CFN Media Interviews KCSA Strategic Communications


Rachelle Gordon

January 5th, 2018

Policy


Having a top-notch PR/IR team is essential for any business – especially in the cannabis industry. As this new market continues to grow, entrepreneurs need to know that their brands will be well represented. KCSA Strategic Communications offers investor relations, public relations and social media all presented by an expert team of professionals with a proven track record of success. Their impressive client list includes Terra Tech Corp., Kush Bottles, iAnthus Capital and Medicine Man Technologies – just to name a few.

CFN Media recently spoke with Phil Carlson, Managing Director Investor Relations, Head of Cannabis Investor Relations at KCSA Strategic Communications, to discuss how the company is boosting not only their clients’ images, but the cannabis industry as a whole.

RG:  What is KCSA Strategic Communications and how was it formed?

Phil Carlson:  KCSA Strategic Communications started off as a public relations firm when it was founded in 1969. Over the last 25-30 years, the Company has really built out our investor relations offerings to include non-deal road shows, analyst relations, conference call support, etc.

I’ve been with the company going on eight years. We got into the cannabis space nearly five years ago, when our PR team started working with Compassionate Care Center for New York. There were a few smaller cannabis companies we had been working with a couple years back but from an IR standpoint, we really dove headfirst into the space when we started working with Terra Tech Corp. a little over two years ago.

From there, we have  immersed ourselves into this growing industry. We attend and speak at as many industry conferences as possible whether it’s MJ Biz, Cannabis World Congress or New West Summit. Recognizing the immense potential of the cannabis space, KCSA has invested significantly in supporting this practice and built it into the premiere IR and PR cannabis focused practice in the strategic communications industry.

RG:  What sets you apart from potential competitors in the space?

PC: While there are some firms that offer PR services and others that offer IR services to cannabis companies, to our knowledge, there are none that offer an integrated offering such as KCSA’s. We view it as having the three legged stool, PR, IR and Social media – having each component necessary for a proactive and strategic communications program.

We have investor relations, public relations and social media teams all under one roof. This allows us to go to each department and throw ideas off one another which really sets us apart from our competitors as it’s not something you see that often. If you were to break our company in half, you would have a successful investor relations agency and a successful public relations/social media agency as well.

RG:  How does the KCSA team contribute to the firm’s success?

PC:  The most viable thing about working with our firm is the expertise that spans both general public and investor relations and, industry-specific knowledge related to the cannabis space. On the IR side, I work hand-in-hand with Elizabeth Barker and Steve Silver on our cannabis clients. We are a true team and collaborate on ideas for our clients, helping them with their proactive investor relations programs. We look at how we can help them grow with their business and create awareness among investors. We also like getting our clients to participate in conferences and try to get the management onto different panels to help create not just increased awareness on their company but also to increase their own brand.

We’ve worked with LD Micro, Marcum and the MicroCap Conference as we have helped put together their cannabis panels that they’ve had over the past few years. We’ve also been working with the Cannabis World Congress who asked us to help assist with their cannabis and capital markets panels at their three shows in 2017 in L.A., New York, and Boston. They have asked us to help them do the same thing in 2018 for the conferences in those same cities as well.

RG:  Why should people partner with KCSA Strategic Communications?

PC:  For any company working in cannabis space having an agency that understands the unique challenges that this industry brings to both companies and investors is of the utmost importance. Investor relations and public relations agencies are the keepers of our clients brands and the external advocate to their target audiences. KCSA has among the most experience in working with public cannabis companies in the United States and Canada.

Our roster of clients has provided us with the expertise necessary to craft and communicate stories that resonate with investors.  If someone asks us about other clients that we’re working with, we’re able to go through that list of cannabis clients and educate them, not just on the clients that we’re dealing with, but also on the industry. We work with Terra Tech, Kush Bottles, iAnthus Capital, Medicine Man Technologies, Solis Tek, Golden Leaf, and 4Front, just to name a few. With the teams we have for IR, PR and Social Media, we have weekly meetings just to discuss what’s going on in the cannabis space. Lewis Goldberg, Managing Partner at KCSA and Anne Donohoe, Managing Director of Cannabis PR, recently started doing The Green Rush podcast in the second half of 2017. They have had numerous cannabis industry experts participate on the podcast including Alan Brochstein of New Cannabis Ventures, Aaron Smith of CNNMoney and Bruce Linton of Canopy Growth. The podcast is available on our website www.kcsa-cannabis.com as well as on iTunes.

We’ve really been able to utilize that on the IR front as well because when we’re out there talking with investors, we can say, “Hey, we’re not just representing these companies but we’re immersing ourselves in the cannabis space and speaking with the right players and getting to know what’s going on in that space and having our finger on the pulse.” People ask, “What’s the industry going to look like in 2025?” I tell them, “What’s the industry going to look like in six months?” It’s such a rapidly changing industry that we have to be on our toes at all times so that we’re up to date with rules and law changes that are happening, not just at a state level but also in the local municipalities.

RG:  How have you seen the Cannabis industry evolve over the past few years?

PC:  A few years ago, some of the clients we were working with were trying to just do a few small real estate plays and say that they’re not touching the plant. That they’re going to be leasing out a facility or two to would-be dispensary owners and they’re going to outfit these stores. Now you have these bigger players coming in such as Innovative Industrial Properties (IIPR). They’re leasing and doing real estate plays in the cannabis space on a much larger scale. They’re acquiring and owning and managing multiple properties, which they are leasing to licensed operators that are in the space.

In terms of other growth aspects, it’s really just seeing how the market itself has matured, especially with dispensaries. Previously, not all offered the right atmosphere, which when you look at the ones that are out there today with Terra Tech’s Blüm and Golden Leaf’s Chalice Farms, these guys really have impressive operations. When you go into these dispensaries, they have somebody there that’s going to walk you through that whole process of “this is what we have to offer.” I can’t stress that enough that people that are experimenting or getting into this industry, it’s certainly helpful to have those types of people that are there that can walk you through each individual product. That goes beyond the bud tenders but also to management teams that are putting these people out there and helping train them.

RG:  Tell us about your virtual investor conferences?

PC:  The Virtual Investor Conference is a monthly webcast that has been run by PRNewswire and BetterInvesting.com since 2010 that allows companies to virtually present towards a mainly retail investor crowd. We recently partnered with them on a cannabis specific one in August 2017. Previously, the August 2016 virtual investor conference, which was not cannabis specific, had been lightly attended. The cannabis one in August 2017 had a couple thousand people attend.

From the success of that one we have been asked to do another one, which we are hosting on January 18th. Currently, Terra Tech, Kush Bottles, iAnthus Capital, Medicine Man and Solis Tek are a few of the companies that are going to participate. I would say, it’s 85% retail investors that dial into the conference and listen to the presentations. It certainly has helped out our clients in terms of liquidity and additional awareness and visibility as people are learning more about this industry. This goes out to a list of about 200,000 people and we’ve had a good audience. We had a great audience that listened in August and we’re expecting double that for the event in January. We’d like to do a couple more throughout 2018.

Hosting these events certainly sets us apart among competitors. We have other companies that are reaching out to us and saying, “Hey, we would like to definitely be part of that group,” because they understand the value from the retail side. Institutions are definitely coming into the space but it’s taking them some time to get over that hump. They have to run it through their compliance departments and making sure everything is ok with their clearing firms. The industry is getting there and we’re seeing that because we are receiving a lot of calls from institutional investors that are looking at potentially investing in the cannabis sector and have asked us for our help to point them in the right direction. We’re able to speak to them about our list of clients and walk them through the process.

Rachelle Gordon

About Rachelle Gordon

Rachelle Gordon is a Minneapolis-based writer. She was the president of her college's chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy and worked in Amsterdam for a brief time. Find her online at www.rachellegordon.net.


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