Written by Betsy’s Bar None Team account team members, Grace Hashiguchi, Natalie Engler, Rachel Hanks, Jillian Niedermeyer and Sydney Padgett. 

As the story goes, someone (or some people) under the name Satoshi Nakamoto coded the idea of Bitcoin into existence in 2009. Since then, this online trading phenomenon has swept the world, leaving in its wake a few wealthy early adopters and far more intrigued bystanders wondering what it all means.

Should the average person be concerned with this alternative money system? What does the future of Bitcoin hold? What does public relations have to do with this cryptocurrency? Regardless of the unknowns, all PR practitioners involved with financial and tech should have a basic understanding in order to assess its relevance to their clients’ business.

First, a lesson on Bitcoin:
Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, which is a digital asset intended to be exchanged like money online utilizing cryptography as security. Let me break that down for you:

–       Digital asset: any online data that has monetary value
–       Cryptography: a unique code that prevents outside users from accessing the data

Bitcoin is different from regular cash because it does not rely on third parties such as the government or private banks. Instead, it uses a publicly distributed ledger (computer file that monitors and records all exchanges) called a blockchain where the network can validate transactions.

Users can only spend bitcoins if they have a “bitcoin wallet,” which gives you access to a private key made up of numbers and letters. But, unlike forgetting your online banking password, which can be retrieved, if you forget the private key then you won’t be able to access those assets again, basically, they’re gone for good. Currently, the premier site for cryptocurrency exchange is called Coinbase.

Does that make sense? If not, my apologies; this is complex stuff.

As a highly complicated form of technology, the cryptocurrency community has a lot of growth to undergo before it can accomplish widespread use and predictable valuation.

To clarify: Bitcoin is practically autonomous. There are no banks or intervention involved in their marketing and mining (computer wizes solve problems or algorithms to unlock a digital “token” from the chain). Cryptocurrencies are also currently the only currency that are not associated with a single country’s economy, making them a kind of international currency.

To keep cryptocurrencies in the public eye and make them overall more successful, communicators discussing Bitcoin need to focus on three things:

1. Simplify.
With a system that uses words most normal people have never heard of, how can majority adopters begin to use it? Cryptocurrency stakeholders need to find a simpler way to explain their process and why people should be investing. Lack of clarity surrounding what they are and where they came from is one of the main reasons people are afraid to purchase bitcoins.

2. Stabilize.
With more simplified language, cryptocurrencies may be able to stabilize, but merely existing is not enough for them to endure. Communicators need to be able to discuss trends and somehow predict prices. Business professionals compare purchasing bitcoins to “going to Vegas” or “Monopoly money” because of instability. That being said, Bitcoin has already tried to combat other common banking problems, like inflation, by only putting a possible 21,000,000 coins in circulation.

3. Become necessary.
In order to become stable and a daily part of people’s lives, cryptocurrency needs to become a staple mode of exchange. People should not be ogling token values but should concentrate on researching this “product” and realize that bitcoins aren’t necessarily a way to get rich quick despite popular misconceptions. The future of Bitcoin may be uncertain, but taking into account all the assets that set it apart (secure, autonomous, non-government run etc.) tech companies may want to think about the ways it may play into future investing.

Cryptocurrencies will not last if they do not become more than fad investments. Currently, market values for bitcoins fluctuate on the large scale, operating almost like mini stock markets. The lack of stability is primarily caused by the uncertainty surrounding what they are actually worth. In order to grow and develop, PR agencies may want to take on crypto clients –– or at least better understand what they do ––  to aid with clearer communication among all stakeholders. Ripple, are you listening?

To keep up with cryptocurrency industry trends and developments: Follow a group who is already capitalizing on the lack of clear communications surrounding the topic.

P.S. The AP Stylebook says that Bitcoin the idea is capitalized, while bitcoin the unit of currency is lowercase. Food for thought.

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