The impact that the article made surprised me and proved to those of us who have suspected there’s something amiss among the gang, that we’re onto something. We’ve been encouraged by many sources to “keep digging.” The pieces are coming together. When you piss people off, they talk.
I didn’t expect for the cannabis media to be so upset about the article and try to make it about them/call me out for trying to get attention for my company by writing about this. Of course I want attention for my company, this content making thing is WORK. But, the vitriol received from the cannabis media was really poignant. Shakespeare said it best,”The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
I wanted to take a minute to update a few things from the article.
- It has since been brought to my attention that some of the gang has recently ended their relationships with Mattio Communications. Neither Ascend nor Trulieve are currently working with Mattio. They both took their comms in-house.
- I edited the article to remove the incorrect fact that Mattio Communications sponsored the Green Market Report’s 2023 Women’s Summit. The company has sponsored other events for GMR but not that one.
- While the article might have made Cannabis PR sound evil, it is definitely not! It is necessary and authentic when done right. There are some bad actors out there, but that doesn’t mean skip PR altogether! Just the opposite, in fact. Find the right agency for you.
Trulieve and Ascend both took their PR in-house, ugh!
So, now we know who got to the podcasters who were set to interview Dusty Christensen, Trulieve themselves!
If you are reading this and you are a reputable company with a killer in-house PR team, this is not about you. If you are reading this and you are wondering if you should hire a PR agency, you should!
Why I think in-house PR is worse than an agency:
Checks and balances — At good agencies, there are good people with moral compasses whose clients trust them to hold them accountable to their mission.
Truth to power — Let’s say there’s a really bad idea floated by the PR team, but the CEO LOVES it. Let’s say that CEO is a narcissist and often threatens to fire people for disagreeing with them. Is the in-house PR person going to speak up? However, an agency is typically hired to be “of counsel” to the CEO and is (sometimes) empowered to speak truth to power.
Ethical fading — Simon Sinek defines ethical fading as; a condition in a culture that allows people to act in unethical ways in order to advance their own interests, often at the expense of others, while falsely believing that they have not compromised their own moral principles. When you work for a big company, you often “drink the kool-aid” and begin to accept behaviors you never would have been ok with before working there. An agency team has its own company culture and can decide if their ethics align with those of their clients.
Bottom line, while agencies do rely on their clients to pay the bills, they usually have multiple clients on their roster. Losing one client should not make our break an agency. However, an in-house team is beholden to their jobs and can’t always be as strong counselors as outside agencies can.
Conference sponsorship is 100% pay for play:
I stand corrected that Mattio Communications was not a sponsor of the GMR Summit this year. However, just by the sheer fact that GMR was one of the cannabis industry’s ONLY media outlets, Mattio has been a supporter of the outlet from day one. The company has sponsored many of their other events over the years.
I am generally pretty mad about conference sponsorship in general. Full disclosure, I am sponsoring my first conference this month. But, I’m mad about it. I’m not mad that conferences exist, we need them for networking. I am mad that cannabis businesses are spending tens of thousands on these conferences annually and then saying they have no “marketing dollars” to reach consumers.
I’m excited to host my panel at the Cannabis Marketing Summit. But, I also know that I have that opportunity largely because of my sponsorship. Also, I was invited to participate in their awards program and I get 3 entries for being a sponsor. To be honest, Hi-Curious has not done anything award-worthy yet. And, I am not going to try and win a fake award.
So, all of this pay for play makes me uncomfortable, and I don’t have a solution. But it’s not kosher.
Why you should definitely hire a PR agency if you can afford it:
After my article last month, some people replied “I will never use a PR agency.” That is definitely not my intention here. As many of you know, I have worked at some of the biggest PR agencies with some amazing clients doing work that many dream about. I believe whole-heartedly in the power of public relations. In fact, it’s still the core of what I do at Hi-Curious; I just flipped the model so I could give my time in more meaningful ways than hourly.
A good PR agency should make your life easier, help you reach consumers online and off and make you look good in the media. Depending on your budget, an agency can become an extension of your in-house team and handle all of your relationship building needs (with the exception of direct sales leads). You can rely on a PR agency to develop and execute a social media strategy. And, they’ll help you find angles to tell your stories in different ways all the time. That’s their job.
A great PR agency will help you through a challenging time and preserve (and even strengthen) your reputation in the process. When I first got into the cannabis industry, I was critical of Ben Kovler and his mixed messaging on LinkedIn. I reached out to him to counsel him on how he might show up differently to be more authentic and build a bridge between corporate and culture. My DMs went unanswered. The time for building bridges has passed.
Most companies are good! And, good people run them! Public Relations agencies are mostly run by good people and cannabis companies are too. While everyone is here to earn a living, PR agencies do what they do because they love making connections and seeing their clients succeed. Your PR firm can be your best asset in taking your business to the next level.
The one drawback to hiring an agency for many cannabis entrepreneurs is the price tag they come with. If you don’t have $5K+ per month to spend, it can be hard to find an agency that will give you time and attention.
There are other solutions to hiring a full-service agency or bringing your agency work in-house. I’ll be talking about them on this webinar next Friday.