Thursday, March 22, 2018 

TokenReporter: How To Run ICO PR

Google, Facebook, and even Instagram have shut down crypto advertising. Where do we go now?

This week in TokenReporter let’s look at some best practices I’ve see from my time covering token sales and talking to ICO PR folks.

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Where Do We Go Now?

ICO advertising is dead and you all killed it. You posted too many girls in bikinis, offered too much get rich quick stuff, and essentially lied about your products. Maybe not all of you, but a lot of you. And now the big guys have shut you down.

As someone who believes that token sales are truly the future, I’m disappointed but not surprised. Token sale managers have used the worst tactics from growth hacking and affiliate marketing to prop up what, at best, are a series of Kickstarter projects. For example, I recently spoke to the head of KickICO who told me he raised an astonishing - and unnecessary - $80 million. At the same time, a small, worthy team in Ohio was unable to raise dollar one because there was no sane way for them to make a market. So, from a journalist’s perspective, how do you enter this new world with your eyes open?

There are no good crypto PR people

Here’s the bad news: your PR person sucks. Every single PR person I’ve spoken to is awful at crypto. There are a number of companies out there and I won’t single anyone out but if you have any questions email me at john@biggs.cc. Let me tell you: every single PR person I deal with, including internal communications managers, is awful. This isn’t always their fault (although some companies, like 5WPR, I beseech you to avoid) because the space is so new.

What’s happening is a perfect storm of PR ruination. PR people, especially older folks who feel they’ve been left out of the startup revolution, are pitching themselves as the best in the business. They’re actively searching out ICO projects after having poor to middling track records with startup PR and communications. They’re also charging a huge premium because they know you’re desperate. Don’t fall for their lies. They will never get you into the WSJ or the New York Times, you’ll never hit the front of TechCrunch, and getting onto the enthusiast sites like Reddit is useless for you. In other words, you can’t outsource your outreach.

The first rule of ICO club…

…Is don’t talk about your ICO. Let me say it again: When you reach out to a journalist, don’t talk about your ICO. The key to token sale PR is not to mention token sales at all. Why? The bloom is off the rose. The average journalist hears fifty pitches from ICOs in between breakfast and lunch and there is no clear way to assess their value or even the capability of the team. Take a look at my personal inbox - this is just spam I get to my own email address, not even my “work” address:

Guess where all these emails are going? Right into the trash. Why? Because these are either event emails or discussions about how to make big money with crypto. It is the worst kind of spam and ultimately will get the entire industry in trouble.

When you send a token sale email you should be really sending an email about your startup and your product. End of story. If your product doesn’t exist, don’t talk about a token sale. If your team doesn’t exist, don’t talk about a token sale. If you’re not clear on your vision and can’t describe it succinctly in 20 words or less, don’t talk about a token sale.

How to tell your story

  1. Build a product. This is the first step. Have something running. At this point in the startup game a team of two or three people should be able to build an MVP. While I understand that we’re supposed to be entering into a VC-less future, it’s trivial to use an app builder like Bubble to build something that kind of works. Do it.

  2. Find out who to talk to. Go to all of your favorite websites. Find people who write about crypto. Email them once, then Tweet at them if they don’t reply. Then stop and move on to the next one. For every 100 people you email, one will reply. Talk to this person the way you would talk to an old friend. Do not offer to write a post for them, do not offer to get them on the phone, do not ask to meet them. DO NOT PAY FOR PRESS AND DO NOT OFFER TO PAY FOR PRESS.

  3. Be pro-active. Answer these few questions for them and ask them if they need more:

    Who are the founders and what is their background?

    What is your funding?

    How much traction do you have? (real numbers: monthly or daily active users, not downloads or registered, or in your case, transaction volume)

    What are the key differentiators between you and other players?

    Describe the genesis of the project?

    Describe the project in your own words.

  4. Repeat. Keep doing this over and over until you’re sick of it. Then hire a real PR person who doesn’t suck.

    Alternatively, shut up. Most token projects shouldn’t be publicized at all. If you don’t have a product, team, or dream then you’d best just sit quietly and build, depending primarily on Telegram rooms and the whale networks. For example, Agora was proud to take part in the Sierra Leone elections and was quickly lambasted online. What should they have done? They should have kept quiet. Further, another company just emailed me after I wrote about Agora claiming their company was the official blockchain voting system for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. This is stupid. A lot of people think if someone covered topic A then they’re sure to cover topic B in the same wheelhouse. This is false. Further, if your claim to fame is running voting for a museum in Cleveland then you’ve got bigger problems. Build a product that works and implement it. And shut up about it until you’re truly proud of what you’ve done.

    I’ve covered startups for twelve years and I see what you guys are trying to do. It won’t work. What needs to happen, ultimately, is a wholesale change to the token markets. That will take a good long while. Until then, stay sane, act rationally, and keep your big yap shut.