This week’s Trailblazer is Durée Ross, the President and CEO of Durée & Company, a South Florida and Aspen-based public relations agency specializing in public relations, social media, crisis, marketing and advertising.
Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer
When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
In 2018, we had a longtime real estate developer client invest in a hemp/CBD company and he brought us in to handle the public relations for the company. Being a part-time resident of Colorado, I witnessed the state launch adult use and knew I wanted to be involved when the right opportunity presented itself. This was an unbelievable opportunity at the right time. Our cannabis and emerging industries practice has grown like gangbusters, and we haven’t looked back.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?
Creating and implementing marketing and PR campaigns and strategies in cannabis when it’s federally illegal is a challenge. It must be looked at on a state-by-state basis with consideration of the varying rules and regulations. On the hemp and CBD side, promoting products without making claims is tough given that journalists and consumers want to know what ailments the products may treat. When speaking with reporters, that’s usually the first question they ask.
If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?
Although Twitter has made a step towards allowing advertisements for cannabis and THC products in the United States, there is still a lot of censorship on social media. For example, Facebook and Instagram don’t allow companies to advertise the sale of cannabis. This can mean that the platforms can target cannabis keywords, even when not advertising the sale of cannabis. Many accounts that have put time into building a following have experienced being shadow banned or even have had their accounts disabled.
In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?
Marketing techniques and channels vary based on adult use or medical markets but could include getting involved in local markets, hosting educational events/webinars for consumers and patients, working with influencers who can often tell the story better and working with media to get the word out to their readers/viewers.
Are there any other Trailblazers in the cannabis industry that you follow?
Masha Ty from ACS Laboratory. She is always ahead of the curve when it comes to hemp, cannabis and mushrooms. She is also very passionate about education in these emerging industries. She co-founded Extract Collective and Cannafamilia™ – both focusing on consumer/patient navigation and well-being education through experiential events.
Additionally, Lisa Buffo, founder and CEO of Cannabis Marketing Association – a trade organization that supports professional and creative growth by providing career resources, education-based events and networking opportunities – is a trailblazer. Lisa has cultivated a community of inspirational marketing leaders, and I am proud to be part of it.
Another trailblazer is Debra Borchardt, co-founder of the Green Market Report. Green Market Report has become an everyday read for us when it comes to financial news in the cannabis and psychedelics industry. In addition to their news, Debra has led the publication as a leader in cannabis conferences and events.
Dustin Robinson, founding partner of Mr. Cannabis Law, is a trailblazer for his legal perspective in the cannabis and psychedelics industries. He is always abreast of the ever-changing laws and regulations and is an expert in navigating and capitalizing on opportunities within highly regulated industries.
Jesse Channon, chief growth officer of Columbia Care, is also a trailblazer in cannabis marketing and advertising, communications, digital innovation and retail experience. He’s led some of Columbia Care’s most innovative initiatives, including its award-winning proprietary cannabis discovery tool, Forage, and national cannabis app Stash Cash.
What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to marketers looking to enter the cannabis industry?
Don’t do it! Just kidding. It’s been very rewarding, but education is key. It feels like every day something new is happening, so we are constantly kept on our toes. Getting involved in numerous trade associations and volunteering our time to help elevate the industry has served us well and I always recommend this to anyone looking to get into the industry.
A big thank you to Durée Ross from Durée & Company for participating as this week’s Trailblazer! Stay tuned for another interview with a cannabis marketing Trailblazer next Thursday in the ADCANN blog.