1. Why is Public Relations in the Cannabis Industry Important?
  2. What Do Public Relations Do For A Cannabis Business?
  3. What’s The Difference Between PR and Marketing?
  4. 5 Key Cannabis Public Relations Tips & Tricks To Get You Started
    1. Set Your Budget
    2. Start With Story
    3. Drive Home Your Value Proposition
    4. Educate, Educate, Educate 
    5. Go Local
  5. Our List of The 3 Best Cannabis PR Agencies

Do you think about the public relations of your cannabis business?

Having a savvy public relations strategy for your cannabis business is more important than establishing strong public relations in any other market right now. This brand new industry has no definitive blueprint, it’s like the wild-west.

When it comes time to launch and promote your B2B or B2C Cannabis business, you’ll notice the barriers that exist at every turn in this competitive, highly regulated market. But it’s a journey you don’t have to take alone if you can find the right public relations partner.  

In this article, we consult communications expert, Scot Rutledge, to discuss why public relations are uniquely important in the cannabis industry, what public relations can do for your business, the difference between public relations and marketing, and share our top 5 favorite PR tips that you won’t want to skimp on.

As a bonus, stay tuned until the very end of the article where we’ll list the 3 best cannabis PR agencies to build your brand with. 

two people working on a computer together

Why Is Public Relations In The Cannabis Industry Important?

Public relations in the cannabis industry is important because it’s a highly regulated market and you’ll need help creating brand awareness while avoiding common money and reputation pitfalls along the way. 

Marketing and advertising in the Cannabis industry is tough

Maybe you plan to use Facebook advertising or attempting to create an SEO strategy to out-optimize the competition, but this can waste your precious time if you don’t understand the complicated nature of the cannabis market. 

You might think that Cannabis has become more culturally accepted, but it still has a ways to go before it’s fully legal. For this reason, the Cannabis industry is controlled in digital and public advertising; many platforms won’t even allow you to promote cannabis-related content whatsoever

For example, if a platform like Amazon suspects you’re selling or promoting a product even remotely related to Cannabis on their platform, you risk having your listing taken down and your seller account suspended. 

With the help of a public relations team that has specialized experience in Cannabis PR, you save time and money with a guide that can help get you in front of the right audience to suit your goals.

“Public relations can be a pretty big investment upfront, but the return on investment is second to none.”Scot Rutledge

What Do Public Relations Do For A Cannabis Business?

Public relations helps to get you in front of news stations, magazines, and podcasts; boosting your visibility while overcoming complicated cannabis advertising limitations. 

Every Cannabis company you see in a news segment, in a podcast advertisement, or in a magazine article has the backing of a public relations firm that has succeeded in getting the brand seen. For example, public relations teams lead initiatives, like putting a face to the brand. They pursue this by booking the company’s CEO a speaking engagement at a relevant industry conference to create buzz.

Simply put, Public Relations helps to build and frame the way the public sees your company while overcoming the obstacles faced by marketing your brand on your own

cannabis leaf being held to a sunrise

What’s The Difference Between PR and Marketing?

Public relations maintain the positive reputation of your business. PR makes sure that you’re interacting with your customers and your industry, keeping the conversation going about your business at all times. Public relations teams do this by writing press releases for notable achievements and releases, as well as interviews for the news, podcasts, radio shows, and more. 

Marketing sells and promotes your product/business. Marketing gives you visibility so that your target audience can see and recognize your business. A marketing team does this by running product sales, investing in online advertising, tracking and running customer retention initiatives, and more.

All you have to do once your public relations and marketing team build your story and brand to bring people to you, is to follow through on the quality of your service and the quality of your product.Scot Rutledge

5 Key Cannabis Public Relations Tips & Tricks To Get You Started

We’ve compiled a “can’t miss” checklist of the most important aspects of nailing a cannabis public relations strategy by first making sure your business has the right “bones”. 

Here we share 5 critical components of a cannabis PR strategy. Understand and discuss the following important aspects of your business with your PR agency or representatives.

1. Set Your Budget

Public relations can be a pretty big investment upfront, but the return on investment (ROI) is second to none. 

When you’re investing in your PR budget, you’re investing in brand awareness, which can take you from a startup company or an unknown company to one that is seen as a legitimate player in the cannabis industry.

If you’re still in the business planning stages of your cannabis adventure, make sure to call some public relations firms and figure out what your budget would need to look like to create a solid public relations strategy and add the cost into your financial plan. 

PR is a key expense, because you’ll be competing against a lot of other brands and businesses. It’ll be your public relations team and your marketing team that turn up the heat on your competitive edge. 

2. Start With Story

We’ve all been stuck listening to work or school presentations while watching our minds wander off to our grocery list or our plans for the weekend. If only the presenter understood that the human brain is wired for anecdotes and stories rather than meaningless bulleted lists, they’d be on their way to a memorable presentation. 

Packaging your cannabis business for successful PR is no different. 

Research suggests that when humans hear a story, both the language processing and experiential parts of our brain are activated [1]. Leverage the wiring of the human brain to create a brand story that is sensory, tangible, and relatable.

The cannabis industry is no special exception to an essential branding rule: Tell a story

Build a story for your audience and don’t skimp on relatable details. Use some of the following prompts to help dive into the hows, whys, and whats of your brand:

    • Who are the characters in your business/brand?
      • 7 Brothers are the founders of Charlottes Web.
    • What does the setting for your business feel, smell, and sound like?
      • Our dispensary is located near a freshwater Lake in Northern Michigan. 
    • What have you learned along the way?
      • I quit my job in advertising, put my belongings in a Uhaul, and moved across the country to take part in the thriving cannabis industry.

3. Drive Home Your Value Proposition

If you’re new to business, the term value proposition might be new to you. A value proposition is the “why” behind your brand that answers the question, “Why should a customer choose your product or service?”

To put it into context: Why are people rushing to buy the new shoe brand, Allbirds

At $125 a pair, why wouldn’t you buy a $30 pair of shoes that serve the same function? But it’s Allbirds value proposition that keeps customers coming back. Allbirds capitalizes on creating wearables that are sustainably sourced, always keeping the environment and climate change in mind

Developing a value proposition is one of the top ways to stand out in the cannabis industry. To figure out your value proposition, identify what sets your cannabis business apart from the rest. 

Check out the queries below for ideas on value propositions you may be able to identify and maximize with the help of your public relations team:

    • Does your leadership team contain minorities or members from underserved populations? 
    • Do you use sustainable practices for your product or business? (recyclable shipping materials, no use of styrofoam, etc.)
    • Are you proud of how you grow or extract your cannabis? (supercritical CO2 extraction, outdoor grown, or organic)
    • What’s your company like? (family-owned, small business, seed to shelf)

By driving home a strong value proposition, you’re boosting your chances of customer retention and letting your customers know that they’re putting their dollars in the right direction. 

4. Educate, Educate, Educate 

An unavoidable aspect to consider when creating your brand story is the stigmatization the cannabis industry faces. 

Cannabis sales and growth have been made legal in certain states for medicinal or recreational use and the 2018 farm bill made the cannabis plant, hemp, an ordinary agricultural commodity [2]. While great strides continue to happen, legislators and politicians still denounce cannabis/cannabis products while the scientific community at large recognizes its considerable health benefits.

For this reason, marketing and public relations for cannabis are a delicate topic and you have the power to take control of the narrative. Utilize a PR team to help do your part in contributing toward the greater efforts of reshaping the public perception of cannabis – both for your brand’s success and the industry at large.

An experienced Cannabis PR agency can help you to promote cannabis as the world-class wellness alternative it truly is. By creating a PR campaign surrounding the positive aspects of cannabis for agricultural and recreational use, your team will be helping to demystify and free the cannabis plant, providing your audience with better resources and education for understanding a historically misunderstood plant. 

5. Go Local

There’s a saying in marketing that the most powerful form of advertising is word-of-mouth

According to Forbes, 92% of consumers are most likely to place far greater trust in recommendations from family than from advertisements [3]. 

An important part of a good PR strategy is focusing on connecting with your customers, rather than collecting customers. In fact, gaining 75 enthusiastic supporters of your business is far more powerful than collecting an email list of 400 people who could care less.

Partner with a cannabis PR firm to catch the attention of locals in your area, using yourself as the test audience: 

    • Which local publications do you read? 
    • Which local Instagram accounts do you follow? 
    • What local events interest you?

When you’re showing up in the public eye and gaining positive attention, you’ll begin to see that your target customers and audience begin to feel like they can trust you. On a local level, it works as a very similar effect to that of word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM)

business public relations

Our List of The 3 Best Cannabis PR Agencies

It’s important to us that you feel equipped for success. Our exclusive industry network recommends the top public relations firms that are specifically skilled in the cannabis industry.

Each agency has a different culture and different feel, giving you both the option of high-end and boutique. There’s no one-size-fits-all public relations firm, so we chose a variety for you to take a look at.

1. Mattio Communications 

Rosie Mattio is the founder of Mattio Communications, a prominent PR agency in NYC and now LA. This firm has become a household name because of their proven success working with some of the largest and most well-known brands and operators in the cannabis industry. 

2. Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency™

Founded in 2016 by veteran journalist and Marketer of the Year Ricardo Baca, Grasslands is an Indigenous-owned agency specializing in integrated marketing—including strategic public relations, thought leadership campaigns, traditional and digital marketing and digital advertising in highly regulated and emerging industries such as cannabis, technology, real estate and beyond.

3. NisonCo

NisonCo has been focused on the cannabis industry from the start and has successfully worked with over 100 clients ranging from dispensaries to cannabis investment firms. 

Let’s Build Your Cannabusiness

Public relations firms do best when they truly believe in the product and services they’re promoting. Interview with a few PR agencies to suss out your perfect fit for a partnership to last.

Once you’ve leveraged the power of public relations to sell your story, build your brand, and bring people to you – the last thing you have to do is follow through on the quality of your service and product.

Whether you’re in the application phase for licensure or aiming to be the first trailblazing community leader, CANN Strategy is here to help. Our team of industry experts can turn your business’ CSR goals into actionable strategies that truly make a difference in the world. Ready to work together? Contact us today.


Glory Finnegan