If you want your blockchain story to be heard by the world, you’ll need to work even harder this year. Soon, it won’t be enough to use “blockchain” or “ICO” as buzzwords in order to make it into the news.
Cryptonews.com speaks to two PR professionals with expertise in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space, Ayelet Noff, Founder and CEO of Blonde 2.0 from Tel Aviv, Israel and Nicole Jordan, CEO of Radix Collective from Los Angeles in the US. Hear their insights on what PR firms can expect in the industry in 2018.
“Crypto PR is a different animal to “traditional PR” approaches. It is a lot of work requiring an integrated marketing campaign and not just rote ‘media relations practices,” explained Jordan.
“The crypto PR market has grown tremendously and we are facing huge demand,” Noff added.
Both executed media strategies for startups launching Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) at the time the craze took off in June/July last year with Noff working on Stox’s record-breaking raise of USD 33m in 34 hours and Jordan helping MetaX, a blockchain advertising agency raise USD 10m in 23 seconds.
Look for new angles
This is going to be a busy year for cryptocurrency and blockchain startups from a maturing of the ICO market to emerging regulation.
“Right now, there is a saturation of ICOs, so we are going to see a survival of the fittest. It will also be harder for companies in 2018 to raise funds via ICOs”, warns Noff, as the market has seen investors being inundated with investment requests.
There will also be a new wave of stories on product releases from startups that raised money via ICOs in 2017.
Jordan adds that the media will see “news cycles focus on consumers increasingly adopting and being comfortable with day-to-day cryptocurrency usage.”
When Noff helped Stox announce their ICO in mid-2017, launching an ICO was still a story.
“Today the fact that you are launching an ICO is not a story. Now, the story has to be around the technology the company is developing, its vision and what it is doing that is different to any other company out there,” said Noff.
While the world is still learning about blockchain, Jordan adds that the hype surrounding cryptocurrencies and blockchain is far beyond reality.
“Mainstream business and tech reporters joke all the time that they delete any email that has the word “blockchain” in it because they’re already burnt out. This is largely because everything is still a lot of vaporware,” she said.
Moreover, in 2017, the majority of media attention in the space was devoted to the rise in prices for cryptocurrencies and ICOs, and less attention was given to the technology that underpins it all.
According to Jordan, “there’s high awareness among the press, but the deficit in the public’s understanding of blockchain is disproportionate to the coverage it’s getting.”
Eventually, she sees blockchain startups joining the bunch of general tech companies without being singled out solely due to the technology.
“Blockchain” is the shiny new object – much like artificial intelligence is in other industries. Eventually, we’ll stop leading with blockchain as the hook and focus more on the service the offering provides,” said CEO of Radix Collective.
Finding the right story is only one of the challenges blockchain startups and PR agencies face in this fast-changing landscape. Managing a crypto company’s profile in the press, on the other hand, is a different ball game to that of other technology companies due to the impact that one story can have on the price of the cryptocurrency.
Noff, who manages IOTA, one of the top ten cryptocurrencies in the world by market cap, said she has to be very immediate and responsive to any mention of the company in the media. For example, in early December, the value of IOTA jumped from 9th to 4th largest by market cap when they did their PR launch.
“With crypto, it is more instant. You are dealing with money, and the market is very volatile. I can see the instant effect that our PR activities have on the market cap of the cryptocurrency companies we handle,” said Noff.
Also, in order to minimize the risk of a misunderstanding, PR professionals need to find the right words for each channel.
When pitching a crypto story, Noff shares that her team creates two press releases, one for crypto publications and one for the mainstream press.
Noff adds that if a mainstream journalist receives a crypto technical pitch, they probably won’t look at it because it will be too difficult for them to decipher, whereas crypto journalists understand the terminology.
Evolving fees and filtering clients
Noff states that her firm’s total revenue doubled last year due to crypto clients. They also began to “put [their] money where [their] mouth is by accepting cryptocurrency as payment”.
Blonde 2.0 was founded in 2006 and has always specialized in tech PR. But Noff has recently launched a separate section of her company called Blondechain to take care of the specific needs of cryptocurrency companies, which now make up 50% of her clientele.
For Jordan, fee prices have stayed the same at Radix Collective, where every PR professional has an hourly rate. While she said opportunities to take less cash in exchange for tokens has been presented to her, it is not a model that her firm subscribes to at this stage.
“As one independent said – “I can’t pay my rent with tokens,” Jordan recounted.
Also, Jordan and Noff quickly found that in fielding requests from new blockchain clients they needed to first assess the legitimacy of the startup before onboarding them.
“The teams that aren’t innately familiar or involved with crypto were always the ones thinking they could turn around a white paper in two weeks and then pump out a token sale four weeks later and – BOOM! – have their USD 20–40 million,” said Jordan.
Entrepreneurs with little understanding of the community and the work it takes to gain credibility, were an immediate conversation non-starter for Radix Collective.
“It comes across as less about building something big, life-changing or sustainable, and more about quick money without VC bullshit. We’ve certainly turned away our share of business but I am A-OK with that,” said Jordan.
The top three elements of a crypto startup that Noff assesses before onboarding them as a client are the credibility of the team, the legitimacy of their whitepaper and the uniqueness of their story.
Get versed and keep up
In order to protect their clients from the tough questions, it is crucial that PR consultants stay on top of the ever evolving market trends and the impending regulations in this industry.
When Jordan signed on her first blockchain client, MetaX in 2016, she soon realized that the impending wave of innovation with blockchain technology was soon going to lead to a hiring boom for PR and communications professionals across verticals, speaking from experience dealing with “.com” pitches in the late 90s.
“At this point I had been telling all the independent PR pro’s in the Radix Collective network to get versed in blockchain tech,” she said.
Jordan’s Radix Collective firm has an agile and flexible business structure consisting of independent senior PR professionals that have their own shops. If a client is a fit, Radix Collective will assemble a team of professionals to suit their needs, program and budget, rather than have the client work with an existing team as in traditional agencies.
“We’ve started creating education opportunities for PR professionals in the Radix network so they can understand the culture around crypto, emerging media outlets, the type of content that resonates, and how exactly you go about structuring a media campaign,” Jordad added.
“Everyone [in the team] is educating themselves about blockchain and exactly what it means. I spend every spare moment I have just reading up about what Blockchain is and the various industries that are utilizing blockchain technology. No matter how much time I spend reading and learning about it, I realize I still have a lot more to learn,” said Noff, who runs a team of 30 and is constantly recruiting.
One thing that will not change in 2018 is the increasing demand for PR experts to help crypto startups tell their stories better.