Be your own marketing machine
Good photos, the right pitch and a dash of luck can all improve the chances of your company being featured in a magazine
As the editor-in-chief of two cannabis business magazines, people often ask me what it takes to get their company featured in our publications. From growers to retailers to equipment manufacturers, I get this question over and over again.
The crux of it is that there’s not one standard answer. It comes down to timing, the other content we have in each magazine, interest level, regional and seasonal considerations, value to our readers and details like photos. And sometimes, it’s just a matter of dumb luck.
Not everybody can hire a slick marketing team or a public relations professional to meticulously craft their consumer-facing image. But here are five tips I can give to better prepare individuals and companies who are trying to get the attention of magazine editors like me.
1. Read the magazine.
This is a really important first step. It’s pretty easy to tell when somebody’s trying to promote their company without having done the research to find out what types of stories Marijuana Venture publishes.
As a business magazine, we’re not going to run strain reviews or talk about how “dank” your nugs are. We love “bud porn” as much as the next magazine, but it’s a pretty small percentage of what we publish. We rarely write stories about the medical benefits of cannabis or the miraculous results patients have experienced. There are plenty of other magazines for all of these topics.
But if you want to talk about how you slashed your cost of production in half or doubled your margins by drilling down on inventory management, then you’re on the right track.
2. Have a story.
You have to be able to tell me why I should write about your company. There has to be a hook, something that sets you apart from others, something that makes your story worthwhile for our readers.
In a way, this is similar to putting together your sales and marketing plan. If your pitch is that you grow superior, top-shelf cannabis that is unmatched in quality, I’m not interested (and you’ll probably want to rethink your sales and marketing strategy). If your pitch is that your cannabis store is the top-ranked dispensary on Leafly, come back to me when you have something more concrete. If your pitch is that your nutrient line or growing equipment can increase yields by 45%, that sounds like a product you should be advertising.
It’s not to say those characteristics are unimportant or unworthy. It’s just that I hear them far too often, and those aren’t the type of stories we write.
3. To go with a pro? Or no?
There are plenty of really good PR professionals out there (in fact, if you’re one of those pros and you’re reading this, shoot me an email and mention this column; I’ll make it worth your while). But there are also plenty of lousy ones that actually complicate the process of attracting media attention for companies.
Good PR folks develop relationships with writers, editors and producers; lousy ones send out boilerplate email blasts that sound desperate for attention.
Each company will need to weigh the pros and cons of hiring a PR professional, depending on your objectives. Obviously, for larger companies, it’s probably not feasible for the CEO to personally handle all media requests. And, let’s face it: larger companies are more likely to need the crisis management side of PR services.
For most small- to medium-sized cannabis companies, if I get a simple, thoughtful email from the business owner or somebody in a leadership position, I’m more inclined to write about them than if I get something that was obviously sent to every cannabis publication in North America.
In 2018, just about everybody has a high-resolution camera in their pocket, as smart phone manufacturers have been waging the megapixel wars for several years now. Yet, this can be one of the biggest barriers to being featured in our magazine. Getting high-res pics is regularly one of the most frustrating challenges my staff and I face every month.
I could probably write an entire column just on photography and the importance of having good, high-resolution photos (and probably will in a future issue), but for the purpose of this writeup, I’ll try to keep it brief.
– Pictures really are worth thousand words — but only if they’re high resolution. The larger the file size, the better. Photos that are copied off a website or social media are not high resolution. If you’ve got photos that are 150 kilobytes, it’s highly unlikely that those pictures will be large enough for print. We’re generally looking for files that are at least 1 megabyte.
There are other magazines that put a lower emphasis on high-resolution photos. If you look closely at photos in some other publications, you’ll notice pixilation, which is the telltale sign of a low-res photo that was stretched. Marijuana Venture and our sister publication, SunGrower & Greenhouse, will not do this.
– I should be careful to say that photos shot with your smart phone are not ideal, but as long as the lighting is good and the settings are right, they’ll work fine for many shots inside the magazine. Those images can easily be stored on Dropbox or a Google Drive and sent to people like me if I’m working on a story about your company.
– If you’re a cannabis grower, retailer or product manufacturer, you should really consider investing in a digital SLR and spending some time learning how to use it. Today’s camera technology can make any hobbyist (myself included) look semi-professional. While high-end cameras can cost several thousand dollars, there are a wide range of entry-level cameras that can be found for a couple hundred bucks.
Aside from having images to share with Marijuana Venture, you’ll probably look back at those photos with a sense of pride. You’re making history. You’ll want to document that process. If I were a cannabis farmer, I don’t think I’d ever get any work done because I’d spend so much time photographing those gorgeous plants.
– Shameless plug for one of our advertisers: Seriously, if you’re growing cannabis indoors, invest in Method Seven filters for your cameras (and eyewear to protect your workers). These filters will counteract the unnatural colors produced by most grow lights. There are times we’ll publish photos that have that yellow-orange glow of high-pressure sodium bulbs or the otherworldly pink hue of LEDs. But in general, we want flowers and grow photos to look natural.
– If you’re hiring a photographer, be clear about what you’re paying for. Brush up on copyright laws for photographs and make sure you’re acquiring the necessary licensing rights for those photos.
– There are definitely times we’ll hire our own photographers, but in a lot of cases, if it comes down to hiring a photographer, scheduling a shoot, waiting to get the photos and hoping that they turned out great versus using photos that have already been shot and can be delivered with a click of a button, we’ll take the route that’s fast and easy. It’s smart business to have those shots ready to go.
5. Be patient.
On average I send about 1,000 emails a month. I receive more than double that number, many of which are looking for some type of press coverage. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of great stories I want to tell in this magazine that I may never have the time or space for.
I understand that we live in the age of immediate gratification and that the green rush mentality drives that to another level. Every journalist has a handful of stories they’ve always wanted to write, but for whatever reason never had the time, the space, the right connections or the resources.
Be patient, but be persistent. And remember the adage of catching more flies with honey than vinegar. It’s a good lesson for PR and business in general.
Garrett Rudolph is the editor of Marijuana Venture and SunGrower & Greenhouse magazines. He helped start Marijuana Venture in 2014 and has more than a decade of experience in print journalism. He can be reached by email at Editor@MarijuanaVenture.com.