CANNABIS MARKETING ASSOCIATION

Party Like a Marketer Podcast

Episode 9: Building a PR Toolbox to Support Company Goals

Episode Description

Lisa Buffo, Founder & CEO of the Cannabis Marketing Association, sat down with Phil Parrish, Co-Founder & Managing Director at PrograMetrix to discuss all things programmatic advertising in the cannabis industry. For more information go to TheCannabisMarketingAssociation.com

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Show Notes

Lisa Buffo, Founder and CEO of Cannabis Marketing Association, sat down with Durée Ross, Founder and CEO of Durée & Company, Inc., to discuss utilizing a PR toolbox, in order to achieve company goals within the world of cannabis marketing.

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Lisa Buffo: Hi, everyone. Welcome to today’s episode of Party Like A Marketer, the podcast dedicated to cannabis and CBD marketing, produced by the Cannabis Marketing Association. My name is Lisa Buffo, the founder and CEO of CMA, and I am your host. Durée Ross is the founder and president of Aspen and Fort Lauderdale PR marketing and special events agency, Durée and Company, celebrating its 20th year in business. An award-winning PR entrepreneur, Durée is a pioneer in her adaptation of emerging industries, including CBD. Her work in CBD has resulted in a list of clients that continues to grow from processing facilities to consumer product brands sold at big box retailers.

Through a watchful eye on local and federal legislation, a strong pulse on key expos in leadership conferences and proven relationships with influencers and thought leaders, Durée successfully navigates this rapidly growing industry. In 2020, Durée was honored with an award from Reagan’s Top Women in Communications, in the visionary category, for her work in cannabis and the hemp space. She’s also a member of the board at the Florida Hemp Council.

Lisa Buffo: Hi everybody and welcome to today’s episode of Party Like A Marketer, the podcast where we talk about CBD and cannabis marketing with experts in this space. My name is Lisa Buffo and I am your host today as well as the founder and CEO of the cannabis Marketing Association. Today we have Durée Ross, who is the founder and CEO of her own PR and marketing firm Durée and Co. Welcome Durée.

Durée Ross: Thank you for having me.

Lisa Buffo: It is a pleasure to have you and thank you for being an active part of our CMA membership. We’re really excited to have a more in depth conversation today and learn about your unique perspective in the cannabis market, particularly from Florida, which is really exciting for a lot of our west coasters to learn and hear about as well. So let’s jump right into it. I’d love to know a little bit about Durée, who is Durée? How did you re get into the cannabis industry and what brought you here tell us a little bit about your story leading up to this point.

Durée Ross: Sure. So several years ago, I received a call from a long term client of mine, who, then totally different industry. And he said, Have you ever worked in cannabis? And I said, No, but I’m being a part time resident of Colorado. I have seen what’s gone on there I’ve been I’ve had a bird’s eye view, I guess of kind of what’s happened. So I’ve always been interested in it, but it just, you know, I haven’t been in that space. And he said, Well, you’re getting into it now. So he was investing in a company, a CBD company. And he said, Can you figure it out? And I said, Well, I’ve been doing this for over, you know, more than 20 years. So I’m pretty sure I can, I can figure it out. But, you know, I haven’t been in this space before. And he said, you’re doing it and you’re, you’re, that’s what you’re gonna do. And I said, Okay, and so fast forward. It’s been several years. It’s been totally crazy fun. And you know, certainly The passing of the you know, the farm bill in 2018 changed a lot of things as well, too. So it’s been it’s been a really fun ride. And I didn’t intentionally go out of the business, but it was always something that I was interested in getting into just because of, I guess, part time in Colorado and just seeing consumer packaged goods, and we’re seeing where things were going. So it was it was always interesting to me.

Lisa Buffo: And tell us a little bit about Durée and Co. When did you start your company and what was your journey like leading up to that have you have you been doing during co for 20 years? Or what was that transition like?

Durée Ross: So yes, believe it or not, I incorporated 20 years ago at the ripe age of 24. So if you’re good with math, I’ve now told you how old I am, which is fine.And so I was I was extremely lucky. I while I was at the University of Miami, I 19. I I found PR It was not my major, but I found it I’ve been in PR even full time while I was in school for for many years. So I was in PR, you know, what is that six years before I even really started my own company five or six years.

Durée Ross: So it was, it’s been fascinating for me, it’s been a tremendous amount of fun. And that was it. I’m very, very lucky. I tell my own children. Don’t expect to find what you love at 19 I’m a rare bird. I was very lucky that I had that experience early on, but because of that experience, that gave me the love or the you know, the exposure to figure out that I loved PR and marketing, you know, kind of within the School of Communications, all the different tools in the toolbox that we use for PR and marketing and so that was really it for me and I was incredibly fortunate to work with some fantastic people. A lot of really big PR agencies and I had a full-time job even before I had graduated. So that was really it. I mean, I did find my calling at 19 I I loved it. And what’s interesting is that I really didn’t. I mean, I definitely did not set out to start a company and incorporate there was no business plan. I worked on dial up and we backed things. And so it was definitely a different time. But what’s really interesting is what what led me actually end up having a company was that so many of the people that I worked with starting out when I was 19, I guess I had made an impression or we just have worked really well together because then they started calling me for for work. And I thought it was just going to be temporary, while I kind of decided what angle what perspective of PR that I wanted to be in. And this little company was born, I lived at home with my mom and my sister was following college.

Again I was I had my big big computer in my bedroom and we were on dial up and and it was just a very different time and so it wasn’t, you know, it wasn’t glamorous, it wasn’t Now I think a side hustle or you know, you know, just kind of that that the hustle the business acumen is is interesting and cool. And with a lot of personalities that are out there, they’ve made it really interesting. And I kind of just did it. I didn’t know what I was doing. And so I guess it just, you know, it just happened, but certainly a lot of sweat equity and hard work and having worked with people in advance, and prior to that called me for work that knew my work ethic. So it just happened. And there was no business plan, there still is no business plan. And it’s just kind of happened but I’m just so grateful that I was able to get that experience so early on. And it’s actually one of the things that I mentioned to people is just doing internships as early as you can because you can either figure out what you love or what you don’t love and now process of elimination so I do you know, I do give big thanks to those people who took a chance on me at 1920 2122 23 even 24 when I started out So it’s been, it’s been a fun ride and certainly working in the cannabis space has made it even more fun. And you know that that seat belt is like, you know, buckle up, because we just never know what’s gonna happen.

Lisa Buffo: Yeah. And are you from Florida? Did you grow up there and then go to University of Miami?

Durée Ross: Yes. So I’m a native, I’m born and raised in Miami, and then did go to the University of Miami. My parents actually met there. So I do you know, I do quite a bit of thanks, I guess to the University of Miami and I lived down there. So as I’d like to say, I could have been on the other side of the country for as often as I went home, to see to see my my family, but I am I am a native and so it’s, it’s it’s been fun to see the growth of Miami and certainly the growth of Florida within the cannabis space, especially over the last few years. 

Lisa Buffo: Nice. So tell me a little bit about you know, when you work with Canada’s clients, what are some of the first steps that you take with them What are some things that they need to understand about PR in this space? How can you kind of walk us through a little bit of that onboarding process and some of the unique considerations that Duran co brings to the table for them?

Durée Ross: Sure. So obviously, it depends if we’re starting with a client that is already established and already launched. Certainly getting a client to be prepared to launch is different than kind of inheriting them as an already operating either facility or business. But the biggest thing for us is that we and that’s one of the things that I love about public relations and marketing is that we get to dig into the industries for the clients that we represent. So we want to, we put on our journalists hat and we go after what are the stories? What are we trying to do, what are your goals, you know, and really making sure that we’re understanding their story because it is our job to I guess like a diamond in the rough at times, polish it up and and So we have to really understand what makes the client tick, what looks like success to them? What are they looking to do? What are the future plans, and really get into their mind and into their business plan and understand what does success look like for them, and then also just again, understand what makes them tick, what they’re looking for in terms of PR and marketing, and what is the greater good look like. So it’s very different for obviously for every client and the type of client in terms of what part of the cannabis industry that they’re in. So whether it’s a farm, you know, as a grower, or a processor, or I mean, you know, nonprofit trade organization, or, you know, we have a client one of our clients is bringing a CBD franchise to market. So it’s really interesting because that’s a whole different ballgame. And yes, it’s CBD and it’s within the cannabis space, but it’s also pulling from our years of experience working with franchises and franchisees And all of that. So there’s all these different layers in terms of the type of business that they are.

And certainly cannabis is, you know, is obviously kind of the umbrella for us. But we have to still make sure that we’re going to the tools in our toolbox, certainly that I’ve had for decades that continue to change and add and we add toolbox. You know, we add tools into the toolbox. But we really want to make sure that we’re understanding what their ultimate goals are and what their business goals are, you know, both business and ultimately PR and marketing so that we can help get together a strategic plan for them so that we stay focused, because it very much is a startup mentality, which is what I love about the industry is it definitely is a startup mentality. And so things change so incredibly fast. And having that plan and going back to the plan and revising the plan, daily, weekly, monthly. You know, that’s really helpful for us and helps keep us on track and ultimately all client’s on track, because it’s very easy to have that shiny Penny syndrome. And here’s the shiny Penny, or here’s the new product. And and there is a lot of pivoting and shifting, you know, throughout certainly in times of crisis like with COVID. Obviously, that’s a complete and complete, complete shift. But we still want to make sure that our goals that we know what they are that they themselves haven’t changed. And if they have that we have reflected that accordingly in our strategy and our strategic plans for the client.

Lisa Buffo: Yeah, that that makes sense. It is definitely shifting constantly in this space. So tell me a little bit about the clients and the industries you worked in prior to cannabis and kind of what your expertise is there and how you see similarities and parallels to this space as well as any differences.

Durée Ross: Sure. Well, we work in a lot of different industries I in being in the business for so long. I probably am still is a bit of a generalist on some level, even though we do have some specialties. And I think, for me being in the business for so long, I think that’s what kind of keeps me going is the excitement of you know, either taking on a new industry like cannabis, which there really hasn’t been anything like that where a whole new industry just pops up during my, my time. I mean, certainly, you know, the high tech and the tech boom, you know, was was maybe a bit similar in terms of a new, totally new industry, but you don’t normally find a totally new industry that pops up out of out of somewhere. So we definitely have, you know, have a general view in terms of over the years I’ve worked and still do with legal and professional, which obviously dovetails really nicely into the cannabis space because there are many times that we need to ask questions about trademark about you know, even cannabis just in and of itself and employment and all that. So that’s a really nice compliment. I would say You know, some of the legal clients that we work with just to be able to help out you know, franchising and things of that nature within kind of the cannabis space but certainly legal and professional has always been there. And I feel like the the need for professionals right now especially, you know legal professionals as we navigate everything going on and changes in workplaces and changes and how we all do business has been really it’s been really helpful for many of our clients, certainly in the cannabis space as well too. So legal is definitely an area we also do a lot in real estate, which is been for years and years. And obviously that’s in a pivot situation now too, but but understanding real estate is helpful for cannabis as well too, because as clients build and open up new structures and facilities and construction milestones, and so we’re constantly able to leverage experience in that space as well. So it does, it does help and certainly entertainment hospitality, consumer packaged good’s, all of that certainly certainly comes into play, especially as we do cross promotional and or, I mean just a variety of things within those other industries and being able to tap into them for the cannabis clients or do those cross promotional or joint ventures or events together. And then, you know, nonprofit is something that has just always been near and dear to my heart. So we always love to participate in nonprofits that are giving back that makes sense. And my favorite favorite, one of my favorite things to do is to partner clients together for Corporate Social Responsibility efforts. And that dovetails really nicely with cannabis as well. You know, and being able to partner and and especially now whether it’s Partnering for donations or food drives and being able to give back so that’s just something that’s always been with me and it’s a personal, I guess it’s just a personal drive that I have to give back and I’m very lucky that my team supports me and those efforts. And so while we do have a number of clients in that space, we also just do a lot of pro bono as well, that just keeps us going and keeps us ticking. So, you know, we’re, we’re quite busy. And you know, there aren’t too many industries that we’re not in, or haven’t been in for a while. But certainly as things are cyclical, I guess that’s always been my just desire to be very diversified. So I didn’t listen to a lot of my consultants over the years who said, Just focus on one or two industries and really own them. And I didn’t do that. I think that was also part of my need to keep things exciting after so many decades in the business.

And so I mean, certainly we’ve done and continue to do stuff in education and just a variety of different industries. So it the most important thing for me, which is which is I think really important to point out is I want to work with clients that feel that we are an extension Have them and that really let us help them. And so that’s more important to me and I maybe that sounds a little crazy or unusual, is I want to make sure that we’re on the same team. Because if we’re not, we’re not going to be successful and we’re, and we’re going to get frustrated and they’re going to get frustrated. And so for us, it’s really important that we feel that we’re part of them, the extension of them and that we are helping them navigate through this and it could be a crisis, it could be COVID it could be you know, there’s all sorts of things and so we need to be working really closely with our clients and that does make for a really successful partnership because that is how I look at it. And it continues to evolve which is really fascinating for us to where clients over the years and even just you know now are coming to us saying hey, we need your help with this we need to add this to the scope you know, our brand you protect our you protect us, you protect us from ourselves at time. I mean, sometimes I do have to be that voice of reason and, and put my hat on and say okay, well this is what a journal is going to ask of you. So do we want to answer these questions? Because if we don’t, and we can’t provide financial dollars or increase in the percentage of business, then we probably shouldn’t be going after business stories if that’s the situation. So a lot of times we are the voice of reason. And you know, that’s not unique to just the cannabis industry. That’s every client and every industry that there are times that that we do have to be the voice of reason and have those those difficult conversations. So I don’t mind having them. But certainly though, that’s why it’s so important to be with a client who has a great perspective of our of our team mentality, and then we knew that we enhance what they do. 

Lisa Buffo: Yeah, but that makes a lot of sense. And tell me a little bit about, you know, I know Florida’s a bit more conservative than Colorado and California. So I imagine that the appetite in the stories there, cannabis may or may not be told a little bit differently than maybe what we’re hearing out here. Hear? Is that something that you’ve experienced? And how do you approach that with your clients? Because there’s, you know, a lot of hearts and minds that we as industry professionals are looking to change or bring some light to given the amount of misinformation that has been there. How do you do you encounter that? And how do you approach that with your clients in the media?

Durée Ross: So it’s interesting, we definitely do and it but it also depends on the regulations, because certainly CBD is very different from working with an MTC. So obviously, so for those that don’t know, Florida, you know, is it’s not recreational, I think most people would know that, but it’s not recreational yet. And so, we do work with an mmtc in Florida and from the marketing and PR side, in comparison to what we can do with CBD clients. It’s very different. I mean, can’t just send samples. You can’t just ship things to the reporter that wants to try things. Certainly. You know, not over the, you know, the state lines and so the way that we have to approach PR and marketing is very different. And so when the farm bill passed on the CBD side, it obviously made things significantly easier. And so in that respect and working with consumer packaged goods, cannabis CBD, you know, within the cannabis industry, the what you want to do is you want to get them samples, I mean that whether you’re representing a sock company or, you know, a CBD brand, I mean, you want them to try the product. I mean, that’s kind of PR marketing one on one and get the product into their hands and get them to try it. Certainly you can’t do that with an mmtc. They have to have a card. You know, there’s a lot there are a lot more layers of complication in that respect. So it definitely does make it harder to navigate.

Lisa Buffo: What does MMTC stand for? 

Durée Ross: MMTC medical marijuana treatment center and what they’re deemed now. So in order to you have to get a card and see a doctor and it’s a bit more of a process. It’s definitely not like when we’re in Colorado. And we see it’s very, you know, it’s recreational and has been for a number of years now and retail on every corner. And it’s obviously very different. But seeing how that transpired, you know, quite a few years ago for me, made me very interested in the space and I could see where things were going. But obviously, Florida is much more conservative in that respect. And so we do have to navigate things much differently, you know, on the marijuana side than we do on the CBD side, which is pretty open. But I would say on the CBD side, that there over the last few years, we’ve had to spend our time educating, because there were a number of members of the media that flat out would not accept, CBD didn’t understand that it doesn’t quote unquote, get you high. So there’s been a big educational process for us as a as a PR firm for all clients that we represent to The media to get them to understand kind of what’s going on.

What is it, give us some background. And we have to do that, while not making any claims. So we certainly can’t make claims on behalf of a client. And in the PR space, any client I’ve ever, ever, ever worked with, you have to sell what the product is good for what it’s used for. And if you’re selling condos, it’s here’s what your lifestyle will be. And here are your features and amenities. And here’s what you can use if it’s a car and an automobile, zero to 60. And however many, you know, seconds, and imagine that you’re you’re pitching a product and you can’t say what it’s good for. You can’t make a claim. And journalists are trained. That’s what that’s what they want to know. And that’s what they look for. And so that’s been certainly very, very difficult to learn how to navigate that. What What does that look like what does that mean? How do we how do we get Reporters how do we educate them, not make any claims, get them to samples and still get the story to happen. And obviously, the the process is a lot longer when you have to educate so somebody has to wrap their head around. It’s not like just talking about an automobile or something that somebody might just be familiar with on their own. Now, obviously, over the last few years, it’s gotten significantly better in terms of media, through educate, we’ve obviously you know, people are much more educated now. But there still is an educational process with many members of the media. And I will tell you that we’ve even had people that just flat out their directive from the tippy top was we will not cover CBD. We will not cover cannabis at all, and they don’t and will not make a distinguishing factor between the two. So an instance where Kim Kardashian had a CBD themed baby shower, I forget maybe it was a year ago, maybe longer.

 I don’t know time flies, especially when what we’re living in now, I don’t know that we know the days were from the geeks at this point or even from the month but it was really interesting because Kim Kardashian had a CBD themed baby shower and it was like, Oh my gosh, no matter what you think of Kim Kardashian, whether you love or you hate her, the fact that she had this was a huge opportunity to educate people make it mainstream in a way that it hadn’t been before. And so we did not are none of our clients were working with her at all in terms of giving product or donating anything in that respect, but we jumped on it. And we went out to the media because we knew that celebrity type focused magazines and outlets would be talking about Kim Kardashian and her CBD themed baby shower because it was extension of celebrity reality TV kind of what media loves, you know, and what consumers like to read about. So we pitched story ideas and made it very clear that you know, we were not affiliated and we had Got a significant amount of coverage, where it was like, oh, if you’re interested, check out these brands and it had a number of brands. But what’s interesting is one of the major TV shows that’s on a daily TV show that covers celebrities flat out said we will not we have not and we will not at all be covering this story. And I was fascinated by that because you would think if anybody was going to get a show on celebrities to do something you would think certainly it would be Kim Kardashian and they still will not to this day cover even CBD so forget about marijuana. I mean, I’m talking CBD on the CBD side, which is federally legal. You know, since the Farm Bill, although I know there’s some back and forth on that. But, you know, those are the types of things that we’re having to navigate on behalf of the clients and it’s constantly changing. It’s constantly evolving. So people who have said before, No, we won’t cover they I have seen some more acceptance, but there are still some holdouts that will not, will not participate and will not cover it. So it’s it’ll be interesting to see what continues to happen as we evolve through, you know, through the acceptance of the cannabis industry.

Lisa Buffo: Yeah, and it’s interesting too, because there’s not only that educational gap with the media, but then the further gap with the media and the public. And so that all needs to be bridged to really get us to this greater place of understanding and acceptance. So something you had mentioned before was that your marketing and PR toolkit and that you try to have as many tools as possible and these are the things you use to help your clients get coverage. And obviously, I’m assuming that’s going to look a little bit different what your cannabis and CBD toolkit looks like. But maybe it’s not. Could you tell us a little bit about those tools what what they are and how you use them?

Durée Ross: Sure. So it definitely is, is different and certainly in some ways, reduce Just because advertising is is difficult and prohibited in many instances based on, you know, if you’re talking Facebook and Instagram, and certainly there are some workarounds, but that’s constantly evolving, too. So advertising in general is just very difficult. It within the whole space, I’m sure I’m telling you what you already know, and many others, what they they may already know. So there, there are some workarounds. And it continues, that also continues to evolve. And certainly I know, we all thought that once CBD once the farm bill passed, that things would immediately change and we’re still waiting. We’re still waiting for a lot of those things. And you would, you would think that a lot of the folks that had a lot of money to make would would be accepting of taking ads, especially online social media, and it’s a problem it definitely is a problem in navigating imagery and things getting flagged and even even if it’s even if it’s not an ad, you have to be really careful not to get flagged, and then shadow banned. And all of that. So that’s a very difficult, you know, the advertising aspect is very difficult. And I mean, on the PR side is what you want to call PR what you want to call marketing. I mean, obviously it’s all it’s all blurring. There’s you know, the the PESO model, you know, paid, earned, shared owned and you know, that’s something that spin sucks put together Jenny put together she’s if you don’t know her she’s great called spin sucks. And she has newsletter with all sorts of information about that and she’s just started a program to get certified on that. But that really is where things are going because it’s no more I certainly when I first started it was dial up and where I’m standing at a fax machine and faxing pages all day as an intern at 19. It was very different and PR was very traditional and it was PR was very separate Church and State were very it was very divided at different magazines and newspapers and certainly now it is much more blurred with advertorials.

And so there are still some, you know, very, very divided between church and state. But certainly those walls have come down quite significantly. And so with that some of those tools in our toolbox could be using an advertorial, certainly influencer relations, that’s obviously huge for the space, particularly when you can’t advertise and you can’t make claims. There is an opportunity for somebody else to make them. So I mean, obviously, you have to be very, very careful how you’re sharing and what you’re saying if you’re sharing the content that they put together for you. But working with influencers and putting together that content that can be repackaged, obviously, that’s a significant amount of almost backdooring a little bit, being able to make claims without you actually making them and certainly you don’t want to get a an FDA warning, warning letter or anything like that. So certainly, you know, those are those are things to use. And then also there are wire releases that can be used as well. You know, which to me, don’t work. Any sort of PR That to me is kind of an additional thing that we can use, obviously social media just throughout. And then on the PR side, obviously bylined articles and thought leadership, which is different than just an ad that may be on your product in that respect and then going after award, that’s a huge thing for us on PR side is identifying Trailblazer type awards, that it may not even be in the cannabis space in and of itself. It could be that you’re an attorney who works in the cannabis space and there may be some some legal awards. And so, at the end of the day, what all of these things do is they create the content that that then we’re able to repackage and maybe it’s sharing it in an E newsletter and on your socials and you know, through kind of bringing it throughout so all this hard work of on the PR and marketing side, we want to make sure that we are repackaging that that content and pulling it through as many ways as we can So that this way we are, you know, resharing it and you know, and certainly creating that content, which is what everybody’s looking for these days, and making sure that we’re using it many times, not just once, not just sharing it once. But you know, can we repackage it into a blog? Can we include it into a newsletter and we share it on social, you know, how else can we take that content that we’ve worked so hard on and it’s taking so much time How else can we repackage that for the greater good to get the word out about you know about the client?

Lisa Buffo: Yeah, so you mentioned influencer marketing, which I would like to touch on a bit because I think it’s something that a lot of people in the cannabis space have questions on. And also I’ve heard that some people feel influencer marketing can be a bit of an echo chamber for better or for worse like is this influencer reaching the people who aren’t already engaged with because particularly on the cannabis and CBD side, it’s a very niche category and it’s very niche category to be a consumer who follows those two Types of influencers. Can you expand on on your bit about influencer marketing and how clients can work with them and what you see as effective?

Durée Ross: Sure. And there, it’s not a one size fits all obviously, it’s very specific to the client. And that’s part of that strategy that we work on with them. And there’s always an evolving strategy to so it can, the strategy can change if there’s a new product that appeals to, you know, moms more than then, you know, non moms. And so there’s always all those different buckets and kind of sub sub markets, I guess. So everybody’s very interested in influencer relations, influencer marketing, and there is a piece of that and I am a fan. But we have to do it carefully. And it can’t be the only thing. And you know, we’re just, we’re just big fans of trying to really do our homework, look at the engagement. Make sure that the numbers are real with that person. And are they creating enough content that then we can again, repackage, we’re going to go to this training We want to make sure that they have the key talking points that we’re very clear on what’s happening, that there is a contract. I mean, we actually want to make sure that it’s in writing how many posts what they’re going to say, when they’re going to be posted, because there’s too much up in the air otherwise to to not have it that way. And, you know, the virtual handshakes on you know, doing business that way. we’ve inherited some situations like that, where we try to make it work, but it’s so hard after you after it’s been done. It’s I mean, it’s like anything in business, it really does need to be put down on paper and agreed upon so that we’re managing expectations of our client. And also of that, the influencer that we’re working with. So it’s definitely a very layered approach. It’s very strategic and you can’t be all things to all people. So you do have to kind of decide what it is that you want to focus on. Let’s own it, let’s go after it. And it is tough and it is a component of what we do, but we’re not working with anybody that that’s all that they do, because that’s really not strategic enough for us. And I don’t believe in influencer marketing or influencer relations enough to only do that I just don’t as a marketing person as a PR marketing person. Again, I’ve got all those tools and well, we don’t use all the tools at the same time. I don’t think that’s enough. to really move the needle for clients. It is very important in what we do is a is a spoke in the wheel, I guess, but it’s not the only thing that we’re looking to do for clients. So we, I would say for anybody, it’s just making sure that you are approaching it thoughtfully. You’re strategic about it. Everything is in writing and really doing your homework to make sure that this is the right person because these days I mean even with with any cannabis brand, it’s so difficult to work even with a celebrity because all it takes is one tweet or one bad posted image, you know, image that could go on their Instagram or You know, they could even be, you know, Corona shamed at this point they made a comment or they didn’t look like they were sequestering themselves and isolating themselves enough and that turns into a crisis situation. So it’s really hard right now on the influencer side, and I would I would even put, you know, celebrities within that. I mean, obviously, they’re on the celebrity angle, and much, much larger, but really do your homework and try to make sure that that person is squeaky clean as you need them to be and that they are the right type of personality. And really do your homework and look back and look and see what do they support because you certainly don’t want a problem where you’ve had somebody endorse your product or maybe their or your brand ambassador, maybe it’s even more of a more formal type of relationship that you put together. And then they may be said some things that are not going to benefit your brand and may actually hurt you. So really doing that, that research and that homework and making sure that they are the person that you want to meet it with your brand. That’s that’s really the He, if you think and then obviously, of course, looking at their engagement and making sure that, that they have the right types of people that engage with them. And I’m one thing I will point out is we have great success with with the micro, micro and they’ve been great to work with, they get it, especially if you find the right ones, they really can be fantastic for the business and make a lot of sense. And we see actually a lot more movement with them at times than we do with maybe, I guess, the macro or once I have a huge, huge following.

Lisa Buffo: How do you define micro influencer? I know I’ve heard various ranges like 2000 to 10,000 followers 50 to 100. Like how what is that definition for you?

Durée Ross: I mean, I would really say kind of under 100,000 you know, I mean and then there’s like the, you know, micro micro where they’re super hyper local, and maybe they’re just maybe you want something in a city and they’re just really popular within their city area. So I don’t know Really under 50, or 100,000, is what I would say. And then you’ve got, and then it just goes up from there. I just some of them are, you know, just so amazing to work with and others are very difficult and change the story after you’ve worked with them. And so again, that’s why I want everything in writing. And everybody’s very clear. And the client is clear too, because we also don’t want a client to have a different perspective or a different thought of what’s going to happen, and then have them be disappointed. So we always like to be super clear crystal clear on all sides, and even work with them on the type of copy and content that they’re going to post what the image looks like. We ideally like to make sure that we see the image before it’s posted. Everybody has a little bit of different requirements, but just to make sure that everybody’s happy we really do like to it again, it’s just like a partnership. It’s like us working directly with our clients is you know, that’s a partnership that we’re working with an influencer on behalf of our clients. So we want to make sure that everybody’s happy and, you know, in potentially leads to future partnerships in the future.

Lisa Buffo: Yeah, that makes sense. Um, okay, so tell me a little bit about your favorite part about working in the cannabis industry what, what separates this for you from as a business owner from the other spaces that you work in. 

Durée Ross: So a couple things. One is it moves so fast. And as you can see, I’m a fast talker, and I really just love what I do. And I love that that gives me that extension of just every day. I mean, even the best strategic plans that we have, they are constantly being shifted and pivoting and you know, even without COVID on us, you know, even just on the day to day without it, there’s all these exciting things that happen and opportunities. So I love the fast paced, fast paced nature of the industry. And some of it is that startup mentality and really, you know, clients are also really willing to take a risk in terms of build new things that maybe a traditional type of client would not be quick to jump on. So I like that aspect of it, like, bring me all your ideas. So I do like that they’re willing to listen to all ideas to just see Oh, yeah, kind of cool. Let’s think about that. So we definitely can use more of our tool tools in our toolbox or we can go to them or provide those opportunities to be considered more. So the fast paced nature kind of letting us dig deeper. And do you know what we want to do? And I think the challenging nature I think, having to understand every day, what’s going on the required reading that I do in the morning to see who got an FDA warning letter what’s going on in different states that could impact what we have going on for clients, things that are legally you know, being challenged or different things that could that will affect our clients, you know, like the handbill or the FDA. You know, everybody that was going there to speak on the FDA behalf and tapping into those things. Because we want to be even if our clients are not, you know, or like the Kim Kardashian or Kim Kardashian CBD themed shower, I think it’s also tapping into the into pop culture, real life, what’s going on tapping into the news and, and kind of getting the clients into that. So even if they’re not speaking and testifying to the FDA and providing your insight, well, they can still provide insight to media about what that impact looks like for their business, and what they’re anticipating and what their perspective is. So staying on top of those current events, I guess, you know, whether it’s political or its pop culture, whatever it may be, or just industry specific, that’s really fun, too, is so that keeps us you know, from one day to the next, something could pop up and we need to jump on it because we need to, we need to capitalize on that opportunity for our clients. So those are the types of things that you really can’t put into plan, you know, and even a crisis and and there are Lot of crisis type opportunities. I think also that’s part of the lack of education for some people, and reading SEO as wrong or taking things to a lab. And we’ve seen this significant across the US for different clients is that you have journalists that want to explain to their viewers about CBD or what does it mean or how you can use it. And it is, you know, it is an educational opportunity. But sometimes, and we’ve seen this significantly, that labs can be very different. If you go to three different labs and get lab results, there will be three different different’s. 

and so media can can take that not understand what that may mean. They can also ask for different types of tests that are not industry standards. So we’ve had to navigate that as well too, and not as much certainly as some of the other pivoting things that we’ve had to do but but we have and I think that’s just of the educational process that we continue to go through within this space because people don’t understand. Journalists don’t entirely understand. And we do need to be that extension of our clients to explain, well, can we see the lab results? Let us Can we take a look at them. And you know, oftentimes they’re reporting things and making them sound as though they are dramatic, incorrect, and it could still be the numbers are still within, within what’s reasonably accepted and within and they don’t always understand that. So again, I think it’s an educational process. And we do appreciate journalists that will allow us to work with them on those opportunities and and help educate them as well too. So we do appreciate what they’re going after with helping to educate about CBD or about what the numbers mean, and did this test with what they’re saying it is. And so we appreciate that, but it is still part of that extension of of educational process that many times can turn into a crisis situation with a client and so you know, navigating that so I mean, I would say those things definitely keeps us on our toes. It keeps me certainly very active in the space and and i don’t see really any of that changing at all. I think that, you know, it’s like dog years in this space. I feel like it’s just it’s just incredibly fast and I that’s what I that’s what myself and my team we love that. So we kind of don’t know what the day has in store for us at time. So it’s like the only thing to expect is the unexpected. And that’s kind of a I don’t know, I guess that’s a philosophy we definitely have had to incorporate in working in cannabis space for sure.

Lisa Buffo: Totally. That resonates very deeply with us as well. Um, so quickly before we wrap up, I mean, it sounds like that, there is this shift of cannabis and CBD going from, obviously, a niche and misunderstood product more and more into the mainstream, but it is happening slowly. And there is a lot of heavy lifting the industry has to do as far as educating the media and educating consumers so that those TV shows aren’t saying oh no, we’re never going to cover this. Even if somebody like Kim Kardashian does put their stamp on the on the brand. What do you see us as marketing and PR professionals having to do to allow that to that shift to continue to happen and perhaps happen a bit quicker, I think. And I say this with the context of cannabis is now in the midst of COVID in some states being designated an essential business. Some states it’s not. Right now, stores are closed in Massachusetts, they’re open here in Colorado. It’s it’s very different. But this conversation is shifting and things are changing. What do we as marketing and PR professionals need to do to make that transition continue to happen and happen in a way that is smooth and effective?

 Durée Ross: Sure. And it’s interesting you were asking me about Florida and is it’s you know, it’s very different and we actually are one of our clients was one of the individuals who got the MMTC designated as essential. So That’s a huge thing for Florida. And so yes, we want to leverage that. And we want to make sure that, you know, there are some great opportunities and educational talking points, marketing messages to get out there. And I think that because it was deemed essential in Florida, as you mentioned, it’s a very, you know, conservative state. And that speaks volumes within the state of obviously, it’s much, much different in Florida being designated versus Colorado. And so we want to leverage that. And and I do think once you’ve been deemed essential, how do you go back from that? Right. I think that’s a great opportunity, certainly for those states where maybe, you know, it was a bit more difficult to do business in. And so I think we have to just continue to educate, keep our professionalism with us. Make sure that we’re communicating succinctly as best as we can, making sure we’re educating our clients as well that they need to, you need to keep at it. I mean, at a time now with COVID, the knee jerk reaction in all of it in all PR marketing no matter what industry you’re in is to stop. And we’ve seen roughly in prior recessions and 9/11. And we’ve had a down economy, which we’ve been very lucky that we haven’t had one in a very long time. The brands that continued with it, and it found a way to continue, those were the brands that got the market share. And so we’ve been really lucky with our clients who have realized that and certainly we’ve had to pivot it, and everything is not hunky dory, and everything is perfect. So I don’t want to come on and say that everything is beautiful and everything is perfect. We’re obviously living in a very difficult time that continues to change and will continue to change. And I think for us as marketers, we just need to make sure that we are, you know, we’re in it for the long haul that we’re buckled in. You know, for the long haul that we’re here for the clients. We’re here to help the clients. I will say that it is become a not 24/7, but maybe you know, 20 hours a day, seven days a week for the last several months, where we’ve had to continue to help clients pivot, create statements, leverage opportunities that have come in help them corporate social responsibility, but continue to make sure that people know that they are still moving forward, their businesses are still operating. If they’ve been deemed essential, they had to figure out well, how do we make it work? How do we, how do we pivot? If it’s a client that had a huge retail presence, and now they’ve had to think about they’ve always had e commerce, but now they’ve had to pivot more back to e-commerce, because people aren’t going into retail or they can’t or the stores have been closed. So I think for us as marketers, it’s just being there with them. Certainly counseling them, making sure that they understand that once you say something, you can’t take it back. It’s out there. And so many times we’re at a fork in the road with our clients and I have to remind them, we’re here, there’s a fork in the road. If you say this, this means that way down the road that we need to think about. And if you say that it means this, so looking really long term and helping them see the long term picture. And I do think for us as marketers, we’re used to that. And we’re used to looking at demos and and, you know, what are the demographics say? And what is the strategy behind it. And so we do have to continue to counsel our clients and make sure that realize that the decision that they’re making today could have a long, far lasting impact for the type of marketing and the types of claims and the types of marketing pitches that we’re going to we’re going to say because once you’ve said it, it’s you can’t go back, and especially on the PR side, I mean, once you’ve said we’re going to do this, you don’t want to go back unless you’ve absolutely had to. So I think really just making sure that we are the voice of reason, sticking with them, helping them pivot and making sure that they know that we are here for them around the clock really and I think that’s where value is seen and appreciated from the clients and that then for us as marketers, you know when there’s a downturn or when maybe sales aren’t what they had expected. We’re not just the line item in their expenses that we are, we’re essential to them, like they’ve been deemed essential for those that happen in what they’re doing. So I really think it’s been a big opportunity for us as marketing people to step up and make, you know, make a reminder, give them a reminder that we are here for them. And we are part of their team. And so I think that’s a key thing. And I’ve worked really hard at doing that with my team has as well, too. We’ve worked without a lot of a lot of extra hours. And I’m very happy to give a shout out to a great team who helps me just, you know, move the needle constantly pivoting and that I feel is our job is more now than ever to do.

Lisa Buffo: Yeah, yeah, well, Oh, that’s so awesome. Thank you so much, Durée, please let everybody know how they can find you.

Durée Ross: Sure. So we are we it’s funny. We just actually built a microsite for our CBD and cannabis business. So I’ll give you our main site is direct dureeandcompany.com and then we created this brand new microsite that we do to COVID we haven’t even officially announced it yet a couple of teasers on social media but we haven’t even been able to put our strategy in place because we’ve had to pivot there. It’s Cb direi and company COMM And that’s our microsite for our our work on on on the cannabis side and it’s brand new, I know that we’ll be adding to it as well too. And then certainly you know, we love We love socials, we love engaging so I’m personally at @dureeross on Instagram, and our Instagram handle is @dureecopr on on Instagram, but we’d love to engage we really we’ve got a lot of stuff planned. So I hope to connect with folks and if I can do anything or give any sort of insight to anybody watching, feel free to reach out to me I’m duree@dureeandcompany.com and I more than happy to help anybody that may have a question or needs any sort of insight from my end.

Lisa Buffo: Awesome. Thank you so much.

Durée Ross: Thank you. Thanks for having me. It’s been a lot of fun.

 

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LISA BUFFO, Founder and CEO of Cannabis Marketing Association

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