2018 is becoming the year of blockchain. If 2017 was the year of cryptocurrency, what awaits us for the next few months will be the general spread of the blockchain concept far beyond the initial currency context. Blockchain and cryptocurrency will grow together, despite being based on new, more advanced relationships and paradigms. In addition to the financial dynamic - which certainly will not cease to be relevant - we will see new areas of application, where the currency/financial aspects will go hand in hand with more specific projects and contexts. The world of ICOs itself will probably grow not as much in quantity but rather in quality and feasibility of the presented projects.

We have heard about many different possibilities regarding the use of blockchains: micro and smart contracts, micro-transactions, decentralised apps (DApps), security and transparency in transactions, traceability in many supply chains (e.g. in food, fashion and many other sectors). In this article, I will try to apply the concept of blockchain to corporate communication.

Blockchain will bring immediate trust and measurability to a transaction (not just economic, of course) with an extra reward for those taking part in the transaction itself. Everything would go from the micro to the macro dimension. In a communication process, in a flow of information, Blockchains could be engaged to the base of the process itself:

We might be the participants of "communication transactions" where the sender, the media used and the same receiver would be "validated" by peers on the chain. And each one of them would be rewarded in the same moment they start taking part in the transaction, in the process of communication.

How many possible fields of application are there in corporate communication?

Media, advertising

If we think about the publishing industry, the press, traditional and social media, blockchain could mean a strong decrease in fake news, a strong qualification of sources, a commitment from receivers in order not to spread misleading news or uncertain sources.

In a proactive sense, it could imply a higher quality of user-generated content , having the possibility to monetize one's own contribution immediately.

The concept of web 2.0 was originally based on the idea of user-generated content and bidirectional communication: comments, reviews, opinions and surveys have firmly become parts of our lives, even before social networks. Let's try to think of a new web, a web 3.0 in which user-generated content can be validated on a specific value chain which is related to a certain sector. How much more reliable could communication flows become within that specific chain? Think about tourism reviews on products and services.

The same browsing experience on the Web can be modified, by looking both at content and online advertising, as it is already happening at the embryonic level with the concept of Basic Attention Token and the resulting possibility of monetizing online activities of users, impressions, click throughs via cryptocurrency, based on a much stronger and more targeted engagement.

Digital marketing

In addition, if we look at marketing and corporate communication activities, we might wonder what would be the impact of monetizing feedback from the user, based on a validating community formed by the company and its customers. Companies could benefit both from the advantages of the blockchain and the direct issue of currency linked to a certain chain. What is happening these days with Telegram and other ICOs could be the near future in many situations. What could Amazon do, for example? How could the loyalty programs related to miles or points be transformed, if the "gains" were no longer points but rather coins that are spent on the market and/or traded with other cryptos? The role of companies would change on several levels: on the one hand, we would invest in customers for their loyalty, on the other hand we could offer them a product in exchange that will gain more value over time by virtue of the company's performance. The same concept could be applied to corporate incentive plans and to the issue of stock options. It is not a simple matter of dividends but rather of the value that the corporate crypto can acquire on the market compared to the others. As we can see, there are a lot of important challenges for digital marketing!

Communication and PR

In corporate communication, the role of the blockchain could be very useful, for example, to validate news communicated to the outside world. Let's think about the impact that a press release could have if it was validated by a blockchain (which could be private and highly qualified for investors and stakeholders of a company), perhaps a publicly-traded one.

In the internal communication of large corporate companies, as well as in communication with its commercial and sales networks, a blockchain could significantly improve communication flows by working on the aspects of process security and privacy.

We are facing an important change in paradigms, which will certainly offer innovative and potentially disruptive projects in many areas of marketing, digital and corporate communication. At the same time, the extreme fragmentation and volatility of the crypto market, together with new potential regulatory interventions made by governments, will have to make see reason on possible limits and distorted uses. What will really make the difference are the correct spread of knowledge and the optimal management of the best practices that will be introduced little by little.

As communication professionals, we must be ready to take up the challenge!

Franco Giacomozzi is head of communications at Edmund Mach Foundation, an agri-food scientific institute, where he is responsible for internal and external communications, press and media relations, web, intranet and social media.

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