A ‘Behind The Scenes’ look at how we did PR for a virtual conference.

A deep dive into how YAP Global did PR for a virtual conference with CoinDesk's Consensus: Distributed.

From May 11–15, YAP Global was the PR partner for the main blockchain and cryptocurrency conference in the world, CoinDesk’s Consensus: Distributed — a gathering of some of the most innovative leaders across the globe who are shaping the future of finance and technology.

Our client, CoinDesk, is the leading cryptocurrency and blockchain news and information platform. As many conferences around the world made the difficult decision to postpone or cancel due to recent disruptive events, CoinDesk decided to carry on, taking the conference virtual in response to the global situation we were faced with.

Each May, YAP Global looks forward to this week of seeing our PR agency in action and networking in New York. It’s a key opportunity for those in the digital asset space to connect with familiar faces and partner with new investors who can help grow the industry further as well as engage with media from all around the world.
COVID-19 changed all of this and we had to adapt.

I’m Sophie Parker, and this is my ‘Behind The Scenes’ account of the work that goes into publicising virtual events.

When everything changed.

The decision to turn the industry’s leading conference Consensus 2020 into the virtual Consensus: Distributed meant YAP Global had to learn to be agile, restrategize and re-pivot our existing PR strategy.

We created a new communications strategy which involved reaching out widely to the media to get them excited about the conference moving into a virtual format and the important narratives at play. More than 150 speakers would be sharing their expert insight on the future of finance from the comfort of their own homes with journalists and attendees who could do the same from their homes too.

But what about hotel lobby networking?

There’s no doubt that one of the main reasons people attend Consensus from all over the world is to network, mainly at the Hilton hotel lobby where all the action takes place. The YAP Global team looks forward every year to putting faces to names of those we so often connect with online. So what did CoinDesk do to combat this lack of real-life socialising at this year’s virtual conference?

In came Brella — an AI-backed event and networking platform where attendees could simply tick off a list of interests and expertise and be matched with other like-minded people. Gone was the occasional semi-awkward chit-chat with someone you have nothing in common with- instead, attendees could ensure that all their time devoted to networking, was with someone with whom they were genuinely excited to meet and spend time with.

Spreading the word to the media

Rather than the media coming to us as they would with a physical conference, we had to spread the word to them. We connected with media spanning key industries, cities and countries as well as highlighting to New York based journalists that the event was still going ahead.The conference was free and more accessible than before meaning we could be broader in our PR outreach.

In response to the times, CoinDesk alongside Gitcoin, The Giving Block and Ethereal Summit started a charity initiative to donate towards COVID-19 relief efforts using crypto industry quadratic funding. I really enjoyed rallying PR efforts on this positive campaign to ensure the donation link was spread across the community through great media coverage. It was also exciting to land Ben Schiller, Managing Editor of Coindesk on Nasdaq’s ‘Trade Talks’ off the back of the release of the ‘CoinDesk 50’ list which we publicised.

The week of Consensus: Distributed

With a fully loaded timetable we studied the event’s agenda, selecting the sessions, panels and keynote speakers we were interested in attending and took it from there.

The 11th of May came around faster than anticipated as we geared up for the opening 24 hours of Consensus: Distributed. A non-stop live broadcast for audiences across the world was no small feat.

The conference rolled over from the US to Asia time zone and then back to Europe to close out the first day. At YAP Global, our team has members in Melbourne, Berlin, London and Belfast meaning we were able to cover all aspects of the conference which was touched upon on our daily media briefs to the press.

I was most excited for Carlota Perez’s talk with Chris Burniske on technological diffusion in relation to cryptocurrencies and blockchains. She made a great statement on how “blockchain could give legitimacy to the taxation process to stop people taking their money to the Bahamas.” This along with her practical advice on how blockchain could play a fantastic role in democracy, the civil service and welfare really made this session standout for us.

The conference wasn’t over yet …

After the live talks we were still working around the clock to get media coverage over the line. It was amazing to see ForbesSporting NewsThe Block and The New York Times all cover news and announcements from the event.

Looking back on this experience

This year’s Consensus was a little different than the event we were all looking forward to but it did come with amazing takeaways to reflect on.

Firstly, PR expertise is key as landing media coverage was a critical part in increasing awareness of the event and having our global team set up to be agile and provide round-the-clock support during times was invaluable.

It was also a great lesson for YAP Global on how special face-to-face communication with members of the media is and also how to keep these relationships during isolating times. We had been nurturing relationships with top-tier outlets for the physical event which also helped when things went virtual by holding ‘wine-downs’ to connect and understand the news cycle ahead of the event.

We felt a great sense of importance when the news made at the conference was picked up by more mainstream sites even during this global pandemic. A lot of lessons have been learnt here but one of the main things we learnt about going virtual is that it is an opportunity to be innovative and reach a much wider audience than a physical event ever could.

The platform hosting the virtual conference is of the utmost importance in delivering for attendees, it needs to be easy, appealing and interactive to mirror the perks of real events. Through going virtual you can have greater targeted networking opportunities as well through ‘filtering’ the other attendees and getting straight to making connections.

To end this, we believe there is no time like the present to get your brand or event seen on the global be it virtual stage, we can all learn from each other right now so please do feel free to contact us for support!

YAP Global team x

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