Over the past few years, there has been quite a shift in how the press is “talking pot”. From Vogue covering “Cannabis Cocktails” to top business outlets covering what marijuana stocks you should invest in, the pot conversation is hitting the mainstream media very quickly.
As marijuana emerges from the black market into legal legitimacy, the conversation in the mainstream press isn’t just an exploration of pot culture anymore. Right now, the legal cannabis industry is one of the fastest growing industries netting nearly $10 billion in 2017 and is expected to hit twice that this year. As more and more public opinion polls show that a majority of Americans support legalizing the drug, media is increasing their coverage to satisfy people’s need to understand the ever-green industry.
So as a PR person representing a cannabis client, how do you navigate the slowly legalizing industry?
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Understanding how to participate in the cannabis conversation comes down to knowing how to communicate to the capital markets, consumers, and regulators. PR and marketing agencies are counseling their clients on how to properly reach to a whole new consumer. For a brand that makes CBD gummies or tinctures, instead of branding themselves as just weed edibles they are positioning themselves as supplements to fight chronic pain or the new wheat grass shot to take after you workout. For companies on the ancillary side, discussing how to be successful as a business while not touching the plant is the kind of topics that are reaching aspiring cannabis entrepreneurs.
KNOW WHAT TOPICS READERS LOVE RIGHT NOW
The top topics being covered in the news range from CBD as a beauty lifestyle product, marijuana legalization legislation, and how you can profit on this industry. The cannabis consumer today isn’t just your typical stoner looking for the next strains to “knock your socks off”, they are patients, lifestyle health gurus and a wealthier, older demographic looking to invest and understand. Some of the top searches for Cannabis range from Millennials investing into pot stocks and will CBD help with anxiety. Make sure your pitch is unique to what has been covered but know what publications enjoy covering.
SHOW WHY YOUR MARIJUANA PRODUCT IS THE BEST
If you head to any legal state right now, it is a brand graveyard of weed products. From THC sodas to chocolate, everyone is looking to make a quick buck. So you put weed in beer? Why should I cover it?
As marijuana flirts with mainstream, a lot of writers are looking to give readers the truth of this trendy new product or innovative company. Be an expert on your cannabis product and brand by having your pitch include testimonies and the science behind the product, but don’t over-saturate your pitch with too much information.
KNOW WHO YOU ARE PITCHING
This is just basic PR knowledge, but knowing what that writer usually covers before blindly adding them to your pitch list is crucial in pitching cannabis. A handful of people still don’t support marijuana legalization and someone covering their support for Jeff Sessions will immediately put your pitch into spam. Unless they are vocal about it, mommy blogs and parent publications navigate their support for pot very differently. Take a few minutes to research the writer! Meltwater is a great tool to easily track that writer’s recent coverage.
KNOW WHAT YOUR CLIENT WANTS
For any company working in cannabis space having an agency that understands the unique challenges that this industry brings is a good first step. However, whether you are a consumer product or a publicly traded company, it is always crucial that the PR agency understands what the marketing and sales teams goals are.
For agencies, if your client is on the B2B side, you’re going to want to strive for brand awareness among an audience reading trade publications rather than a Refinery29 gift guide.
Not all press is good press in the cannabis industry. Having a message that ties to ending the stigma of marijuana is always a good start. Nonetheless, every brand has a story to tell but what part of that story makes it stand out? There has to be more than “I grow the best cannabis” or “we are the most innovative”. Finding that and running with it will guarantee long-term success.