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10 Lessons From 10 Years in Cannabis Media Relations

by | Feb 14, 2024 | Blog

10 Lessons From 10 Years in Cannabis Media Relations

By Evan Nison, Founder & President, NisonCo

To be effective in any industry, especially those where relationships are key, you have to be willing to learn and adapt throughout your career. I’ve been in the cannabis public relations and media marketing industry for over a decade; January 2024 marked 11 years since I started NisonCo, the country’s oldest cannabis-specific PR firm

Read on for ten lessons I’ve learned from a decade of successfully serving clients in the cannabis industry and beyond.

1.  Know the Value of Your Niche Cannabis Work

Whether you’re an experienced entrepreneur or new to the job market, you must recognize the value of your work for others to do the same. 

This concept actually gave rise to NisonCo — I didn’t set out to start a PR firm. I had been doing pro bono advocacy work on drug policy reform, working on initiatives like the New York Medical Marijuana Law and the New York 911 Good Samaritan Law. One of the companies I had contact with reached out to me to see if I had any recommendations for a publicist, and after some thought, I recognized I could fill a market gap and told them to hire me instead. My company grew organically from there. 


2.  Actively Participate in Advocacy Efforts

As mentioned, I was actively involved in the cannabis industry as an advocate for years before starting my company. I’ve been lucky to work with incredible organizations and causes like Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), the Prop 19 California Marijuana Legalization Campaign, and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). My involvement with these organizations helped build the framework for my company and, more importantly, has allowed me to help the industry become more equitable. 

No matter what industry you’re in, we all share a responsibility as business leaders to support advocacy efforts and uphold social responsibility to improve our industries and the world. 


3.  Operate with Integrity to Squash Stigma

When you work in a regulated industry that faces social stigma, like cannabis, it is essential to uphold moral and ethical values in your day-to-day operation. Too many cannabis companies ignore this tenet, opt for controversial marketing and PR, and end up harming their brand image — or delegitimizing the industry as a whole. It’s essential to remain aware of the social and legal issues surrounding your industry and do your part to make your sector as equitable as possible. 


4.  Promote Important Narratives

Public relations professionals sometimes get a bad reputation for “spinning” narratives to flatter their clients, leading to insensitive or tone-deaf stories. My advice is to do the opposite. 

Instead of focusing on media buzz and trendy stories, take a more journalistic approach by pointing out problems and promoting initiatives and companies that matter. We’re no longer in the era of “all press is good press,” especially as the cannabis industry strives for continued reform. Ultimately, high-impact stories written with integrity will do more for the sector than stories, ad campaigns, or products that follow trends or capture controversy.  


5.  Engage With Your Regional IRL Canna-Community

Getting involved with your industry as a whole is important, but engaging with your local industry and community can be invaluable. One of my favorite ways to connect with business leaders, activists, and even people who are simply interested in the cannabis industry is on LinkedIn.  

LinkedIn is one of the most cannabis-friendly social media platforms out there, and it’s an incredible tool to help you find local and regional cannabis events to attend. You can use LinkedIn to create marketing content and reach potential clients while networking with other industry professionals, too, which is another huge bonus of the platform.  


6.  Utilize Your Cannabis Team’s Varied Marketing Skillsets

Choosing employees who are invested in the industry and share goals with your company will lead to growth for both your business and your employees. When you employ individuals who believe deeply in your cannabis business’ brand message and provide proper support, you can leverage their specific skills and unique knowledge to improve your offerings, connect with more diverse clients, and even offer new products or services. 


7.  Expand Your Bud Business Mindfully and Build Moats

For most businesses, expansion is the goal — but make sure you’re doing so sustainably. Building economic moats can help you meet and exceed your expansion goals with minimal risk. Cannabis is an exciting industry that’s grown significantly over the past decade, but regulatory issues inherently limit it, and it often faces disruption. To allow us to expand mindfully, NisonCo has begun serving other future-facing industries, such as the psychedelic, medical, and legal sectors, in addition to cannabis. Growing into new industries has helped us create moats and given us more room for sustainable expansion. 


8.  Evolve Your Offerings to Match the Market

As the market evolves, your company needs to do the same, whether offering new products and services or simply tweaking your brand identity to match what customers seek. 

For example, my company has offered PR services since the beginning, and we added SEO services as they became increasingly important to businesses trying to gain exposure. These services still comprise the core of our offerings, but we’ve started to change the language we use to discuss them. People are getting tired of jargon and technical language, so we’re increasingly adopting phrases like “internet marketing” and “media marketing” instead of “SEO” and “PR,” respectively. Word choice matters in business — and in the cannabis industry especially — so even seemingly simple shifts like these can make a big difference for your company.   


9.  Stay Up-To-Date With Industry News and Cannabis Events

Staying informed about happenings in the cannabis space is essential for media marketing professionals who deal with current events and client relations. 

In-person cannabis events are a great way to stay involved and hear about industry news firsthand from your professional contacts. 

Newsletter subscriptions can help you stay up-to-date year-round, too. Marijuana Moment, WeedWeek, NisonCo and the Cannabis Marketing Association have great newsletters dedicated to the cannabis industry that will deliver the most relevant news directly to your inbox.

Staying abreast with events and nurturing connections allows you to make business deals more effectively and gives you invaluable ideas about potential marketing opportunities.


10.  Remain True to Your Cannabusiness’ Advocacy Roots

Finally, it’s imperative to maintain your company’s central mission even as you grow. NisonCo was founded via cannabis advocacy. Activism remains one of our company’s core values; we offer pro bono and low-bono work to nonprofits and a select number of socially driven for-profit companies, and we strive to help the cannabis industry move toward a more equitable future. 

Regardless of what your company does, there are many ways to make a difference. Dip Devices manufactures top-of-the-line vapes and is one of my company’s longtime clients. They make a difference in the industry and the worldwide community by donating a portion of every sale to various social impact initiatives. No matter what your business’s core beliefs are, staying true to them will strengthen your brand image and attract clients who share the same ideals. 



Looking Toward the Future of Cannabis PR and Marketing 

The past decade has been an incredible time to be a cannabis PR professional. The cannabis industry has come so far; I founded NisonCo before the first legal sale, and today, more than half of Americans now live in states with regulated cannabis industries.

I cannot wait to see where the cannabis industry goes from here, especially in light of the upcoming election cycle. If your business wants to contribute to stories about the cannabis industry’s progress, contact NisonCo today. I look forward to hearing from you. 





About Evan Nison:

Evan is the Founder and President of NisonCo, which provides media, internet and content marketing services for the cannabis industry and is the nation’s oldest cannabis PR firm. Evan has helped reform cannabis laws since 2008 and is the youngest member of the NORML National Board of Directors. He was included in Marijuana Venture’s 40 under 40 and High Time’s 100 Most Influential People in Cannabis.

Evan, driven by a passion for socially driven businesses, co-founded Whoopi & Maya with Whoopi Goldberg, a cannabis tourism venture called Emerald Farm Tours, and a smoke shop called Bloody Good Vape & Smoke with a victim of cannabis prohibition. His ventures have garnered media attention from outlets including The New York Times, CNN, Politico, Forbes, USA Today, Bloomberg and others, reflecting his impact and influence in the industry.

Connect with Evan Nison on LinkedIn here.


About NisonCo: NisonCo is a media, internet and content marketing agency deeply rooted in advocacy. NisonCo is America’s oldest cannabis PR firm and was established in 2013 with an emphasis on harm reduction and cannabis legislation. As leaders in public relations for the emerging cannabis, CBD, and hemp space, NisonCo’s team is passionate about creating and maintaining a positive image for the industry. Access NisonCo’s free, resource-rich blog here and connect with them here.


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