Author: Samantha Yap
YAP Global | CEO and Founder
Web3 marketing strategies are on the rise but while the industry innovates, new marketing and PR rules are forming. Web3 and crypto founders face two major public relations challenges in their role. First, the decentralized nature of Web3 protocols means there’s a global community and governance layer to communicate with. These are vocal segments and, by definition, will have a huge say in the future of their project.
Second, crypto founders are often required to educate the public about blockchain technology while simultaneously battling its stigma.
When I fell down the crypto rabbit hole five years ago, what drew me in were the intelligent and hardworking founders and entrepreneurs. While they all had unique stories to tell, they rarely focused on getting their message out beyond those who were already deep in this world. Many, if we’re being honest, did not fully understand what PR is and how it can help.
As a result, crypto and Web3 now have a PR problem. One of the main reasons is new PR rules were not established yet. After five years of helping crypto and web3 teams tell their stories, I’ve made a few useful observations. Here are the new PR rules for Web3. Understanding PR vs marketing vs community building
The crypto and web3 industry is relatively young and by nature, many new teams have yet to understand the differences between PR, marketing, and community building.
Like traditional PR, Web3 PR is an effective way to increase a brand’s credibility and establish trust. PR and communication efforts yield results that are earned rather than handed out. In crypto and Web3, developments and innovations move so fast that half the battle involves keeping up with existing trends and the other half is knowing what’s coming.
The space is now so broad that even specialized crypto publications have to assign reporters to cover niche sectors within Web3, like NFTs and gaming. To add another layer of complexity, there are dedicated reporters covering blockchain ecosystems like Ethereum, Solana, and more.
Similarly, Web3 marketing is all about promoting a brand and often allows communicators to control the messaging. Brands can be as promotional as they’d like and communicate what they think the audience should know. There’s a lot more freedom in visibility that you pay for.
Finally, community-building is a necessary component of Web3 and crypto communication. Community building was first Introduced during the initial coin offering (ICO) days of 2017, as a way to keep token holders engaged with the protocol or organization. It is now a crucial part of growing a user base for all Web3 projects, especially decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs).
Most new web3 clients don’t have all three functions set up from the get-go but will often start with marketing, and community building first and PR last. However, we advise our clients that the strategic communication direction for both marketing and community-building should come from the PR function of the organization instead. This is something most crypto projects miss.
Keep up with Twitter
It’s easy for crypto and Web3 founders to get glued to their announcement roadmap – from publishing a white paper to releasing a testnet and then mainnet. It’s not that these aren’t important; the milestones are certainly significant for their community and protocol.
However, the focus of a founder’s PR efforts should be on the source, Twitter. Crypto Twitter is where industry news breaks, journalists and founders interact, and how PR practitioners network.
The real trick to PR is having something relevant to say about trending topics that shape the media narrative. For example, in 2020, when crypto’s decentralized finance sector grew from a rough value of $500 million to more than $15 billion, all anyone wanted to talk about was DeFi.
In 2021, celebrities bought Bored Apes and made the newly purchased digital asset their Twitter profile pictures. Following this, NFTs dominated media headlines and attention.
Later that year, flash DAOs like ConstitutionDAO emerged and garnered attention on crypto Twitter. Following the buzz on Twitter were explainers in crypto and tech publications about what a DAO is.
In 2022, GameFi and the Metaverse stole the attention of media publications as the next best technology to emerge from Web3. Twitter again, was the first place people began talking about it.
Web3 PR practitioners must utilize Twitter to keep up with the industry.
Tailor your message to different audiences
Not all journalists are equal, and understanding their audience is key to an effective PR strategy. In crypto and Web3, there are a lot more people that founders need to think about. The decentralized nature of Web3 protocols means there are different categories of token holders, all of which require equal attention.
Then there are general investors, angel investors, venture capitalists, developers, community builders, contributors, core team members, and users. Next, there’s (literally) an added layer of complexity for crypto and Web3 organizations, which need to cater to different Layer 1 and Layer 2 ecosystems, each with their own particular cultures.
We adapt to this by tailoring our media strategy to different audiences. In our kick-off calls, we often ask our clients what their business objectives are. If the objective is to raise funding, for example, we’d pin down publications like CoinDesk, TechCrunch, and Bloomberg, which would help build trust and credibility for their project. If the objective is to build greater awareness among developers, then we’d focus on pitching our client to speak at relevant conferences like EthCC, ETHDenver, and BuidlAsia.
Developers don’t usually read the same media outlets as investors or clients, so a multifaceted approach to building credibility is often required.
Cut the technical jargon
It’s not just about where you’re seen and heard, it’s also about how. In the Crypto Twitter echo chamber, there are many interesting characters, but there are also implicit social codes in how to communicate. Adopting a more conversational tone, and sounding natural are important steps toward acceptance and engagement.
And while the ins and outs of the technology of a protocol are vital to helping it run, most of the time these issues don’t necessarily mean much to general users, even those who slavishly follow crypto.
Cutting down client jargon is how Web3 PR practitioners translate what developers do, and make it understandable for readers. With reader interest, garnered from shared understanding, comes better community engagement and building. Ultimately, the less jargon, the better.
Vitalik Buterin’s TIME cover demonstrated that mainstream media interest in crypto is still strong. Many top-flight journalists have nailed their colors to the Web3 or crypto mast, recognizing the transformational power of blockchain technology, despite, perhaps even because of, the winters on the way to the Promised Land.
Understanding them, and helping them, have been key to YAP Global’s growth and credibility. We’ve hired experienced journalists to help us do this better, and we fund a weekly newsletter for journalists to gather all the main events of the week.
We’re still learning, of course, but we’ve learned enough that in an industry as young and as transformational as Web3, helping founders and leaders explain themselves, and their creations, has been vital to not only their success but the flourishing of space as a whole. It’s not the easiest industry to explain in simple sentences, but it’s by far the most interesting.