March 26, 2019In Cannabis, Chapter Events, Crisis, Entrepreneur, Fast Five, Government, Media Relations, PRSA Member Feed, Public Affairs, Thought Leaders, Uncategorized on
Francy Wade owns Chatter Boss Communications, a boutique communications consultancy with clients in both the private, public and non-profit sectors. Some of her recent work been has been on behalf of new cannabis companies, including one of the state’s licensed dispensary pioneers, Cultivate. Her career is a convergence of public relations, research, politics and news experience. She recently sat down with Loring Barnes to chat about the unique experiences of launching Massachusetts into the new world of legalized marijuana.
Has serving clients in the marijuana sector in any way inhibited your PR consulting practice?
When I started Chatter Boss a little over a year ago, I had no idea how large the market was for what I was selling: High-touch, high-energy, low-process PR. I love to tell great stories to the right journalists and audiences and not get bogged down in process. I am so blessed that I’ve had an over abundance of clients retain me over over the past 15 months. Usually, my clients and prospects love to see the crazy mix of subject areas I work in. From higher education and education equity to healthcare, fashion technology and marijuana, it has been a wild ride.
I did, however, lose one piece of new business because of my work in the marijuana space. It was a controversial development project and the company CEO was staunchly against legal cannabis. I am absolutely respectful of people’s opinions and understood his perspective. But, before I walked away, I did want to make sure this individual knew I am the ultimate professional and one client’s point of view never impacts another’s.
Marijuana isn’t legal nationwide, which has resulted in a prohibition or high restriction of social media usage by dispensaries and cultivation facilities. It’s almost a throwback to our pre-social communications era. How have you helped your cannabis clients to maintain a brand voice as more of these licensed companies have had to launch while being handcuffed in their use of social media?
I like to use social media as a storyline with media pitching for my marijuana clients. In the days after legalization in Massachusetts, all of my clients’ social accounts were shut down. On the surface, it might seem debilitating, but not for me. Facebook, which owns Instagram, never gave an exact reason for the move and I thought that was a GREAT storyline for TV and digital media. Interestingly enough, just last week, Facebook announced it was easing its ban on marijuana content, which provided a great pitch point for some stories you’ll see appear very soon. I’m such a tease!
You’re a parent and travel in other business and community circles. And you aren’t a pot user. Do you find that when people know that as a PR professional, you are a communications counselor to cannabis companies like Cultivate and Sira, that conversations abruptly shift from scouts and soccer to the curiosities of marijuana, and how do you navigate this?
I do a lot of work in my children’s schools and I am even a catechist for the kindergarten students at my church. So when it comes up that I also happen to work in the marijuana space, people’s jaws hit the floor. I’ve been a goody-goody my whole life, so having a shock factor in my mid-thirties is kind of fun!
I started out my career as a journalist, so I pride myself on always seeing things from all sides. Before talking about any of my clients, I tend to allow people to tell me how they feel about the industry instead of voicing any opinions. It makes people feel at ease with the subject. If people do have a differing opinion, I tend to share some stories that opened my eyes to the benefits of cannabis as a medicine for veterans. Then let the conversation transfer to the trouble with the illicit market and how many jobs and how much revenue we will get from the legal industry.
What do you read to keep on top of cannabis business trends, innovators and subject experts? How would you advise someone to steer clear of disinformation?
I have to say, my clients are the best source of information for me. They have a way of explaining nuanced regulations and trends better than anyone. I feel lucky to work with such smart innovators like Sam Barber of Cultivate and Mike Dundas of Sira. I tend to use them to help journalists understand the stories they are writing, even if they aren’t going to be quoted. The way I see it, we are all building this industry together. Storytelling and the reporting being done will help us document this for the history books in the future, so it is critical we get this right.
I really like the reporting the Boston Globe has done and the way they have dedicated reporters to this beat exclusively. I had a meeting with some of their staff, including Linda Henry, last year and encouraged them to create and entire Cannabis section of the paper. Similar to the Travel or Arts. It is complex, not only as a political and social issue, but the industry involves banking, scientific and marketing aspects too. It needs to be treated as the unique behemoth subject that it is.
You’ve had your consultancy, Chatter Boss Communications, for just over a year, after working in respected PR agencies, political campaigns and television news. Did opportunity create the impetus to strike out on your own, or did you decide to take the plunge and hope that the clients would follow? How has life as a solo practitioner surprised or rewarded you, and how would you counsel others who are considering to follow suit to think through this decision?
I have three children, a 13-year-old stepdaughter, a 5-year-old son and 4-year-old son. When I started taking care of my daughter when she was a toddler, I realized how fast time flies. After having my oldest son, I made a very easy decision to not go back to an agency. Instead, I networked my way into having a few clients and projects that kept me in the game. After my second son, I was approached to more formally work with a political polling firm and got involved with the campaign to regulate, tax and legalize marijuana. When the campaign came to a close, I had a series of fun lunch meetings with former colleagues and friends who kept asking me if they could get me to tell their stories and I gave birth to my fourth child which is Chatter Boss.
I was meant to be an entrepreneur. It’s in my DNA. My dad owns his own business and he, like me, does some of his best work from places other than a desk and office. My mom, a teacher, stayed home with me until I was in high school, before going back to work and getting her masters. I am trying to take a page from both of my amazing parents and be the best mother and businesswoman I can be. None of this would be possible without my husband’s support. He is, by far, the most talented storyteller I’ve ever met. We don’t have a nanny or full-time help. We work as a team to make sure we are at the top of our parenting and professional games at all times.
I don’t think agency life is for everyone and I certainly don’t think the solo practitioner road is one that most people find attractive. It is uncertain, exhausting but ultimately exhilarating. I’ve been called naturally caffeinated, which is the highest compliment, and what I think has been the secret to my success in this most recent chapter of my communications career.
Meet Francy Wade on Thursday, April 4th (@chatterbosscomm) and hear about the landmines and victories on the cannabis industry’s journey in Massachusetts. She joins an A-lister panel of marijuana business experts and policy influencers. The lively discussion will be lead by Jess Bartlett (@BOSBIZJess), veteran cannabis and craft beer beat journalist for the Boston Business Journal. Click on this LINK to get your ticket. Special rates for students, young professionals and members.
March 17, 2019In Chapter Events on
Today, with every agency saying it is full service, CMOs are starting to ask, what exactly does full service mean? PR firms offer influencer marketing and social engagement, but so do ad agencies.
More than ever before, CMOs have options, and everyone knows it. An agency can be hero and savior or muck-up and short-timer. It’s all on the table March 21 when two CMOs and two agency chiefs go head-to-head in a panel you won’t want to miss. Join us as the American Marketing Association, Boston and the Public Relations Society of Boston host “The CEO’s Dilemma: Leveraging Agency Partners for Maximum Success.”
One of our panelist – Donna Ayer, Senior Manager of Integrated Communications, agreed to give us a preview of what attendees will learn at the program.
- What do you like the most about being in Communications and PR? The undeniable impact it can have on a business. Communications and specifically, PR, is truly a fundamental strategic driver for growth, competitive advantage and employee recruitment/retention. When communications is at the table, it makes a tremendous difference. PR leaders often find themselves on the front lines in both positive circumstances to drive amplification and in crisis to protect reputations – and to me that is exciting!
- As the lines between earned, owned and paid channels continue to blur, what is your take on how communications pros should approach the new normal? It is an exciting time to be in communications and marketing. We have been managing to the 24-hour news cycle for some time now, but I think the layering of content across channels is where we, as an industry, need to do more. People no longer go to one channel for a certain piece of information – they are looking across channels and devices and the knowledge experience needs to be seamless and cumulative. Competition is fierce so you better be telling me something new and offering a perspective that resonates with me regardless of the channel I am on. Communications practitioners need to embrace analytics-enabled micro targeting and think about what they want their audience to know and how you want them to respond versus what works for that channel – they all morph into one digital landscape.
- How does your background in PR help you in your daily activities leading collaboration across teams and large enterprises? PR teaches you a lot, especially about being tenacious and creative and most importantly how to be a team player. I have been in communications with a primary focus on PR my entire career – on both the agency and corporate side. I’ve had the privilege of working across a wide range of industries and businesses, ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 brands – throughout it all, I always pull on my PR fundamentals. You need to act with integrity, approach challenges with a creative spirit, invest the time and energy to maintain relationships and always look around the table to see who is missing – look for the gaps in perspective and invite the diversity in background and thought to be part of the discussion.
- Did you find your job – or did your job find you? I guess you could say, it was a little bit of both. I started my career on the agency side. I loved the energy and variety of agency work but recognized early on that if I was going to make a career in communications I was going to need a variety of experiences. I have always followed my instincts and purposely pursued roles that would expose me to new and different industries or disciplines. As a native Bostonian, I was familiar with Raytheon as it headquartered in Waltham and has been a presence in the greater Boston community for decades – so when an opportunity came up to join the PR team, I jumped on it!
- In keeping with the theme of the panel, what are your suggestions on best practices to make the most of your agency partnerships? Executing strategic PR and communications campaigns takes a village. Throughout my career there have been key milestones where it was critical to the success of the effort to lean on an agency’s unique perspective and/or staff to help scale an initiative. In my opinion one of the most important elements of a client/agency dynamic is the partnership. Both sides need to work at breaking down the silos and truly collaborating. I have also found agency partners help you to see the broader communications industry trends and help you see around the corner to what’s next.
Get your ticket HERE!
Bio: Donna Ayer, Senior Manager of Integrated Communications
Donna Ayer is a passionate communications leader who strives to balance the art and science of marketing. Donna has over 15 years’ experience across disciplines and industries. She is a PR pro at heart who loves to create a narrative and activate an audience. Donna lives in the Greater Boston area and you can follow her at @PRskey
About Fast 5
This is a feature of PRSA Boston’s Hot Topics blog page. The expert subject is someone who is clearly in demand or on the go. But we know leaders like to share, so check back for insights, wisdom, author’s books about to hit the stands and other valuable tips. @prsaboston #prsabos
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January 16, 2019In Chapter Events on
PRSA Boston and Shift Communications’ Matt Raven recently had a high-level, actionable program highlighting how PR professionals can leverage the power of Google Analytics to measure program performance and inform strategic improvements to earned media programs. Matt shared his presentation with us here: Using GA for PR _ PRSA Boston
Matt Raven Bio:
Matt Raven leads the strategic, results-driven direction for SHIFT Communication’s national Marketing Technology practice. Matt joined SHIFT in 2018 and brings more than a decade of experience executing integrated marketing programs for innovative and ground breaking companies. He is responsible for leveraging data & analytics to provide clear and actionable measurement of program performance, while also implementing proven and unique digital marketing strategies that maximize exposure, drive qualified traffic and generate strong leads. His client portfolio currently includes a range of B2B and B2C clients, including Citrix and GoDaddy.
Prior to joining SHIFT, Matt served as a VP at a leading digital marketing and SEO firm. At Terakeet, Matt led client strategy for an industry-diverse portfolio, generating ROI-positive results for clients like Oracle, Uber, Williams-Sonoma and The College Board.