This month, we virtually sat down with Wilfred Waimiri, a PR Account coordinator at NisonCo. He was kind enough to talk with us about his best PR advice, the differences between U.S. and Kenyan cannabis culture, and the importance of reading and writing as much as possible.
Welcome, Wilfred! Where are you located? What’s your role at NisonCo and your background?
Wilfred Waimiri: I am based in Nairobi, and I am an Account Coordinator at NisonCo.
How I got into PR — my background is in economics and finance, that’s what my undergraduate degree is in, but I didn’t really enjoy it.
I got into writing [and] got together with a bunch of friends — we had a really good CBD blog called “EveryCBDthing.” Then I was recruited to do content for a CBD startup.
At some point, I got really tired of writing, and I was like, “What else can I do?” So at the time, I was subscribed to Marijuana Moment. I saw NisonCo PR was one of the sponsors, and I thought, “You know what? Let me reach out to these guys. Maybe PR is the next big adventure for me.” And the rest is history!
We’re so happy to have you here! You originally applied for a cannabis content writer position with us, but we weren’t hiring then. You patiently waited until a job opened up and followed up with us, which sealed the deal.
Wilfred: Yeah! Luckily I have always been a good writer, and that skill is what got me the job.
Could you try to tackle the differences between the cannabis industry in America and the cannabis industry in Kenya?
Wilfred: Yeah, I can try. I’ve written about it [before]. But generally, we don’t have a cannabis industry in Kenya. We have a legacy market and people like me who work for cannabis companies in the U.S. and all around the world, but we don’t have legal companies in Kenya. Cannabis is illegal and really looked down upon — I think that’s the best way to describe it. There’s a really big bias against cannabis by people in leadership, the older generation. But, you know, the younger generation is really cool with cannabis. There’s a lot of cannabis use, but it’s just illegal, and there’s so much more that could be done but isn’t being done.
I know you attended a conference focused on the cannabis industry in Africa. Please tell us about that.
Wilfred: Oh yeah. I was invited by the Caucus on Harm Reduction and Drug Policy Reform to speak about cannabis in Africa, steps that we can take toward legalization, and what we can do in terms of educating people on the benefits of cannabis. While that was wonderful to see, we haven’t really made much progress because we’re really limited in what we can do.
We had invited NACADA, which is like Kenya’s DEA — that’s the best way I can put it — but they ignored our invitation, refused to come, and we’ve been unable to start a dialogue with them. It’s been really hard just to convince them that this plant has benefits. There’s so much more we can do.
One of the members of the caucus is the Rastafarian Society, and they have a case currently in Kenya’s high courts. Hopefully, they are successful, and that leads to some positive action.
So there are advocacy groups, but it’s hard to get anything done because there’s such a bias from the older generation and the people in power.
Wilfred: Yeah, that’s the best way to put it. [In our most recent election], there was one candidate who was very pro-cannabis and out of about 12 million votes, he only got maybe 100,000 or close to that. So it’s really hard to get any kind of support for cannabis.
What is Kenya’s alcohol culture like? In early U.S. cannabis legalization campaigns, one of the talking points was “regulate cannabis like alcohol.”
Wilfred: Kenya is a drinking nation. We drink a lot. I don’t drink — I’m straight edge, so I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs. But Kenya, in general, is a drinking nation. We have one of the highest per capita consumption of alcohol in Africa. I don’t know how we compare globally, but we drink a lot.
So you’re saying there’s maybe hope one day [laughs].
Wilfred: Yeah! Maybe, maybe.
With your background in writing, what inspires you, and what are you reading lately?
Wilfred: That is one of my favorite things to talk about! The writers that inspire me — a lot of people. But probably Dean Koontz and Stephen King are my biggest personal inspirations, and one of the reasons I got into writing is because I got into their books when I was really young, like around eight to 10. So I think they had such a profound impact on my life that I decided, “I am going to write, and I want to write well.”
In Kenya, we have a system whereby when we’re in eighth grade, we do a national exam. So between sixth grade and eighth grade, you just have to prepare for that national exam. One of the things we did to prepare for it was to write constantly because writing is a really big part of it. So during those three years, I probably wrote an essay a day, and that’s kind of where that consistent practice came from and why I can write as well as I do.
If you want to get into writing, read the New York Times. It’s just really good. Read The Atlantic — it also has really good writing. And just find a writer whose voice you like and try to emulate it. And then, you know, make it your own. That’s what I did.
What do you do outside of work?
Wilfred: It might still be considered work because reading and writing are two of my main hobbies. I read a lot; I write a lot.
I also shoot at the gun range. Our gun culture is really different from your gun culture because when we are shooting, we usually shoot at the range — around here, we don’t really walk around with guns. But there’s a growing number of competitive shooters, so that’s one of the things I’m into — competitive shooting.
And theater. I love theater. I love plays; I love movies; just any kind of artistic expression, I will do it. And poetry. Poetry has always been one of my main outlets.
Any advice for people interested in pursuing a cannabis public relations career path?
Wilfred: If you’re interested in pursuing PR, the best advice I can give you is to become a really good writer. One of the PR people I follow on LinkedIn keeps insisting that writing skills are very important in PR, and, you know, it’s what got me the job because I had zero PR experience.
Network a lot. I use LinkedIn to network because I can’t physically meet people because I am not in the U.S. So, just find something that works for you. LinkedIn works for me, and that’s what has been really instrumental to my career so far. So find something that works for you, whether it’s going to conferences, just having coffee with these reporters, find something that works for you. And if you’re interested in a career in PR, I look forward to working with you.
Thank you so much for joining us, Wilfred!
Wilfred brings an invaluable perspective and unparalleled PR pitching skills to the NisonCo team. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.
Keep an eye on the blog for our next employee feature, where we will sit down with another member of the NisonCo team to get another perspective on what we do here at the country’s oldest cannabis PR firm.
Looking for help from our experienced psychedelics, cannabis, CBD and emerging industry PR, SEO and content marketing team? Contact NisonCo here.