Balancing Advocacy and Business
The cannabis industry serves so many different types of people, it was almost a given that this community would begin to polarize. We are seeing this divide now as more pro-cannabis campaigns ramp up nationwide.
There are some activists who believe that “no regulation is the best regulation,” and likewise there are a few businesspeople who would sacrifice all humanistic elements of this legacy industry in order to turn a profit. Neither are helping the movement, and luckily, both are rare.
Steering clear of the extreme ends of the spectrum is incredibly important in this industry, and being aware of and constantly reevaluating your company culture and messaging can help you avoid falling to one end of the spectrum or the other.
In this space, the vast majority of us are advocates to some degree. While not all of us consume cannabis, typically we all share similar beliefs that cannabis should be legalized, and similar aspirations that one day the negative stigma of the plant will be but a distant memory. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, here are some tips for balancing cannabis advocacy with your business model:
Decide who your target audience is, and how you want them to perceive you. As more states propose and implement legalization measures, this industry is slowly becoming fragmented into recreational vs. medical proponents, and some that fall in between. If you’re in financial services, clients may not be interested in hearing about any direct involvement with medical marijuana - and depending on the regulations in your state, it could even hurt you. On the other hand, pandering too much to the medical marijuana community may come off as inauthentic unless you can back it up with some solid philanthropy and a cooperative business model. Claiming to have policy influence and expertise will definitely backfire at some point, unless you’ve got a full-time employee poring over policy in all 50 states. When acting as an advocate, stick to what you know and do best, while keeping an open mind to helping others in the industry do the same.
Think globally, act locally. If you do choose to take an activist stance (or at least support activism in the industry), decide exactly how you want to help and always keep a focused scope on your goal. Is your interest in expanding safe patient access in the United States? Get involved with your local chapter of ASA, NORML or other patients’ rights groups, attend their meetings and stay networked. More interested in bringing cannabis to a foreign market? Sponsor an international conference in that country or region, while inviting other companies or individuals in your area to join you on the trip. Is your goal to change drug laws worldwide? Start locally to build momentum and show that you understand the various power structures involved in drug policy.
Get the word out. Sometimes, simply participating and showing your solidarity with a movement is the best thing you can do as an advocate. If your goal is to make an impact on pediatric patients, hold a benefit or fundraiser for the family of a child who needs medical marijuana treatment. More interested in pushing policy forward? Host an official campaign fundraiser gala, or plan a company-wide day off to assist with get out the vote (GOTV) efforts. Cashinbis donates to an organization called CannaEffect - they have a similar mission to ours, only instead of sharing stories of entrepreneurs and innovative businesses, they share the true stories of medical marijuana patients and advocates nationwide, getting them the attention they deserve for their cause.
Advocacy can open many doors in the business world, if done correctly. When you take a sincere position on cannabis, and work collaboratively to make your vision a reality, others in the industry will see that and want to network with you. Cannabis is a plant that naturally connects people - follow its lead to success!
Blaze a Trail: The Strategy of Thought Leadership
There’s no questioning it anymore: the media landscape has changed dramatically in the last few years.
Your local newspaper used to have real clout; now, nearly everyone you know gets their breaking news from Facebook and Twitter. Even appearing on television seems to have lost its lustrous appeal as more individuals and families cancel their cable subscriptions in favor of streaming services and online news. Getting attention in this media environment can be complicated - and expensive.
In the world of business-to-business communications, it used to be enough to attend networking and trade-specific events, have a sharp company website, and if you’re really tech-savvy, to have Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles set up for your brand, as if to say, “If people need us, they’ll simply go online and find us.” These tactics are no longer enough if you want to seriously market your product or services to other businesses - and for such a complex problem, the reason why is rather basic.
Think about what marketing, advertising and public relations are, at their core. You and your company have a basic message to get out: “buy our product/service.” However, there is always a classier and more thoughtful way to persuade your audience, and that’s by telling a real, genuine story.
People are hardly ever interested in buying the first product they see; trust needs to be built first, especially in B2B sales where each party wants to be absolutely sure they’re getting the best deal or partnership, a company whose views align with theirs, and with no messy strings attached.
What better way to build trust than by introducing yourself and offering up useful information about your industry, or even a dose of entertainment? When it comes down to it, another businessperson considering your website doesn’t really want to know more about the products. They want to know about you and what makes the company special, in your words.
This is “thought leadership.” The most sought-after speakers for national trade shows and conferences, the most buzzed-about companies and innovative products, all have one thing in common: they unabashedly put themselves out there. Knowing what makes you different from the competition is one thing, but being able to communicate that takes courage, and a little strategy.
Creating content on a company blog is a great start. Leadership can impart their expertise in the field, and even company interns can share what they’ve learned by working there. This, however, takes time and money to keep up and promote on the right social media channels, and your team will have to be ready with new content monthly or even weekly.
Investing money into a PR or marketing agency is still a popular (and ever-evolving) strategy, but in an industry like ours, where regulations are grey and stigma still runs deep, there are myriad obstacles to getting media attention. Print or online news coverage in your local daily is nice, but not effective for getting in-depth about your cannabis products and services - it can make mainstream readers uncomfortable. In Colorado, where cannabis is recreationally legal, network cable TV is resisting any marijuana advertising on the airwaves. Even online, it’s no free-for-all. You may have already noticed that Facebook rarely accepts cannabis-related pages or ads for promotion, and the same is true with Google and search engine optimization (SEO) methods.
When putting a marketing plan together, maximum return on investment should be the ultimate goal. As a business owner and thought leader in your field, making the decision of what type of media you will invest in is one of the most important choices you can make for your brand.
Why is Forbes considered by many as the pinnacle of business reporting? They were the first to really go in-depth and interview CEOs and other powerful businesspeople, telling the unheard story behind the world’s powerhouse companies. Hence, why Forbes is still a reputable print and online publication today, even while other news outlets are crumbling under the pressure to go digital. Forbes created more than just business stories - it created thought leaders.
Cashinbis provides this same service for the cannabis industry specifically. We want to help elevate your business - not because it benefits us, but because it lifts up the entire cannabis movement when we all share stories of our success.
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Salmon that will get you baked: weed-infused fish the latest in cannabis cuisine
liced thin with flecks of dill peeking out, the salmon looks like any other of gravlax you would have for brunch. But put it on a bagel with a schmear of cream cheese, and you will get pretty stoned eating this delicacy.
The mastermind behind the THC-infused salmon – cured in salt, dill, lemon, sugar and a weed tincture – is Josh Pollack, owner of Rosenberg’s Bagels and Delicatessen in Denver.
“I love bagels and lox, and I love cannabis,” Pollack said.
Pollack, a New Jersey native who grew up going to establishments like Russ and Daughters, moved to Colorado for college. He loved the state, but missed the bagels from back east. After graduating, he worked in finance for a while, but tired of that and moved on to a more fulfilling passion: food.
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