By Jessie Peng
Fueled by uncertainty in global politics and the economy, volatility has been shaking financial markets worldwide, leaving investors confused and hesitant. This is especially true in the world of crypto — in addition to its fair share of recent tech layoffs, cutting-edge concepts like DeFi, DAO, and even blockchain make it challenging for people to understand, trust and invest in these young companies. So, now more than ever, blockchain and crypto companies need to strengthen their communications platforms to build trust and relationships with their communities.
Crypto Companies’ Biggest PR Challenges
1. Differentiation: The industry is very crowded. Every day there are hundreds, if not thousands, of startups entering the market, aggressively labeling themselves as “world’s first,” “the only,” or “the best.”
2. Education: Almost everything related to the blockchain requires a learning process before understanding the business model. What does decentralized autonomy mean? How does one connect digital wallets to place an order? Why is the whitelisting process important? These topics are brand-new and different from traditional investment vehicles, so companies must try to incorporate learning into their communications.
3. Trust: Like many emerging technologies, blockchain and cryptocurrencies have faced skepticism from day one. Regulatory authorities and companies are making continuous progress in protecting customers, but the challenge remains in addressing the doubts and building trust that lasts.
How Crypto Companies Should Be Using PR
Thought Leadership Through Media Relations
This strategy includes two elements: 1. executive thought leadership through professional content creation and ongoing media relations efforts, including media research, outreach, and relationship management and 2. a savvy company can stand out from competitors who simply self-promote, by providing value to the media and public with relevant and thought-provoking opinions and comments in industry news and social media. In addition, once recognized as a subject matter expert, the thought leader (typically the CEO or another executive) will be better able to build a positive reputation for the company.
Thought leadership and media relations work in tandem so companies should not solely rely on reporters for thought leadership building. Owned sites and social media pages are also powerful vehicles to deliver messages.
Take CertiK as an example. The startup provides code audits for blockchain projects. On its social pages, the founders and engineers often comment on recent security issues in the industry, providing technical advice for big and small projects. Their social efforts led to media attention and eventually earned media interviews.
Community engagement plays a key part in most crypto projects’ communication strategy and continues to be important after a project becomes a company. Companies build dedicated channels for their stakeholders, provide the latest updates and educational content, and strengthen trust through this ongoing connection. Among various community events and activities, the most common ones include quizzes, AMA sessions with executives, and live streaming sessions that feature influencers or ambassadors.
While the concept of community can seem casual, the actual practice of community management and activation should be conducted with detailed planning and care. The reason is simple: anyone can join a community, including reporters, industry experts, and even the due diligence team of a potential investor. When planning events (especially communication materials for these), it’s best to consult PR and communications experts to avoid common mistakes like being tone-deaf. It’s also wise to prepare several plans and responses for speakers and guests, anticipating unfriendly questions or any unexpected issues. Proper preparation helps leaders think thoroughly and strategically, especially with live streaming sessions where a quick reaction is essential.
Often overlooked by young companies with limited cash flow and other projects awaiting investment, spending resources on charities and philanthropy can produce a strong return on investment and boost corporate reputation for the long term. Companies should choose a cause relevant to the industry, the region they’re based in, tech education, or a topic they’re personally passionate about. Alternatively, like Binance, companies can establish a dedicated foundation and accept applications from nonprofit organizations.
Another good example is Huobi, one of the top 10 cryptocurrency exchanges in the world. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, while countries struggled to get PPE supplies, the exchange’s Japan headquarters donated trucks of masks and gowns to China. This donation led to millions of impressions and positive sentiment, providing value far beyond the raw cost of the medical supplies.