business

Humor goes a long way when you’re trying to connect with a person or group of people too. You know that person that wasn’t that attractive to you at first, but then became more attractive as you got to know them better because they were kind, funny, clever, compassionate, smart, etc? Your brand is no different. Make people laugh—because cannabis consumption is for better health and fun! Humor creates a sense of intimacy before they even walk in the door. From there you can create retention with stellar customer service, ambiance and products. 

What’s Your Plan?

Do you have an actual corporate business purpose statement? Is that statement backed by a solid activation strategy? You planned for your cultivation and/or retail store, but how about your brand. How much went into developing what the consumer recognizes your product as? Noteworthy advice: Transcend the ego of your bottom line, your investors, the pressure of outdoing everyone. Stand for something that speaks to people like they are actual human beings, not just dollars.

Decide your purpose. Mean it. Stand by it. Seek the assistance of marketing and public relations professionals to build your brand. You are good at what you do and we are good at helping you express to consumers why you do it. 

Communicating Cannabis Safety and Science From The Inside Out

When you live in a community that went from zero cannabis provisioning centers to a half dozen in less than two years’ time, you know that people are testing the weed waters.

The City of Muskegon adopted a land use ordinance that allows not only cannabis provisioning centers, but grow operations, processing, testing and transporting. Under the adult-use rules microbusinesses, special events and consumption lounges are also allowed. 

It’s one of the most inclusive cannabis ordinances on this side of Michigan.

There’s a term used in public health that you might not be familiar with—harm reduction. 

a handful of cannabis buds to illustrate cannabis provisioning centers

Harm reduction is a set of strategies and ideas that are aimed and reducing the negative consequences that might come from drug use. It’s not about trying to get people to stop using drugs (or alcohol for that matter) but helping people understand their limits, the consequences of using substances. It’s what public health departments have done for years—discouraged under-age drinking, teen smoking, all age drinking and driving and promoting safe sex to prevent HIV. 

Public health has been at the forefront of dozens of harm reduction efforts over the years. Cannabis is no different.

Canna Communication approached Public Health-Muskegon County (PH-MC) about harm reduction efforts and asked if they needed any communication help from a communication professional and cannabis insider.

So much of what people see generated from public health entities are negative when it comes to cannabis. We know that at some point negative advertising doesn’t work, it turns people off and doesn’t deliver the intended message. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) created a series of anti-cannabis videos in early 2020 which stirred up cannabis activists from across the state—the outcry about the portrayal of a cannabis consumer was so filled with stereotypes and cliches that MDHHS pulled the video series despite having spent $330,000 on the campaign.  We’ve spotted random billboards throughout Michigan created by local health departments that are making an effort to disparage cannabis, consumers, and the industry—and they’re doing it with medical cannabis funds.

Every year, local county entities are able to apply for funds from the State of Michigan for marijuana prevention education. The funds are derived from fees collected by the State from medical marijuana cards. Each county in Michigan can apply for funds and the dollar amount is based on how many people in that county hold medical marijuana cards—so the more cards, the more money that’s available. 

Prior to the passage of Prop 1 which legalized cannabis, many county sheriff’s departments applied for funds and used it for marijuana law enforcement. With legalization, law enforcement has backed off from applying and some county health departments have taken advantage of the pool of funds.

Canna Communication began working with PH-MC in the winter of 2020 with a research project to find out how parents who consume cannabis talk with their kids about use of the drug. That primary research with about 100 people from across Michigan helped us understand that science, honesty and facts were the most effective way to get a message across. Sure, we had an agenda—discourage kids from using cannabis and for parents to take care to keep cannabis from young people. 

The grant that PH-MC received was used in a four-part effort focused on encouraging youth to avoid cannabis via their parents’ input, discouraging pregnant women from using cannabis, safe consumption of edibles and information about driving and cannabis. We created a simple website with information that was fact-based and not meant to deceive or mislead people about cannabis. The website is a starting point for ongoing campaigns in those four areas—we can add information as it becomes available to use it as a home base for our efforts. We used social media and digital geofencing to spread the word. 

Working With Muskegon’s Cannabis Provisioning Centers

Once a cannabis business enters a community, it’s important for people there to understand the facts about the product, the risks involved and how to be a responsible consumer. Most provisioning centers (aka marijuana dispensaries) educate their budtenders and customers about the products they’re buying and start slow and go low is a common phrase that’s used to advise newcomers about cannabis edibles.   

PHMC also partnered up with four Muskegon-area provisioning centers—Park Place Provisionary, Cloud Cannabis, Bella Sol Wellness and Redbud Roots and provided pre-printed customer bags and social media materials regarding the safe consumption of edibles. It’s one way to meet cannabis users where they’re at.

Michigan voters made legal cannabis the law of the land, but the tone by which we educate people about cannabis is up to interpretation. Providing the facts with balanced information and avoiding judgment is the surest communication strategy.

For more information about this campaign give Canna Communication a call.

Feature photo by Botanical Rising on Unsplash

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.


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.


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

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

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 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.