Growing up is hard to do. This is especially the case for anyone who finds themselves thrust into the spotlight from an early age. One example that comes to mind is Drew Barrymore who found worldwide adoration as the little blonde-haired girl in E.T., but then went off the rails as a young teenager, until eventually maturing into a respected actress, charming audiences in comedic roles in such movies as Fifty First Dates and The Wedding Singer.
If cryptocurrency were a person, it wouldn’t be too far off to believe it would follow a similar trajectory as a child star. In its infancy and early childhood, crypto was constantly in the spotlight, famous for making overnight billionaires and full of breathless promise. That was a few years ago. Today, its lustre has worn off, Bitcoin has plunged to a new low for the year, and the SEC is starting to provide some clear guidance on what constitutes as an ICO security token. Bitcoin turned 10 years old this Halloween. Right on schedule, crypto seems to be entering a gawky, troubled adolescence.
As with most teenagers, rules are paramount. Trusted adults — parents, teachers, coaches who have been there, done that — are necessary to provide sound guidance and impart wisdom and life experience. For ICOs, this means the days of flaunting the rules and embracing a lawless Wild West mentality are over. It’s time to start acting like a grown-up.
The way ICOs used to attract and market to investors doesn’t work anymore. Barely two years ago, a typical ICO marketing strategy would mean gathering a large following on Telegram and focusing on a social media campaign with online community management. Any efforts to build the story around a new offering would have included a fly-by-night roadshow, hitting up various conferences to help put a face to a name.
Today, a well-developed ICO marketing plan should embrace a more traditional approach: executing against four key marketing pillars: paid, earned, shared and owned media (also known as the “PESO Model”). Many teams understand what’s involved in implementing the paid and shared pillars, however are less aware of how to properly execute the earned and owned pillars, public relations and content marketing.
Using a traditional marketing mix is the best way to get your project’s messages and value propositions across to your key audiences. Projects need to grow beyond community management on Telegram to strategy to tell their story in a compelling manner and connect with the influencers and media who can help amplify their message so it captures the attention of investors, industry, and end users.
Moreover, the ever-evolving regulatory environment surrounding blockchainmeans that a strategic approach to communications all the more crucial. Here’s a brief cheat sheet that outlines some high-level best practices in PR and content marketing:
EARNED MEDIA STRATEGY
Earned media is publicity received based on the newsworthiness of the content or the expertise of the person being interviewed. Essentially, it is media that is free exposure for you, your company and your brand. Earned media enhances visibility and heightens credibility, leading to elevated awareness of you and your business:
Media relations is just that — relationship building. By closely following and targeting the right reporters at the right time, you establish yourself as a credible and reliable source. This is where tools like press releases to announce company news, and media pitches to keep reporters apprised of your project updates, fall into the picture.
Media Monitoring: If you’re not already doing so, you need to regularly track news, trends, and topics impacting the industries relevant to your project so that you can reach out and offer a spokesperson as an expert to comment on these issues as they arise.
Media Database: Keep track of who is covering what in a media list database. Identify reporters, bloggers, and influencers who you want to target and offer your expert(s) as a source. Scour the internet for their e-mail addresses, and start a spreadsheet with notes. (Note: services like Cision and Meltwater which automate this process, capturing media contact information and monitoring news by keywords, are time savers, but can be pricey).
OWNED MEDIA STRATEGY
Content Marketing/Thought Leadership Marketing: ICO project experts should write authoritative articles showcasing their knowledge and expertise that can be posted on industry blogs and websites. The aim is to demonstrate thought leadership to key stakeholders. By creating content that addresses commonly asked questions or in response to recent legislation or trending topics, you position yourself as a helpful, knowledgeable resource and are helping credential the brand and underscore the value of your company.
In this recent example, Michael Lumbley, director of development at Alternative Resource Group, a blockchain-based clean energy development group, wrote “Beyond Politics: A project manager’s argument for clean energy,” in which he argues for the need for new technologies such as distributed energy resources and blockchain to help fix the global energy system.
In addition, securing backlinks is a critical component to any long-term digital marketing strategy, and placing an article on a third-party site with your brand keywords boosts page rankings.
These tips barely scratch the surface of what a full-scale marketing plan entails. The driving principle, however, is clear: excellent content and thought leadership (i.e. experts willing to talk about what they know, take a position, and respond in a timely manner) are critical to a project’s communications strategy. The good news is that as daunting as all of this might sound, this kind of proactive brand evangelism is usually second nature to passionate entrepreneurs. A well thought-out earned and owned media plan simply harnesses their energy in a strategic manner.
ICOs are at an important point in their maturation. Just like teenagers who are starting to drive, they’re receiving more scrutiny from authorities — not to mention institutional investors. It’s an exciting time for ICOs to prove that they can withstand the storm and make their mark. The smart projects will be the ones run by leaders who embrace the tried-and-true business practices as part of their plans for growth and follow a traditional marketing plan to show why they deserve respect — and more to the point — investors.