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3 Keys to Picking the Right PR Partner for Your Cannabis Business

The secret to choosing the best firm is in the questions you ask.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It’s no surprise that recruiting and developing talent for your business isn’t easy, especially in an industry as nascent as cannabis. Some companies choose to recruit talent and partner with power players from within the industry, while others would rather team up with professionals who have backgrounds in industries like tech, healthcare, advertising, real estate, and other non-cannabis related industries.

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So, when it comes to bringing in an outside partner to help with PR, what’s the best way for a cannabis company to approach this? 

“PR is about exposing who we are and marketing is introducing what are and what we sell," says  Ry Russell, 40 Under 40 award recipient and Knot Plastic Founder & CEO. "I have always placed significant time and resources into public relations because I see it as an opportunity for people to learn about me, my values, and the human aspect of a business.” 

Russell, who’s currently hyper-focused on developing 100 percent biodegradable, plastic alternatives for the cannabis industry, adds, “Strategic PR supplements and amplifies marketing communications by increasing its effectiveness. Once an audience has already been introduced to you and your company in a transparent way, they’ll be much more open to your receiving your message when it’s time for you to market to them in the future.”

What do cannabis companies need to know in order to make the right decision and pick the right PR partner? Below are three keys to making sure you pick the right PR partner to help you tell and share your story.

1. Find a firm with cannabis experience

Some say, “Public relations is public relations. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, right?” Not necessarily.

Yes, there are certain aspects of PR that are transferable from other industries into cannabis, just like with all talents and skills. However, with ever-changing laws and regulations regarding cannabis, it’s important to know what events you can and can not host, which products you can and can not ship across state lines, and so much more. 

It's also critical to understand cannabis culture and where the industry is in its progression. Cannabis culture is moving away from words like “marijuana” “pot” or “grass.” Instead, phrases like cannabis and hemp are more popular and more accepted among industry professionals and consumers. Different words and phrases are more common and accepted among different age groups. Understanding cannabis and the variety of audiences within the space is crucial in communications.

Related: Here’s How Millennials And Boomers Differ On Cannabis Use

Knowing the industry from top to bottom can often mean the difference between leaving a bad taste in one’s mouth, or having them call you back to be featured on the front cover of a magazine. 

2. Understand your needs

What exactly is it that you’re looking to achieve from partnering with a PR firm? Are you looking to raise brand awareness, build trust, establish credibility, attract and retain investors, or develop an arsenal of media assets to help your sales team sell more effectively? It’s always a wise decision to reverse-engineer exactly what you want to happen. From there, it’ll be much easier for you to identify who is most uniquely qualified to help you achieve what goal you’re trying to accomplish.

Related: ‘Stay The Course’ - Q&A With Griff Conti On Hemp, CBD Retail Success

This is also a great conversation to have early on while vetting potential PR partners. Keep in mind, you’re looking to partner with someone who you can confide in and trust to manage and maintain your brand’s public image. Feeling comfortable going to them with questions of any kind should be a non-negotiable. 

“For me and my business, when selecting the right PR team I need to know them and how they work. I am curious about what the team values and finds important, and how creatively they think about problems,” says Russell. 

3. Ask the right questions

Below are eight questions you can ask a potential PR partner to see if they’re the right fit for you and your brand:

  1. What does your work look like with other cannabis companies?
  2. Do you have any PR experience working in other industries? If so, what does that look like, and do you think this gives you a competitive advantage in cannabis?
  3. Are they trustworthy? This question is for you to ask yourself. Search their name online and consider reaching out to companies they’ve represented in the past to learn about their experience working with the firm.
  4. Can you give me an example of a project you had the most fun working on, possibly even a favorite project of yours?
  5. What does your ideal client look like? Can you share some of their characteristics with me?
  6. What is your pricing structure? Some firms charge as little as $1,000.00 per month retainers while others may ask for $10,000.00+ a month. Do your due diligence to understand exactly what you’re paying for, and if you can make sense of the investment.
  7. Will the firm mesh with my company culture?
  8. Does the firm understand my needs and wants, and do they seem easy to communicate with? This is critical. You’re bringing the firm onboard to help you manage your public image. There’s little-to-no room for miscommunication between the two of you. 

Take the time to truly get to know who it is you’ll potentially be working with to help you tell and share your story. At the end of the day, it comes down to getting the job done with the right people while having fun.