Find a small group of trusted allies — your heart and brain trust. It’s a good idea to have a mix of people who are in your profession and those who aren’t so you can get diverse perspectives. These allies should be smart, empathetic, trustworthy, and always have their back.
As a part of my series about the things you need to know to excel in the modern PR industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sacha Cohen. Sacha is the founder of Grassfed Media, a boutique “un-agency” that elevates the stories of purpose-driven organizations in cannabis, wellness, food, animal welfare, and other industries.
A dynamic and experienced communications expert and former journalist, Sacha’s sound judgment, commitment to her clients’ success, and holistic approach to communications are sought after by large organizations and small businesses alike. Her clients have been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, NBC4, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Forbes, New Cannabis Ventures, Food & Wine, Town & Country, People.com, NPR, and hundreds of other outlets.
A long-time cannabis advocate, community builder, and connector, Sacha has spent the past five years immersing herself in the cannabis industry, writing about cannabis and health, and moderating panels about cannabis. She is a member of Women Empowered in Cannabis (WEIC), Virginia NORML, and the National Cannabis Industry Association. In 2018, she also launched Ellementa’s DC chapter to help educate women about cannabis and health.
Prior to founding Grassfed Media, Sacha was the Director of Digital Media at the Corporation for National and Community Service where she oversaw Serve.gov, President Obama’s call to service website, and worked closely with First Lady Michelle Obama’s staff on the Joining Forces initiative. Sacha has also held senior-level communications positions at AARP, Rosetta Stone, Capitol File Magazine, and Cahners Publishing. She lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband and their merry band of rescued furbabies.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’m a GenXer — so, for better or worse, my career was very much shaped by two major recessions and 9/11. As a teen, I was obsessed with magazines and wanted to be in publishing from a very early age. For the first part of my career, I worked in print magazine publishing and then became one of the first journalists to write for the web in the late 90s. I rode the first dotcom boom and bust, spent time doing online marketing and content strategy for AARP, and then went back to magazine publishing. As much as I loved writing and being a print magazine editor, I saw that the industry was struggling and decided to shift my focus to online marketing and digital media.
I’d always had a very strong entrepreneurial spirit — I was a full-time freelance writer for four years during my 20s — -and after stints in corporate jobs, I kept coming back to running my own business. After leaving a government job that was pretty soul-crushing, I knew that being my own boss was the only way I was going to feel fulfilled and in control of my destiny. In 2013, I launched Grassfed Media, which was the culmination of 20+ years of communications experience. I was originally focused mostly on communications strategy and content creation but then lots of people asked me to do PR, so I took what I knew from being a long-time journalist and translated that into doing PR. In many ways, it’s two sides of the same coin: Understanding what makes a great story, how the news cycle works, and I how to build relationships.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
I’ve had the opportunity to work in several leading-edge industries including cannabis and plant-based foods and have met remarkable entrepreneurs and leaders in both of those industries that blow my mind with their creativity and passion.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first launched my company, I tried to do everything including designing my own website. That was a mistake! I’ve learned over the years that it pays to invest in your business and to hire experts who really know their stuff!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m working with some wonderful companies in wellness, cannabis, and plant-based foods. The cannabis industry is fascinating and I’ve spent the past few years learning about it, understanding policy and regulatory issues, and immersing myself in the community. It reminds me a lot of the early dotcom days — there are so much passion and creativity and things move really fast. I’ve always found myself in the middle of burgeoning industries — whether that was the early days of digital media, plant-based foods, wellness, and now, cannabis. You never know what each day will bring and that excitement and not knowing is very motivating. I’m also working with a ground-breaking plant-based food company that is improving access to plant-based food options.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. Find a small group of trusted allies — your heart and brain trust. It’s a good idea to have a mix of people who are in your profession and those who aren’t so you can get diverse perspectives. These allies should be smart, empathetic, trustworthy, and always have their back.
2. Be kind to yourself, and take care of your mental and physical health.
3. Lean on experts — you can’t know everything.
4. Be flexible and willing to let go of what’s not working.
5. There will be challenges and difficult days but you will get through them.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
1. Give more than you get. Don’t reach out only when you need help. Develop mutually beneficial relationships that can survive the test of time.
2. Follow up and be helpful.
3. Always personalize your outreach messages.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
Word of mouth is where most of my business comes from and it can be powerful. But, sometimes clients don’t think about things like testimonials and referrals so it’s ok to gently remind them from time to time how much you appreciate referrals.
Another tip is to share your expertise through writing and speaking engagements. It helps build brand awareness and puts you in front of potential clients. For example, I recently spoke at EMERGECanna’s virtual conference, a conference for cannabis entrepreneurs and met lots of interesting people who might turn into clients one day.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
I love TED Talks and How I Built These podcasts. It’s cool how even the most successful entrepreneurs often dealt with enormous challenges and failures. Hearing their stories reminds me that we are human, fallible, and yet capable of great things. Another great podcast is Dolly Parton’s America. Dolly is a brilliant businesswoman who leads with her heart and always remains true to herself.
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
A compassion and empathy movement. If we were able to tap into more compassion and kindness, cultivate it in our children, in our communities and in business, the world would be a much better place.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time