Party Like a Marketer Podcast

Episode 45: The Power of Cannabis PR: Insights from a Leading Media Relations Expert

Episode Description

Lisa Buffo sat down with sat down with seasoned PR pro Rosie Mattio, Founder & CEO of MATTIO Communications. Rosie shares her journey into the world of cannabis PR, offering valuable insights into how clients can work with a PR firm and what to expect from the process. Lisa and Rosie explore the importance of crafting a compelling pitch, building a brand, and staying up-to-date with the latest trends in the industry. Rosie also shares advice for those who are doing PR on their own and want to work with reporters. Whether you’re an entrepreneur in the cannabis space or just curious about the power of PR, this episode is sure to inform and inspire. Tune in and discover how effective media relations can help take your business to the next level.

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Read the Transcript

Lisa Buffo  00:07

Hi everybody. Welcome to today’s episode of Party like a marketer, the podcast dedicated to cannabis marketing, public relations and authentic storytelling. I’m your host Lisa buffo, the founder and CEO of the cannabis Marketing Association. Don’t forget we’ve got our cannabis marketing Summit coming up this June 21 through 23rd at Denver at the Hilton city center. We’ve got two full days of content teaching you all about cannabis marketing in person. More information can be found on our website at the Cannabis marketing Today’s guest is Rosie medio. Rosie is the founder of Matco communications the largest cannabis focused marketing and public relations agency in North America. Since launching NatGeo as a one woman PR firm in 2004. She has redefined conversations around the emerging industry by garnering global media coverage and mainstream publications for clients, including the first ever cannabis article published in Oprah. With offices in New York la in Toronto. Marielle offers a suite of services including content SEO, investor relations, event planning, social strategy, growth, marketing and influencer marketing for cannabis companies at each growth stage. Under her leadership, Mattio became one of the only PR firms featured on the Inc 5000 list and was named one of the most effective cannabis PR firms for a Green Market Report. Today Rosie is an established strategic powerhouse and industry connector recognized as one of PR News’s Top Women in PR, one of 50 most influential women by High Times Magazine and Forbes top 10 female entrepreneurs. Rosie, thank you so much for joining us today.

Rosie Mattio  01:52

Thank you for having me. At least I’m excited to be here in chat.


Me too. You’ve had a lot of wonderful early success in the cannabis industry. You’re one of the most well known PR firms in this space. You’re based in New York. And I know personal story you started on the West Coast move to the east coast. But you do take clients all over. So I do want to get into PR what it is that Matt do does. But can you first tell me a little bit about yourself and your career and how you got started before you started Mattio communications. What’s your background?


Yeah, so I went to communications go into bu graduated comm my major was PR so I definitely knew what I wanted to do. When I graduated, I moved to New York City back in New York City. I’m from New York originally and took up a job at Rubenstein associates, one of the largest PR firms in the world. I’ve worked for their media departments learned how to pitch and just got my toes wet at a large agency and then but two years later, I moved on to a boutique agency in New York where I specialized in specialty food actually in restaurant PR. And then I got engaged in 2006 and decided my husband and my fiancee that time, got a job job out in Chicago and I was moving out with him. So I decided to go out on my own because I wanted to move and I wanted to stay in PR so I started a small consulting firm me with one client, one of my clients that I brought into the agency I’d worked at, left with me and he and that company was a popcorn company started my career out in 2004 as a solopreneur, which I did for 10 years to 2014 and took a little break and I had kids I have four kids. But my background was really specialty food and technology. And I maintained one or two clients. And then in 2013 We moved out to Seattle, Washington for my husband’s job. Around that time. Washington just got an adult use and I started seeing Canvas popping up everywhere drove my kids to school, there was a dispensary on the way it’s at 8am in the morning, a line outside. I started going to parties and women are pulling the pens out of their pocket books. I hadn’t seen that since I was in college, and there were no vape pens and I was in college, but really wasn’t part of my life, you know, as a mom. But back in Seattle it was and then just around the time we moved 2014 I was approached to do the launch of a crowdfunding campaign for a cookbook because I was doing PR for a crowdfunding platform for books. But it was a cannabis cookbook. So it was just fortuitous. I moved out to an adult you state. I was handed a project that had to do with cannabis. And it was a six week campaign. It was very successful. Your times Mashable Fast Company will ask me to write an exclusive on this cookbook. You know, I’ve been good at what I had done but we’re like New York Time begging me for an exclusive not that often. So after that campaign, a little light bulb went off in my head that I could bring my mainstream background to this new space. And I just started networking in Seattle and started picking up you know, a few cannabis tech clients had said I met them out there they are my first agency of record client. Fast forward almost nine years later, we are the largest cannabis marketing PR firm in the space.


Awesome. That’s That’s an impressive story so how let’s talk about those nine years then how did you we know how how much can happen in that’s a really long amount of time in the cannabis industry. So how did you initially get Mattio communications off the ground? What were those first steps?


So it’s really been organic like I never imagined when I even picked up headset as my first like real cannabis client or you know, agency of record client, I’d even call it back then now that’s what we would call it. And I just I was just fascinated by the industry. And so I just started networking. There were these cannabis tech meetups in Seattle, very niche, but it was a thing. And I started going to them and started meeting people and getting out there, I would go all alone, I’d sit in these crappy bars by myself with a glass of white wine. And I would just sort of sit there and meet people. So I picked up one client, another actually another tech client in Florida, people just started posting about on Facebook back then, like all these new projects, I thought it was pretty cool that I had cannabis clients. So I would like do a post about you know, an article that ran or a client that I had is one or two clients. And people started to realize that I was doing cannabis PR like there were so few people doing it back then. So it’s sort of unique. And people in my network started referring me Well, I have a friend who’s starting a cannabis company and I have a friend who started in cannabis company, you should talk to them and because I was a solo practitioner, and these were all small companies, I could take on these you know, small retainers as, you know as my clients and just little by little like pick up a client every six months every year, I started going to events with sai from headset, we went to I remember NCAA and August of 2015. And I met a couple new people and I started seeing what was out there and just get started getting out there. And it was really organic. And then in 2018 That’s when I had nine clients by myself. And it was this time in my life where I was like, Okay, I cannot take out another client because I had four kids, we just went back to the east coast for my husband’s like another job. Life was wild. So I was at this inflection point, do I you know, to stay here with the nine clients, you know, sort of pulling my hair out or my husband said you need to scale your business and like I don’t know what that even means. Okay, but all I know how to do is PR know how to pitch a story. I know how to interact with an editor. I know how to put together a strategy, but I didn’t know how to like bills have actual business. And right around that time. I still maintain some clients outside of cannabis few tech clients. One of the companies I’ve worked for the founder and CEO had just exited this company that I’d worked for his daughter was actually my intern that summer because I said I was pulling my hair out, did it. I needed help. And so his like college aged daughter was my intern. She’s a dad you don’t Rosie’s doing as her side hustle. As opposed to doing you know, this medical tech site that we had is that she’s like, she’s been cannabis PR and he is a cannabis consumer long time. So he took me out for breakfast. And just like my husband, he said, What are you doing this company just scale and I’m like, I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t want to scale a company. And so he joined me in 2018 to be my business partner to help me institutionalize what was then called Rosie Maddy OPR, we made some audio communications and hired our first employee in November of 2018. And that was the beginning of an actual agency. So for the first four years, I was really by myself in my pajamas, in my bedroom pitching stories and just picking up clients. So it really was organic. That’s awesome. And it also speaks to how luck in this industry can meet preparation. And when you’ve done the work and you’ve put it in and you’re ready for that, that sometimes those opportunities can organically come together and allow you to take that next step. But it is a matter of sort of meeting the moment.


That’s very cool. And so and you fundraise, right, like you, you took on some capital, which is I have not heard of any other agencies really of any kind doing that. And that allowed you to get help underneath you. Is that


Yeah, yeah. So So what it was, so we I had a strong business when I was a solopreneur, as I call it, and in 2018 when Mitch joined me as my partner, we started hiring. We started hiring people, and we were just doing what we were doing, which was you know, straight media relations, public relations, as you know, it. You know, we had, I had to have these some of these clients is like eight original clients. They were starting to grow, right? So they needed other marketing services that were outside of like my bandwidth. I’m not a social media expert by you know, by design. That’s not what I had studied. That’s not what I had done. I did it some of these companies are trying to go public I do an investor relations was I didn’t do it. So they would come to me, they say hey, do you know of a great IR firm? And I would say, Oh, we do that? We did not do that. Okay, so I so you know, they say if you build it, they will come but sometimes if they come you will build it right? So they trusted us to build these functionalities for them. But we’re still a very small company and to go build out a new department. We knew we knew. We knew we knew we knew we needed to raise capital, right? Because one client will not support an entire new new vertical every business. So some of the so I’d become connected with a lot of the investor. In, in some of the companies you represented, like we were representing flow up, we were representing headset. So we knew a lot of their investors. And so they saw that we were on a growth trajectory. So we decided we wanted to go out and raise money so we could build these other expertise. I went out to my network, and we went out in January 2019, you know, a few months after my business partner joined me put together our deck, what a pro forma would look like things I didn’t know how to do, I’d ever raise money in my life. Why not? So we said, we think we can be, you know, the foremost agency, and we just, we don’t want to just PR, we have bigger dreams, help support our dream. And we raised some capital in January, February 2019, and built those functions. And now we are we have eight services. So getting taking that little bit of capital allowed us to hire ahead of the curve. So we hired and then we were able to go out and pitch the services and people took a bet on us, current clients, and you know, and potential future clients. So it was a smart move, you know, as being my baby, giving up equity in my company that I built all by myself for years is a little scary for me. But I so it’s so rewarding what we’ve been able to build, and I am so grateful that these investors took a bet on us. And you know, we’ve been profitable company, we’ve paid back distribution. So they’re excited that invest in us, not the mini cannabis companies are able to pay back investors. And we’ve been able to do that. So it was, it’s not always that easy to raise capital. So I feel very fortunate that it was sort of easy for us back then. But we would not be here today, if it wasn’t for these investors taking a bet on us.


Thank you for sharing that. Yeah, that’s really good background, because that sometimes that point of getting from fully maxed out solopreneurs, to the place where you can scale is really awkward and rough. And companies have to navigate that. And that’s where sometimes marketing and PR can come into play. So I do want to talk about that a little bit more. So what is your, what is your pitch for PR? Like when you speak with clients? And they’re trying to understand why public relations is important? What do you tell them?


Well, there’s a few things. So I always say that, you know, PR specifically is having its heyday in the cannabis industry. Because you know, there’s so many limitations as relates to marketing in this space. While we do social media and influenza, we still are doing this with our hands tied behind our back. Because you know, we can’t pay for advertising, really on most of the social networks. Thank you for Twitter for opening up those doors to us a little bit. So PR really early on especially. And even still today is one of the most important pieces of the marketing mix. Because while I might not be able to like boost the posts on Instagram, I sure as hell can share a story that Forbes wrote about me and it’s you know about me on Instagram, so really is a great medium for for cannabis companies. And also like even my parents don’t even understand sometimes differences in marketing, PR and advertising, right. So we go out to pitch a client sometimes, you know, they don’t understand the difference between earned and paid media, we explained to them the value of having some a third party validate what you’re doing, what your company is, what your products are like. So that’s our pitch and how we differentiate ourselves from you know, other agencies not necessarily in the space, because I think we all have a similar value proposition is there’s a lot of nuances in cannabis that you don’t have to deal with when you’re in other industries. For example, I said, I’m one of my initial clients, my first thought was a popcorn company, right? So when we were pitching a new healthy popcorn, I’d be able to, you know, send an email the Shape magazine, talk about the popcorn and then put it in a FedEx box, ship it to them, they could try and make review it right. How can a California company, like how can a California company market their product to a New York editor who can’t try because we can’t ship it to them? Right? So understanding like how to get around some of those limitations. Understanding the nuances that make cannabis different than other mediums is part of our pitch. But also because we all come from mainstream public relations CPG we can bring that expertise coupled with understanding how the cannabis industry works. We think it’s a perfect marriage. Like we always say that we were responsible for some of those first stories ever written in vogue at Oprah NDN magazine, because we’re able to position our clients as CPG and get them placed there. So that’s part of value proposition, understanding the nuances of cannabis and bringing this mainstream background is the perfect marriage for our agency. And that’s really the pitch. And how, how can clients expect to work with you or PR firms? Sometimes I feel like businesses don’t understand often how long it can take to actually get covered that there is a process of developing a story, understanding what makes your product different, and then positioning that to get covered by the right publications, the right journalists who have the right beat, like can you talk me through that, that first stage with working with clients? Like what are those expectations? And how, how can they plan to work successfully with a PR firm? Yeah, I mean, we have a pretty robust onboarding process and it starts even before you know obviously when we do the pitch, we learn about the company. But once you know we sign a contract we send over a pretty, like I said, a pretty robust like intake form, which is we want to understand a lot about the company. And not only you know what you guys do, but who are you? What is your teammate? What are your processes? Like? How do you differentiate yourself from competitors? Why do you think your brand product company matters? Like, why should you exist? So we really tried to dig, dig very deep and understand like, like, what this entrepreneurs thought process was when when joining the company and also who who are the people in the team, like I think what makes us very good at our jobs, we don’t just, you know, this is a great new vape pen, like everyone says that right? Is there who’s like, who is the who is the processor, right? Like how like, who goes out and decides what strains and like, just really understand like, who is behind the soul of some of these brands and companies because we often can’t find little nuggets that become stories because everybody’s almost pitching the same thing like first best only, there’s not that many first best only there weren’t claims they are. So we really go in these onboarding sessions understand like, what are those differentiating factors that people aren’t thinking about? Even manage it, they were not thinking of like, we found out like the league row or for one of our companies is a woman that’s excellent. That’s still pretty rare in the industry. Right? So can we elevate her we’d make that a story? Do we know what her home life is? Like? Do we know what her you know, self care routine is like, maybe that’s an interesting angle for us shape or SELF magazine, not necessarily like, wow, she grows the most fire weeds, we try to really dig in with these clients to understand what those stories are. And after we after, like, you know, they fill out the forms that appears we have these calls, we talk through every angle that we can imagine what their product roadmap is, what their visions are for the next 3060 94 years, right? So we can work our way back. And then we turned back a strategy with we talked about this before with KPIs. Right, not every client is the same. So if we’re working with a b2b e commerce platform like that, that they’re probably not going to be in vogue, right? Like probably doesn’t work for them unless we have some data that we can use. So we put together these strategies that are very targeted, we don’t believe in like a spray and pray approach. But not because somebody covers cannabis, should they cover your story, like you have to cheat reporters and read their beats and understand like, what makes them tick, what makes them interesting. And then we turn back the strategy to the client and help them understand this is where we think you should sit. We think success really looks like this being at 100 publications that don’t make sense for your business. Like that’s not a win, right, like just be able to fill out a status report. So we’re very realistic, we set up these key performance indicators.


And then we hit the ground running and we start executing. And do you have any I want to talk about some successes and some failures. I think a lot of this industry, particularly, particularly for entrepreneurs, and marketers is trial by fire you you come with strong assumptions. You test something out whether it’s a marketing campaign, a PR campaign, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Let’s first talk about something. Do you have any examples of success that have worked where you you were to the client, you have had an angle and it like hit better than you would have expected? Right. So I’ll go back to this to this over this over piece of the lands. And it goes back to the question you asked about, like the timelines of things. Okay. So I mentioned earlier my background was in was in food, PR. So a lot of the work I’ve done in food PR was for specialty food. And we were calling these editor trips to I was very lucky back in the day where we go to, you know, we go to the English countryside and for a beverage or we’d go to France for a cookie company, right. And so we do these press trips, and I got to be pretty close to these food editors, right? A lot of them are lifestyle editors too. So I one of these press shifts I met you know, the food editor or Lifestyle Editor at Oprah Magazine. And I had just gotten into cannabis to the point and you know, we sort of connected to both like to consume cannabis. And I said to her, this was in 20. This is 25th 2016. Okay, so 2016 I said to her, you know, do you even know what’s happening in the cannabis space right now? And I started showing her like, what some of the packaging was looking like and what some some of these brands were merging. And at that point, we were representing Candace, and they’re one of our first brands that we worked with, and they were about luxury cannabis and their their packaging was a Natera amazing Tory Burch and was very different than what we were seeing in the market. They were trying to go after that, you know, Chardonnay, mom, like, you know, that was sort of the value proposition and she was intrigued by that. So I said, Well, I met you on a press trip. And she lives in New York, I couldn’t send her the canned Essent legally so I said to the CEO of canned essence Adrian, how do you feel about us having a press trip bring people out to see the facility and desert hotspring show them you know, what the process is like how we think about things and I just everybody still that very small companies, you know, convincing the client to take a bet on this, you know, $20,000 press trip, you know, hotel, airfare, food, entertainment, all the things that we did what was a big, big risk, right? I hate as an urn media person. I hate spending companies money, but I thought it’d be valuable so I invited her and a couple of other these editors in 2016 out to Kansas him and we had an amazing weekend and no one the story ran and Oprah in 2019. It took three years from the time that we that we brought her out and you know, other things ran


To the story to hit because although she was a believer getting these mainstream media up to speed or comfortable writing about cannabis when a it’s still there’s still a stigma This shows a little bit today more people are writing about it, but also their national magazine, this product is only sold to California why should they expose their 3 million readers a month a product that they can’t even buy legally? Right? So it was a SLUB. In the end, it was a great campaign, we ended up getting a lots of coverage over those years wasn’t the over piece like the the pressure did yield immediate results. But that was our big fish, right? If you’re a shark a mom, you want to be an Oprah Magazine. So these things take time. So that was a successful campaign.


That’s awesome. And that also speaks to the patient’s, how long things can take where things might look approved, or good, or like they’re gonna happen up front, but there’s all the back end, cutting through some of that red tape to really make sure something’s gonna be seen all the way through. Or trust me, it wasn’t fun getting the emails, where’s that story where that story for three years? Once it ran, it was very rewarding. I bet I bet. And on the flip side any, quote, failures, or we can find this as lessons learned where you’ve tried something, maybe it didn’t work, and then you had to pivot on a strategy like that, or any other examples of a hard lesson. Yeah, I mean, we’ve had lots of them, right? This is a very different industry, we are all learning as we’re going and I’m the first person to middle every day to my team to the clients, right, because we’re, we’re doing something very new. with them. We were living in Seattle, we worked with a company, I won’t say the name of it, but they were an edible company. And we worked I think for six months, on a on a on a campaign right to put together a campaign to do a full service, PR program, everything from you know, product sampling to a social, like the whole the whole gamut all around this specific product, right? And little did we know, while we were doing it, that the regulations had changed around


around the packaging could be in the state, right. So we spent, I think, probably $100,000, putting together this program for the client, only to find out that the regs had changed, we actually had to scrap the whole thing. And while it wasn’t necessarily our fault, like these things change, and that’s like actually one of the hardest parts of this, like, regulators change things very quickly sometimes. But that was like a sobering moment, because then the client like they were nervous to ever again, like spared put their money out there to do at large campaign. So inevitably, it wasn’t a successful campaign. And in the end, it sort of seems like it’s it is your fault. And if it’s not, and we lost the client, and it was it was a it was a big learning lesson and expensive learning lesson. But we’ve learned from it right, that we have to work very closely with the compliance teams, like they actually didn’t know a few months earlier. Right. But like they assume we were lived in, we assume they knew, right. So having that open line communication, it’s not just working with the CMO or the SVP of marketing, and our job, which is very different than other industries, and maybe a little bit in some of the other like regulated like alcohol, but we work very closely with the legal and compliance teams on almost every campaign that we do, because also, what works in one state is not the same in another state, especially within a multi state operator who have set up at different states, the packaging requirements can be different, the advertising requirements can be different. So really, really being smart about putting together a program that’s compliant is part of as part of the job here. Yeah, and that’s, I’m glad you brought that up. That’s not an uncommon story. And I as far as regulations changing and having to pivot someone or a company who’s put so much time and resources into something already on a short time frame. And we do see that in packaging lot. And I always try to tell folks that it’s a startup industry filled with startup entrepreneurs. But the regulator’s are also startups too, and that, as they go, they they wrote the regs sort of based on assumptions of what they thought was going to work. And then over time, as things play out, they learned this needs to be tweaked or this needs to be changed that where it’s not like alcohol, where they have almost 100 years of That’s right, the process, they’re not changing things every three or six months. And we’re Colorado based. And we saw that happen in Colorado with packaging to where Yeah, six figures of money would have to change all the time and packaging. And it’s expensive, especially when you’re trying to order things in bulk. And also as new markets turn on, and some of these markets have like very, you know, stringent packaging and advertising guidelines, it’s very hard to build a brand like a national brand, which everybody sort of laddering up to when packaging looks different in every state and they have different requirements. So, you know, we’re all in the early innings of trying to build the next you know, Jose Clairvaux or whatever the brand is going to be very hard to do that when there’s not a consistency of a product because you can’t there’s no like Central like robe space, everybody’s doing it separately. That means that that that’s getting better, but the brands look different. Sometimes the coloring the packaging, so that’s very challenging for these brands. And marketers. Yeah, the imagery, the fonts, the how many colors you can use, what size all of that can change and so yes, brands can definitely look one way in a state and


This does not apply at all to another. Exactly. So can you talk a little bit about how you stay up to date with things that are changing, like they do change so fast? And as the CEO of a national company with clients across the US, how do you keep your fingers on the pulse of everything? And do you have any advice for the audience about the best way to do so if they don’t have access to perhaps legal or compliance teams? what’s your what’s your kind of startup shortcut if you have any. So this is what is nice about Canvas. First of all, obviously, I’m an avid reader of the news, right? I you know, while we give news a lot to the reporters, we learn a lot from what our beat reporters are writing because they are on the cutting edge. And they’re really are talking to the regulators, you know, they are in Washington, they are talking to the brand’s the client. So we get a lot from the news. But I really talked about investing in relationships in this industry, I talked about it all the time. And that’s the fortunate part of it being still a pretty small industry and cottage and, you know, CEOs, there’s a lot of communication between the CEOs in the space and the funds and everything like that. So, like, my job is like, not what it used to be they lay when I said, I started and I scale, all I would do is the actual work, you know, of pitching and the strategy. But now I spend most of my time talking to the CEOs of these companies talking to, to policymakers talking to the funds in the space to really get, you know, my fingers on the pulse of what’s going on, you know, with within the industry. So investing in relationships, and, you know, finding those friends who might have a friend, and it’s all about that network. And the nice thing about this industry is people are pretty forthcoming, you know, you don’t really feel that like that real competitive nature, like some in some entrenched industries. So I do think like the flow of information is pretty good in this space. So my number one tip is always invest relationships and do those calls, like, as often as possible, just find out what other people are thinking and what their perspectives are. And that’s not really like a huge hack, but it is trying to connect, especially with like a CEO, like other CEOs that they want to talk to you, right. So use, like whatever level you aren’t like, or find the other marketing person in like another company, and trade notes. And people are open to having those conversations, because we’re still building this all together. Like we’re not at the point where we can, we can afford to, you know, like I said, be competitive, we need to be collaborative. So I think that that’s like the secret here of getting the information that you need to be as collaborative as possible. Yes, that’s, that’s a very good point. And I found that to be my experience as well. Learn from other people as much as you can, because we’re all figuring it out. So back to PR a little bit before you got to this point where you weren’t doing all the work, and you were a solopreneur. For those who are listening that may still be at that stage where they’re growing, but they haven’t maxed out to the point where they can either afford an agency or their company is large enough, but they’re getting there. How do you suggest that they, if they’re doing PR on their own? How do you suggest they work with reporters? I know, when I speak with them, sometimes they often talk about, like you said, they get all these pitches about first best, you know, if they can be the same, what is some of the advice you would give someone who might be trying to get some coverage and get their first story or get off the ground? So a few things. One, I’m first to say you don’t need a PR agency, you really don’t. Okay? If you don’t, you know, although it’s my business, you can do this, you don’t need us honestly,


the best way to do it is be an avid reader and invest your time in understanding what these reporters write about. And what’s interesting to them. The biggest turnoff is, like I said earlier, just because they cover cannabis doesn’t mean they should cover your company. Is this something they would write about? Okay, so first figure out like who the right people are, read their stories, and also just be a resource like that was how like, I grew when I was a solopreneur. These reporters trusted me because yes, I would pitch my clients but like, if I knew they’re working on a story, or I saw something cool, I bring it to them, right like and even if it was for like a competitive brand, because our job as PR agencies is like or publicist, clients come and go your currency or your reporter relationships, right? Like that’s what makes you valuable because you’re a trusted resource to these reporters. So be that resource, help them find them data, they write a story, you find it interesting, send them a note, say, Hey, I thought this is a great story X, Y and Z. Same thing I say about clients invest in those relationships. And it might be a longer journey, but they always say like, the fastest way is the long way. Right? Really investing and understanding what people write about. And being very targeted. You can write a pitch they do. Also, somebody would rather hear from the founder than than Aflac. Like we’re annoying to these reporters and we’re up their butts every single day pitching them, they suddenly want to hear from like, a new founder, like it’s a breath of fresh air for them. So you really can do it. It’s really doing the research, doing a very targeted pitch that that relates what the report is writing about and you can get that story placed. Absolutely.


And do you suggest doing that contacting them directly like through Twitter or email and how do you feel about press releases in that sense for this use case? Okay, so a few things. I really like you to follow these reporters on Twitter and on LinkedIn and even on Instagram, they’ll they’ll


but they’re pretty forthcoming on how they want to be pitch and how they don’t want to be pitched, right like, and a few things. First of all, like we invest in, like these databases that everybody’s email address is really, if you go to Twitter, most of these reporters have their email addresses on them, right. And if they don’t, you can drop into their DMS and say, Hey, I’d like to send you a pitch, would you mind sharing your phone number, email address, don’t just go in and go in hard and just like send your pitch in that DM like that is not going to play well. Or, you know, if you see they’re commenting on something or the you know, you see that their third quarter is actually put out their queries on Twitter and LinkedIn. So that’s actually a great resource understand what they’re writing about, maybe if it’s into something they already working on. So I think using social networks is a great tool, and you get a lot of information out of them. And a lot of the pitching we do is sometimes like via social networks, that’s where like, a lot of reporters are hanging out there on Twitter all day long, because that’s where news breaks. So you definitely can just, you know, jump into the DMS asking for the email address, ask them for their phone numbers. And then in terms of what the pitch should be, like in terms of sending press releases, it’s gonna sound like little provocative, I don’t love a press release, right. And press release is just like, the frequently asked questions we’re like, we’re like the info is, and getting, if you just send a press release reporter, they know that you have sent that to 30 other reporters and they’re not getting anything new, or anything of value that’s not already going to be out there. Right. So we use press releases, just like to how’s the information, the of the news, you want to get out? It’s not and that’s not, that’s only if it’s like, like a really big announcement. Normally, it’s just a pitch. But if you’re doing your job well, that I always say to my team, like I do not believe in CRM, I do not believe in like blind copying, that just never works. Figure out what your story is. And then do like a three sentence targeted pitch like the team laughs because I’m really about like the two sentence pitch, you can tell people what’s going on in two sentences. So I’ll be like, I do some of the pitching still, because some of these reporters I have long term relationship with, and I love interacting them, and they want to attracted me. And so I’d be like, I sent the pitch to XY and Z. They’re either covering or they’re not and whether I’m covering it, and you guys can go wide, or they’re like, what’s the pitch and I forwarded on they’re like, You got to be kidding me. And I’m like, when I see your three paragraph pitches, I my eyes glaze over their eyes glaze over, like you everybody is short attention span, right? Think about it, like as a Twitter, those characters, that’s how much attention anybody has these days, make it really short, really sweet. And then and then you can go in on the follow up, if they respond to, you know, with more detail. That’s a good, that’s a really great point. And they’re also their inboxes are flooded. So they don’t have the time to just read through every single one, the quicker they can go through and get the too long didn’t read, the more likely they are to follow up, especially if it’s relevant. Exactly. So I want to take one more step back and talk about the intersection of PR and branding. And I mean, branding, in the sense of crafting your story. So when you talked about your intake form, it’s what makes you different. What are your values? What is the product? How much when you work with clients? How much do they come to you with that already figured out? And how much are you helping them determine that? Does that change based on, you know, the client and their how their leadership might be approaching this in the first place? And what role do you play? Is it really at the specific story level? Or sometimes? are you stepping back and helping them say, you guys might need to figure this out or go a little bit deeper in this? And then we can take that and run from it? Because I think there is a bit more overlap in the brand and PR than sometimes, as far as the story of the company goes then can be talked about? Right? Yes, absolutely. And that is a great question. So there’s a we work with a like a vast array of companies with different sizes, right? We work some of the biggest multi state operators who have branding, marketing experts, CMOs, huge teams, right. And we have some we have some companies that are very, very lean and and they have different approaches what they think brand is right. So sometimes I have a client that comes like a really fully baked out brand new brand story and story arc. And that makes our lives very easy, because we can just take it and run with it and put our spin on it and make it more palatable for media. And I also want to caveat this branding, marketing and PR are very different things right. Some things are great. Some branding activities are great for marketing, which is like your threat to the consumer, you know, you’re doing an event, you’re doing a social post, which is very different than trying to create a story that a reporter is interested in, like, even though we do these events, right? We do these large scale, you know, consumer events, right. They’re amazing for the consumers, but not always so newsworthy. So setting expectations on like, what’s newsworthy, like what’s PR rubble and what’s actually an amazing marketing function. That’s part of it. But I’ll take a step back. Some companies come to us with like, just an idea. Like, we want to get it out there. I’m like, Well, what do you want to get out there? It’s very pretty packaging around at the pen, but like, what’s the story and we’ll take a step back. We’ll work with them to figure out like what that brand is and what that story is and what that meeting is. And sometimes you won’t take on a fight you know?


I don’t like to leave money on the table. And I think we’re good at our jobs. But sometimes companies are just not ready. They come to us, like I said, a pretty vape pen, but like, I can pitch it once and then like, what else is here? Right? So they need to figure out like really what they are trying to do as a business as a four, we’ll even take them on as a client, right? Because they just think some people to see it as like a, this is a brave new world. And there’s a lot of money to be made I can I can build a candidate’s brands Well, brand is different than pretty packaging, right? So sometimes we’ll say like, you’re not ready for us yet. And you know, we don’t do like branding. We’re not a branding agency, we have our ideas to offer them out to a couple people I think are great, have them do that exercise, and then come back to us. And then we can do our work getting that out there and the communications but everything from PR, to social media to influencers any of our other communication services. And you hadn’t Can you talk about you said there’s eight services you offer, what are those, right to serve as media relations. So that’s like, we have 65 companies that we represent right now. I think all 65 of them do PR with us. But then we also do social media. So we do brands and corporate social media, everything from doing the consumer side, and then a lot of the corporate comms. So like somebody just see the CEOs of companies who are on Twitter, it’s really Maria from our team, right? Or you see, you know, around earnings, all those like tweets that go out or posts that go out. Our team is doing that. So we do both corporate and brand social and corporate profiles, we call it we do people and then we do influencer. So that’s everything surprise and delight and getting talent booking talent for clients, if you’re doing a campaign, booking talent for maybe do a brand collaboration. So we do that we do SEO search engine optimization. I mentioned earlier that my partner my business partner came from, he was a doctor review site. So best knee replacement surgery closer in New Jersey. So that was all built on search. So when he sold the company, we took the search team, and we gained expertise and doing compliance search. So we do that we do performance marketing, which was our newest service we did this year, about a year ago. So we have a couple of clients doing that. So we’re doing programmatic, all direct buys out of home. And then we do Investor Relations for the public companies that we represent. So we’re working with them on their quarterly earnings or putting together their reports, their decks and analysts meetings, bank sponsor conferences, and then we also do content. So building writing the blogs, and maintaining those for many of our clients. I think those are our services now. So you would you would consider yourself a full service marketing agency with meat media forward. Exactly, exactly. You know, that’s like, that’s my roots. Right? So yeah, I’ve learned all these other you know, functionalities, which has been a fun thing for me, and like, I’m a, I’m a lifelong learner. So, you know, even like, we do new business calls, like on our paid media, like, I’m still learning the language of Roe as right, all these things. So, you know, I believe in building a team and finding the best experts that we that can support the agency. And I love the bringing up the team of you know, to have executives here that are it’s not just me. And can you talk about how the Matco communications brand yourself and your, your team has evolved? Like I know, it’s, it’s funny when you work in marketing, I’m like, I lead the cannabis Marketing Association. But sometimes I’m terrible at marketing myself, or I have to think about each year who are we serving? What are we doing when you’re growing so fast, and this industry is changing and you’re adding services, sometimes it’s easy to kind of forget to take that step back and look at who you are and how that’s changed. Can you speak to that a little bit and how you’ve approached it, given that you sort of started with this PR basis, but now you’re your full service? Yeah, and it is a little unique and sometimes like a little embarrassing to me that we’ve actually built like a brand around medio and me a little bit right I just because like my name is on the door. And a law firms are like that, but because I actually did start as row. So I’ll tell you the story about how we got to Maddie communication. So my business partner came on. I was Rosie Maddie Oh, PR because like that’s was the LLC I set up when I was 22 years old, right? So I always had that. And then we were we knew we were gonna start branching outside of PR, so we knew that wasn’t going to make sense. So he was like, Are you sure? You know? Let’s think about maybe a name. I said, Well, everybody knows me as Rosie Manteo. So like, I sort of feel like we have to keep Matthew on the name are people like it’s like I spent eight I spent four years building like the brand around like my name, like when people know who we are anymore. So we decided to do Madea communications. He’s like just be careful what you wish were name is on the door. Which is true because we have 60 clients My name is Dora 60 clients want me on the call every week and I can only be I’m very I like to keep myself busy, but I can’t I can’t be on 60 calls a week. But that being said, you know, we’re entrepreneurial like we think of ourselves yes as a PR agency that services the industry but we think of ourselves as you know as a startup company as well. So we thought it was important like to build the brand so the nice thing is our clients build it for us. You know, we have such great relationships with them. They often mentioned us as their agencies that helped us build our brand. And you know, I once we started being since we were early people started asking me to speak on panels.


were wanting to do interviews with me about about different things. And we started seeing that when I would do interviews or do a panel, we get more clients. So I don’t like always to be about me even though my name is on the door, but I just started getting out there. And people started knowing about us, we just doubled down on it and did some marketing around the agency. And also like, if you follow me on social, I’m a big sharer, right? I don’t I like transparency. So I’ve shared my life. And this is something like advice that I would give clients, like, people want to know the people behind the brand, right? They want to know what you do in your free time, they want to know what music you like, right? So some of it just fun for me to be out there. But some of it’s also by design, I think people like, they like seeing that I’m into fitness. And they like seeing that I’m into music, right? I get a lot of comments that are people like I follow you on Instagram, I see you’re into fitness, like I think it’s really cool, we have a conversation and turns into a client. So a little bit is organic a little bit is by design, just trying to get a personality behind the brand. And now also, the nice thing is you build such a great team that I’m at the old like South by Southwest last week, I wasn’t down there, Patrick, you know, my number two, he was one who was moderating a panel, which I love. Like I don’t not like people are surprised because you know, I don’t shut up. I don’t like sitting on panels, I’m not comfortable being up behind the microphone like this, like I like to be a little more behind the scenes as relates to that. So it’s been great to see the team Elevate, and we can put them out there and they can show up at events, I only need to show up anymore sometimes, because I trust them so much. And they represent the agency so well. So we’re trying a big effort to like, you know, get away from being like Maddie Oh, it’s being the team because I don’t do the work anymore. Right? I hang out with you. Right, I talked to the CEOs and obviously at work, don’t get me wrong. But you know, the success agency is the team. So we’re trying to elevate them over the next you know, this year. That’s my goal. That’s a that’s a great note to close. So why don’t tell me a little bit then about the things you do in your free time to balance like, I know you love fitness, or you’re competitive, right? Yes. And you love going to shows like, what do you do when you’re not founder and CEO all day. So I’m a I’m founder and CEO during the day, but I’m also a mother, I’m a mother of four. So and I believe in investing in yourself that you can’t pour from an empty cup, right. And this is something I struggled about early on, right? I didn’t take time for myself and you know, my physical mental health struggled because of it. But when I discovered fitness in 2015, I became a passion of mine and I it’s a non negotiable for me every day, seven days a week. I don’t always like lift like a crazy person. But I go to gym five days a week, I walk seven days a week, I’m investing in my body and my health is like, it sets the tone for my entire day. I always say start the day doing hard things. So I start with a hard workout and it sets the tone. So fitness is a passion of mine. Yes, it’s true. I I am a competitive bodybuilder. In my free time I like focusing I like having a project or a goal to focus on. So 2021, I decided after lifting for six years, I was going to compete and I trained and I want a couple of the categories. That was fun. And then I love music. And the funny thing is I shared the story. Two weeks ago on Instagram, I’ve always loved music. But I think in my whole life I had been like 10 concerts until 2021. And 2022 is 50 concerts. So I say that I actually like work to go to shows. And just like music that fuels my soul. And that’s like I could work 24 hours a day, seven days a week when I’m at a show. Sometimes I’ll take a few videos and post them. But last week, I went to four shows only posted one night because that’s a place where I can be totally present. My phones, my backpack, I don’t care when they’re late at night claims don’t need to reach me from eight to midnight even normally they can. So it’s a good release for me when I come back the next day with tons of energy for my kids and the job. So I believe in investing in your passions. And I think it translates to other parts of your life and you’ve got other passions.


And is there anything we haven’t talked about that you want to mention any last advice you have for cannabis marketers or entrepreneurs? Any other parts of your story you want to state before we close for the day? Yeah, I would just say, you know, you never know, right? And you got to take a bet on yourself. And we’re in such early innings in the industry, there’s so much opportunity. Like I think there’s such like a diverse future for the agency and things we haven’t even done yet that we could do. So as an independent contributor, you know, take that leap, like try it out. You know, there’s still so many opportunities. We’re an industry of startups, you can be a small business and do very well because not every company can afford like a large agency. So I encourage people just you know, it’s there’s still so much ground to cover. Take a bet on yourself and the industry.


And Rosie, where can our listeners follow you and find you on social media or any other links websites you want to share? I’m at Rosie Mahadeo, on all the social networks, and I’m very active on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. Feel free to reach out I’m pretty good at responding. Yeah. And I love connecting with people. Thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your story. It was a pleasure having you and thank you for all your support of CMA as well. Thank you Lisa, thank you for everything you do. You know you really created an amazing consortium of the best marketers and I love listening to the podcast and


Everybody has to say, we can all learn from each other. So kudos to you for taking the initiative and making this available to all of us. Thank you. I really appreciate all your kind words.


Okay, bye everybody. Bye

Meet Your Host

LISA BUFFO, Founder and CEO of Cannabis Marketing Association

Lisa Buffo is an award-winning entrepreneur and marketer with a passion for launching companies with experience in both the cannabis and technology industries. Lisa is the Founder & CEO of the Cannabis Marketing Association, a membership based organization focused on education and best practices for industry marketers with the vision of rebranding cannabis at the national level. She was named one of 2019’s 40 Under 40 Rising Stars in Cannabis by Marijuana Venture Magazine in 2019 and named “The Marketing Guru” by Women & Weed magazine and is a featured speaker and media source in publications like Forbes, The Guardian, and VICE. You can find her on Instagram @libuff and Twitter @libuff21.

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