Take our virtual cannabis-focused sales bootcamp for high revenue potential
Updated: Apr 19
The cannabis industry is vastly expanding as more states legalize medical and recreational marijuana. This presents a great opportunity for local media outlets to partner with marijuana brands and dispensaries on engaging content marketing.
The Meta Branded Content Project just finished a four-week cannabis-focused sales bootcamp highlighting successful content sales strategies in this lucrative industry. We are excited to have all four weeks of calls here for you to catch up on anytime, so you can start taking advantage of all that we've learned at your own pace.
We started with the basics of branded content and then delved into content creation and distribution on social media channels.
Our biggest piece of advice this week was to always check with your organization's legal team before publishing any cannabis-related advertising and content. Each state has unique laws in this space, and it's important to clarify what you legally can and cannot do.
We brought on LMA's Director Of Technology for the Knight x LMA BloomLab Apryl Pilolli who explained the ever-changing rules with Facebook. She said in the last several months, Meta has lifted some of their restrictions, making it easier to present cannabis content on its platform.
"They were much stricter on what they would allow on their ad policies, and they've opened it up a good deal recently, as things have been becoming more and more legalized," she said.
She says because it's an automated system, your ad will likely be denied on the first try 90 percent of the time. She recommends always appealing that decision. Any marijuana or CBD focused content that is presented more like a news story, rather than an ad, will be allowed. So keeping your cannabis content educational and informative is a winning strategy.
"Anything that is about CBD, hemp or marijuana and it is a news angle is allowed. You can also promote the sale of topical hemp seed oil, things that are topical and you don't ingest is also allowed. Now if it is ingestible or if it's beyond hemp, if we're talking about CBD or marijuana, you cannot take out any ads related to that to promote the sale of it, you can provide information and stories and benefits."
News organizations should register as a news page on Facebook which will help with ad approvals. If you haven't done so, you can find more information on how to do that here.
We also heard from Hilal Bahcetepe, ad operations specialist at Distributed Media Lab, who has spent years writing about the cannabis industry. While stressing always talking to legal (this is important!), she recommends focusing on your audience and demographic when deciding what type of cannabis content to create.
"If you have a younger demographic, I'm sure it'll be easier to market that content to younger audiences. But if you have an older audience, maybe it's better to kind of go with content that's a little bit more approachable, like CBD or focusing on products that are not psychoactive," she said.
We challenged our boot campers to fill out our Week 1 Scorecard, which asked them what their news outlet would like to sell in this space, any current sales packages and what questions they may have.
Grant has had a great run with sponsored series from the Meta Branded Content Project, particularly Cannabis Weekly, a lifestyle series covering interesting facts and cannabis lifestyle topics.
"We started selling this product a little more than a year ago and we had an immediate positive response from the marketplace," Grant said.
Because Great West Media is located in Canada and cannabis was recently legalized there, Grant knew it was an amazing opportunity to bring this content to potential clients who were eager to attach their brands to quality cannabis content.
"So they were excited by this because they see it as an opportunity to reach their target audience, people who are interested in reading about cannabis, the different strains, the different products available," she said.
Jeff Palmer, from ReadySpots, showed examples of cannabis related video spots for broadcasters, who have even more limitations when it comes to marijuana advertising.
"We kind of took our time, developed it, a lot of research and figured out what you can and can't say in the states that are legal," he said.
Both special guests took the time to answer lots of questions about their experience in this space. Make sure you watch the call above!
Jay Curran from Studio 707 was featured on this week's call. Curran worked for several San Francisco area publications all of which quickly began selling cannabis advertising as soon as medical marijuana was legalized.
"It was a great day to be able to sell cannabis advertising. Revenue was coming in great. It's a cash business. So you got to make sure that you get your money up front," he said.
And in the January of 2015, they launched SF Evergreen, which was a standalone print tab publication that was distributed outside of the newspaper, printing 60,000 copies throughout the Bay Area.
"We consulted with the dispensaries in the area prior to launching the publication to try to find out what type of content that they were looking for," he said.
In addition to advising the crowd on getting cash up front, he said it was also crucial to keep up on local laws and regulations, which have a tendency to quickly change. He also recommends getting familiar with the marijuana brand and dispensaries by paying them a visit and finding the right decision makers.
They'd ramp up sales by promoting special marijuana-related events, like the holiday 4/20 and offer special deals to cannabis brands to keep them happy. He shared lots of other advice on the call and answered questions from the bootcamp participants.
Graduation Day! This call was a great opportunity for the bootcamp participants to share what they learned and discuss their sales strategies moving forward.
Nannette Fevola, of Newsday, is based in New York, which hasn't yet legalized recreational marijuana, however the likelihood of that happening sooner rather than later is high. She emphasized the importance of being prepared for what it does legalize.
"It's really been interesting hearing what other people are doing already, sort of well entrenched in this in other markets, as great best practices for us to look at," she said. "Also I was taken by really weaving cannabis into lifestyle, some of the cooking classes and you know just all the different things that people are doing that I think are a great way to make this topic much more palatable for my generally older audience," she said.
Al Garcia, of Southern California News Group says he's been able to reach out to cannabis brands and dispensaries to go after co-op dollars thanks to what he learned in the bootcamp.
"Being someone who thought I didn't know that much I find myself as being the one who knows everything more than these dispensaries and so we're really the professionals on that and we're the mouthpiece for what they can do what's available," he said.
He appreciates the resources provided and plans to focus on creating custom content for dispensaries to share their stories.
As we left our wonderful participants, we sent them off with the following ways to keep in touch with us!
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Get signed up for our monthly Big Branded Calls featuring industry experts.
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We are so fortunate to be able to provide our sales bootcamps to local media companies thanks to the support from the LMC, LMA and Meta Journalism Project. Stay tuned for our next bootcamp launching this summer!
The Meta Branded Content Project is designed through a strategic partnership between the Meta Journalism Project, Local Media Association and the Local Media Consortium to help facilitate additional growth, engagement, and revenue success for more publishers of all shapes and sizes.