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Why Cannabis Brands Should Invest in Thought Leadership

Published on
May 18, 2020
Asking the questions, why does my cannabis brand need thought leadership?
Contributors
RICARDO BACA

Ricardo Baca is a 20-year veteran journalist, keynote speaker, TEDx veteran and thought leader in modern media and drug-policy circles. He served as The Denver Post’s first-ever marijuana editor and founded news vertical The Cannabist, where he extensively covered the advent of adult-use cannabis and related issues across the country and around the world, as seen in the feature documentary Rolling Papers (Netflix).

In 2016, Ricardo launched Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency to work directly with business leaders in highly regulated industries, including cannabis, energy and traditional healthcare. Named Marketer of the Year by AdCann in 2019, Ricardo has received numerous accolades for his trailblazing work covering drug policy, cannabis business and culture, and continues to columnize and host podcasts for a number of top publications.

Three media outlets I check every single day: The Denver Post, Vox, The New York Times

Super inspired by: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

My monthly #GrasslandsGives donation: The Marshall Project

When I’m off the clock (in five words): Travel. Design. Writing. Feminist. ENFP.


Establishing a meaningful thought leadershp presence can do more than boost brand recognition for cannabis companies.

Ricardo Baca and the entire Grasslands Agency team helping with cannabis brand development

Editor's note: Curious about Cannabis Marketing, Public Relations and Thought Leadership? We're sharing intel about what works and what doesn't in this special Grasslands video series. Get the inside story about the best ways to deliver messaging that resonates with B2B and B2C audiences, as well as getting the right media placements for your brand.

John Svoboda:

Hello, and welcome to “Cannabis Marketing 101,” a show where we take your questions about cannabis marketing and marijuana PR, and break them down with the experts. I am John Svoboda of Grasslands, and, as always, feel free to always send in your cannabis marketing and PR questions to me directly at John@mygrasslands.com. Of course, as always, I'm here with my colleague and friend Ricardo Baca, a.k.a. the founder of The Cannabist, as well as the CEO of Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency. Ricardo, what's up?

Ricardo Baca:

What is up, John? Good to be here with you for another episode.

John Svoboda:

It's great to see you, man. As always, we are taking and gathering questions from our friends and colleagues across the country who are working and living in the cannabis industry and who have questions about PR marketing, how it affects, and how to do it properly in the cannabis industry. So let's go ahead and jump into today's question. How about that?

Ricardo Baca:

Cool. Perfect.

John Svoboda:

All right. So, here's from Sean in Colorado. He asks, "Why does my cannabis brand need thought leadership?" So maybe describe what thought leadership is again. And why does somebody need it?

Ricardo Baca:

Thought leadership is, without a doubt, an opportunity to display your expertise through a vehicle and provide value for your target audience, while still generating buzz and goodwill and trust for you and your brand. And so, if you're asking me why you need thought leadership, you need to be trusted. You need to engender that goodwill. You need people to want to work with you, to look up to you, to recognize that you are the leader in this specific aspect of the industry. Nobody is a thought leader for the entire cannabis industry. Nobody can speak to every single element of what's going down out there in every individual market, especially with this patchwork of state-by-state, province-by-province regulations.

And so, what is your niche? Is your niche creating extraction machinery? Or is your niche more on the product-development side or the branding side? Well, our niche is PR marketing and thought leadership. And this is why you need the thought leadership, because you need to be trusted. You need people to look up to you and to want to work with you. It's a very valuable business-development tool. And, of course, this is what we're here to discuss, is marketing. We're talking about driving sales, and thought leadership should be a huge part of your marketing program.

John Svoboda:

Driving sales in the cannabis industry is very, very important. So if this is a very important piece of your marketing program or strategy, when a brand comes to you, when a cannabis brand comes to you, whether it's a manufacturer or a lab or an ancillary packaging company, they say, "All right, thought leadership sounds great. We know a lot about what we do." How do you lay out a solid thought leadership program? What does that entail? What does that look like? How do you start building that?

Cannabis Brand Development Through Storytelling

Ricardo Baca:

Yeah, good question. Like with anything, with marketing there are certain knowns and there are many unknowns, and we need to get to the bottom of those unknowns before we can develop a program or know what kind of a program you might need. And so, for example, you use the example of a packaging company. So, you're a new packaging company and you're looking to get in front of your target audience. And your target audience is different than anybody else's target audience in the world. I would very much recommend the speaking engagement side of thought leadership. At Grasslands, we call that service “thought leadership speaking engagements.” And what it does is it puts you in front of those target audiences.

And so, think about it: You're at MJBizCon next in New Orleans. Obviously, it's happening digitally this year, but let's say it's 2021. And think about the kind of people who would go to a panel discussion specifically about packaging or sustainable packaging or progressive nontraditional packaging, whatever it might be. Chances are the people going to that panel, they want to learn about packaging. And if they find you compelling, they might end up talking to you after your panel, and that could very well turn into a sale.

So, that's where I would drive them for that specific target audience. That said, let's say you have a retail chain of dispensaries, like one prospect that we're talking to right now. They're looking to open a dispensary in an area of Oregon that, right now, isn't super friendly to adult-use shops. And so, what they want to do is they want to help influence that local community, tell them they're going to be good partners, get in front of them and just have some real talk with them about where they are, what kind of a purpose-driven brand they are. And that's a good opportunity for another thought leadership service called “thought leadership columns,” where we at Grasslands help you find that message.

We help you find that narrative. And then we help you create it and we help you place it in a mainstream media outlet, so that people in that community are flipping through a newspaper, they're scrolling through Instagram, they're reading a blog, and they come across your column that basically talks about your community leadership, your approach to responsible cannabis retail, and all of that. And it engenders that goodwill and trust, and that's the direction of thought leadership I would recommend for them. And then we have some clients where it's like, you absolutely need both. You need to be speaking. You need to be writing. You need to be spreading this message as far and wide as possible amongst these target audiences. And so, every thought leadership program is different for every business, and it comes down to first figuring out who your target audience really is, John.

John Svoboda:

That's awesome. And I think that's something that Grasslands does amazingly well with the clients that we have — is really learning about them, what they need, what they're looking to accomplish, really building that partnership, and going out and doing targeted campaigns to build their thought leadership, to build their brand awareness, etc., etc. So thank you so much, Ricardo. I think that really helps explain a little bit why thought leadership is so important. So guys, if you'd like to learn more about thought leadership, why it's so important, how to accomplish it, as well as so many other topics about PR and cannabis marketing, please visit our website, mygrasslands.com. Also, follow us on LinkedIn at Grasslands Agency. I'm John Svoboda. Feel free, email all those questions about PR, about cannabis marketing to me directly, john@mygrasslands.com. Ricardo, thank you so much again for your insight.

Ricardo Baca:

Thank you, John. Always good.

John Svoboda:

We'll go ahead and see you guys tomorrow for another episode of “Cannabis Marketing 101.” Thank you.

Got a question of your own? We'd love to hear from you, and are happy to talk shop anytime about cannabis marketing, thought leadership and PR. Drop us a line: hello@mygrasslands.com

https://vimeo.com/426886327

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