Five PR Tips For Budding Cannabis Brands, a bylined article by Durée Ross.
Originally featured on Forbes.
The cannabis marketplace is an ever-evolving one. While much is being done to propel the movement, there is still a lot of gray area surrounding state-specific laws. No matter which way you spin it, the cannabis space, including cannabidiol (CBD), is experiencing an undeniable boom. In fact, Wall Street estimates the CBD industry could be worth $16 billion by 2025. To put it in an even greater context, according to Marijuana Business Daily, the U.S. cannabis retail industry “now rivals Taco Bell’s annual U.S. revenue and, by 2020, will likely surpass yearly revenue figures generated by the National Football League.”
With this expansive growth, however, comes a lot of uncertainty. Whether you are fronting a flourishing cannabis brand or a startup, public relations can help you stand out from the competition. If you haven’t considered this investment yet, the five points below will help illustrate why it’s so important and how you can make the most of your PR efforts.
For those who are not familiar with CBD, the effects of this component alone are non-psychoactive, unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which produces a high. Instead, CBD is directly derived from the hemp plant, a cousin of the marijuana plant. This important distinction is just one of the reasons education is imperative in this burgeoning industry.
Keeping your audience up to speed on the most current information will allow your brand to achieve an authoritative voice. When it comes to consumer education, position yourself as an educational authority on the right subject matters, like the newest ways to consume cannabis, cannabis innovations in the medical field and the growing popularity of CBD.
Understand (And Define) Your Place In The Market
The cannabis industry is exploding, so how do you establish your brand as a reputable player in such a competitive market? Conducting a market analysis is the perfect place to start. Reviewing a list of your top competitors and their successes will help in formulating a plan to see how you stack up against your top opponents.
Brand reputation is everything. Here, you can dig deep to relay the personalized story of your brand and mission to ensure you relate to your target consumer.
Build Trust With Consumers
Transparency to consumers is key. One of the best ways to do this is with a Certificate of Analysis (COA). These labels communicate where the product is manufactured, its ingredients and other details, depending on state requirements. Brands should always be upfront across all communication channels that they work with third-party laboratories for testing. Another way to be transparent with consumers is to stay ahead of industry news and be proactive in communicating any new developments, concerns, findings from studies or other relevant info.
The FDA recently held a public hearing to uncover scientific data and information about products or compounds that either contain or are derived from cannabis. The 100-plus speakers covered a range of topics, including agriculture, public safety and manufacturing. In an effort to establish transparency and ultimately gain consumer trust, the hearing was a big, first step in having an open conversation about cannabis in a public forum.
While it’s always the last topic on everyone’s minds, it’s imperative to plan for a crisis. Without a strategic plan in place, things can fall apart quickly. In these situations, the issue must be clearly communicated and updated accordingly. Silence is only going to raise concerns and speculation.
For this, I’d recommend working with a seasoned publicist ahead of time, who can put together a plan to ensure that responses are accurate and consistent. Look for a PR professional that can advise on how to spin bad news properly and make the most out of a detrimental situation. A good publicist should not only help navigate responses but put a plan in place from the start. Having real-life scenarios with appropriate responses in place will help you get ahead of any issues, if — and when — a crisis occurs.
Build The Groundwork For An Evolving Industry
Laying the groundwork for your company goes hand-in-hand with establishing your brand as a reputable player in the cannabis field. In 2019, more than half of the United States has legalized cannabis, at least partially. If you strike while the iron is hot, your brand has the potential to become a leading player in this “green rush.”
To do this, you must establish how your brand will become a top player within the industry. At our agency, we always advise clients to stay on top of industry news before it happens. Your trusted PR partner should do the same. Staying ahead of the game is key, and leads to the second piece of advice, which is to position your brand and its key spokesperson(s) as expert sources. Garnering stories in the press, bylined articles and speaking engagements can all contribute to a spokesperson’s expertise.
If you choose to outsource your PR, I would recommend hiring a diverse agency or professional. This means hiring someone who can uncover many angles and opportunities in a multitude of avenues. Because CBD touches so many industries — from wellness to pet care — it is important to have a team that can manage the industry growth and help place the company in different ways. If you are unsure about how to introduce or reintroduce your company to the public, invest the time to be more proactive with your PR efforts.
The numbers are staggering: “Retail sales of medical and recreational cannabis in the United States are on pace to eclipse $12 billion by the end of 2019 — an increase of roughly 35% over 2018 — and could rise as high as $30 billion by 2023,” according to Marijuana Business Daily.
As the industry continues to expand and evolve, there is still much to learn and navigate. However, keeping education, transparency, reputation and crisis management at the forefront and engaging with a trusted PR partner can help to position your brand for success and growth.