Vice Category PR: Why media relations is crucial for sexual wellness and legal cannabis brands
Contrary to a conservative-leaning federal government, public opinion continues to tilt in a liberal direction, especially on the subjects of sexual wellness and legal cannabis.
Most police officers in large cities won’t waste their time anymore detaining or even questioning pedestrians smoking cannabis. Every day, women are reclaiming their sexuality from the patriarchy that has sought to exploit and control them. Even on the most generic of ad spaces, the walls of subway cars, riders can find promotions for pills aimed at men with erectile dysfunction, panties for women who don’t want to wear tampons, and funny-but-serious messages reminding passengers to get tested for STDs.
Attitudes about sex, spirituality, and drug culture are changing every day, whether you’re a college student walking into a dispensary to grab edibles to relax before an exam or a young woman scanning the growing list of powerful, predatory men accused of sexual misconduct. Most importantly, research is igniting the revolution. In the past year, educational content on the clitoris has tripled. Pharmaceutical companies are exploring THC- and CBD-powered drugs. The days of sweeping alternative notions under the rug and hoping the younger generation doesn’t notice are gone.
Also gone are the days of hypocritical, hysterical anti-drug films about the “horrors” of marijuana, the reputed “gateway drug.” The medical community now acknowledges that cannabis can safely and effectively alleviate many conditions in women and men. Gone, too, are the repressive days when adults had to slink to the back of a pharmacy and lurk at the counter until everyone else had gone before purchasing intimate products meant to stimulate pleasure sensors. It’s all out in the open — available over the counter, on TV, or online. Step right up: no waiting, no embarrassment necessary.
Intimate brands for women — with targeted, high-grade products that women and men want to use — are exploding in the marketplace, and finally answering the question: What do women want? In that same regard, cannabis companies with pure-extraction processes, quality-sourced material, and modern customer-service practices are the norm now. The same goes for legal cannabis itself.
Consumer brands for sexual wellness and legal cannabis have been condensed into one catchall group: VICE CATEGORY. Since 2013, the proliferation of vice category consumer products has exploded and will continue to inspire entrepreneurs looking to cater to people interested in investing money in their sex lives and smoking pleasure.
From disruptive female-led sexual-wellness companies like DAME and THINX to science-backed cannabis manufacturers like Aboslute Xtracts and TopStone, today’s vice category brands are far from the primitive toys you bought at seedy sex shops or the lumpy joints you purchased furtively from a dealer outside a concert venue.
As such, it’s crucial that these brands not only sell and run their business differently, but also interact with their customers and potential customers modernly, often through targeted media campaigns and in-depth press coverage. It’s not enough to have a publicist or a vague strategy when it comes to sex and cannabis public relations; standing out in this emerging industry requires a compelling brand story beyond the sensationalism of sex or cannabis and can curate memorable: profitable storylines that resonate with media and customers alike. Given these sensitive topics, one bad media experience can lead to a full-on scandal, so reliable media relations is essential for emerging vice-category brands.
While there are many wonderful lifestyle firms that cater to sexual wellness and cannabis brands, targeted and specialized boutique firms catering to startups and emerging brands can carry the expertise of a large firm with the hustle of a freelancer.
Here’s what to look for when picking a publicist or PR firm for your vice category brand:
Education over sensation
Many brands with low media exposure can feel “all press is good press.” Publicists who sell that notion tend to curate the type of sensational brands that trigger negative backlash in the comments section, and sometimes even in broader published reports. Rather than investing in a publicist who curates headlines around the price, a celebrity following, or the sensational reaction, hire the PR professional who takes time to educate the media beyond just introducing the brand. Adding education to your media strategy creates loyalty among audiences who seek brands out for their expertise beyond their product.
Example: “The 22K Vibrator Beyoncé Owns” vs. “Why investing in self-pleasure can lead to career empowerment”
Storytelling over headlines
There can be only so many articles “Introducing the latest women-led sex-tech company.” Rather than pitching another feature with that tiresome headline, an adept publicist generates unique and original storylines, piquing the interest of journalists.
Example: “This rolling paper is made with 24K gold” vs. “How to host the ultimate Gatsby-themed party, complete with elegant smoking accessories”
Media relationships over news blasts
Many consumer-focused PR firms have databases containing thousands of press contacts, most of whom don’t cover specific topics regularly but will gladly accept product that may sit in their office unopened for months.
A specialized publicist understands the likely budgeting constraints of vice-category brands. Often, such brands are startups lacking the ability to gift 50 samples for just a couple of placements in return. A publicist who keeps a brand’s budget in mind and relies on her media relationships to create a powerful campaign always produces more ROI for the client than a PR firm that merely blasts information into cyberspace and hopes it intrigues an influential reporter or blogger.
Example: Gifting 100 samples to random media outlets and receiving fewer than 10 secured placements vs. sending 15 samples to targeted journalists with 10 secured placements
Executive expertise over product placements
Googling “best sex/cannabis products of 2018” reveals to anyone with an eye for public relations the top journalists and writers featuring vice-category consumer products. Merely placing a product in a roundup of “Ways to get high at a summer festival” doesn’t spotlight the brand as much as coming up with topics and commentary points for executives that fit into news cycles.
Publicists and marketing aficionados alike learn how to place products as interns: It’s PR 101. Curating a thoughtful storyline or showcasing relevant expertise that writers, bloggers, and vloggers can use in their coverage, however, requires patience, timing, skill, creativity, and commitment to every client.
Melissa A. Vitale PR is known as a “sniper-PR firm” because of its penchant for high-target, quality press placements with leaner models than typical NYC-based PR agencies.
If you are an emerging brand in the vice-category space wondering whether PR is a fit for you, please set up a consultation with us today! https://www.melissaavitale.com/consulting.html
To learn more about MAVPR’s expertise in Vice Category PR, please visit: https://www.melissaavitale.com/vice.html
Relying on a proprietary strategy, storytelling, and strong relationships across the media industry, Melissa A. Vitale Public Relations delivers full-feature results for clients. For service inquiries, please visit: https://www.melissaavitale.com/services.html
A public relations agency specializing in brands and startups across plant and intimate wellness