PR vs. Advertising: Which One is Better for Your Cannabis Business?


Both should be activated to bolster credibility and enhance profitability depending on a company’s goals and outcome objectives.

It’s no secret that the North American cannabis industry is flourishing. According to a recent report from cannabis market research firm BDS Analytics, legal adult-use spending reached $7.3 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $16.2 billion in 2020. The legalization movement is gaining momentum as markets emerge and prosper.

As the cannabis industry grows and dominates the media landscape, the need for traditional communication services tailored to the burgeoning market has become essential. Businesses have long utilized public relations and advertising as complementary vehicles of communication, and while different, each serves mutually beneficial purposes. 

Cannabis businesses should develop a comprehensive understanding of PR and advertising before using the services. Despite the ubiquitous nature of the industries, confusion regarding their purpose persists. People generally view PR and advertising as synonymous, and while they both use targeted messaging to raise awareness about a company or service, they are not one and the same. The difference is quite simple, actually: advertising is a form of paid media, whereas PR is earned media.

Paid media is the strategic and paid placement of content across media channels. It is an effective and measurable, albeit costly, means of driving brand traffic and increasing sales. Earned media refers to the publicity gained through proactive pitching and outreach to media. It is a trusted means of increasing brand visibility.

Cannabis Group

Photo by Robert Nelson on Unsplash

It isn’t a question of whether a cannabis business should use PR or advertising, but when to use each. These plans should be activated to bolster credibility and enhance profitability depending on a company’s goals and outcome objectives.

When to Use PR

B2B cannabis companies should use PR to protect and strengthen their brand reputation. PR professionals can assist businesses in developing well-conceived messaging aimed at educating consumers while being mindful of issues related to legality. Through the use of PR, cannabis companies can establish their executive teams as thought leaders, as well as increase their credibility amongst industry professionals, investors and clients.

When to Use Advertising

Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies and cannabis retail brands should utilize paid advertising when launching a product or service. Advertisers can assist businesses in promoting content that adheres to social media regulations regarding cannabis, in turn, increase sales and build brand awareness.

A Fusion of Services

Although the cannabis industry is growing exponentially, it is a tricky space to operate within. To avoid crossing into gray areas, businesses should leverage both PR and advertising to develop brand messaging that is reflective of the nuances and regulations shaping the market. By employing PR, cannabis businesses can become reputable leaders in the budding market and, in turn, gain and maintain loyal customers.

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