The hype surrounding cryptocurrencies and blockchain has reached a fever pitch.
Analogies to the dot-com craze have been inevitable. Companies that merely incorporated the word “blockchain” into its names enjoyed significant and swift impact on corporate valuations. Along with the hype has come an influx of new cryptocurrency businesses and, with them, the need for digital currency and blockchain education and promotion.
These emerging markets require more nuanced communications plans than traditional technology companies and products do. PR professionals must use increasingly creative thinking to obtain the meaningful results clients desire to break through the competitive noise. Navigating the volatile world of bitcoin valuation and regulation requires an acutely responsive and strategic communications approach.
Here are five ways the rise of digital currency is influencing PR tactics:
1. Cryptocurrency requires quicker action than ever before.
Previously, startups followed a standard procedure for creating a business model, which included building a prototype, bootstrapping (maybe from a garage setting), trying to secure angel funding, and then rolling it out to the market. Years later, startups would seek to raise additional funds, often by entering the public markets in the form of an IPO.
Kickstarter challenged this approach by making it possible to raise funds through small, direct contributions from “consumers.” Companies no longer required the accreditation of investors.
Today, this happens in a fraction of the time. For the PR industry, this means showing immediate yet sustained results to cultivate faith among investors.
In a sense, we have all become investor relations practitioners—where the “investors” are the coin holders who seem fickler and have less patience than traditional institutional investors.
2. There is greater flexibility in cryptocurrency language.
We are seeing more casual communication and fewer formal methods of interacting with clients, as well as differences in how company leaders want to connect with media members. Content takes an array of forms, specifically with regard to clients’ visions and claims of growth and valuation. Those in this volatile industry are charting their own courses.
For client relations, this style is adaptable, but conversations with journalists—especially those outside the “crypto press”—should adhere to a more traditional approach.
Additionally, cryptocurrency has its own lingo, and it is important to understand it and use it to communicate clearly. To the rest of the world, “mining,” “proof of work,” “Fiat,” “whale,” “FOMO,” and “Gwei” might be meaningless jargon, but in the virtual currency world, these terms are crucial. Most crypto-businesses use these words and concepts with the assumption that they’re understood; it’s up to communicators to clarify the concepts and explain what they mean.
3. Management teams are more eclectic.
Management teams for cryptocurrency and blockchain clients tend to have atypical company models and titles. Many leaders have no business management experience at all; others have never led a company. This means that responsibility is doubled on the agency side to educate and guide clients.
The marketing team should to be prepared to pitch ultra-skeptical CEOs and those who are willing to take extreme risks. Either way, PR pros have their hands full representing companies in the thick of such a volatile marketplace.
4. The business and the coin.
There are often dual goals of promoting a company’s business case, as well its initial coin offering (ICO.) Public companies or those about to enter the public markets are typically limited in what they can and can’t say, but the lax rules around cryptocurrencies help ICOs to garner greater media coverage.
Some companies might prefer two independent PR programs—each with its own goals, targets and strategies—but marrying the programs with common threads is preferred. The dynamics of the relationship between trade and national or business press still exist, but the cryptocurrency press has far greater flexibility in its coverage and more willingness to entertain a range of news items. Where appropriate, the marketing team must find ways to succeed on both fronts.
5. Embrace the cryptocurrency and blockchain language and subculture.
Cryptocurrencies were founded by anti-establishment folks. PR pros who can connect with these leaders on their level and use their language will have a better shot at building trust and securing relationships.
Regulation is coming, and it will be important to balance the aspirations of clients with the rules of governance. For now, marketers should embrace the vast opportunities created by bitcoin and blockchain and should take advantage of the chance to experiment, grow and learn.
This bold frontier is just starting to take shape, and PR pros would be wise to catch on early.