Public Relations – An Absolute Must for Cannabis Businesses

Learn why public relations are an essential part of cannabis industry branding, and explore our list of the best cannabis PR firms.


With distinct and dramatic advantages over traditional advertising, an increasing number of cannabusinesses now enlist public relations firms to establish their brand’s public image and reputation. PR utilizes multiple media channels to improve a brand’s reputation, reach, and trustworthiness in the eyes of the public. In this article, we’ll cover all of the reasons why investing in cannabis public relations is one of the best things you can do for your brand – plus our list of the top cannabis PR firms in today’s market.

What are Cannabis PR Agencies?

Public relations (also called “media relations”) is the art of leveraging the media in order to present your brand to the public as a trustworthy standout in its field. In the still oft-misunderstood legal cannabis market, the PR efforts of individual cannabis companies also have the power to increase positive public perception of the entire industry. Cannabis PR agencies work with a wide variety of media channels, including but not limited to print media, television, radio, websites, blogs, events, and more – continually pitching stories and collaboration opportunities that will keep your brand talked about.

Unlike traditional advertising, relying on marketing techniques to sell directly to the consumer, public relations allows the media your target market is already consuming to do the work for you. Science has proven that consumers place far more trust in word-of-mouth information about a business than in obvious advertisements. The ultimate goal of public relations is to start conversations about your brand in ways that feel organic and build consumer trust. For example, a respected news publication referencing your business as a leader in the field lends an air of credibility that even the cleverest paid advertisement can’t match. Seeing your brand continually mentioned in various media channels builds a positive and ubiquitous image of your brand in the public eye, which can translate to more business.

Who Should Hire a Cannabis PR Agency?

While cannabis advertising regulations remain incredibly strict throughout the world, public relations is arguably the best path to getting your brand name and what you have to offer on the public’s radar. Whether your goal is becoming an instantly recognizable national brand or simply being the number one brand associated with your hometown city, cannabis PR can achieve far greater reach than simple targeted ads. A good cannabis PR team will also be well-versed in creative workarounds that will get you on the map despite advertising restrictions or even negative public bias in some regions. This still nascent industry has yet to yield any true “household names,” giving each and every great cannabis brand the opportunity to rise into one of the coveted spots at the forefront of the public’s minds.

All types of cannabis industry businesses can benefit from utilizing some degree of cannabis PR services, including:

  • Dispensaries
  • Cultivators
  • Processors
  • Distributors
  • Manufacturers
  • Testing labs
  • CBD companies
  • Delta-8 companies
  • Ancillary businesses (law firms, accountants, insurers, etc that serve the cannabis industry)

What Do Cannabis PR Agencies Do?

The ultimate goal of a cannabis public relations firm is to keep the media talking positively about your business. This media exposure inevitably trickles down to individual consumers, with your brand coming first to mind for their cannabis-related needs.

Presenting Your Business to the Media

The job PR firms are best known for is presenting stories about a given company to media outlets, and convincing them that the content is relevant and interesting to their viewers or readers. This includes writing, distributing, and following up on such pitches, including press releases, blog posts, or other statements announcing awards, achievements, new business developments, new products, or new locations opening. While different PR firms may prioritize specific media channels, the goal is to get your brand seen on as many notable television stations, radio shows, podcasts, magazines, newspapers, websites, and blogs as possible.

Putting a Face to Your Brand

Making your CEO (or another important figure) into someone the public knows by name and can trust is a powerful way to humanize your brand and connect with the public. This PR strategy may involve setting up print, audio, or televised interviews or speaking engagements at conferences and other relevant events. To ensure your spokesperson’s efforts land well, be sure to utilize media training. Media training can include the ghostwriting of speeches or answers to interview questions, as well as advising your brand’s “face” on exactly what to say (and avoid) in their interactions with the public.

Social Media

Many cannabis PR agencies also handle a brand’s social media presence. Most social media platforms are rife with enough restrictions on cannabis-related content that it can feel nearly impossible to reach potential customers. Not only do PR agencies understand the ins and outs of successful cannabis social media posts, but they also take on the impactful role of your company’s online voice. Everything from the tone of posts to prompt and helpful responses to your followers’ questions and comments can impact your brand’s trustworthiness.

Event Planning and Attendance

Planning and attending events can be an incredibly effective way to get your brand name out there and network in person. Public Relations agencies can help you plan and advertise events that will actually draw a worthwhile crowd. And even if you don’t choose to host any events, your PR team can secure you a spot at other relevant industry, networking, and community events.

Mitigate Negative Fallout

In the event a situation arises that reflects unfavorably on your business (or the cannabis industry at large), your response has the power to shape public opinion of your company for the better. A good cannabis PR firm will know how to stay one step ahead of potential pitfalls, continuing to frame your actions and decisions in the most positive light possible.

Community Engagement

Community engagement keeps your brand in the public eye in a wholly positive way. Cannabis public relations firms can find and orchestrate opportunities to align your brand with worthwhile causes – from your local community all the way up to the national level. Building public relationships with non-profit organizations can include anything from sponsoring local events to pledging charitable donations or enacting an employee volunteer day.

Shareholder Communication

A cannabis public relations firm is a valuable asset if you intend to take your cannabis company public. Your PR team will be equipped to handle shareholder communication, keeping your investors informed every step of the way in a positive, professional, growth-oriented manner.

Product Placement

Product placement is a tool that can be used to remarkable effect. Product placement collaborations can include anything from celebrity endorsements to the use of your products or brand name in a film or music video, or even being named the “official partner product” of a specific location or adjacent brand (such as a club or a clothing line). These types of product placements are not widespread yet in the cannabis industry, but as cannabis continues to gain social and political favor throughout the world, we will likely see this much more often.

How to Select the Best Cannabis PR Firm

Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure your cannabis public relations firm has the necessary vision, expertise, and reputation to make your brand stand out. Here’s what to look for:

Media-Specific Expertise

Media and journalism experience and expertise are essential for actually getting content about your brand published. PR teams with media-specific backgrounds carry the distinct advantage of knowing which precise types of content appeal most to media outlets – and how to present your brand’s story as one that’s sure to pique their audience’s interest.

Cannabis Industry Expertise

In a heavily regulated market with a product still largely misunderstood by the public, cannabis industry-specific expertise is essential. Your cannabis PR agency must be capable of delivering factual and correct information in the correct tone for your target audience. Just as importantly, your PR team must be capable of navigating the narrow parameters currently allowed around presenting cannabis-related content in the media – and capable of doing so in ways that not only cast a positive light on your brand but on this entire emerging industry.

Coverage Generation Strategy

Passivity rarely gets results. Your cannabis PR team must be out there consistently and persistently talking about your brand. But good PR is more complex than aggressively pestering reporters with the latest press release. Telling a story people can connect with is the most effective way to get (and keep) people’s attention. To pitch media coverage compelling enough to get airtime and stick in the minds of the public, your PR team must make the story of your brand compelling – the people, location, mission, history, values, and practices that make your company truly stand out.

Also, consider your desired audience. Are you shooting for “household name” status and recognition in major national publications? Or is your focus on capturing the market share in your own small town? Ensure your cannabis PR firm has a strategy and clear path in mind to achieve your company’s unique goals.

Crisis Management Expertise

Despite our best efforts, things sometimes go wrong, be it setbacks within the national, state, or local cannabis industry, or a misstep taken by your own business. The best cannabis public relations firms are well-versed in crisis management and will adeptly handle media response, keeping your brand’s reputation sterling – if not even better than before!

Budget

Public relations may feel at first like a superfluous expense, but your ROI can be massive if you trust the right team with this job. Unless you personally have extensive media relations experience, we highly recommend against skimping on PR or trying to handle this job yourself. Cannabis public relations services are often far more cost-effective than traditional advertising and can have a significantly stronger impact on your relationships with potential clients or customers.

Contact and Involvement

A few more questions for determining if a cannabis PR firm is a good fit for your business management style: Will you be expected and/or encouraged to take part in brainstorming and crafting pitches, or will this agency fully take the reins? How often will the agency contact you regarding strategy development and updates? What is this agency’s preferred contact medium (telephone, email, in-person meetings)?

Positive Reviews and Track Record

Of course, any agency dedicated to crafting a public image will likely have a flattering online presence. This makes due diligence particularly important before placing your business’s reputation in a particular agency’s hands. Seek out a cannabis PR firm with a solid track record of satisfied client references and high ratings from trusted third-party sources. Don’t be afraid to ask others in your cannabusiness network which public relations firms they’ve worked with – and keep reading for our list of the cannabis PR firms we’d even trust with our own reputation.

Our Recommended Cannabis PR Agencies

ICR

ICR is a true expert at navigating critical brand transitions. From rebranding and repositioning to IPOs, mergers, and crisis management, ICR knows how to harness the power of public perception and get your company’s story heard by those who matter. With a dedicated cannabis sector team, ICR’s partnership with the cannabis industry began in 2013 and continues to offer access to an expansive web of media channels. ICR’s innovative, award-winning teams service public and private companies throughout the world, with offices located throughout the US and in Beijing, China.

5WPR

Committed to furthering the cannabis industry and ushering in its success, 5WPR brings its award-winning touch for persistent, quality storytelling to the cannabis and CBD sectors. With expertise and relationships spanning multiple industries, 5WPR knows exactly how to position cannabis and CBD brands for success and credibility, with a wide variety of niche PR services to help your brand reach the widest audience possible. 5WPR is headquartered in New York City and services clients throughout the world.

NisonCo

NisonCo is a Public Relations, SEO, and Content Creation marketing agency deeply rooted in advocacy. Their small team has spent the last decade opening the door to conversations surrounding harm reduction, cannabis legalization, second-chance hiring, psychedelics, renewable energy, and ketamine treatments, to name just a few client and personal causes. Since 2013, NisonCo has worked with over 150 companies and established itself as a go-to source for reporters who cover the legal and medical cannabis industries. NisonCo has a proven track record of helping clients in multiple sectors build, secure, and increase brand awareness in a constantly shifting cultural landscape.

Canna Communication

Canna Communication is a full-service cannabis communication firm that is exclusive to the marijuana industry. Canna Communication understands the plant, its properties, and the political and social issues around its use and the market they work in, standing in unconditional support of individuals and businesses working in cannabis. If you are a grower, processor, transporter, tester, retailer, or work in a support profession such as legal, accounting, or insurance, Canna Communication can help you most effectively reach prospective clients with public relations, marketing, branding, and content creation. Canna Communication brings decades of professional experience to Michigan’s new cannabis industry, including award-winning public relations work, marketing, event planning, and brand development.

Green Lane Communication

A truly standout cannabis-specific public relations firm, Green Lane Communication draws on over a decade of experience to create brand awareness, build trust, establish credibility, and get your cannabis or CBD company noticed by the right audience. Green Lane Communication’s full-service approach covers all aspects of branding and media relations for B2B and B2C companies and industry experts alike, from defining your brand’s unique narrative to thought leadership development that will set you apart as an industry authority, to masterminding product launches, graphic and web design, content creation, and more. Green Lane Communication is based in New York and services clients throughout the US.

Melissa A Vitale Public Relations

Melissa A Vitale brings the humanized, no-fluff touch of a classic publicist to creating compelling brand storylines and telling these stories to the right people, getting real attention and real results. Since 2017, MAVPR has worked exclusively with start-ups, drawing on strong media relationships to gain brand exposure through top-tier placements – achieving the most effective results for any budget. MAVPR is focused exclusively on luxe cannabis, CBD, and sexual wellness brands, with a wide range of PR services including media relations, product placement, press releases, media training, event publicity, and so much more. MAVPR is based in New York City.

EvolveMKD

EvolveMKD is an esteemed and established public relations and digital marketing agency with industry expertise encompassing regulated industries such as healthcare, alcohol, and cannabis (recreational, medical, and CBD). EvolveMKD approaches every client with an eye toward their brand’s long-term strategy for success – while keeping right at the forefront of the industry’s latest trends. EvolveMKD’s suite of brand-caretaking services includes PR, communications, digital media marketing, social media, influencer relationship management, in-depth campaign analytics, and more. EvolveMKD is based in New York City.

Bolt PR

Bolt PR is proud to partner with cannabis brands to power their digital marketing, content, and PR strategies with the help of industry experts who bring the right passion, grit, and focus. Through data-driven integrated campaigns, Bolt elevates brands and drives measurable ROI. From establishing brand and product awareness to driving education and elevating your thought leadership platform, Bolt taps into its connections, expertise, and track record to deliver meaningful results. Bolt PR has team members in major markets throughout the U.S., with global sister agencies and partners to scale communications programs with their clients.

CMW Media

CMW Media is an award-winning, full-service public relations and marketing firm, specializing in new and emerging bioscience markets, including cannabis and CBD. Serving startups and publicly traded companies alike, CMW’s full suite of media and marketing services include public relations, social media management, investor relations, media training, product plaecement, reputation management, digital marketing, creative design, and much more. CMW’s approach involves developing a unique media strategy for each client, considering your company’s strengths, weaknesses, and current market position to acheive the best and most effective media exposure. CMW Media is based in San Diego, California, and services cannabis businesses throughout the world.

Marino PR

One of the leading cannabis PR companies in the US, Marino PR’s award-winning team of thought leaders and publicists has helped shape the legal cannabis industry from its very beginning. Marino’s full-service strategic communication team treats every client as a partner, defining your brand’s unique goals, developing a compelling narrative, identifying your target audience and the most effective channels to get your brand out there and claim your position in the market. Marino’s expertise includes media relations, public affairs, event services, social media, digital design, content creation, marketing communications, and more. Marino PR has offices in New York and Los Angeles, and services clients worldwide.

Amy Levy Public Relations

Amy Levy Public Relations brings a talent for masterful brand storytelling and the industry’s sharpest crisis management skills to ensure your brand is always presented to the world in an ideal light. Amy Levy PR’s expertise is concentrated in the cannabis and specialty food industries, with a suite of full-service brand marketing solutions that includes media relations, trade show exhibitions, reputation management, and more. Amy Levy PR was founded in 2002, and has been at the forefront of the expanding legal medicinal and recreational cannabis markets, continuing to stay ahead of industry trends with highly targeted strategic media outreach, expertly designed to grow your brand’s reach and visibility. Amy Levy PR is headquartered in Los Angeles, California.

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