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Should Your Cannabis Company Hire a Publicist?

Facing challenges marketing their brand, some cannabis companies turn to traditional public relations to get the word out.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Cannabis companies in the U.S. seem to be split into two groups: Those that get all the hype; and those that can’t seem to gain traction at all.

PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou | Getty Images

Why the disparity? One reason is that marketing and advertising as a cannabis company is almost as difficult as getting a compliant product onto store shelves. Because of this, many companies struggle to be heard using tools like social media and google ad words. These brands are now starting to invest in traditional public relations to drive their stories forward and gain relevancy in a lightning-fast industry.

Related: 12 Cutting-Edge Marijuana Marketing Tactics That Work

The Social Media Problem

Just like in any other field, it costs time, money and strategic effort to pull off an effective cannabis campaign. The difference is for cannabis operators is that they can rarely see the return on their investment.

Paid social media advertising and analytics tools prohibit the promotion of illegal drugs -- and this often includes the legal cannabis industry. Beyond the prohibition on paid campaigns, major platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are known to censor and even shut down entire accounts just for being related to cannabis.

Still, many companies keep pumping a sizable amount of their budgets into social media. They see it as the only tangible way to be seen in their community, whether that’s one city, an entire state, or for ancillary and lifestyle brands -- the world at large.

Companies should certainly create a presence on social media -- it’s essential for branding in the modern era. However, the most meaningful stories deserve a wider audience. That’s where PR could come into play.

Related: The Particulars of Marketing Your Cannabis Business: Experts Share Their Secrets

PR Can Get You Press

Smart marketing minds know that endorsements from a few media outlets can really get the ball rolling for a lesser-known brand. For cannabis companies, the positive effects of earned (free) media can help build the ultimate foundation for growth, cementing name recognition and reputation among a sea of new brands.

An earned hit on a well-trafficked cannabis website or blog is guaranteed to reach a captive audience of people who are familiar with the industry, most of whom are fairly likely to shop at cannabis retailers. A hit on a mainstream media platform can do even more -- it legitimizes the industry with a relatable business story, or piques the interest and maybe even change the minds of those who are on the fence about trying cannabis with a product feature.

Blogs, ads, and social media posts fade after their time is up, but a solid story placement will be seen for months as it gets picked up by search engines, aggregators and industry newsletters. Sometimes, it’s even possible to share those hard-earned hits as “boosted” posts on social media for some extra oomph -- as long as they don’t promote cannabis use, of course.

Related: 6 Simple Digital Marketing Strategies to Jumpstart Your Marijuana Business

PR Can Help You Target Your Message

Public relations is about much more than sending messages into the void. It’s a way for companies to add themselves into trend stories, by creating original and meaningful conversations around the types of products and types of consumers that make up this space.

The modern history of cannabis is being written right now, and those who are engaging directly with the media in a focused way will be the main characters of the story.