If you’ve watched TV shows like Scandal or House of Cards, or even just follow real-life headlines regularly, you know that public relations professionals often stay in the background until something goes really, really wrong. It’s true the crisis management is a key segment of the work public relations specialists perform. But ideally, brands would never need to weather a storm. Proactive PR is how publicists strategically set their clients up for success, trying to get as close to that crisis-free reality as possible.
In other words: PR firms might be most visible when they are reactive, but the bulk of the work they do is proactive. Proactive PR means taking a strategic and intentional approach to generating earned media and building a positive reputation for the brand a firm represents. It means staying in control of the narrative. This can be accomplished using a few tried and true techniques:
How Cannabis Brands Can Leverage Proactive PR
1. Pitching news releases: At Grasslands, we are always writing and pitching news releases. Those pitches are developed through regular communication about the newsworthy happenings at your company. But they also capitalize on techniques like newsjacking, or the injection of a brand narrative into a larger cultural conversation to increase visibility and relevancy. Through social listening we stay on top of what’s being said about your brand, as well as what’s happening in cannabis and other industries.
2. Media training: Along with reputation management, media training is one of the most proactive tools a brand can deploy as part of its PR strategy. Training public-facing cannabis professionals on how to deliver key messages, handle difficult questions and build positive relationships with journalists and other media representatives is far easier than successfully navigating a PR crisis. In fact, sending out a spokesperson who hasn’t had media training can be exactly what leads to a gaffe.
3. Thought leadership speaking engagements: Few initiatives establish authority and credibility better than public speaking engagements. These talks might take the form of moderating or speaking in a panel discussion, delivering a keynote, guesting on a podcast or even chatting with an anchor or other talking heads for a few minutes on television.
At Grasslands, we are always on the lookout for the right thought leadership opportunities for our partners. From cannabis trade shows to festivals like SXSW to local or regional networking events or award ceremonies, our goal is to establish your reputation as a trusted, authoritative expert.
4. Pitching thought leadership columns: We specialize in developing thought leadership columns and op-eds that will showcase our clients’ expertise in cannabis trade publications and other media outlets. The first step is developing a strategy that blends a brand’s leadership expertise with the kinds of narratives editors are eager to include in their publications. The next step is crafting each column to execute that strategy, all in a voice that matches both your brand and the stakeholder who’s bylining the op-ed.
While owned media like blogs and web copy are wonderful tools for conveying educational, practical or SEO-optimized information that can help convert leads and engage customers, thought leadership columns are a little more intimate. First-person editorial is a great tool for making authentic connections with readers who are hungry for unique perspectives on a given topic—like why the cannabis industry has matured beyond stoner puns.
That’s one reason that earned media assets like thought leadership columns are a great way to up the ante on narrative tablestakes in a given industry. Your competitors might have similar products and pricing at first glance, but they don’t have the same insights, personal history, media relationships and, well, swagger.
When it comes down to it, proactive PR is essential to creating a strong brand reputation and image, as well as building trust with stakeholders and collaborators. Let’s chat about how we can be proactive for your brand today.