Cannabis Marketing 101: Why Does My Brand Need an Agency Partner That’s Fluent in Cannabis?

PR agencies that specialize in cannabis have distinct advantages over other agencies

a photo of the Grassland PR agency that specialize in cannabis

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, and, as always, please feel free to send all of your cannabis marketing and PR questions directly to me at john@mygrasslands.com. As we have for the last number of days, I am joined here with my friend and 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?

Ricardo Baca:

Hey, man, I’m excited to see what we’re going to be talking about today.

John Svoboda:

Yeah, me, too. As we’ve discussed over the last few episodes, we’ve been taking and gathering questions from our friends and colleagues in the cannabis industry from across the country that have to do with PR and cannabis marketing. We’ve been trying to answer those in the best way we can, share some knowledge with our friends and colleagues.

Let’s go ahead and jump into today’s question. Today’s question comes from Alyssa in California, and she asks a question that is on everybody’s mind: Why does my cannabis brand need an agency partner which is fluent in cannabis? There’s a lot of agencies out there. What sets an agency that is fluent in cannabis apart from those who may not be?

Ricardo Baca:

Yeah. I like her wording here because “fluent in cannabis,” it speaks to the complexity of this plant, this industry, right? Because if you are not fluent in cannabis, … imagine this, you’re a cannabis brand, John, right? You’re looking for a PR partner, a marketing partner, a thought leadership partner. You onboard them, you sign the contract, and then you are then their education to this industry. They are learning on your dime. You know, with any agency partner, you have only a limited number of hours per month. Do you want an agency partner who can hop right in like we can at Grasslands because we’ve been working among this industry since 2012, 2013? We can hop right in, speak the language, help you describe and communicate your complex messaging with people who don’t understand the subject matter nearly as well as you, which is the media, the end consumer, as well as the customer.

We can hop in and be right there. We are fluent in cannabis. I like that. Whereas you can work with another agency and maybe they have had some clients before in the industry, and maybe they have not and they’re starting at zero. Without that context, they have no idea what’s news, what’s happened before either in the last six-plus years of adult-use legalization, 20-plus years of medical legalization, or 80-plus years of prohibition. Of course, we’re talking about thousands of years of use and medicinal use and medical efficacy.

I think having an agency partner who speaks the language is necessary because, inevitably, I always tell this to prospects: You are going to have to hold our hand and educate us on your brand. We want to know your brand intimately. We want to know your brand as well as you do because we will consider ourselves your strategic partner, your thought partner. For us to be there at the forefront, developing messaging, voice tonality for your brand, we need to have that deep understanding. In the meantime, we have the cannabis part covered. We work with brands, we work with retail, we work with labs, we work with ancillary, and we’ve worked with professional services. We’re good. We’re fluent in cannabis. If you work with somebody who is not, good luck — because you’re setting out on a major journey.

John, you remember what a steep learning curve this is, right? Remember when you first got in, you’re like, “Whoa, this is a lot to learn.”

PR Agencies that Specialize in Cannabis Save Clients Time, Money

John Svoboda:

To learn just the … You know, I started at the dispensary level. I came from corporate America and decided to manage a dispensary. I had to learn how to do the math on eighths, quarters, ounces, everything else. So, yeah, how many grams, all that good stuff.

I mean, from the get, from the jump, there is a steep learning curve. I can also speak from past experience in leading teams for other organizations and working with agencies that were not fluent in cannabis. As you know, agencies charge on an hourly retainer basis. You have a certain amount of hours each month. When you are dedicating a number of those hours to educating an agency on cannabis and the basics, because there are a number of pitfalls that can make you look silly if your agency says or does something that the rest of the agency is going to be like, “What in the world does that mean?” or “Shouldn’t they know better?” You don’t want that.

To have somebody like a Grasslands that understands some of those potential pitfalls, the terminology that should be used in the agency, what’s going to impress somebody or maybe turn somebody off, you need to know those things. I personally have spent hours educating people about some of those things. I’d rather, if I was going to hire an agency, have them already know that so we can jump into the work that they really need to do, which is spread my good story to the people that need to see it.

Ricardo Baca:

Absolutely, man. I mean, in short, it saves you time. It saves you money. It also saves you potential embarrassment. Because, John, as a journalist, I still get pitches to this day. I got a lot more when I was a full-time journalist four years ago writing about cannabis at The Denver Post. But you know what? Being somebody who is knowledgeable about the space, you can see through the people who are trying to fake that knowledge very quickly. If I’m getting a publicist reaching out to me as a journalist, and it’s clear that publicist has no idea what he or she is talking about, goodbye. Your publicist’s lack of knowledge, lack of passion, will rub off on your own brand and will create issues for you down the road.

So, yeah, without a doubt, whether you’re hiring us, hiring somebody else, hire somebody who’s fluent in cannabis. Save yourself the time, money, and embarrassment.

John Svoboda:

Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, thanks so much, Ricardo, again for your insight. As always, you can learn much more about this topic as well as many, many others that have to do with PR and cannabis marketing at our website, mygrasslands.com. Please follow us on LinkedIn at Grasslands Agency.

I’m John Svoboda. Please always feel free to send all of your cannabis marketing and PR questions to me directly at my email, which is john@mygrasslands.com.

Thank you again, Ricardo. It’s been an absolute pleasure sharing this knowledge and learning from you and hopefully sharing this to our friends and colleagues.

Ricardo Baca:

We’re going to do some more down the road, my friend. Thank you.

John Svoboda:

Right on. Well, thanks, everyone. This will wrap up Season 1 of “Cannabis Marketing 101.” We will see you next time for Season 2. Thanks, everyone.
Got a question of your own? We’d love to hear from you, and are happy to talk shop anytime about cannabis marketing, thought leadership and PR. Drop us a line: hello@mygrasslands.com

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