Fact: We tell about a third of the potential clients who come to us requesting wellness or cannabis PR that they’re not ready. That may seem counterintuitive because who wants to turn away business, right? But here’s the thing: Unless your cannabis or wellness company has a solid foundation, hiring a PR firm is a waste of your time and money.
This is frustrating for a lot of wellness and cannabis entrepreneurs and start-up founders to hear, and I get it. You have toiled away for months, maybe even years to bring your vision to life. You think people will love your product or service, and you’re certain that the media will fall all over themselves wanting to cover you.
I wish it were that simple. The reality is that there has never been a more competitive time to get media attention, especially when it comes to wellness and cannabis. Plus, with Covid, social unrest, climate change, and myriad of other global issues vying for attention, you’ll need more than a cool product or service to rise above the noise.
Here are eight questions that are designed to help you make an informed and strategic decision about whether or not the time is right for you to work with a PR firm for your cannabis or wellness company.
These questions are based on more than 25 years of experience working with a wide variety of wellness and cannabis clients. I’ve also been on the client side and know what it takes from both parties to get great results and develop a positive and collaborative relationship.
- 1. What do you want to accomplish with PR? Your goals might include things like elevating your CEO as an industry thought leader, brand awareness, lead generation, and of course, sales. Aim for three to five goals that you’ve prioritized by importance and potential impact.
- 2. Have you identified your key differentiators? You should be able to concisely articulate what makes your brand special. Do you have first mover advantage? Have you disrupted the industry in a meaningful way? Does your founder have a truly emotionally compelling story? What do you offer that no one else does?
- 3. What does success look like? Old-school PR used to be measured in impressions. Not anymore. Social media and the web have opened up a whole world of metrics like referring traffic that can be tracked using Google analytics, email list growth, social media mentions, and qualified leads.
- 4. Do you have the budget? Even smaller PR firms can have monthly retainers that start at $5K and require a year-long commitment. Like everything in life, you get what you pay for so spend time vetting potential agencies and alway get references.
- 5. Do you have realistic expectations? The news cycle, especially now, is fickle and unpredictable. It can take months and sometimes longer to get a national media hit, and even then there are no guarantees in PR. You’ll want a PR partner that’s up front about what is and isn’t possible. My personal strategy is to under promise and over deliver so everyone is happier in the long term.
- 6. Can your brand withstand public scrutiny? Do your social media channels and website look professional, cohesive, and polished? Is your messaging clear and consistent? Can website visitors easily buy your product? Is your online ordering platform easy to use? Do you clearly convey your value proposition and key differentiators across all of your communications channels?
- 7. Do you have the time to commit to PR? Do you have the capacity to manage an agency and engage with the media? For example, will you be able to drop everything to do an interview with a writer when the time (and their deadline) comes? A strong PR effort requires constant attention–not just by the PR professional but by business stakeholders and leadership as well. It is very much a collaborative relationship that should be built on trust, mutual respect, creative thinking, and achievable and measurable results.
- 8. What if your PR efforts are successful? Think about your dream media outlet. If you landed in the New York Times or on major TV network, could your company handle it? Is your website ready? Can you fulfill a huge influx of orders and inquiries? I can tell you that most startup companies are unprepared for a big win like a feature in Oprah or Fast Company and there’s nothing more frustrating than a once-in-a-lifetime wasted opportunity like that!
If you take away nothing else from this article, remember that very few things are press-worthy, especially when it comes to major national media outlets. But there are other ways to achieve great results. You may find that based on your goals and budget that it’s better to begin with trade or B2B press or focus on elevating your profile with speaking engagements or spend time building your brand on Clubhouse and other social media channels.
It’s important to not limit yourself to what everyone else is doing! Break the mold. Bust through the grass ceiling. Think creatively. And, yes, when you are ready, enlist a strategic PR and communications partner who has the vision and experience to go on the journey with you.