Durée Ross, founding president and CEO of Durée & Company, recognized that the United States was on the brink of a “green rush” before the passing of the Farm Bill in 2018 and pursued clients in the cannabis, hemp and CBD industries.

 

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AUTHOR: Heather Allman PUBLISHER: Cannabis Law Report

 

 

Cannabis PR Never Sleeps

Interview with Durée Ross, CEO & President of Durée & Company 

 

Durée Ross, founding president and CEO of Durée & Company, recognized that the United States was on the brink of a “green rush” before the passing of the Farm Bill in 2018 and pursued clients in the cannabis, hemp and CBD industries.

Her company’s precedent-setting efforts are paving the way for PR representation in this space, which is continuously growing. The agency has launched a division exclusively dedicated to Public Relations for Cannabis, Cannabidiol (CBD) & Emerging Markets

 

DURÉE AND COMPANY: CANNABIS AND CBD PUBLIC RELATIONS

 

Durée & Company, a Fort Lauderdale and Aspen full-service public relations, marketing and special events firm, has added some green to its signature pink color with a focused website: CannabisMarketingPR.com, which is dedicated to the firm’s continued expansion into the blossoming cannabis and hemp/CBD industries. 

 

DESCRIPTION OF YOUR CANNABIS AND CBD SERVICES

In the health and wellness marketplace, cannabis is quickly captivating attention. This booming sector is already worth north of $130 million in the United States alone, according to the Hemp Business Journal. Major companies in the hemp industry are focused on sustained growth as changes are made in the Legislature, as well as in product development. Cannabidiol (CBD) products are appealing to a growing number of people, young and old, especially now that the 2018 Farm Bill legalizes  hemp at the federal level.

Aspen and South Florida PR agency  Durée & Company understands the ins and outs and knows how to navigate the ever-changing cannabis and hemp/CBD industries, currently working in this space with numerous clients.

With a watchful eye on local and federal legislation, a strong pulse on key expos and leadership conferences, and proven relationships with influencers and thought leaders, Durée & Company is an established presence in this rapidly expanding community. The agency works with clients that are growing, manufacturing, producing and innovating with CBD – and that are seeking expert PR help to define their space among consumers.

The feel-good effects of this market are bound to continue. As reported in a recent article in Fortune, ‘nearly 7 percent of Americans are already using cannabidiol (CBD), placing the potential market opportunity for the much-hyped cannabis compound at $16 billion by 2025, according to a new analysis by Cowen & Co.,’ a global market research and investment firm.

On September 1, 2020, Cannabis Law Report interviewed Durée Ross, CEO and president of Durée & Company. We discussed the company’s new addition of a dedicated Cannabis and CBD branch to her already successful marketing and public relations firm. 

According to Ross, this handpicked team can deftly handle almost anything for their clients — from public relations to branding to crisis management, and all aspects in between.”

 

PERSONAL INTRODUCTION

 

Cannabis Law Report: Do you have a life motto or favorite quote, or a company tagline?

Durée Ross: “It’s true that you only get one chance to make a first impression. But you have a million chances to make an indelible impression.”

CLR: Why do you love your work?

DR: I fell in love with public relations at the age of 19 during a fated college internship. I truly love that, although public relations requires us to be “on” 24/7, every day is different with numerous opportunities to help clients craft and tell their stories. New opportunities continue to push our team as we strive to make a difference for all of our clients. We work hard to play hard!”

CLR: There are quite a few booming markets out there currently, so I have to ask: why cannabis? 

DR: With little precedence for PR in these industries, and few PR firms eager to take on the industries (there was much confusion over whether cannabis and hemp/CBD were legal or not), I was determined to navigate this virtually untouched arena. Initially, an existing client in another industry reached out to me and brought me into the field. At that time, I had to look past the red tape, develop a long-term vision for these emerging industries, and tackle it head-on. I was an early adapter, but I never could have imagined that today I would be working with brands from so many different parts of the supply chain in the industry — including full spectrum hemp and CBD brands, processing facilities, trade associations, dispensary owners, farmers, growers, cannabis cultivators, third-party laboratories, and other startups.”

 

YEAR TO DATE

CLR: Let’s talk about your journey in the Cannabis/CBD industry at large, culminating in your current role bringing Durée & Company to the masses. Tell me about your year to date, expanding on Durée & Company in 2020, and your new place in the national Cannabis/CBD landscape?

DR: Since we started working in the cannabis and hemp industries before the 2018 Farm Bill, we have a strong understanding of how to navigate this ever-changing and growing field. I sit on the board of directors at The Florida Hemp Council and on the leadership team for CannabisLAB (CLAB). Durée & Company is also involved in the Cannabis Marketing Association and is a proud supporter of Marijuana Moment.

This past year, I’ve had the opportunity to speak on multiple panels, webinars and industry roundtables and share my expertise and practical applications for PR and marketing success in these industries.

In summer 2020 and in celebration of our 20th anniversary, my firm launched our new cannabis, CBD, and hemp-focused website, CannabisMarketingPR.com, dedicated to our continued expansion into the booming cannabis and hemp/CBD industries. 

The website allows us to further connect with existing and potential hemp and cannabis clients, and to showcase the comprehensive PR and marketing services we tailor specifically for these markets.”

 

CLR: What was your personal intention initially jumping into the Cannabis space? 

DR: As a part-time resident of Colorado, I had a bird’s-eye view of how mainstream cannabis had become. When an existing client in another, unrelated industry reached out to me and said he needed my help with a CBD company he was involved with, I was all in!

Although cannabis and hemp were becoming more mainstream, there was a lack of public relations and marketing resources for companies due to stigma. My goal was to do what our firm does best: to adapt with the times and take on a new opportunity headfirst.”

 

CLR: How do your past professional experiences and successes help you today in the Cannabis/CBD space as CEO of Durée & Company’s new division?

DR: When I started Durée & Company 20 years ago, public relations was different. It has changed drastically with the decline in print media and the rise in online opportunities. While crisis communications has always been vital, it’s become even more important for these industries, especially of late.

As PR has changed, we have also had the opportunity to focus more on marketing, social media, influencer relations, affiliate marketing and more, which has allowed us to grow our services while still staying true to our core values. Cannabis continues to evolve, and we are intrigued and excited at the new opportunities that come along with it!”

 

CLR: Now that you’re here, how do you plan to fully leverage the company that you’ve built at Durée & Company to add value to the Cannabis/CBD market?

DR: We continue to add value to the cannabis/CBD markets with strategic public relations and crisis communications, a watchful eye on local and federal legislation, a strong pulse on key expos and leadership conferences that offer speaking opportunities, proven relationships with influencers and thought leaders, and our knowledge of affiliate marketing and product placement.”

 

 

CLR: How are you adding value to the larger Cannabis/CBD space? Briefly tell me about your “ultimate end game” in the Cannabis/CBD industry.

DR: We’ll stop at nothing to help our clients achieve their PR and marketing goals, yet I really don’t know what my end game is! Right now, I am thoroughly enjoying the work we are performing and the results we are delivering, as the cannabis and hemp/CBD industries continue to grow and challenge us daily.”

 

CLR: Give me some examples of your typical daily or yearly responsibilities, and how these tasks are actively helping you achieve your goals?

DR: Every day is completely different! Nowadays, clients want to work with one agency to handle numerous PR and marketing efforts, so that may mean we are handling public relations, marketing, social media, events, e-communication, influencer relations and affiliate marketing (and much more!).

I’ve always believed that when you’re asked to handle a new initiative, you find a way to do it. Often, this may mean expanding a practice area or focusing more heavily on an area that may be changing or newer.”

 

CLR: Which aspect of your daily job holds the most appeal for you, and why? (The “best” aspect you focus on)

DR: I love that we never stop learning. At Durée & Company, we know you have to stay knowledgeable to stay fresh. Staying innovative makes PR appealing and is crucial for building a brand, creating buzz and driving results.”

 

 

 

MISSION AND CORE VALUES

 

CLR: Mission statement or overall MAIN GOAL(S) of company, and how does the Durée & Company mission align with your own personal values and life mission?

DR: At Durée & Company, we are passionate about delivering stellar results for our clients. We never accept the status quo, so we work relentlessly to find, or create, that next great opportunity for our clients. I think many people who know me personally would say that I don’t take “no” for an answer. I’m a solution-oriented person, so I am always looking for other options.”

 

CLR: What are the top 3 core values at Durée & Company?

DR: Passion, dedication and innovation.”

 

CLR: What is your bottom line at Durée & Company, and how do you succeed at and maintain your bottom line?

DR: We abide by the motto of ‘under-promising’ and ‘over-delivering,’ managing client expectations, and developing achievable and far-reaching goals for our clients.”

 

TRANSPARENCY

 

CLR: How does transparency factor into the Durée & Company mission?

DR: We always are up-front, transparent and honest with our clients to best manage expectations. I truly believe that it’s easier to be transparent up front.”

 

 

CLR: Please tell me about how Durée & Company maintains quality and transparency beyond required regulations/compliance, both internally and externally?

DR: I am always willing to share my journey, perspective and lessons with the next generation of public relations pros and entrepreneurs. With each new experience, I am able to capture valuable takeaways and impart wisdom to my team and others on how to shift with the new demands of public relations, marketing, social media and crisis communications.

ACCURACY

 

CLR: How does accuracy factor into the Durée & Company mission?

DR: We are strategic when it comes to our marketing and public relations plans. When working with our clients, we plan and execute custom and effective campaigns that resonate with their specific target audiences, while maximizing exposure for them in the most efficient and newsworthy ways.”

 

AUTHENTICITY, CONSUMER TRUST, CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY 

 Keeping up with the customers – why CSR is no longer enough:

“We are living in an age of information abundance. Consumers are increasingly becoming more demanding and more dubious that brands can keep the promises they make. There is often a sizeable gap between expectation and reality in the products that people buy, especially in the Cannabis market. The Economist, in its 2011 survey, backs this up, finding that 76% of senior executives from around the world think that embedding sustainability into a company’s business leads to enhanced reputation and brand value. 

Old CSR strategies offered little for a brand’s approach as a whole – reporting on emissions or adhering to regulations are costly and necessary, but often do not offer much for enhancing a brand’s core character. So, enter ‘Positive Impact’. Positive impact strategies offer a more holistic approach to improving a business’s overall mission. Such policies have quantifiable business benefits and positive social outcomes. But how do you implement a good positive impact strategy?”

 

CLR: You have a CSR division to help your clients. How does CSR factor in at Durée & Company, both internally and externally —and what “positive impact” has resulted? 

DR: Today, corporate social responsibility is more important than ever, and a critical part of any company’s business strategy. Showing that a company cares can help a variety of causes and set companies apart from competitors. CSR is just as important internally as it is externally; a company’s employees and stakeholders are often the first adopters of CSR programming. 

Companies with CSR programs in place also have stronger footing in the marketplace and can appear more attractive to potential employees who value this type of workplace culture.”

 

CLR: How do authenticity and consumer trust factor into your current course(s) of action?

DR: When advising our clients to participate in corporate social responsibility, we help them develop strategic partnerships and campaigns that they can “own.” We always recommend choosing an organization that is near and dear to the client and the brand’s heart, for authenticity.”

 

CHALLENGES

 

CLR: Generally speaking, what are the biggest challenges in launching a new Cannabis/CBD division?

DR: Learning about a new industry has stretched our creativity and overall strategic PR skills. Never in the history of my PR career have I been asked to promote a product and secure editorial coverage without being allowed to make any claims to media about its use or purpose! There are many updates within these industries, so navigating the changes has kept us on our toes.”

 

CLR: Something people don’t realizing about running a Cannabis or CBD operation?

DR: Many may not know that when promoting a CBD or cannabis product, you cannot make any claims to media about what the product can be used for. In public relations and marketing, you have to sell the products you are promoting, in order to stand out. However, that’s not an option in these industries! So, we find other newsworthy angles.”

 

CLR:  What are the biggest challenges currently in Cannabis/CBD that Durée & Company face or have faced?

DR: As previously stated, the biggest challenge is being unable to make claims. It’s often media’s first request, and something we navigate daily. Additionally, given cannabis laws by state, we can’t send out product samples for media outlets to try. There are many updates within these industries, so we have to be creative about our approach.”

 

CLR: What steps do you currently take to achieve and maintain Durée & Company’s high quality, consistency, and premium reputation?

DR: It is our job to stay in the know in order to best support our clients. We continue to do our research on the cannabis and hemp industries and keep a watchful eye on local and federal legislation.”

 

 

RAPID RESPONSE

CLR: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cannabis has been deemed an essential service. In the June 2020 edition of Cannabis Business Times, 34% of respondent consumers have been using more Cannabis/CBD since the COVID-19 crisis began. What business impact have you experienced— Are you doing anything new or differently? How have you evolved and/or pivoted?

DR: Diversifying into these industries has helped us stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, when not many other PR companies could, because these clients were deemed essential. Whether we’re announcing openings, closings, curbside or delivery services, the ever-changing and shifting communication messages have kept us extremely busy.”

TRENDS AND BEHAVIOR

CLR: This is an industry that has grown primarily off demand. What corporate demand do you currently see trending, and what behaviors or shifts? 

DR: Our clients’ consumers and patients want to know that products are third-party tested, high-quality, and safe to ingest. They are also very educated and want to read the Certificate of Analysis (COAs) as well. I think this trend will continue.”

FUTURE FOCUS

CLR: Give me one example of a future Durée & Company goal to show leadership in the Cannabis/CBD industry, or what future mark do you strive to make in the growing national CBD space?

DR: Due to the nature of the cannabis and hemp/CBD industries, there are always challenges with legal aspects of the business, financing, insurance, real estate, advertising, marketing, and more. This is why crisis communications is an absolute must.

Legalities continue to change on a daily ― and even an hourly ― basis. From understanding the language of the cannabis and hemp/CBD industries to following legislation at the local, state, federal and international levels, there are many ways to be prepared for any crises these industries may face.”

 

CLR: You’re regularly paying attention to local, state, and federal legal news. Tell me about your personal vision for the U.S. Cannabis/CBD program in year to come? —in 3 years?

DR: Gosh, I wish I had a crystal ball! Just when it feels like the cannabis and hemp/CBD industries have made huge progress, another curveball seems to pop up and head our clients’ way. Hopefully, Durée & Company continues to build on our cannabis/hemp PR practice.

With that said, I am hoping that more banking and advertising options open up for our clients. It will be interesting to see what happens with the DEA, FDA and other governmental entities in terms of regulations and de-scheduling.”

CLR: And how do we get from here to there?

DR: Continue to educate, communicate and advocate!”

 

 

WORDS OF WISDOM

CLR: What areas of improvement would you like to see occur in the current national Cannabis/CBD programs? 

DR: Like many, we would like to see more favorable options for banking and more advertising options allowed, especially online. It’s very difficult right now, and I feel bad for our clients trying to operate their businesses in a climate that doesn’t allow for what would be considered basic business in any other industry.”

 

CLR:  In our current times, what keeps you awake at night?

DR: PR never sleeps. Knowing from experience that crises and news can break 24/7 around the clock keeps me up at night. In the PR industry, weekends and evenings aren’t necessarily time off. We are always available for our clients, day or night.” 

 

 

CLR: What helps you sleep?

DR: What sleep?! Ha. Certainly, using some of our clients’ products helps me with the sleep I can get!”

CLR: What advice can you offer to your clients or others in the Cannabis/CBD space, consumers? companies?

DR: Don’t get too comfortable, and always be thinking about what’s next. The cannabis and hemp/CBD industries are evolving very quickly, so it’s important to always be one step ahead.

Also, think carefully and strategically about what you are communicating now, because that will affect what you say and do in the future. Once it’s out there, it’s out there, and there’s no taking it back.”