How to Pitch Cannabis Media
The Best Public Relations Practices When Pitching a Cannabis Journalist
By Dayle Guttenberg
The Cannabis Industry and Journalism
It can be tricky to pitch your company’s story to the media. Not only is it hard to stand out from the crowd, but it can be difficult to connect with busy reporters. It is crucial to have a valuable story with strong facts in order to appropriately portray the formerly taboo herb. The first amendment protects free speech, so speaking with the press is a valuable way to talk about cannabis and tell a story outside of a traditional advertising medium. Cannabis industry regulations can be highly restrictive, preventing the industry from marketing the way other industry’s can. Stories in the media can help tell a better story of cannabis and help destigmatize the plant and the industry among readers and reporters.
Cannabis Marketing Association reached out to cannabis journalists to get an understanding of what they look for when being pitched by public relations professionals. We were inspired to figure out what, exactly, DO cannabis journalists want to see and hear when being asked to write content about a heavily regulated and misunderstood plant.
Do Your Research
When pitching a journalist, it is key to have all the facts about who you’re pitching what to. For example, it is best to know what the journalist’s beat in the publication is: what exactly do they write about? Tech? Cannabis? Health? It is possible that, if these details are missed, you and/or your organization will lose credibility. If research is done correctly, it is possible that the story being pitched can be tailored to relate to the journalist of a certain beat. For example, cannabis can be pitched to an environmental reporter if the facts are related to environmental issues.
It is also important to understand reporters’ stances on the topic being pitched. This is mostly to avoid a biased opinion that may not be what you are looking for. The most important aspect of pitching is pitching relevant information to the correct reporters. This helps reporters not feel like their time is wasted when they read unrelatable stories.
Transparency is important when it comes to pitching writers. When presenting a story to a reporter, it is important to not be deceptive; lay everything out for them. This is critical because any reporter can find information on their own. By initially establishing transparency, credibility and trust are maintained by being clear upfront. If you don’t they will find it on their own, so establish credibility. If you want the story to be comprehensive, you want to give all the facts. It is better to be honest with the journalist if you do not yet have the information they are seeking, rather than trying to save yourself and telling them the wrong facts. Even if the desired information can not be obtained, at least you can be a trustworthy contact for the future.
Bad Story vs. Bad Pitch
There is a difference between a bad story and a bad pitch. A bad story is essentially bad news: not worthy of journalists’ time, negative topics, etc. A bad pitch involves poor planning with the person pitching to a journalist.
How to Present a Good Pitch
A good pitch begins with an eye-catching subject line: you want your email to stick out among the hundreds in a reporter’s inbox. Simply, get to the point in the subject line. Reporters do not have the time to read a long line explaining something that could have been summed up in a few words. Pitches should always be concise and informative. Reporters need a little tease of information so that they may respond requesting more details if they are interested.
It is also key to remember the reader/audience of the pitch in order to be able to tailor the language to what they are looking for. The person pitching should give journalists a lead, but also leave them space to take the article in the direction that makes sense to them. They are the expert on the subject, that is why they are being pitched. The journalist should have the freedom to take it where they want it because they know the bigger picture.
Does the Pitch Contain a Good Story?
Once reporters find the emails they think are attractive and important, it is time to find out if the pitch contains a good story. Unfortunately, there are good stories that get tossed and do not get written about. Felicia Gans, a cannabis reporter for the Boston Globe discussed in Cannabis Marketing Association’s panel, Best Practices in Boston Cannabis Marketing event that “sometimes you’re going to have to deal with a not so good story… reporters are not out there trying to get on it.”
In regards to writing stories, Felicia advised to be consistent in your writing; in her words, don’t “disappear.” This means it is important to keep up with a story or topic you are discussing, rather than just discussing it once and never picking it back up again. Public relations professionals know this, but early stage entrepreneurs may be on their own so don’t stop the pitches!
In some cases, there will be stories that you can’t run away from. In these cases, it is best to “release a statement and realize you made a mistake… sometimes you move on and relationships will build from there.” Felicia believes that people, “from the marketing perspective,” forget that things don’t just go away and it is important to stay in touch with the reporter. If you are pitching, you are also doing reputation management, so it is good to focus on the good and not denying the bad… own the story, do not run away from it, because it is not going away.
When pitching a journalist, one must accept rejection or delay. For that, it is important to be confident in a follow-up. When it comes to email pitches, an appropriate reach out would be one email per 24 hours. If after the correct wait time the journalist has not gotten back, it would then be a good time for the follow-up phone call.