In this installment of our employee Q&A series, we’re joined by NisonCo cannabis PR Account Manager Lucas Wentworth. Lucas talked to us about his career journey, learning to communicate with clients and his passion for harm reduction activism.
Hello, Lucas! Where are you located? What’s your role at NisonCo and your background?
Lucas Wentworth: I’m in Ithaca, New York, right now. Up until very recently, I was in Buffalo.
My role is as an account manager or client manager. I was hired as a writer during my senior year of college. You know, doing writer things, like press releases and ghostwriting op-eds and stuff like that. And that was nearly five years ago now, believe it or not. Time flies. And I was steadily promoted internally. I became what was formerly known as a pitcher and is now an account coordinator. Then, I started to manage clients myself in 2018, I think. And that’s what I’ve been doing since then.
I also had a part in getting the writing team off the ground originally, but it was too much to juggle all of that, so I’m thankful we got Marissa [Smith] on that.
You also do a lot of advocacy work outside of NisonCo — you have a pretty strong background in the cannabis world. Could you tell us a little more about that?
Lucas: I’ve been involved with NORML [the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws] for a while, particularly the Western New York chapter of NORML.
In Buffalo, I was part of a group called Mobile Overdose Prevention Services. Essentially, we set up on different street corners and gave out harm reduction stuff like Narcan and sharps containers in addition to other items like PPE and food.
I’ve also been involved in — this was with Evan [Nison], actually — trying to pass a New York bill requiring the Good Samaritan Law to be taught in public schools. And that law, if you don’t know, essentially protects you legally if you were to call 911 in the event of an overdose. So obviously, harm reduction is pretty important to me.
How did you get involved in harm reduction work, outreach, and activism?
Lucas: Thanks for asking that. It’s probably not the lightest [topic], but I’m happy to talk about it.
When I was in high school, I was at a party, and a girl who was at the party ended up overdosing on some pills, which was a pretty chaotic situation. People were leaving the party, and those who stayed were talking about what we should do. We were all under 18.
I’d heard about the Good Samaritan Law and mentioned that we wouldn’t get arrested if we called for help. So we did, and they were able to save the girl’s life. So in that regard, it’s a happy ending. That was the initial moment for me. But then, many other life experiences after that, too, have driven my work. I just want people to be safe, I guess. That’s the bottom line.
About the ghostwriting you were doing — How do you feel about getting credit for your work?
Lucas: Yeah, that’s kind of a fun question. I would write lengthy op-eds, sometimes three or four pages, everything from that down to like quotes. I will say it’s much weirder to write a quote for somebody than a whole article for some reason. You’re essentially putting words in someone else’s mouth — it’s pretty odd!
I never struggled too much with the credit aspect of ghostwriting, though I could see somebody experiencing that or frustration with not getting recognized. I think that’s a legitimate feeling, especially if what you produce is really high quality or ends up somewhere cool.
I know there have been instances where I’ll share articles with my friends and family, and I’ll say, “I wrote this; this is kind of cool,” but I don’t know. I don’t frankly worry too much about that.
What is the most challenging part of managing clients as a cannabis PR Account Manager at NisonCo?
Lucas: Managing expectations and having difficult conversations with clients, generally. I’m personally fairly introverted, believe it or not. It’s like a muscle I’ve had to exercise — my ability to hop on the phone with clients and talk through things. Trying to steer strategy without stepping on toes.
Is there any instance of a situation that helped you grow as an account manager, whether it’s client expectation setting or otherwise?
Lucas: I don’t know if I have a specific example ready to go, but I think time has made a tremendous difference in my confidence levels.
When I first started to manage clients, I would talk as little as possible all the time, and there would be plenty of awkward silences. Or I would have another account manager — we used to try to do some co-account management type of situations — and I would have them do the talking. Now I don’t really struggle as much with that, which I think is just a product of many experiences.
You said you started as a writer at a cannabis PR firm and then started working with clients. What’s your favorite way to communicate with them?
Lucas: Going along with what I was saying before, I used to avoid phone calls as much as possible. I would always rather send an email, a text, a WhatsApp message, or whatever. Now I’ve come to terms with whether I like it or not, talking on the phone is usually the most efficient.
Are there any fundamental skills that would be appropriate for folks to work on if they were interested in pursuing a job at a CBD PR firm?
Lucas: I feel like I’m beating a dead horse a little, but interpersonal and communication skills are basically the backbone of the PR work. Make sure that with those communication skills — at the very least — you feel confident and willing to improve even more. I think that’s an excellent place to start.
I don’t think this is good advice, but I’ve found the best way to learn is to dive into the deep end of something or at least the middle part of the pool! [laughs]
Thank you so much, Lucas!
Lucas is one of NisonCo’s longest-tenured account managers and an invaluable part of the team. You can keep up with him here.
Keep an eye on the blog and check back next month for a conversation with another one of our PR account managers. Contact us today for more information about any of NisonCo’s services and how our awesome team can help your business thrive.