Meet the Professional is a spotlight feature, highlighting DCN members-  giving them a voice to share their knowledge, expertise and helpful tips for your company. 

You’ve got your business idea, and you’ve invested a considerable amount of time, effort and money into the new venture. Now all that’s left to do is take it to market.

For any type of startup, especially those finding their feet within the cannabis industry, having a range of good PR tactics is pivotal to business growth. Many see PR as a luxury, only to be enjoyed by large scale companies. But in reality, PR is an essential and highly valuable marketing tool that can increase visibility and help a business to stand out from their competitors.

This is where Ingrid Marketing can help.

In 2015, Heidi Groshelle, Erin Lumley and Leslie Stern came together to bring their decades of marketing and PR experience to the emerging cannabis industry. To date, they have helped many companies such as PLUS, La Grandeur. Prestodoctor and many more.

About Ingrid Marketing

Ingrid Marketing is an award-winning public relations and marketing firm that specializes in the cannabis and hemp industries. Ingrid Marketing’s mission is to help emerging and established businesses rise above the noise, differentiate products and services, and ultimately grow sales in these competitive industries. We are all seasoned professionals with deep roots in Silicon Valley.

Meet the Partners

Heidi Groshelle

Active in the cannabis community and passionate about educating the market, Heidi Haller Groshelle is an award-winning PR expert who introduced the first cannabis-infused gum, helped roll out an innovative line of doctor-approved cannabis topicals, and helped launch numerous well-known cannabis brands.

Clients leverage Heidi’s expertise to earn coverage in top media outlets, secure awards and build thought leadership. Heidi holds a BA from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Her passions include creating raku (a Japanese technique of ceramic firing) and high-fired pieces of ceramic art. She lives and works in San Francisco, where she grew up.

Erin Lumley

With 20+ years in the business, Erin Lumley knows public relations. She has a strong results-oriented approach to every initiative, and she has gotten her clients coverage in scores of news outlets like USA Today, Wall Street Journal and NY Times. Erin’s experience includes messaging, PR strategy and planning and creating thought-provoking media campaigns. She is passionate about sharing what she knows and is committed to changing the conversation about cannabis. Erin graduated from Chico State with a bachelor’s in journalism and got her social media certification from San Francisco University. Erin lives and works in San Francisco’s quaint Russian Hill neighborhood and in her free time she loves to read, explore the city and spend as much time as possible at Crissy Field.

Leslie Stern

Leslie Stern is a dynamic business person with over 25 years’ experience marketing innovative products and services, and a passion for helping people. As a founding partner of Ingrid Marketing, a Marketing and PR consultancy for companies in the cannabis space, she is proud to be part of the birth of this exciting new industry. Leslie has worked to launch new cannabis brands in California such as Dr. Kerklaan Therapeutics, PLUS Products, and LaGrandeur, as well as cultivators, dispensaries and industry service organizations. She is especially involved in supporting women- and minority-owned cannabis businesses. In her previous life as a software marketer, Leslie worked for blue-chip companies such as Oracle, HP, and Check Point Software. Leslie holds a B.A. in Computer Science and English Literature from U.C. Berkeley, and an M.B.A. in Marketing and Finance from UCLA. Leslie is also an avid poker player and devout Bruce Springsteen super-fan.

Meet the Professional: Heidi Groshelle, Partner of Ingrid Marketing

DCN: What do you think has been the most significant changes in cannabis marketing in the past two years?

Heidi Groshelle: Looking at marketing from an internal perspective, I think that the policies and regulations have changed so much in California since Proposition 64 was enacted that the entire cannabis industry has been scrambling to figure out how to keep up with them. From distribution to packaging, it is very difficult to build a brand when rules are changing almost overnight.

Historically, cannabis brands have not been allowed to advertise in mainstream media, on social media, or broadcast channels. Paid promotions on social media were out of the question, brands and dispensaries were not allowed to promote sales in their posts and media were not covering companies.

DCN: What do you think will be the most significant change in the way you approach your campaigns in the next two years?

Heidi Groshelle: As markets settle in and policies are locked down, things will stabilize. Cannabis could even be federally-approved, and that will blow the doors off for marketing and PR.

There will be a tremendous need for companies to differentiate as products flood the market, and new markets open up. Investments in marketing, public relations, and advertising will increase as interest in these sectors increases across the financial world. I expect that we will have many more opportunities to build thought leadership for our clients both in mainstream and in vertical media outlets and we will be able to invest in putting our clients out in front of the public. Over the next two years, we will have the opportunity to promote branded cannabis and CBD products through paid and unpaid channels including content marketing, advertising, public relations, and traditional marketing strategies.

DCN: What are your three biggest marketing challenges?

Heidi Groshelle: Honestly, given that we are in a young and growing industry, I think one of our biggest marketing challenges right now is educating all the different constituents. Many entrepreneurs do not understand the complete landscape of marketing and PR nor the business value of investing in these initiatives if they want long term brand recognition.

Furthermore, marketing cannabis is different than marketing any other product. There are local, state and federal regulations to contend with. For instance, cannabis brands can advertise on billboards but not on television. Social Media is also a vital tool to build awareness, but also risky as the platforms can and often do shut down cannabis-related accounts without warning.

There is a lot of hype in the marketplace. The general public does not understand what the difference between THC and CBD is or the difference between cannabis and hemp, and it is expensive to educate a marketplace.

DCN: What is the most over-hyped marketing tactic?

Heidi Groshelle: I think the most overhyped marketing tactic right now is the use of celebrities to promote a branded product. For certain promotions, influencers are helpful, but you can run the risk of having the ‘celebrity’ overshadow the brand’s personality.

The products must stand on their own. It must be best in brand, best in standards, best in dosing and product quality. You have to sell what you claim on the package.

And in 2019, men and women alike have no tolerance for booth babes and girls wearing next to nothing to get people’s attention.

DCN: Where do you see Ingrid Marketing going?

Heidi Groshelle: The Ingrid team really enjoys supporting innovative companies as they grow. We are going to continue to help build the national and international reputations of branded cannabis businesses. Honestly, we want to work with companies who know what their value is to the market and partner with people who have both the vision and the resources to get the job done. We do not want to work with every brand; we want to work with brands that are best in everything they do – from product quality and production standards to dosing and product consistency.

DCN: What do you think are the most important aspects of a successful public relations campaign?

Heidi Groshelle: For PR campaigns to be successful the partnership between agency and client has to work. We look for companies that value our expertise and treat us as an integrated partner. Consistency is essential: our client partners have a consistent news pipeline, consistently put efforts behind the PR campaigns and consistently follow through on all requests and commitments.

DCN: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Heidi Groshelle: The most rewarding aspect of my job is relationship building. I have an international network of people and organizations. From the founders of FlowKana, WeedCon, The Hall of Flowers and The Emerald Cup, to Swami Chaitanya, Nikki Lastreto, Amanda Reiman, Jamie Cooper, Kyra Reed, and Christie Lundsford, I get to talk to industry leaders on a daily basis about their ideas, their companies, and their successes. You can find me going to Meadowlands, MJBiz Con, and conferences and special events across the country; hanging out with key members of the press and supporting awesome PR and marketing colleagues building the cannabis and hemp industries.

DCN: What is one piece of advice in your industry you would give to business owners?

Heidi Groshelle: Prepare prepare prepare. You have one chance to make a great first impression. Produce a consistent experience that people can trust. At the same time, be prepared for change. If a shift in the market or a new regulation impacts your brand and you’re not ready to respond, you lose trust and market share. Another brand is always right behind you to fill the void.

DCN: Heidi, Thank you for sharing your insight with the DCN community. Any final thoughts that you would like to share?

Heidi Groshelle: One thing I’d love to share is: there is an art to knowing when you are ready for PR.

Before you make your debut, identify and memorize your top 3 messages, substantiate them with facts and quotes from reputable sources, surround yourself with trustworthy, strategic partners that have your back, and keep your customers engaged and happy.

4 Ways that PR helps in marketing a new business 
From Heidi Groshelle of Ingrid Marketing 

The American Marketing Association defines marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

Public Relations is one of the key processes that marketing deploys to establish credibility, advance thought leadership, build brand awareness and differentiate your company/product. The return on investment is impressive.

PR has a unique ability to hit numerous audiences at the same time. Proactive media relations can get you coverage in different outlets – from national news (USAToday) to industry channels (DCN) to national lifestyle venues (Glamour Magazine).

We help marketing by building relationships for company executives with people they would not otherwise get in front of – whether that is the analyst community, the investor community, or strategic product and design partners- PR continuously reaches out to influencers on a company’s behalf.

With public relations, companies and their leaders build credibility. People trust commentary from third parties. Depending on your specific business goals, an article in a local business journal can help interest investors or a webinar hosted by a well-known partner can establish credibility through association.

PR drives thought leadership through placing bylined articles in news outlets, securing speaking opportunities (keynotes, panels, fireside chats, webinars) and more.

The industry will understand that you know what you’re talking about and that you demonstrate a level of knowledge of business and product development that satisfies the customer demand in the marketplace.

PR can help organizations develop their brand identity and narrative. The world is looking for exciting and compelling brands in the cannabis industry. The key is to find the right branding for your target audiences. PR helps companies differentiate their products and services from other offers. How PR helps you tell stories about your company and products helps make them attractive and interesting.

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