Article19 Choosing Your Lane in The Cannabis Industry | CiC Interview: Mike Mejer of Green Lane Communication
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In this episode of Careers in Cannabis Ashley Manning spoke with Mike Mejer, founder and CEO of Green Lane Communication, a public relations and marketing firm for cannabis businesses. Mike thought he wanted to be a physical therapist, but instead he got his MBA and dove headfirst into digital marketing. He learned from top publicists and then he latched onto the opportunity to use those skill sets to market the rise in the cannabis industry. Shortly after founding his PR firm, he launched the Mejer Journey Podcast and became a contributing writer for Green Entrepreneur, a cannabis sub-sector of the infamous Entrepreneur Magazine.
On Careers in Cannabis, TRICHOMES.com talks with staffing agencies and cannabis companies to explore employment and career opportunities in the burgeoning cannabis industry. To reach the show: email@example.com
Ashley: Hey, everyone for TRICHOMES.com I'm Ashley Manning and this is Careers In Cannabis. On this show, we sit down with staffing agencies, cannabis companies and other industry professionals to discuss employment opportunities in the burgeoning cannabis industry. If you want to have a career in cannabis it doesn't always mean you have to work directly for a plant touching company, nor does it mean you have to work for someone else. Whether you take the entrepreneur route or work directly for a cannabis company, one thing is clear, there are plenty of opportunities out there to grab onto and today, we're here to talk about one of them. Today's guest, thought he wanted to be a physical therapist but instead he got his MBA and dove headfirst into digital marketing. He learned from top publicists and then he latched onto the opportunity to use those skill sets to market the rise in cannabis industry. Shortly after founding his PR firm, he launched the Mejer Journey Podcast and became a contributing writer for Green Entrepreneur, a cannabis sub-sector of the infamous Entrepreneur Magazine. On this episode, we talk with Mike Mejer, founder and CEO of Green Lane Communications, a public relations and marketing firm for cannabis businesses. Hey Mike, welcome to the show.
Mike: Ashley, what's going on? Thank you so much for having me.
Ashley: It's great to have you here today, I've been a secret fan of yours for a little while since you've been writing for Green Entrepreneur and I love your columns and we'll get into talking about that in the episode but wanted to first welcome you. So on Careers in Cannabis, before we even get into talking about your current career in cannabis, I like to always start with what you were doing right before you had a career in cannabis and the reason for that is a lot of our audiences, people who are in similar roles they haven't entered the industry but they're curious. So having these tips and tricks on how they parley their skills to be able to get into cannabis is a great way to start out our interview. So let's get right to it. What were you doing right before you had a career in cannabis Mike?
Mike: Yeah, great question. So 2011-2012 was when I got into public relations and media relations, but I wasn't working in cannabis obviously. I was working in book publishing so I was working specifically with nonfiction business book authors who were typically c-suite executives, founders of companies, founders, owners, coaches, consultants. So people who were really the face of their company and the entity and the brand that they were behind and right around that time they wanted to build out another stream of revenue. This was kind of like a trend that was happening and that was from public speaking and giving keynote, speeches and coaching and consulting and things like that. So they would put out books, not necessarily with the intention to sell millions of copies and make money that way but to put out a book more, so of, like a brand equity play and so I worked for a PR firm at the time where we would do publicity on their books, get them into a lot of B2B industry publication, so like the fast company's the entrepreneurs, the Inc Magazines of the world and the authors and the executives at the time, they would then take those media assets, essentially, no pun intended, roll them all up into their sales and marketing material and use that to help build credibility and trust to help bust down the door at Fortune 500 companies to go do what they want to do, speak, coach, consult and all that fun stuff.
Ashley: Oh that's a good tip.
Mike: It was. Yeah, yeah and really not much has changed as far as like, the framework and the mindset, and how I go about public relations from that kind of perspective in publishing and with folks like that versus to how I approach what I do day to day and cannabis but the turning point for me, came when I visited a Hemp Wellness Center here in New York and I'm chatting with the owner and this is my first visit ever to one and all of a sudden, maybe about 5/10 minutes into my visit an older gentleman walks in and he's suffering from really debilitating tremors, so bad that like, he can't even open the door on his own, his wife had to help him open the door. He couldn't speak and it was really, it was just shocking and it was eye opening to see something like that, you know, first hand and to see somebody coming into a place like this because I was fairly new to cannabis and hemp and CBD at the time so this was all kind of like a very first, you know, shocking experience for me and so, you know, they come in, and they basically say, we're desperate, like everything we've tried has not worked, do you have anything that could potentially help us? And so the owner very nonchalantly just said, you know, I think I may have a tincture that might help so I'll give you a sample. I want you guys to try it out. Worst case scenario, nothing happens. Best case scenario, we move the needle forward a little bit and you feel a little bit better. So what do you say? So they gave it a shot and I don't want to exaggerate but it seemed like it was maybe two or three minutes that passed by after they took the tincture again, this could just be just because I was so like wrapped up in this so maybe a little bit longer but it felt like almost like a snap of a finger I looked over and all of a sudden this older gentleman is tremors just significantly subsided to the point were now he could regain control of his body, he could speak again and my favorite part of the story, is that the first words that came out of his mouth were, “I need the biggest bottle of whatever shit it was, you just gave me” and everybody on the store floor, just erupted in laughter and it was just such a good positive moment for everybody, right? And so, from that point on, I decided I was like, you know what, I love what I'm doing with the authors and in the business world but I think what I really want to do and this just kind of lit a fire inside me, I was like, I want to help people like this store owner and shed a light on what they're doing to help others gain back the quality of life that they deserve and so, from that point on I've kind of just, you know, dove headfirst into cannabis and just been history ever since.
Ashley: Wow, it's great when the careers in cannabis stories, which I believe 9 out of 10 of them, start out with them seeing that first hand experience whether it was them family or just like you did organically in a store, not even anticipating that that's what was going to literally walk through the door.
Ashley: Wow. So it gives me the chills to think about it and I feel like it sounds like it probably inspired you obviously to move forward and you saw that and how do you express that to the masses through media? Exactly what you're doing and and helping other brands as well. Did you go to school for media/public relations? What was your background in before you even started working with the books?
Mike: Yeah, great question. So it's a funny story how it all started. I actually went to school for biology thinking that I wanted to be a physical therapist but that was just way too hard. I cannot process science.
Ashley: You’re helping people still.
Mike: Things always come around full circle and so I was just always like, man, like I don't know how I'm going to use this degree but I find myself now whenever I'm in conversations or whenever I'm somewhere where you know the physiological effects of cannabis are being explained and unpacked, I find myself having a much much better understanding and an easier time of understanding of understanding what the experts and the professionals are actually saying when they break down, how cannabis works and how the endocannabinoid system interacts with every other part of our body. So, in a way, I kind of feel like everything came full circle so I'm not so mad about that anymore but I just, I knew the owner of the PR firm and I just basically said to her. Hey, listen I'm not doing this for money, but if it's cool with you, I would love to actually just pull up a chair and kind of just open up my laptop and just listen to how you guys handle operations, how you go about clients and learning media and just understanding what it's like to be in this business and in this industry and she was like yeah sure, pull up a chair like you start today. So I literally just sat there and I just kind of would observe, I would hang out with everybody and from there I would just start to learn and soak up all the knowledge about how media relations works? How do you send out a pitch? How do you have a conversation? Where, you know, there was an interview that went really well, there was an interview that went really bad with a client and so how do you rectify that? And so that was just a very, very good hands-on learning experience for me and to this day, I'm just super grateful for it because I think that just made my cannabis career so much easier looking back on how I got starteud.
Ashley: I bet learning from others is best way to get yourself going. So how did that all parlay into what you're currently working on? If we can, you know, get into what you're currently working on or however you want to take the story. I'd like to know how this became where you are today.
Mike: Yeah, totally.
Ashley: If that makes sense.
Mike: So yeah, absolutely. So everything that I learned, as far as you know, how do you take a subject matter expert or how do you take a founder or CEO of a company and how do you position them to be an expert in a particular niche? How do you get them to tell their story, their brand narrative and how do you connect that with the masses? That is fairly consistent, whether you're in, you know, one industry or another so we'll use book publishing as an example here. That formula and that process is pretty similar to how I go about it today in the cannabis industry working with business owners in this space. The only difference is that sometimes you have to figure out how you’re going to finagle talking about something like, you know, quote-unquote marijuana and how do you communicate that to a mainstream media outlet that sees it as something that's frowned upon, right? So like a couple things that I quickly picked up on, you got to make sure that you're not using slang. So cannabis, CBD, hemp.
Ashley: Thank you.
Mike: These words and these phrases need to be used correctly and so just having a very, very good understanding of the vocabulary and what everything means. Understanding how to bridge the gap between culture and the guys on Wall Street, AKA just people who are very, very strict about operations and business and the people that are very buttoned up but then at the same time, how do you bridge that gap with a brand or with a founder who's also very tight-knit with cultivators with people who maybe come from the legacy market and I think that's where people worry, well if I try to bridge that gap, I'm going to lose a little bit of this or I'm going to lose a little bit of that. Having a strong strategy about how do you tell that brand narrative and how do you know who to connect with and how and leveraging the power of public relations to do that for you? That's that sweet spot that I think a lot of brands sometimes have trouble with but just understanding how to go about it the right way is just going to make everything so much easier, not just today, but let's say, 5, 10, 15 years down the road when you're looking back and you say, to yourself, wow, we really established who we are, what we do and why we do it correctly and now we can just grow and scale and you know take on whatever next endeavor it is that we want to do.
Ashley: Great insights in learning. It sounds like you really have learned but was there a learning curve for you when you first entered the cannabis industry or were you just soaking it in like a sponge and waiting to execute your own business, which we'll get into in a moment?
Mike: Yeah, great question. I don't know that there was too much of like a quote-unquote cannabis learning curve for me when I officially got into business, just because I would say probably for five plus years, I've been following the cannabis industry, very closely before I even got in and so I was, I was fairly familiar with the movers and the shakers and how people communicated and you know, how they went about certain things, whether it be expanding into a new state, or whether it be, you know, creting a new product line or things like that. I was just always very observant of the space just because I was so fascinated with the videos you would see online of how it impacts people from a medical standpoint and some of the research that was out there before we had everything that we have now, those little bits and pieces, just always fascinated me and so I kind of had my learning curve before I got in without realizing what I was doing and then once I got in, I was just so grateful that I was following the space for such a long time and I think that kind of helped me not have to tread through murky water, especially in the beginning, I felt a little bit more confident and comfortable because I was more familiar with some of those phrases and vocabulary and who are the right people to connect with and who were the people to you know, maybe stay away from so that's kind of what that learning experience was like.
Ashley: So it sounds like you found your lane and in the cannabis industry which finding your lane kind of leads me into what you are currently working on. Can you share what you were doing at Green Lane Communications.
Mike: Yeah, absolutely yeah. So we're focused on connecting cannabis leaders who are really moving the needle forward so these are people who are working in compliance, in clinical research, agriculture, you know, business development such as franchising and just opening up the industry to new people that want to come in or just making things more accessible to patients, who really need to leverage the power of the plant in a variety of different ways and I think, that's really one of the things that I'm most grateful for because the conversations that I have every day with clients and partners and just everyday people that I work with they are so impactful and so transformative and so, every day I'm just so grateful that these are the people that we get to work with but it's working with people like that and connecting them to editors reporters, journalists, podcast host, folks like yourself even and to give them a platform where they can tell their story and share their brand narrative and let the world know about the latest cutting-edge technology that they might be developing or how they're planning to revitalize retail after the pandemic and what things are going to look like as we kind of come out of this, you know, crazy chaotic state where people try to regain traction on their businesses and so, it's just really helping the people who are moving the needle forward for the entire cannabis community, helping them get that spotlight so that they can communicate what they're doing, who they are, why they do it and why it's so critical to the end goal of just making this plant more accessible and a lot more friendly or to obtain for everybody involved.
Ashley: Right. So you founded Greenland Communications? Is that correct?
Mike: Yeah. Yep.
Ashley: Awesome. You're the CEO, Founder and within Green Lane Communications there's a couple other avenues too such as you have your own podcast. I'd love for you to share a little bit about about your podcast as well.
Mike: Yeah, thanks for reminding me I actually almost forgot about the podcast for the second but the podcast is called Mejer Journey and the whole premise of that is with everybody that I've worked with so far and this is just a common trend that keeps happening, nobody ever has a linear path when they come in to cannabis. It always seems like there's always some really interesting unique story and no two stories are alike. No matter how similar they are. No two stories are ever alike and so, I just personally I think just because I love doing what I do, I personally just have an affinity for connecting with people and learning from their journeys and their stories and I think as humans were just naturally attracted to stories and that's how we learn. That's how we communicate. That's how we understand things and so I thought to myself, I think it would be a lot of fun for us to have a podcast where we bring on some of the industries, you know, biggest power players to share their journeys of how they got into this space. What things did they learn when they first got in, that may be looking back on and they would have never learned in another industry and so these are just things that I almost selfishly kind of like to pick their brains and just learn from but then I decided, why not turn on the microphone and turn on the camera and just publish it, turn it into a podcast so other people could learn from it as well and so it's opened up a lot of doors. I've met some incredible people through it and I definitely, you know, encourage podcasting for anybody out there who's kind of just looking to learn more about the industry, make friends and kind of figure out what lane they want to get into and break out.
Ashley: Especially the Green Lane.
Mike: Exactly. That’s our favorite line.
Ashley: Well, you know, I'm a huge fan also of your your publication and you're contributing to Green Entrepreneur which is a sub-sector of Entrepreneur Magazine. You give great PR advice and how did that opportunity come about after founding Green Lane Communications.
Mike: Yeah thank you so much. It means a lot whenever somebody says that they read the articles and they get value out of it. So Entrepreneur has a leadership network and when I stumbled across that, what you can do is you can apply to become a contributor to any one of their subdivisions or their sub platforms and so Green Entrepreneur was one of them and I thought to myself, well, you know, I believe in the power of PR. I know what it means when you're able to have that kind of credibility next to your name and it's what we do for clients day in and day out and I'm like I should do this. I love writing and I think this could just help a lot of people and let's just give it a shot and so I applied, I attached a couple writing samples of mine from the past, just kind of gave a little bit of a background on what we do and I think it was a couple weeks later I heard back from them and I was accepted to be a contributor over at Green Entrepreneur and ever since then it's been a lot of fun and the best part about it is just knowing that you're able to share bits and pieces that can really help unlock ideas for other people and when people like yourself say, you know, I've read this article and this particular snippet of it,really helped me with whatever it is, that's always like,the best feeling as well so, that's kind of how I got into it and what it's like so far.
Ashley: Then I'll compliment you on your most recent one. I actually I'm not going to share it because I want everybody to go to Green Entrepreneur and go to your site and and see your column there but you gave some great advice on your most recent one at the beginning of June that I'm actually going to utilize for website building that I'm working on. So major kudos and literally awesome last name is Mejer. That’s so funny but yeah. I love the publication's if you're listening right now, you know, getting great advice in the industry from PR and marketing, someone who's been doing it for a while now. So keep doing the the contributions. Are you doing them monthly? weekly? How often?
Mike: I try to do them, my goal is to do them weekly but sometimes it turns into bi-weekly but that's the cadence. I like to try to keep up with but sometimes, you know, differently lead times and something like that, an article may not get published for, you know, a week or two, depending on what editorial is going through or what kind of content they have queued up. So I try to write an article every week or every tip just to stay consistent.
Ashley: The last one I was hoping was longer, I was like I want more advice, I want more advise.
Ashley: I swear.
Mike: That's interesting feedback. Okay, that's good to know.
Ashley: It was more like, I want more information, what more does he know? I was like wait I'm interviewing him next week but we won't get into too much of those details. So for people who are listening who may be writers or content creators in other industries so they can apply to be writers at these publications as well? Anyone.
Mike: Yeah so typically publications like this will either have a contributor section where you know anybody can apply to become a contributor there. It's like a one-time guest article or whether it's a sort of like a weekly column where you can contribute to it all depends every publications a little bit different but you can always reach out to them. They typically have a contact form at the very least or an email that you can reach out to and then other publications also have actual forms very similar to Entrepreneur, how they have a leadership network where they kind of group all their writers and contributors into one giant bucket and then they just dispersed them whether it's like Women Entrepreneur, Green Entrepreneur, the Flagship, just standard Entrepreneur publications. So different publications have different ways of going about getting who they want to contribute and what not but there's almost always a way to knock on the door and see if you could be a potential contributor for a publication like that.
Ashley: That's a great way to enter the cannabis industry. Tons of people like to write and give advice, I mean I don't know if you'd be able to give advice if you haven't worked in the industry, they give advice on the industry but that's a great step into the industry to, you know, if you're working, going to school and you like to write great place to start. So kudos, keep doing the writing and keep working on it. So one question I always ask all my guests is what would be some big brother advice you would give someone who might be on the fence of having a career in cannabis?
Mike: That's a great question. I would say, I don't know that there's one specific like, secret ingredient or one piece of advice but a couple things would be, it's not what a lot of folks make it out to be with like millions of dollars just coming in and and running through your fingers like that's not it and so if you're expecting to come in and make, you know, 10 million bucks and 3-5 years and then exit and retire on some private yacht. It's not realistic and I've heard some pretty unrealistic expectations from people entering the space and so I just want to say that, you know, get that disclaimer out there. Other than that, I would just say, I would just say relationships are key and you definitely want to focus on relationship capital or relationship currency because that is going to be worth so much over the course of a career that you want to build for the long-term and that I don't know if I'm biased just because I'm in public and media relations and relationships are key there but just in general, like Business Development, sales, anything that you do and especially in cannabis, I've noticed that the communities are very tight-knit and I think it's because I want to say it seemed like, just from talking, with a few people, three, four, five years ago, I feel like a lot of people came in from, outside industries, they promised a lot of big companies around the world, they charge them an arm and a leg. They didn't do half of what they promised and then they just left with a bag of money and they were nowhere to be found and so I think that left a really bad taste in a lot of folks mouths and now it's kind of like okay I'm not just going to openly trust anybody. Now it's more so of like hey I'm going to tap you on the shoulder, Ashley, do you know anybody who could write content? Ashley, do you know anybody who does websites? Do you know anybody who does legal compliance? And so I feel like that's what this industry has turned into. Which is not necessarily a bad thing but just be aware that I feel like a lot of business relationships, take place and grow over time in that way and so just be aware of that and be open to, you kind of have to think long term so I would say relationships are everything think long-term and don't cut corners and sacrifice for the short-term dollar amount.
Ashley: Absolutely and there's not even a short-term dollar amount I don't think. People hear those headlines, you know, billion dollars, this merger, they invested billions of dollars, no one's actually talking in terms of profits and how much percentage of actually making...
Mike: Thank you.
Ashley: On profits, which is rather annoying and that's the facts of what's going on in cannabis. We're still in start up mode, we're still figuring things out. We're still there's so much work that still has to be done and we're definitely helping move the needle forward yourself and myself working in media because we're able to help clarify that narrative of these misleading headlines and share on the air like we are right now that, you know, yes it is a billion dollar industry but not much in profits being made, which seems like business 101, maybe.
Ashley: So I always give my guests also the opportunity if you are hiring or looking for contributors or interns, whatever you might be looking for are you looking for any of the above? And if not no worries.
Mike: So at the time, we are not looking for anybody but I do think that within the next six to 12 months, we probably will be looking for potentially a publicist or two to come on board so if anybody wants to just kind of keep in touch and you know.
Ashley: Just build their relationship.
Mike: Yes build a relationship. I am super open to to connecting. You can find me on LinkedIn very easily. I'm always on there or you can just head over to GreenLaneCommunication.com and fill out the contact form and we'll be in touch no problem.
Ashley: Amazing. Do you have any last any last words, my friend?
Mike: Just a huge huge thank you to you for what you're doing and what the entire you know TRICHOMES family is doing, you guys are awesome.
Ashley: Thank you!
Mike: Everything you're doing with this show is really good and I think it's going to help a lot of people and just want to say thank you for what you're doing and let's just you know, keep it moving forward. I think we're going to make a good impact and in five to ten years we'll look back and be like wow we you know we left our stamp on a piece of history.
Ashley: Yes. Thank you so much for those compliments this is not an easy journey for us, but it's a fun journey learning experience for all of us and we're definitely doing things the right way and I'm very happy that you and I connected Mike and best of luck to you Green Lane Communications, your podcast, continuing to write for Green Entrepreneur. I look forward to getting more of those longer publications from you.
Mike: Well, make it an asterisk in the next article, I'll say this article was longer courtesy of Ashley Manning.
Ashley: That would be amazing. So if you don't have anything else, then I will bid you adieu for the day. These are great insights from you and we'll continue this conversation beyond today I'm sure.
Mike: Awesome. Thanks so much for having me, Ashley.