It’s an integral part of the human experience to wonder what others think of us. We’re social creatures, after all, and our nervous systems are hardwired to think of social success in terms of survival. While FOMO (fear of missing out) is often exploited in marketing, FOPO (fear of other people’s opinions) is a branch on the same tree. And it’s difficult to get the authentic, accurate feedback we naturally crave.
That is, unless you have a good PR team collecting social proof on your behalf. Believe it or not, an integral part of any successful public relations or marketing campaign is performing the social listening and earned media monitoring that can give you a very clear snapshot of how your audience receives your personal and professional brands.
What Is Social Proof?
Social proof is one of the reasons to believe you can offer your customers—the evidence that you really can solve the pain points they’re coping with and genuinely provide what they need. While reasons to believe can take many forms, social proof is as powerful as word of mouth because it’s authentic, organic feedback from third parties. Social proof is accessible info about your brand, with a personal twist. Here are a few examples of social proof for cannabis brands:
The word testimonial comes from the same Latin root as the word “witness.” Customer testimonials bear witness to the job your brand did in solving their problems and simplifying their lives. When someone takes the time out of their day to write a testimonial, it speaks volumes about the difference your brand made. And when someone is willing to put their name behind public support for your brand, you know you’ve really done something right.
When Snoop Dog put his name and face on Tsumo Snacks’ savory Snazzle Os, hip-hop fans and snack fans alike took note. As one of the biggest celebrities in cannabis, Snoop’s signature smile was all it took to generate huge interest in a product that stands out from the many sweet edibles on the market.
Celebrity endorsements remain one of the most instant ways for brands and products to connect with consumers—particularly Gen Z. After all, celebrities have their own built-in, loyal audiences who can connect with their idol through your brand, especially when there are overlapping values and a sense of purpose.
These days, celebrities aren’t limited to actors, musicians and other artists working in the public eye. Celebrities now include influencers, vloggers and it-girls who have made a name for themselves on social media platforms like TikTok, YouTube and Instagram.
Business and award credentials
Have you noticed how some businesses fill the bottom section of their website with accolades from the Better Business Bureau, various credit card companies or even chambers of commerce? Those are all examples of business credentials intended to increase confidence and reassurance that their brand is legit. It’s the business equivalent of adding “Dr.” or “MBA, SHRM-SCP, CCOP” to one’s resume or LinkedIn profile to boost credibility.
These acknowledgments really mean something to your existing and potential clientele, colleagues and competitors alike. Not only should you seek out these kinds of credentials, you should make sure a plan to leverage them is incorporated into your overall marketing and PR strategy.
Unlike owned and paid media, earned media is generated by external sources—a quality that gives earned media an extra air of legitimacy and trustworthiness.
When an article is published that mentions your brand, backlinks your website, independently reviews your products or includes them in a gift guide, quotes your leadership, or refers to your brand as a positive example in the industry, that’s earned media.
It takes a lot of relationship-building with journalists, story pitching and news releases to earn better brand awareness through earned media. But when you do, that positive reputation and recognition can be one of the most priceless assets your brand possesses.
As with influencer marketing and celebrity endorsements, it’s a big deal when a peer chooses to associate their name and reputation with your brand. The same is true of strategic partnerships.
When Colorado vape maker O.pen teamed up with the Illegal Pete’s restaurant chain on a promotion for National Queso Day, it was a chance for a cannabis brand to generate buzz with a beloved mainstream Tex-Mex chain with an old-school Colorado ethos. The O.pen brand was able to align itself with a strong, purpose-driven brand like Illegal Pete’s, conveying new aspects of its own, distinct mission, vision and values in the process.
And when Grasslands hosted the ongoing Art Biome biennial at our Denver headquarters, it was a way for us to communicate our support for the local arts community in a way that doesn’t always come up when we’re talking about cannabis marketing and PR.
Strategic partnerships not only expose your brand to new audiences, they also serve as a powerful endorsement. As many cannabis brands are learning, taking a collaborative approach to marketing and PR can be even more powerful than a competitive approach—standing together is often better than standing alone.
Meghan O'Dea has honed her skills as a writer and content strategist for over a decade. She cut her teeth writing film and music reviews and a weekly opinion column on the 20-something experience. Early success in personal essay led Meghan to earn a Master's degree in Creative Nonfiction at UT Chattanooga, during which she attended the international MFA program at City University in Hong Kong as a visiting scholar. She has served as a digital editor for Fortune Magazine and Lonely Planet and earned bylines in The Washington Post, Playboy, Bitch magazine, Yoga Journal and Subaru Drive Magazine, amongst others. Meghan began writing cannabis stories for Willamette Week, Nylon and Different Leaf while working in the travel and outdoor media industries in Portland, Oregon. In addition to covering the intersection of travel, hospitality and cannabis, Meghan's work as a travel journalist took her from Los Cabos to Yellowstone, from San Francisco to Jamaica. She has also taught composition and travel writing at the college level and guest lectured on topics such as literary citizenship, urban history and professional development at conferences and universities throughout the United States as well as Madrid, Spain.