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Cannabis PR

Cultivating Connections: The Power of Media Relationships in Cannabis PR

August 6, 2020

A good brand knows its customers deeply—their needs, their wants, their hopes, their struggles. That empathetic connection with real human feeling is the backbone of any effective marketing strategy. By the same token, the backbone of any effective public relations strategy is rooted in publicists’ deep understanding of the media industry and how journalists work.

There’s a reason why Grasslands calls itself a Journalism-Minded™ agency: Our Founder, Ricardo Baca, had firsthand knowledge of what cannabis journalists need to succeed because he spent years covering the birth of the industry from the legalization epicenter of Colorado. 

There’s also a reason why so many members of the Grasslands team are also former reporters, editors and journalism school graduates. When marketing and public relations professionals know what journalists are looking for in pitches, news releases and narratives, it’s easier to forge meaningful, lasting media relationships. 

In the world of PR agencies, “spray and pray” is jargon for media blasts, but this common tactic is limited. Far more effective than jotting down a news release and sending it to as many members of a media list as possible are more personable tactics:

  • Picking up the phone and calling a journalist or editor
  • Hosting brand activations specifically for members of the media
  • Providing product samples
  • Inviting a reporter out for coffee or to a happy hour
  • Arranging a deskside meeting 
  • Tailoring news releases and pitches for specific markets and audiences

How Publicists Build Media Relationships

If that sounds not dissimilar to the kind of behavior you appreciate from your  friends and colleagues, you’re on to something. Building media relationships works much the same as building relationships with any other human being, whether in a professional context or in our personal lives. 

Personalizing communications to an individual journalist’s beat, voice and regular publications goes a long way to helping that person feel seen and supported. Studies show that people are more likely to provide “reciprocal altruism” to people with whom they share social proximity. In other words, we’re more likely to help someone the more time we spend with them and feel we have in common.

When a reporter receives a customized message about potential story angles and interview opportunities, it feels less like an ask and more like they have someone in their corner helping them do great work. That’s always meaningful, but especially at a time when newsroom employment has plummeted by almost 30% and a third of newspapers have experienced major layoffs, leaving remaining staff to get the news out with fewer resources. 

It takes time to get to know journalists, especially if you’re also focused on other types of business networking, like seeking out potential brand partners, investors and the like. Anyone who’s been to a trade show, conference or networking event knows  how challenging it is to make a consequential—and memorable—first impression. 

Building the kind of media relationships a brand needs to take its PR strategy further and acting on that effort with well-timed, personalized communication is flat-out hard on top of all the other responsibilities an executive typically has on their plate. 

That’s why it’s so important to find a proactive cannabis PR partner who has already done the hard work of forging meaningful connections with journalists at a wide range of publications. From glossy print media to broadcast producers, from editors of trade publications to freelance writers who regularly contribute to popular digital media sites, there’s still a lot of ground to cover even as local news outlets consolidate. 

Expertise, Authority and Trust in Cannabis PR

The key principles of expertise, authority and trust that cannabis marketing strategies are designed to foster with customers apply to media relations, too. These core qualities have particular importance in an industry like cannabis that still struggles with stigma, misinformation and skepticism by editors and the public alike. The more that publicists can earn trust from journalists as expert authorities not only on the brands they represent, but the cannabis industry at large, the more successful they are. Not to mention the importance of practicing proper media etiquette. 

You never know when a programming organizer at a big-name conference will have a last-minute spot to fill. It’s up to the publicist to set a high bar for cannabis PR professionalism so their circle thinks of them first when such an opportunity crops up, and reaches out for a recommendation for a business leader who would be the best fit for that panel presentation.

Being a good community member who offers to help when they can, is pleasant to deal with, communicates clearly and promptly, and is punctual in all their appointments is as is as important, or more so, than having a catchy subject line heading for an email pitch or offering first dibs on an embargoed scoop.

That’s why two of our core values at Grasslands are to sweat the details and provide over-the-top hospitality. The golden rule is as good a foundation for cannabis public relations as Aristotelian principles like ethos, pathos and logos are for marketing. And it’s easier to treat others the way we wish to be treated when you have a team dedicated to making media connections, and making the most of those relationships. A friend in weed is a friend, indeed—in more ways than one.

If you’re ready to take your cannabis PR strategy further by leveraging Grasslands’ deep media relationships, please reach out today.