Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, I am sure you’ve heard of blockchain and crypto currencies. Blockchain’s all over the place and promises to disrupt the world as we know it. However, in order to do that, blockchain startups, like all other startups, need a solid PR strategy to get off the ground and make a name for themselves.
So how do you publicize a blockchain startup? Well obviously, you need to utilize existing knowledge, experience, connections, know-how, and combine it all together with deep insights into your target audience, in order to succeed. But what more do you need? In this article, I have put together a basic framework that crypto publicists and marketers should follow when trying to create brand awareness around their new startup, whether it be pre or post ICO. Now why should you listen to me, you ask? Well, because the advice I give here is based on our PR efforts for two of the 10 most successful ICOs which occurred this year: Bancor which raised $153M in three hours, and Stox which raised $33M in 34 hours.
The plan starts with understanding who your audience is. In this case, your audience will be separated into two groups: Those who understand blockchain and those who don’t. The knowledgeable crowd will usually come from some sort of existing crypto community. Either they invested in an ICO, or just spend a great deal of time on relevant subreddits or CoinDesk. Whatever the case may be, these folks have a higher level of understanding of the blockchain space and require more advanced terminology and technical know-how when speaking with them. They also read specific publications and are found on different social networks/platforms than the mainstream crowd.
The second group you’ll be targeting (those who don’t understand blockchain), are relative newcomers who recognize that blockchain is sizzling hot right now. They heard the terms crypto and ether being spread around and may have read a few articles on bitcoin, however, they know very little or almost nothing at all about the space. Your PR strategy needs to cater to both these audiences, with different messages and targets.
For both these target groups, your PR activity will be divided into four separate pillars: Media outreach, social media, thought leadership through guest posts and thought leadership through speaking opportunities, or as I like to remember it by this formula:
When thinking about how to deliver your messages to the media, it’s most important to remember not to scare your audience away by using terms which are too complex for them to understand, otherwise they won’t touch your story at all. You must remember that specifically when dealing with blockchain, even many of the journalists you’ll be pitching are not knowledgeable enough about this space yet. Make sure to deliver your key messages in the simplest terms possible to the journalists, who in turn will deliver these to their readers. Technology and financial publications such as The Next Web, CNBC, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal are good examples of publications to target for your ICO stories where you’ll gain exposure to both those who understand and those who don’t understand the industry (but want to learn more about it).
Once you’ve figured out which publications you want to reach out to, the more challenging task will be to find the right writer/s to target at these top-tier publications. When doing PR for a drone company that just invented the fastest UAV of all time, it makes perfect sense to look for a writer who covers drones and futuristic tech and know that he would most likely be the right person to target. However blockchain, cryptocurrency, and ethereum are all relatively new topics that are not commonly found in a writer’s repertoire.
If you can’t find a journalist at a specific publication that covers blockchain news, look for one whose past articles show some interest in the business or fintech world. Anyone who covers the future of the financial state should also be interested in the effect blockchain has had and will continue to have on financial institutions in the months to come. Alternatively, pitch writers who cover stories similar to the applications of your specific crypto company. For instance, a writer who covers the intersection of sports and money, would be relevant to pitch the myriad of prediction platforms hitting the blockchain sector recently.
In addition to these top tier publications I mention above, the crypto industry has a very extensive list of targeted outlets with avid communities. You’ll want to make sure to reach out to these as well in order to gain momentum amongst the crypto experts. Some of the most successful ICOs and blockchain offerings have been announced on CoinDesk, Cointelegraph, and Bitcoin News, and were just as successful without hitting the top tier and mainstream publications at all. The news often only hits those more well known, more established publications, after initial success. When reaching out to these sort of blockchain-centric publications, there’s no need to simplify your messaging. Actually what’s more important, is explaining to them clearly why your offering or ICO is unique when compared with others out there.
Just like any other media outreach that you handle, but even more so with an ICO story, when pitching these niche publications, it’s important to remember to distinguish yourself. As the ICO boom continues, you must differentiate your story from all the other blockchain news that’s coming out. Although the writers at specific crypto publications won’t need any technical explanation, you will need to convince them why your story is not only worthwhile, but also why your client’s ICO is more revolutionary than the one that happened the day before. Due to the fact that these writers deal with this this type of news on a daily basis, you’ll need to make sure your story stands out from the crowd.
The rules vary again for the experts and non-experts when considering how to create brand awareness of your blockchain startup within social media channels. The experts are a tight knit community, and need to be treated as such. While Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the rest of the mainstream platforms are good for marketing to the mainstream audience and also for SEO purposes, we need to utilize other tools in order to snag those hardcore crypto fans. The two most important (and common) platforms utilized by the crypto community are Telegram and Slack. Both of these help those crypto fans interested in the product have close, open discussions with the teams behind them.
While Telegram creates a free-for-all town hall, Slack allows for more focused debate across channels. On both platforms, the secret to good marketing is moderation. You want to keep the conversation on-going and on topic, while at the same time, not being so spammy that you scare people away. On Telegram, it’s recommended to create an all encompassing welcome message that will give new members all the info they need and pin it to the top of the group. On slack, the same can be achieved with a welcome bot, that can also direct new members to the appropriate channels that may be relevant to them.
In addition to those platforms, we must talk about one of the most important networks being utilized by the crypto industry – Reddit. Due to the fact that blockchain is all about democratizing systems, this democratized content platform is frequently used by members of various blockchain startups to participate in discussions in relevant subreddits, as well as host AMAs and run their own subreddits, to communicate more closely with their communities. Always remember that authenticity is crucial on Reddit, so be transparent about who you are and what you’re looking to achieve, and always identify yourself as a member of the team.
Another emerging platform to be watching is Steem.it, a blockchain based network, similar to Reddit, which is very popular amongst the experts since it’s blockchain based. On Steem.it users post content, and they are then compensated in cryptocurrency based on how viral their content becomes within the community. Users don’t only get compensated for content they create, but also for content that they are first to publish, so always be on the lookout to see if others are posting about your company as well.
Finally, Bitcointalk, the official bitcoin forums, should also be a part of your social media strategy, with a detailed announcement of your ICO posted on its “alternate coins” subforum. You should also consider a bounty program, a successful technique as of late. This is basically a social media ambassador affiliate program where you encourage members of Bitcointalk to promote your startup on various networks in exchange for a piece of the ICO. The ambassadors get tokens at a predetermined rate according to the amount of traction they are able to achieve for your ICO.
In all of your social media activity, always remember that the wording you’ll use to deliver your messages on the mainstream platforms will be greatly simplified compared to the wording you can feel free to utilize on Reddit, Bitcointalk, and the like.
Thought leadership through guest posts
It’s just as important to make a name for the founding team members (or at least one member), as it is to make a name for your crypto startup. Since blockchain is such a hot topic right now, TV stations, online sites, and newspapers are desperately seeking experts who actually understand the field, for commentary. This is the time when thought leaders in this space are being defined. Hence it is crucial for founders of crypto startups to make their names known and show their knowledge by writing opinion pieces online which can then be shared with the world.
Many blockchain companies have their own blogs where the founders share their thoughts. Alternatively, some companies use Medium to post these pieces. I would also recommend getting at least a few opinion pieces published in major publications such as The Next Web, in order to increase your startup’s exposure to a wider audience.
Another important reason that founders in this space should make an effort to write opinion pieces and get them published in well-known publications, is to increase their credibility in the eyes of the public. Folks who are investing their hard earned money in these companies, want to make sure that they are working with a team that knows what it’s talking about, and can be trusted. Posting valuable insights and opinions on accredited publications can go a long way. Make sure that you have a unique point of view, and not just a slightly new take that people have heard before – showcase your extensive knowledge and understanding of the industry.
Thought leadership through speaking opportunities
Industry specific blockchain conferences are popping up everywhere like mushrooms after the rain. If becoming a leader in this space is important to you, having a presence at these events where you can appear on stage in front of colleagues from the industry, and also network with them, is critical. Map all the major blockchain events happening in the next few months and make sure to play a dominant role and get on stage at those conferences that you feel will bring you the most value. Make sure to apply a few months ahead of time, as speaking slots tend to fill up quickly.
In conclusion, as you can see, this article provides you with a very basic framework of what to do in order to gain momentum for your blockchain startup. The strategies, objectives, and even some of the platforms that should be used for publicizing crypto startups are still the same as with any other tech startup. However, in addition to those, there are also specific channels and rules that apply to the blockchain industry that cannot be ignored. If you overlook these, you won’t be taken seriously by the hardcore crypto folks.
Please keep in mind that there are of course many other factors which come into play and can make a huge difference in determining your company’s success, such as who you have on your advisory board, who your investors are, and more. Nevertheless, I can assure you that if you make sure to follow the formula given here:
You’ll be one step ahead of your competitors, and on the right path to a successful ICO and beyond.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.