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Tom Hashemi

In today’s TBI blog post, Ryan Selkis writes on the anniversary of Mt. Gox’s demise. Selkis was responsible for breaking the story and this helped position his blog as the go-to source for breaking news and information on Bitcoin scandals.

He wrote at the time that the Gox debacle “will be catastrophic for Bitcoin, both as a currency and as a fledgling industry.

Now, he writes “we [Bitcoin/the Bitcoin community] ultimately emerged unscathed following that absolutely brutal six month stretch of bitcoin’s evolution”.

And this is where I must challenge Selkis, because Bitcoin has categorically not emerged unscathed from the after effects of Gox.

As a proof point we may look at the plethora of negative stories in the press, many of which continue to regurgitate the same old lines of “Bitcoin is dying/has died”.

Of all Bitcoin’s deaths, of which there have been many, the footprint of the Gox death was among the largest.

Or we can look to the opinion polls to see that bitcoin has a strongly negative reputation among the general public.

The DCC, in conjunction with my firm, Reputation Leaders, conducted research in the UK a few months ago that showed that nearly a quarter of Brits think that bitcoin has a bad reputation. Only one in 10 said it had a good reputation.

Does that count as “emerging unscathed”?

In Selkis’ defense, Bitcoin is still alive and developing. But to ignore the major image issue that it sustains, and that Gox was instrumental in forging, would be foolish.

What Bitcoin is crying out for more than anything is a communications campaign to educate the public on what Bitcoin is, why it’s so amazing, and most importantly, what it can do to make people’s lives easier and cheaper to live.

The news that a consortium of Bitcoin industry companies have come together and hired theAudience for a Bitcoin education and awareness campaign is welcome.

But is a campaign based around social media “stars” the right approach?

Why is the target audience online, tech savvy millenials? Why not target the influencers of the influencers?

Target those journalists that write in top tier media such as the Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal so that when they write on Bitcoin, they write positive stories that influence the people that matter. People like politicians and business leaders.

Having Warren Buffet say one positive thing about Bitcoin will exact significantly more progress than a horde of social media “stars” creating even more chatter about Bitcoin on the Internet.

We know from our research that millenials are already the most likely to have heard of bitcoin and to have a more positive view on its reputation.

The challenge lies with older, less tech savvy audiences: this is where our efforts should lie.

Bitcoin needs an industry-wide PR programme, for the industry and by the industry that targets the people that matter: the people that influence those with influence.

And it needs it because we categorically did not emerge unscathed from the collapse of Mt. Gox.

Tom Hashemi sits on the Communications Working Group of the UK Digital Currency Association. He runs VERSION2, a web design agency, and leads the media monitoring business of a market research firm Reputation Leaders.

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