Cannabis Marketing 101: What is PR? And What is Earned Media?

The difference between cannabis PR and cannabis marketing comes down to having an agency partner hustling to ensure your brand awareness is larger than that of your competitors.

What is PRAnd What is Earned Media

Editor’s note: Curious about Cannabis Marketing, Public Relations and Thought Leadership? We’re sharing intel about what works and what doesn’t in this special Grasslands video series. Get the inside story about the best ways to deliver messaging that resonates with B2B and B2C audiences, as well as getting the right media placements for your brand.

John Svoboda:

Hello, and welcome to “Cannabis Marketing 101,” a show where we take your questions about cannabis marketing and marijuana PR and break them down with the experts. I’m John Svoboda of Grasslands. As always, feel free to send me all of your cannabis marketing and PR questions. My direct email is John@mygrasslands.com. And, of course, as always, I’m here with my colleague Ricardo Baca, a.k.a. a two-time veteran of the TEDx stage, as well as the CEO of Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency. Ricardo, what’s up? How are you today?

Ricardo Baca:

I’m feeling it, man. How about you?

John Svoboda:

I’m doing great. It’s beautiful. I’m loving the weather. It’s a beautiful day to be quarantined.

Ricardo Baca:

Exactly.

John Svoboda:

So what we’ve been doing is we’ve been taking various questions from our friends and colleagues across the industry, across the country that have to do with PR and marketing here in the cannabis industry. And we’re trying to spread some education, answer those questions, and hopefully educate some of our friends and colleagues and our networks about how important PR and marketing is in the cannabis industry. What do you think? What do you think of this idea?

Ricardo Baca:

I think it’s fine. It’s just about spreading knowledge, education. We’ve been lucky enough to amass this skill set over many years. And so now it’s time to share it with some friends and colleagues throughout the world.

Difference Between PR and Marketing

John Svoboda:

Right on, right on. So, getting to today’s question. This one actually resonates a lot with me because coming into Grasslands, I was asking this same question. So, coming from my friend Brett in California, he asked, “What is PR? What is earned media? What does that even mean?”

Ricardo Baca:

We hear that a lot from prospects. I think this is a very common question because PR is one of those things you hear about. You think only celebrities have publicists or whatever that might be. PR is really, I see it as the strategic telling of stories to secure a place for your messaging and your brand in front of a target audience. And so what that looks like, I mean PR and earned media are really intertwined. Because earned media is that final piece, that final result or outcome when you are quoted in a big trade magazine like MJBizDaily or a big daily newspaper like The New York Times. That can be really, really meaningful because, of course, that is earned media placement.

As we’ve talked before on this show, there’s earned media, paid media, and there’s owned media. And we know for a fact that Americans feel most confident trusting earned media. And that is because that journalist, reporter, blogger, podcaster, they went out there on a limb and they said, “You are a business person that I trust who I want to speak to about this story.” Whether they’re reporting on news and they want industry perspective or whether they’re just writing a straight-up profile about you, what a big honor. That’s an earned media hit, that is the pinnacle of trustworthy media. And that is what PR is because you and your PR team, like we do public relations here at Grasslands. They’re out there telling your story to journalists hoping to pique their curiosity, hoping to figure out a way to get them to write about you and your brand.

John Svoboda:

That makes total sense. It’s like the long game. You have to build somebody up as a subject matter expert on whatever that subject might be and then get them out to the media partners that a PR agency like Grasslands would partner with so that they start to believe in that subject-matter expert and thus start promoting them and pushing their thought leadership out to the masses. Is that kind of the idea behind the whole thing?

Ricardo Baca:

Exactly. And it takes time. We talk to people about this all the time. If you’re looking for very quick, immediate results, PR is not what you’re looking for. I’ve talked ourselves out of business because they’d tell me, “Ricardo, we need to see results in six weeks.” That’s not why you go for PR. You go for PR when you’re really looking for your brand to be entrenched and to be familiarized with the masses and your specific target audiences. And it’s just a process that takes a little time, requires a little patience. But there’s a big payoff at the end when your brand awareness is larger than that of your competitors.

John Svoboda:

Phenomenal. And now something that, a general thought out there is that PR is something that you need when something really bad happens. You hear about all the PR that happens when a business does something wrong — and hopefully no one in the cannabis industry is doing anything wrong — but why is it so important to have good PR before something bad happens?

PR and Crisis Communications

Ricardo Baca:

I think that’s a common misconception without a doubt. That’s generally oftentimes what we call crisis management, which is definitely part of PR. But before the crisis happens, before shit hits the fan, you really, really need a strategy to deal with that crisis. And even completely outside of the realm of crisis or crisis management, you just need to be bolstering your brand in front of the audiences to whom it matters most.

I mean, imagine if you are selling edibles to Colorado only and then you have certain media outlets you really need to be in front of. And maybe as that edibles producer, you want to be in front of some other industry publications, you’re looking to license your IP into other markets. And so therefore you want to be in the national trades, that’s massively important, but you also need to sell products. And so you need to be in The Denver Post. And the Colorado Springs Gazette and the Fort Collins Coloradoan, and all of these television stations in multiple markets, right? Video, online, podcast, that’s how it goes. And that’s what we do as a PR agency, keeping you top of mind when things are good and also protecting your reputation when things go bad.

John Svoboda:

That’s awesome. I think that’s going to answer a lot of questions in people’s minds about what PR is in general, what some of the differences are as far as what earned media is and how to get there. So, thank you so much today, Ricardo. As always, you can learn more about this and so much more at mygrasslands.com. You can always follow us on LinkedIn at Grasslands Agency. And, as always, I’m John Svoboda. You can email your cannabis marketing and PR questions directly to me, and we’ll answer those in future episodes. My email is john@mygrasslands.com. Ricardo, thanks again so much for your insight.

Ricardo Baca:

Thank you, John.

John Svoboda:

Right on. We will see you all next time on another episode of “Cannabis Marketing 101.”Got a question of your own? We’d love to hear from you, and are happy to talk shop anytime about cannabis PR, thought leadership and content marketing. Drop us a line: hello@mygrasslands.com

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