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.
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 there.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 preaching 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.
Want 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 firstname.lastname@example.org