Chris Dixon once said, "Crypto has grown to over a trillion dollars in aggregate market capitalization with almost no marketing spend”. In my experience, crypto projects have some of the most sophisticated and expensive marketing, at least relative to their size and funding.
What makes crypto unique is the intense competition between protocols and projects to attract developers and users along with their capital. These projects often need to construct multi-sided networks and entice builders way before they have appealing consumer-facing projects. And the community is key, as demonstrated by all the more efficient and affordable Ethereum killers that still couldn’t dethrone it. In addition, users frequently have to entrust crypto projects with their money, which requires an immense amount of trust, especially in the industry that lost $3.7Bn in 2022 alone.
This forces teams to spend money on PR and communications as yet another option to build trust and attract the audience they need. Ledger’s recent debacle showed the importance of choosing the right messaging and what could happen if you make a mistake.
Here’s why you need to do PR for crypto differently.
As we have assessed, the community in crypto is paramount. A project might have to communicate with multiple audiences simultaneously, including users, developers, investors, and partners. A slight mistake could shatter the most important asset, which is their trust. Then you could face users selling off your token, withdrawing assets from your exchange or protocol.
The most mature decentralized crypto projects aim to rebuild themselves as DAOs entrusting further governance to the community. Of course, the original development team usually still has plans for the project, but now they need to communicate their vision to the users efficiently. In a way, they turn into politicians, who need to get the public buy-in for their activities.
If your community doesn’t like what you have to say, they can vote the proposal out and dramatically affect the project’s course.
Some projects eventually turn into conglomerates of different teams, such as MakerDAO, where multiple sides have ownership over their messaging. They announce their own features, runa local events, and build up the narrative. In this case, your job will be to provide them with a unified messaging framework and resources needed to ensure everything is consistent.
In addition to your own followers and stakeholders, there’s always a wider crypto community that is very tight-knit, so you can expect good and bad news to travel fast.
While many traditional tech and business publications have hired dedicated crypto authors over the years, it’s safe to surmise most of the coverage and narratives are driven by crypto-focused publications, some of which have grown to millions of monthly readers. You need to learn their rules and understand what they’re interested in.
Crypto projects run airdrops, launch testnets, and mainnets, form a DAO that votes on key proposals, launch new tools and features, etc. Even crypto-focused publications won’t care about most of these details, unless you focus on the value. A major update of Ethereum’s testnet is a news event, while yours likely isn’t. Airdrops generate attention when your token is actually worth something and have a working and much-needed product behind them. Funding announcements need to have show how much you have raised and who the investors are not to end up in the bin.
In fact, there's always something going on in the crypto industry, providing you with an opportunity to comment. But you must be proactive in monitoring and responding to newsworthy industry events and developments.
You must always have a crisis communications plan ready, especially if your protocol or project holds users’ assets. Unfortunately for everyone, crypto projects are way more likely to be breached. Even if the hack wasn’t ultimate, most projects never fully recover. It might be something more minor, though, an inaccurate phrase provided by your executive on a podcast or a rush tweet.
Being able to run communications countermeasures successfully is one of the key reasons many crypto projects do any PR at all, simply to introduce their executives to reporters and experts in advance and build up their own channels.
Blockchains are transparent and traceable by design. Crypto had to build out dedicated tools like Tornado Cash to change this and continues working on privacy-preserving mechanisms such as zero-knowledge proofs. Therefore, most of your actions will be witnessed by the public, so you can’t hope to explain them later.
Figure out what could go wrong, what will you say and how you will distribute messages in each case. Crisis statements need to give a clear indication of what happened and the actions taken by the project.
Crypto is extremely technical. It often feels like if you miss a week you’ll have to learn ten new terms and projects just to catch up. And people in PR aren’t usually the most technical. You can usually get by in tech by being able to ask the right questions, but nothing tests your capabilities and knowledge like crypto.
In crypto, you need to know the landscape, understand what can make a particular announcement tick, and the probable implications for the users and the ecosystem as a whole. Sometimes you have to spend hours scrolling through Reddit, Discord, and Twitter just to figure out the pain points shared by users and developers. Otherwise, your announcement will be unoriginal and toothless.
Most importantly, assess this when hiring people to lead PR in-house or choosing an agency. Both options can work, although a truly early-stage project is unlikely to have enough tasks for a PR professional, unless they also have to cover marketing, community, events and other areas. In any case, figure out who will be working with you and what’s their personal level of involvement with crypto.
The current state of crypto regulation doesn’t make things simple for crypto projects. Coinbase literally had to ask SEC to explain what they could and couldn’t do. Yet they’re a giant publicly-traded corporation. The reality of many projects in the space is that they’re startups that have to deal with the requirements for public markets.
If you’ve ever issued a token or even raised funding from private investors through a token, you need to be extremely careful about your communications down to the very words you use. Otherwise, you might find yourself clashing with regulators from the United States or another country.
The exact requirements will depend on the nature of your business and the mechanics implement. Also, you shouldn’t expect to avoid the implications of the Securities Acts of 1933 by renaming investors as token purchasers. But you certainly shouldn’t invite their attention.
Building trust and establishing credibility are paramount goals for the majority of crypto projects. Collaboration with the media plays a crucial role in achieving these objectives, but it is essential to be aware of challenges and opportunities.
The byline was originally posted on Crypto News