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.

mac on a table, to illustrate writing a cannabis business email

How to Grow Your Cannabis Business One Email at a Time

There are so many good reasons to add email marketing to your cannabis business communication mix. Let’s take a closer look.

In 2016, there were 2.6 billion people using email and its expected that by 2020 email users will top 3 billion. Almost half of the people in the world use email to communicate—and you can be sure a few of them are cannabis business owners or consumers. So, by the numbers alone, email makes sense.

Business runs on email. If you’re a cannabis business wanting to communicate with other companies, email is one of the most certain avenues of communication.

People like getting emails from companies they do business with. About 85 percent of people surveyed said they like getting emails once a month and about 60 percent like weekly emails. And if you’re thinking of sending daily, twice or thrice a week emails, think again—those have approval ratings of about 11 percent. So if someone opts into getting emails from you, you can be sure that sending them once a week isn’t too much.

Another advantage to email marketing is that people are more likely to sign up for and open your email than they are to “like” or comment on a post on Facebook. Email has greater privacy and what goes on in that form of communication is between you and the company.  Check out these some interesting statistics on the value of social media properties like Facebook, Twitter and email. Essentially, if you have 2000 followers on either platform and 2000 email contacts, you’ll get better results from a quality email—expect that just over 400 people will open your email. With Facebook, you’ll have about 120 views and with Twitter 40 people will see your message.

We’re not saying the social platforms aren’t great—they’re good for brand building and news sharing, but you know that Facebook isn’t cannabis-friendly and more than one marijuana business has been shut down or had its reach limited by restrictions. It’s important to select a vendor with policies that allow you to promote whatever cannabis business you have—keeping in mind that selling product is likely to grab the attention of monitors. There are a handful of companies that specialize in cannabis enews distribution, too. With them, you don’t have to be concerned about content issues.

No One Likes Spam

photo of a red door with no junk mail written on it to illustrate using email for your cannabis business, but not spammingUndoubtedly, you’re wondering about how to get 2000 email addresses, and you are also aware that spamming people is wrong. Is it illegal? It depends on what you are saying, how you came by the email address and your intention. Writing a subject line that is intended to deceive people is spam. Sending an email to someone you met at a networking event isn’t spamming. Using a bot to gather up email addresses and sending something to thousands of people you have no relationship with is spamming. People in your database will have the ability to opt out of your emails, so sending to them is fine. Most providers (like MailChimp) have all the anti-spam requirements built into the software. The FTC has a guide on the subject.

Gathering and growing an email list takes time. Start with your customers and people you network with, create a signup pop up on your website. Ask people on your social pages and give them a link. Offer something for signups like a discount or a perk or just some outstanding content—a guide or other downloadable item that will be of interest. Make sure the sign up is in your email signature and on your site in a popup or other spot.

So, statistically, you know that you know emails aren’t a problem for people and you’ve built a list. Now you’ve got to figure out your content and delivery mechanism. There are a few different kinds of emails that can be sent for your cannabis business. They include:

  • Promotional—where you’re promoting services or products
  • Specials—when you have something new for your customers
  • Welcome—a greeting and hello to people who sign up for your email
  • Educational—telling people something you think they’d like to know
  • Newsletter—what’s going on in your company
  • Advice—helping people understand how to use something you sell or giving them other advice on an issue

Make sure to keep your articles and promotions short and link to your website after the first few sentences. Include images and GIFs that help emphasize your points. Find a style and stick to it—avoid using lots of fonts and colors—you don’t want to distract from your main message.

While We’re on the Subject

photo of a smiley face emoji for this article about using email for your cannabis businessOne of the most important aspects of cannabis business email marketing is the subject line. What are you going to say to get people to open your message and act? Make it short around 65 characters, use emojis carefully and make it intriguing. If you wonder if it will work, do an AB test with your list. Send half of the messages with one subject line (a) the rest with another (b) and see which gets a better open rate.

If you have more questions about email marketing, give us a shout, and we’ll be happy to plan a strategy with you. And if you want to learn more about how communication can grow your cannabis business, take a moment to sign up for Canna Communication’s monthly enews.

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Fill in a few vital items and once a month we'll treat you to some PR tips, cannabis news, communication ideas and blog posts.

scrabble tiles that say take more photos: for your cannabis business website

Making Content for Your Cannabis Business Website

You’ve heard this before: Content Rules.

New and searchable content is what makes the Internet hum. Fresh content helps improve traffic on your cannabis business website, drives sales and makes your business relevant to search engines.

Content is made up of text, images, video and audio that live on your website.a laptop used to create content for a cannabis business website

When properly optimized for search engines content is more easily findable by people looking for something specific. We won’t get into search engine optimization in this blog, but this video by Neil Patel is pretty useful for getting some basics about why you need to pay attention to this and what to do.

When you plan content creation for your cannabis business website, it needs to accomplish a few of these things. The more of these ideas you can include, the richer your content will be.

  • Educational—tell people something they might not know
  • Compelling—write or show the topic in a way that keeps people’s attention
  • Useful—give practical advice or a “how to” to the reader or viewer
  • Focused—stick to what you know and what your business is about
  • Quality—if you’re writing, make sure your grammar is correct and if you’re making a video, the audio and picture need to be good, too.
  • Relevant—produce content about something that’s happening now
  • Entertaining—use humor and visuals that make your content fun (when appropriate)
  • New—put a new spin on what you’re writing about and try to make it fresh for your web visitors.
  • If possible, make it personal and always be aware of your brand voice.

Creating content takes time and effort. Whether you’re making a video, writing a blog or creating a podcast, you need to do a few things before you jump in.

  • Think about and plan out what you want people to learn or know—what’s the core message? Are there other details and secondary messages that support what you’re saying?
  • Make sure you have enough knowledge and expertise to say or write at least 400 words or create a 90-second video. There will be some topics that come naturally to you and others you’ll struggle to complete.
  • Think visually. How can you show and tell your story? Are there images or video you want to include?
  • Don’t plagiarize! Make sure what you write or say is original to you. Yes, you can read another author’s articles for ideas, validation or outbound links, but don’t steal someone else’s words or images.
  • Create content in small chunks that people can easily skim. Like we did here.
  • Think about the questions people ask about your business or products and use those to generate your content. For instance, we had someone on Linked In ask us about how to get a medical marijuana card in Michigan. While it wasn’t communication-related, we could see there was a need to share this information.

Every cannabis business website has some easy wins for content that are necessary. Team or leadership biographies and a robust about us section are essential. People like to see and know about who is behind the product or service they are using. It’s also a great place to share your brand personality and voice. Keep in mind the “why” of your business and use that for content, too. The reason you started growing, processing, testing, transporting or provisioning cannabis is something people like to know. If it’s personal, let that shine.photo of people who might be featured on a cannabis business website

It’s important to create content that moves your cannabis business forward and looks to bring people to you for your expertise in cannabis.

When appropriate use a call to action like this: for help creating content give us a nudge. We’d be happy to work with you.

Cannabis Business and Communication: Focus on What You Know

I’m a pretty good backyard gardener. I grow heirloom tomatoes from seeds, we built a little greenhouse to better acclimate the seedlings to Michigan’s weather and to have fruit in early July instead of August. I use good organic soil and nutrients and I’ve heard that growing cannabis is like growing tomatoes.

But, I don’t grow cannabis and here’s why.

It’s a complex plant that needs a lot of ongoing attention to produce a high-quality flower. It needs light and then at the right time it needs darkness. It a green cannabis plant, cannabis communication is essential to business successneeds circulated air, specific food at certain times. You don’t want it to cross-pollinate with other plants and it’s vulnerable to a variety of issues that can ruin it. Killing a plant that is as valuable as cannabis is a mistake no grower wants to make. Growers also don’t want to create a sub-par flower. That’s a lot of pressure!

Good growers follow a plan and have developed a process that ensures success. It’s the same for cannabis business communication.

And that’s why when it comes to communication—your website and its content, social media, media-related publicity and stories, your brand, special events and your marketing you need an expert.

Not your nephew. Not your kid. Not you. Unless you (or they) are an experienced cannabis communication professional.

Here’s why it’s important to work with someone in communication who has a level of expertise that meets your needs. Communication isn’t just one thing. It’s an integrated system of strategic activities that need attention, innovative ideas and message continuity.

Think about the brands/companies you respect and how they are steady in their personality. Sure, some changes happen in a brand, but overall the best companies display the same attributes and keep the same character. For instance, Target is fresh, fun and playful. It is inclusive and emotional in its voice. Nike is bold and strong. It believes that all people are athletes and when it takes a stand it means something.

While these companies are probably not your cannabis company right now, it could be you in the future. That’s why developing your brand personality is vital. It’s part of why consistent and strategic communication is essential in the early stages of your business development matters. You don’t want to have to undo something that doesn’t fit the business you’ve carefully developed.

As you are aware, mistakes and missteps go viral and can destroy a company’s reputation, so it’s crucial that you consider your communication efforts carefully. Communication must be regarded as thoughtfully as your plant selection, growing methods, the creation of your edibles and the people that you hire. Don’t take the risk of allowing communication to be in the backseat of the overall strategy of your cannabis business.

One of our clients is a law firm that cares about its brand and is active in its communication pursuits. The attorneys don’t spend time on social media posting or concerning themselves with media exposure, that’s left to the professionals (us). They provide expert legal advice for marijuana businesses. We offer the firm advice and counsel on their messages and media relations and manage the day to day communication. They utilize Canna Communication’s input and ideas in the same way their legal clients turn to them for help.

The question need to consider is: do you have the time, interest and expertise to manage the daily communication needs of your business? Or would you rather be in with the plants, your employees and your customers?  

Let us help manage the details of your brand communication while you grow your business.

photo to illustrate cannabis communication

Blaze 2019 With These Cannabis Communication Resolutions

As a new year comes into view, it’s time to think about your cannabis communication and what you want to accomplish in 2019. We have a few ideas to share with you. These are activities that Canna Communication is doing this year, so join us and let’s be better cannabis communicators together.

Create a communication plan or at least make a calendar.

There’s no better time than a new year to think and plan ahead. A communication plan will help you do some creative thinking about your work, give you a map to follow and focus your efforts. A cannabis communication plan has several steps.

  1. Start by defining the audience—who do you want to communicate with? Try to think as precisely as possible and there might be multiple audiences throughout the year.
  2. Set a goal (or several) that answer the question: what do you want to accomplish? How will you know if you’re successful in your effort?
  3. Define your strategy, the overarching idea(s) by which you’ll accomplish the work to be done.
  4. And now for the fun part! Develop the tactics and a timeline. Tactics are individual communication activities that fit with all the components above. Tactics might include media outreach, content creation, social media, special events, videos, advertising, sponsorships, blogging, e-newsletters and printed pieces. It’s best to determine your tactics after you’ve done 1-3 above.

Amplify your messages.

Amplification is the name of the game and the more people that can hear your message, the more successful you’re likely to be.

Connecting with the media is the best thing you can do to make that happen. Unless you’re a major celebrity or public figure with social media followers inmicrophone to illustrate amplification of cannabis communication the millions, you can’t beat the mainstream media for getting your message to people.

The first step in making that happen is to establish a relationship with local reporters. The good thing is, you’re in cannabis and that’s interesting to most media people. Especially as you grow your business, are approved for a license or get ready to open. You have the opportunity to show a reporter what you’re all about.  

If you have something visual—a growing operation, a new provisioning center or a fleet of trucks—invite the local media to see what you’ve got and tell them what you’re doing. You can reach out to the press most easily by emailing a reporter who has covered cannabis in the past and pitch your story to them.

And don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a bite on the first or second try—sometimes it’s timing and other times it’s a pitch that’s not quite right. Think about what makes your story interesting or important—and refine that message and incorporate it into your subject line. Reporters spend about 11 seconds reading a pitch, so make it sharp and around 150 words.

Develop your expert voice.

Part of amplification is sharing your knowledge with the media and with your own audiences, too. The media wants high-quality spokespeople who know a subject in depth and can speak about it with confidence. Whether you are a grower, processor, an attorney or an advocate, be informed and enthusiastic about your area of cannabis expertise. Plan what you’re going to say, anticipate questions and practice your key points.

Keep up on the latest trends and activities in cannabis by tracking news and subscribing to reliable news sources and aggregation sites.

Be disciplined with content creation.

a typewriter to illustrate content creation for cannabis communicationContent creation is hard work, but it’s essential. Your website’s SEO and social media depend on new, original, relevant and fresh content—which can be blogs, videos or images. Ideally, you’ll create new content once a week, but that can be a struggle without ideas, a plan or professional help.

Try to create something new every two weeks, not only will you have something to make your website more robust—but you’ll have original content to share on your social sites.

Be social on your social media sites.

It’s annoying when you read something or make a comment on a social media site and the site owner doesn’t reply or even acknowledge your voice. Don’t be that company.

If you have a social media platform, use it to build engagement and community around your business. Ask questions of your followers and respond to comments and questions.

Yes, you’ll get trolls, and it’s okay to ignore or hide them. 

Explore and use a new medium.

This is a tough one—we tend to stick with what we know, like and are good at. Writers will always write; photographers will take pictures and videographers will make videos.

Spend time learning about and using a medium you’re unfamiliar with and work to be good at it. There are so many useful tools and tutorials available online that you can master (or at least fake mastery) with something new. Learning keeps our minds active and alive and helps your company connect with people who want to see things or learn in different ways.

If you have questions about our resolutions or anything about cannabis communication, give us a shout. And we hope you have a blazing new year!

new year words made with a light to illustrate cannabis communication

postcard that was mailed to voters

Voting YES for Medical Marijuana Zoning

A Canna Communication Case Study

Early last summer we were contacted by a cannabis entrepreneur that was facing opposition to a medical marijuana grow business in Egelston Township, Michigan. He realized he needed professional communication assistance with this issue and we jumped right in.

Background:
The elected officials in Egelston Township opted-in for medical marijuana businesses in late 2017. Soon after opting in, the entrepreneur/grower who had already purchased property in the township started construction on buildings for greenhouses and a provisioning center. In the spring of 2018, a resident of the municipality who is also a developer that owns a subdivision adjacent to the two greenhouses under construction began circulating a petition to upend medical marijuana zoning in the community. The petitions were validated by the township clerk, and the proposal would appear on the mid-term ballot. If the vote didn’t go the grower’s way, he would lose the opportunity to have any cannabis business in the township.

We were asked to create a campaign to persuade voters to keep medical marijuana zoning in the township.

We provided the client with a full political campaign proposal and he chose to rely on web, social media, direct mail, and yard signs. Our messaging focused on providing accurate information and guiding conversations while helping people understand two issues: zoning and medical marijuana.

Strategy:
After a discovery meeting with the client, his horticulturist, attorney and a business colleague we wrote a set of key messages that went to the heart of the zoning issue.

The messages focused on:

  • The township has done its due diligence in creating medical marijuana zoning and the work should be respected.
  • The township work was done with multiple opportunities for public input and within the open meetings act.
  • Ensuring people knew this was a medical marijuana business issue. Adding to the complexity was that Michigan voters were going to vote on recreational marijuana, too. This was a separate issue, but also on the ballot. This was a point of confusion for people.
  • Voting yes for medical marijuana zoning.

We created a theme for the campaign and began work on developing a website and a Facebook page. We presented Egelston Grows Green as the theme because it spoke to the idea of growth in the township, not only cannabis itself but jobs and tax revenue. We wanted to include the township name in the theme to create a sense of place, identity and pride.

The key messages were used to create website content, to launch the Facebook page and to provide content throughout the summer. As it came closer to election time, we promoted the vote and ended each post with a Vote YES for medical marijuana zoning message.

photo of the egelston grows green facebook page
Facebook cover photograph

Significant challenges and opportunities for execution:
One of the most significant challenges we faced was the convoluted language that was in the petition and on the ballot. We knew that the best thing we could do was to make it simple for voters to understand and accurate to the ballot. We chose: vote yes for medical marijuana zoning.

In May of 2018, Facebook put restrictions on two essential parts of our campaign: political advertising and marijuana pages. The platform required anyone wanting to conduct political advertising to supply a physical mailing address and a copy of a photo ID like a driver’s license. We did this but were thwarted by another new policy that made marijuana pages unsearchable. Cannabis pages and groups that had been easy to find for years had disappeared from the search tool, and Facebook was denying requests to boost to create ads for all marijuana businesses regardless of what they did, i.e., law firms and accountants were being denied promotional space. This made launching the site and promoting content a challenge, especially for a new page. We relied on a network of advocates to share our daily posts and a popular community-centric Facebook page, Wolf Lake World News. We posted our information on that site and engaged in multiple conversations there, too.

We created the website egelstongrowsgreen.com for key messages and details about the growing operation, that people had an interest in. They wanted to know how this business could potentially affect them: everything from the smell, to security, to job creation, to compliance, water use and plant waste. We posted two informational videos to the page as well. All the time we are reinforcing the message about voting yes for medical marijuana.

yard sign about voting yes for medical marijuanaOne month before the election we helped the client with a succinct, clear message for yard signs and designed a postcard for voters. These collateral materials reinforced the singular importance of voting yes for medical marijuana zoning. The postcards were mailed to the 7500 voters in the township. The client also held a yard sign pick-up event with principals on-site to answer questions. 

postcard that was mailed to voters to encourage them to vote yes for medical marijuana
front of the postcard

In the days before the election, one of the business partners secured a video interview with a hyperlocal indie news channel, and we were able to share that interview and clear up some of the misconceptions that the opposition was promoting.

Outcome:
Great news! The voters of Egelston Township approved the zoning ordinance 1921 to 1751 votes.

marijuana plants are part of any new marijuana business

Fire Up! PR Musts Your New Marijuana Business Needs

If you are the owner of a new marijuana business, you’re probably thinking about a lot of things: compliance, human resources, inventory, customer service, security and how to handle all those twenty dollar bills! We hope you’ve given some thought to your marketing communication plan, too.  Like most pursuits, taking the first step is the hardest part. To make that first step a bit easier, we suggest getting things underway with these six simple-ish things.

Develop Your Story.

People want to know how and WHY you got into the cannabis business, they want to hear about your vision and values around your business, too. These are vital parts of your company story. You’re in the medical marijuana business and it’s important, outside of making money, to tell people why you’re doing what you’re doing. Some of it’s personal, like fighting cancer or helping a family with an epileptic child; some of it might be business-related, as in you want to create jobs and contribute to the economy. Whatever your reason for being in the cannabis business, start forming a relatable story. Every successful company has a story.

Be an Expert About Cannabis.

marijuana plants are part of any new marijuana businessTake time every day to read/watch/listen to cannabis news, especially regarding Michigan and cannabis as medicine. You expect expertise from businesses you patronize and your customers expect the same from you. You need to be able to help people understand the business of cannabis, too. Be accurate with your information and data, you don’t want to be the source of bad information. This acquired expertise will also help you as you connect with the media where your business is located.

Reach Out to The Media.

Media relations begins with getting to know the media. The newspaper reporters, radio personalities and TV journalists in your own community need to know who you are and what you’re doing in the medical marijuana industry. Reach out to them and make sure they know you are available as a resource for future cannabis stories. When you are awarded your license and start to establish your business make sure the media is the first to know.

Create Content and Be Social.

You’ve probably heard a lot about content lately. New and fresh content drives traffic to your website, and makes people come back for more, it’s the gasoline of SEO or search engine optimization. Content is the words, videos reading glasses and some content for a new marijuana businessand images that you put on your website and on your social media pages. It needs refreshing regularly. High-quality content is an integral part of communication and marketing and while you’re selling something, you’re also helping people understand the why of what you’re doing. If you don’t have social media pages for your company, yet, get them established. You can do this long before your new marijuana business is open. It’s good to get your name out there, connect with people and practice your content posting habits.

Discover Your Niche.

While you want to work with everyone and provide medical marijuana to anyone with a card, there’s good reason to have some of your business be a bit specialized. Having a niche makes you different and will help you stand out from your competitors. To discover your niche, you need a passion about something you can address, you need to deeply know the audience you want to reach, you’ll need to research them and their interests, buying habits and behaviors and craft messages to them. Your niche interest needs to be authentic.

Define Your Brand.

A brand is the outfacing image of your business and its inner personality. It starts with your logo and is part of everything about your company including customer interactions. A brand is the personality of your company, not only who you say you are, but more importantly, what others say about you, too. Your brand is the culmination of YOUR work AND customer relationships. It is formed by the content you create, the story you tell, what you share on social sites and how you respond to a crisis. People outside your company will also determine your brand by their opinions, ideas and reviews, but it’s mostly formed by your content, interactions, voice and how your company behaves in the community.

Interested in learning more? Need help getting started?

We’d love to help you move your new marijuana business forward. Drop us a note and we’ll be in touch.

photo of newspaper articles about canna communication

Public Relations Can Help Grow Your Marijuana Business

Public relations is a powerful force for launching and growing a cannabis business. There are restrictions on advertising for marijuana in many states. Twitter, Facebook and Google are often unfriendly to marijuana businesses even in medical states, so PR is the most effective method for getting the word out about your business.

Public Relations is About Influencing and Engaging People and Building Relationships.

Part of our work as cannabis professionals is educating and informing people about the variety of products available and the health benefits of marijuana. People are hungry to learn about marijuana and the plant has a history rooted in misconception and myth. It’s our responsibility to help make sense of the information that’s out there and provide well-sourced educational content to interested audiences.

Public+Relations

Let’s talk about the public. It’s important to keep in mind that there is no general public. Audiences can be divided and dissected in a variety of ways.

Gender, geography, income, age, role and generation are common demographics markers. Anyone you come into contact with through your business is the public.

The relations part is about education, messaging and influencing. It’s about listening to what people are saying, reacting, reinforcing or reviewing messages and providing continuous accurate information that helps move your cause, effort or business forward.

Cannabis businesses and advocates will need to constantly educate and inform their audiences, whether it is about the efficacy of marijuana as a medicine or debunking the Nixon-era lies. For the near future, we will be educating people about the plant and the legitimacy of our work.

The Public Relations RACE

There’s a formula that’s the basic construct for PR activities. The acronym is RACE and it’ll help you be strategic in your public relations efforts.

  • R is for Research Why research? Because even though you know a lot, you need to validate your assumptions and learn what’s out a young woman reading at the lakethere.This is where you explore your potential audiences, your competition, the landscape of legislation and how people are reacting to what you are doing. You can read articles on a topic you want to know more about, you can ask questions of people who are potential customers; you can do a Survey Monkey or a poll on Twitter or Facebook.
  • A is for Action planning, this is where you (or a professional like Canna Communication) creates a communication plan. It will have concrete goals, objectives, strategies and tactics.
  • C is for Communication, this is the fun part where you can dream up all the cool things that you’re going to do to get the word out and inform people about your product or service. It might be a launch party, a press event or outreach, creating a video, or a printed piece. It could include blog content, a Facebook Live broadcast, a webinar, a social campaign or an open house. Each of these tactics takes time and money, so you need to evaluate which provides the most bang for your buck.
  • E is for Evaluation. After all the work is done you need to take a hard look at what worked and what didn’t; see if you can determine why something was a success or a failure. By doing an evaluation, you’ll know what to do next time and have a record of why you succeeded or failed.

Working with the Media in your Marijuana Business

Public relations work is deeply connected to the news media. Media relations begins with getting to know the reporters in your own community. You can review articles on TV station, newspaper and radio websites and see who’s been covering cannabis and if they have any bias. If they’ve taken a negative stand in the past, perhaps can you help turn that around with better information and establish a relationship with the reporter.

Why the News Media Matters

Even with thousands of social media followers, to some degree, you are a newspaper and a breakfast traypreaching to the choir. The media can be very effective in increasing your exposure to a larger audience and to people who know nothing about your business. A news story will expose you to more people than you could ever acquire on your own, hundreds of thousands vs. just thousands.

Media relations is much more than sending a press release or making a pitch—it’s positioning yourself as an expert in the cannabis business and being available to the media as a trusted source and resource.

Public Relations is a No Spin Zone

PR sometimes gets a bad rap and the word spin gets used a lot. In our communication practice, there is no spin, there are no alternative facts.

To be a good media source, you have to be 100 percent honest, 100 percent of the time.

You can’t claim that cannabis cures anything, but you can provide the media with sources (people) that support your views and product. One person’s story isn’t a factual claim; it’s anecdotal evidence that can be powerful and compelling. And in cannabis, it’s these thousands of real stories that are building the credibility of our industry.

photo of public relations professional Roberta KingWant to learn more about public relations for your cannabis business and how to expand your reach? Let’s talk!
Contact Roberta F. King, APR at Canna Communication.
Her email is roberta@cannacommunication.com

Photo credits:
Reading on the dock: photo by Bethany Laird on Unsplash
Breakfast tray: Photo by Eddie Garcia on Unsplash

image of canadian prime minister justin trudeau

Cannabis Growth, Canada and Some Good News Sites to Check Out

It’s an understatement to say that cannabis is going to be an economic game-changer. Recently ArcView Group, which does cannabis research and polling revealed that this year, cannabis sales in North America are expected to reach $10 billion, that’s a 33 percent increase over 2016. Legalization in Canada is a significant part of this projected increase.

Cannabis news is popping up everywhere and mainstream media is covering it regularly.

Think back to other growth industries—automotive, tech, pharma, banking, manufacturing and oil—each of them were heavily covered by the media during their boom periods. While the media has shrunk and local reporters are covering multiple beats, there are reliable resources for cannabis news. We believe it is important for people to carefully source the news they read and share.

We’ve had enough fake news and alternative facts for a lifetime.

So, Canada—the WHOLE country not just a province or two—is going to have adult-use legalized cannabis starting in July 2018. It’s been big news in Canada and not without its challenges and controversies. It’s amazing to an ad from the Winnipeg newspaper about its marijuana websiteconsider how fast this has happened in Canada, really just three years since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made good on his campaign promise. To that end, just last week, the Winnipeg Free Press created a new website for Manitobans (that’s the province where Winnipeg is located) to educate them about the industry and the effect of legalization on the entire country. The site, The Leaf News, is providing, “original cannabis journalism for Canadians.” This new website started us thinking about sources for reliable cannabis news.

These are a few of Our Favorite News Sites

A site worthy of following is The Cannabist. The child of the Denver Post, it covers state and national cannabis news with in-depth reporting on health, politics, business and crime.  It also offers two podcasts as well and interesting pop culture items, like how to make cannabutter, a marijuana glossary, parenting tips and recipes. The site has been around for about since about 2013 and it is content-rich.

Leafly, the dispensary index, and crowd-sourced strain review site has a growing news section, too.  Among the news topics covered you’ll find science, tech, health, politics, food, travel, sex, and Canada. Editing and writing for Leafly is Bruce Barcott, the author of Weed the People and former writer for The New York Times magazine and National Geographic.  Leafly has an interesting video channel, too.

The granddaddy of marijuana news sources is High Times. It’s been around since 1974 and still produces a print magazine as well as a robust website.  It covers business, politics, strains, pop culture and has a lot of fun to read 10 articles—like 10 Best Strains to Improve Your Workout, 10 Horror Movies to Watch When You’re Stoned and the like. It has lots of aggregated and original reporting.

Also noteworthy is Ganjapreneur. It is focused on news for people who are working in, or interested in working in cannabis and does some good reporting on cannabis growth and news from across the US. This U.S. map is helpful if you’re looking for the cannabis legalization status and news for each state.

One of the most robust aggregating sites is 420intel that touts itself as a global news source. We can’t vouch for all of the sources of news—though at the very end of the story—they do reveal the original source. That’s helpful for discerning news junkies.

Worth a shout out, too, is Michigan’s own Detroit Metro Times. The alternative weekly has been covering marijuana in Michigan with more than a passing interest for a few years. It’s Higher Ground column covers a variety of cannabis issues and is worth checking out, just pop Higher Ground in the search box.