Apr 30, 2019 / in Comms Best Practices / by Melissa Meyer

Understanding what sets good stories apart and garnering earned media is no doubt a part of every PR and comms professionals’ mandate, but does the approach change when it comes to emerging markets like cannabis? 

The recent O’Cannabiz Conference in Toronto explored the importance of good media relationships and focused on providing companies with concrete strategies and actions to add value and secure coverage. 

The panel moderated by Cision Canada’s SVP Sharlene Dozois, included Jessica Moran, Director of Marketing & Communications at Strainprint, Megan Henderson, Executive Producer at TheGrowthOp, Max Cherney, Reporter at MarketWatch, Corey Herscu, Founder & CEO at RNMKR Agency, and Anna Sharratt, Journalist and Freelance Author.

Here are a few takeaways from this lively event.

Research, Research, Research

Our 2019 State of the Media Report found that 75% of journalists say less than a quarter of the pitches they receive are relevant. To ensure that your content is relevant, you need to do your research on the reporter, their outlet and the stories they write about. “Have a clear understanding of your target audience, the media you are pitching and your goals around having your story covered,” said Moran. “There are many tools out there to help you, including social networks,” said Herscu.

“Don’t be afraid to tie your pitch to relevant industry events or news,” said Moran. “We’ve found a lot of success sharing good company stories that tie in well to a recent industry report.”

Go Beyond the Standard Announcement

The panelists universally agreed that press releases are the best way to deliver your content, which strongly supports what global journalists told us in our 2019 Report. The panelists also noted that receiving basic corporate and brand announcements are less newsworthy and won’t garner as much media attention. “Since cannabis is still an emerging industry, we’re really interested in stories that help us educate our readers,” said Henderson. “We know brand needs to be there, but find a good balance between it and the story you’re trying to tell.” 

Personalizing your press release can help you overcome this obstacle. “Tell us stories with demographics, trends, or look at new movements within the industry,” added Sharratt.

Be Clear, Concise and Contextual 

“I like receiving press release pitches that are succinct, include a hook and deliver an interesting angle,” said Sharratt. “We also need relevant contact information, especially email addresses,” she added. “If we need to reach you quickly, a phone number may not be enough.”

When working in technical industries, it’s important to keep jargon out of your pitch. “When I see too much jargon, it immediately sends red flags,” said Cherney. 

Watch your Buzzwords

“The amount of times I see the words ‘innovative’ and ‘unique’ in pitches is astounding,” exclaimed Henderson. “If you’re going to use words like that, make sure you’re backing it up with some real innovation.” 

Emerging Markets Need a Little More TLC

“The comfort level in the media overall around covering cannabis is still growing, so demonstrating value is so important,” said Herscu. “That’s why it’s so important for companies to demonstrate value to the journalists and in turn, their audience.” 

“Don’t be afraid to share your data with us,” said Sharratt. “It gives us the opportunity to educate customers and new and upcoming industry products.”

Be Persistent, but to a Point!

“Don’t be afraid to be persistent. You need to live and define your narrative while becoming an asset to the media,” said Herscu. But there is a fine line between being persistent and becoming annoying.

Sharratt, Cherney and Henderson all expressed disdain for those who re-send a pitch multiple times without any form of follow-up message. “With finite resources, we simply can’t work with every story,” said Henderson. This is a universal problem, as 22% of global journalists cited staffing and limited resources as their top challenge over the last 12 months. 

And if your pitch does not land, don’t be afraid to ask why. “If I don’t respond or reject your pitch, ask me what I want or am looking for future opportunities,” said Henderson. “I’m always happy to share that feedback.”

Looking for more pitching tips & advice from journalists? Download the full 2019 State of the Media Report here.

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About Melissa Meyer

Melissa Meyer is a Coordinator of Customer Marketing at Cision, where she helps clients shine by sharing their communications success stories. You'll find her talking about all things PR, pop culture and basketball on Twitter: @_MelissaMeyer.