According to The Independent, in May 2019 online interest in bitcoin exploded to the highest level ever recorded since late 2017 when the value of the cryptocurrency skyrocketed to $20K per coin. Data from Google shows that after a slump in interest in 2018, searches for bitcoin, as well as other leading cryptocurrencies, including Litecoin, Ethereum, and Ripple, have increased dramatically since the start of 2019. Chinese search company Baidu showed a similar spike in interest, with the term bitcoin emerging one of the most searched keywords on its search engine in May.
With Coinbase reporting that 70,000 to 100,000 new crypto trading accounts are being opened each day, established cryptocurrencies are currently riding the wave of investment which comes with increased interest and popularity. But with upwards of 2000 coins now available online, how can up and coming crypto players get their piece of the pie?
Reaching the right audiences of crypto investors and enthusiasts via PR and marketing is inherently more difficult for crypto companies for a number of reasons. The crypto market has become extremely saturated, investor trust is at an all-time low due to an abundance of well-publicized scams, and ‘pump and dump’ schemes, and Facebook, Twitter, and Bing have banned crypto-related advertising from their platforms. As such, crypto projects which want to improve their visibility, to bring on more investors around the world, need to expand their online footprints and place themselves on the right channels to reach the right audience at the right time.
As a company which has helped multiple crypto clients achieve their business goals by creating content strategies, and interacting with different influencers on different channels, we know that crypto PR requires a lot of groundwork, time, and dedication.
Here are some tips which can help crypto companies get started on their PR journeys:
1. Get your house in order
For up and coming crypto companies, gaining trust is one of the first, and most important hurdles they need to cross. And right now, consumer trust in anything crypto is at an all-time low.
In a rush to raise investment, many crypto companies make the mistake of putting all of their resources behind software development and creating a passable whitepaper, but put less effort into making sure their house is in order. This would include web design, being present on secondary platforms like LinkedIn, CrunchBase, ProductHunt, and making sure their ‘owned’ media channels like their webpage, social channels and blogs are updated regularly.
Considering the amount of fake ICO scams out there, potential investors need to be able to search for a crypto company and find evidence across a range of channels that this company is the real deal. Generally, potential investors will:
Search on Google to see where a brand has been mentioned or covered
Assess the professionalism of the company’s website
Check secondary platforms like LinkedIn, CrunchBase, ProductHunt
Check well known Crypto registries like eToro or Messari
Look for owned channels like social media pages, blog posts, Medium, etc.
Search for informative resources like a white paper
Check for notable team members, ambassadors, or endorsers (with Linkedin links)
While it is understandable that a crypto company may have limited resources pre-ICO, failure to build trust through top-level design and UX on their webpage may be enough to plant the seed of doubt in the minds of potential investors. And with a recent Wall Street Journal report suggesting as many as 20% of ICOs are fake, even the slightest doubt may be enough to chase a potential investor away forever.
It would also be recommendable for up and coming crypto brands to register their projects on platforms such as the Messari Disclosures Registry, an open source disclosures database which aims to make it easier for exchanges, wallets, investors, regulators, and developers to do due diligence about new players entering the crypto arena.
2. Create the right content
If a company wants to improve investor trust and convince people to invest in their projects, they need to be able to show the value of their project, and its potential for growth…fast!
With thousands of different tokens now available online, there is an abundance of options available for investors keen to make a quick investment while crypto is booming, and before the next inevitable slump.
The industry norm for showing a company’s UVP is publishing a white paper. There are many resources available online which outline what type of content should be included in whitepapers, however, the general format should be as follows:
A concise description of the problem needing solved
How the project solves this problem
An in-depth description of the technology being used (preferably including code snippets)
A description of the solution and the platform
Use case applications of the solution
The team, including advisors/ambassadors
Extra informative resources
However, while publishing a whitepaper is an essential step which should not be skipped, crypto companies who want to improve their visibility to investors need to improve their rankings on search engines, via effective SEO content strategies.
Creating high quality, informative content, which solves search queries is one of the best ways to improve rankings via Google’s search algorithms, and thus improve overall visibility. The easiest way to get started is by utilizing a companies ‘owned’ channels like a blog and social media. However, getting content published on third party websites through ‘earned’ media on external publications offers the most SEO value.
Every good content strategy should begin with highlighting the target audiences which are most likely to show interest and invest. A good starting point is to define each potential user group, then define the wants and needs of each group. These target audiences are most likely to be:
Potential investors: Companies need to clarify why someone should invest in their project rather than their competitors, by clearly articulating different use cases and unique value propositions.
Existing investors: Existing investors need to be kept in the loop about development and commercial updates, to motivate further investments, and recommendations.
Potential service users: Companies need to show how their solution they are doing an ICO for provides the best response to the problem being tackled.
Before getting started on their content strategy, it is best to highlight the most appropriate keywords to use to rank higher for searches related to their cryptocurrency, and the application of the solution they are doing an ICO for. Using tools like SEMrush or Moz, companies should start by comparing the strength of their own SEO rankings to other crypto players in their space.
Assessing the keywords, the number of back-links and referring domains of a handful of their main competitors will offer companies insights into the type of content they should be creating, to rank higher for particular search terms, thus making themselves more visible to particular investor groups.
However, companies should avoid just churning out low-quality content, and risk facing criticism from the existing crypto community, and instead focus on creating high-quality content which outlines their UVP and offers real value to their different target audiences.
3. Keep your finger on the pulse
With so much competition in the crypto space, creating generic content around well-discussed themes is unlikely to catch the eyes of the right investors. And a lack of creativity, will certainly reduce the chances of getting picked up by the highly saturated crypto press, which is being pitched by thousands of new crypto players every week.
As such, crypto companies need to keep their finger on the pulse of their industries and keep up to date with updates, new regulations, and conversations taking place, so as to know which content themes are trending right now.
Effective PR is about being relevant, and finding a way to link a company’s narrative, or UVP into a bigger story taking place. Companies should steer clear of themes which have now been ‘over discussed’ such as the overhyped potential of security tokens, and instead try to focus on emerging themes, which are likely to be shared, and spark widespread conversations.
While a crypto publication or general tech publication is unlikely to be interested in covered a launch story of a crypto player they have never heard of. However, if the company can tie their announcement into general news, or prove their social proof in another way, with an interesting backstory, or by linking themselves to a famous backer, investor, or ambassador, then this is much more likely to catch an editors eye.
We generally recommend clients to media monitor every day, searching for news related to their industry, or related to the problem which they aim to solve with their solution. It is important to keep an eye out for any breaking news which makes their company relevant.
Look out for news such as:
Large funding rounds or acquisitions for companies in your industry
Data or research about the downsides of the traditional ways of doing things in your industry
Comments from leading figures about the potential of your industry
Current events which highlight how important your mission or solution is
Announcements related to companies using similar technologies to your solution
But speed is the name of the game in the PR industry, what is news today may well be discussed tomorrow. For this reason, it is advisable for crypto companies to develop relationships and start conversations with editors, and crypto influencers over time. This will allow them to capitalize on media monitoring quickly, by already having a channel of communication open.
It is also advisable that crypto companies take the time to prepare solid press release outlines, which can be sent out to journalists at the right time, whether that be when a certain investment milestone is met, when a notable investor or backer comes onboard, or when a breaking news story makes their solution particularly relevant at a particular time.
4. Find the right influencers and channels
Over the last decade, crypto and the blockchain has moved from being a fairly unknown and misunderstood technology, followed by a small niche community of early adopters and enthusiasts, to one of the most talked about themes on both tech, niche and mainstream media.
Born in the era of social media, one of the most interesting elements of crypto PR is just how many different channels are available to crypto companies, to reach their target audiences. While a handful of niche publications like MarketingLand exist for marketers, and Martech enthusiasts, the crypto media has exploded over the last few years, with hundreds of blogs, online magazines, and forums out there, and new channels popping up almost daily.
As such, while it is important for crypto companies to keep their fingers on the pulse in terms of news, and regulations, it is also extremely important for them to keep track of new media and social channels emerging, and understanding where their target users are spending their time.
Tools like Cision are a great way to keep track of which publications are covering crypto, blockchain, and ICO news, and gather the contact information for relevant crypto journalists and editors. However, tech-savvy crypto audiences are increasingly spending less time on blogs, and more time on emerging social channels, and messaging apps like Telegram.
Telegram is definitely the most active communication channel within the crypto community right now, featuring hundreds if not thousands of different groups for discovering new projects, networking, offering opinions and information, and of course, promoting.
However, due to their niche nature, evaluating the value of different channels, and crypto influencers on other channels like Telegram, Steemit, WeChat, and Naver, and red-flagging the ‘bagholders’ who are only promoting companies they have vested interests in, takes a lot more time and effort.
In a recent Medium post, Nicholas Donahue recommends crypto companies take the following steps to cut through the noise, and spend their marketing dollars on the influencers which can really help them meet their goals:
Evaluate the track record of influencers – do they promote projects which end up successful?
Check for consistency – does the crypto community agree with their opinions?
Sniff out bagholders – do they promote seemingly random projects which they may have a vested interested in, or be being paid by?
Check the size of the audience – how many followers do they have?
5. Put your money where your mouth is
Generally, effective PR strategies, SEO campaigns, and media relationships are developed over time. However, due to the nature of the industry, and the fact that the survival of many projects depends entirely on raising funding through ICOs, many crypto companies feel they need to explode off the starting line.
In my personal opinion, it is always better to plan longer term campaigns, which are more structured, sustainable, and affordable. But crypto companies which don’t have the patience to play the long game had better prepare themselves to splash out for the privilege of being placed in front of the right people.
While sponsored content is a norm in the tech media industry, it is even more prevalent in the crypto press. A recent BreakerMag article found as many as 50% of crypto editors contacted would cover a story in return for payment. And according to the article, many of the editors were willing to bend the rules and omit sponsorship declarations — in breach of SEC rules — for payments of as much as $5K per article. Naughty naughty!
Many other companies go down the well-trodden route of offering coins to early adopters who make referrals via social media channels. As reported in Fast Company, in April 2018 SpringRole, a blockchain company developing a professional verification and recruiting tool, offered 100 Spring tokens for every person a user invited to join its Telegram group. This led to a massive spike in membership from 1,500 members to 60,000 in just a month.
However, some companies are really breaking the bank through some particularly eye-grabbing guerilla marketing campaigns, such as SkyCoin convincing John Macafee to get a tattoo of their logo, or crypto exchange Bitmex hiring multiple Lamborghinis to park outside the Coindesk Consensus event in 2018 to put the dollar signs in potential investors eyes.
As the crypto industry and communities continue to grow and enter more into the mainstream, we are sure to see more and more players enter the market and try to get their slice of the pie. However, while increased attention, activity, and more successful, legitimate projects will boost consumer trust and in turn investments, more players will also boost competition as the market becomes increasingly saturated.
As such, crypto startups need to start thinking about their PR and marketing tactics from day one, so as to improve their chances of standing out from the crowd, placing themselves on the front page of Google, and making themselves visible on leading exchanges.
As we always tell clients, the best time to start developing your communications strategy is always right now. Because the chances are, your competitors are already two steps ahead of you.