PR’s Top Pros Talk… Communicating Crypto
Arielle Sobel, Head of Global Communications, 21Shares
How can organizations expand crypto coverage to the general public? Arielle Sobel, Head of Global Communications at 21Shares, highlights the importance of having spokespeople who can explain the complex nature of crypto in simple and digestible terms to increase audience awareness. Arielle also briefly elaborates on how she uses Twitter as a valuable resource in finding breaking stories facing the crypto industry.
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HOST: DOUG SIMON
GUEST: ARIELLE SOBEL
DOUG: The rapid growth in the crypto industry has really put an interest in how do you communicate stories about crypto? And Ariel is the perfect person to speak about that, given your role at 21Shares. Can you explain a little bit about how you start communicating about crypto and crypto investing when you’re representing a brand in that space?
ARIELLE: Yeah, it’s a great question. Thank you so much for having me. Crypto is a really complicated topic to so many people and what we strive for here, at 21Shares, is to educate the world about what crypto is and how crypto can help. 21Shares was launched in 2018. We are the world’s largest ETP provider of all cryptocurrency assets. We currently have 31 ETP that are listed on over ten different exchanges in Europe, and we have two U.S. products.
DOUG: Just to clarify, ETPs, are a type of investment vehicle, correct? Can you explain that a little bit for context?
ARIELLE: It’s the same as ETFs. So, in Europe, ETFs are called ETPs.
DOUG: That makes it pretty clear. So, they’re groups of investments that people can invest in, one investment, but you have a group of assets within that. So, you also recently joined the company and a lot of crypto firms sort of have arisen with this growth and attention focused on the industry. How do you start coming in? Because they’ve- I’ve been doing PR and communications before that, but now it has to rise to a whole new level of sort of professionalism and intent.
ARIELLE: Yeah, yeah. I’ve been at the company for about two and a half months, and it’s been incredible. Some of the first couple of things that I’ve been doing in my first couple of months is taking inventory and really seeing what we’re doing now, how we’re doing it, if we’re doing it well, but also making sure that I’m not making any crazy, rash decisions that, you know, you don’t want to come into a new job and start to change everything or start to take agencies away. When I joined the company, we had eight PR agencies all over the world and some might say that’s a lot and I did too, when I came into the role. I was like, wow, eight PR agencies. I’m used to only having one, but we’re a global company. We serve people all over the world. And you need to have ears and eyes on the ground in those local markets. And, you know, I’m really happy that when I came in, I didn’t make any decisions and change anything, because it was really important for me to observe, and observe all those PR agencies, and see what’s working well, and see what’s working not, and meeting the team. And you know, I think when you’re joining a new company and you know, I’m the firm’s first communications hire, it’s really taking a step back and seeing what’s there and seeing what the team has put in place, and what the team has put in place for me here has been actually quite amazing. There were some small changes that I made here and there, but for not having any communications people at the firm, I was set up for total success.
DOUG: That’s really cool. Now, we’ve obviously done some crypto satellite media tours already. Agencies are looking to get into the business if they haven’t already. What’s your advice to an agency that wants to have a crypto group, if you will, so they can be effective in building their business?
ARIELLE: Yeah yeah. So, I always say this to- I mean, there are such incredibly smart people that work at our company, and the way that they describe crypto, the way that they talk about the products, and the way that they explain things so incredibly well, but sometimes too high level. You’ve got to keep it stupid simple. That’s what I always say. I’m like, “Please dumb that answer down, please make it more simple.” As an agency that’s starting to get into crypto, you really have to keep what you do and the products that you put out into the market as simple as you can, as simple as a kindergartener can understand it. With crypto, it’s a little tough because it’s in general a more complicated topic. You have to educate the market, you have to educate your clients, you have to educate reporters even. But my next point is that the trade outlets like the Block or CoinDesk or ETF Stream, or ETF Express, all of these trade outlets in the crypto world, these reporters have been covering it for years and they’re so knowledgeable and they know what they’re doing and, you know, the breadth of knowledge that these reporters have is actually quite impressive. And it’s actually from working in a bunch of different PR roles, for always in tech, these are some of the most sophisticated PR people and journalists that I’ve met. I think utilize the trade reporters, get to know them, get coffee with them, meet them, and see how other companies are doing it. And I think for me when I came to 21 shares, I worked with a lot of the crypto reporters before. So, it wasn’t too big of a…
DOUG: A Leap for you.
ARIELLE: Yeah. It was a lot of the people that I already knew. Just seeing how other companies described themselves to how we describe ourselves really just gave me the insight that we need to keep it way, way more simple. Crypto is a super complicated topic, and whichever company can get it right to explain it in the most simplest terms, I think will really shine.
DOUG: Yeah. It sounds like if agencies looking to grow their crypto business are watching this, they’ll be doing some outreach to the crypto trade reporters to see if they can bring them on board because that would probably make a lot of sense, so they have that institutional knowledge. Lots of issues with crypto, future regulation, etc. So, what is the future of crypto? And then we can get into the role of what’s the future of the communications in this space? First, what is the future of crypto, itself, from your perspective?
ARIELLE: I think that we’re just getting started. 21Shares has been around since 2018 and you know, the companies are already extremely profitable, doing extremely well. There’s clearly investor demand. You see companies popping up all over the world from Nike, to Gucci, to Morgan Stanley, that are adapting, you know, crypto and NFT and all of the different forms of it, into their business. And that’s because the consumer demand for crypto is so high. I don’t think crypto is being used to its full potential at all. I think we’re just at the very beginning of where crypto is and what crypto can do. And I think there’s companies, there’s so much good competition in the space and there’s so many good companies that are doing incredibly well. One thing that I’ve learned about the crypto community is that we’re all in it together, right? I think when 21 Shares started in 2018, it was a lot of conversations were explaining what is Bitcoin? What is crypto? And now today the conversations are, well, how do I ingrain a smaller coin into my portfolio, how do I get polkadot? How do I get into the defi world, right? So, I think I think the institutional like world is really flipping from what is bitcoin, to we know bitcoin and we, we are adapting bitcoin to now getting really further into the more niche parts of the crypto world which is really interesting.
DOUG: Yeah, and it sounds like a role for communicators is to help break crypto from the trade and heavy-duty business coverage out into the general coverage, which has already started happening. Any advice for PR people to do that more effectively as we wrap up the conversation?
ARIELLE: Yeah, I think that it’s really important for your spokespeople to be experts not only in the products that you put out into the market, but to the products that exist in the general cryptocurrency world. So, we don’t do any NFTs, for example, NFT is not something that at 21Shares we do at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to have our CEO out talking to reporters about what an NFT is because someone from the Wall Street Journal might know what an NFT is, and if we can be that voice of reason and that expert in that field, then that’s a, A, a really good opening to what 21Shares is and having a reporter meet 21Shares, but then, B, also letting the reporter know that we’re experts in the crypto field, and we can provide you sources and info on anything you need to know. So, I would say, expand your spokesperson knowledge base, make sure that they can speak to anything in the crypto world. And I would say Twitter is actually a really incredible source for all things crypto. It’s where everything really happens. All of the big crypto updates, the blockchain updates, the updates on, different currencies, it all happens on Twitter first, and then the rest of the world finds out. So, if you can be a PR person in the crypto space and follow Twitter really closely, you can actually find out things that happen much sooner than many reporters in the space. And then you can pitch that out like, you know, “Hey, I just saw this big thing happen in the crypto world. I have an expert here that can talk to this.”
DOUG: Great, well making news with news is always a classic PR tactic. Thanks so much for your time and explaining this topic that I know is going to have significant interest among our viewers. Really appreciate it.
ARIELLE: Of course. Thank you for having me.