Cannabis careers: How to be a cannabis communicator

For the inaugural story in our Cannabis Careers series, we spoke with Gill Polard, Communications Manager at the Lift Resource Centre, and Jordan Sinclair, Director of Communications and Media for Tweed, for their insight on what it takes to be a cannabis communicator.

Call it a greenrush: with legalization fast approaching in Canada, and the ACMPR already well underway, the cannabis industry is attracting a wide variety of job-seekers and entrepreneurs.

For the inaugural story in our Cannabis Careers series, we spoke with Gill Polard, Communications Manager at the Lift Resource Centre, and Jordan Sinclair, Director of Communications and Media for Tweed, for their insight on what it takes to be a cannabis communicator.

Here’s what they said:

Go pro or go home

Save your tie-dye hoodie and stash for the weekend: spokespeople like Cheech and Chong worked for an underground industry, but a legal multibillion-dollar industry requires professionals, and the best practices for a cannabis communications career are the same as any other communications gig.

“The industry is exploding right now, and certainly emerging, but I would actually say there are more things that make it like other businesses than make it completely unique,” says Jordan Sinclair. “If you’re really looking to get into it, I would just find the five companies you can see yourself working at, cruise their careers section, and call somebody at the company – get yourself out there.”

Gill Polard agrees that networking is key. “Conferences and expos are big opportunities to meet people from all over and check out new products or hear speakers,” she says. “If you can only make it to one or two a year, I suggest looking at any of the bigger ones like the Lift Expo or the International Cannabis Business Conference.” Polard and Sinclair both suggest Women Grow’s monthly networking events. “They are an excellent networking opportunity for both men and women and usually feature a speaker who is doing something interesting in the space,” says Polard.

Know your options

Cannabis communications careers are varied: journalists seeking a dynamic beat can use existing skills to specialize in marijuana reporting, covering the industry in general, or specialize in a multitude of related sub-topics, such as health and wellness, business, politics and regulation, or entertainment and lifestyle. Journalism is just one of many avenues; the cannabis industry is in its nascent stage in Canada, and opportunities for creatives abound.

“It’s something that’s never really been done from a strictly legal perspective,” says Sinclair. “So there’s a lot of opportunity to trail blaze, to do things for the first time in the cannabis space.”

Opportunities for storytellers and public speakers include – but are not limited to – the following positions:

- Community Outreach Coordinator

- Communications Director

- Copy Writer

- Marketer and Branding Expert

- Digital Marketer

- Media Relations Manager

- Journalist

- Publicist

- Public Relations Manager

- Webmaster

Cannabis communications specifics

If you want to specialize in cannabis communications, understanding the marijuana plant is essential to your success. Polard suggests checking out cannabis-specific training such as Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Cannabis Professionals Series, and Lift’s Retail Cannabis Training. “It would be good for any communications professional to be well versed in the distinction between strains,” she says.

Knowing what’s allowed – and what isn’t – is also key. “Do read absolutely everything that you can in terms of regulations,” says Sinclair. “It’s a very, very tightly regulated industry, it’s a heavily scrutinized industry, so being on top of that for a communicator is so important…There aren’t the same allowances for advertisers in the cannabis space as there are for others, so you really have to compel people to choose to look at you, rather than paying for them to look at you. It’s a unique challenge, but much more fun when you succeed.”

- Featured image via Flickr.

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