Durée Ross of Durée & Company on Building a PR Practice in Cannabis

Stretching creativity and strategy in a still-undefined space

Durée Ross launched her own public relations agency, Durée & Company, in 1999. In 2020, Durée was honored with an award from Ragan's Top Women in Communications in the Visionary category, for her work in the cannabis and hemp space.

Her strategic public relations work in the cannabis and CBD/hemp industries has resulted in a growing list of clients, from processing facilities to consumer products sold in big-box retailers.

We spoke with Durée for our Higher Calling series, where we chat with leaders in the cannabis space.


Durée, tell us...

Your current role in the cannabis industry, and where you're based.

I started my own PR, marketing and special events agency, Durée & Company, Inc., at age 24, and today—20 years later—am an award-winning PR entrepreneur with a broad spectrum of experience spanning the corporate, agency and nonprofit arenas for local, national and international clients. I have grown and nurtured the agency, turning it into an accomplished operation with more than 10 full-time and various long-term freelance team members who meet and surpass the needs of my firm's clients. The firm has offices in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Aspen, Colorado.

With little precedence for PR in the cannabis and hemp/CBD industries, and few PR firms eager to take on these emerging industries (there was much confusion over whether cannabis and hemp/CBD were legal or not), I was determined to navigate this virtually untouched field. I had to look past the red tape, develop a long-term vision and tackle it head-on. I was an early adapter.

I recognized that the U.S. was on the brink of a "green rush" before the passing of the Farm Bill in 2018, and I started working in the cannabis and hemp/CBD arena right before the bill passed. Since then, we have worked with full spectrum hemp and CBD brands, processing facilities, trade associations, dispensary owners, farmers, growers, cannabis cultivators, third-party laboratories and other startups.

At Durée & Company, we have a watchful eye on local and federal legislation, a strong pulse on key expos and leadership conferences, and proven relationships with influencers and thought leaders. In summer 2020, my firm launched a cannabis- and hemp-focused website, CannabisMarketingPR.com, dedicated to the firm's continued expansion into the booming cannabis and hemp/CBD industries.

This past year, I've been a speaker on multiple panels, webinars and industry roundtables, where I've shared my expertise and practical applications for marketing and PR success in the industries. I am currently a member of CannabisLAB's Executive Leadership Committee.

The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today.

Learning about the cannabis and hemp/CBD industries has stretched our creativity and overall strategic PR skills. Never in the history of my PR career have I been asked to promote a product and secure editorial coverage without being allowed to make any claims to media about its use or purpose! There are many updates within these industries, so navigating the changes has kept us on our toes.

A story about the positive impact cannabis has had on your life.

It keeps me and my team really busy! Diversifying into the cannabis and hemp/CBD industries have helped us stay afloat when not many other PR companies could, amid the Covid-19 pandemic. 

One thing you're excited about right now in cannabis branding, partnerships or marketing.

In addition to growing our ever-expanding client roster, we are working to support clients as they pursue additional resources, such as affiliate marketing. We are also working with a young and growing brand that is expanding into a franchise business model. Wellness continues to be very important as consumers want a wellness and social responsibility angle to how they live, eat, work and play.

A cannabis trade/social justice organization that you support.

One of the organizations I recommend following is Last Prisoner Project, which helps support prisoners who have been incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis crimes. Some of these prisoners are in overcrowded prisons for life, even though their cannabis offenses are now legal in most states.

A recent project you're proud of.

That's like asking me to pick my favorite child! I am so proud of the work that we have done on behalf of our cannabis clients. We recently secured an opportunity for Derek Thomas, vp of business development for Veritas Farms, to participate in a TEDxBocaRaton Talk about hemp. There aren't many TEDx Talks on the topic because there is still a stigma surrounding cannabis, so we were proud to continue to bring the conversation to the forefront on a national level.

Someone you admire in cannabis who's doing great things.

We work with some of the top hemp and cannabis clients, and they each continue to impress us every day with their ongoing innovations and achievements. Some of the prestigious clients we represent include ACS Laboratory, Veritas Farms, SanSal Wellness, One Plant, Natural Life Franchise Corp., The Florida Hemp Council and many others.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in the cannabis industry?

Sleeping! Ha. 

Higher Calling is a weekly Muse series where we chat with folks in the cannabis industry about their personal history and taste in cannabis and the future of cannabis marketing. For more about Higher Calling, and our Clio Cannabis program, please get in touch.

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards and founding editor of Muse by Clio. Prior to joining Clio in 2018, he was creative editor at Adweek.

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