PR in the Wild, Wild West of CBD Oil
Updated: Nov 22, 2019
CBD oil (cannabidiol) has sent Americans into a frenzy seeking natural, non-habit forming products to ease pain, anxiety, insomnia, and other issues. What a great business opportunity..right? But entrepreneurs don’t know the rules and regulations because they haven’t been written.
What could go wrong?
From both a PR and business perspective, it’s a gamble for companies to quickly move forward and market products while just hoping to dodge any government scrutiny or cause no harm to consumers.
Health Claims Fight
Earlier this year, and going back to 2015, we’ve seen the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) send warnings to companies who didn’t have their messaging fit within the current guidelines, ordering them to provide written response within 15 working days stating how violations would be corrected. Those that failed to promptly respond and correct the issues face legal action, including product seizure and injunction.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has also sent warnings to companies that appeared to be in violation of the FTC Act with regard to making unproven health claims in advertising such as CBD oil for pain or CBD oil for dogs. And companies making and selling CBD-infused dietary supplements, foods or beverages must also pay careful attention to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) to ensure they are not in violation of these federal regulations touting CBD oil benefits.
Why You Need a Bulletproof PR Strategy
When a business is shut down because of compliance issues that could’ve been avoided or managed, reputations are damaged, financial investments are lost and customers are left hanging. Trust in the entire industry is harmed, and that trust is difficult to restore.
“Research developments could also prove challenging, just look at what has happened to the vaping industry,” M&C Communications President Diane Mulligan noted. When e-cigarette makers were looking to win customers from the tobacco industry, they promoted the product as a safer alternative to smoking. They also developed flavors and names that attracted high schoolers, prompting President Trump to call for a ban on flavored e-cigarettes earlier this year. At the same time, black market cartridges, now implicated in vaping-related lung illnesses, have added to growing consumer fears and outrage.
Best Defense is Preparation
An industry that set out to help smokers quit is now in crisis. One could imagine a similar scenario happening with CBD as sellers seek to provide an alternative to opioids and other prescription medications if the push for fast profits and growth is done haphazardly.
“Joining the CBD revolution can make company leaders feel like they’re racing through the Wild, Wild West,” said Mulligan. “Navigating regulatory agencies that are still developing policies is daunting. Companies with a PR professional at the leadership table will stay on top of changing communications needs, and be on the lookout for potential crisis communications situations that would need handling.”
Build Trust, Build a Sustainable Business
It’s understandable how easily busy startups can miss important steps and land in a vulnerable position in the midst of trying to establish brand awareness and get the production operation rolling smoothly. Competition is fierce, and as the cannabis industry has shown, many of the early entrepreneurs who got in it for a fast buck are no longer around.
CBD companies looking to build a strong foundation and a model that will thrive and grow for years to come would be wise to retain the services of an experienced and reliable PR firm early on to help build the trust in your business and loyalty among your consumers.
Win the Day with your PR Team
Most of all, excellent PR leadership helps companies strategize and communicate accurate information, ensuring a consistent brand voice and responsive engagement. Trust becomes a pillar of the business, a crucial ingredient for ongoing success.