Founder & CEO of SlicedBrand, a global PR agency with an award winning team, she’s successfully led PR for thousands of technology companies
The decentralized finance (DeFi) ecosystem received a major boost recently with the airing of ads by several crypto companies during this year’s Super Bowl, helping the brands to move beyond early adopters to reach mainstream audiences. The ads resulted in a significant increase in downloads of apps such as Coinbase, eToro and FTX.
Cryptocurrency exchange platforms, though highly visible, are just part of the greater DeFi picture, which aims to leverage blockchain technology and smart contracts to digitize and simplify financial transactions, removing them from the cumbersome, centralized bureaucracy of traditional banking. While it may be easier for investors, potential partners and the general public to quickly grasp what these types of projects do in less than a minute, the majority of DeFi startups will require more than just a strategically placed ad to generate widespread interest and name recognition.
When it comes to financial transactions, trust and credibility will be major factors in the mass adoption of DeFi technologies. For startups aiming to find a foothold in the space, there’s often an uphill battle to be noticed and to be seen as credible. In an increasingly crowded and complex marketplace, DeFi startups must leverage public relations (PR) not only to be noticed but also to build the credibility necessary to move beyond the early adopters and reach audiences outside the industry who may be more risk-averse.
PR can give a leg up to DeFi startups seeking to establish name recognition and a good reputation with three distinct target audiences: investors, partners and the public who may ultimately be the startup’s end user.
Boosting Visibility To Investors
In the investor community, there is a saying: Invest in people, not ideas. DeFi startups should use PR not only to raise the profile of the company and its product or service but also to highlight individuals from its leadership team. To reach potential investors with company news, a business should first research which publications those investors are reading, such as financial outlets, investment magazines and tech news sites. This may also entail looking at publications that are carrying news about their competitors to determine which reporters at specific outlets the startup should be reaching out to and what types of stories those journalists cover.
To raise the profile of a DeFi startup’s founders and leaders, the company’s PR efforts should position them as thought leaders and experts on financial, blockchain and crypto topics. This can be done by contributing guest posts, bylined by the CEO or a founder, to the leading industry publications that accept them. These nonpromotional articles can be on topics related to the startup’s activities and can offer business management and development insights based on the executive’s or founder’s experiences.
Establishing Credibility With Potential Partners
Public relations efforts will also be key for DeFi startups looking to partner with others in the ecosystem, particularly when it comes to enabling better communication and connectivity between multiple blockchain platforms. If a DeFi project aims to build bridges within the ecosystem, it will need to gain the trust of multiple potential partners.
To attract partners, a company will need to ensure that its news announcements are covered by the publications that potential partners are reading, similar to the above notes for investors. Any DeFi startup’s press release will need to consistently highlight aspects of the project that are open to partnerships. Additionally, announcements about confirmed partnerships can help build credibility through social proof. When news spreads about one company signing on as a partner, it helps others see the DeFi project as more trustworthy.
Presentations at industry events and on podcasts are great additional ways for a company to boost both credibility and visibility among potential partners. In many cases, these speaking engagements offer a founder or C-suite executive the opportunity to talk about their project, lessons learned and industry insights that could attract collaborators.
Gaining Name Recognition With The General Public
Since many DeFi projects seek to disrupt and replace traditional banking institutions, startups in this space will ultimately need to convince the general public to trust them enough with their financial transactions. Engaging a nontechnical audience will require a different PR approach, starting with establishing key messages that clearly state the value for the end user.
The mainstream media is currently awash in stories about crypto scams and NFT heists. Many crypto projects don’t share basic information on who is leading the project. But when it comes to finances, people will want to know that a startup is legit. Publishing thought leadership pieces allows the public to get to know the people behind the company and builds credibility.
DeFi startups will also need to highlight the security and trustworthiness of their platforms in press releases as they reach out to publications with more general audiences. In determining the best outlets to approach, startups will need to research which general news and investment sites have already been regularly covering the digitization of the banking industry, as well as crypto and NFT topics. The team should make it a priority to build relationships with reporters writing about DeFi—particularly journalists doing educational pieces.
Generating Long-Term Viability
Whether a DeFi startup is looking to reach investors, partners or the general public, the public relations tactics it uses will be very similar—a mixture of press releases, thought leadership, event participation and interviews. The primary difference is in the key messages used in reaching out to media sources, as well as the types of publications and the various reporters who will be the contacts of choice.
Of utmost importance is building the startup’s credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of all three audiences. Name recognition alone will not win over end users who don’t understand what DeFi is or how it will benefit them, nor will it convince others to invest in or partner with a company. By employing the above PR tips, DeFi startups have a better chance of finding themselves with a good reputation that generates both sustained interest and long-term viability.