First and foremost, a definition of terms should be in order. A blockchain is a growing list of records, called blocks, that are linked together using cryptography. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp and transaction data. Blockchain doesn’t equal crypto, but a lot of crypto-projects use blockchain sometimes, even if it is not necessary.
Sometimes blockchain projects can not have any cryptocurrency involved and be utilized without any transactions, for example, the secure sharing of medical data or supply chain and logistics monitoring.
I came into crypto PR accidentally in 2017. I was a tech journalist for a decade, and during the ICO boom of 2017, I found myself barraged by requests for PR for blockchain projects. It was all so new to me. Back then, I didn’t know the rules of this crazy new world. In fact, nobody did. Journalists scrambled in confusion because the word “blockchain” was entirely new at the time.
The mysterious world intrigued us even more since apparently, just the word “blockchain” itself would add market value to a certain project for some reason. For instance, a regular developer’s salary could be $120,000 per year, but a blockchain developer’s salary would amount to $250,000 per year.
This rule would eventually bleed into PR. Everybody would double their prices, but very few knew what to do. By now, I have some accumulated knowledge about how it works, and I will now share it in the list below. Here are five things you should know before you start delving into blockchain PR.
1. Fundamentals matter
You shouldn’t become a coder, but you absolutely should spend some time learning what seems to be unnecessary stuff, such as: why there are only 21 million bitcoins, what is Satoshi, hash rate, fork, what’s the difference between coin and token, and what is the difference between “proof of work” and “proof of stake.”
You don’t want to be that person who annoys journalists with a boring pitch like “our blockchain is very fast and safe and yet decentralized.” It’s 2022, and people are quickly catching on. Fast and safe blockchain has become a commodity by now, not an advantage. But truly decentralized blockchain cannot be really fast, because of the large amounts of miners in the system.
So, I highly recommend communication specialists spend some time learning terms such as DAO, DeFi, IDO, farming, staking, digital identity, etc. It will help to communicate with clients and to interpret from their language to normal language so it won’t be too confusing for those who are not deeply knowledgeable on the topic.
2. Organic publication? Nah. This is crypto
Nobody will tell you this, but the truth is a good story is not enough. In traditional PR, we often use a story behind the project, some storyline of the founder. You can be a top-notch storyteller, but in blockchain and crypto PR, it doesn’t really work — unless you’re telling the story of the Winklevoss brothers, who couldn’t really succeed with Zuckerberg but became crypto-billionaires and founded their own crypto-exchange.
This was one of my fatal mistakes in the beginning. Every other project that came to me in 2017 was about “changing the world with the newest technology,” but when I started pitching, it turned out that crypto media are super cynical, and they didn’t really care about yet another game-changing technology. When it comes to general business media outlets, after having negative experiences with the topic, some tier-one publications just banned all the content related to crypto or even blockchain.
Indeed, very few projects that raised millions of dollars during their ICOs back in 2017 developed a product. So, if you need the project to be mentioned ASAP, you will need to have a budget. If you are trying to get organic publications, the project should be exceptionally cool in terms of technology or have something to do with big names such as celebrities, athletes and well-known entrepreneurs.
3. Community is the king
Well, community management isn’t quite PR in a traditional sense, but it is an integral part of communications strategy in crypto. Telegram and Twitter communities are crucial for most blockchain projects, and Discord has been making a name for itself for NFTs.
Community members are the early followers who support the project, believe in it and sometimes even evangelize it. It is very important that global communication strategies be aligned with messages in media relations and communications with the community.
4. Follow the market trends and try to trade
From my humble experience, I can tell that the market state can affect the mood of the team you are working with. Sometimes, when there is a threat of the looming crypto-winter (the last one started in 2018 when the price of Bitcoin fell by about 65 percent from January to February), the communication inside the team can suffer. Despite a lot of predictions and fundamental trends, the crypto market is extremely volatile, and given that some projects partially pay their employees in crypto, it can affect the atmosphere in the team.
5. Crypto-winter will come
Sooner or later, the market will go deep, so you should plan your spending in crypto as well as in fiat currency. I highly recommend not to get payments only in crypto. Even though I believe in Bitcoin and Ethereum, one of my favorite clients almost lost their business in 2017 because Bitcoin went from $27,000 to $7,000, and they just couldn’t afford to pay the developers anymore. So, be careful with finances and don’t get too excited about Bitcoin price and alt season (when non-major coins like Bitcoin or Ethereum are making 2X, 3X, or even 10-20X in a short time). Follow crypto-influencers, but don’t be fooled by tweets of influencers like PlanB who predicted bitcoin at $96,000 by the end of 2021. The truth is nobody knows for sure. There are a bunch of people who call themselves crypto-influencers, but only very few of them are really influential, and none of them has enough power to influence the price (well, except Elon Musk).
Overall, there is absolutely no doubt that we are still super-early in crypto, metaverse, and NFTs. All of these will eventually become part of our regular life. Just don’t get too excited right now. It takes time and mass adoption is always quite a process. But as communication professionals, we can be the first ones to educate people and to help them understand new concepts.