Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR
The emerging cannabis industry post-legalization faces unique challenges, including limited ability to advertise like mainstream companies. That’s just for starters. At the same time, competition within the sector is heating up, and savvy cannabis business owners are turning to public relations in order to stay ahead of the pack.
With an effective public relations strategy, cannabis firms are able to communicate their identity, via their brand, to customers; good PR will net companies media coverage, reach, a positive reputation and perhaps even investors. Here are five ways cannabis firms are engaging in PR tactics to expand their share of this emerging market.
If there’s one reason branding is essential in the cannabis sector, it’s that each company — more or less — is selling the same product.
As the cannabis industry matures, branding will become ever more important. Already, the most successful companies are those with great names: Leafly, MedMen, and Flowr.
“It is starting to be a given that people expect the product to be of high quality — that’s just assumed,” says Leafwire CEO Peter Vogel. “To differentiate in a crowded, competitive marketplace, companies are going to have to focus more on building a recognizable and consistent brand that will stand out on the shelves.”
Journalists covering the cannabis industry can’t be expected to stay on top of everything at all times, or even take notice every time a new player enters the market. This is where PR reps come into play.
“Cannabis companies need to hire publicists who are passionate about weed themselves,” says publicist Jonathan Hay, “if your publicity firm doesn’t get cannabis culture, it won’t be able to come up with creative ideas to strategically market your marijuana product, either.”
In the age of social media, it is paramount that a cannabis company has a dynamic Facebook, Instagram and Twitter account that is regularly updated and used to interact with potential customers.
Even so, there are countless gray areas when it comes to cannabis and social media, and it takes a social media professional to navigate the necessary platforms without your brand being banned.
As the investor Warren Buffett once said, “it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”
Even more challenging is the fact that no cannabis company has yet to have its 20th birthday; this means that reputation building is still taking place.
“Media links,” says ELLO’s Evan Eneman, “[can] become great marketing tools to increase visibility and build the platform of your executives as leading industry thought leaders.”
Reputation is not only essential to generating sales but also to attract investors as well. With the rise of socially responsible investing or SRI, hedge funds are becoming more and more interested in a firm’s brand as much as it’s internal health.
Modern investors are media-savvy, fiercely competitive and thirsty for any information that provides an edge. “It is essential to implement and maintain a policy of transparency and forthcoming communication to guide the perception of your company,” explained ELLO’s Eneman.
As such, cannabis companies looking to grow in an increasingly competitive market are sure to find the hiring of a PR specialist well worth the cost.
About the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, which works extensively in cannabis PR.