Welcome to BIPOCann’s PR corner. This is the first of a monthly blog post where the topic of canna-business intersects with public relations. What a pairing! My hope is that you will learn something valuable that can be helpful as you grow your canna-business. I am delighted for the opportunity to collaborate with BIPOCann on the platform they created with you in mind—Lori Shepherd

Whether working with new licensees with multiple dispensaries, people with cultivation plants, or even cannabis accounting professionals, I’ve learned how incredibly quickly the cannabis industry is growing. And, as a fresh cannabis licensee, you know it isn’t easy establishing a foothold in this highly competitive marketplace. Whether you’re entering the cannabis space in retail, wholesale, or processing and manufacturing, you must overcome numerous obstacles to success.

In cannabis and elsewhere, public relations experts know how to help new companies break through the barriers preventing them from getting off the ground. They can establish constructive relationships, in person or through a myriad of press materials, with media members who ply their trade in print publications, broadcast media, or online. These individuals can give you the type of free publicity that will help you take flight. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “so, what is it exactly that publicists do?” But the answer is the same. It is a form of marketing that helps shape public opinion about one’s business, brand, products, or services. Publicists work by supporting media contacts’ ability to know about their clients in ways that lead to media coverage of them. 

Journalists, reporters, bloggers and influencers, and others who cover cannabis, will be willing to do this only if they’re convinced, you’re serious about making a positive impact in the community and have the skills, resources, and commitment to make your dispensary or processing and manufacturing facility a success. A publicist will help you put your best foot forward all the time, crafting messages for you that are honest about what you have to offer and eloquent when describing how you plan to implement your intriguing vision. 

Free Publicity is Better than Advertising

Unlike virtually all other types of legal businesses, cannabis wholesalers and retailers are generally not allowed to advertise. Not in magazines, on the radio, on TV, in newspapers, in trade journals, or on most social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. Creating compelling and persuasive advertising pitches won’t be a problem for you as a new cannabis licensee since that avenue is not available to help you raise awareness of your qualifications and virtues. 

Theoretically, this can severely limit your capacity to inform potential clients about your products and services. But truth be told, these prohibitions are blessings in disguise to some degree. 

If you rely on advertising exclusively to get the word out about your brand, you’ll be able to control the message entirely. But the advantages of doing this are negated by the fact that you’re relying on a source of communication that people inherently distrust, as they know that ads are always partially manipulative. 

Of course, your need to find communication channels through which you can connect with possible future clients is as urgent as any other new business. Potential customers have to know who you are, what you have, and how to find you before they can consider you a viable option for meeting their cannabis-related needs. 

Good publicity freely earned offers you, by far, your best opportunity to gain positive attention from potential clients, politicians, regulators, and other interested parties. Favorable coverage in the media means an independent voice chose to interview you and publicize your products or business because they thought you had an exciting story to tell or a worthwhile contribution to public health or the welfare of the community.

Audience members who see or read the enlightening pieces that result from a smartly planned PR campaign will perceive you as a potential community asset, thanks to your ability (or, more accurately, the power of your PR representative) to demonstrate to a journalist, reporter, blogger or influencer that you deserved positive coverage. 

Everyone who reads about you or hears about you through the media will realize you’re trying to make an excellent first impression. But they won’t punish you for it if they’re convinced a real journalist or reporter has fact-checked your claims and would have contradicted them if necessary. 

AI Is Not the Solution

Many resources are available in the PR toolkit to help you tell your story. Press releases, for example, can be valuable tools to provide accurate and detailed information about your business, yourself, your employees or partners, and your medicinal or recreational cannabis products. Skillfully honed press releases shouldn’t be confused with advertising copy, as the former is strictly informational. In contrast, the latter is meant to produce a specific result (to persuade potential customers to become actual ones). Your press releases will let reporters, journalists, editors, and bloggers know that you’ve entered the cannabis sector with a sound, sensible, and transparent business plan, meaning you intend to offer the best products and provide excellent customer service. 

Do I need someone to handle my press releases? Couldn’t I use ChatGPT instead, the red-hot artificial intelligence chatbot that is supposedly capable of producing a written script that is indistinguishable from that composed by a human writer? You could, but anyone reading closely and interested in understanding your business’s nuances may find that this technology fails to deliver fully. 

While it represents a genuine technological advance, ChatGPT cannot accentuate the specifics; it can only gather information from pre-existing data. The label’ artificial intelligence is a misnomer; ChatGPT has no actual intelligence; it is simply a complex computer program designed to imitate human beings as best it can, and that places a limit on what it can accomplish. 

As a new licensee in the cannabis sector, the last thing you need is a generic or slightly confused copy that falls short of what a skilled writer with a background in PR can produce. ChatGPT may be a valuable tool for writers looking to add a bit of spice or variety to their copy. But suppose you rely exclusively on ChatGPT to handle your press releases, blog copy, white papers, and any other marketing material. In that case, the final results will likely be mediocre. 

Telling the Truth About Cannabis and You

It’s unfair and based on false and outdated perceptions. But in the eyes of some, cannabis still carries a stigma, and that can be reflected in the attitudes of banks, government regulators, community leaders, and media figures in their treatment of companies or entrepreneurs that market and sell cannabis products. 

The good news is that you have the truth on your side. You know all about the benefits of CBD or therapeutic cannabis products, and you can help people separate myth from reality when discussing recreational cannabis. 

A well-organized PR campaign can effectively counteract negative impressions. In cooperation with your publicist, you’ll spread the news about the benefits your entrepreneurial efforts can bring to your community without twisting, spinning, or distorting the truth. 

Public relations outreach efforts designed by authentic PR experts can open doors that allow you to express, in your own words, your real motivation for entering the cannabis space. Through legitimate media, you’ll have the chance to tell the public exactly how the products you manufacture or sell can help people improve their lives, which will generate more business for you than the most perfectly crafted advertising campaign imaginable.  

25SecondsPR is a communications and public relations company that specializes in helping small businesses and nonprofits shape and develop their public facing profile and brand through creative storytelling. Learn more about us at www.25secondspr.com.