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Do you have a communications strategy for your initial coin offering (ICO)?

Communications strategy is a key element of successful businesses and organizations. This is particularly true with initial coin offerings (ICOs). Backers, and the broader cryptocurrency communityseek honest and transparent founding teams that respond to queries and concerns, and who clearly communicate the benefits of their platform.

In this piece I look at some of the strategies and channels you should consider when an initial coin offering (ICO) is the best approach. 

ICOs built up slowly in 2016, with 64 major ICOs raising $103 million. In 2017 they have boomed. In just July, 34 ICOs raised a total of $665 million.

With notable issue such as exit scams, hacking risk and most importantly the recent U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission guidance, backers may be justifiably more cautious moving forward. If you’re ready to launch an ICO, how will you stand out and build trust among the noise?

Typically, organizations will hold their ICO before their project launches. While your ICO may only take a couple of days or weeks, your communications strategy should start much earlier to build an audience for, and get early feedback about your project.

More than a website and a whitepaper, an effective communications strategy will help you position and differentiate your cryptocurrency or blockchain offering, build up your developer community, create a base of early investors, and begin planning for the final release.

Who is your audience?

The first step is to find a community and build a currency around them rather than building a currency and expecting everyone to show up.—Chris Ellis, Feathercoin

A communications strategy requires knowing who you’re communicating with. While you can post messages to the general cryptocurrency community or the general public, they’re being bombarded with content. Americans spend more than 10 hours a day consuming content. Knowing your audience and where they participate online will help you get the most from your efforts.

Many cryptocurrency teams start by engaging on platforms like Reddit, Twitter, Bitcointalk, Slack, Github and Telegram. These are places people go to learn more about cryptocurrency. Be prepared to clearly state and defend your position. Your team will want to assign a communications manager or grant team members autonomy online while arming everyone with all the information required to provide transparent and consistent responses. Online forums like Reddit are notoriously controversial and the online cryptocurrency community is no exception.

The team behind Golem, which generated $8.6 million USD in only 20 minutes during their ICO, was engaging their community online for at least a couple of months prior. They responded to feedback and ideas, fixed mistakes and have even created a Reddit thread just for FAQs so interested participants can get information they seek quickly.

Building a community early will also help you find a groups of developers, backers and potentially miners, who will drive interest. Take the time to listen to your community to understand what they value from your offering and how you can improve prior to launching your ICO.

Timing

Within your communications strategy, consider timing. How far ahead of your ICO will you start building your community? How long will your ICO phase be and will you be doing some pre-launch promotions to build awareness around the ICO?

You’ll need time to generate and share a quality whitepaper, develop a landing page and set up any other communications tools such as email and social media. And you’ll need to fit this in with your technical development milestones.

Most ICO launch phases last three to six weeks. You’ll need to consider what your fundraising goals are and make a plan for how funds will be used. Savvy backers will want to know, and it is essential information for your own teams success.

The Communications Strategy Checklist

Some of the pieces you’ll need to implement your communications strategy have already been mentioned, but I’ll break them down more here.

Whitepaper

Your whitepaper should clearly describe what your cryptocurrency project is and what problem it solves. You’ll need to communicate the protocol, features, implementation and goals for your project. How will you distribute tokens? How will you maintain a fair voting process for improvements?

Here are some must-haves for a quality cryptocurrency whitepaper:

  • Technical description
  • Features descriptions
  • Implementation plan, including how you will use funds raised
  • Token distribution plan
  • How your project will establish consensus
  • Use case scenarios
  • Description of the non-profit structure that will oversee the project
  • Information about your team and advisory board
  • Financial plan

Whitepapers should be written in language that your average investor or community member can understand. Some of what you will write will need to be technical, but if you can clearly define technicalities in simple language as well, your reader will appreciate it.

Ensure the whitepaper is reviewed by more than one person prior to publishing. For inspiration, look to reputable projects with successful ICOs, such as Storj and Ethereum. I also like the presentation of Monaco’s whitepaper.

Website

Your website should feature elements from your whitepaper to explain your project at a high level. Like your whitepaper, your website should answer:

  • Who is behind the project
  • What the project is and what’s its features and benefits are
  • Why this project matters and how it differs from other cryptocurrencies
  • How the cryptocurrency and its infrastructure will work
  • Important dates, such as your ICO

Above all, visitors will want to know how the token or application will benefit them. For example, Lisk’s blockchain application platform will make blockchain technology accessible to everyone and ICONOMI “allows anyone from beginners to blockchain experts to invest and manage digital assets.”

How can your website serve your community?

This is the foremost question you need to ask yourself when developing structure of your site. Adding FAQs to your website will help answer common questions and a blog is useful to communicate updates and provide subject matter expertise your community can engage with to learn more about your project and cryptocurrencies in general. Many cryptocurrency projects use the Medium platform for blogging, which has the added benefit of a huge existing user base. Also consider adding a media kit to your website to make it easy for bloggers, news sites and partners to share your story or specific elements like your logo.

Visual Branding

Your logo is your project’s visual representation. It will help readers immediately recognize you across various web platforms. It should be simple enough to view easily on a smartphone, stand out from other cryptocurrency logos and it should say something about your project. Here’s a page of cryptocurrency logos for inspiration.

Social Media

Interacting with your community and the media requires communicating with them where they already are. Reddit is a great place to start, as is Twitter. Share content, share your updates, start and join conversations to increase awareness around your cryptocurrency and your ICO.

Communicating on different platforms requires different communication styles. For example, you would write differently to developers on Github than you would to tech journalists on Twitter. They have different levels of understanding of how cryptocurrencies work and they’ll interact with your project differently. The former may help improve a feature while the latter will want to discuss your concept on a podcast.

Amanda B. Johnson, the host of Dash: Detailed (funded by the Dash treasury) uses video to educate visitors about Dash’s benefits:

If all this is done in friendly and accessible language, people really appreciate that you’ve done so much homework for them. Top it off with links to resources to learn more and you’ve provided a valuable service to the busy person.

Stick to a few channels you can communicate in regularly and establish a schedule to do so. Questions that go unanswered for weeks may cause suspicion. Cryptocurrency communities demand transparent, responsive communication.

Social media advertising is another affordable way to promote your ICO. Testing and launching ads prior to your ICO can direct more interested people to your other communication pieces such as your whitepaper and website.

Email Newsletters

Email newsletters have higher conversion rates than social media and are great tools to share updates and prepare people for your ICO. Include an email subscription form on your website that triggers a welcome email providing more information about your ICO and what people need to do to get involved.

Email is also a great way to stay in touch with your community post-launch, letting them know how fundraising went, what the next steps for development are and what funds raised will be allocated to. You can also share media features, and new multimedia presentations like videos and interviews.

Media Strategy

When you’re preparing to launch your ICO, one of the best ways to get the word out is to get featured on cryptocurrency industry and broader news sites. You can leverage their larger existing audiences who are already searching for cryptocurrency information.

  • You can send a press release to media contacts.
  • You can put your listing up on sites like Smith and Crown. Be sure you have all the elements they include in their summaries.
  • You can pitch guest blogs to cryptocurrency blogs or news sites. You must present an interesting point of view as you likely won’t get picked up if your article’s sole and obvious intention is to promote the sale of your tokens.
  • Similarly, offer to be a guest on cryptocurrency or technology podcasts.

With the increase in ICOs, this space will continue to get busier, which is why it’s key to have clear ideas and messages prior to pitching media.

Remember that there have been several scam ICOs which have made backers wary. This wariness is a good thing, because it means that trustworthy, quality projects with good communications capabilities will stand out. Your job is to clearly communicate why your project exists and how it will benefit those who invest their time and money into it. Backers and the community want sustainable projects that will bring value to their lives, whether that’s through increased currency value or being a part of a large decentralized project.

Start putting together your communications strategy now so that you can roll it out over time, build an engaged audience, and make the most of your efforts.

About the Author

Josh Davis is a Strategist with ITFO Communications and Managing Editor on the blockchain and cryptocurrency research team. He has over a decade of experience in financial services and technology communications, helping clients implement tangible, multi-year global programs by leveraging future trends. His research on emerging technologies has been quoted in top publications, including The New York Times, Tech Crunch and Forbes.
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