One of the main reasons that blockchain companies need PR is that blockchain is still at its early-stage development. In the article “Blockchain’s Occam problem” published by McKinsey, the consulting giant, blockchain is pinned on the transition from pioneering to growth. McKinsey pictures four phases for an evolution of any industry or product: pioneering, growth, maturity, and decline. Stage 1, the pioneering phase is when the industry is getting started. Stage 2, the growth phase is when the demand begins to accelerate, and the market expands. McKinsey concludes that blockchain is poorly understood and is lacking convincing “at-scale” use cases.
Gartner, the world’s leading research and advisory firm, has a similar perspective on the Blockchain is named as one of the top 10 strategic technologies in Gartner’s 2020 report “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020”. However, Gartner agrees that blockchain is still in an evolutionary phase.
“We see blockchain in several key areas in banking and investment services, primarily focused on permissioned ledgers,” said David Furlonger, Gartner VP. “We also expect continued developments in the creation and acceptance of digital tokens. However considerable work needs to be completed in non-technology-related activities such as standards, regulatory frameworks, and organization structures for blockchain capabilities to reach the Plateau of Productivity – the point at which mainstream adoption takes off, in this industry.”
Blockchain is cutting-edge technology, so the audience can be easily get carried away by the complex terminologies. Therefore, PR should deliver a simple and clear message for the product. The idea of Bitcoin is a perfect example. People know the Bitcoin story as a peer-to-peer digital currency without physical copy and interference of governments and banks. The success of Bitcoin is related to the success of its public relations. The story started within the IT circle, and then gradually spread to regular people. Now, Bitcoin is probably the best-known cryptocurrency and it is also a symbol for transparency. Storytelling draws more potential users’ attention and more powerfully expresses a company’s value.
The community roundtable released the State of Community Management Report 2020, indicating that the top 3 business outcomes for an average online community are customer loyalty (67%), lower support costs (48%), and awareness and branding (47%).
The sense of community is especially strong in the blockchain industry. In the blockchain world, the “blockchain or crypto community” is relatively small. The success of every uprising blockchain/crypto business depends heavily on how well the company can establish itself in the community.
Part of community engagement is to establish authority in the field. Building a reputation in the community is necessary before a blockchain project going mainstream. Organizations that are outside of the field and want to explore blockchain applications are more likely to team up with blockchain companies that show themselves as experts in the field. Reputation in the community can easily turn into a powerful resource to attract investors and partners.
Building relationships with the RIGHT media is the key. Media coverage for blockchain is slightly different than traditional sectors. Some journalists work in traditional media who specifically cover blockchain and cryptocurrency. More importantly, there are blockchain blogs and publications that are widely recognized within the blockchain community. Particularly in the blockchain sector, social media platforms play an important role in PR practices. Besides mainstream social media like Facebook and Twitter, people in the blockchain field are more active on channels like Reddit, Bitcointalk, Telegram, and Steemit.
For example, creating a channel on Telegram can shape people’s opinions about products/services by discussion in articles and chat groups. Even creating an account on BitcoinTalk enables the audience to approach the project informally. They feel a sense of transparency by asking questions regarding the project and joining community discussions. PR needs to cover all aspects of the media to raise brand awareness. Positive media engagement can enhance credibility and authority in the blockchain community.
The target audience for a blockchain project can vary from degrees like geographic locations to level of understanding of blockchain technology. Before picking a PR strategy, “Who are the audience” must be taken into consideration. Depending on who the target groups are and what is their knowledge level, it is important to communicate with them at a level of technical detail they are comfortable with. Simon Cocking, the chief editor at Irish Tech News and Cryptocoin, says: “Be able to simply communicate why it is awesome, and why it is worth getting involved with.”
Some interesting Bitcoin Community Demographics that may help better identify the target audience:
Due to the blockchain industry’s rapidly evolving nature, PR for blockchain is more unique than PR in traditional sectors.
Educate the public about the technology
Blockchain is a complex technology. It has not fully merged with mainstream consciousness. The majority of the public still poorly understand blockchain and think that blockchain is only about cryptocurrency and Bitcoin. So, part of the responsibility for PRs in blockchain companies is to clarify the confusion. Different than enterprises in other industries, blockchain PR needs to spend more time in the education of potential investors and customers. PRs need to deliver the message that blockchain is far beyond financial services. Sometimes it may help by using examples to illustrate a broader relevance.
For instance, Food trust, an IBM blockchain project that has more than 300 participants including farmers, food distributors, and retailers, is dedicated to increasing supply chain efficiency and food safety. Governments and NGOs such as the United Nations have implemented blockchain technology to deforestation of our world’s rainforests.
Keep in mind that the audiences are not IT experts, so they might not understand terminologies like smart contracts, cold storage, and encryption codes. Therefore, an effective PR approach is to explain the technology behind and how it works in Layman’s terms. Additionally, it might be helpful to emphasize the real-world uses of the product or service, rather than only the underlying technology.
Three ways to educate people on blockchain technology:
- Offline events: small meetup with journalists from blockchain publications as well as mainstream outlets to exemplify and discuss the use cases for blockchain technology.
- Online events: webinars or live-chats for media representatives and potential users.
- Dedicated one-on-one briefings: a chance for deep discussion with journalists or business influencers to understand blockchain and the specific role of your company in the ecosystem.
People in the blockchain community care more about transparency than any other sector. They are more likely to trust a developer that is transparent in their dealings, gives regular updates on development progress, and answers questions from concerned parties. The appearance of transparency is an important factor in gaining investors and customer loyalty.
The practice of PR is to convince the people who are outside the usual sphere of influence. Companies should define a clear goal before starting PR. Is it to promote the idea? Is it to attract investors? Or maybe it’s to increase sales. It is not easy to measure the effectiveness of PR in traditional industries, and it is even harder for blockchain companies. Some ideas for measuring KPI:
- Investors: Many blockchain companies are in the development phase, and they are trying to expand their businesses. Attracting investors and funding is a top priority for success in the long run.
- Media Mentions: Which media platform has mentioned your blockchain company? How many times have you been mentioned? Mentions from reputable sources and publications carry more weight and help build brand awareness.
- Web Traffic: A PR campaign sometimes can best be measured by a boost in traffic and new unique visitors to your website.
- Share of voice: It is always important to understand where your company stands against other competitors in the market. When analyzing for market share, the share of voice measures media presence or the strength of a particular media mention.
PR and Marketing have similar goals for the company, which is to increase direct or indirect sales. Some of the job titles for marketing and PR positions in blockchain companies include public relations managers, marketing specialists, communication managers, community builders, PR content creators, brand designers, etc. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of public relations specialists is projected to grow at 6% from 2018 to 2028.
Deloitte states in its 2020 Global Blockchain Survey: “Blockchain already is an integral and vital tool upon which – and with which – new, cutting-edge solutions are being created, and we are confident that blockchain solutions will gain ever greater traction within the global business community over the next 12 to 24 months.”
Blockchain market is growing bigger every day. With the early hype now over, every startup and company in the blockchain industry needs to show its relevance to a broader audience. The role of OR in blockchain cannot be underestimated. The PR for blockchain should be a hybrid of old and new methods. Choosing the right PR approach is the key to help blockchain companies enter into the mainstream.