ITL #417 The transformative power of blockchain: opportunities for Communicators

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Blockchain is going to solve many business problems, including in PR. As an industry, we need to learn much more about it. By Philippe Borremans.



Technology and public relations have never really been good friends. It took our profession a long time before truly understanding the impact the internet would have. Still, as Communicators we need to keep up to date with the latest developments and therefore  I would like to explore the potential use of blockchain technology in PR.

 

This isn’t the first IPRA thought leadership essay to tackle blockchain themes. For further  enlightenment, let me point you in the direction of Candice Teo’s piece on what we in PR should know in order to communicate about blockchain effectively and Saskia Stolper’s excellent essay on the storytelling pillars necessary to build a blockchain brand.

 

What is blockchain?

The term ‘blockchain’ has become more widespread lately and is used in many areas of business, especially in relation to the tech industry. We often associate it with the cryptocurrency and virtual currency sector. A person known as Satoshi Nakamoto actually coined the term and created the first ‘blockchain application’ called bitcoin.

"Bitcoin is nothing but digital currency (cryptocurrency) which can be used in the place of fiat money for trading. And we term the underlying technology behind the success of crypto currencies as blockchain." - @mayank on Hackernoon.

 

Or if you’d prefer something more flippant, you’d do well to top this amusing definition of bitcoin from the comedian John Oliver: “Everything you don’t understand about money combined with everything you don’t understand about computers.”(1)

 

Droll as this observation is, it’s also a wake-up call for Communicators. We need to learn more about these important technological developments which are evolving at pace, as evidenced by the sudden rise in usage of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) which allow something original or unique to be registered on a blockchain, turning it into an asset by distinguishing it from copies. That’s why Twitter founder Jack Dorsey was recently able to auction off his first tweet for $2.9 million and artists have been able to sell digital artworks as one-offs, sometimes for astronomical figures, such as the $69.3 million paid for a Beeple digital collage in March.

The importance of the blockchain is that it introduces several extra features and functionality to data and transactions. That’s why blockchain is often seen as a viable solution to many business problems and just like the internet over 25 years ago, it has the power to transform everything, including our profession.

Applying blockchain technology to PR

Blockchain offers a lot of things for public relations professionals to think about:

 

  • Blockchain technology, together with artificial intelligence can validate and recognise online identities. It could become a smart way to build public relations plans as it makes it much easier for us to receive authentic feedback from real, identified audiences rather than bots or fake accounts. If you're not worried about online fraud through fake accounts and bots, ask our advertising cousins; $30 billion falls through the cracks every year because of global ad fraud and this is expected to rise to $50 billion.

 

  • Blockchain applications give PR professionals the power to prove the authenticity of official communication, just like KBC Bank & Insurances does. Journalists, investors or customers can upload a press release or a PowerPoint presentation in PDF format to their blockchain tool. If the document does not originate from the company, or if its not the most recent version, it will notify them that the document is not authentic. The same approach is being taken by Euronext Corporate Services, a subsidiary of the Euronext stock exchange. Euronext customers can use the Wiztrust blockchain certification platform to combat fake news for listed companies.(2) If an individual or group tampers with a corporate announcement, it could impact the stock price of the company. The platform certifies corporate press releases on the blockchain, and works as a layer of security and trust for the investors and other parties. Associated News (AP) and the Italian news agency ANSA used blockchain technology to combat fake news.(3) AP to cover the latest presidential elections in the United States and ANSA to fight disinformation about covid-19.

 

  • The PR industry is fairly limited in terms of how it deals with value-added data storage and distribution. Blockchain technology allows us to manage any kind of data securely, making sure that no changes happen without the knowledge of the involved parties. Smart contracts can already vastly improve the way we do business with clients and suppliers. As you know, it is not about if you or your client will experience a cyber crisis in the form of a data breach but when, so better to see what potential benefits the blockchain can bring.

 

  • Blockchain technology has already found its way into emergency response and risk management. A blockchain solution deployed in this context empowers stakeholders during emergencies to communicate and respond on time. It makes it possible for agencies involved in the crisis to use their current communication set up and add it to the ‘crisis blockchain’. All communication assets are recorded and the records, once generated, cannot be edited or tampered with. And as we well know, a secure environment leads to trust, which then makes good stakeholder management possible.

 

  • In the same vein and relevant to internal communications; blockchain based messenger applications. The need for privacy and data security has long been the focus of corporations seeking to keep their internal workings private. Dust, Sylo and the better known Telegram are all examples of highly secure communication tools which can be integrated on an enterprise scale.


Blockchain and technology are progressing so fast that they often go unnoticed. However, they have the potential to change the way we work in many ways.

 

You can see how it could increase transparency and diversity, change current promotional methods, and bring new innovations to the public relations profession. What’s more, blockchain technology will probably play a big enabling role in many urgent societal problems.

 

We are in 2021 and yet still live in a world where the median salary for men is roughly 19% higher than the median salary for women. But although according to ScienceFriday, “95% of blockchain enthusiasts and crypto investors are male”, the principles behind the technology are the basis for a truly inclusive environment.

 

As Ghita El Kasri puts it in Why Blockchain Technology is Empowering Women, “For once, progress is value-driven. Contributions are measured on quality, removed for gender, race, or any other political issue. Equality is baked in to the peer-to-peer system, and barrier to entry and use are significantly lower than in traditional financial markets. Inclusion is the name of the game – with every blockchain racing to reach critical mass and encourage mass adoption.” 

 

Links/further reading:

(1) Watch John Oliver explain Bitcoin using $15,000 Beanie Babies and rap videos. (2018). Retrieved 12 April 2021, from https://www.theverge.com/tldr/2018/3/12/17108852/john-oliver-explaining-bitcoin-cryptocurrency-blockchain-watch-this

(2) Wiztrust to help Euronext listed firms tackle fake corporate news with blockchain - Ledger Insights - enterprise blockchain. (2021). Retrieved 12 April 2021, from https://www.ledgerinsights.com/euronext-to-use-wiztrust-to-tackle-fake-corporate-news-blockchain/

(3) ANSA leveraging blockchain technology to help readers check source of news - English. (2020). Retrieved 12 April 2021, from https://www.ansa.it/english/news/science_tecnology/2020/04/06/ansa-using-blockchain-to-help-readers_af820b4f-0947-439b-843e-52e114f53318.html

 

Global Women in Blockchain (GWB) is the first international umbrella organisation designed to activate and accelerate the powerful partnerships of women to lead in the education, development and promotion of blockchain technologies. 

https://globalwomeninblockchain.org

 

Blockchain Applications for Disaster Management and National Security. By Mohit Singh Panesir.

https://ubir.buffalo.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10477/78060/Panesir_buffalo_0656M_15789.pdf?sequence=3 

 

BlockChain Principle, Type & Application & Why You Should Care About It? By @pramodAIML.

https://medium.com/the-programmer/blockchain-principle-type-application-why-you-should-care-about-it-249417b516cc#

 

Wiztrust to help Euronext listed firms tackle fake corporate news with blockchain.

https://www.ledgerinsights.com/euronext-to-use-wiztrust-to-tackle-fake-corporate-news-blockchain/

 

Blockchain in advertising - Is it the answer to digital advertisings trust and transparency gap?

https://www.pwc.com/us/en/industries/tmt/library/blockchain-in-advertising.html

 

Why Blockchain Technology is Empowering Women

https://www.policycenter.ma/opinion/why-blockchain-technology-empowering-women#.YEc1WV2mMTU

 


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The Author

Philippe Borremans

Philippe Borremans is an independent Public Relations consultant specialising in Emergency Risk & Crisis Communication and President of the International Public Relations Association (2021)..

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