With the early hype now over, every company or startup in the blockchain industry needs to show its relevance to a broader audience than just the B2B and tech community. In this blog, we share first-hand insights on how companies and startups should communicate in order to make (their) blockchain technology an everlasting hit. Read on to discover the three pillars you need to base your blockchain public relations strategy on right now.
- Blockchain technology: Why is it relevant to you?
- Why funding rounds don’t guarantee you coverage
- Libra: can Facebook’s new cryptocurrency float after its bad PR year?
- Talking TechComms: PR for blockchain companies [Podcast]
- Exploring the potential for blockchain in the M&E industry
- ConsenSys case study – positioning a blockchain brand in Europe
- Blockchain solutions: cutting through the noise
- Are you ready for blockchain 2.0?
- Talking TechComms: smart contracts & growing a blockchain brand [Podcast]
- Blockchain PR: getting over the hype with the right approach
- Ways to educate your blockchain audience
- A simple formula for blockchain storytelling
- Communication, the P2P way: social media and messengers
Blockchain technology: Why is it relevant to you?
Blockchain technology might appear impossibly complex, but you don’t need a degree in computer science to understand how it can benefit each and every one of us.
Contrary to the belief of some, blockchain isn’t an impenetrable technology, relevant only to those that work in the most techy of industries. Its inner workings might be a little complex, but its inherent qualities mean that it can be used to enhance operations in a vast range of sectors beyond finance and IT.
Providing an increased level of transparency, security and auditability, blockchain technology can deliver a number of benefits that will be felt by people and sectors of all kinds as it continues to develop.
For instance, blockchain technology can be used to bring much needed transparency to the charitable sector by allowing for the reliable tracing of donations. This means less corruption and embezzlement, and improved impact assessment. The integration of blockchain would mean donators can be certain that every penny donated is used exactly as promised.
The technology can also be used to establish a decentralised identity framework, removing control of personal data from private entities and governments, and placing control of digital identity in the hands of the individual. Systems such as this could have the greatest impact in countries in which citizens do not enjoy the luxury of a legal identity, and whose access to education, employment, and the financial system is therefore impaired.
In enterprise, blockchain is being employed to add an increased level of data security. The granular access control afforded by private, permissioned blockchain means data can only be viewed by and exchanged between those for whom it’s role-relevant. Minimising the possibility that business data falls into the wrong hands means consumers are far less likely to suffer the consequences of a data breach or hack.
The height of fashion
The above use cases show how the technology has begun to pique the interest of all kinds of media – some being more unusual than others. A perfect illustration of the growing interest in the technology within non-technical sectors comes from this article in Vogue about blockchain in fashion, which we secured for our client ConsenSys.
ConsenSys is collaborating with Microsoft and LVMH, parent company to fashion brands Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, on a platform to track high-value luxury goods. The platform aims to prevent the circulation of counterfeit goods, by allowing owners to trace the provenance of items right back to their source. The timeline of a product —from raw materials through dying, weaving, tanning and shipping—is tracked in its entirety, providing increased transparency for customers.
“The benefits for customers are increased transparency and enhanced ethical products,” the group said. “Every step of the item’s life cycle is registered, enabling new and transparent storytelling.”
In use-cases such as this, blockchain technology no longer feels like an abstract concept – its relevance to real-world challenges is made clear. As it reaches maturity, many more use-cases like this will pop up across a whole range of non-technical and consumer-facing industries, where blockchain will work behind the scenes to augment multiple processes.
Soon, our lives will all become blockchain-enabled in some way or form, and most of us won’t even know it!
Why funding rounds don’t guarantee you coverage
Generating coverage from funding announcements is now more of a challenge than ever before, but it’s proving to be a particular issue in the blockchain sector. Blockchain companies are currently fighting to capitalise on the hype around the technology and cement their position in an industry that is set to explode over the coming years, which presents some hurdles that have to be overcome. Blockchain public relations is hard enough as it is, and it gets even harder when you add funding announcements into the mix.
“So, what do blockchain brands need to do to overcome these challenges? How can they get their voices heard in an increasingly noisy industry? Click the link below to read the full article on why your funding round doesn’t guarantee coverage – and what to do about it.
Libra: can Facebook’s new cryptocurrency float after its bad PR year?
On the 18th June 2019, Facebook announced its long-awaited cryptocurrency Libra, which will be released in 2020. Facebook’s plunge into blockchain and the crypto landscape could mean big things for the finance industry, as the social media giant goes head-to-head with banks by trying to create a borderless currency. London lorry Francesca D’arcy-Orga discusses the challenges facing Facebook after its bad PR year, along with the things it should be taking into consideration in its blockchain public relations.
What does #Libra, @facebook‘s cryptocurrency, and #Calibra mean for #blockchain? London lorry Francesca D’arcy-Orga reveals all and discusses Facebook’s challenges after a bad #PR year: pic.twitter.com/uOqumoSYvF
— RedLorry YellowLorry (@RedLorryComms) June 18, 2019
Talking TechComms: PR for blockchain companies [Podcast]
When it comes to blockchain, we know that there’s a huge amount of noise at the moment. In the tech industry and beyond, brands are falling over themselves to talk about how they are using blockchain technology to transform business some kind of business process – even though most of them aren’t actually using blockchain at all, or don’t have a functioning product.
The race to establish share of voice is at fever pitch – presenting a real challenge for marketing teams in companies that do have viable blockchain solutions.
So, this podcast will focus on uncovering the biggest myths in blockchain PR and marketing, and how brands can cut through the noise to get their voices heard.
Exploring the potential for blockchain in the M&E industry
Blockchain has quickly become one of the most widely discussed technologies across industries, with the potential to disrupt business models and transform digital transactions. So, if you’re wondering why the media and entertainment (M&E) industry should care about blockchain, you’ve come to the right place.
For NAB Show 2019, the lorries worked with NAB and our client IBM Aspera to organize a blockchain panel for the AI+Cloud Campus in the bustling South Lower hall. Titled “Blockchain: next-gen security standard for the M&E value chain?”, the panel attracted a sizeable crowd, demonstrating the media industry’s interest in the nascent technology.
Moderator Guy Finley, executive director of the Content Delivery & Security Association (CDSA) and Media & Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) and CEO of the Trusted Partner Network (TPN), led an engaging discussion between industry figures who are spearheading the use of blockchain in various parts of the M&E value chain:
From production to monetization
The discussion kicked off with each of the panelists outlining their interest in blockchain. Aspera’s James Wilson explained how Aspera’s interest was sparked by the company’s efforts to build trust in cloud-based workflows and how shared or distributed ledgers can be used to track the provenance of assets in an industry where the matrix of people that touch assets has exploded.
Wilson also described how smart contracts (self-executing contracts with the terms of the agreement directly written into code that’s stored on a blockchain network), offer the potential to build rich features like secure key exchange and rights management.
In comparison, Breaker’s Adam Lesh was more interested in how blockchain can be used to manage rights and royalties for independent artists by registering every transaction to the blockchain. As a blockchain entertainment studio, Breaker (formerly SingularDTV) is developing a media supply chain to empower independent artists – across film, TV, music, eBooks and podcasts – to own, control and monetize their content. Its offering runs on the Ethereum blockchain platform, using tokens and smart contracts to solve pain points for independent artists and consumers.
BeBop’s Dave Benson then spoke about how blockchain can be used as a chain of provenance in the post-production aspect of the M&E value chain, while CAA’s Eric Iverson talked about the difference between centralized and decentralized ledgers and his belief in creating a super-centralized ledger for B2B transactions like sharing assets between studios.
Centralized vs. decentralized, public vs. private
Benson argued that the debate around blockchain shouldn’t be about centralizing or decentralizing workflows, but about having consensus when it comes to logs and databases. Iverson then pointed out that everyone has to be willing to make their internal data available externally – a sentiment echoed by Lesh, who highlighted the need for transparency so that anyone can audit the information. For Lesh, it’s about “creating an agreed-upon business process that works for everyone in the system as long as they’re willing to share their data”.
This led to a debate about public versus private blockchains. Wilson believes there are use cases for both. For distribution, you want the transparency of an open platform like Ethereum, but for content that’s highly valuable, a private blockchain might be more suitable. Hyperledger, for example, is an open source collaborative effort hosted by the Linux Foundation to advance cross-industry blockchain technologies that offer enterprise-grade privacy and security.
Lesh pointed out that the challenge with using private blockchain is that you’re controlling access to it, but Benson argued that “off-chain” transactions for secure content would still be recorded in the chain.
Looking at the bigger picture, Finley compared the media industry’s adoption of blockchain to cloud adoption. “The steps we had to take to get to it – private, hybrid, public. It took time to get used to it,” he said. But he argued that the technology should be fluid and able to morph with the use case.
Clearly, there is plenty to think about when deciding whether public or private is the best option. Whatever your preference, Iverson proposed asking yourself three questions to evaluate whether you have a good blockchain use case for the B2B world:
- Do you have an active community that can work on it?
- Do you have a value proposition to solve it?
- Is the timing right?
Advances in media and entertainment
The panelists wrapped up the discussion by outlining their involvement in advancing the media industry’s adoption of blockchain. Lesh started by describing how Breaker’s use case is rights, royalty and revenue management. By tokenizing content and distributing tokens among rights holders, the company is able to streamline processes like contract negotiations. This holds much promise for accounting transparency – a major paint point in the M&E industry today.
Wilson then outlined how Aspera is looking at integrated security best practices, including the secure exchange of keys and forensic watermarking, and said that they’ll be publicizing their work over the coming months. He also highlighted the need for a common language to describe how we’re moving assets or rich data. He and his fellow panelists are looking for others to participate to build a digital asset trust network based on open standards and to define interfaces to build features on. “There’s an opportunity for people to jump in and describe how their piece fits in,” he said.
Finally, Benson added that BeBop Technology is working on how to describe the workflow and application part. “Bring forth your use cases, get involved,” he said.
Ultimately, blockchain technology has the potential to be highly valuable to the media and entertainment industry – from increasing trust and driving new security practices to improving the efficiency of increasingly distributed content supply chains. As a foundation for building trust networks and supporting standards for the secure exchange of data, blockchain could be the key to enabling new cloud and hybrid workflows for the media and entertainment industry across production, content distribution, monetization and beyond. However, it’s clear that everyone in the industry must work together to reap the blockchain public relations benefits and ensure its future success.
ConsenSys case study: cutting through the noise
ConsenSys, one of the largest and fastest growing blockchain companies in the world – approached us with the challenge of building its presence in Europe. As its EMEA blockchain PR agency, we were tasked with growing brand recognition of ConsenSys and helping to drive adoption of the Ethereum blockchain in the UK, France and Germany.
Blockchain solutions: cutting through the noise
If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that the blockchain landscape is a noisy one. Almost every technology company on the market is talking about the benefits of blockchain – even though many of them don’t actually have any active blockchain solutions or any plans to unveil one anytime soon.
This clamour to establish share of voice in the space has primarily been driven by the massive hype around bitcoin and the possibilities of adjacent market opportunities. This reached a crescendo at the end of 2017 when the price of bitcoin soared to nearly $20,000 and, although the hype has since died down somewhat and the value of cryptocurrencies has diminished, blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies are still dominating conversations around the world.
Meaning, those businesses that do actually have viable blockchain solutions have to find ways to effectively navigate this noisy landscape to make sure their solution gets the attention it deserves.
There’s also the issue of the confusion attached to how the technology actually works. The mere mention of the word ‘blockchain’ causes many people to either switch off or just smile and nod along with the conversation. However, with the potential to transform the way we live and work, enterprises cannot afford to not understand the transformative power of blockchain anymore.
With all this in mind, we’ve put together some tips to help technology companies cut through the noise in what is becoming an increasingly crowded market.
Are you ready for blockchain 2.0?
Technology adoption tends to come in waves. We’ve already seen this happen in many industries, such as cloud computing and cyber-security, and now we’re seeing the same pattern with blockchain.
If you work as a marketer in a blockchain business, thinking about the next wave may sound a bit premature given that blockchain has only really become a mainstream topic in the last couple of years. Especially as many audiences still struggle to get to grips with the intricacies of the technology. But, those familiar with the industry will tell you that a transition from ‘blockchain 1.0’ to ‘blockchain 2.0’ is definitely taking place.
Most of us are familiar with the blockchain 1.0 era. It is characterised by the explosion of cryptocurrency applications – primarily focused on bitcoin – and the use of blockchain technology to facilitate digital transactions. According to McKinsey, the number of blockchain-enabled cryptocurrencies grew from 69 in 2016 to more than 1,500 in 2018, while the total cryptocurrency market capitalisation increased from $11 billion to around $150 billion in the same timeframe.
But, as we well know, nothing stays the same for long in the tech world. With more and more business realising the vast potential of the technology beyond cryptocurrencies, the next era of blockchain is fast approaching.
Gearing up for blockchain 2.0
When thinking about the distinguishing features of blockchain 2.0, the key thing to remember is that it’s all about solving practical business problems. Over the coming years, the development of business applications of blockchain will accelerate significantly, covering everything from fraud management and supply-chain monitoring, to identity verification and smart contracts.
Indeed, this trend is already well underway. Corporate investment in blockchain hit $1 billion in 2017 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 50 percent through to 2021. What’s more, recent McKinsey research identified more than 90 use cases for blockchain business applications across industries, highlighting the technology’s true potential.
The challenge for the industry at the moment is that blockchain’s use in business is still largely theoretical. Organisations have so far been reluctant to proceed because of high costs, unclear returns, and technical difficulties, resulting in many developments getting stuck in the pilot stage.
But don’t worry, this won’t last for long. As the blockchain 2.0 era continues to take shape, ‘traditional’ cryptocurrency applications will likely surrender their prominence to business applications that can increase efficiencies, streamline processes and reduce costs.
Blockchain development will gradually become less complex and expensive, regulatory frameworks will become clearer and standards will be introduced, prompting many more companies to take the plunge rather than sitting on the sidelines.
Making yourself heard
A new age of blockchain is certainly coming and businesses can’t afford to stand still if they want to capitalise on the industry’s imminent future growth. This means PR and marketing professionals have to start developing a communications strategy if they want to be able to cut through the noise and get ahead of the competition.
For example, a key factor will be the ability to communicate the practical, human benefits of their technology. What business problem is it solving? How does it make the lives of employees easier? Why is blockchain the most effective solution? Having clear, concise answers to all these questions will be essential.
Another important piece of the jigsaw will be identifying the target audience and appealing to their needs. Rather than getting caught up in the technology, any blockchain business that wants to expand its reach in 2019 will have to remember who its audience is and outline the key benefits of its solution.
It won’t happen overnight, but putting these building blocks in place early will go a long way towards helping businesses establish their position in the future of blockchain 2.0 and beyond.
Smart contracts & growing a blockchain brand [Podcast]
You don’t have to be an industry expert to know that blockchain is currently one of the hottest technologies around. Despite still being in its relevant infancy, it is generating huge investment in all manner of industries and has the potential to be hugely transformative to future business operations.
To shed more light on the growing industry, we spoke to Patrick Degenhardt, head of marketing EMEA at our client ConsenSys. Formed in 2015, ConsenSys is one of the world’s leading blockchain software technology companies. It is an incubator for projects and start-ups using blockchain, working with them to provide tangible, real world results.
In just three years it has grown to 1,100 employees worldwide and is a great example of a blockchain success story for any aspiring businesses.
Read on for Patrick’s insights on how to market blockchain, the impact of smart contracts on soy beans and how blockchain can help to solve the problems found on a 4,000 year old clay tablet.
The power of smart contracts
Built on the Ethereum platform, smart contracts offer one of the biggest perceived benefits of blockchain technology. The fundamental difference between a ‘normal’ and ‘smart’ contract is that a standard contract outlines the terms of a relationship, whereas a smart contract enforces that relationship with cryptographic code.
Patrick went as far as to describe smart contracts as “a fundamental element of blockchain” and explained their benefits through the story of a recently-discovered 4,000 year old clay tablet. Written on the tablet was essentially a complaint from the recipient of a copper delivery that hadn’t fulfilled an agreement. The transaction hadn’t met the standards outlined in the contract.
“4,000 years ago people were having the same problems that they still do now,” Patrick said. “Blockchain came to solve this issue of trust. It creates a technology that doesn’t depend on people needing to trust each other, as the underlying technology creates this trust through smart contracts.”
So, how do these smart contracts work? In simple terms, they provide an “if, then” function, If I receive X that fulfills certain conditions (quality, quantity, origin etc.), then this amount of money will be exchanged. “It doesn’t require any trust in individuals. If the conditions are met then the transaction is processed. It solves a 4,000 year old problem.”
That’s clearly an extremely compelling use case of blockchain technology but, being self-centered PRs, we wanted to know how it could impact us. Will smart contracts have an impact on marketing and communications?
“They could have,” said Patrick. “They will impact any process that has an intermediation because blockchain can eliminate or drastically reduce intermediaries in a certain process.
Let’s take one industry that we are working in at the moment – the commodity trading business, meaning cargo ships transporting tonnes and tonnes of soy beans from Brazil to China, for instance. In order for that process to occur, there is a ridiculous amount of paperwork and people involved just acting as intermediaries. They are not bringing any value to the transaction, they’re just taking value. With blockchain, you can disintermediate this. You will still require a number of people in the process, but the way that these people work will be extremely streamlined.
It completely changes the mindset in certain industries and the same thing could be applied to marketing. If you are not creating value through your creativity, connections etc., you are at risk in the future.
That’s us warned then!
Making your mark
We also asked Patrick about the biggest blockchain public relations challenges and opportunities for companies in 2019, as well as how start-ups can effectively promote their solutions.
He explained that one of the main challenges at this point is the relative youth of the industry: “Blockchain is still an extremely nascent technology at this point in late 2018. If you compare it with the wider adoption of the internet, it’s about 1996 or ‘97 now for blockchain. The boom hasn’t really started. We are building the foundations, we’re building the infrastructure and we’re making the infrastructure more efficient.”
However, this is starting to change. Leading organisations such as Amazon and Microsoft are starting to adopt blockchain tech and, as the industry continues to grow, the key thing for smaller companies to remember is that the customer is key.
You have to really understand your end user, if it’s a b2b company or a b2c solution. You have to really think about the user experience and develop your project around this.
To me the fact that it’s created on the blockchain is, to a certain extent, less relevant than the solution the company is bringing. If we take the cargo ship example, whether the solution runs on the blockchain or not, all that matters is that it reduces the time for the transaction to happen from weeks to minutes. That’s the real, tangible benefit.
So, there you have it. If you’re a company using blockchain and you want to expand your reach in 2019, don’t get caught up in the technology. Make sure you remember who your audience is and lay out the benefits that you’re bringing to your customers.
Listen to the full podcast to hear more valuable marketing insights from Patrick and find out what it’s like to work at one of the world’s leading blockchain organisations.
Blockchain public relations: Getting over the hype with the right approach
By Tobias Körner
Remember 2017, the year everyone was talking about blockchain and Bitcoin, even Joe Bloggs? Yes? Well, times have changed. People, meaning mostly journalists and influencers — we are here to talk about PR, after all — have turned their attentions to AI (again) and are no longer interested in just talking about blockchain for the sake of it.
But why is this? The main reason is that most people now understand the broad concepts of blockchain technology. They know it is complex, life-changing, disruptive, revolutionary, and that you could have become super rich if you had bought the right cryptocurrency five years ago (and not as rich if you kept it in 2018). The initial hype has died down, meaning conversations need to progress.
Now that the bubble is beginning to burst, it’s actually a good time for many blockchain companies and startups to get going with their blockchain PR. Quite simply, the question of what to make of cryptocurrencies and blockchains, as The Economist puts it, for example, is now arising more and more.
So, the challenge now is to show why your blockchain company or startup is here to stay. In other words: People need to see how blockchain technology can change their life or the lives of others. And not only in five or ten years time, but today, this year or next year.
(If you haven’t already, this is the perfect time to read the book ‘Crossing The Chasm’ by Geoffrey A. Moore. It’s a must-read for every marketer and PR professional in high-tech industries and demonstrates how you can take a new technology from innovators and early adopters to an early and then late majority market. This is exactly the struggle within the blockchain ecosystem right now.)
Let us make it simple here and apply a straightforward but effective ingredient to your blockchain public relations strategy: Storytelling.
‘Really? That is too simple’, you may think. But read the following three tips — we call them the key pillars of every PR strategy for blockchain companies — and see how storytelling is the connecting element between all of them:
EDUCATE about the problems inherent in the most common (Web 2.0) technologies/systems/platforms used today, the causes and the ideal state, which can be built on blockchain technologies. (And, of course, the basics of blockchain still need to be explained.) Check out the video below by our client, Consensys:
Think of this as the part of your blockchain public relations strategy that demystifies blockchain to reach a wider audience. Besides the standard public relations repertoire (press releases and pitches for general/specialised outreach, bylined articles for thought leadership), our tools of choice are:
- Offline events, like a small meetup with a group of journalists, not only from Financial Times, The Economist, CoinTelegraph or Coindesk, but also mainstream outlets like BBC, Forbes and The Times, to exemplify and discuss use cases for blockchain technology;
- Online events, like webinars/live-chats for a) media representatives and business influencers who lack the time to travel to events outside their offices and b) potential users/customers;
- Dedicated one-on-one briefings (online or offline) with journalists to give them the chance to understand the complexity of blockchain and the role your company/startup wants to play in the ecosystem.
One other option is to serialise educational content. Perhaps do a regular podcast or a series of educational YouTube videos? Either way, PR can support you in developing the right strategy and messaging for owned media.
SHOWCASE the solutions you are developing based on blockchain technology. That’s what we are helping ConsenSys to do. The company is a global formation of more than 1,000 technologists, entrepreneurs and developers building the infrastructure, applications, and practices that enable a decentralised world. With its 50+ running projects, ConsenSys has a huge pool of stories to tell.
By showcasing not only what you are doing but also who is doing it, you give complex blockchain technology a friendly face — someone that people can relate to. Also, when combined with the educational part, organising a meetup together with other players in the industry, just like the Berlin-based startup Centrifuge did, will help people to connect the dots.
Every blockchain company is covering at least two areas of potential (media) interest: 1) the tech/blockchain industry and 2) the sub-industry they are operating in. Adding local interest or meta topics provides a lot of angles for blockchain public relations.
INSPIRE journalists, influencers, potential users and customers by presenting not only a vision of the (near) future, but also by making information/products/services easily accessible. When you’re planning to pitch a story to journalists, for instance, think of writing a newsletter and ending it with a call-to-action like ‘click here to find out how to get started’. Also, as inspiring as a written article may be, make sure to use the right people in your company to tell the stories over different channels — including video in your toolset is key!
‘Why is it important to inspire’, you ask? Well, think of ‘artificial intelligence’, the other hot topic at the moment. If asked what it means or what’s behind this term, nearly everyone will have something in mind and can answer more or less adequately, because people can relate to both, ‘artificial’ (as the opposite of ‘natural’) and ‘intelligence’. Now step back, leave your filter bubble and ask: what’s ‘blockchain’? Yes, it is, simply said, a chain of blocks — but what does that mean?
Long story short: It takes more basic knowledge to understand the advantages of blockchain technology — this is something a proper blockchain PR strategy needs to take into account. If you try to address people who interact with more mainstream media, you need not only to explain things, but also to inspire, so that people see what they can do thanks to your product/service.
A simple formula for blockchain storytelling:
- Begin with a problem your target group knows about (e.g. a lack of data sovereignty)
- Explain what causes this problem (architecture and business models of online platforms in web 2.0)
- Describe what an improved/the real condition should be like (everyone really owns his/her data and can decide who’s allowed to use it)
- Outline what solution you have to offer (such as uPort, an open identity system for the decentralised web)
- Add a call-to-action (ask yourself who’s in control of your data/learn more/join the community).
Communication, the P2P way: Social Media and messengers
As blockchain is all about turning centralised transaction processes to more decentralised ones, the envisioned updated world will rely on peer-to-peer actions and networks. Taking this into account for your blockchain public relations strategy, you need to communicate person-to-person (P2P) as well, especially if you want to get in touch with the tech community and/or an interested and supporting crowd of people from the early majority.
That means you should not only use social networks like Twitter, Reddit or LinkedIn, but also messengers like Telegram or — for earning real credibility in the Ethereum community — Status. And as everyone is using Slack and reading newsletters in the tech industry, go use these tools and #BUIDL your community!
Do you need support in developing and executing a proper PR strategy for your blockchain company/startup? Drop us a line today: firstname.lastname@example.org.