As a comms professional, I’ve always been intrigued by so-called “emerging” industries. These concepts are the kind that you’d hear about in passing from a client, or from a friend at dinner, and then two weeks later see 10 start-ups focused on that very thing, plastered all over the tech section of your favorite newspaper. So, when I started at Water & Wall, I wasn’t surprised that the side of finance that piqued my interest most was fintech, or more specifically digital assets. Enter: NFTs. More on that later.
I’ve learned that while these fintech and crypto topics are complex, they can actually be distilled into a few key concepts. In fact, I encourage my clients who are actively involved in this space, and/or want to have a public voice on it, to learn how to simplify their messaging and differentiate themselves among a sea of buzzwords.
And with that, as The Wall’s Director of Fintech and Digital Assets, I am breaking down “the need to know” on these subjects:
First things first: what is considered Fintech?
- Here’s What Matters: Originally, financial technology referred to just the back-end tech used to operate traditional financial services institutions. Today, the term has broadened to incorporate those that are providing new twists on financial concepts, such as insurtech, blockchain, crypto, mobile payments, and more. At its core, fintech has to do with applications that are mobile-first, customer-centric, and disruptive to risk-averse industries. The industry as a whole is projected to reach a market value of $305 billion by 2025. Given the explosion of this space, “fintech” has become one of the most over-used terms in corporate messaging and I often caution clients to find other descriptors unless they are absolutely a tech-driven business.
- The Story Is Always: Like I mentioned earlier, fintech, at this point – is a catch-all. It’s an insurtech offering retailers a brand loyalty advantage through embedded insurance (where customers can purchase insurance directly on their website at checkout); it’s the plethora of apps that allow you to invest for free at the click of a button; and it’s an NFT (more on this below) platform that connects other NFT owners with merchandise and events. I like to think that eventually we’ll get to a point where these areas of fintech get segmented and reporter’s coverage will follow. For now, however, it’s important for companies to first figure out how they stand out and what their business is really accomplishing and then from there, strategically home in on unique ways to externally promote this.
- Required Reading: I suggest signing up for Workweek’s newsletter, created by former fintech reporter, Nicole Caperson – WTFINTECH. Nicole provides industry news, insights, and analysis in a witty, human, and capturing way – focused heavily on the success of women in the space.
What’s going on with crypto?
- Here’s What Matters: By now you’ve been inundated with enough information about cryptocurrency to last you a lifetime. What’s been happening in market can be a bit complicated. Here’s a quick breakdown without having a break down:
- The crypto market hit almost $3 trillion at the end of 2021. Around that same time, major financial institutional investors (Tesla, Square and others) added crypto to their balance sheets, El Salvador adopted Bitcoin as legal tender, and the first US futures-based bitcoin ETF launched – all part of the reason we saw this currency explode in popularity. 2022 has looked very different. Uncertainty pushed investors to unload risky assets, like crypto, causing a downturn of almost $2 trillion since 2021’s rally. Some investors have argued the asset’s ability to hedge against inflation the last few months, but price action suggests that the market doesn’t seem to agree, and crypto’s value isn’t as prevalent as one might have thought during economic uncertainty. More to come on that. However, it’s being said that even if crypto assets continue reeling, blockchain and other extensions of the technology that power digital tokens, will keep accelerating.
- The Story Is Always: Over the last few years, I’ve worked with companies in more than a dozen industries trying to integrate crypto and blockchain into their business models. As time has progressed, so have people’s expectations of cryptocurrency and its legitimacy. Which, for good reason, has played a vital role in shapeshifting this coverage across the media landscape. In fact, the change in press perception has actually created barriers of entry for companies. As a publicist, you can no longer reach out to a journalist expecting them to write on a client of yours just because they are doing something new in this space (which is pretty much how it was in 2016-2018). You need some serious validity and a new use case to go along with your client’s product or company for a reporter to consider publishing a piece on this.
- Required Reading: To stay on top of all things crypto, sign up for Axios Crypto, a newsletter written by Brady Dale and Crystal Kim.
WTF are NFTs?
- Here’s What Matters: NFT, or non-fungible token, really just means that something is unique in its own right and can’t be replaced with something else. NFTs live on a blockchain, which serves as a public ledger and tracks who is holding and trading them. NFTs are designed as way for digital files to be secured in a way that ensure ownership and create scarcity. A few basic things to note:
- NFTs are a digital version of property and are designed to give you something that cannot be copied
- NFTs turn these digital files into ‘tokens’ and secure them on a blockchain to make buying and selling these files efficient
- Each NFT has a unique digital signature, meaning it is one of a kind
- NFTs utilize the same authentication technology as cryptocurrency
- The Story Is Always: Even though we feel like we cannot hear enough about NFTs lately, there is still a huge education component to pitching this concept to reporters. This usually represents an opportunity for a brand to not only promote their business, but also their expertise in the space.
- Required Reading: Brands are clearly capitalizing on this phenomenon every day. Ad Age’s “How Brands are Using NFTs” article is a continuously updated list that captures all the moves in the space, in real-time.
That should be enough to get you started (or confuse you)! The exciting part is really that something is always changing, so expect to see new players in the space, markets rise and fall, popularity soar and many other transformations come our way.