© CEOCFO Magazine -
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
Steve Alexander, Associate Editor
Bud Wayne, Editorial Executive
Christy Rivers -
Valerie Austin -
PR firm believes consistent messaging builds trust and long-
Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
Published – March 30, 2020
CEOCFO: Ms. Mulligan, what is the focus behind M&C Communications today?
Ms. Mulligan: M&C Communications works with inspiring people, products, companies, organizations that are making a difference in the world. Right now, we are focusing on the CBD market because there is so much misinformation. Our goal is to work with our clients to consistently educate customers about the latest CBD research, helping clients build trust, with trust you build long-
CEOCFO: Would you give us a couple of examples -
Ms. Mulligan: Let us talk about CBD first. One example is Dr. Zoggs. We have been working with them on reviewing their social media against what we know the FDA has cited as inappropriate communication, such as making sure that every link on their social media is to an article that makes approved claims, not unapproved claims. Right now, the FDA is also looking at user testimonials, because, with the exception of just a few companies, there is no research to back up a lot of the testimonial’s claims, so they are anecdotal. The FDA is citing messaging in these areas where you are talking about benefits, pain relief or reduction in inflammation, for instance.
Rocky Ford Growers Association (RFGA) is an example of a group we work with outside of CBD. RFGA was wrongly identified as producing cantaloupe tainted with listeria. This particular listeria outbreak killed more people at that time than any other foodborne illness outbreak in our country. We helped the farmers rebuild the brand by clearing up the misinformation, educating the public on the extreme health and safety measures the farmers were taking to keep the Rocky Ford cantaloupe as safe as possible and most importantly, launched a campaign that taught customers what they could do at home to safely wash and prepare their cantaloupe. Giving customers a sense of control over their health and safety is key in building or rebuilding a brand.
CEOCFO: Going back to the CBD area, how do you vet a company that is turning to you for help as there are so many new entries in the industry?
Ms. Mulligan: The first thing we do is interview the leadership of the company and talk to them about their goals and how important it is for them to take a leadership role. There is a vacuum right now in thought leadership in the CBD industry. We are going to look and see who is on the board of the company and see if they have scientific and medical advisors on their board. We also look at their social media footprint and what has already been posted on social media. Then we are also going to do a media deep dive to review any interviews to quantify what has already been said. With this information we can figure out where they are positioned. We want to know what their product does and what they hope their product is going to do and how aware they are of the regulations and how important it is to them that they follow the regulations.
CEOCFO: What is the best way to educate the public? What have you found that works well?
Ms. Mulligan: It depends on your target audience. If your target audience is Millennials or your target audience is Boomers, then the way you are going to reach them is very different. We really pride ourselves on finding typical and atypical methods for outreach, different channels that you would use, types of publications and reporters that would reach the target demographic. However, then we look outside of the box to see what partnerships are available, what events you should attend, where do you want to be visible and ways for you to talk about your company, even outside of cannabis media. For instance, is the company highlighted in the business media or in the medical and health media?
If we are going after women who are 45-
CEOCFO: How do you help your clients stand out at an event when there are fifty/one hundred/two hundred other people showing their products? There are so many other people competing. Can you help a company in how they should be presenting themselves at an event?
Ms. Mulligan: If we are working with them at an event, we are going to work to be the only one there that is talking about cannabis. Our area of expertise is not to go to the event and help them set up. We may put them in a position as a speaker on educating consumers, thought leadership, or positioning your company in a different way; these are areas of our expertise.
CEOCFO: Would you tell us about your Brand Protection Tool?
Ms. Mulligan: Our brand protection tool is designed to discern the most likely crisis scenarios and devise preparation plans, with the entire C suite, that will mitigate negative impacts. We work to imagine every type of crisis then we have a score card that ranks the importance, relevancy and time sensitivity of the potential brand challenge. Some of the things on the scorecard include what is the likelihood that this is going to happen in the next six months to one year, if we work on this crisis now are there things that we can do in the intervening time that would actually make a difference to the outcome of the crisis. We look at what you can do now, so that you can mitigate the negative impact of any type of a brand challenge or a brand issue or a brand crisis and we come up with the top three scenarios.
The other thing that we do is we work with the entire C suite on how these top three crises would impact the different departments in the C suite. For instance, I just recently was brought in by a company with twelve senior VPs in the room and we went around and we put together a plan that included all twelve on all three of the crises and worked through how they could support one another. So the tool is a great team building exercise, because in many situations, especially when you are talking about larger companies, when they think of the different crises that can hit the different areas or different departments that are in their company, they get very siloed. This is a way to pull everyone together to say, “This is how we could break this apart.” There will always be a brand challenge lead and a sub lead, everyone in that C suite can do something to help. Many companies think about crisis planning and they do a crisis plan for specific crises, and that is fine, but there are so many different types of crises and brand challenges that you can encounter. It is more important to think about what is most likely to happen in the next six months to a year and how you can put plans in place now.
The last thing we do is that we put together a one-
CEOCFO: Do many of your clients take advantage of the full range of services you offer?
Ms. Mulligan: Most of our clients are long-
CEOCFO: People do not always recognize how they should be building a brand, what they want their brand to represent. How do you help a company figure out what their image should be?
Ms. Mulligan: That is very interesting. Because of our journalism background, the first thing we are going to do, before we even meet with them, is we are going to do all our research. We are going to do a deep-
Then we develop a plan based on where they are, versus where they want to be. There are usually areas where they are hitting the mark and areas they need to improve. We consider things that we need to do, places they need to be seen, where they should speak, how to give back to the community, plans for communicating to their employees, all contribute to their image. We put together an entire program after we understand their current situation and their business goals.
The bottom line for us? Everything we do is based on goals and measurable objectives. Whatever the company’s business goals, we are going to develop measurable PR objectives to help them, because we view ourselves as a consultant to the C suite. Many people think of public relations as kind of fluffy. We meet with our companies every month and review those measurable goals to make sure that we are in line with their business goals and they are seeing how we are moving the needle for them.
CEOCFO: How do you reach out to potential clients, particularly in the CBD industry?
Ms. Mulligan: Our clients are mostly referrals. However, we are also constantly looking for companies. For instance, I was just doing my work this morning and I saw that a CBD company had just added the former US Surgeon General to their board. That is a company that I am interested in, because right there, they are showing us their priorities and they are building trust in the audience. In that situation, I will reach out on LinkedIn, start social monitoring, sending them our informational blogs and start to build a relationship. I wouldn’t contact them immediately with a pitch because they may not be ready for our help. They are already doing a great job. However, building a long-
CEOCFO: Where do Tucson and Ireland locations come in to play along with Denver?
Ms. Mulligan: We have a satellite office in Tucson. I have roots in Tucson and love the market. I also have a partner in Ireland, and we are in talks with a number of companies that are interested in bringing their products to the US.
CEOCFO: What has changed in your approach over time? What have you learned?
Ms. Mulligan: For us, the key to success and to long-
CEOCFO: What is next for M&C Communications?
Ms. Mulligan: Monitoring and responding to the upcoming FDA rules for CBD. We like to work with rock-
M&C Communications, CBD PR Firms, CBD PR Companies, Diane Mulligan, PR firm believes consistent messaging builds trust and long-
“Our goal is to work with our clients to consistently educate customers about the latest CBD research, helping clients build trust, with trust you build long-