What I Learned from my Blockchain and Bitcoin Crash-Course

The digital technology incubator 1871 and Chicago Reader recently hosted a presentation and interactive panel, called The Basics of Blockchain and Bitcoin. This event gave beginners to the topic a chance to hear from experts about the workings and implications of cryptocurrency and the system upon which it’s built. Here are some takeaways from the event:

Bitcoin & Blockchain Conference

The History of Blockchain and Bitcoin

According to Investopedia, blockchain is a digitized, decentralized, public record of all cryptocurrency transactions. When someone pays someone in bitcoin, that transaction is timestamped and recorded on this public ledger that every user of bitcoin – all over the world – can see.

This technology burst onto the scene in 2008 with the release of a white paper called, “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.” In this paper, the pseudonymous creator of bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, breaks down this revolutionary system of paying someone online without the aid of third party verification system like a financial institution.

In traditional online payments, these third party systems are checking for double spending and other malicious actions. Double spending is a kind of digital counterfeiting in which the payer clones his or her payment data, sending the fake information to the payee and keeping the original information for himself or herself.

For example, if you were to give a barista a $5 bill for a coffee, it is next to impossible to spend a duplicate of that $5 bill elsewhere because of the defenses put in place by our financial institutions and government. The same cannot be said for digital payments since users can theoretically copy the data on his or her computer and continue to “spend” over and over again.

The Need for a “Decentralized” System

Several of the speakers at this event reiterated that, up to this point, the traditional form of third-party verification has worked just fine for most people – and then the Great Recession hit. Some people no longer feel that they can trust the institutions verifying their transactions, as these institutions can represent a single point of failure: if that institution becomes compromised, then the entire system can fail.

Blockchain is said to be “decentralized,” because it does not utilize a central authority or third-party verification system to guard against malicious actors. On a blockchain, everyone can see what everyone else is doing or has done. If you try to duplicate a bitcoin, every user on that system will see and essentially “exile” you from the platform by refusing to give or take any payment from you.

What are the Implications?

One of the speakers at the event, co-founder and CEO of Bit Capital Group, Jimmy Odom, said it best when he explained that, never before in the history of humans trading with each other have we been incentivized to act “right” until now. Because blockchain allows others to see what you’re doing, the thought is that it will hold people accountable for their actions and encourage them to play by the rules.

This nascent technology is revolutionizing everything from online payments to international supply chains to the Internet of Things because people from other industries are now realizing that blockchain’s visibility and accountability can be applied to other systems as well. Despite this, there are still so many undiscovered business applications for it. If you would like to learn more how your company can position itself as an expert on this topic in the media, check out Walker Sands’ other blog posts that break it down even further for you!

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Workflow, Intelligent Process Automation and Marine Helicopters at Nintex xchange 2018

What goes best with a California style burrito, the one with fries wrapped up inside? That’s right, workflow and process automation, courtesy of Walker Sands’ awesome Bellevue client, Nintex.

Three members of the Walker Sands West Coast team just wrapped up a week of deep-dive Nintex workflow experiences at the client’s annual customer and partner conference, Nintex xchange.

Annie, Kate, Will

This year Nintex hosted the event at the Grand Hyatt, San Diego, a welcome escape for the rain-soaked Pacific Northwesters that made up the bulk of the attendees. In addition to a Sunny escape in the winter, Nintex’s annual event is one of the largest gatherings of automation and workflow experts from around the world.

Machine learning, AI and automation were the dominant trends discussed, while new product features for Nintex Forms and collapsable workflow diagrams were crowd-favorites for the mostly technical attendees. Wahl Lincoln Photo

Among myriad new technical features and product integrations, the team saw Nintex expert Ryan Duguid set up an entire fire alarm system using a sophisticated process automation workflow. We also were treated to a show by noted performance graffiti artist, Erik Wahl, who finger-painted Abraham Lincoln in less time than a Coldplay song.

Throughout the conference content, the Nintex team has been hard at work evangelizing a new concept in process automation, intelligent process automation. Imagine not having to go through that one tedious work process that takes 20 times longer than it should. Those are the problems the Nintex engineering team are solving every day.

So far, Nintex has automated more than 3 million work processes and is well on its way to conquering the (relatively) new intelligent process automation category. It’s exciting to be present for such cutting-edge technology

What’d we get up to in San Diego over the three days? Annie, Kate and I attended sessions, went to client dinners (Dover Sole FTW!) and took some time to explore downtown San Diego, including the USS-Midway aircraft carrier museum.

USS Midway

Interesting note on that F/A-18 Hornet. It’s been painted brown to look like a Soviet/Russian Federation MiG because it was used as an aggressor aircraft in a the Flight Weapon School training program @ Mirimar, about 10 miles from downtown San Diego. That school is also known as Top Gun. topgun

By the way, even on that once state-of-the-art navy ship, documents were still printed out and routed by hand. I guess even the most sophisticated organizations often still get mired in dated and broken processes.

Thanks to the team for all their hard work and congrats to the Nintex event crew for putting on such a successful show!

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Seattle’s Favorite Hot Dog Gets the Chicago Twist

Following the relaunch of our San Francisco office in 2016, we’re excited to build upon this West Coast momentum with the opening of our new Seattle office!

Seattle’s tech community is vibrant and quickly growing. We’re eager to build more relationships in the area and to continue helping tech brands grow. The additional local support will help us better service clients in the region.

WS Seattle Office

Okay, now to the hot dogs.

Being from Chicago, of course we had to put Seattle’s famous cream-cheese version to the test. Let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed. And then I got to thinking – trying this hot dog represents how our team is approaching new adventures in the Pacific Northwest.

  • Learn Constantly – Cream cheese on a hot dog was certainly a new one for me. We’re eager to learn all we can about the Seattle’s B2B tech PR needs and how we can revisit our operations to deliver better results for clients. This passion helps our teams master top industries and encourages a collective commitment to always doing great work. Tech nerds? Nah. We like to think of ourselves as tech enthusiasts.
  • Get Inspired – Seattle is full of people who believe they’re building tomorrow’s greatest tech inventions today. We believe it, too. And with the opening of our Seattle office, now we can help everyone else see it. We love tech and are constantly inspired by the awesome companies we’re lucky enough to work with. It’s our mission to nurture the sparks of news ideas – after all, one hot dog inspired this entire blog post.
  • Be Fearless – Whether trying a new food or deploying an unprecedented PR strategy, our time in Seattle has already confirmed that risks are worth their rewards. Our mission is to support your business’ goals however we can, and our Midwestern sensibilities won’t settle for anything less than reliable, honest work. But we won’t reach our highest potential if we’re always doing things the same way. We’re ready to take risks, push boundaries and try what the other guys aren’t even thinking about yet. That means we may fall down sometimes, but our resilience only makes us stronger and leads to better results for our clients

Maybe I’m just hungry, but Walker Sands really does feel like a Seattle hot dog with a twist. All the classics you know and love, but with a little something extra to intrigue (like celery salt and a pickle). Okay, maybe enough food. But, hey, there’s something about being from a city that stands behind its dog.

As always, our expansion is made possible by a roster of amazing clients that trust our approach to PR, as well as talented employees who continuously amaze me with the work they do. Thank you for making this all possible – we couldn’t be more excited about our Seattle adventure.

With that said, we could use your help getting started. We’re looking to expand our Seattle family (paid internships and full-time team members). Know someone who would be a great fit? Send them our way!

And if you’re ever in the area, let us know. We’d love to discuss what Walker Sands can do for your business – how about over a hot dog?

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Is Your Business Ready to Talk Bitcoin?

Back for more about bitcoin and blockchain? Now that we’ve discussed their capabilities it’s time to consider whether the two innovations should be part of your company’s strategic messaging. From identifying an internal expert to narrowing your focus, the following three questions can shed light on whether bitcoin or blockchain are topics your company should speak to.

business talks bitcoin

1. Do you have an expert?

The first step to position your business as a trusted resource on bitcoin and/or blockchain is finding the right thought leaders to help drive the effort. Reach out to executives who may be interested in authoring bylines or jumping in on conversations about bitcoin and blockchain. Those who possess an in-depth understanding of your business as well as familiarity with cryptocurrency may be the best candidates.

Remember though, just because someone is considered an expert on bitcoin doesn’t mean they have the same level of knowledge when it comes to blockchain. Divvy up thought leaders based on their grasp of the two technologies.

Having trouble drawing interest? Don’t forget to mention what’s in it for them. Not only will speaking about bitcoin and blockchain raise awareness of your company, but it may also help your thought leaders gain recognition within the industry.

2. What’s the angle?

Once you’ve identified thought leaders, narrow down your company’s messaging. While there’s plenty to talk about when it comes to bitcoin and blockchain, not all of it is important to your audience. Choose an angle that’s relevant to prospects, interesting to your customers and easy for thought leaders to knock out of the park.

Whether the focus is on how bitcoin or blockchain technology may impact your business or the broader industry as a whole, make sure to stay on top of new developments. There are a number of go-to resources for the latest cryptocurrency news and trends, including:

PYMNTS – Bitcoin Tracker
Business Insider – Finance
CNN – FinTech News

bitcoin thought leaders

3. Are your thought leaders prepared?

Get the most out of interactions with the media by thoroughly training thought leaders ahead of their moment in the spotlight. Helpful resources such as Q&A documents or suggested talking points can go a long way toward ensuring your company’s messaging is understandable and consistent – no matter the thought leader.

If time permits, consider conducting a mock interview before the big day. Not only will it help calm any nerves, but it may also give you the chance to answer questions and simplify key messages.

Stay tuned for part three of our bitcoin and blockchain series!

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Client Work Shines in Q3

The third quarter is a wrap, and as we prepare for sweater weather and pumpkin everything, we’re taking a minute to reflect on some of the great projects our team completed during summer 2017.

Directly from the creative minds behind it all, here are four projects and campaigns that knocked it out of the park.

CallRail – Funding Announcement

By Anna Shymanski, Account Executive

We love the opportunity to share good news for our clients, especially when we get to announce growth and expansion. When we got the urgent call that CallRail was set to announce a major round of Series A funding in the next few days, the marketing technology team was fully prepared to help them share the news. To give a little background on CallRail, they provide customers with easy to read reports that show where their marketing efforts are performing best.

callrail

After tapping into our media relations expertise and communication skills to work with the investment firm, we were able to go to the press with a great story. In the end, we secured feature placements for CallRail’s funding announcements in both The Wall Street Journal and VentureBeat. We also secured mentions in Fortune, MarTech Advisor and other VC outlets. CallRail’s CEO called the team’s efforts “heroic.” We’re proud of the coverage we secured for a client that we respect and enjoy working with, and even moreso the partnership we’ve continued to build with the team at CallRail.

The Future of Retail and Amazon Prime Newsjacking

By Erin Jordan, Account Director

On the retail technology team we pride ourselves on always being up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies, allowing us to better insert our clients into timely news and tell their stories.

One of our favorite internal projects we work on each year is the annual “Future of Retail” study. For the last four years, we’ve surveyed consumers on their buying behaviors to help our clients (and their clients) get ahead of and best prepare for changing shopping demands.

Our vast understanding of the marketplace has led to our launching of the study during some of the most timely retail tech updates in our recent history – and this year was no different. While Amazon was making major moves, our team jumped on the opportunity to use the 2017 report to dig deeper on trends like voice commerce, and leverage the findings to newsjack the summer 2017 Whole Foods acquisition and annually awaited Prime Day.

So far, the study has been pitched 16 times resulting in roughly 125 placements with highlights including Washington Post, Entrepreneur, The Street and more. And it doesn’t stop there. We’ve worked tirelessly to place an additional five clients in over 50 publications, all leveraging Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods and Prime Day. Of those placements, we are especially proud to have our clients and company referenced as a resource in USA Today, PYMNTS, Marketing Land, Business Insider, CNET, Wall Street Journal and Forbes.

FOR

Given the report’s success the past four years, it was an all hands on deck effort from our design, marketing, digital and content teams. Having generated more than 4,000 downloads in the past three years, the data from the study complements the work we do for our clients, allows for long-leg pitching and has enabled us us to produce equally valuable mini reports such as the “Future of Retail 2017 Holiday Report”.

LiveStories’ Gender Pay Gap Report

By Rosie Gillam, Senior Account Executive

For the past year, one of our favorite accounts to work on has been LiveStories. What we love about this client is how they use public data to tell stories. The product, LiveStories, allows users to find, explore and present civic data all in a single web-based location. When the client came to us for help with a new campaign, I was thrilled to be working with them on another data-driven project.

LiveStories expressed that it needed our help driving awareness about the brand and its product in three major markets across the West Coast — Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The company was preparing to exhibit at state and local government conferences in these cities. We were charged with helping enhance the brand’s credibility before each of these events.

livestories

The campaign served to build awareness about LiveStories through a series of localized, data-driven reports about the gender pay gap. Our efforts helped LiveStories land coverage in major news outlets across Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco — All together we garnered over 60 placements including BuzzFeed, Entrepreneur, Bloomberg Law and more.

EXP.com – website launch

By Matt Brown, Senior Digital Marketing Director

As a member of the Walker Sands web team, I can confidently say that not a day goes by where we don’t work as a team. This rings true in the launch of our latest project, exp.com.

exp

Several months ago, exp came to us with a challenge. As a large multinational civil engineering company headquartered in Canada, they needed a new website that befitted their global, modern, prestigious company. Unfortunately, their website at the time suffered from outdated designs, old messaging and capabilities, and poor performance in search results and on mobile.

Since then, our Walker Sands team of content strategists, SEO technicians, UX/UI designers, developers and project managers got to work and invested over 2,000 hours in this challenging endeavor over the past several months. And then finally in September, we were able to successfully launch the new exp.com featuring a compelling new responsive design, optimized messaging and user paths, multi-language capabilities and accessibility compliance for disabled visitors.

We are so proud of the work our team was able to accomplish this quarter. Their hard work in Q3 is telling of what will be accomplished in Q4. Keep an eye out for more highlights!

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