Episode #39: Samantha Yap — Founder at YAP Global

Episode #39: Samantha Yap — Founder at YAP Global

Last updated:
May 25, 2023
Total length::
25 min
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Cryptocurrency, Crypto
DeFi, CeFi, TradFi

On this episode, we’re joined by Samantha Yap, Founder and CEO of YAP Global. Samantha and her team aim to share the stories of crypto companies and projects that are bringing true value to the world.

We discuss:

- The challenges for PR in the crypto industry.

- Why finding quality crypto PR talent is difficult.

- The common misconceptions about crypto in the media.

- The most relevant marketing channels for crypto companies.

- Common mistakes traditional media companies make when entering the crypto space.

- Why crypto domains and wallets need to serve a real function.

- What success looks like for crypto PR campaigns.

- The importance of having a crisis communication plan in place.

- Advice for newcomers looking to enter the crypto PR space.

Thanks for listening to Waves in the Finoverse, brought to you by Finoverse. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a review to help get the word out about the show. And be sure to subscribe so you never miss another insightful conversation.

Anton Sar: Hello Samantha. Welcome to the Waves in the Finoverse. I'd like to ask you a question, as a founder to founder, um, what was so far the biggest challenge for you, um, in building the, your firm, the PR firm over these years? And specifically that the PR firm that specifically is unique to cater the needs of crypto?

Samantha Yap: The biggest challenge is actually training a team. Um, we're speaking at a time where right now I have 25 people. Um, so it's taken a lot of hard work. Um, you know, there has been, you know, in PR firms, turnovers normal, so there's that as well. So it's constantly looking for talent, training, retraining, onboarding people onto Web3, crypto and DeFi.

Anton Sar: I think a couple of, um, weeks ago, one large, large, one of the largest, uh, Web3 companies, uh, uh, have been stolen one of our teammates, which is great for them. I think it's perfect. Yeah. But I understand your pain. Um, so how do you overcome this challenge? What about come when it comes to training?

Samantha Yap: We do a lot of internal crypto one-on-one sessions where, because the, the space moves so fast. There's, there's a new chain, new technology, or even just new activity that's happening in the market that you have to keep up with. So you may have heard of Solana, for example, or you may have heard of, you know, Cosmos. So we would sit down and just understand the whole ecosystem. So that's just one example of what we do. We don't, we don't need to think like developers. We are communicators. And so we just have had to learn to know enough in , in order to communicate what's on.

Anton Sar: It’s an interesting point about the educating sort of media, engaging with the traditional media. Obviously the crypto native media is, uh, relatively straightforward, but when it comes to traditional media, what is the biggest challenge for, for firms like yours and, and, and in industry in general?

Samantha Yap: The real challenge of doing PR for crypto companies is when the market is down, uh, or when there are vulnerabilities, there are hacks. And the, and, and, you know, over the last year with, uh, the collapse of Terra Luna as well as FTX, it's been really challenging to, uh, fight through the, the negative stigma that, that those events have had. And also the other aspect is yeah, the, the, the technical details, because the crypto industry, it's, it's technology and finance together, and it's so deep, um, and it can get quite complicated and filled with jargon. So the other challenge is how do you cut down the jargon and communicate a story for Bloomberg or CNBC or Financial Times? So those are just some of the challenges that we face.

Anton Sar: I guess from my perspective, I've been following FT both, you know, uh, Bloomberg in that space covering the crypto industry. And I can see, and Bloomberg is, you know, stepping forward to really, uh, understanding the space and providing certain insight, um, being neutral. Uh, however, I feel like FT like more attempts to have put them on like sceptical lens on those things and, and trying to sort of distance themselves from, from this industry while covering that. What, what's your so far, uh, observations? 

Samantha Yap: That's a spot-on assessment. I think over the last 2 years you've seen Bloomberg hire more reporters. They have, you know, a managing editor focused on Bloomberg Crypto. Um, you know, Bloomberg Crypto has the, @crypto, Twitter, uh, Twitter, um, ID, so they're, they have doubled down on growing a whole team that's covering this new asset class for their audience. And they, they were one of the first to, to write about DeFi when, you know, decentralised finance was exploding. And so I, I appreciate that they see value in that and, and, and, and they're reporting on that. Yes, the Financial Times, it, it, it also depends on the audience and, and who their readers are. And, you know, sitting in the UK, they're, they're probably the, the traditional, uh, financial institutions, the ones that are more, you know, yeah, one to play it safe or, or even even, you know, to, to the regulators as well. They they read the Financial Times, so yeah, of course they're going to, they're going to take a more cautious approach and, and almost a sceptical approach too.

Anton Sar: And, and when it comes to, um, like promotion of the way the traditional companies are doing their PR and the crypto does their PR, so what, what is the fundamental differences here?

Samantha Yap: Yeah, so I work with a few protocols that have decentralised autonomous organisations as well as their independent entity. And so, uh, there's a new layer when it comes to doing PR for Web3 companies and, and, and crypto protocols. And that is the community aspect. So in Web2, for example, I, I wouldn't have imagined that Facebook would have a community that they had to communicate, um, what they were doing. They are a centralised organisation. They set the tone and they, they, they built, um, and scaled up to where they are today. In Web3, because of, uh, of, of the added element of, you know, some protocols would have a governance token or some, some, some token to, to represent their community. And, and they would have a community that holds those tokens. That adds a layer of complexity when it comes to communications, because you're not just communicating externally to the world. You need to communicate to the community as well as your team. So that's just one of the, uh, new rules, uh, and, and, and that you have to think about when it comes to marketing and PR in this space.

Anton Sar: Right. Could you give us a little bit of, um, insight on, for those people who are more like migrating from traditional space into the Web3? Yeah. What are the key principles, um, what do you need to know when it comes to marketing yourself for Web3?

Samantha Yap: Yeah, so Twitter is actually quite important for crypto. And, uh, it's been, over the last two years, it's been proven that, a tweet from CZ, the CEO of Binance, has the power to impact the market. So I like to say crypto Twitter is like a public Bloomberg chat room and whatever's, whatever tweets come out between exchange founders, that has the ability to, uh, instil either positivity and market upturn or fear, uncertainty and doubt. I mean, you would see as well, even when Elon Musk tweets something about Dogecoin, and I don't want to bring up meme coins, but it did, um, boost the token at the time. So crypto Twitter is quite influential. In the crypto web three space, you don't spend that much time on Instagram or LinkedIn. Uh, all the action is on Twitter.

Anton Sar: Oh, it's interesting. I like the, the comparison of Bloomberg and sort live channel of, of Twitter. I just want to ask you, since you are also working with ENS Domains. Uh, for, for the companies that are looking into getting into this space, often they start with buying their own, securing their own name. If it's not yet already secured by someone more smarter and faster. Do you think that's what they need to do? Um, or you advise them to do that? Or what would be the best way of operating in this space? Or it would be perceived cringey and awkward, if they suddenly start to be like, hsbc.eth, or, I don’t know.

Samantha Yap: No, I think that would, that, that would actually be, um, encouraged. Uh, and, and there are, there are big brands that already have .eth like there's gucci.eth, there's prada.eth, so there are traditional brands that are looking into crypto. Um, so I do encourage everyone to have a a .eth and even businesses to have a .eth it, it's just securing a domain name. But, um, the other thing I would challenge is, um, what are you going to do with it? So how are you going to interact with it? And if you know you have a wallet that represents, you know, that, that's named of under your brand, for example, I have yapglobal.eth, um, you know, we need to think about what we're going to use that for. So yeah, right now, I would say for ENS, um, domain names, it seems like a marketing move. But, uh, if we're, if we are going to onboard more people onto Web3, there needs to be, um, a function and a purpose for having that, um, wallet.

Anton Sar: So when it comes to market yourself, marketing yourself in this such a crowd of a crowded space like crypto, how do you help your clients to differentiate this, uh, themselves, their products from, from the others?

Samantha Yap: Yeah, so my background is in journalism, and I'm going to speak with a PR lens. And, uh, the, the, the space is so noisy and there's a lot happening. And even when we just spoke about Twitter, when you put Twitter on, there's just so much noise, but a good way to filter out, um, you know, what projects and what companies are, um, top of mind is the media. So media publications in the news, they help us filter out what's most important. They help us, uh, understand what's news. So where I would look to first is what is CoinDesk or The Block or, um, Decrypt writing about? And I would also then look at what is FT and Bloomberg writing about? Because when you look to what's top of mind and news of the week, then, then you're able to formulate, you know, what, where you sit in the ecosystem, where you sit in the space and, um, and, and pitch your story story, the, the best way. We at Yap Global have a newsletter called The Context where, because there's so much happening all the time, and also multiple chains to keep track of. So we help, um, people understand just what are the top three stories of the week. Um, this is for journalists, investors, anyone in the space. So it's called The Context. And, um, yeah, you can find that on Yap Global, but that's a little plug. But yeah, just, uh, I think understanding what's top news of the week, um, really helps you, learn and understand how to cut through the noise.

Anton Sar: And when it comes to how do you get into publications, how do you get published? How do you get your name out in the press? What would be the big difference of how it's normally done with the more like, traditional mainstream media when it comes to crypto? Is there any differences?

Samantha Yap: There are slight differences. Well, I would say with publications like CoinDesk, Decrypt and The Block, these are the top, uh, tier crypto publications. They have good editorial teams, but I would say, and I'm just going to say this, they're not as sharp as say, pitching to, you know, a legacy publication like the FT or, or Bloomberg. So you really still have to formulate a strong pitch with the, with a strong news hook. And I know Anthony, you've been a former journalist yourself, so, you know, um, what a strong news hook is. So these are the, all the things that we work with our clients on. And yeah, I think it also starts with, you know, formulating a compelling story. Um, is this interesting? Is this new? Is it timely? Um, and why now? Because the challenge with PR is clients are going to think their story is the most important story, but there are probably a hundred other stories that a journalist is getting pitched, so why should they pick the one that we pitch?

Anton Sar: Um, interesting aspect of working with crypto industry, I think is the amount of, uh, scam and criminal activities, uh, uh, much higher than anywhere else. So, running a PR firm, working with crypto companies, how do you balance this, you know, sort of from the ethical perspective and how do you select clients and how do you manage to work with, with this industry?

Samantha Yap: In terms of working in this industry, yeah, we've had to learn how to filter out what is a good project and what is not. And one of the ways we do that is, you know, looking at the actual, you know, technology, um, and also looking at the on-chain activity. So, this is activity that you can see that is tracked tracking platforms like Coin Gecko and, um, DeFiLlama, for those who don't know what DeFiLlama is, it's, it's, it's where you track the, the DeFi industry. And so, we filter out projects we work with from just understanding, you know, the, you know, the track record, but also the size of the community and the credibility they have in the industry.

Anton Sar: Yeah, it's interesting. I mean, as, as much we could do to, to check the companies do certain due diligence, you come across with companies like FTX and situations like that, and which is very difficult to identify in the first place. So I think it's, for everyone working in this, um, industry, it's, it might be, uh, one of a challenge. Um, what is typical request that clients coming to you with in, you know, in your daily work?

Samantha Yap: Well, so actually we get approached, uh, often when a client is in crisis. And we've been doing a bit of, um, communications around this. Clients only think about crisis comms when a crisis happens, but they don't often think about it in, in, in advance. And, you know, I think this is maybe a lesson and, and just a tip, whether it be a traditional financial firm, but also crypto teams, to think of communications as actually like having a strong communications plan is actually part of a, a risk management plan. I've been, you know, trying to, to, uh, ingrain that thought into all of our clients. Yes, things are going well right now, but when the market collapses, like we saw, uh, you know, in, in 2022 with FTX collapse, what do you do? And so having a plan in place is really important.

Anton Sar: Yeah. Fantastic. And, uh, um, you earlier mentioned that the, the importance of Twitter, importance of, I guess, key opinion leaders, um, what do you call it in this part of the world, KOLs, uh, and celebrities, uh, and so on, that they're impacting a lot of things in the market. So how, how do you normally work with them? Uh, are you, are you work, are you currently engaged with any, and how do you make them notice you or what are the pros and cons of working with, with, with the, uh, KOLs?

Samantha Yap: I mean, conferences and events, uh, is is a great way to gather, um, people in, in an industry and a community. And in crypto, which is such a global, um, industry and it's not location specific because, you know, anyone can hold Bitcoin around the world. Um, so a lot of the gathering, uh, of, um, the community happens at these conferences, flagship conferences around, uh, across the year. And this is also where the key, um, opinion leaders and key influencers that, um, have a large Twitter following. They head to these conferences too. For example, with ECC, we're managing them. We're, we're, we're guiding them on, on, on who to speak to on, on what's, you know, um, interesting in the conference. So, uh, I would say, yeah, gathering at, at, at conferences is a good way to, um, yeah, build attention, um, for them. 

Anton Sar: It's interesting, I was reading last night a coverage about the, from one of the journalists of the, one of the large Web3 events that happened recently in Hong Kong. And there was one quote that he says, there were many KOL’s on stage that are more famous than their project. And I kind of, uh, find it interesting in a way that there's a lot of, like you said, also, there's a lot of noise. What would be the best strategy for companies to, that are looking into this space and, and identifying who is who in this world of crypto?

Samantha Yap: Again, I'd, I'd actually draw it back to crypto Twitter. It really is a good filtering mechanism of like who's who and who matters. Um, what I would say as well is don't, don't look so much at the number of followers, because now on Twitter, I think you, you could buy followers and, and there are like bots that could boost your following. But look at who's following who. So you could have someone who has like 5,000 followers, but, but you know, if you look at the people that you follow, and if they're influential people and they follow this person, then, you know, there, there's some trust and credibility there. Let's just take, uh, Sam Bankman Fried as an example, um, but you know, I remember, um, I remember seeing Sam when he had 2000 followers, but yet his, you know, and I think, you know, probably tied to the growth of the exchange, um, that he built, um, over a short year and a bit, he grew his following almost to a million followers. I think he has a million now. But he was constantly tweeting and updating and, and, and the whole industry was kind of following that. Um, and it, yeah, and it, it could be for bad, which we now see, but it's still, it says a lot about where the market's looking at, what the market is looking at and where people's attention is, because that's where the attention was. And then, you know, in terms of the, the leaders, like, okay, so you said that, um, some of the, the founders of these projects have more of a following, because I think that's natural, right? You know, people, more people follow Elon Musk than, you know, uh, Tesla or, um, SpaceX, right? Um, so it's the people that really drive the industry. Uh, but yeah, again, back to Twitter, you know, I don’t know if you remember, or whether you were there or following at the time, but it was like happening in real time when, um, CZ put out a tweet, so the founder of Binance put out a tweet saying they're going to sell a lot of their FTT tokens, which is the governance token. Yeah.

Anton Sar: How it started the whole story.

Samantha Yap: Yeah, yeah, that's how, so, but, but see, a tweet started that, right? Yeah. So that's how influential this platform is. 

Anton Sar: And in talking about the future, could you share with us your, your vision of how the PR industry will evolve?

Samantha Yap: So it's interesting when things are going well in the market, it's where the money flows. And so if you've got, if, there’s a industry that, you know, has a lot of money flowing into it, and then they have money to spend on marketing, that's kind of where the the market is, is, um, going, you would start to see more traction. And I'm sure, for example, for you, for running events, like I anticipate that there will be more Web3 crypto companies that will want to bridge the gap to the, um, you know, traditional financial world. Um, so what I see, you know, moving forward is yeah, more of, more of this, um, and, PR firms needing to, uh, grow their, teams to, to cover this space and to specialise. I would also say for PR teams to follow where the media publications are going as well. So if Bloomberg is bulking up their, um, crypto team and they're hiring a, a managing editor of crypto and they've got a whole division, well then there's, there's a need and demand for, for crypto news, right? If, um, now the FT actually, there are, they're not just, they don't just have one reporter covering crypto. They, they have a few, they have a digital assets team now, crypto finance, um, you know, yeah, yeah, crypto finance. But they have a whole category now on, I mean, they've, they've had that for a while, but I, I, you know, I met a few journalists that from the, from the FT who, you know, covered a previous beat, but it's like, okay, now I'm coming into crypto, like covering the digital asset space. So if there is, if, if newsrooms are growing their crypto teams and crypto coverage, then you see that there's a need, um, for PR marketing as well on the other side.

Anton Sar: Hmm. And for the, for someone who is looking, um, career opportunities in this space, in the marketing and PR space in crypto, um, or perhaps maybe wants to start their own PR firm, what would be your kind of advice as a founder?

Samantha Yap: My recommendation is just like to understand what has happened, and then start reading up on where it's heading and find, so this industry is still a niche industry, but I would say it's, it's, it's branching out because now there's like a Web3 world, there's a DeFi world, there's the NFT world. So I would also recommend choosing an area to specialise in, because each area is a whole different ballgame. I would say for, for Yap Global. We're specialised more in the, the the decentralised finance and infrastructure, um, space. And that's one ballgame. And then moving into the, um, NFT world is yeah, a whole, whole different world.

Anton Sar: And, and what kind of medias do you recommend to focus on their, your attention? What like top five, uh, channels were, I mean, apart from Twitter that you have to follow and um, to educate yourself?

Samantha Yap: Yeah, so for crypto, um, press, we regard CoinDesk still as the, you know, the, the, the top crypto publication. Um, then there's The Block and Decrypt Media, there's also Defiant that covers more DeFi activity. And then you may have heard also of, of Bankless. They're, they're more, um, you know, that I would say that they're influencers. Um, I wouldn't say they're like a media, well they're a media company, but not, not journalism that they, they have more opinions, um, but they're, they're also good, um, gauge of what the sentiment is in the market.

Tracks in the Finoverse

Anton Sar: Amanda, uh, we have, uh, um, so-called Track and Finoverse feature where we ask our guests to share with us their favourite song that they would like to take to Finoverse, which song it'll be for you?

Samantha Yap: Oh, wow. Uh, I have to think about this favourite song for Finoverse. I'm going to look at my Spotify. Um,

Anton Sar: What comes to your mind first?

Samantha Yap: Taylor Swift.

Anton Sar: Which song?

Samantha Yap: Shake it off. 

Anton Sar: Okay. Why this one?

Samantha Yap: I don't know, I guess, uh, Shake It Off because yeah, crypto people, uh, crypto maybe like gets, uh, you know, uh, a lot of, um, mixed kind of, uh, reviews and yeah, you just got to shake it off and continue doing what you're doing in the space.

Anton Sar: Okay. Fantastic. guys, uh, shake it off. And it was a pleasure talking to you, Samantha. Thank you very much for your time.

Samantha Yap: Cool. Thank you. Thanks Anthony.

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