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Public face of an ICO – Five elements of responsive communications

Due to initial coin offerings’ (ICO) complex nature, organizations holding ICOs must be prepared to present detailed information about their project and its goals, their team, and how each step of the ICO will work. Clear, consistent communication that shows you both listen to your potential participants concerns and can provide sound responses will help you develop trust and a solid reputation.

Last week, we took a detailed look at four successful ICOs’ communications practices.

This week, we examine the five key elements that are needed for responsive communication.

  • Representing
  • Monitoring
  • Core Messaging
  • Listening
  • Responding

Like any startup, your team must be nimble and ready to act when issues arise. You must also explore all potential issues and do what you can to plan for them or educate your ICO participants to avoid them altogether.

Who represents your team?

Before we look at what you’re saying, it’s important to designate who will be saying what. Scrambling last minute to respond to important queries doesn’t work with today’s expectations, and you want to avoid schedule conflicts as much as possible, especially ramping up to your ICO.

Team members should have clear responsibilities when it comes to communications. For example, your community management or PR team members should be responsible for public communication on official digital accounts like Twitter and your sub-Reddit.

Decide when your CEO, lead developer, or advisors will speak. Will media have direct contact with your leaders or will you have someone responsible for coordinating and filtering media?

Almost all blockchain and cryptocurrency projects we have observed have a communications manager. This team member can help you refine messaging, coordinate media, provide marketing materials, monitor digital channels, and look for opportunities to participate in online and traditional media conversations and events.

However you decide to structure this, it’s important to designate these roles early to ensure streamlined communications processes.

Follow the conversation

To lead the conversation and stop misinformation, you need to monitor what others are saying about your organization and ICO. A great secondary benefit to monitoring mentions of your organization is that you may find opportunities to participate in new conversations.

When Tezos, a community-driven blockchain project, found out from their online community that a phishing scam launched a Google ad mimicking their ICO site (the scammers flipped the URL to tesoz instead of tezos), they leapt to action, responded to their audience and rightfully communicated that participants should only visit the site by manually typing in the URL. They also asked community members to report the scam to Google, and the ad was removed.

Tools like Google Alerts (for anyone) and LexisNexis Newsdesk (for larger operations) will send you notifications when your organization is mentioned online. If This Then That can also be used to monitor specific sites. Have someone monitor this regularly. A community manager can also stay on top of what people are saying on social media using social listening tools like Hootsuite and Buffer Reply.

Know your message

Your main communicators, such as your CEO, lead programmer, and community manager, should know your key messages by heart. You hopefully have intuitively and explicitly formulated this, but here is another quick way to conceptualize it:

  • What is your project’s purpose and who will it help (in 1-2 sentences)?
  • How is your project different from competitors?
  • How will backers support and interact with your project?

Storj dedicates their entire Medium blog to one of their key messages: Storj provides a safer cloud storage solution. They write about different use cases where Storj would have provided a better solution for customers, preventing their accounts from getting hacked, etc.

Key messages also help when a crisis arises. If an issue presents itself, such as in the case of the scam Tezos ICO site, your communications team should assemble to discuss how to respond to followers online and develop some prepared responses. This will help your community managers quickly respond to any questions online, allowing them to get ahead of the complaint stream, and will ensure your team is providing consistent responses. You don’t want to be explaining how to do A when backers should be doing B.

Listen to your audience

As aforementioned social and media monitoring tools will help you find out where you’re mentioned and who’s saying what without manually checking a number of different sites. Beyond knowing what’s going on, it’s important to listen to your audience, accept feedback and report issues to your team.

We may be living in an era of peak trolldom. But most people who communicate with you are sincere. You want to give special attention to your participants, those who have backed your project despite the risk, because they believe your project has the potential to succeed.

In response to a question about how Waves would honor their investors’ confidence in their token creation platform, Waves CEO Sasha Ivanov said, “I think that transparency is the key here. We will be providing constant updates on our development progress, I plan to do weekly hangouts with Waves community, also provide transparent financial records of our spending.” Ivanov also did a live Q&A video series where he responded to questions. Actions like these demonstrate your listening ability.

Respond transparently and tactfully

This hopefully goes without saying, but there have been instances where team members either didn’t respond to a serious query or didn’t respond well. You have to remember that as much as you know about your project, your backers likely only know a small percentage of that. They hopefully know about blockchain and cryptocurrency, but that isn’t always a given. It’s your team’s job to educate your audience and you can do this by respectfully responding to queries in plain language (depending who you’re talking to and what they understand) and pointing people to where they can find more information, such as your Youtube tutorials or FAQs.

Use common queries to develop your FAQs and blog/vlog content. Storj has an extensive, though well-organized, FAQ webpage. Making content like this readily available provides people with answers without them having to ask you over and over again directly. Tezos created a video walking people through exactly how to participate in their ICO.

People on social media also expect quick responses, preferably within 24 hours or less. If your team is unable to respond for a period of time, say for a holiday (if you take one), inform people ahead of time on your social media channels and set up email autoresponders.

When you’re offering products in a developing industry and you don’t have a well-established brand reputation, you have to do a little extra work to win people over. The three organizations mentioned in this article have communicated well with their audiences and they’ve had hugely successful ICOs.

Prepare your team and look at what you can do ahead of your ICO to address questions and potential issues.

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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