ITL #281 - Leaping into the future that is blockchain technology: what PRs need to know5 years, 3 months ago
In order to communicate tech company brands credibly and effectively, PR practitioners must understand highly significant new technologies such as blockchain. By Candice Teo.
A massive technology wave has been transforming the way businesses operate. As various breakthrough nascent technologies are developed, a new tech enterprise starts up every day. In addition, leading organisations are getting involved with various pilots and projects.
With unicorn goals in mind, such tech start-ups are fast-realising the critical role of public relations and communications. Traditional PR agencies have specific tech-focused divisions and new in-house PR roles have been created.
This has led to PR professionals considering the change in industry. Blockchain technology is one that has been rapidly emerging and seems set to stay. With multiple projects in global markets, blockchain has been applied to a wide range of industries and the opportunities for PR professionals, regardless of industry background, are massive.
For those new in this field, some key insights can be taken into consideration in order to navigate this steep learning curve and successfully hit the ground running.
Know your tech and its impact
Credibility is one of the most important qualities for a PR professional. Knowing your tech is thus crucial in order to accurately and effectively communicate your enterprise’s brand and work.
This is especially important for blockchain as there have been varying views on the use of it.
Putting in the hard yards to learn about the tech is extremely valuable. Working in a tech enterprise means that you have access to the tech experts: make use of the resources and spend time with your colleagues to better understand their work.
Blockchain was first developed in 2008, used as a public transaction ledger for the world’s first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. Popular discourse then impressed in everyone’s mindset that blockchain is synonymous with Bitcoin and subsequently, cryptocurrency as more of such digital assets were released.
However, there are different applications of blockchain, itself being a type of distributed ledger technology, and the movement to disengage it from purely a crypto application has been strong. It is essential to understand the differences to shape the right narrative for your enterprise.
Another key point is understanding the other emerging technologies that can work in parallel to blockchain. Smart contracts, machine vision and IoT are some examples that provide value-add in blockchain-based solutions.
Primarily though, it is the understanding of the onward impact of blockchain that elevates your capability to drive an effective communications strategy.
With the intricacies of the global ecosystems, it is no longer just about the tech – it is about businesses, governance and society. My background in business has proven to be an added advantage in understanding the implications of blockchain use and how to develop messages that resonate with industry stakeholders.
Deep diving into related industries and being familiar with economic and societal challenges will amplify your capability to develop powerful messages and news angles.
Your communications strategy needs to progress in parallel with the enterprise’s growth trajectory. With research showing a high mortality rate of blockchain projects, it is important to build a solid communications strategy to cut above the noise of it being a mere fad.
Align PR goals and objectives with management as well as the wider team. At the same time, build their awareness on the value of PR and the impact of different communications efforts. Not everyone has an instinctive understanding of what is PR and the best approach.
There is a deep need to take the time to craft the right messaging for various stakeholders. Consistent messaging in the right language that is relatable to each set of stakeholders is required, as you tackle the capricious nature of an on-trend technology.
Ensure that your messaging is timeless – the constant exponential shift in the technology landscape needs to be taken into account so that your messaging remains relevant and adaptable when the conversations about blockchain changes.
Incorporate innovation into your PR work and align your strategy with your brand.
Media relations is a fundamental requirement and the shift to the digital media landscape has changed the way proactive media opportunities need to be pursued. Be it targeted content creation or an entrepreneurial approach to launches, message iteration needs to be done differently.
One favourite request from management is to put out a press release for every single piece of “news”. But any good PR professional knows that press releases need to be selective. Side-stepping the debate on whether the press release is dead, it is still a key tool used by PR professionals.
Be firm about whether a press release is integral to getting your news out. And if so, ensure that there is a robust news angle that will pique media and readers’ interest, to drive good earned media.
What may be innovative and exciting for an industry media outlet may not be the same for tech media outlets. Reader-test the news with your tech colleagues. Ascertain how to keep the conversation going even after the announcement to derive maximum PR value. Announcing a pilot program is well and good, but a positive follow up on the progress and outcome positions your enterprise as a veritable trailblazer.
Remember your audience
Your role as a PR professional is always to bridge the gap between media, industry and readers. The media may have an understanding of the tech, but ultimately they write for their readers and we need to make it easy for them to do so.
In fact, if your enterprise is doing pioneering work, be sure to educate the media and do not assume that the tech speaks for itself. Clear and concise headlines alongside compelling content allow the journalists to easily make the split-second decision on featuring your news.
As blockchain news becomes ubiquitous, its position as a buzzword to gain media attention is no longer. Keeping pace with the always-accelerating news ticker is integral and it varies across different industries.
Above all, keep your news and pitch grounded. We’ve done well in recent times to shake off the “fluff PR” label and let’s keep it that way.
Right off the bat, you need a global approach for your communications strategy. While blockchain transcends borders, the media landscape does not necessarily.
Understand your key target regions and the existing conversations about blockchain. A smaller media outlet could sometimes provide the needed media impact compared to a first glance top-tier media, especially if it is a niche industry news. Another way is to consider the type of blockchain conferences and events organized to gain insights on the region’s interest in blockchain.
Pitch your stories to the right media outlets. Remember that your news, especially if you are doing a joint announcement with other parties involved, needs to be of interest to that specific region. A known local company would be more newsworthy for the media outlets and their readers, in particular for consumer media.
Above everything, having the belief and passion for your enterprise’s blockchain work is a key component for your PR success. After all, if it is your reality, you’ll be more than excellently placed to change others’ eyes to see your reality.
Candice Teo has more than a decade of international experience (agency and in-house) in PR & Communications, mostly in the travel & tourism industry. She has a strong background in integrated communications, brand and marketing strategies, with majority of her career spent heading the Communications department of an Australian public-listed company. She is currently Head of PR & Communications at London-based Everledger, a global emerging tech enterprise that has pioneered high-value asset provenance tracking using blockchain, across various industries. Prior to making the leap into emerging tech, Candice ran her own PR & Communications consultancy, out of her current base in Paris.mail the author
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