‘Not in my backyard’
By Parveen Singh, Marigold PR
How licensed producers can win support from local communities
By Parveen Singh, Marigold PR
Survey after survey shows that Canadians support the cannabis industry in general, but maybe just not in their backyard.
As the Canadian cannabis industry continues to grow at a fast pace, Licensed Producers are coming up against the challenge of getting local residents to support construction of a new cannabis facility in their town or city. And municipal governments are often getting caught in the middle.
New cannabis facilities and businesses need to develop an effective community outreach program to help them find new ways to garner positive support, combat misinformation and effectively address issues. Below are some ideas on how to create a sense of trust within the local community while staying compliant.
Bolster the local economy
Creating jobs is a huge benefit to local communities.
The cannabis industry has been steadily increasing the number of people it directly employs each year since 2018. Even if job creation is minimal in the onset, it’s a good idea to share your company’s plans for future growth. Sharing news about job creation can be simple as posting on social media. Consider sharing a press release with local media announcing new positions or host an upcoming job fair.
Origin Coast Inc., an East Coast grower of premium craft cannabis, launched a “neighbours helping neighbours” campaign. They leveraged their strong core values of community by sharing their mission of creating sustainable job opportunities in Cape Breton and helping to build the cannabis industry in Atlantic Canada. This proactive approach helped excite the local community and prevent concerns.
Normalize the cannabis conversation
Regardless of the stage or size of your business, actively participate and engage with your local community.
Demonstrating your investment in their wellbeing and the social good has many long-term benefits, such as opening up a healthy dialogue, changing perceptions and building long-term value through mutual understanding and an improved image.
Plus, with the Shop Local movement, community education opens the door to an engaged and loyal customer base.
Wheatley, Ont.-based grower, Mariwell, was able to build support by understanding their unique position in the region. They fostered a culture of transparency that became the cornerstone to their success.
“People are interested in supporting businesses that support them,” said Theresa Robert, chair of the board at Mariwell. “Immersing ourselves in the local community, building relationships with the local press and sharing our environmental consciousness helps attach a face to the business and share our values.”
Value the customer experience
Cannabis faces many challenges that other mainstream industries don’t. The wave of opposition that many production facilities face extends to retailers, as well.
Community members who are calling for their municipalities to halt the opening of cannabis stores and tightening of regulations, often cite unsubstantiated fears around increased crime rates, safety and undermining the family values of the communities that host them.
Proactive community outreach and engagement is an important step for retailers as they expand to new neighbourhoods.
Cannabis retailer Superette is a notable example of strong community outreach initiatives. From hosting in-store food drives, team vegetable planting, volunteering at the local food bank, to the ‘burger phone’ that connects customers to local restaurants, Superette has made notable efforts to be an active member of each community they expand to.
Navigating the rigorous industry landscape is a challenge but one that can be overcome through a holistic and considered communications approach. With an effective action plan, focused on relationship building and community-backed initiatives in hand, cannabis businesses can have governments and communities declaring, “Yes, we’re open for business!”
Parveen Singh is an account executive at Marigold Marketing & PR, a public relations firm that serves Licensed Producers and national brands in the cannabis industry. With a background working across various lifestyle industries, Singh works collaboratively with teams to deliver results that help brands tell their story and engage with consumers.